The controversial and problematic ‘Salafist Call and Political Action’
In a struggle with a series of intellectual and methodological problems that the Salafists believe, which assert the impermissibility of all forms of political action based on disobeying the rights of the rulers while rejecting the political action vocabulary of democracy, elections and partisanship, the Salafists came out with more than one ideological view, with wide discrepancy between impermissibility and permissibility. This was most evident in the book of Egyptian Salafist Call preacher Yasser Borhamy, “Salafist Call and Political Action”, and the lecture by Mahmoud Abdel Hamid at the “Salafist Call and Action” seminar on June 3, 2011.
Although they believe, according to the view of Borhamy, that the offerings of this game in light of the balance of contemporary forces globally, regionally and domestically only allow participation by relinquishing doctrines, principles and values that no Sunni would like to sacrifice in order to gain time, political status, or an established existence on the scene.
They also view, like Abdel Moneim El Shahat, that the Brotherhood's political participation made them pay a heavy price for entering politics and entering the game of democracy, where they made concessions to integrate, including the implicitly recognizing US tutelage over the democratic experience in Egypt and aligning with the secular parties that are at odds with Islamic law.
Borhamy believes that the reality is completely contrary to Islam and that all the constitutions of Egypt, starting with the constitution of 1923, were far from Islam, and then God granted an opening to this country and there was a partial return of some of the principles of Islam after the defeat of 1967 [Arab-Israeli War] and this effect appeared in the constitution of 1971. He said, “We know that the reality is not Islamic, either in its purposes or in its mechanisms, or in its theoretical rooting, or in its practical application.”
The book makes one wonder whether the author is Yasser Borhamy or Ayman Al-Zawahiri, as the former writes in it, “We therefore resist every falsity, but we realize that there are things that we cannot change now. The issue of shrines, for example; we believe it is invalid to establish mosques over the graves. And we believe that what occurs among the worshippers such as supplicating to, evoking, and circumambulating those in the graves is polytheism and disbelief. Our belief in establishing borders, killing apostates and fighting the infidels will remain in accordance with the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger.”
It is understood here that it is permissible to go out and fight the ruler if able, according to Borhamy’s words, “The issue of going out and fighting the rulers, whether or not their mandate is legitimately proven, is a matter of changing evil and therefore based on the issue of ability and inability, benefit and harm.”
“We cannot accept democracy, which stipulates that legislation is for the majority. For non-Muslims, we have not and will not accept anything that contradicts [Islamic] law,” said Borhamy, adding that they would not accept the mandate of a non-Muslim or a woman.
In "Salafist Call and Political Action," Borhamy challenges the means of change in other Salafist currents, and he concluded in the end that change through parliamentary elections is contrary to God’s law and that legislation is the pure right of God, while everything that violates Islamic law is invalid.
The subsequent development of the establishment of Salafist parties filled a lot of rules surrounding the old situation, which prompted Mahmoud Abdel Hamid to speak about the reasons for political participation, considering it a victory for religion.
“We should know that the Salafist Call’s participation in political action is intended to support the God’s religion in the light of the hostile and anti-religious reality,” he said, adding that liberals, secularists, non-Muslims, communists and others stand united against religion and are trying to prevent Islamists from making gains that serve their legitimate goals.
Mahmoud Abdel Hamid believes that democracy has now become a kind of call to God, saying, “We will not leave the call to God, because it is our original work, and political participation represents the protection of the call. We will not be distracted from the call to God by this political participation.” He added that they also seek to draft laws that are Sharia-compliant, as well as to prevent any laws that contravene Islamic law, to purify previous laws that were contrary to Sharia, or to remove those laws and return them to Sharia-compliance.
Politics in the neo-Salafist viewpoint means bringing about benefits and pushing away harm, while taking into account the purposes stated by the Sharia. Abdel Hamid considers democracy as a means to implement the Sharia and a phased way to achieve their goals. “We want to apply Islamic law by obtaining the majority. Both us and the Islamists, if we reach the majority, will be able to apply Islamic law, reduce evil and corruption, and not leave the scene to the secular, because if they are alone in the arena, they enact laws that serve their methodology.
Regarding the change that took place between Borhamy’s method and the new approach, Abdel Hamid said, “As for the matter of changing the fatwa Sheikh Yasser spoke about, the fatwa in Egypt went through stages, as mentioned, from the constitution of 1923 until the constitution of 1971 until the revolution, until we reached the fourth stage, which is the overhaul of the entire constitution after the revolution. There was no longer a constitution, but a constitutional declaration providing for the identity of the state. Accordingly, most of the scholars said that these councils had to enter because there was no constitution and Article 60 of the constitutional declaration stated that a constitution would be made after the People's Assembly and Shura Council elections.
Many internal files have become the subject of considerable discussion and debate after the transition to political action, which imposed a new structure and relations between the various Salafist levels, posed challenges to the development of intellectual and ideological discourse, and reflected the incompatibility of visions between the wing that decided to exercise political Salafism and the movement’s senior Salafist sheikhs. The first wing appears to be the most developed as time passes, while the other refused to enter the political arena and thus remained more closed and reluctant to make concessions, whether in its rhetoric or in its dynamic position within the new political system.
There is no doubt that there is controversy and a very big problem between the Salafist Call and the party that emerged from it, the Nour Party, as there is no difference between the Salafist group and the party, and there is absolutely no separation between the advocacy work and the political work. The leaders of Salafist Call are very duplicitous. They are overseers of all political positions, with criticism, defamation, and denial of responsibility, as they are far from the ground of political action, but at the same time they support, mobilize, and unite around the positions of the Nour Party.
The foregoing led to a return backwards and the withdrawal of a small number of Salafists practicing this process, or rather even splitting to other groups. Meanwhile, the gradual emergence of neo-Salafist formations, such as the Costa Salafis and the Salafist Front, may later lead to multiple divisions. The differences between Borhamy and Abdel Hamid serve as a good example of this.