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The Question of Reform
  Dr. Khaled el-Tarawly The question of reform is historic; it witnessed all stages of history. It is long-desired goal for rulers to settle themselves and for the ruled to improve their living conditions and to put an end to injustice and suppression. Reform becomes the topic of the hour. It is regarded as the magic remedy for all problems and diseases. Therefore,
Tuesday, October 18,2005 00:00
by Ikhwan web


Dr. Khaled el-Tarawly

The question of reform is historic; it witnessed all stages of history. It is long-desired goal for rulers to settle themselves and for the ruled to improve their living conditions and to put an end to injustice and suppression.

Reform becomes the topic of the hour. It is regarded as the magic remedy for all problems and diseases. Therefore, it is requested not only by the mass or the opposition but also by the governments themselves, of course, with various ends.

Another factor looks crucial in this question; the controlling outside, with its interests and powers. In other words, reform grows many-sided issue. Therefore, it seems difficult to grasp all its relative aspects. Accordingly, it is preferable to muse and do not prejudge. For the ultimate purpose of any valid and successful notion or hypotheses is to be approved by its supporters before its opponents, as well as its sufficient feasibility.

Reform is a changing process, based on awareness and wisdom. It is an interactive process that emerges from the actual situation to avail it. This process can be summarized into the following:

-    Reform is internal process; it has an organ, a course, and a goal.

-         Reform is gradual but radical process.

-         Reform is a product of cooperation and participation.


The Islamic Movement and Reform:


In the beginning, Moslems regarded the reform as a religious-characterized term. The Qur’anic verse of reform works as a constant reminder of this Islamic changing idea, where Allah Says" I only desire (your) betterment to the best of my power" (Hood, 88). The Islamic sense of reform does not restricted to religious meaning but includes all aspects of life, social, political, and economic.


The Islamic Movement, at the beginning, grasped this peaceful multi-side concept of reform. Hansen el-Bana, the founder of the Moslem Brotherhood, said" the Moslem Brotherhood realizes this comprehensive sense. So their ideology of reform encompasses all aspects of life. Therefore, it provides the sincere reformists with their desires and with a solid ground that connects them."


The Islamic Movement’s reform met some difficulties, regards its methodology, its essence, and its target. They resulted in making its pure image blurred before its supporters as well as its opponents; some turned in violence others got marginalized.


1-     As for its methodology, Islamic reform is peaceful, however, conditions changed this idea and the Islamic Movement engaged into confrontation.  Therefore, the reform methodology turned into forceful process. Subsequently, the Islamic Movement experienced periods of loss and dispersal.

2-     In connection with the reform essence, the Islamic Movement looked reluctant and unfruitful. On the other side, it developed slogans and symbols.

3-     The supreme goal of the Islamic reform is to Islamize the state and to apply the Islamic Law. Thus, the priority is given to the political reform, unheeding to cultural, social and psychological reform.


Balance and moderation are the outstanding features of Islam; its image, its content, its book, the Holy Qur’an. According to Muhammad Eemara, moderation is the Islamic vision. The modern Islamic Movement did not act away from this notion. However, the endeavors to connect the real approach of the movement to the Holy Qur’an create a serious problem; is this approach balanced? Or does it swing a side-to-side motion?


Overall, there are seven problems that hinder the course of the Islamic Movement. These questions contributed variously, according to time and spatial factors, to bring the Islamic reform closer or away from its core, the state of balance. They, in addition, stimulate an air of interaction, starting from the institutions of the Islamic Movement; its ideologies and individuals till responding to the challenges and requests of the outside world; people, the civil society, ruling systems, and the West.


1- The Relation with the Popular Awakening:


This point will be discussed briefly for it was tackled in many other writings. Finding the state of balance regards the relation with this popular awakening is very essential to make the Islamic reform successful.




