Dr. Muhammad Emara – who departed from our world on the evening of Rajab 4, 1441 AH, corresponding to February 28, 2020 – is a milestone in an important historical stage, regardless of our differences in our positions on it and from his intellectual production. Left and right turned in the realms of ideas, it all started early before all, and it was a pioneer for all. Experiment, think, contemplate, books, present and struggle. In its first stage he was a leftist; It was a scene influenced by a broad young generation who later became great thinkers in various currents.
Amara handled his ideas meticulously sometimes, and at other times he exaggerated; Approached from the left, approached the Mu’tazila, approached the Brotherhood, approached the Salafists, and worked with Al-Azhar headed by Sheikh Dr. Ahmed El tayeb; But he remained independent, self-made and could not be counted on anyone but himself.
He had the merit of a head start, the virtue of respectable moral stances, he did not compliment and did not change what he truly believed. He was steadfast on his principles, especially since he had asceticized in positions, travels, and jobs that he recovered very early after his graduation and then divorced them until his death.
The following is an interview that was conducted with him in 1431 AH / 2010AD within the framework of preparing a documentary – for the benefit of Al-Jazeera – about his personal biography and intellectual career, and the dialogue has not been fully published, and some amendments have been made to it, which requires converting the text of speech from oral to written, without any prejudice This is in its text, its meaning, and not even its wording, with a few exceptions imposed by editing and casting words.
1- The stage of formation and intellectual formation:
• You grew up in an illiterate rural family; Could you describe the atmosphere in which you grew up and the difficulties you faced?
– I was born on Rajab 27, 1358 AH, corresponding to December 8, 1931 CE, in a village called “Sarwah,” the center of “Qaleen,” in Kafr al-Sheikh governorate in the northern Delta. I was born into a well-to-do rural family, neither rich nor poor, living off their land, and I was joking and saying that I am one of the “gentlemen”; My father is one of the gentlemen of the Pharaohs, and my mother is one of the gentlemen of the family of al-Bayt. The family embodies the embrace of Egypt with Arabism and Islam, I am the fourth of my male brothers, and my father before I was born a vow to God Almighty if this pregnancy came a son to name him Muhammad and give him to knowledge, and knowledge in the term village at that date is Religious science.
I had an experience in “al-Kuttab” in which there was severe cruelty and violence, and people used to think that the “corporal” or the sheikh who hit hard was the one who was teaching good. This behavior alienated me from teaching, so I tried to work in agriculture like my brothers, but my father was keen to fulfill his vow, and he preached to me a cruelty more severe than the cruelty of the book.
I moved to another book where a sheikh named Muhammad al-Jundi, may God have mercy on him, taught us about it. He was an Azharite who did not complete his education, he was confused with circumstance and kindness, and when I went to him, God conquered me, and things began to go in the right way. I memorized the Qur’an and its quality, and in the same period I used to go to compulsory education, so we learn the rules of arithmetic and all these modern civil matters.
In 1945, I went to the Religious Institute in the city of Desouk, and there were five institutes in Egypt at that time: the Alexandria Institute, the Desouk Institute, the Tanta Institute, the Cairo Institute, and the Assiut Institute, and now there are more than 8 thousand institutes. The elementary school on that date was like the middle school now, we used to enter the first elementary school after memorizing the Qur’an, its intonation, arithmetic and dictation.
And the elementary school in Al-Azhar at that date taught higher sciences, so in the fourth grade of primary school we were studying ‘The Seed of Gold’ (= a reference book in grammar by Ibn Hisham al-Ansari, who died in 761 AH / 1360 CE), who studies in four years at the College of Arts, what we study in the elementary in one year He was studying in four years at King Fouad University!
The experience of primary education opened many doors for me, especially since the atmosphere in Al-Azhar was characterized by stagnation, and we used to study the footnotes and comments. We were striking, sit-ins, and protests calling for the reform of Al-Azhar and the introduction of foreign languages.
• How I headed to the first reading of it? And who are you affected by?
– I was fortunate with a number of professors who gave me a great benefit, such as Sheikh Abd al-Rahman Jalal, who was a righteous man and a scholar of jurisprudence, who encouraged me to read, and Sheikh Muhammad Kamel al-Fiqi, may God have mercy on him, who was the spark that ignited thinking, reading and writing, was a political and ransom, which was denied by the Saadia government in That time to Desouk, he was distinguished as an Sheikh, elegant, reading newspapers and magazines, and this was strange to the sheikhs on that date.
We were in the second year of elementary school and he was teaching us grammar, and reading the opening article for us in the Al-Masry newspaper, he entered one day and asked: Who among you can buy a book other than the prescribed books? So I went and bought the book “The Looks” by Al-Faflouti (d. 1924 A.D.), and this was the first book in my life that I bought from outside the established books. He told me: I bring it with you, and I used to read and read about it, and at the end of the school year we held a party for the Sheikh and we gave him a “Box of Benbouni”, and I wrote Poem in praise.
In our village there was a scholar named Sheikh Abd al-Tawab al-Shennawi who was a reader and preacher and enjoyed a kind of leadership in the village, and he graduated from the College of Fundamentals of Religion, and God willing that he died in the year in which he graduated, and he had a rich library containing four thousand books, and it included the magazine ‘Al-Azhar’ and the magazine Al-Risalah, in which the original copy of the magazine “Al-Urwa Al-Wuthqa” was included, as well as the eyes of Islamic thought and a number of books translated from European languages.
His family was illiterate, which made the library neglected, so when he turned to reading, I started buying this library, so I bought the library for forty pounds (each book for a penny), and I bought it in batches, because the amount was buying a large land at the time. I used to read this library, especially during the vacation period (four months). I used to read until the lines were lost before my sight, so I would rest and then read again. I read in this library the book ‘Nahj al-Balaghah’ explained by Imam Muhammad Abdo (d.1905 CE), and the theory of [evolution] by Charles Darwin (d.1882 CE), and I read about socialism.
2- Attachment to the national cause and political work:
• You practiced political activity at the university, and joined “The Girl Egypt”; Why is Egypt the girl and not the Muslim Brotherhood?
– It happened that I met people from the “Young Egypt” party, and I started to work in politics through the national movement in Egypt, and through the Palestinian cause. The first demonstration I participated in was in 1946 during the Institute’s period (1945-1946), and they were demonstrations against the Sedqi / Bevin Project about the English evacuation from Egypt.
In 1947 I began to preach in mosques against the Jews (= the Israelis), and for the sake of the Palestinian cause, and I wrote the first article entitled “Jihad” about the fedayeen who entered Palestine before the Arab armies. It was published on April 1, 1948 in the newspaper “Misr Al-Fatat”, and I believe The publication of this article determined my future and my destiny in my relationship with writing.
I had anxiety at this point; Do I belong to the Muslim Brotherhood or Egypt the girl? Misr al-Fatat was a national, progressive, Islamic party, and the Brotherhood was an Islamic group, and I saw in a dream Ahmed Hussein (d. 1982 CE) and Hassan al-Banna (d. 1949 CE). The students who belonged to the Brotherhood had a specific program in reading that they did not transgress, and it was determined for them by the group, and I had an insatiable desire to read, because this restriction on the freedom to read and read is what favored the girl’s Egypt.
In addition to that, my father, may God have mercy on him, was sick, and he was afraid that if he died, he would not complete my education, so he wrote me a condition of two hundred pounds. The girl, and I know the news of the fedayeen who entered Palestine from Egypt and Syria, before the entry of the Arab armies to Palestine in May 1948.
After that, I turned to the Socialist Party, which gave me an opportunity that many of my generation of students of Al-Azhar education had not had. The student Al-Azhari used to read in heritage, and the student in civil education was reading in Western thought. As for me, I had the opportunity to read about heritage and Western thought together.
• At this stage, you had a clear revolutionary tendency, so that you tried more than once to train in weapons and engage with the fedayeen at a very early stage in your life; how did that happen?
– When the events of the Palestinian cause escalated; I volunteered to train in weapons and go to Palestine, but because of my age and that Desouk was a small city, I did not have the opportunity to enter Palestine, and when the 1936 treaty between Egypt and England was canceled in 1951, I trained on weapons as well.
Then I also trained in weapons to go to the Suez Canal and fight the English army in the military bases there, but the Cairo fire happened, and I postponed the matter. But I was able to go to the canal to confront the tripartite aggression 1956, when I had a relationship with the Egyptian left, which was between him and the government cooperated to confront the tripartite aggression.
In the primary and secondary stage – before joining the left – I had experience in spiritual jihad and non-tariqa mysticism, and I used to preach on the pulpit against the Sufi orders and teach people the duties of religion and resist injustice, and on the Friday before the July Revolution I happened to criticize King Farouk, and when he was dismissed after the revolution he thought Some people thought that I was aware of the details of the July Revolution, and others thought that I was one of the righteous saints of God.
