What After Turabi?

By: Aisha Braima

KHARTOUM (SUDANOW) -The news about the departure of the late Islamist leader Hassan al-Turabi (84) has taken centre stage in the media ever since his death was announced Saturday up to his massive funeral the next morning. That is because the late Turabi was not just a person: He was an outstanding religious and political leader who preoccupied people in and outside the country with his widely controversial positions that brought him lots of animosities and, even, calamities, foremost his being accused of apostasy.

Death Can Erase Animosities:
But with the rise of Turab’s soul to the heavens, there also arose expressions and sentiments of nice amicability , as wrote the artful columnist Mohammad Mohammad Khair. Khair also said :’’It is the nice endearment that characterizes us Sudanese , known for our clear conscience and hearts. Everybody seemed to forget their basic differences with the deceased that kept them away from him and there reigned a spirit of clemency and there existed a place for grief that is the norm in such circumstances.’’
The author has recounted , in his column in the Khartoum daily ‘’al-Sudani’’, a number of eulogies from some of Turabi’s political foes, including former Premier, leader of the National Umma Party Sadiq al-Mahdi ‘’ who was a true image of forgiveness , originality and fraternal spirit.’’
‘’Mahdi has acknowledged Turabi’s mental power and outlook of modernity and intellectual perseverance ,’’ said the author, further reporting Mahdi’s revelation that ’’ I espoused Turabi to my sister Wesal at my own initiative .’’
Khair said the enormous value of Mahdi’s words is that political differences should not be allowed to eclipse the traits of our political adversaries , especially at moments of total discord as we see now.
It should be remembered that the deceased was the mastermind behind the military coup that ousted Mahdi as elected Prime Minister and instated Omar al-Bashir as president in 1989.
Looking at the Sudanese T.V stations , says Khair, I have seen images that reaffirm that death can dissolve differences and create a situation of maximum readiness to forget animosities.’’ I saw Mohammad al-Hassan al-Amin- an Islamist leader who seceded from Turabi’s Popular Congress Party( PCP)- weeping in grief and receiving condolences at the Royal Care Clinic when Turabi’s death was confirmed, despite previous bad feelings. I also saw Farouq Abu Eisa – the all time opponent of the Islamists’ government –walking with difficulty and with visible grief that slowed his pace. I saw Mansour Khalid walking with difficulty . I also read statements from Darfur armed movements and the obituary of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/North(SPLM/N); all those fountains of sentiments that flow into the clement amiability of us, Sudanese, that distinguish us from the other nations of the world.’’


Turabi’s Successor:
The natural question that should be asked now is who can fill Turabi’s place in his party and on the political stage . Generally, Turabi’s dominant character was behind the party’s decisions . Turabi was effectively present in the Sudanese politics from the 1960s up to now ; ever since his role in the 1964 popular uprising that ended the military rule of General Ibrahim Abbood , his role in the adoption of Islamic Sharia’a law in 1983 during the rule of President Ga’afar Nimairi, his role as opposition leader during the democratic rule 1985-1989, his engineering of the Bashir coup , his fall out with Bashir and the formation of the opposition PCP and the mountains of events engendered by Turabi’s legacy on the Sudanese political landscape.
Political science professor Salah al-Doama , in an interview , said Turabi as a politician was different from the Sudanese leaders who shaped Sudan’s history both because of his personality and his academic background . Turabi’s academic qualifications were unmatched by any other Sudanese leader: a doctorate in political law, a mastery of three languages (English, French and German) beside Arabic. He learned the entire Koran by heart in addition to a sharp intellect well recognized by his contemporaries and tutors, coupled with his being more practical than the others.
To show that it is cohesive and organized the PCP rushed, even before Turabi’s burial , to appoint Ibrahim al-Sanousi –born in 1936 and with a B.A in law –as caretaker.
Sanousi was Turabi’s deputy and close friend and looked very much like him in both stature , the way he wore his turban and in body language. But as conceded by the party’s leading figure Abu Bakr Abdulraziq: ” the gap is very wide between Sanousi and Turabi , but the former is closest to Turabi’’.
Adds Abduraziq: ‘’ We are facing a tremendous challenge. Sanousi has a long experience in politics . He has a deep intimacy with the Koran and good knowledge about contemporary Islamic thought . By that definition he is up to the challenge .. in cooperation with his colleagues’’.



