Dr. Hassan Al-Turabi from Fanaticism Islamist Scholar to Apostate


Written by Editor Kalahan Deng

Dr. Turabi should have known that too much of anything always spoils a fun part of it and it leads into unpredictable outcomes. This could be said about him, when he spent many years aggressively promoting a hard line Islamist theology. In fact, it was on his advice that the former Sudanese President Jaafar Nimeiri introduced what is known today in Sudan as Islamic Sharia Law, which emphasized hard punishment for simple crimes such as stealing, drunkenness, adultery, and apostasy which the offenders either loose their limbs through amputation or stoned to death or hanged to death. In 1985, Nimeiri ordered the execution by hanging an intellectual Mohmoud Mohammed Taha for refusing to recant his unorthodox views on Islam. The late Taha founded the Republican Brothers organisation and held Liberal views notably on the women statue in the Islamic societies, was then Turabi’s main rival.

The Liberal views that Turabi rejected in the past are now the ones he preaches in every mosque in Sudan North. Turabi who once the power behind the current President of the Sudan Omar Al-Bashir’s throne, Turabi fell from grace in 2000 and was put behind bars on several occasions by his boss, Al-Bashir. In fact, it was Turabi then the gray eminence of Bashir’s Islamist regime, who invited Osama Bin Laden to Sudan in 1990 and provided him with a safe haven from 1991 to 1996, when the former Al-Qaeda chief was eventually expelled under mounting international pressure on Khartoum government.

In June 2005, Turabi became one of Sudan’s leading opposition figures. Also, he started his Liberal views that maintained a new form of Islamic democracy and rejected the non-democratically elected caliphate system that predominated under early Islam. Why was Turabi branded as an apostate by the country’s Muslim scholars? Because he believed that, “Women are equal to men, and they had the rights to marry a Christian, Jew or a non-Muslim and can even lead prayers.” Remember, Turabi himself preached against this kind of Liberal views. Therefore, the Muslim clerics in Khartoum demanded that Dr. Turabi should declare repentance or faces the Sharia Hadd for his heresy which carries the death penalty. But Dr. Turabi rejected religious leaders demand and even went further in challenging their orthodox views by stating that, “These people do not understand what Sharia means. They think it is a legal system, but it is a way of life. Prohibition in Islam law should be personalized as a Christian or non-Christian you can drink alcohol, but you do not manifest it too much and do not sell it to Muslims, that’s about it actually. That’s Sharia law.”

He described Muslim teachings that a Muslim woman should not marry a Christian or a Jew as “backward” and that adherence to such principles was aimed at hampering women’s rights. Turabi also sanctioned mixed prayers as long as men and women do not sit too close to each other, in order to avoid “arousing sexual feelings”. Turabi was the country’s most famous theologian, who is now contradicting what he preached for years under radical Islamist views.

According to Hadd, it is the most serious offence to go opposite what Sharia or Quran teaches. The one time Islamist leader tasted his own medicine defiantly reiterated his Liberal views on several occasions during interviews and lectures at Khartoum University sparking the ire (anger) of Muslim traditionalists worldwide. And in many of his lectures, he stated that, “It is possible for Muslims to convert to Christianity, an act that could bring a charge of apostasy and call for death penalty.” He said that, “God himself allowed us freedom to think. I mean water is subject to laws, if it is 100 degrees, it evaporates, if it is 0 degrees it becomes solid ice. But we are given some latitude. God did not send angles to impose anything on us, so we are free to become a Muslim, to become a non-Muslim, to convert back.” He also pointed that, “Woman’s word has as much value as that of a Muslim man, and women should be engaged in fighting with us (men), in arts, in politics, in governance, and in every field of social life everywhere.”

Turabi totally rejected the idea of Holy war or Jihad that some radical Islamists proclaimed. For he said, “If someone attacks you with words, you must respond with words, if they attack your God, Allah, allow them to speak their minds.” His interpretations of Islamic Sharia law is that, “Sharia tells us that government should be government of the people. There is no monarchy in Islam, there is no usurpation (seize) of power, because power belongs to the people, if they want to appoint someone to govern them, then; that person has to be elected.” Remember, Turabi at one point rejected the idea of democracy in Islam.

He also indicated that neither religion nor sex matters as long as the candidate is honest and a Christian or a woman candidate can be a President as long as he/she is honest and can resist the corruption influence of the public office, he/she is fair and will not use his/her power against others. Turabi emphasized that Christians and Jews are “people of the book and therefore are not infidels as some misguided Muslims leaders claim. He also advocated dialogue with the West in order to improve the image of Islam and stressed that Jihad (Holy struggle) should only be waged in self-defence and not in aggressions against others.”

The boat hit the rock and sank with the current Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir, Turabi, who was his right hand and Bin Laden in April 2006 when Bin Laden rejected Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in which Usama made this statement, “I urge the Mujahidin and their supporters in general, and in Sudan and the surrounding areas, including the Arabian Peninsula, in particular, to prepare all that is necessary to fight a long-term war against the crusader thieves in western Sudan. Our aim is clear: defending Islam, its people and land, and not defending the Khartoum government although, there could be common interest between us. Our differences with   the Sudanese government are great. Suffice it to say that it failed to implement the strict Sharia laws and relinquished the South Sudan.

There were sudden and unscheduled shifts from hard line views on Islam to the Liberal Islamist that totally rejected what he one time  believed as his core convictions or understanding about Sharia’s law. Turabi is now a new spiritual leader with an open mind and heart that tells him to look beyond his comfort zone of radical views on Islamic Sharia Laws. Someone might wonder how Omar al-Bhashir,Turabi, and Bin Laden got along. It was apparent that Omar Al-Bashir was blindly misguided by his former political and religious architect Turabi, whom he later imprisoned and eventually became his everlasting foe, on the other hand, Mr. Bin Laden who could not agree with either of the men especially, Dr. Turabi who is now claiming that everything he has been teaching were based on a hard-line aggression point of view and not to the common sense.

To conclude, these are Turabi’s Liberal views on everything his has been claiming before, on women he said, “They are equal to men and can marry anyone they admire, their words or voices are valuable of that of men in Islamic society, they can lead prayers in any mosque or other religious gathering, women can also participate in general elections and be elected as the head of the state.” On the other hand, a Christian can be elected to be a President, and a Muslim can be converted into Christianity or any other religions of his/her choice and traditionalists Muslim should revisit (re-examine) themselves and their interpretations of Shaira Laws .Because they many of them think that Sharia law is a legal system which is wrong . Furthermore Christians and Jews are not infidels, but the people of the book and those who call them as infidels are lacking proper understanding of what the Quran says about Christians and Jews.