When the parties – including Young Egypt and the Socialist Party – were abolished, we had no choice but to confront feudalism, for the left at that time was the knight of the social cause and social justice, and it had a position on the national cause. It was against military bases and foreign presence. I had entered the left from the door of the social issue as a matter of revolution.
There are two issues that have stuck with me in my life – from the beginning until this date – and they are: the issue of freedom and the liberation of the homeland, and the issue of social justice, which was calling people to stand with the poor, and this is what made me belong to the left. The left also allowed me to read Marxism and Western thought, and this added to me and was not deducted from me. There were many things in Marxism that I realized had analogues in Islamic thought, such as the idea of controversy and the relationship between social phenomena.
• Why were you admitted to prison, and how did this experience affect you while you were a student?
– it was the consequences of the link that I left , separated from the university for one year; Because I led a national and national conference, and I was arrested for about six years, which led to my graduation being delayed until 1965 (instead of 1958). During the period of imprisonment and detention – despite the torture therein – I embarked on reading and writing. Pen and paper were forbidden. Because I am a farmer with experience in agriculture, and this allowed me to communicate with the people of the oases.
During that period I wrote four books; Before prison I wrote a book on Arab nationalism and America’s plots against Arabs, when I was a student at Dar Al Uloom, I wrote it in the face of a leftist ideology that denies the existence of an Arab nation, and I, with my Islamic heritage, realized that the Arab nation was formed with the emergence of Islam, so I spent a week and wrote this book, and it was the first book in Egypt publishes on Arab nationalism after the union between Egypt and Syria, two editions were printed and translated into Russian. I wrote it in 1957 and printed in 1958.
When I entered prison and things stabilized, I embarked on reading to develop this study, so I wrote books: ‘The Dawn of National Awakening’, ‘Arabism in the Modern Age’, ‘The Arab Nation and the Issue of Unity’, and ‘Israel Is It Sublime?’; It is a study comparing the Zionist project and the Crusader project. And these books were published after I got out of prison.
3- Intellectual and ideological shifts:
• You had a leftist orientation and a nationalist tendency, how did you combine them? Then you fluctuated a lot – apparently – so you moved between the left, socialist thought, Mu’tazila and Islamic reformism. How do you view these shifts and classifications?
– I entered the left for the sake of the social issue, but by reading and contemplating in prison, I realized that the solution to the social problem lies in Islam, in the theory of succession and not in the class struggle and Marxism, and this is what made me – after getting out of prison in 1954 and obtaining a BA in 1965 – devoted myself to the intellectual project since the middle of Sixties. There was a sharp polarization in intellectual life between Westernization and what is called Salafism, so Islamic moderation and Islamic renewal – that is, the connection to origins and roots with renewal – were what occupied me.
My positions in the left phase, the nationalist phase, and then the Islamic phase occurred in which there was maturity and development, but there were no sharp breaks between them. I was a leftist in the revolutionary social sense, not in the dogmatic sense, so there was no atheism. Because spiritual experience and authentic religious formation kept me from being absorbed into materialistic thought and material theory. When I realized that the solution to the social problem in Islam – and not in Marxism – this was the beginning of maturity in the Islamic position.
In the Nasser stage, there was a focus on the national and Arab dimension, and I was and still am aware that nationalism is one of the circles of the Islamic League, so there was no contradiction between the victory for Arab unity and Arab nationalism and the Islamic circle.
In the left phase, I do not deny that a kind of intellectual fraud occurred to me, and one of the downsides of the left phase – for me – is that I used to memorize many poetry collections, and then I forgot this in the left phase because I occupied me with publications and political activity, but the intellectual fraud began to disappear in the Islamic phase little by little After 1967, the national project retreated and the focus became the Islamic circle.
Also, from the depth of my Islamic position, the emergence of the Islamic awakening in the eighties, and the escalation of Western challenges to the Islamic awakening and the Islamic solution after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, which made me devote many books to confront Western thought and respond to the ultra-secularists, but the national and Arab circle remained, the issue of social justice and the revolution. Social injustice is noticeable in my writings, and the human circle and interaction with different civilizations has also been present in my intellectual project.
