I will not resist my desire to write -I have said this before- while watching the dramatic transformations taking place within the Salafist movement in Egypt. Indeed, I have already said this in an article that was published here several months ago. Back then, I predicted that the Salafists would split into three groups, after practicing democracy and vice versa. A group of them will join the Muslim Brotherhood, which has become now the ruling party (some Salafists are vulnerable to the obedience temptation of the governor). A second group will be tired of politics and will go back to prayers and mosques. A third group, which is the smallest, will remain against the Brotherhood, insisting that it still has a political role.
Few members of the first group will fuse in the body of the Brotherhood as active members; they will have the Muslim Brotherhood’s benefits and duties. Most probably, they will not be numerous since the “Brotherhood” does not like enlisting elderly members in their group, even if they seemed to be willing to share the governance. It has happened in the past and it could happen again.
Most of those who moved to the Brotherhood will be supporters, but the Muslim Brotherhood movement will not mind putting these new members in charge of some leadership responsibilities in the Freedom and Justice party or some authority positions. They will be able to keep their own Salafist intellectual opinions since there are many Salafist activists inside the Brotherhood, but they are controlled with the Brotherhood organizationally, because the latter does not have any jurisprudential or ideological preference. Even more, when the founder of the movement, Hassan al-Banna asked the group’s scholar at that time, Sheikh Sayed Sabek to classify and simplify a jurisprudence book, he insisted that the book should be about the four schools and rely on the strongest evidences, and this represents a Salafist approach. He wrote the most famous and widespread jurisprudence book, the “Sunni Jurisprudence” book.
The second group will be tired of politics and its members will return to their natural environment where they succeeded, namely, prayers and mosques. Some of them will consider politics as a disgrace that scratches the Muslim’s devoutness and forces him to lie and to be vicious. Some others will return to the former Salafist approach, and will support the new leader. If they were able to contain Mubarak, they will surely be able to support their “brother” president Mohamed Mursi. All of them approve that it is important to return to prayers, refute the fads and spread the true faith, especially after demising the restrictions that were imposed on them. Moreover the new government is ready to grant them some advantages, positions and financial resources. It will also maintain their mosques, and will even take into account their advocates in al-Azhar missions to Muslim countries. All this will happen as long as they are cooperating with the new “tutor,” and as long as they do not contradict or raise problems against the Copts and the Americans for example.
The last group is the quarreling one. It believes that it should be playing a political role, therefore some of its members will participate in the elections and compete with the Brotherhood in their constituencies, and then argue and oppose their politics, and I believe that these members can be handled by the brotherhood. As for the rest whose existence is no longer justified for the Brotherhood, such as the Jihadist Salafism members, the government –the Brotherhood – will deal with them by the law and perhaps even by force. They are the result of a former period when the state was illegitimate, so they allowed themselves to violate it, while Jihad was the legitimate privilege for the ruler alone, and it was included in their worst ruling where they did not recognize the legitimacy of the state and they were ready for jihad, or - at least - burning down embassies and clashing with the police, as did the jihadist Salafist group in Sinai, or those who attacked the U.S. Embassy amid the anti-Islam film.
Finally, the change process has started within the Salafist Egyptian movement. I can classify many Salafists activists within 3 groups and I can get into the details of al-Noor party’s crisis, the conflict regarding its leadership, and the emergence of many currents within and around it, in order to understand these changes and perceive their effects in the Egyptian Salafist movement.
Moreover, what paved the relationship between the “Brotherhood” and the Salafists has actually happened a long time ago, not at the present time where the “brotherhood” is in power, and the Salafists or some of them are their partners in it, and were both enjoy freedom. All of the above means that they need to reconsider nowadays relationship with all the prevailing competing parties and the rare cooperation, and they have to cancel the old rules and build new relationships that fit with the current time.
“The Muslim Brotherhood” succeeded in understanding these changes thanks to their organizational experience and their preparations and desire to rule, unlike the Salafists who lack organization, where some of them do not take into account the others, and where they are all under an open brotherhood movement so you can get in easily and get out of them been more easily. They do not follow-up nor check anything, and they work and advocate without any approach; their goals are not clear but rather general most of the times, and more importantly, they do not have a leadership, and this is what explains their quick disintegration when they rushed after the revolution (and accepted the democracy game that they have refuted, denied and even criticized the brotherhood for accepting it) to form several parties and not just a single party as did the Brotherhood members who were all engaged in it.
Perhaps the good financial funding coming from their friends in the Gulf, is the most prominent cause behind the insistence of some of them to carry on the dynamic political work, although they do not succeed in it. It is necessary for them to discreetly continue their activities, so the Salafist political theory outside Egypt would not breakdown, in return to an expensive service offered to their brothers in the Gulf.
The Salafist movement is informative in the first place, and it aims to spread the Shariah and fight heresies. It is not imported to Egypt, but in fact it paved the way for the Muslim Brotherhood to organize themselves and be active. Moreover Hassan al-Banna frequently visited them in his early years and dealt with their scholars as Sheikhs, but the Muslim Brotherhood spread as a popular movement, and Egyptian Salafists chose to remain as a scientific movement.
It lasted until some Salafist students in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, decided to get into the realm of kinetic Islamic work in the early eighties, under the influence and the challenge of the Muslim Brotherhood. Thus, they linked themselves indirectly to the Muslim Brotherhood who have preceded them for decades in kinetic activities, and have established the secret and public rules and structure; they also challenged the “Muslim Brotherhood” through their activities. So if the Muslim Brotherhood established a student union, the Salafists would establish a union in parallel, and if the brotherhood becomes active in relief work, the Salafists becomes active too; and so they did regarding the banks and media, and sometimes they even competed in a very cheap way to introduce symbols and leading figures of scientists and scholars.
Yet more in Afghanistan, the Muslim Brotherhood preceded the Salafists, so they had their Jihadi organizations in Afghanistan, and the Salafists were actually way behind the Brotherhood. They discovered that there is an Afghani Salafist leader named Jamil al-Rahman with a fair number of Mujahideen around him. They provided him with their money, weapons and Sheikhs. One of the ironic Afghani Jihadists events that took place then, was when two buses were waiting for Arab volunteers at the airport in Islamabad; the first one was waiting for al-Ansar Brotherhood, and the second one was affiliated to the Salafist Jamil al-Rahman; the young volunteer would come with clear directions as to which bus to take.
This situation was completely disrupted after the Arab Spring. The Muslim brotherhood became the rulers, but what were the Salafists doing, even though they had the same general goals seeking to promote the Islam and revive its values with some differences in the jurisprudence of the brothers that are still under the training and Salafists that are in a hurry?
Is it a partnership in governance, or a meticulous analysis when many Salafist leaders declared that the success of the Muslim Brotherhood is a success for the whole Islamic Movement and vice versa? Most recently, Sheikh Yasser Burhami, who is considered as one of the most eminent Salafists, said that if the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists got into an unfair rivalry, it would hurt the entire Islamic movement especially “that the People's Assembly elections will take place soon”.
It seems that it is time for Salafists to accept the Brotherhood famous golden rule: “We gather on what we agree upon, and we excuse each other on that we dispute upon.”