Practices of Piety: An Alternative Approach to the Study of Islamic Movements
1. Studying Islamic Movements
2. The Rise of Ansar al-Sunna, 1926–52: Whither Politics?
While the journal’s response did not engage in explicit criticism of Ansar al-Sunna—it largely affirmed the principle that prayer in ritually pure shoes is lawful (ṣaḥīḥa)—Ansar al-Sunna’s elites took offense nonetheless. Most notably, a leading member of the group, Abu-l-Wafaʾ Muhammad Darwish penned an article entitled “Us and Liwaʾ al-Islam,” in which he angrily noted that the Mufti in this journal had not contested these accusations, thus leading to the “the awakening of dormant discord” (īqāẓ al-fitna al-nāʾima).37 In March 1952, Amin Muhammad Rida took this stance a step further, noting that “some Muslims reproach Ansar al-Sunna for praying in shoes…I was even accused of disbelief (kufr) and a lack of manners (ʿadam al-taʾdub).38 Far from disbelief, Rida sought to tie this practice directly to belief in and obedience towards “God and His Prophet.”39I have seen a group, which identifies itself as Ansar al-Sunna al-Muhammadiyya, praying in their shoes [in mosques] with their heads uncovered…. and insulting the scholars of Azhar…cursing [Sufi] saints (awliyāʾ Allah) and claiming that celebrating the Prophet’s birthday (Mawlid al-musṭafā) is polytheism (shirk b-illā)… I request a response.36
3. Islamic Movements in the Shade of Secular-Nationalist Repression (1952–70)
4. The Rise of Salafi Social Practice, 1970–1981
Thus, while self-segregation through proper comportment is a far cry from structural change, it has continued to serve as a means by which Salafi men and women use their bodies to lay claim to public space.63Our brother Shahata Saqr has pointed us in this study to the harms of forbidden mixing…. he has brought up well-known issues of our Egyptian society…in our universities, schools, and professional workspaces…. which encompasses numerous evil actions (anwāʿ al-munkarāt) including illicit looking (al-naẓar al-muḥarram), illicit speech (al-kalām al-muḥarram), illicit listening (al-samāʿ al-muḥarram) and the forbidden touch (al-lams al-muḥarram)…62
5. From Gender Segregation to Facial Hair, 1981–1993
Conflicts of Interest
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Amin Muhammad Rida, “al-Salat fi al-Niʿal,” al-Hadi al-Nabawi, Rajab 1371/~March 1952, 20–23, at 20.
Notable works include Mitchell (1993); Lia (1999); Wickham (2015); Kandil (2015); al-Anani (2016). For an exception, see Wickham (2002, pp. 176–203), which tracks the activities of not just the Brotherhood but also of individual members as they engaged with ideological competitors in varied spaces such as university campuses and business syndicates.
For a Turkish example, see White (2002). For a Jordanian example, see Wiktorowicz (2001). For a study that engages with Egyptian, Jordanian and Yemeni cases, see Clark (2004). For a recent work on Egypt, see Brooke (2019). An exception to this trend can be found in Rory McCarthy’s study of the Tunisian Islamist party al-Nahda, which employs the tools of political ethnography to trace this group’s rise. See McCarthy (2018, pp. 14–39).
For example, see Baker (2006); El-Ghobashy (2005); Hamid (2016); Rutherford (2008, pp. 77–130); Schwedler (2006) and Trager (2016).
See Vicini (2020). The Gulen movement also spread to Central Asia. See Khalid (2007, pp. 124–25).
Like Salafis, members of the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) seek to model their lives after the practices of the Prophet Muhammad. See Metcalf (1993). TJ was founded in 1927 by Mawla Muhammad Ilyas Kandhalawi (d. 1944), the paternal uncle of Muhammad Zakariyya al-Kandhalawi (d. 1982) who studied with leading Deobandi scholars. See Ingram (2018, pp. 10–11, 149–59). The Tablighi Jamaat have also made inroads in Central Asia. See Khalid (2007, p. 123).
On the continued role of Sufi orders in 20th-century Iran, see Van Den Bos (2002, pp. 73–142). On Central Asia, see Tasur (2018, pp. 256–83).
Muhammad ʿAli al-Qadi, “Nashʾat al-Jamaʿa,” al-Hadi al-Nabawi, Rabiʿ al-Thani 1356/~July 1937, 22–23.
Brooke (2019, pp. 35–56); Clark (2004, pp. 42–81); and Wickham (2002, pp. 150–75).
