Return of the Pharaoh is the story of a Muslim woman and the torture she was subjected to in the dungeons of Jamal ‘Abd al-Nasir, the ‘champion of Arab Nationalism’, and ‘the founder of post-monarchal Egypt’. It is but one story, but it is representative of countless similar stories which have never become known to the general public. This story relates the efforts of a dedicated Muslim woman and her brothers and sisters in the cause, to make Islam, once again, a living reality, and how they were severely punished for that. In truth, it is the story of a wounded Islam in its own backyard. The story of how Islam had become, and still is, strange and estranged in Egypt and how the callers to Islam were persecuted, imprisoned and killed. Return of the Pharaoh also tells about the ideological conflict which was, and still is, reigning in Egypt and many other parts of the Muslim world. It tells about the conflicting loyalties that the Muslims, in this case the Egyptian Muslims, face in their lives and in society. On the one hand, the loyalty of the silent majority of Muslims to Islam, traditional values and a way of life they can identify with. This is supported, enhanced and championed by the Islamic movement. And on the other hand, a minority of people uprooted from their origin, alien to the values of their ancestors, and who are, knowingly or unknowingly, serving as tools to safeguard the interests of the wealthy nations.
There is no salvation for this Ummah or the world except through calling to Islam. The dungeons of prisons, the instruments of torture and the pains of those so oppressed have but increased the strength, firmness and patience of Muslim activists and thinkers who stood in the face of falsehood. The way to truth is one. It is the way of Allah, His Prophets and Messengers and all their inheritors. As for falsehood, its ways are diverse and many, and on each of these ways there is a devil who embellishes, for those who are absorbed by falsehood, evil deeds and leads people ever more readily towards them.
‘Verily, this is My Way, leading straight: follow it, follow not (other) paths, they will scatter you about from His (great) Path . . . .”
♣ ‘NO’ to the Despot!
(Muslim Ladies Organization refuses to become a socialist union as demanded by Jamal Nasir.)
Dear reader! The stance which the Muslim Ladies took, it should be recalled, was in 1964, when Nasir’s rule was at its zenith. At a time when many people preferred to conceal what they really thought. Such people used to endorse the despot’s actions, and even worse some issued Fatwas in support of Nasir’s deeds. They would ascribe to Nasir things which made a demigod of him. Believing something and displaying exactly the opposite (taqiyyah), while discrediting those who refuse to do the same, is not something Islam ascribes to. A true Muslim does not waste his or her own faith nor is the mocking of Muslim brothers and sisters permitted. Yet many supposed Islamic magazines competed to please the despot. Even al-Azhar magazine, which was once dear to our hearts, opened its pages to hypocritical writers who competed to please falsehood and its folk. Fatwas which defamed the Mujahids who opted for ‘azimah and shunned the error they called rukhsah, began pouring from some government-employed scholars. They hurled abuse at those Mujahids who called people to practise Islam and not merely belong to it by name; for Islam is practice, not lip service.
The Muslim Ladies Group neither refused to follow what some people called rukhsah, nor did it stop short of belonging to Islam. Instead, the Muslim Ladies raised the banner of truth and pronounced the word of truthfulness, at a time when a great many people denounced them for fear of losing their jobs, their careers and their homes. The Muslim Ladies did not stand by as spectators, but spoke frankly about the events which were going on, seeking Allah’s pleasure, even if in the process it upset many people. The members of our Group continued to meet and as for myself I had dedicated my whole life to the Muslim Ladies; it was my raison d’etre. For I had pledged to Allah on the day I established the Group that I would never submit my life to anybody beside Him. The huge number of Muslim ladies who poured into my house renewed their pledge to dedicate their lives to following Allah’s way and to calling people to it. They agreed with me to hold meetings in their homes whereby our preachers would teach the ladies the principles of Islam. But sadly our opportunities were few for the despot’s state machine was watching anyone who called to Allah in these kind of meetings. One by one the ladies who held these meetings were contacted by Nasir’s agents and threatened. In this way the state obtained an undertaking, from all the ladies involved, that they would not hold such meetings again. Thereafter our activities were confined to those of a personal nature.
Renewing The Struggle:
We began our researches and studies anew in the form of small epistles which were distributed among the youth. These were then read and discussed in study circles. Ten to fifteen youth would gather to read ten verses of the Qur’an, then revise their injunctions and commands of behavior as well as their goals and intentions for a Muslim life. When they had understood and grasped these verses another ten would be studied and so on, following the example of the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
Sweet, glorious days and Allah’s bounties passed by while we studied and taught ourselves, as well as preparing our youth for da’wah. It was of paramount importance that we prepare future generations in the persons of these youth who would hopefully become teachers of education and training in their own right for subsequent generations.
We had decided, following Sayyid Qutb’s instructions and with the consent of al-Hudaibi, to extend the period of education, training and planting of tawhid in people’s hearts, to thirteen years. This accorded with da’wah’s age in Makkah. The grassroots of the Muslim Ummah in Egypt were members of the Ikhwan who adhered to the Shari’ah of Allah. We were bound to establish all the commands mentioned in the Qur’an and the Sunnah inside our Islamic circle.