As for the subject of Mu’tazila; I wrote my masters and doctorate theses as a form of hobby, because from the beginning I resolved and prayed to God not to be an employee and to devote all my time to intellectual work. I wrote my masters in 1970 about the Mu’tazila and the problem of human freedom, and what motivated me to this – an idea that I still keep – is that I embrace all the nation’s heritage, all the nation’s divisions, and not entrench itself in a particular sect or sect.
I found that those who wrote about the Mu’tazila before me used to write about the Mu’tazila from the books of their opponents; Because the Mu’tazila manuscripts had not been discovered, even Karl Brockelmann (d.1956 CE) when he wrote ‘History of Arabic Literature’ did not write about the manuscripts of the Mu’tazila, and the Zaydi imams had collected the Mu’tazila heritage and imprisoned it and no one knew about it, and when I went in 1951 – on a mission from the University The Arab countries and the Egyptian House of Books – To Yemen, I learned about the newly discovered Mu’tazilite heritage.
Taha Hussein (d.1973 CE) had previously been interested in the manuscripts of Judge Abdul-Jabbar (d.415 AH / AD), so he published al-Mughni and many of these books, and I was the first to complete higher studies in Mu’tazili thought, and my work was fairness to the Mu’tazila and not biased towards them as a group without The rest of the difference, I wrote a doctoral thesis on the theory of the Imamate between the Mu’tazila, the Shiites, and the different sects of the Sunnis.
Moreover, the accusation of retirement still exists until now, but I say: I did not entrench itself in a sect. The Mu’tazila did justice as knights of Islamic rationality, and they were the knights of spreading Islam in the cities that were opened and there were schools of philosophy, so it was necessary for a rational thought to confront these schools.
While I was studying the Mu’tazila, I used to publish the works of Rifa’a al-Tahtawi (d. 1873 CE), Muhammad Abdo, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (d. 1897 CE), Abd al-Rahman al-Kawakibi (d.1902 CE), Qasim Amin (d.1908 CE) and Ali Mubarak (d.1893 CE).
I invite those who consider retirement an accusation to distinguish between the Mu’tazila of Basra and the Mu’tazila of Baghdad, and the developments that took place after that. And when I call for embracing the entire heritage of the nation and choosing from it, I am against emigration to a division, entrenching itself in its trenches, or rejecting a division. Salafi thought has things of greatness, and when I approached Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728 AH / 1328 CE), I wrote about him and his rationality, and now we are called “the New Modernists,” and before we were called “the New Heritage,” a name given to me, Tariq al-Bishri and Adel Hussein (D 2001 AD).
4- Writing and the intellectual project:
• Why did you decide from the beginning to be a writer? What distracted you from nothing but writing from what other jobs and positions occupied with?
– I started publishing in an early period since I was in elementary school, and this gave me a sense that this is my natural place, so the most beautiful place to put my name is a newspaper or a book. I used to consider the job a kind of slavery, and after we got out of prison, my fellow leftists found a job in the press and other things based on a deal with the government. As for me, I left the left, so I did not appoint in this field, but appointed me to the Consumer Association.
When I asked the reason for this, I was told: There are many thieves, and we want you to prevent theft in the association! I told them: But there is a possibility that I will turn into a thief like them! I realized that this job was an attempt at moral killing, my salary was twenty pounds, and I used to take leave without pay to spend most of my time (18 hours) in the Egyptian National Library (in the postgraduate stage), and sometimes I was paid seven pounds a month after deducting a period Holiday. My father used to send me unleavened bread, bread, sugar and tea on the train from the country.
I realized that it was necessary to resist this moral killing, especially since I tried to work as a corrector in the printing press, but they refused, and after two or three years I asked to be transferred to the Ministry of Culture in Heritage in the General Book Authority, and I began to work in the investigation of heritage, and I had the opportunity to review sensitive Islamic books Very poorly paid.
I was offered a lot to go to Arab universities in the oil-rich countries, and I refused; Because myself did not allow me to work for a sponsor, and because my main goal was to devote myself to intellectual work, and what helped me in this was that my wife was understanding of my intellectual ambitions, so that she left her higher education in agriculture and devoted himself to the house and carried its burdens, and my house is a library, which I reconstituted after it Looted after arrest.
I used to go to the book fair every day to buy books with the money I collected, and my library grew until it covered all the walls of the house, and my wife asked me: What do we do with the books? I tell her foreplay: We’ll hang it on the ceiling. My children were born in a library, and I had a curriculum in teaching children to train from an early age on pictures and paper, and to establish an affinity between them and the paper.