Asad (2003, p. 199).
On Israel, see Aran (1991, pp. 308–13). On the role of Revival tents within American Evangelicalism during the mid-20th-century, see Dochuck (2012, pp. 22, 324). On practices associated with the spread of Pentecostalism in Sub-Saharran Africa during this time period, see Marshall (2009, pp. 12, 71–76).
Robert Futrell and Pete Simi emphasize the importance of both “Indigenous-prefigurative” spaces (i.e., those controlled by the movement) and “Transmovement-prefigurative” spaces (cultural spaces such as music festivals) in the American White Power Movement (WPM). See Futrell and Simi (2004). The author argue for a primary focus on practices, ranging from “the promotion of traditional patriarchal gender relations; participation in solidarity rituals, such as cross-lightings and commitment ceremonies; and the wearing of racist regalia.” See Futrell and Simi (2004, p. 21). In contrast to the WPM, however, Salafis have not historically struggled with social marginality based on rejection of their views; while their interpretation of Islam may be contested, the Salafi claim to the normative centrality of Islam is widespread.
On the social significance of Salafi practices, see Østebø (2009, p. 352); Thurston (2016, p. 118); Wagemakers (2016a, p. 44); Bonnefoy (2012, pp. 49, 64); Lacroix (2011, p. 88); Pall (2018, pp. 159–60). Also see Comparative Islamic Studies 8: 1–2 (2012), particularly Svensson (2012, pp. 185–209). Gender segregation, in particular, has previously merited significant study. See Doumato (1999) and Wagemakers (2016b, pp. 40–51).
Notable studies include Gauvain (2013); Hirschkind (2006); Mahmood (2005); Jouili (2015); Deeb (2006). Notably, Neither Hirschkind nor Mahmood specifically acknowledge studying Salafi movements yet, based on the groups that they studied, it appears that the members of such movements significantly overlapped with those individuals that both studied. Specifically, Hirschkind classifies Ansar al-Sunna and the Jamʿiyya Sharʿiyya as “Islamic charitable associations” while Mahmood describes these two groups as well as a third Salafi organization, Daʿwat al-Haqq, as “Islamic non-profit organizations.” Although there is considerable debate as to the Jamʿiyya Sharʿiyya’s Salafi credentials, the other two groups understand themselves and are understood by others to sit squarely within the Egyptian Salafi movement. See Hirschkind (2006, p. 57) and Mahmood (2005, p. 72). For a study of the Fetullah Gulen movement that emphasized particular modes of pious sociability, see Vicini (2014) and Vicini (2020, pp. 74–79).
Cihan Tuğal argues for the consideration of the ways in which “culture, everyday life, identity-formation and habits might not only be resources, instruments and aspects of society that are transformed as a result of mobilization, but the very focus of movement activity.” See Tuğal (2009, p. 427) and McCarthy (2018, pp. 20–21, 26–27). For an edited volume that focuses on social practice in the Jihadi case, see Hegghammer (2017, pp. 171–201).
Previous scholarship on the Brotherhood has highlighted the importance of the “family” (usra) system a group of five to six members within the organization who meet weekly “for religious, personal or organizational purposes.” The “battalion” (katība), in turn, is composed of seven to eight “families.” See al-Anani (2016, pp. 87–89). Studies of this system, however, outline structures of religious community rather than casting light on practices of piety.
Were one to tell such a story, it would likely center on a combination of a neatly trimmed beard and a broad shoulder suit.
“Jamaʿat Ansar al-Sunna,” al-Hadi al-Nabawi, Shawwal 1356/December 1937, 28.
“Muhadarat Jamaʿat Ansar al-Sunna al-Muhammadiyya bi-l-Iskandariyya,” al-Hadi al-Nabawi, Rabiʿ al-Thani 1357/May 1937, 4.
al-Muʾtamar al-ʿAmm li-Jamaʿat Ansar al-Sunna al-Muhammadiyya, al-Hadi al-Nabawi, Dhu al-Qaʿda 1357/December 1938, 21–25.
al-Muʾtamar al-ʿAmm li-Jamaʿat Ansar al-Sunna al-Muhammadiyya, al-Hadi al-Nabawi, Dhu al-Qaʿda 1357/December 1938, 46.
“Jamaʿat Ansar al-Sunna,” al-Hadi al-Nabawi, 15 Dhu al-Qa’da 1358, 46–48, cit. 48. Also see “Jamaʿat Ansar al-Sunna,” al-Hadi al-Nabawi, 15 Dhu al-Hijja 1358/25 January 1940, 31.
