Why The Muslim Brotherhood Would be a Disaster

I am currently reading a book about the Islamic revival in Egypt (Passion for Islam by Carlyle Murphy), and the author interviewed many members of the Muslim Brotherhood.  These excerpts I found very interesting:

First, there is the multiplicity of views on how to apply the broad moral principles of shari’a in any given situation. Then there is the tendency to equate shari’a with specific fiqh rulings. Finally, there is the disagreement on how to read the Qur’an.

I think that is a good summing up of the problems with implementing shari’a.  People often forget that shari’a is not the word of God: it is a human interpretation of the rules in the Qur’an and sunnah. This is one reason why there are contradictions within it.

When I asked a Muslim Brother what “implementing shari’a” in Egypt would mean, I was usually told that there would be bans on gambling, alcohol and interest on loans. Women, including Christians, would have to cover their hair in public. And punishments listed in the Qur’an, such as amputating a hand for theft and stoning to death for adultery, would be applied. (They would quickly add that these punishments would be rare because shari’a sets rigorous preconditions before they can be imposed.)

The author (rightly) points out that the Brotherhood’s vision of shari’a came across as a narrow, legalistic catalog of dos and don’ts.  This is really annoying.  Islam is not a list of things that are halal and things that are haram, no matter how often traditionalists try to present it that way. If anything, making that argument is an insult to a religion that is beautiful because of its complexity, diversity, and timelessness.

Their plans to make all women veil, to ban music, etc are also ridiculous. First of all, make Christian women veil? Come on! What would become of Egypt if the MB actually took over? The current regime is also problematic but I really don’t think the MB are a better alternative.

They gave the false impression that Islamic jurisprudence, or fiqh, is the essence of Islam and shari’a. It also appeared to reduce the broad moral message of the Qur’an to concerns over alcohol, gambling, women’s dress, and punishments for adultery and theft. There are not crucial matters to the future of a Muslim nation.

Another good point the author brought up is the fact that the Brotherhood seem to have no idea about how an Islamic state would actually work. They have never set out an actual plan or agenda. All they seem to do is make lists of what is haram and what is halal and to complain about the current state of Egyptian society.

Brotherhood leaders seemed to have little interest in elucidating how shari’a should address such matters as the accountability of rulers, social justice, poverty, freedom of speech, freedom of worship, treatment of minorities, war and peace, the role of women in public life, the right to a just wage, and the conflict between intellectual freedom and religious orthodoxy.

Wow, what a list!

I honestly think the Brotherhood coming to power would be a disaster for Egypt.  Not only because they represent a very conservative, orthodox view of Islam (hey, guess who funds them? oh yeah, Saudi), but also because they don’t even have any kind of plan, or if they do, they haven’t presented it.

What would happen to tourism, Egypt’s main source of income? What would the Brotherhood say about freedom of speech, liberal education, and Western brands and businesses?

I’m not even going to talk about what would happen to the state of women. Forcing them to veil is one indication, another is that they have already stated that a woman would never be able to become president. The fact that they would also force Christian women to veil says a lot about the way the large Christian minority would be treated.

Its sad but I think they actually would have a shot at winning if there were free and fair elections. I know the current regime is also not *ahem* the best, but I still think they are the lesser of the 2 evils.

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25 thoughts on “Why The Muslim Brotherhood Would be a Disaster

  1. wow. You see this thinking, to a lesser degree, in a lot of Muslims, especially men. I think this is why many of my Muslim convert friends cannot participate in the community. They are too “Reformed” for the “religious” Muslims. I use both terms quite loosely.

    And the dress code thing has worked so well in Iran and Saudi Arabia we should definitely put it in Egypt too (Sarcasm). Seriously, Shariah Law is broken. Stop trying to do the same thing, go back to the source (aka the Qur’an), and figure out what went wrong in translation.

    • I agree, we need to first understand what Shari’a actually is and second realize that it needs to be more flexible. A lot of scholars show that at the time Shari’a was formed, jurists kept the context in mind. So why is that so hard to do today?

  2. “And punishments listed in the Qur’an, such as amputating a hand for theft and stoning to death for adultery, would be applied.”

    I’d like to correct this, as the Qur’an does *not* prescribe stoning as the punishment for adultery. It’s never listed as a punishment for anything.