 The Islamic Movement does not distinguish between the awakening and the Islamic phenomenon; it moreover, brings people into this dilemma. Subsequently, it turns the confrontation between any political version of Islam and the ruling systems into a clash between Islam, as religion and civilization, and systems that may tend to sever secularism. Accordingly, the movement, Islam, and people suffered. In previous writings, I have stated specified goals and functions of the both sides to put a solution to this problem.    


2- The Relation with Ruling Systems:


It was expected that the Islamic movement, in Islamic states, would be an unchallenging popular power. The ruling systems, on their part, realized the potential capacity of the movement and its hazards. So they sought to prevent the access of the movement to power by all means; sometime by eradication, and by granting unwillingly legal recognition, on other times. 


The Islamic Movement is between a rock and a hard place with a rival, the ruling systems, that is fully aware of its position. If it gets so close, it would loss its distinctiveness and would join the ’decorative’ opposition. If, on the other hand, it becomes more hostile, it may be dragged into violence and extremism. In fact, the Islamic Movement underwent both these patterns. Some insisted on confrontation, ignoring the power of its rival, elimination was their end. Others preferred to be on the side of governments; subsequently, they turned futile and lost their supporters. 


Thus, it is more reasonable to say that the partial legal recognition is better than quitting the game. Even if the Islamic Movement is not grated this legal presence, it should persist to go on the peaceful reform. For the Islamic reform is not only political but civilization-targeted that requires more effort and patience.


The gentle and logical persuasion would be an alternative for the Islamic Movement in order to escape being a ’decorative’ opposition or turning into violence. The Islamic Movement should abandon the idea of direct rule. They, instead, should "seek to make an effective ’ lobby’ in form of political party…based on the legal recognition and participation in election."


The Islamic Movement should know that politics is an arena of negotiation. Flexibility is a matter of importance; compromises can be accepted till time falls due to gain the full demands. It is safer to be peacefully constructive element even if it takes more time.     




3-The Relation with the West:


The Islamic-Western relation is critically sensitive and fragile; suspicion is its characteristic. History and the recent events have negative impact on it.


The Islamic Movement, as regard its relation with the West, is in dilemma. In state of excessive cooperation, it would bring itself into the circle of treasury. If, on the other hand, it refuses to interact, it would be discarded from the game that is largely controlled by the West.


On the other side, the Islamic Movement regards the West with suspicion. Most of the writings and debates articulate this fear and hostility, which are deepened by the events of the last two decades. The West, on it part, has involved in this deterioration and confrontation. Consequently, the Western-Islamic relation has experienced, in some places and eras, a complete severance. Terrorism contributed to this by giving no chance of understanding or cooperation.


The prime reason of the Islamic Movement’s apprehension toward the West is the thought confusion between the interests and principles. In other words, how the Islamic Movement can attain its interests without prejudice to its principles.


In fact, utilitarianism does not contradict with principles, as it is thought by the Islamic mentality. Hudibia Treaty is the best example to clarify this point. The Prophet Mohammed, may peace be upon him, sought to maintain the benefits of the new religion by providing an atmosphere of tranquility and stability that helps to comprehend profoundly Islam. Moreover, he was eager to secure the interests of the second side by accepting to erase the word ’prophet’ from the treaty. Doing that, the Prophet, may peace be upon him, did not violate his principles. On the contrary, this treaty was the most successful; dozens of people had embraced Islam during the two-year treaty more even than those who embraced Islam during the previous 15 years.


Therefore, the Islamic Movement should take into consideration this outside world with its undeniable influence. It should, furthermore, adopt the culture of reconciliation, understanding and convergence.





4- The Relation with Parties:


The relation between the Islamic Movement and the civil society, parties in particular, underwent a profound and radical change. It moved from complete refusal of its presence, in the beginning, to acknowledge and cooperation, based on rivalry and mutual respect. This fundamental turn embodies the new concept of political action of the Islamic Movement.


However, the supposed alliance scale with the civil society implies a plight. If the Islamic Movement complies to make alliance, it would waste its leading position. If, however, it seeks individuality, it would not calculate the real power of its competitor and account on premature base, its nascent structure, which would bring about its eradication.