For example, see “Jamaʿat Ansar al-Sunna,” al-Hadi al-Nabawi, 15 Muharram 1359/24 February 1940, 31; “Masjid Ansar al-Sunna fi al-Manuf,” al-Hadi al-Nabawi, 15 Ramadan 1359/17 October 1940, 17; and “Masjid Jamaʿat Ansar al-Sunna al-Muhammadiyya,” al-Hadi al-Nabawi, 1 Safar 1360/27 February 1941, back cover.
For example, see “Ansar al-Sunna al-Muhammadiyya- Shuʿbat al-Jiza,” al-Hadi al-Nabawi, Shawwal 1364/September 1945, 395.
Hasan (2013, p. 8).
“al-Salat bi-l-Hadhaʾ wa Hukmuha Sharʿan,” al-Islam, 18 Dhu al-Qaʿda 1350/25 March 1932, 4. According to the 1980 official fatwa collection of Dar al-Ifta, this fatwa was first issued in Rajab 1347/December 1928. See al-Bari (1980, p. 64). For its publication in al-Hadi al-Nabawi, see “Bab al-Fatawa,” al-Hadi al-Nabawi, 1 Rabiʿ al-Thani 1359/~9 May 1940, 40.
“Bab al-Fatawa,” al-Hadi al-Nabawi, 1 Rabiʿ al-Thani 1359/9 May 1940, 40.
See Rashid Rida, “Bab al-Suʾal waʾl-Fatwa,” al-Manar, 1 Ramadan 1321/20 November 1903, 823–28, at 827–28; and Rashid Rida, “Fatawa al-Manar,” al-Manar, Shaʿban 1349/19 January 1931, 442–48, at 444–45.
For more on this legal and social development, see Kister (1989, pp. 344–45).
“Fatawa,” Liwaʾ al-Islam, Rabiʿ al-Awwal 1369/December 1949, 67–70, at 68. I wish to think Yaara Perlman for locating this citation for me from Princeton University’s Firestone library.
Abu-l-Wafaʾ Muhammad Darwish, “Nahnu wa Majallat Liwaʾ al-Islam” al-Hadi al-Nabawi, Rabiʿ al-Awwal 1369/~December 1949, 21–25, at 21.
Amin Muhammad Rida, “al-Salat fi-l-Niʿal,” al-Hadi al-Nabawi, Rajab 1371/~March 1952, 20–23, at 20.
Rida, “al-Salat fi-l-Niʿal,” 20.
On the decreasing legal authority of the Madhhabs as reflected in the increasing prominence of the practice of drawing from multiple legal schools to make a ruling (known as Talfīq), see Skovgaard-Petersen (1997, pp. 154–55).
“Akhbar al-Jamaʿa,” al-Hadi al-Nabawi, Jumada al-Ula 1382/~September 1962, 48.
Ryzova (2014, p. 8).
For example, see “Bab al-Fatawa,” al-Hadi al-Nabawi, Shawwal 1384/~February 1965 33–39, at 33–34 and “Bab al-Fatawa,” al-Hadi al-Nabawi, Rabiʿ al-Akhar 1385/~July 1965, 32–7, at 32–33.
The Jamʿiyya Sharʿiyya, for its part, took the view that it was permissible to pray without a turban yet donning the turban had the effect of increasing the merit of one’s prayers. See ʿAli Hasan Hulwa, “Asʾila wa Ajwiba,” al-Iʿitsam, 20 Ramadan 1365/17 August 1946, 2, 4. I could not find record of the Muslim Brotherhood’s position on this question.
Other prayer-related practices include the Salafi prohibition against reading the Qurʾan audibly (bi-ṣawt masmūʿ), concluding the prayers secretly (jahran aw sirran), and the a rejection of the soundness of a second call to prayer (adhān) on Fridays, which had had long been justified based on the model of the third Caliph ʿUthman. See Sayyid Abu Duma, “Nadwat al-Hiwar al-Fikri maʿa al-Jamaʿat al-Diniyya,” al-Ahram, 28 October 1983, 13.
Islamists often invoked these phrases to challenge the alleged gulf between the President’s rhetorical commitments and his actions. For example, see “Barid al-Daʿwa,” al-Daʿwa, Shaʿban 1398/July 1978, 62–63.