    I know Muhammad Asad wrote a book where he talks about the preconditions that need to be in place before harsh punishments were implemented … I have yet to buy/read it, but from what I read the book wasn’t well received by the conservatives. It only makes sense though that if you’re going to be chopping off someone’s finger or something that they shouldn’t have a need to steal in the case of hunger, etc.
    In the footnote for 5:38 Asad says: “As is evident from innumerable Qur’anic ordinances as well as the Prophet’s injunctions forthcoming from authentic Traditions, every citizen is entitled to a share in the community’s economic resources and, thus, to the enjoyment of social security: in other words, he or she must be assured of an equitable standard of living commensurate with the resources at the disposal of the community….In a community or state which neglects or is unable to provide complete social security for all its members, the temptation to enrich oneself by illegal means often becomes irresistible – and, consequently, theft cannot and should not be punished as severely as it should be punished in a state in which social security is a reality in the full sense of the word. If the society is unable to fulfil its duties with regard to every one of its members, it has no right to invoke the full sanction of criminal law (hadd) against the individual transgressor, but must confine itself to milder forms of administrative punishment. (It was in correct appreciation of this principle that the great Caliph `Umar waived the hadd of hand-cutting in a period of famine which afflicted Arabia during his reign.) To sum up, one may safely conclude that the cutting-off of a hand in punishment for theft is applicable only within the context of an already-existing, fully functioning social security scheme, and in no other circumstances. ”

    I also read somewhere that the verse about chopping off the hand isn’t translated correctly, although I haven’t looked into it at all. Some say it should say ‘mark’ the hand, instead of chopping it off entirely.
    Here is Muhammad Asad’s translation of 5:38:
    “NOW AS FOR the man who steals and the woman who steals, cut off the hand of either of them in requital for what they have wrought, as a deterrent ordained by God: for God is almighty, wise.”

    And here is the Edip-Layth translation:
    “The male thief, and the female thief, you shall mark, cut, or cut-off their hands/means as a punishment for their crime, and to serve as a deterrent from God. God is Noble, Wise.”

    anyway…
    I think it would be a disaster too.

    “People often forget that shari’a is not the word of God: it is a human interpretation of the rules in the Qur’an and sunnah. This is one reason why there are contradictions within it.”

    Yes … I always say it’s not like the Sharia was sent down intact from God. Plus there is not just 1 Shariah, there are variations …

    • Thanks for all those quotes…very interesting!
      Also there’s the argument that we have jails today so we don’t necessarily need to cut off a thief’s hand in order to mark them/prevent them from stealing again.

      The author did make a mistake about stoning…that punishment comes from the hadith not the Qur’an.

      • Salams,

        Ive noticed that you are making alot of errors when it comes to talking about the Shariah Law in Islam. Shariah law includes everything to do with Haram and Halal, Lawful and unlawful in the eyes of Allah swt.

        The punishment for adultrey is infact stoning which is In the Qur’an and supported by Hadith.

        Ive also noticed that you are not a supporter of Hadith which is probably why you have taken this opinion, and that is your choice but be sure that theres no way you would know how to pray, make hajj, wudu if it didnt come from hadith.

        • Shariah law does include what is haram and halal, yes…I didn’t say that it doesn’t. My point is it was made by men who looked at the Qur’an and hadith and decided what was haram and halal, and that is why there are differences in opinion in the Shariah itself.
          What is interesting about adultery is that the punishment is usually applied to women and not to men, although God condemns both. This is an example of how what God said is not always what is actually applied.

          And it is not true that I’m not a supporter of hadith: I think we need to be more careful about the hadith, since they were also collected by men. I also think it is ridiculous to take a hadith over the Qur’an, as I often see happening.

          • These “Men” your referring to are Imams who looked at the Qur’an and have derived Laws concerning what is Halal and Haram by Allah swt’s permission. These Mujtahid Imams who endevour to make the correct ruling by using Quran, Hadith, Ijmaa and Qiyas. Before even taking a hdaith into consideration they would study its authenticity and investigate its chain of narrators (even going as far as to meet each narrator) until they were satisfied that it is authentic. This investigation would take months. Regarding their interpretation of the Quran, it would 1000% far more accurate than any other interpretation as they were the native speakers of Arabic and understood the Quran word for word. So I think its fair to trust the Imams when it comes to deriving laws for Shariah rather than trusting myself as our margin of error is much wider and theirs is very slim to none.