As a matter of fact, politics is an arena of negotiation and alliances. It requires flexibility, insight and understanding.


5- The Relation with People: 


The massive popularity of the Islamic Movement is astonishing characteristic. Although the Movement lacks the legal recognition, it is brought for discussion, nationally and internationally.                                                    


Yet, this massive popularity poses a burden on the Islamic Movement.

Should the Movement be restricted to its authorities and hypotheses, while people are legitimacy-illiterate?  Or should it submit to their demands even if they may violate the Movement’s purposes and principles?


The outspoken relation with people ought to be the utmost aim for it averts being disappointed. The Islamic Movement should set a balance between its authority and fundamentals, on one side, and the requests of its mass, on the other hand. The Movement’s calls of freedom, democracy, and plurality…etc ought not to be reduced to mere election slogans. The Movement must absorb these calls; to be its invariable bases.  


This relation requires conformity between authority and actual situation. So the Islamic Movement preserves its popularity, moreover; it avoids any breach to its fundamentals.

6- The Connection between Religion and Politics:


Some may think that this is point does not imply a problem for the connection between religion and politics is apparent; it represents the Islamic religious-inspired reform that is poured in a political mold. Some sides of the Islamic Movement decline this connection. Any how, the crystallization of this tie in reality is our point. 


The first problem that meets the politicizing Islamic Movement is how to answer these two questions. How can revealed text be posed in an arena rife with reasoning and interpretations; politics? How can Islam, as a religion, be represented by a sole side or party? Therefore the program of this party would be holy revelation and its president would be a prophet. In this way belief in Allah is linked to the belongingness to that party. As a result, any thing else would be open disbelief.


Actually, the political action is not a revealed religion but a social action that is prone to be wrong or right. Political action is mere reasoning and interpretations of the revealed text in conformity with the actual situation, even if is it directed by Islamic-Law scholars. Therefore, the Islamic Movement is not a religious movement but civil that can be convenient to the modern time, taking history into consideration.


7- The Balance between Politics and Intellect:           


Politics becomes essential element in the Islamic Movement; however, its predomination over the other aspects of the Islamic reform would be deviation. For its political structure is still premature and indefinite. The Islamic Movement gives priority to the political aspect and does not try to find other constructive means. The prime goal of the Islamic reform is to establish civilization, which will not be built only by politics but also by knowledge and intellect. The Islamic reform would not be fruitful unless the intellect and knowledge are the motive instruments for construction and progress.


This intellectual gap converts Islam, from being an ideology of peaceful and gradual reform to murder and kidnapping. It also contributes to the youth tendency to violence. In addition, this intellectual drop makes reform futile, accounts on mere slogans, or destroys it wholly. In fact, some Islamic movements do not possess programs or remedies to the social problems.   


The political and the intellectual aspects are not contradictory but integral. The intellect directs the reform while politics supports it by every effective means.


In fact, if the reform is politically characterized, the intellectual aspect is its core. Islamic Movement should overcome this intellectual negligence if it desires to go on the knowledge-based race toward civilization.


The unhealthy atmosphere of injustice and oppression, which the Islamic Movement experiences, does not inspire any creativity or progress. On the contrary, it may drive it to resort to easy methods such as violence or slogans. Yet, politics is not a paved way to be considered the perfect solution. So the political rush is the Islamic Movement’s real mistake.


In conclusion, the course of Islamic reform was thorny; the Islamic movement incurs precious and incalculable sacrifices. The intention of the Islamic Movement is to construct and reform the Islamic societies. The Islamic ideology of reform starts from institutions; individuals and programs, then it extents to the outside world. Reform is a progressive process that needs patience and tolerance to defy these challenges and obstacles. The mechanism of reform is; to develop sound connections with people, to nourish conformity with the civil society, to reconcile with the ruling systems, to smoothly understand the West, to resolve its peaceful and democratic methodology. Finally, this posed reform is the indication that the Islamic movement is eager to engage into constructive and tranquil contributions to the social development.

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