• What do you mean you writing? If you don’t write, what do you feel?
– Writing for me -kalqrah and intellectual work is Aam- message, but is the mother of worship. My office is my mihrab, and I see that sincerity in what I think is a matter of principle, so a person strives and may be wrong, but what is important is sincerity in seeking the truth. We are fighting a fierce battle and a declared war on Islam, and that is why I live in the face of challenges, and I have book projects that I neglected for many years because of these challenges.
• those who have been affected? Have you been influenced by a specific person in writing and investigation techniques, especially as you entered postgraduate studies as a hobby and did not pursue an academic career?
– There are many scholars that have been influenced by them in the moral aspect and the intellectual attachment to the mouths of Islam, more than by their writings. The modern school that I was heavily influenced by and belonged to is the school of revival and renewal, especially al-Afghani and Abduh, as their heritage was the starting point for the process of revival and renewal in the modern era.
There was a strong spiritual relationship between me and Sheikh Muhammad Al-Ghazali (d.1996 AD), before I read the Sheikh’s books when I wanted to defend him against the Salafist attack on him. I greatly admired Abbas Al-Akkad (d. 1964 A.D.) in his Islamism and not in politics, and when I was on the left I used to write letters of criticism and severe attack, and he was responding to me in the newspaper ‘Akhbar Al-Youm’, I was writing under a pseudonym and he gave me violent responses. Because he was supporting the king and the English, so his political side made him less than it was.
I used to admire Akkad, his self-worth, his opulence, and his pride. I used to see him in Tahrir Square, so I greatly admired him. I also liked Taha Hussein, although the literary side has more than the intellectual side, but his career and his struggle have formed sources of intellectual admiration for these flags.
Nevertheless, I was not entangled in the legacy of Alam from among these, but the group that set about publishing its heritage and ideas (Al-Tahtawi, Al-Afghani, Ali Mubarak, Muhammad Abdo, and Qasim Amin), and I learned the verification of books from the investigation of Aisha Abdul Rahman (the deceased girl in 1998 CE) to the letters of Abi Ala Al-Maari (d. Hegira 449 / AD 1058).
• Are you affected by writing your psychological, social or external influences? Do you have a special atmosphere and rituals in writing?
– make writing for me against a wall surrounding the effects, drown myself in the intellectual work so as not influenced by the social drawbacks of existing and political life. Politics was divorced in the colloquial sense (state policy) because the reform school – and in particular Muhammad Abdo – believed that the ummah was before the state and education before politics.
Intellectual work and immersion in it is a treatment even for the organic diseases that a person suffers from, and if Sufism is talking about halal wine and halal sugar, then I think that intellectual work is the sugar that keeps you away from life’s troubles.
In the past I wrote without a draft I bring the book material (chips and splashes) and then write, then I found myself recently writing a draft that I review and then white, and write the draft on small pieces of red ballpoint pen, then I write on beautiful lined paper, and I make a margin for it with the ruler on both sides, and I write with a black ink pen because I photograph it later ; Black ink appears clearer. I write in the morning after breakfast until lunch, then take a rest and then write again.
In past periods, circumstances used to help writing more, but health conditions call for relief now, despite the fact that the intellectual project is large, and many of my books are turned into sources for me, and the great training in the use of sources has become a human aid, although I do not work on computers, but the experience in Sources and references help a person to reach what he wants easily, but the blessing is abundant, praise be to God.
• Are you satisfied with all what you wrote?
– There are books that I realized that reprinting them is not useful and in need of review. These have stopped reprinting them, and I referred to this in my book list, and there are things that I wrote that I did not review except that I wrote what corrects them.
In some cases, she relied on some sources and then found that they were not reliable, such as the book ‘The Imamate and Politics’ (attributed to Ibn Qutaybah al-Dinawari, who died in 276 AH / 889 CE), and these writings were corrected. But the march is long; I started writing since 1948, and it is natural for ideas to develop and revisions take place in curricula and rulings, and those who do not review their ideas are the dead!
Therefore, I see intellectual reviews and intellectual development as an advantage and a virtue. In addition; There is the issue of priorities, and it differs from the reviews, for each stage has its own priorities and challenges. In the national phase, the focus was on the Arab circle more than the Islamic circle, and in the Islamic phase nationalism was included within the framework of the Islamic circle, then the focus was on Westernization and secular exaggeration.
