Shukri Mustafa (1942-1978)
Spiritual leader of Takfir wal-Hijra (Jama'at al-Muslimin) during the 1970s

NameShukri Mustafa (1942-1978)
Also Known As
Biography Shukri Mustafa was born on 1st June 1942, in the village of Abu Khurus, 30 kilometres south of Asyut in Middle Egypt, a short distance from the Qutb family home town of Musha. The area has been described as a breeding ground for Islamists, and in the rare occasions that Egyptian police penetrated to Abu Khurus, the villagers hid in caves near the village. In his youth, Shukri was relocated to Asyut, after his father repudiated his mother.11 Gilles Kepel, Muslim Extremism in Egypt, p73.
In 1965, while studying agricultural sciences at an Islamic-run agricultural college, Shukri was arrested for distributing Muslim Brotherhood literature.2 The Muslim Brotherhood is a Salafi organisation that was founded by Hassan al-Banna in 1928 with the goal of establishing an Islamic State in Egypt as a prelude to a pan-Islamic Caliphate. 2 Kepel, p74.
Zohurul Bari, Re-Emergence of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt, p69.
Jama'at al-Muslimun aka Takfir w'al-HijraDuring his stay in Abu Zubal prison, Shukri was part of a Muslim Brotherhood splinter group, Jama'at al-Muslimun (Muslim Society), which implemented a particularly radical interpretation of Sayyid Qutb's text Ma'alim fi'l-Tariq (Milestones on the Road). The group separated itself from the other prisoners and declared them to be infidels on the basis that they were willing to collaborate with the regime of Gamal Abd al-Nasser against Israel.3 Although the group broke up when its leader was convinced by scholars that he was in error, Shukri Mustafa re-founded the group outside prison in 1971,4 after the Egyptian Government liberalised its policies towards Muslim radicals under President Anwar Sadat. 3 Emmanuel Sivan, Radical Islam: Medieval Theology and Modern Politics, 1990, p16.
4 Kepel, p105.
Shukri's Jama'at al-Muslimun practiced a radical withdrawal from jahili5 society, rejecting the allegedly corrupt practices of contemporary Egyptians. According to Shukri's group, their nascent 'true' Islamic society (jama'at) was in a 'phase of weakness' analogous to that experienced by Muhammad during his period of Da'wa (preaching) in Mecca. Before direct action could be brought to bear by the group, it had to build its strength in isolation, which necessitated migration (hijra) away from the corrupting influence of jahili society. 5 Jahiliyya means the state of pagan pre-Islamic ignorance. The definition of jahiliyya was expanded in the works of Ibn Taymiyya and still further by Maulana Maududi, to encompass all of 'apostate' society.
The name al-Takfir w'al-Hijra was applied to Jama'at al-Muslimin by journalists after the group became publicly known. As a descriptive name Takfir w'al-Hijra has far more utility than Jama'at al-Muslimin. Takfir is a verb which means to declare kufr (infidel), that is, to excommunicate. The Hijra is the flight or migration of Muhammad and his jama'at from Mecca to Yathrib (Medina) in 622 AD. Takfir w'al-Hijra's modus operandi during the 'phase of weakness' is summed up by Shukri's statement:
If the Jews or anyone else came, our movement ought not to fight in the ranks of the Egyptian army, but on the contrary ought to flee to a secure position. In general, our line is to flee before the external and internal enemy alike, and not to resist him.6
6 Kepel, pp83-84.
This quote sums up the aspects of Shukri's ideology that Muhammad Abd al-Salam Faraj emphatically rejected. The next few paragraphs will explore the different ideas embedded in the quote.
Takfir wa'l-Hijra's migration took three forms.
  • Initially, the group travelled to caves in the mountains, away from populated areas.
  • Some men in the group travelled to oil-bearing states such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, to earn money and enrich the organisation. After such a tour, the man was entitled to take a wife.
  • Married couples in the group lived communally in rented 'furnished apartments', in which they attempted to create an ideal Islamic community.7
  • 7 Kepel, pp89-90.
    Takfir wa'l-Hijra's I'tizal or separation from Egyptian Society, which was expressed by the doctrine of hijra, remains important to radical Islamists today. It was also tied up with the idea that the supposedly jahili Egyptian state and society were a polluting influence to be avoided. Unlike the more 'moderate' heirs of the Muslim Brotherhood, which collaborated with the Egyptian regime, the takfiris considered the Egyptian state to be at least as objectionable as Israel.8 This distinction between takfiri radicals and collaborationist reformers continues to be an important division in Salafism. Ayman al-Zawahiri's early pamphlet, The Road to Jerusalem Passes Through Cairo, was an example of the takfiri emphasis on attacking the "near" or "internal" enemy (the apostate state) before the "far" or "external" enemy (Israel or the West). Al-Qaeda's break from the "Egypt first" policy during the 1990s created controversy amongst takfiri Salafis for this reason. 8 Kepel, p84.
    Ijtihaad and MaddhabsAnother aspect of Shukri Mustafa's creed that is quintessentially Salafist is his rejection of the traditional schools of Sunni Islam, the Maddhabs. Mustafa believed that the Great Imams, the four ninth century scholars whose study of the sources of Islamic law had established four schools of mainstream Sunni Islamic law, had in fact placed themselves between man and God, usurping His prerogatives. The closure of the Baab al-Ijtihaad, or gate of interpretation, that followed the death of the last Great Imam, was decried by Mustafa. He proposed that the Qur'an and Ahadith4 be directly interpreted by Muslims, re-opening the baab al-ijtihaad. His radical theory is illustrated by this quote:

