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Mohammed Surur Passed Away but Sururism Lives On

By Turki Aldakhil

22 November 2016

The death of Mohammed Surur ended a chapter of the history of political Islam in the Gulf. The Syrian cleric, who hailed from Houran, had spoken about his memories during a television show. His journey began with the traditional affiliation to the Muslim Brotherhood. However, the problems which the group encountered in Syria forced him to seek another destination for his fundamentalist theories.

He moved to Britain and then to Kuwait and to Saudi Arabia and studied at different religious institutions. His activity in Saudi Arabia’s Buraydah was interesting as he influenced students who later became symbols of “Islamist Awakening”. The magazine he established in Birmingham, named as-Sunnah, is the major source of Sururi political theory. Surur believed that his movement had a political vision. Perhaps his long journey was full of calls for recruiting followers and mobilizing the masses in order to create an ISIS.

As-Sunnah accused late Saudi king Fahd bin Abdulaziz of betrayal in the early 1990’s. This indicated that Surur was busy with politics and was not just interested in it as he shifted to taking religious positions that may pave way to violent practices. Accusing others of betrayal is one of the most important stages of violence.

Sururism is a by-product of Brotherhood that amended whatever was lacking in the parent movement particularly in terms of doctrine. Sururism adopted Salafism as its doctrine and greatly focused on Hakimiyah (governance). It is a hybrid between Sayyid Qutb and Ibn Taimiya. In other words, Sururism is a Salafist Brotherhood movement.

What’s interesting is how it focused on the unity of Hakimiyah as a doctrine within a pure political context and overlooked other unification aspects. This made its followers say: “It’s better to share castles than to share graves.” Even though Surur was a mathematics teacher, he recommended religious and political books to his students. This is not surprising as he was into politics.

 “He worked in the shadows until he went to Ahsa where he enjoyed more freedom and became more active. He spent a year and a half there. He used to swear at Manna al-Qattan because he had been assigned director of the Higher Judicial Institute, at Mohammed Mahmoud al-Sawwaf, an Iraqi preacher who was a consultant of King Faisal, and at Sheikh Ali al-Tantawi who taught classes at the Imam Mohammad Ibn Saud Islamic University”.

“All these men were assigned prominent positions and he believed they submitted to the government. Whenever he sat with someone, he used to talk about these men and warn of them,” Yahya said.

Sururi Influence

This was the core of Sururi influence on the Saudi street. Surur used to attract young men to teach them everything about his ideology from scratch. He taught many people, who later became figures opposed to Saudi policy, ways to defend Sururi theories, which are based on absolute loyalty to the inspiring leader, and call for a nation that replaces their homeland as they seek to establish a “caliphate”.

Sururism is the product of many factors. It’s a hybrid of Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood ideology and emergence of Islamist movements in the Gulf. This established fundamentalism that could grow in this environment as it fed off the Gulf’s problems. This fundamentalism was revived with the Iraq-Iran War and the Gulf War and fed off internal social problems.

It’s no surprise that Surur used his magazine to publish articles about Saudi and Kuwaiti affairs and to address his followers and supporters. He quietly built his organization, examined the circumstances and established ambient cell with mystery and calmness, as he himself put it.

Surur did not hold traditional teaching classes as he did not think that interpretations of the Prophet’s Hadiths – as they’re commonly carried out – are beneficial on the level of political theory. He wanted his vision to be the big political project in the Gulf.

Surur’s death only ends this chapter but the theory is still out there and it has produced its own followers. He actually has a base of supporters. It is important to realize the extent of challenge posed by disastrous fundamental ideas at an early stage before we wake up one day and discover they have destroyed everything.

Mohammed Surur wanted a Qutbi movement. His favourite quote regarding political work is the statement which Mohammed Qutb often repeated: “Ideas’ influence may be slow but its effects are certain.”

Turki Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies.