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Turābī, Ḥasan al-

By:
Peter Woodward
Source:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

Turābī, Ḥasan al-

Ḥasan al-Turābī (b. 1932), was a Sudanese Islamist and political leader. He was born in central Sudan and grew up in a particularly devout Muslim family. He received an Islamic education from his father as well as a standard modern education, going on to study law at the universities of Khartoum, London, and the Sorbonne. He joined Sudan's Muslim Brotherhood as a student in the early 1950s and came to prominence during the popular uprising of October 1964. The brotherhood subsequently founded a small but vociferous party, the Islamic Charter Front, through which al-Turābī pushed for an Islamic constitution.

The military coup of 1969 was a setback, and al-Turābī later went into exile, but in 1977President Jaʿfar Nimeiri sought reconciliation with al-Turābī and his brother-in-law Ṣādiq al-Mahdī. al-Turābī became attorney general and encouraged the Muslim Brothers to move into many areas of public life, including the new Islamic banks and the armed forces. Many Sudanese believed al-Turābī was behind Nimeiri's introduction of Islamic law in September 1983; however, Nimeiri broke with al-Turābī and imprisoned him shortly before the popular uprising of 1985 in which Nimeiri was overthrown.

In the 1986 elections al-Turābī's party, now known as the National Islamic Front (NIF), came in third, but it was clearly the rising force in Sudanese politics. For the next three years the NIF was in and out of Ṣādiq al-Mahdī's weak coalition governments, but the party remained determined to develop Sudan as an Islamic state, even at the expense of perpetuating the civil war in the south. It was widely believed that it was the prospect of a secularizing compromise with the south that precipitated the NIF-backed coup of June 30, 1989 (although al-Turābī was briefly imprisoned along with other leaders of the officially banned parties). Since 1989 he has been seen as the mastermind behind Sudan's effort to establish an Islamic state, even though he has held no formal position in the government.

Al-Turābī has never published a comprehensive account of his thought, but his various writings and pronouncements present a relatively liberal interpretation of Islam, including a belief in democracy and pluralism. He has not repudiated this line of thought, but the regime for which he regularly speaks, both in Sudan and abroad, has been widely seen as the most restrictive since independence in 1956. Parliamentary democracy was abolished by the military, which in promoting its Islamic revolution has forcibly repressed not only political parties but also many independent groups in civil society. The Muslim Brotherhood has become dominant not only in government but also in the civil service, the professions, and the economy. Feared by neighboring Arab states as a promoter of radical Islamic activism, the new regime has cooperated in turn with Libya, Iraq, and Iran; and Iran in particular supported government victories in the civil war in the south in 1992.

Al-Turābī has thus won a reputation for pragmatism and flexibility in the pursuit of resurgent Islam, which he seeks to see expand not only in Sudan but also in neighboring African and Arab countries. His success in building the Muslim Brotherhood in Sudan before 1989 enabled the military regime to pursue its Islamizing policies. These actions have entrenched the Brotherhood within the country and made it a wider force for the promotion of radical Islamic fundamentalism throughout North and East Africa.

See also MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD, subentry on MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD IN THE SUDAN; and SUDAN.

Bibliography

  • El-Affendi, Abdelwahab. Turabi's Revolution: Islam and Power in Sudan. London, 1991. Fullest account of al-Turābī's work and thought.
  • Esposito, John L, and John O. Voll.Makers of Contemporary Islam. New York, 2001. Contains a biography of al-Turābī.
  • Lowrie, Arthur L., ed. Islam, Democracy, the State, and the West: A Round Table with Dr. Hasan Turabi, May 10, 1992. Tampa, Fla., 1993.
  • Sidahmed, Abdel Salam. Politics and Islam in Contemporary Sudan. New York, 1996.
  • Turābī, Ḥasan al-. “The Islamic State.” In Voices of Resurgent Islam, edited by John L. Esposito, pp. 241–251. New York, 1983.
  • Turābī, Ḥasan al-. “Principles of Governance, Freedom, and Responsibility in Islam.”American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences4, no. 1 (1987).
  • Turābī, Ḥasan al-. Women in Islam and Muslim Society. London, 1991.
  • Voll, John O., ed.Sudan: State and Society in Crisis. Bloomington, Ind., 1991.
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