The two key figures in this regard were ʿAbd al-Latif al-Mustahiri and ʿAbd al-Wahhab Fayyad. See “Akhbar al-Jamaʿa,” al-Hadi al-Nabawi, Ramadan 1380/February 1961, 50. This bond reflected the fact that these two figures had adopted Salafi theological positions. See “al-Jamʿiyya al-Sharʿiyya wa Sumʿatuha fi al-Bilad al-ʿArabiyya waʾl-Islamiyya,” al-Iʿtisam, Rajab 1398/July 1978, 41.
Egyptian universities enrolled approximately four times their capacity, with Arts, Law and Commerce faculties particularly suffering in this regard. See Abdel-Fadil (1980, pp. 354–55).
Tajriba Yajib an Tu‘ummam,” al-Daʿwa, Jumada al-Thaniyya 1398/ May 1978, 44.
Fasl al-Tullab an al-Talibat fi Tijarat al-Qahira,” al-Daʿwa, Jumada al-Thaniyya 1401/April 1981, 60.
ʿAbd al-ʿAziz b. Baz, “Khatar Musharakat al-Marʾa li-l-Rajul fi Maydan ʿAmalih,” al-Tawhid, Ramadan 1398/August 1978, 14. For a broader discussion of this shift, see Rock-Singer (2016).
By contrast, Muhammad Yusri Ibrahim (b. 1966), an Egyptian Salafi based in Saudi Arabia at the Islamic University of Medina and the head of this volume’s publisher, Dar al-Yusr, cautioned the author and his readers alike against delineating “permitted and forbidden forms of mixing (inna al-ikhtilāṭ minhu mubāḥ wa minhu muḥarram). See Saqr (2011, 1: 14).
Tayyar al-Jamaʿa al-Islamiyya fi al-Jamiʿat al-Misriyya,” al-Islamiyyun, published 4 February 2016, available at https://tinyurl.com/y6dutbyf.
Abu Duma, “Nadwat al-Hiwar al-Fikri maʿa Shabab al-Jamaʿat al-Diniyya Tunaqish,” al-Ahram, 25 November 1983, 13.
Salafi youth were deeply influenced by the ideas of Sayyid Qutb regarding divine sovereignty (ḥākimiyya) and the related necessity of excommunicating those Muslims who lived according to “man-made” law. As Richard Gauvain argues, “the key question [that divided Egyptian Salafism] was simple: to what degree should a Salafi acknowledge the legitimacy of Mubarak’s regime (and implicitly any political regime that does not rule through Shariʿa)?” See Gauvain (2013, pp. 39–40).
Muhammad ʿAli ʿAbd al-Rahim, “Bab al-Fatawa,” al-Tawhid, Jumada al-Ula 1406/February 1986, 18–31, at 29.
For this broader story, see Rock-Singer (2020).
See al-Sayyid Sabiq, “al-Taharat,” al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun, 24 Rajab 1363/15 July 1944, 18–19. In this instance, Ansar al-Sunna and the Muslim Brotherhood would cite the same hadith report to argue for radically different understandings of facial hair. Both would pivot on the same hadith report, narrated by the Umayyad-era scholar Nāfiʿ (d. 95–6 H/785 CE) reported the following: The Prophet said, ‘Distinguish yourselves from the pagans. Grow the beards and trim the mustaches. Whenever ʿUmar’s son performed the Hajj or ʿUmra pilgrimages, he used to hold his fist up to his beard and cut whatever exceeded it.” See al-Bukhari (2002, p. 1487).
For example, Brotherhood Supreme Guides such as Hasan al-Hudaybi (1951–73), ʿUmar al-Tilmisani (1972–86), Mustafa Mashhur (1996–2002), Maʾmun al-Hudaybi (2002–4), and Mahdi ʿAkif wore their beards short. The Supreme Guide between 1986 and 1996, Muhammad Hamid Abu Nasr, sported a longer beard.
“Kalimat al-Tahrir,” al-Tawhid, Safar 1407/October 1986, 109.
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Rock-Singer, A. Practices of Piety: An Alternative Approach to the Study of Islamic Movements. Religions 2020, 11, 520. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11100520
Rock-Singer A. Practices of Piety: An Alternative Approach to the Study of Islamic Movements. Religions. 2020; 11(10):520. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11100520Chicago/Turabian Style
Rock-Singer, Aaron. 2020. "Practices of Piety: An Alternative Approach to the Study of Islamic Movements" Religions 11, no. 10: 520. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11100520