MUSTAFA, SHUKRI (1942-1978), Egyptian Islamist militant who worked for the moral reformation of society. The Islamist movement in Egypt is characterized by internal divisions. The Muslim Brotherhood represents the more accommodationist groups who work to reform the system by working within it. Al-Jihad is the most famous of the antiregime elements while alTakfir wa al-Hijrah epitomizes the antisociety Muslim groups. The last was founded in the early 1970s by Shukri Mustafa, who defected from the Muslim Brotherhood in protest over that group’s willingness to work with the secular regime. Mustafa and his group sought, instead, to focus on the reform of society first before attempting to revolutionize the state system. Society was seen by Mustafa as corrupt, decadent, and sinful and thus in need of a moral reformation.
Al-Takfir wa al-Hijrah is not the real name of the organization, formally the Society of Muslims. This informal title was given to it by the state and the Egyptian press. It suggests the group’s tactics. Takfir means, in essence, to excommunicate the infidels from society. Hijrah means “flight” and evokes the prophet Muhammad’s flight from Mecca to Medina to abandon the immoral society in order to establish the new, faithful order. Here, it refers to the way in which this contemporary group separated itself from Egyptian society and formed a communal living arrangement, living in caves in Upper Egypt and cramped flats in Cairo.
Shukri Mustafa was born in 1942 in Asyut Province in Upper Egypt. He attended Asyut University’s Faculty of Agriculture and in 1965 was arrested for distributing Muslim Brotherhood leaflets on campus. First incarcerated in Tura prison, he was transferred to Abu Za’bal concentration camp in 1967. He was released from prison in 1971 as part of President Anwar elSadat’s general amnesty of many Islamists in Sadat’s quest to garner their support against his leftist opponents.
Mustafa returned to Asyut University to complete his studies. He also began to build his Society of Muslims by preaching throughout the province. Impressed by Sayyid Qutb’s Signposts on the Road, which declared the whole of Egyptian society as Jahiliyah (a state of infidelity, decadence, and ignorance as in pre-Islamic Arabia), Mustafa built his Society of Muslims by preaching that Egyptian society must be declared to be unfaithful to God and Muhammad’s teachings. This Society of Muslims (i.e., true believers) must then withdraw, take flight, and separate itself from society as a whole. Mustafa attracted a following that eventually totaled a few thousand highly committed members.
Ostensibly, the group sought no confrontation with the state until it had won over and transformed society into a truly pious Islamic community. Then it would seek the immediate destruction of the secular system to establish the Islamic state reflective of the new Islamic society. But in transforming society and in attempting to prevent defections from its ranks, Mustafa used violence, and this brought him into conflict with the state. Mustafa felt that quitting his group was equivalent to quitting Islam, an apostasy punishable by death. In 1976, he led a raid against dissidents who had quit his group to join rival Islamists. Egyptian police caught many of his loyalists, but Mustafa escaped. In July 1977, his group kidnapped Muhammad al-Dhahabi, a former minister of awqaf (religious endowments; sg., waqf ), in order to exchange him for their captured brethren. With Sadat on a visit to Morocco, the political leaders left in charge failed to respond to the demands of Mustafa. Hearing no response, Mustafa had the exminister killed. The government now responded. A manhunt for Mustafa and other leaders of the group resulted in scores dead and wounded and hundreds arrested and tried. Mustafa and four other leaders of alTakfir were sentenced to death. Others were imprisoned for five to twenty-five years. Shukri Mustafa was executed in 1978 at the age of thirty-seven.
Although the group apparently collapsed with the death of its leaders, many of the members of al-Takfir simply joined other antisociety and antiregime groups, including al-Jihad, which became very active after 1977. [See also Takfir wa al-Hijrah, Jama'at al-.]
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DENIS J. SULLIVAN