Sunday, September 16, 2012

Egypt: Where prisoners become Presidents

Of late, it is not uncommon for political leaders the world over to flaunt their superb educational pedigrees or prestigious qualifications as evidence of their eligibility to govern. We are often reminded that Barack Obama is a graduate of the renowned Law School at Harvard; Britain’s David Cameron lists Eton College – described as the most famous independent school in the world, as his alma mater; whilst Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is distinguished as the holder of no less than 7 professional degrees from a myriad of noteworthy institutions.

Judged on those criteria, the credentials of the world’s newest Head of State are no less impressive. Egypt’s President-elect Mohammed Morsi is a qualified engineer, who pursued his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Cairo before receiving his PhD in engineering from the University of Southern California. He even served as an Assistant Professor for 3 years in the US, before his return to Egypt in 1985.

However, as it turns out, Morsi’s main title to leadership may not lie in any of these respected seats of higher learning, but rather in a far more obscure institution commonly associated with wrongdoing and correctional behavior. The great Turkish Reviver, Said Nursi once called it Medrese-i Yusufiye(The School of Yusuf), after the Prophet Yusuf(PBUH) who spent years behind bars for a crime he did not commit. In the very land of Egypt he served his sentence, setting in motion a tradition that has destined the ordeals of prison to become a common, almost universal, ‘subject’ in the syllabus of Muslim thinkers and activists across the ages. For many of them, it has meant not only suffering, but also the opportunity to reflect on past struggles, review strategies, enhance spirituality, sharpen insights and reorganise their mission. For the Prophet Yusuf, the ordeal culminated in him being exonerated and appointed to an influential position of leadership in the land.

In contemporary history this tradition is no better illustrated, than by the chronicles of the Ikhwan al Muslimoon(Muslim Brotherhood). Born in 1928, by the untiring efforts of an Aalim and schoolteacher, the son of a watch repairer, it grew from a base of six members with no formalities to become one of the most influential Islamic Movements of the last century. It was the lifelong dream of founder, Imam Hasan al Banna to guide people to the truth of Islam in concept and practice. Despite setbacks and betrayals, he laboured on, delivering lectures and Khutbahs widely and engaging in discussions with people of all persuasions. The selfless reviver worked day and night and never knew what it was like to relax or go on vacation. His efforts soon paid off. By 1948, the Brotherhood base grew to some 500 000 and hundreds of branches mushroomed across Egypt. Concerned about the movement’s increasing assertiveness and popularity, Prime Minister Mahmoud al Nukrashi Pasha disbanded it in the same year. Assets were impounded and scores were imprisoned.
Ebrahim Moosa in CIIbroadcasting. Here

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