We studied the state of all the Muslim world, looking for examples that compared with the righteous caliphate whose model we wanted to implement. We decided, after a long study of the bitter realities, however, that there was not a single Islamic state that deserved to be that example, with the exception of Saudi Arabia. Even then we had some reservations, feeling this country needed to undertake some emendations and corrections before it could be truly exemplary.
All our studies showed that the notion of Islam was not upheld, even though various states waved slogans claiming it had established the Shari’ ah of Allah. It was decided after these exhaustive studies, that after thirteen years of Islamic training of our youth, elders, women and children, we would make an exhaustive survey of the state. If this survey revealed that at least 75% of the followers of da’wah believed that Islam is a complete way of life and are convinced about establishing an Islamic state, then we would call for the establishment of such a state. If the percentage is less, then we would extend the period of Islamic training for another thirteen years and so on, until the Ummah is ripe to accept Islam’s rule. We were not at all bothered about the time this would take. What was important was that we carried on working until our deaths and that the banner of ‘there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger’ is handed over to those who would come after us.
A Righteous Husband:
My work on this project did not obstruct the fulfillment of my role at the Muslim Ladies Group, nor did it make me neglect my familial duties. However, when my respected husband, the late Muhammad Salim Salim, noticed Brother ‘Abd al-Fattah Isma’il, together with a number of other pure Muslim youth, frequently visiting me at our home, he questioned: ‘Is there Ikhwan activity here?’ ‘Yes.’ He asked me about the nature of this activity and its scope, and I answered that it was the re-organizing of the Ikhwan group.
But when he began scrutinizing the matter further it was only correct that I reminded him of our undertakings to each other: ‘Do you remember, my dear husband, what I told you when we agreed to marry?’ ‘Yes! You made some conditions, but I fear for you today because of your opposition to despots.’ ‘I remember very well what I told you. As we were going to be married I told you there was something in my life that you needed to know about so that you wouldn’t ask me about it later on, for I will never relinquish it. I am the President of the Muslim Ladies Group, but some people think that I am a follower of alWafd political principles, which is not true. What I really believe in is the message of the Ikhwan. What relates me to Mustafa al-Nahhas (head of Wafd political party) is personal friendship, but I am under pledge of allegiance, until death for the sake of Allah, to Hasan al-Banna. Nevertheless, I have not stepped even one single step which would bestow upon me this divine honour. However, I believe one day I will take this step that I wish and dream of. If that day comes, and because of it, a clash is apparent between your personal interests and economic activities on the one hand, and my Islamic work on the other, and that I find my married life is standing in the way of da’wah and the establishment of an Islamic state, then, each of us should go our own way. ‘I expressed this to you then, and I remember well your tear-stained eyes and your questioning response: “I am asking you about your material requirements, you want none in respect of your dowry or marriage rights, but you ask me not to stop you from the way of Allah. I know of no link between you and Hasan al-Banna. In fact, I know that you disagreed with him concerning the annexation of the Muslim Ladies to the Ikhwan group.” ‘Al-hamdu lillah, I reached an agreement with Hasan alBanna during the trial of 1948, shortly before he was martyred.
I had decided,then, to relinquish the idea of getting married for ever, so that I would devote my entire life to da’wah. I cannot ask you today to share with me this struggle, but it is my right on you not to stop me from struggle in the way of Allah. Moreover, you should not ask me about my activities with other fellow activists, and let trust be full between us. A full trust between a man and a woman, a woman who, at the age of 18, gave her whole life to Allah and da’wah. In the event of any clash between the marriage contract’s interest and that of da’wah, our marriage will end, but da’wah will always remain rooted in me. ‘Do you remember all this, dear husband?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘I ask you today to keep your promise; do not ask me whom I meet and may Allah divide His reward for my efforts, if He accepts them, between us. I accept that ordering me to listen to you is among your rights, but Allah is greater than ourselves and His da’wah is dearer to us than ourselves. Besides, we are living in a dangerous phase of da’wah.’ ‘Forgive me. Carry on your work with Allah’s blessing. If only I could live to see the establishment of an Islamic state and the Ikhwan’s goal achieved. If only I was still in my youth to work with you!’
Thereafter our work and activities intensified and a great many youth began visiting my house at all times of the day and night. My righteous husband would hear a knock on our door in the middle of the night. He would get up to answer it and let whoever was our visitor into the study-room. Then he would wake the woman, who was in charge of running our home affairs, to prepare tea and food for our visitors. Next he would wake me up with extreme care, saying: ‘Some of your children are in the study-room, they look tired from travelling.’ Pulling on my clothes I would go and meet my visitors while my husband would go back to sleep, saying: ‘Please wake me up, in case you pray Fajr in congregation, if it’s all right with you.’ And, indeed, I would wake him up when we prayed in congregation. My husband always greeted all my visitors in a fatherly manner, full of love, care and compassion…..
End of Part 1.
Editor’s Note: (This series is a collection of excerpts taken from the book ,titled ‘ Return Of The Pharaoh’ , written by Zainab Ghazali, Head of the Muslim Ladies Organization in Egypt. It recounts all the horrors committed by Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Dictatorship depriving Egypt and Muslim world of a true chance of Islamic Renaissance. They are meant to arouse curiosity in the reader to research those tumultuous days when Colonialism was morphing into yet another form of subjugation in the name of freedom.)