• What are the most important ideas that you retracted?
– What you wrote about the national character of Islam; I used to emphasize that religious monotheism is just a face, but the other side is the unity of the nation. I previously focused on national unity, but after that I focused on Islamic unity. I was influenced by the idea of class struggle and then I adopted the theory of succession, the theory of the ummah, the theory of balance, social justice, social security and solidarity.
• You write a lot, and too much may not be a virtue!
– Because I was completely cut off from this work, and I was working 18 hours every day, and I paid a price in terms of health for that: cartilage, cervical vertebrae, and so on, as well as being disconnected from social relations, so even my relatives and children visit me more than I visit them, and people are familiar with this. Another thing is that my books approached 240 books, but a hundred of them are pamphlets or extracts from books.
• It may seem from your recent writings that you have become closer to Salafism, how do you see the matter?
– I wrote a pamphlet on ‘One Salafism or Salafiyyah,’ and I wrote about it in the book ‘The Streams of Islamic Thought,’ and Muhammad Abdo was talking about being a Salafi and wanted to understand the religion as understood by the predecessors of this nation before the dispute arose. Every person is ancestor, everyone has a past, but what is your past? Is it the era of prosperity or the era of decline? How do you deal with your predecessor? Do you migrate from the present to the past, or are you inspired by the ancestors and the past to read reality and solve reality problems? So we have different advances.
So when I read Ibn Taymiyyah in recent years, I found amazing things in him, and some of the Salafists who read what I wrote about Ibn Taymiyyah told me: Our sheikhs did not read Ibn Taymiyyah and did not understand him! In the Salafism, I always distinguish between the stage of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (d. Hegira 751 / AD 1350).
I also distinguish between the reaction of Imam Al-Ash’ari (d. 324 AH / 936 CE), and between the stage of development of al-Ash’ari thought among al-Isfari (d. 418 AH / 1028 CE), al-Juwayni (d. 478 AH / 1085 CE) and al-Ghazali (d. 505 AH / 1111 CE).
It is necessary to be aware of the idea of the development of systems within the Islamic sects, and it is an idea that makes a person appear Salafi and progressive I consider myself a Salafi, progressive, revolutionary and an innovator at the same time, and there is no contradiction between these names, but it is necessary to control who your predecessor was? How do you deal with it?
• Some accuse you of repeating yourself often. Some booklets are taken from other books. Some books are repeated with different titles and the content is one!
– I have a great intellectual project, and the repetition of the question; When I want to write about Hassan Hanafi, for example in the book “Reading the Religious Text” between Western interpretation, Islamic interpretation and absurd interpretations, and I find myself writing about this issue for Saeed Al-Ashmawi (d. 2013 CE), I can use the previous texts again and this is not a repetition, nor I deny repetition in the sentence, but re-use of previous material is not an exaggeration of the size of the project, but rather are natural things in intellectual work.
• What are your most important books that you consider to be a real addition?
– Many books, such as ‘Milestones of the Islamic Curriculum’ which talks about the features of Islamic moderation, and it is a unique book in its chapter; As well as what I wrote about ‘Islamic thought currents’ and the chaos of terminology, and what I wrote about responding to general suspicions, about the Qur’an and Sunnah, tolerance and human rights and the status of women, Sunnis and Shi’ites, religious war and jihad, and what I wrote in the face of projects of Westernization, Westernization and secular exaggeration in response to victory Abu Zaid (d. 2010 AD), Hassan Hanafi and Saeed Al-Ashmawi.
As well as what I wrote about the intellectual battles that took place around pre-Islamic poetry and Ali Abd al-Raziq (d.1966 CE) and about Salama Musa (d.1958 CE) and the future of culture, and on Sayyid Qutb (d.1966 CE) and his old cultural affiliation when he responded to Taha Hussein’s book “The Future of Culture” in 1938 And in responding to the currents of Westernization, whether in realizing the heritage of the Islamic Wasatiya School (the series “Complete Works”), or in the ancient heritage, such as my writings on Ibn Rushd (d.595 AH / 1199 AD), realizing the chapter of the article for him, and achieving the “Messages of Justice and Unification” (= Various messages by a group of Mu’tazila imams), works through which I discovered the common space between the currents of Islamic thought.
• What are the most important features of this intellectual project that you talk about constantly?
