chapter
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Introduction

The 25 January 2011 uprisings in Egypt that led to the ousting of Hosni Mubarak opened the floodgates for civil and political activism. The political landscape in post-Mubarak Egypt comprised more than fifty new political parties and youthbased coalitions. The Muslim Brotherhood’s political power reached a great height in the six months after the demise of Mubarak’s regime. Throughout the Arab world, as the uprisings were ignited from one country to the next, all eyes were focused on the Muslim Brotherhood, be they in Egypt, Yemen or elsewhere. Questions were asked: are they edging closer to the revival of the Islamic Caliphate? Will the establishment of an Islamic state, be it called a civil state with an Islamic reference (marja‘iyya) or an Islamic democracy, bring them one step closer to the unification of the Islamic Ummah across borders and territories? Concurrently, in the immediate aftermath of the eruption of the revolution, another set of counter questions were being deliberated: are we in fact entering a post-Islamic phase? In view of the fact that the uprisings had strong civil – not Islamic – overtones, does this not indicate that this is an era of the demise of Islamist identity politics (Louer 2011; Zeghal 2011; Bayat 2011)? This book argues that a more nuanced understanding of the dynamics of Islamist agency during and after the ouster of Mubarak is needed. The youth who led the protests on 25 January 2011 were adamant on making their call for public action a civil one. However, when the Muslim Brotherhood joined in full force on 28 January, the political forces agreed that all messages, slogans and other idioms would be Egyptian in character and absent of any Islamist overtones. This was symbolised in that no flag would be raised except the black, red and white Egyptian one. However, this was not a reflection of the demise of Islamist identity politics but a strategic deployment of the appropriate framing by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamists seen to be most conducive to the positive representation of their struggle against Mubarak’s regime (see Chapter 2). The significance of the youth having laid conditions on the Brotherhood to make the uprisings of a civil character and their resistance to the Islamisation of the revolution in that it challenged the previous political analyses suggesting that the Brotherhood is the greatest and the only force capable of mobilising the masses and having a populist base. It showed that they were not the

only ones who can make ‘claims’ to the street. Rather than indicating a manifestation of the fading of identity politics, it suggests a political struggle over Egypt’s future. The battle over who can claim the Egyptian street as theirs is being contested and it is no longer assumed that the Brothers are the only ones who have a constituency. On the other hand, the fact that the Brothers and the Islamists were able to mobilise the majority in the March constitutional referendum and in the one-million-plus protest calling for the implementation of the Shar’ia on 29 July 2011 suggests that we are far from being in a postIslamist era (see Chapter 2). The Muslim Brotherhood continues to represent the strongest contender for leading on the fulfillment of the vision of the establishment of an Islamic state. The new political spaces that have opened up following the demise of Mubarak have created an enabling environment for their full flourishing – and a test to their ability to engage politically. This book seeks to examine the political thought of the Muslim Brotherhood, against the backdrop of their activism since their inception in 1928 and up to six months after the uprisings (July 2011). The questions guiding the research are: how far have the new freedoms following the demise of Mubarak changed the Brotherhood’s positions on the kind of state they aspire to establish? How have the Brotherhood engaged with fiqh (jurisprudence) in developing their own political thought on matters such as the relationship between the ruler and the citizenry, and within society? How do we acquire a better understanding of the expression of political agency of the rank and file who account for its constituency and grassroots base, in particular since the exposure to the Muslim Brotherhood is often limited to the views and statements of a few members of the political office at the top of the hierarchy? These questions are approached by examining the interface between the Brotherhood’s Islamic political thought, historical experience and contemporary political agency. It is argued here that the question of how the Brotherhood relate to Al-Siyassa al Shari’yya is fundamental to understanding of their vision of positive change, and how they wish to pursue it. In Islamic jurisprudence AlSiyassa al Shar‘iyya (legitimacy politics) differs from general politics in that the former is based not on human normative frameworks that are subject to change, but is based on the decrees and ordinances of God. Unlike politics which concerns itself strictly with matters of this world, Al-Siyassa al Shar‘iyya concerns itself with the bridge between the worldly and the other-worldly (El Masry 2006). While Al-Siyassa al Shar‘iyya covers a wide array of areas, among the most important identified are:

1 the Shari‘a and its laws; 2 the shura; 3 ijma‘ and ijtehad; 4 the Caliphate; 5 jihad; 6 the opposition;

7 the People of Dhimma and non-Muslims; 8 Dar al Harb and Dar al Islam; 9 the hisba (the equivalent of the General Prosecution); 10 finances and Kharaj; 11 the police; and 12 the judiciary.