            These “men” ae not regular people who you see praying at the mosque, they spent all of their lives reading the Quran and Hadiths and nothing else.

            The laws that they issued served our Ummah and helped Islam become what it is today. Otherwise there would be alot of confusion regarding the lawful and unlawful.

            As for differences of opinion on Shariah, I dont know where you got that information from because the entire ummah seems to be in nync with what is lawful and unlawful so I dont understand why there would be a difference on opinon with that.

            Yes Allah swt does not like to see his slaves doing haram acts that is why the punishment is there.

            The order for deriving laws has always been Quran, Hadith, Ijmaa and Qiyas. that has always been the order and it has never changed I dont know who is putting hadith over Quran but its certainly not a person entitled to issue a ruling.

            • I don’t doubt that these men are sincere and hardworking. Doesn’t mean they didn’t make mistakes. Moreover, they interpreted Islam for their context, so what we need is for learned men today to do the same. There is plenty of proof that the early jurists, for example, incorporated their context into their rulings, so why are we so scared of doing that today?

              Aynur pointed out that stoning for adultery is not in the Qur’an, but you said it is – could you provide a verse?

              • Eliminating the role of the scholars and not implementing their rulings because simply because they are prone to mistake (which is not a fault, it is how man kind was created) is absoloutley mind baffling because any body else replacing them would be in the exact same category. That being said, we are instructed by Allah swt to follow the rules of Shariah issued by those who are knowledged. Who are the knowledged and how is this knowledg measured? It is measured by the undergoing of studying under one of the 4 madhabs which have all compiled the rules of Fiqh, Aqeedah, Tafsir etc. If they were allowed to incorporate their own context into rulings it was not formed on opinion, it was always formed on interpretation of Qur’an and Hadith.

                Why are we scared of doing that today?
                Because the rules and Shariah has already been completed and compiled by the 4 imams. Searching for other avenues would defeat the perfect structure of Islam. Another thing is that you will have many people that will oppose and I would probably be the first and most aggressive one.

                🙂

        • “The punishment for adultrey is infact stoning which is In the Qur’an and supported by Hadith. ”

          That is incorrect. Stoning is not a punishment prescribed in the Qur’an.

  3. Can you cite sources for your assertion that Saudi Arabia funds the Ikhwan ?
    The Ikhwan have a vision for society but need to work more for their vision of governance. May be they have not given this much thought because they realize that never will be allowed to come to power anyway.
    Offcourse Shariah should not be imposed on non muslims.
    Curiosly though laws based on common law and western laws are imposed on muslims though.

    • Hi Null – welcome.

      This post was about the book I’m reading, and that’s where it is written that the Ikhwan are financed by Saudi. Other than this book, I’ve heard it about a million times.

      “Curiosly though laws based on common law and western laws are imposed on muslims though.”

      Yes, but these are not laws based on a particular religion are they? (And no, they are not based on Christianity.) Egyptian law is imposed on everyone living in Egypt. That is very different than imposing Islamic law on everyone in Egypt, as the Ikhwan quoted in this book said should be done.
      Furthermore, in many European countries there are actual Shari’a courts where Muslims can go to if they prefer Islamic law, in certain areas.

  4. I love to read your point of view on such things. I’ve always wondered WHOSE shariah would be implemented. A “liberal” Muslim’s view, Saudi’s, Iran’s, Nigeria’s and so forth. It can be quite subjective, can’t it? (E.g. Music is forbidden for some and not for others.)

    I think we should focus on treating people well regardless of ethnicity or religion or gender or whatever! Clean up our own lives before we start making haram/halal lists and applying it to the masses – even the nonMuslim ones!

    Thanks for this, CLA!

  5. I am really no fan of wahabism or the saudis, but the ikhawns have done more for the poor in egypt then the government has done (they use the same tactic as the people in hizbollah, where they fund their own hospitals and take care of the weak).
    One major point of why i would prefer the muslim brotherhood is that they would not sell their religion, their country or their honor to the zionist entity called Israel.
    I think you see on this point out of a very selfish viewpoint, Egypt is part of a bigger picture…
    Islamic states have differend aproaches and differend views on matters, compare how over 62% of the students in Iran are women while they are not even allowed to drive in Saudi. Both claim to be muslim states, and both have differend aproaches to science and culture.