– To highlight the reality of Islam and its features: the belief, Sharia, and the intellectual system, the Islamic revival of society, the Islamic guidance to man, the universality of Islam, as well as the jurisprudence of the reality in which we live and the implementation of these Islamic rulings on the reality in which we live, and confronting the declared war on Islam. In short: what is our Islam? What is the reality that we need to understand and Islamize? What are the challenges facing this Islam? These are the parameters of the intellectual project.
• Do you see in this project a tendency towards conservatism after you were a revolutionary, especially in the last stage of your life?
– This is not conservative; When I write about ultra-secular and westernized people, I seem to be conservative, and when I write in the critique of stagnation and tradition, I seem to be revolutionary and progressive. This is a topic related to the field in which I write, but there are basic features that do not change, which are: preserving my vision of Islam and the landmarks of Islam, and my tireless work to rise and remove the ummah from the bottleneck in which I fell, and to face the fierce Western challenges and the declared Crusade against Islam.
5- Battles and rivalries:
• Some also accuse you of having a separatist tendency towards the West?
– On the contrary I wrote more than 30 years , the book ‘intellectual invasion illusion or reality’, and presented a theory of the relationship between civilizations, it is not of my invention but read the history of this relationship. There are no Chinese walls between civilizations, as seclusion dissolves personality, and subordination and imitation dissolve the self and denigrate it. Therefore, I distinguished between the general human commonality, and this laws do not change with the change of civilizations, and between the cultural, doctrinal and philosophical imprint, and in literature and the arts, as every civilization has its own imprint and cultural distinction.
I admire Sayed Qutb when he talks about the genius of Western civilization in material creativity, and therefore I do not establish a rupture with Western civilization, but I reserve reservations on the material, philosophical and pagan side that moved to Western civilization from Greek thought, and as a matter of first the conquest and colonization of the Islamic world, I call for interaction Between civilizations, I attack estrangement and dependency.
• There was an attack on you from the Coptic Church, how do you explain that?
– Because the Coptic Church is dominated by a nationalist racist project, and in 1952 an association named “The Coptic Nation” arose in Egypt with us saying: All of Egypt is our homeland, raped by Arabs and Muslims fourteen centuries ago, the Coptic language is our language, the Bible is our constitution, Christ is our leader.
This group disagreed with the Church in 1954, so they kidnapped the Patriarch, then they were arrested in April of the same year by the regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser (d. 1970 CE), and among them was Pope Shenouda (d. 2012 CE), who entered the monastery in July 1954 and appeared in 1971 and adopted The Church this racist project, and from here began sectarian strife. We did not have sectarian strife in Egypt before the coming of Pope Shenouda.
I asked the question that no one asked, which is: Why was there no sectarian strife in Egypt before Pope Shenouda came? This angered them, and also because I wrote responses to missionary leaflets distributed in Egypt, and I wrote them by virtue of my membership in the Islamic Research Academy.
I wrote about sectarian strife and the racist project that wants to replace Arabic with the Coptic language, which says in the text: “If you say to the Copt: You are Arab, this is an insult.” Therefore, I praised Makram Ubaid (d.1961 AD) when he wrote in ‘Al Hilal’ in April 1939. ‘ Egyptians Arabs “, so he proved the Arabism of the Egyptians before the Islamic conquest, and he used to defend in the courts and read the Qur’an and say: I am a Christian, by religion, a Muslim country.
• How would you describe your relationship with the Islamic movement in general, and with the Brotherhood in particular, and you were twice the mediator between the Brotherhood and Sheikh Yusef Al-Qaradawi, and you presented him with the organization’s proposal to be the general guide?
The Brotherhood trust me and love me, and I consider the organization to be the largest of the Islamic movements, especially in light of the state of fragmentation in the movement and parties, so we have no balance in the street except the Brotherhood. I previously wrote a review of the movements, including the Brotherhood; Because they focused on politics in the common sense, and neglected the reform project, and neglected to talk about the occupation that the nation is experiencing and the military bases that spread throughout the nation, and the fleets that spread in the seas and oceans.
The Brotherhood also neglected social justice, although when I wrote about Hassan al-Banna and his grandmother calling for agrarian reform before the Egyptian Communist Party, and he had a revolutionary social program, Sheikh Al-Ghazali also fought his battle against social injustice, and even Sayed Qutb wrote against social injustice, but all this was absent. The Brotherhood is a great asset that we should not neglect, and we must support it.
