By Magdi El-Gizouli
October 7, 2011 — Late in August the Just Peace Forum (JPF) led by al-Tayeb Mustafa had cuddled up to the extra-Turabist if not the anti-Turabist forces of the Islamist scene in Sudan, the Ansar al-Sunna, the remnant non-Turabist Moslem Brotherhood, the aggressive Moslem Clerics Association, the Moslem Forces Union, and a set of even smaller groups, to form the single theme Islamic Constitution Front (ICF), an umbrella format akin to the Kauda alliance, but arguable more focused. Beginning on 3 October al-Intibaha, al-Tayeb Mustafa’s toxic newspaper, started publishing a draft constitution for the rump Sudan crafted by the ICF brothers in faith. Pushing the contestation of Islam and the state forward as the ultimate political question in the country the text reads like somebody’s fantasy and by definition another’s nightmare.
The draft, in the tradition of Sudanese precedents, begins with a series of definitions: “Sudan is a united Islamic state that exercises sovereignty over all the regions within its territory, and where the dictates of Dar al-Islam apply”; “Islam is the religion of the state, a faith, a path and a way of life”; “Arabic is the official language of the state”; “Sudan is part of the Moslem Umma and a member of regional and international organisations”. Sovereignty, according to the draft, is exercised by Allah alone, while shari’a rules supreme and the Umma enjoys political authority, three variations on the theme of the ultimate source of political power in Islamic jurisprudence. After fitful experimentation with the same abstractions Hassan al-Turabi has lately declared society sovereign, the implied condition being that Moslems constitute a majority. To qualify shari’a for his rediscovered passion for parliamentary democracy Turabi argued that the elected representatives of the nation may choose to uphold or drop articles of shari’a at will, since the consensus of the Umma constitutes in itself a source of legislation next to the Quran and the traditions of the prophet. The revisionist Turabi of today would probably rubbish the constitutional propositions forwarded by the JPF et al as an instance of infantile Islamism, further evidence of the chronic decay of Moslem societies.
To illuminate the abstractions above one has to read further into the draft constitution. Legislative authority in the Islamic state of Sudan is the due of an elected shura (consultative) council; the members of the council are nominated for election from five colleges: scholars of shari’a, specialists in the natural sciences, professionals, leaders and notables, and individuals with considerable experience and knowledge. To qualify for membership of the council a nominee has to be Sudanese, at least thirty years old, of sound mind, of fair standing, capable of ijtihad, and of reasonable opinions, in addition to satisfying the conditions of inclusion in one of the five colleges as stipulated by law. The draft details ‘fair standing’ with the qualifications of Moslem, male, sane, and evidently pious. The head of state is elected by popular vote from three nominees not younger than forty years old handpicked by the shura council. The draft lists the same set of conditions for the office of the president with the addition of the necessary power to confront the enemy and wage jihad, as well as sound organs and senses.
Essentially, the Islamist margin is spelling out its version of a WASP oligarchy so to speak, free of camouflage. Naïve as it may appear the ICF’s draft transpires of the post-colonial quest to mould the state rather than reject it. The ICF is demanding a state with which a fantasized pious Moslem can easily identify. The irony being that power, albeit congruent with an imagined tradition of Moslem statehood, has to be guarded from the same Moslem plebeians by an elite corps of shari’a fellows, distinguished effendiya of the professions, and revered notables. In the absence of a credible left capable of transcending the divide between urban and rural struggles in Sudan this utterly modern frustration with the shortcomings of the state as it exists cannot but translate into ethnic fission in the peripheries and its Islamized rearticulation in the heartland.
The author is a fellow of the Rift Valley Institute. He publishes regular opinion articles and analyses at his blog Still Sudan. He can be reached at email@example.com