    We would like to call your attention to the following fact: Islam has been in decline ever since men have ceased to draw their lessons directly from the Qur'an and the Sunna, and have instead followed the tradition of other men, those who call themselves imams.9

    Mustafa's radically 'reformationist' Salafism was typified by his assertion in court that the only help a man needs to understand the Qur'an is a dictionary.
    9 Kepel pp79-80.
    Education and ScienceShukri Mustafa's creed rejected modern education and science on the basis that there is no science except in God. He said that The Muslim is obligated to seek his path and knowledge before God alone, and so-called knowledge, which is actually no knowledge at all because it is not founded in the Lord, is forbidden. This marked an important point in Salafism's gradual turning away from modernist rationalism. Placed alongside his views about rationalist interpretation of the Qur'an, this point of view reveals the contradictory nihilism of contemporary takfiri radicalism, which, by rejecting both modernist rationalism and traditionalism, is left with no rudder but the most base of human instincts, resulting in a descent into violence and alienation from humanity. In the hands of takfiri Salafism, the enigmatic living religion of Islam becomes merely an instrument of politics.
    Although Mustafa Shukri's rejection of modern, western, scientific modernism may seem to lend support to the common perception that Islamic radicalism can be cured by increased education, particularly in the western sciences. However, ironically, around 80% of Takfir w'al-Hijra members were University educated, frequently in western 'professional' disciplines.
    DemiseIn mid-1977, the Egyptian authorities got wind of Takfir w'al-Hijra's activities, when an early 'raid' by the group was foiled. The organisation was rapidly wound up and Egyptian society was scandalised, as it became clear that many impressionable young people, often from well-to-do backgrounds, had been caught up in this strange sect. Shukri Mustafa's court testimony did little to assuage this scandal.
    DemiseShukri Mustafa was executed on 19th March 1978.1010 Africa Database
    In terms of its objectives, Mustafa's model failed. His group had failed to go beyond the initial 'phase of weakness', much less launch a wide-ranging jihad toppling the apparatus of state. Amongst those who agreed with Qutb's excommunication (takfir) of Egyptian society, the doctrine of migration (hijra) and separation from society during the stage of weakness had received a blow. It was roundly rejected by influential Egyptian Islamic takfiri Salafis such as Faraj. However, the doctrine of hijra was not forgotten by other thinkers. Al-Qaeda mastermind al-Zawahiri synthesised Mustafa's and Faraj's ideologies in Afghanistan to produce al-Qaeda's doctrine of hijra, which is the paradigm for most Salafi terrorist groups today.
    Further ResearchAlthough all the books listed in the bibliography are useful sources on Egyptian Islamic radicalism, readers wishing to know more about Shukri Mustafa, Takfir w'al-Hijra and contemporary Egyptian Islamic radicalism should start with Gilles Kepel's excellent book, Muslim Extremism in Egypt: The Prophet and Pharaoh.

  • Zohurul Bari, Re-Emergence of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt, Lancers Books, New Delhi, 1995.
  • Gilles Kepel, Muslim Extremism in Egypt: The Prophet and Pharaoh, translated from the French by Jon Rothschild, University of California Press, London and Berkeley, 1985.
  • David Sagiv, Fundamentalism and Intellectuals in Egypt, 1973-1993, Frank Cass, London, 1995.
  • Emmanuel Sivan, Radical Islam: Medieval Theology and Modern Politics, enlarged edition, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1990.
  • AuthorTrevor Stanley
    See AlsoSayyid Qutb, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Muhammad Abd al-Salam Faraj, Al-Qaeda's Revolutionary Model, The Evolution of al-Qaeda

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