Gamal al-Banna

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Gamal al-Banna (also: Jamal al-Banna, Arabic: جمال البنا‎; ‎ 15 December 1920 – 30 January 2013) was an Egyptian author, and trade unionist. He was the youngest brother of Hassan al-Banna (1906–49), the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood.[1] Unlike his brother, however, Gamal al-Banna is a liberal scholar and well known for his criticism of Islamic traditional narratives rejecting 635 Hadiths of Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim which he finds contradictory to Qur'an and its message of justice, freedom, and tolerance.[2]

Gamal al-Banna was also the great-uncle of the well-known Swiss Muslim Tariq Ramadan.

Early life[edit]

Born in 1920 into a pious family in Mahmudiya, Gamal was the youngest brother of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. His father mended watches for a living but spent much time collecting and classifying hadiths. As a child he was weak and sickly, so he spent his time reading with his father. After completing secondary school he refused to go to university but decided instead to start a writing career.[3]

Thinking[edit]

Gamal al-Banna represents an interpretation of Islam which is rationalist, humanist, egalitarian, feminist, anti-authoritarian, liberal and secular. As a political thinker and social reformer he adopts an anti-capitalist position and can be regarded as a democratic socialist.[4][5] In his book al-barnamadj al-islami ("The Islamic Program") Gamal al-Banna writes the following in the preface, when the end of the Cold War became visible in 1991 ("A Disrupted World", page 6-8):

"The collapse of Marxism doesn’t mean that capitalism will succeed. Rather, this means that the mistakes of Marxism were bigger than the mistakes of capitalism. [...] Most people forget that Islam occurred at a time when the world was divided into two huge states forcing upon it humiliating subjection, class rule, and the government of tyrants. Both deprived the masses of the most fundamental principles of justice and left them in poverty and ignorance, burdened with the back-breaking load of forced labor which leaves them neither time nor health, nor opportunities to think. Both enthroned Caesars and Chosroes as gods exerting authority over life and death. Then Islam came and destroyed these systems: it replaced the class system with its elitist barriers and dead ends by the general equality of the people, the highest ranks or the strata of notables by the declaration of absolute equality among the people, without any difference between black and white, male and female, rich and poor, base and noble. [...] It was not the prayer or the fast that constituted the new gift, for the cultic commandments are represented in all religions. Rather, what was new was the spirit of freedom, the principles of justice and equality that Islam let shine. Today Islam is called upon to fulfill this role a second time."[6]

Islamic revival[edit]

With a rationalist interpretation of Islam, Gamal al-Banna tries to explain the “true” unadulterated Islam of the Quran and Messenger Muhammad. He contrasts this progressive interpretation of Islam with reactionary versions of Islam which were determined or falsified over the centuries by sharia jurists (fuqaha). By his appeal to an Islamic revival (al-ihya` al-islami) Gamal al-Banna intends to encourage the Muslims not to rely on traditional opinions but to form their own opinions with the help of the Quran and reason. While Gamal al-Banna considers the Quran to be the authentic word of God, he criticizes that a lot of alleged hadiths (reports on Messenger Muhammad’s statements and acts) were obviously falsified and that Muslims should trust only that part of the Sunna (prophetic tradition) which doesn’t contradict the Quran or reason.[7]

Humanism and social justice[edit]

An important aspect in Gamal al-Banna’s humanist thinking is social justice. He has been committed to the labor and trade-unionist movement for decades. Al-Banna used to be a labor union official in the textile industry, and in 1953 he founded The Egyptian Society for the Care of Prisoners and their Families.[8][9] Gamal al-Banna taught at the Cairo Institute of Trade-Union Studies for 30 years (1963–93). In 1981 he founded the International Islamic Confederation of Labor in Geneva and became its first president.[10] Typically the scholar wears a grey suit ("Mao look") showing his anti-materialistic and egalitarian attitude.[11] According to Gamal al-Banna Islam is anti-capitalist: It is not only opposed to historical slavery, i.e. the social enslavement of human beings, but also to their economic enslavement and exploitation.[12] Gamal al-Banna’s humanistic character can be seen in his aversion to severe punishment, e.g. the death penalty for apostasy[13] as well as in his opposition to the discrimination against women[14] or religious minorities such as the Coptic Christians in Egypt.[15]