• After the death of Sheikh Muhammad Al-Ghazali, may God have mercy on him; It seems that you have turned to the idea of rejecting suspicions and defending Islam, and this took a lot of effort from you, and this may be understood as a retreat from construction to defense. What is the background to this transformation?
– At the last meeting between me and Sheikh Al-Ghazali at his home; He entered and brought me his last book ‘Toward an Objective Interpretation of the Holy Qur’an. ” He died and was buried there in Al-Baqi.
Guardian of a story with the Sheikh; I heard about it and I had no connection with it, and there was a battle between the sheikhs and Abd al-Rahman al-Sharqawi (d. 1987 CE) about his leftist writings. Al-Sharqawi said this in an article he wrote in Al-Ahram newspaper.
I happened to read the article and it contained my name, but I was not affected; Because I loved Al-Ghazali from afar, and then after the sheikh had read a set of articles to me – and he had not read anything to me before it – he sent me a letter, and he told me in it words that shook me from the depths. He said: They told me about you that you interpret the Sharia in a material way, and it was not appropriate for me to judge men through the articles of others, and that the little I read for you returned me to the right thing in your matter, and I went to those who told me about you and said to them: This is the decade of the age, and this and this …!
This leads us to Sheikh Muhammad Metwally Al Shaarawi (d.1998 CE) as well; He used to teach rhetoric in Tanta while I was a student, and he had no more talents than a teacher of rhetoric. Then, in the era of the sixties, when the voice of material thought rose, Shaarawi wanted to appear suddenly in the face of this.
I met him in 1992 when we set up a committee to work a reconciliation between the Ministry of the Interior and the violent groups, and the relationship between us was strengthened, so he placed great hopes on me, and in the last meeting between me and him on the day of Sheikh Jad al-Haq’s death (d.1996 CE), people used to receive mourners and he was sitting on a chair. I entered, rose up, stood up, hugged me and kissed me, then raised his hands to the sky and said: “Our Lord makes the reward in you, our Lord makes the reward in you!” I felt that a mountain was placed on my shoulders!
You worked for a period in censoring and evaluating books, and writing reports on them; Have you ever recommended confiscating some of the books that you have evaluated?
– by virtue of Egyptian law; The Islamic Research Academy has a mandate over religious affairs, and therefore artistic or intellectual works related to Islam are consulted in them, including books received from abroad, and by virtue of my membership in the Academy they refer to me censoring some books. I have reviewed some Christian books, and I was the first to suggest a response to them rather than writing a report on them. I suggested that these responses be published as appendices in the magazine ‘Al-Azhar’.
Within this framework; I have reviewed some of Abd al-Karim Soroush’s books, and although you disagree with him, his books are not confiscated, but are discussed and criticized, as well as the books of Jamal al-Banna (d. 2013 CE). And even the “bikini swimsuit” is superfluous! I also reviewed a book by Saeed Al-Ashmawy on the Egyptian origins of Judaism, in which he presents Judaism as an Egyptian thought not a religion, of course that denies the Qur’an and denies Qur’an narratives.
I do not like to confiscate books. Because I put myself in the shoes of the writer, and I have personal experience in this regard. In the 1960s, I submitted my book ‘The Dawn of National Awakening’ to the Egyptian House of Authorship and Translation, affiliated to the Ministry of Culture. I had a friend who was one of the Sheikh’s students, and he talked to him about the book, but the Sheikh did not like the matter for fear of suspicion!
Then I went to Sheikh Al-Khouli for the first time in 1965, and he told me: I disagree with you on such-and-such, but you have a point of view, and you have a distinctive style, so be keen on it. Al-Khouli wrote a positive report about my book that had not been written before, and when I went to the Egyptian house to ask them about the book, they welcomed me and offered me coffee! But the Chairman of the Board of Directors was determined not to publish it, so he sent it again to the office of Gamal Abdel Nasser for Arab Affairs headed by Hassan Sabri El-Khouly (d. 1985 AD), so he referred the book to the Higher Institute for Socialist Studies.
It happened that the person to whom the book was referred read my first book on Arab nationalism and was impressed with my ideas, so he approved the book and then I got a reward of one hundred pounds. But I had spent it running after the book. Therefore, when I examine the books, I put myself in front of the author, and I stayed for many years reviewing Islamic books in the General Book Authority, and saved authors from neglect whose names had been crossed out But I discovered a genius in them. My job is to make my remarks and the author reconsider them and then authorizes the book. I strive to preserve the conscience of the author and creator when dealing with books.