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Elam is home to the Islamic University, or Jamia

Islamia, that was founded by the government in
the 1950s, to produce capable Ulema, the head of
the Islamic University in Elam is the Grand Mufti
of Elam. Keep in mind that the vast majority of
Elamans are Muslim (99%), but there is a small
Christian minority, and also some Baha’is and
atheists, agnostics, non-religious. Among Mus-
lims, a growing number are turning toward the
Quranist sect, which is noteworthy for its rejec-
tion of Sunna and Hadith. The Sunnis or Ahl-al-
Sunna have clashed with Quranists, both sides
vied for political control of the country, with the
Quranists claiming that the State was founded
on the Quranist ideology of Hasan Ahmed and
Saad Ebrahim. But the Grand Imam of Elam,
Shaikh Yahya Zaki, an eminent scholar of the
Shafi’ie school. He was known for his intellectual
attack on ‘pseudo-Sunnism’ of the reductionists
like Hasan Ahmed. Yahya Zaki authored a book
in English entitled The Bane of Reductionism. In
this book, Shaikh Yahya Zaki takes aim at the
roots of the reductionist tendency, which he says
Hasan Ahmed introduced from modernist influ-
ence of Muhammad Abduh and other modernist
Salafis in Egypt, and also from Saad Ebrahim lo-
cally in Elam. Yahya Zaki explains that the reduc-
tionists are in fact a stream of Muslim modern-
ists. He responds to their harsh criticism of Su-
fism, Islamic jurisprudence, mysticism, philoso-
phy, and political fikr. Hasan Ahmed’s reduction-
ism were to become State policy or even en-
shrined in the constitution, it would be a disaster
for orthodox Sunni Islam. Yahya Zaki says that
the Protestant Reformation in Christendom is
what influenced modernism and reductionism
in the Muslim world too, and that modernism is
the most harmful thing to spirituality and form-
ing a living relationship with God. Shaikh Yahya
Zaki’s intellectual assault on reductionism was
appreciated by many of the elite Ulema, who en-
couraged him to make similar academic efforts
against the political groups like the Jamaat-al-Is-
lamia (JI) founded by Dr. Taha Mehmud. This he
did by, once again, attacking the roots of the Ja-
maat-al-Islamia as originating in modernism,
Western materialism, naturalism, and even
Marxism. He attacked the JI for its affiliation to
the so-called Quran Movement of Qari Abdullah,
the late 19th century preacher who helped
awaken the Muslims of Elam into a religious
awakening. Yahya Zaki has mixed feelings
about Qari Abdullah, praising him for his per-
sonal piety, good intentions, zeal for preaching,
and concern for the Muslim Umma, but criticiz-
ing him for his negligence of teaching ortho-
doxy and Sunna. In general, Yahya Zaki has
many points of criticism for the Quran Move-
ment of the late 19th century which he saw as be-
ing too remote from the orthodox Ulema. Yahya
Zaki himself is not a Sufi, but nevertheless, de-
fended Sufism as being perfectly aligned to or-
thodox Islam. Yahya Zaki, of course, was critical
of the ‘pseudo-Sufis’ who neglect the Shari’a and
the Sunna. In the early to mid 20th century, Saad
Ebrahim emerged from within the Quran Move-
ment and established the Koranic Society. This
Koranic Society, which later became the Ahl-al-
Quran and the Quraniyun became somewhat
popular in urban Elam, and Dr. Taha Mehmud,
though never a member of the Society, was none-
theless highly influenced by Saad Ebrahim. The
Dawa magazine came to express the ideas of the
Quran movement, and Dr. Taha Mehmud con-
tributed significantly to it, even being its editor
for a period of time, immediately before he
founded the Jamaat-al-Islamia in 1948. Naturally,
Dr. Mehmud was the first Emir or ‘commander’
of the Jamaat, which became a highly organized
group with the aim of transforming independ-
ent Elam into a purely Islamic state. During the
constitutional debates in the 1950s and 1960s,
Dr. Mehmud and his Jamaat played a major role,
until finally a constitution was ratified in 1966,
and the same year Elam held its first elections. A
populist and leftist government was elected,
with Ali Mansur being elected Prime Minister.
Mansur was re-elected in 1969, 1972, 1975, and
1978. However, by 1978, he had become ex-
tremely powerful, and the opposition claimed
that the 1978 polls were rigged. A brief move-
ment of non-cooperation ensued which culmi-
nated in an Army coup of 1979. Ali Mansur was
found guilty of treason and executed in 1980.
General Saleh Haddad used brute force to main-
tain his position as an absolute dictator. But he
had a popular mandate, at least from the Islam-
ists, in that he pledged to transform Elam into an
Islamic state. Taking on board much of the polit-
ical opposition to Mansur, and coming out of the
Sharia movement of the late 1970s, General Had-
dad sought to legitimize his regime by strength-
ening relations with Saudi Arabia and the United
States. Nevertheless, an insurgency broke out in
Elam after the execution of Ali Mansur in 1980.
The Popular Liberation Front (PLF) was formed
with the aim of restoring democracy and resist-
ing the military dictatorship. The PLF soon called
for a return to the constitution. Some moderate
Islamists also became critical of Haddad’s harsh
regime, though the Jamaat-al-Islamia was careful
never to publicly criticize Haddad. Its student
wing, the Islamic Student Association (ISA),
worked closely with the regime to crush leftist
student activity on campus. The Maoists joined
forces with the PLF in the wilderness to launch
raids against the Army. A large number of peas-
ants and even urban poor, along with leftist stu-
dents, went to join the PLF or the Maoists. In re-
sponse, Haddad decimated the rebels in a deci-
sive operation in 1981. Scattered survivors of the
operation had no choice but to go further under-
ground or surrender their weapons. Some of the
PLF leaders attempted to negotiate with the re-
gime to seek safe passage out of the country
where they could join the government-in-exile in
India. However, Haddad would have none of that.
He ordered his troops to continue a search and
destroy mission to hunt down the last remnants
of the insurgency, which he had declared as ter-
rorists who had to be exterminated at all costs.
Meanwhile, Haddad began a programme of Is-
lamization, both in terms of law and also socially
and culturally. His regime funded the construc-
tion of new mosques and religious schools, and
also renovated the National Mosque so that it be-
came the largest mosque in the world after the
Sacred Mosque in Mecca. Haddad generously
funded the traditionalist Ulema, their Awqaf, or-
ganizations, etc. He established Sharia courts
and a parallel Islamic judiciary, authorized to im-
plement Hudud. He also authorized the activity of
private vigilante groups licensed to enforce Is-
lamic moral behavior in public. Among such
groups that emerged, the Amr bil-Maruf wa Nahi
anil-Munkar committees and councils emerged.
A group colloquially known as the ‘Black Thobes’
emerged. Wearing plain black thobes, black
skullcaps, bearded, they moved around the
streets in vehicles, often pick up trucks and vans,
and enforced modesty, scolding women who
were dressed ‘immodestly’, and men for not
praying in the mosque. The Black Thobes be-
came a powerful group and were competing
with other vigilante morality enforcers, such as
the Salafis (usually wearing a red shemagh), and
the ‘Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice’
committees. In 1989, General Haddad was assas-
sinated. He was immediately succeeded by his
right-hand man, but soon thereafter Elam fell
into a civil war, with different armed factions at
each other’s throats. Finally, elections were held
in 1990, in which Ali Mansur’s son, Ammar Man-
sur, was elected Prime Minister. He, however,
had a minority government, and could not sur-
vive a vote of no confidence just short of two
years. His government therefore collapsed, the
civil war continued, but elections were held in
1993, and an Islamist coalition was elected.