Egalitarianism and feminism[edit]

Gamal al-Banna is a strict egalitarian: Islam gives women and men the same rights and duties, and a good Muslim regards all human beings as equal, no matter what their religion is. As for the role of women in Islam, al-Banna doesn’t see any reason why a Muslima (Muslim woman) shouldn’t take over the role of imam (female: imama, i.e. leader) in the prayer salat.[16] While the traditional "Islam of the jurists" is very restrictive toward women’s rights, the original Islam intended to liberate the women.[17] In Egypt Gamal al-Banna campaigns for the interreligious understanding between the Muslim majority and the Coptic Christian minority.[18] Being an anti-authoritarian thinker, Gamal al-Banna is an opponent of the religious establishments; in his homeland this inevitably leads to a continuous confrontation with the state-controlled and basically conservative al-Azhar University. Gamal al-Banna believes that every Muslim has to think for herself/himself and that nobody, neither politicians, nor religious leaders, nor any other individual has the right to enjoin anything on anybody in the religion.[19] Gamal al-Banna breaks a taboo every time he doesn’t adhere to what those theologians say who are indisputable authorities in the eyes of conservative and fundamentalist Muslims.[20] The Muslim forefathers may be role models, yet the Muslims are not obliged to follow their example.[21] Gamal al-Banna is not anti-authoritarian in the religion only: in the field of politics he regards the state as a necessary evil whose power should be reduced as much as possible in order to keep the abuse of power down as much as possible. It is fair to say that Gamal al-Banna is a democratic socialist.[22]

Liberalism[edit]

For Gamal al-Banna religious thinking may not be restricted in any way. Freedom must reign, and there should be no taboos when it comes to the freedom of expression. Al-Banna’s absolute freedom of belief comprises a Muslim’s conversion which doesn’t permit anyone to harm her/him. There can be no coercion in religion which is a personal issue between oneself and God.[23] Gamal al-Banna also demands the liberation of women from the chains of the sharia jurists.[24] Although Gamal al-Banna is convinced that wearing a headscarf (hejab) is not a religious duty for a woman, which he repeatedly states, he doesn’t want to restrict the hejab-wearing women in what they think is the right religious practice.[25]

Secularism[edit]

Gamal al-Banna is a religious Muslim whose secular attitude shows in his opposition to the notion of an "Islamic state", for it is abused by politicians for political ends whereby both the Muslims and Islam are harmed. Consequently, he champions the separation of state and religion, i.e. laicism (or secularism, but not the secularization of society), in order to protect both the Muslims and Islam from the political establishment’s misuse of Islam. The Arabic term ´almaniyya (secularism) tends to have an anti-religious connotation for native speakers, thus Gamal al-Banna avoids it and considers himself an islami (Islamist), which can be misleading. Gamal al-Banna probably wants to make clear by this that for him Islam is not only a private issue but that Islam must be socially relevant and that it can be political. This does certainly not mean that he favors a religious state. The title of a pertinent book conveys this thought best: "Islam Is Religion and Community, not Religion and State."[26]

Media[edit]

Gamal al-Banna frequently appears on Egyptian and other Arab TV programs where he answers questions and takes part in discussions (see "Videos" below). In the Egyptian media he has been portrayed as someone awkward for many years, as a lateral thinker whose opinions trouble a lot of people. In Ramadan 2006, e.g., he said that smoking wasn’t forbidden in Islam and that Muslims may even smoke in the daytime in Ramadan, i.e. during the fasting period. He justified that by the fact that there were no cigarettes in the prophetic era (7th century AD) and that neither the Quran nor Messenger Muhammad prohibited smoking explicitly.[27][28] In another controversial discussion Gamal al-Banna said that kissing and hugging did not constitute fornication (zina) which some religious leaders regard as a criminal act.[29]

Books by Gamal al-Banna[edit]