Ali al-Haj
Ali al-Haj

Spokesman of the Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party Mohammad Dia Eddin has, however, maintained that Sanousi was facing a tough job ahead in the absence of Turabi’s charisma . He added : I don’t think this will be a big problem for just the PCP. It will be a problem for all Islamists because Turabi was one of the symbols of political Islam in Sudan. His absence will affect the inter- relations among Islamist groups as he had kept a good relation with the other Islamists.
Columnist Abdulbagi al-Zafir has urged Sanousi to behave as a leader at this stage. Zafir has proposed Turabi’s other lieutenant Ali al-Haj as party leader at this stage ‘’ to avoid any struggle for party leadership .’’
The writer believes that al-Haj -who had been in self-exile in Germany for 16 years- can be the most suitable PCP leader , thanks to his long experience and knowledge of executive work and also because his long stay in Europe had familiarized him with the best examples of good governance and the value of freedom, missed in most of the Islamist political projects. Moreover, al- Haj had continued to be Turabi’s faithful associate for a long time .
Added Zafir: Ali al-Haj is from the depth of Darfur and the creation of a national party with the leadership of a man with the qualities of al-Haj can present an example we miss in the Sudanese politics , dominated by symbols from the Central Nilotic Sudan. Al-Haj’s long stay in Germany, his connections with the Darfur armed movements and his erstwhile relation with the SPLM qualify him to contribute to a comprehensive political settlement.

Turabi’s controversial fatwas:
The daily newspaper al-Entibaha could not forget to recall Turabi’s controversial fatwas (religious opinions or rulings) which were considered by his disciples as innovations while others considered them non-Islamic.
The paper’s Journalist Dafa’alla al-Natheer has recounted Turabi’s fatwa that a newly converted Moslem woman can keep her marriage with a Christian or Jewish husband, contrary to the common belief among other Moslems.
Turabi had also ruled that the Hijab was just confined to the Prophet’s wives. He said the Hijab was a barrier between the Prophet’s wives and other male Moslems who visit the Prophet. Turabi had said Islam had just asked women to cover their hair and breasts and do the best they can to conceal their beauty from the eyes of men. This was contrary to the common understanding among many scholars that the Hijab meant that a woman should cover her entire body.
Some Moslem scholars had blamed Turabi for issuing fatwas that contravene scholars’(Jurists’) consensus. Some others considered such fatwas and revelations by Turabi a chance for the Moslem nation ‘’ to see how lunatic some leaders may look!”
Turabi had also denied the belief that the sinful can be punished in the graves even before the day of judgment. He said when a human being dies his spirit ascends to the Almighty while his body decomposes and does not resurrect again , but the Almighty creates a new body out of clay , similar to the one that perished, and restores the same spirit to him.
Turabi also maintained that the legal testimony of a woman is equal to that of a man , denying that the testimony of two women equals that of one man. He accused Moslem scholars of being less versed in the interpretation of the Koranic revelations about women’s issues and rights. He had argued that Islam advocates equality between men and women and, in addition, privileged women with child birth and child nursing. Islam , according to him, has also allowed women to go out for work and take part in politics.
Turabi has also denied the belief that Eve was created from Adam’s rib . He argued that the Almighty ‘’ has created us from one soul, which was not Adam from whom Eve was made as we were made to believe.”
He said the soul the Almighty has thus created combined both femininity and masculinity which later on separated: What went out from this origin was called Adam and what had remained was Eve.



Turabi has also licensed women to lead men in prayer once they prove to be more knowledgeable than the men they lead.
Turabi’s fatwas had provoked condemnations from Islamist groups some of whom had accused his revelations of serving the American and Zionist policies in the region.
Speaking to al-Mijhar daily newspaper prayer leader (Imam) at al-Ansar Mosque Abdul Mahmoud Abbo has called upon the Islamic Movement (created by the ruling National Congress Party) to discuss and clarify these ideas of Dr. Turabi or else dissmis them.’’

Turabi's Last Will:
Turabi had joined the ongoing national dialogue conference, called for by President Bashir to discuss and find solutions for the country’s problems , considering the dialogue as a way out of the country’s crises. This position was contrary to that of the other opposition groups . He said he wanted to make sure that Sudan would not descend into chaos like what happened in Somalia and other countries.
Some now raise the question on how the absence of Turabi can influence the dialogue outcome.
The paper al-Sayha has reported that Turabi in an address at the Armed Forces Mosque, 24 hours before his death , had chosen to remind the audience about the need to commit to contracts and agreements “ social, political and commercial”.
The paper’s journalist Siddiq Ramadan said by such words Turabi could have wanted to draw the rulers’ attention to the need to commit to the outcome of the dialogue as a way out of the present situation. He said Turabi may have been alluding to his previous revelations that the ruling National Congress Party often reneges on its agreements , contrary to its claims that it follows the teachings of Islam.



Sudanow is the longest serving English speaking magazine in the Sudan. It is chartarized by its high quality professional journalism, focusing on political, social, economic, cultural and sport developments in the Sudan. Sudanow provides in depth analysis of these developments by academia, highly ...


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