    Any society we see in the west, has similar points of do and donts. its forbidden to go naked in the streets in Europe, but some say its ok to be naked at the beache. Its forbidden to drink and drive, its forbidden to drink and have a drink in your hands, but in some cities in Sweden, they enforce this law, some dont and so forth.
    So the do and donts are part of every society..

    • “the ikhawns have done more for the poor in egypt then the government has done.”

      Of course, which is why they are so popular today. Then again, the Taliban is doing the same now in Pakistan, is that a reason to support them ideologically too?

      I don’t think I have a “selfish viewpoint” – Egypt is part of a bigger picture, but we don’t know whether the Ikhwan will stand up to Israel and I’m not going to support them and their other radical ideas just in case they do support the Palestinians. I don’t really see Iran/Saudi helping Israel as much as “god-fearing” Islamic states should be.
      I agree that the current Egyptian regime is a slave to the US (and therefore Israel) but look at the big picture: the relationship Egypt has with Israel is not the ONLY important thing we need to consider.

  6. I had left a comment a few days ago, and now I see it must not have posted. In short, I was talking about how interesting it is to read this point of view. Reza Aslan believes the exact opposite, he thinks the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas, should be given the responsibility and power to lead and that once given this role they will run moderately and historically have done so. Aslan claims the Muslim Brotherhood was Egypt’s chance at a real democracy but it was foiled by the U.S. (of course). Anyway, I am not learned enough on this subject to speak my own opinion, but am in love with Aslan and wonder what you think about his view?

    • “he thinks the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas, should be given the responsibility and power to lead and that once given this role they will run moderately and historically have done so.”

      What does Aslan mean by historically? The only examples I see of a Muslim nation state are Iran, Saudi, Sudan, parts of Nigeria – all of which are definitely NOT democratic or moderate.
      Does he give any examples?

      • Aslan was referring to when the Muslim Brotherhood was almost in power, had a larger number in the gov’t, and spooked the people who were in power because of the reality that they had a chance of taking over. The U.S. squashed this chance due to it’s own self interest; but Aslan uses examples from that time period as proof that the Muslim Brotherhood was creating a fledgling democracy and the u.s. did a disservice to Egypt by intervening. He equates it to Egypt losing a real chance at democracy with the Muslim Brotherhood in power. Aslan brings up Hamas because they are who the people support, and should be considered as a true party and not repressed by foreign powers. He thinks they too have a chance at bringing democracy to the people and should not be ignored as incapable or as a threat.

  7. Cairo: The talibans have blown up people, forbidden women from working or studying, when the Ikhwan have done similar things, then we can compare them, til that day its pretty illogical to compare those two groups. I would compare them with hamas or hizbollah. Hizbollah has done more for the muslims, arabs and hte mid east then any of the great nations and they have women in high poistions in their adminstration and their teve stations. Why wouldnt it work out for the Ikhwan?

    Saudi is helping israel, Iran isnt.
    As for your point that iran isnt democratic, no they are not democratic if you compare them to the western system of democracy..you forget one important thing and that islam has laws that are above the man made laws. In a western democracy you can have homosexual acts, thats not allowed in islam. Iran lets its people vote, but they have to vote on a party or member of a party who is in support of islam not an enemy, that too makes it less democratic..

    The views you disslike, are not much differend from the parties in Europe, who have some good ideas and some stupid ones..
    For instance. The parties that are in sweden, are all good in one way or another and bad in some certain aspects.
    One party is bad for my company, but its good for the enviorement, one party is good for my company but bad for the poor.

    And your wrong, the most important issue for us as muslims is Palestine.
    The US involvement in the mid east is because of 2 things.
    1. Israel and
    2. Oil

    Oil is gone soon, and then we have hte issue with Israel…
    Without israel we would have less american involvment where they stop our development, we would have less money invested on weapons and so forth.

  8. Bahlool

    As a Muslim the most important issue for me is NOT Palestine, i hardly think MB coming to power will change anything for the average Palestinian. Maybe the relationship between Egypt and Israel will change and there will be confrontation, however i dont see how this helps the Palestinians. Secondly democracy is the will of the majority, if majority of Muslims are against homosexuality, they have the freedome to legislate against it. I doubt any Muslim majority country who will support gays, if that happens to be the case, then we can safely say they are not adhering to the teachings of the Quran and thus no point in enforcing God’s laws to a nation that are against it.

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