  • al-Banna, Gamal: al-Islam din wa umma wa laisa din wa doula (Islam is Religion and Community, not Religion and State). dar al-fikr al-islami. Cairo, 2003.
  • al-Banna, Gamal: da´wa al-ihya` al-islami (The Appeal to an Islamic Revival). dar al-fikr al-islami. Cairo, 2005.
  • al-Banna, Gamal: ikhwani al-aqbat (My Coptic Siblings). dar al-fikr al-islami. Cairo, 2006.
  • al-Banna, Gamal: al-mar`a al-muslima baina tahrir al-qur`an wa taqjid al-fuqaha` (The Muslim Woman Between Being Liberated by the Quran and Being Enchained by the Sharia Jurists). dar al-fikr al-islami. Cairo, 2002.
  • al-Banna, Gamal: tathwir al-qur`an (The Revolutionization of the Quran). dar al-fikr al-islami. Cairo, 2000.
  • al-Banna, Gamal: matlabuna al-awwal huwa: al-hurriyya (Our First Demand Is: Freedom). dar al-fikr al-islami. Cairo, 2000.
  • al-Banna, Gamal: tafnid da´wa hadd ar-ridda (Refutation of the Demand of the Punishment for Apostasy). dar ash-shuruq. Cairo, 2008.
  • al-Banna, Gamal: al-hejab (The Headscarf). dar al-fikr al-islami. Cairo, 2002.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Timothy Garton Ash, Guardian, 15 March 2007 "We are making a fatal mistake by ignoring the dissidents within Islam."
  2. ^ تجريد البخاري ومسلم من الأحاديث التي لا تـُلزِم , Aafaq.org
  3. ^ Timothy Garton Ash, Guardian, 15 March 2007 "We are making a fatal mistake by ignoring the dissidents within Islam."
  4. ^ Andreas Meier: Der politische Auftrag des Islam (The Political Mission of Islam). Peter Hammer Verlag, Wuppertal (Germany), 1994. Page: 283–285.
  5. ^ al-Banna, Gamal: al-islam din wa umma wa laisa din wa doula (Islam is Religion and Community, not Religion and State). dar al-fikr al-islami. Cairo, 2003. Page: 202.
  6. ^ Andreas Meier: Der politische Auftrag des Islam (The Political Mission of Islam). Peter Hammer Verlag. Wuppertal, 1994. Page 285-6.
  7. ^ al-Banna, Gamal: da´wa al-ihya` al-islami (The Appeal to an Islamic Revival). dar al-fikr al-islami. Cairo, 2005.
  8. ^ Brochure: "About Gamal Al-Banna" from his office in 195 El Geish Street, 11271, Cairo.
  9. ^ Meier, Andreas: Der politische Auftrag des Islam (The Political Mission of Islam). Peter Hammer Verlag. dar al-fikr al-islami. Wuppertal (Germany), 1994. Page: 282.
  10. ^ Brochure: "About Gamal Al-Banna" from his office in 195 El Geish Street, 11271, Cairo.
  11. ^ Ivesa Lübben: Gamal al-Banna: Gerechtigkeit für alle (Gamal al-Banna: Justice For All); in: Amirpur, Katajun/Ammann, Ludwig: Der Islam am Wendepunkt (Islam at a Turning Point). Verlag Herder. Freiburg i.B. (Germany), 2006. Page: 164-5.
  12. ^ Meier, Andreas: Der politische Auftrag des Islam (The Political Mission of Islam). Peter Hammer Verlag. dar al-fikr al-islami. Wuppertal (Germany), 1994. Page: 283.
  13. ^ al-Banna, Gamal: tafnid da´wa hadd ar-ridda (Refutation of the Demand of the Punishment for Apostasy). dar ash-shuruq. Cairo, 2008.
  14. ^ Ivesa Lübben: Gamal al-Banna: Gerechtigkeit für alle (Gamal al-Banna: Justice For All); in: Amirpur, Katajun/Ammann, Ludwig: Der Islam am Wendepunkt (Islam at a Turning Point). Verlag Herder. Freiburg i.B. (Germany), 2006. Page: 164-8.
  15. ^ al-Banna, Gamal: ikhwani al-aqbat (My Coptic Siblings). dar al-fikr al-islami. Cairo, 2006.
  16. ^ Ivesa Lübben: Gamal al-Banna: Gerechtigkeit für alle (Gamal al-Banna: Justice For All); in: Amirpur, Katajun/Ammann, Ludwig: Der Islam am Wendepunkt (Islam at a Turning Point). Verlag Herder. Freiburg i.B. (Germany), 2006. Page: 164-8.
  17. ^ al-Banna, Gamal: al-mar`a al-muslima baina tahrir al-qur`an wa taqjid al-fuqaha` (The Muslim Woman Between Being Liberated by the Quran and Being Enchained by the Sharia Jurists). dar al-fikr al-islami. Cairo, 2002.
  18. ^ al-Banna, Gamal: ikhwani al-aqbat (My Coptic Siblings). dar al-fikr al-islami. Cairo, 2006.
  19. ^ Ivesa Lübben: Gamal al-Banna: Gerechtigkeit für alle (Gamal al-Banna: Justice For All); in: Amirpur, Katajun/Ammann, Ludwig: Der Islam am Wendepunkt (Islam at a Turning Point). Verlag Herder. Freiburg i.B. (Germany), 2006. Page: 170-1.
  20. ^ al-Banna, Gamal: tathwir al-qur`an (The Revolutionization of the Quran). dar al-fikr al-islami. Cairo, 2000. Page: 65.
  21. ^ Meier, Andreas: Der politische Auftrag des Islam (The Political Mission of Islam). Peter Hammer Verlag. dar al-fikr al-islami. Wuppertal (Germany), 1994. Page: 281.
  22. ^ al-Banna, Gamal: al-islam din wa umma wa laisa din wa doula (Islam is Religion and Community, not Religion and State). dar al-fikr al-islami. Cairo, 2003. Page: 202.
  23. ^ al-Banna, Gamal: matlabuna al-awwal huwa: al-hurriyya (Our First Demand Is: Freedom). dar al-fikr al-islami. Cairo, 2000.
  24. ^ al-Banna, Gamal: al-mar`a al-muslima baina tahrir al-qur`an wa taqjid al-fuqaha` (The Muslim Woman Between Being Liberated by the Quran and Being Enchained by the Sharia Jurists). dar al-fikr al-islami. Cairo, 2002.
  25. ^ al-Banna, Gamal: al-hejab (The Headscarf). dar al-fikr al-islami. Cairo, 2002.
  26. ^ al-Banna, Gamal: al-islam din wa umma wa laisa din wa doula (Islam is Religion and Community, not Religion and State). dar al-fikr al-islami. Cairo, 2003.
  27. ^ Anger over Ramadan smoking ruling, 30 September 2006
  28. ^ Ramadan fast means hard times for Muslim smokers, Karin Laub and Dalia Nammari (Associated Press Writers), USA Today, 9/22/2008
  29. ^ : الاسلامى جمال البنا يكشف حقيقة اللمم القبلة المفاخذة الاسلام (TV Broadcast (Arabic)), Youtube

Further reading[edit]

  • Gemeinhardt-Buschhardt, Konstanze: Gamal al-Banna und sein Schaffen - Ein reformislamischer Ansatz zur Verbesserung der Situation der muslimischen Frau. In: Hermeneutik und Exegese - Verstehenslehre und Verstehensdeutung im Regionalen System koexistierender Religionsgemeinschaften im Orient. Hrsg. Ute Pietruschka, Hallesche Beiträge zur Orientwissenschaft 43 (2007), Halle 2009, S.49-62
  • Meier, Andreas: Der politische Auftrag des Islam. Programme und Kritik zwischen Fundamentalismus und Reformen. Originalstimmen aus der islamischen Welt (The Political Mission of Islam. Programs and Critique between Fundamentalism and Reforms). Peter Hammer Verlag, Wuppertal (Germany), 1994. Page: 280–287. ISBN 3-87294-616-1
  • Lübben, Ivesa: Gamal al-Banna: Gerechtigkeit für alle (Gamal al-Banna: Justice For All); in: Amirpur, Katajun/Ammann, Ludwig: Der Islam am Wendepunkt (Islam at a Turning Point). Freiburg i.B. (Germany), 2006. Page: 164-72. ISBN 3-451-05665-8
  • Brochure: About Gamal Al-Banna aus seinem Büro in 195 El Geish Street, 11271, Cairo.

External links[edit]