Cairo June 10, 2012
The book, written in 200 pages of small format, talks about the Hisba case especially regarding the control of freedom of thought, freedom of opinion and expression.
“The book importance especially in this timing goes back to the increase of Hisba cases whether before or after the revolution. These cases are meant to curb down opinion makers, intellectuals and artists. They are a threat to the Egyptian revolution’s principles that work on achieving democracy and freedoms, because of the actions of some associates of the Islamic trend or some affiliates of the ruling regime,” said ANHRI.
“When some people resort to the trials and prosecutions to force their thoughts to be applied and to spread a climate of fear among opinion makers, then it is not only the dilemma of freedom of expression defenders but also the whole community” said Gamal Eid the executive manager of ANHRI.
In ten chapters, the author tackles the Hisba case starting by its linguistic definition and its meaning in the Islamic state , stating it wasn’t known between the early Muslims and that it was transferred to the Muslims by the Byzantines.
In the second chapter: titled “Hisba case and the case owner ‘al-mohtaseb’ in Egypt, appearance and disappearance”, the author monitor the development of the Hisba cases through history and reaches the fact that it started with the Tulunid state but was deviated from the ideal image especially in the Mamluk era and the Ottoman Empire when it turned into a tool of political and financial corruption.
In the third chapter: titled “the judiciary and not al-mohtaseb” where it monitors the judiciary and judges specialization to confront the shocking or contrary to the majority opinions as Hisba cases owners never faced this type of cases or restrictions on opinions.
The author decides that Egypt in the Middle ages “the Mamluk state” and its environs, has never known blasphemy or accusation of atheism easily as it is now, despite the presence of movements of heresy used in political battles especially in the Abbasid state. In the era of the Sultan Mo’yed Sheikh, a foreigner was forwarded to the Board of scholars Judges as he claimed his ascent to the sky and talking with the Creator. After a long debate with the Council of jurists, that man has been jailed for a short time and then released. The sentence was proven by historians in the debate that scientists have said about the man: “No blasphemy is proven against him.”
In the fourth chapter: titled “The university and the return of Hisba”, the author monitor the disappearance of Hisba in Egypt in the nineteenth century and its return with the establishment of the Egyptian University (University of Cairo later), where the first case was Georgy Zeidan’s who was nominated for the post of professor of Islamic history at the University but he was attacked in the newspapers for being a Christian then the university administration has decided that a Muslim professor will be more suitable to teach the history of Islam.
And through the fifth chapter, the author reviews the continuation of Hisba cases as the one suffered by another university professor; Dr. Mansour Fahmi who adopted oriental views of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that led to his dismissal from the university. The most famous incident was the one regarding Dr. Taha Hussein’s book titled “About the Pre-Islamic Poetry” which led to a strong reaction in the press and Al-Azhar as well the prosecution that ended by the confiscation of the book.
The sixth chapter titled “Azhari before the court” is allocated to review Sheikh Abdul-Hamid Bekheit’s battle with Al-Azhar and courts because of his article on eating in Ramadan in the year 1955.
Chapter seven titled “all parties in the grip of the state”, came to show Egypt’s entry into a new era where there was the central state, led by Abdul Nasser and his associates that controlled all parties and that is why Hisba cases decreased. However, almost writers and innovators such as Naguib Mahfouz, Ehsan Abdul Quddus and Mustafa Mahmoud were about to be victims to Hisba cases not for the intervention of Abdul-Nasser personally. Yet, the novel “Children of the Alley” was banned from printing in Egypt.
Chapter eight is allocated to monitor “blasphemy and distinction” case especially the one Dr.Nasr Hamed Abu-Zaid has faced as Hisba cases took a new turning point by the administrative corruption and the scientific deterioration that flourished in Egypt universities and the domination of the generations that turned the promotion committees to a chance to revenge and even profit from the younger generations. That was the incident that started Abu-Zaid’s story before it goes out to the public opinion and press.
The ninth chapter draws attention to the “legalization of Hisba” in Egypt, with the launch of the Press Law No. 93 of 1995, which included serious violations of freedom of the press, publishing and printing and created harsher penalties on journalists.
Although the parliament returned in 1996 to add amendments to limit the Hisba lawsuits of personal status, but that was like trying to extinguish the fire that was ignited by expiating Dr. Abu Zeid, and separating him from his wife. Although the amendments upset the Salafis and banned the separation claims again, but they were not enough to stop the Hisba cases.
The tenth and final chapter reveals the followed policy of “’Mistrust instead of blasphemy”. The author monitors the increase in Hisba cases since 2004 following new method of punishment so instead of separating the spouses they turned to withdrawing nationalities whether for political reasons or as thought by the case owner as defending Islam.
The book also discussed the so-called “Civil Hisba” which are lawsuits by citizens against state officials and the government because of neglect, such as polluting the environment or otherwise. This reveals a serious interest in defending the values of civil society and citizenship, but it also confirms that this type of Hisba cases has not received the necessary attention.
At the end of the book, the author asserts on the need to acquire more faith in freedom cases and consistency with the self in order to defend the freedoms of others, even those who we disagree with them politically as many failed to defend the artist “Adel Imam” in cases he faced by the court after the revolution because of his pro-Mubarak and his son Gamal opinions previously.
The author finished his interesting research with: “Freedom for us and our opponents as well.”
Helmi al-Nimnim, the author of the book, is a well known writer and historian, currently serves as Chairman of the Foundation “Dar el-Helal”, has also served as Vice President of the General Egyptian Book Organization, and currently writes regularly in the newspaper “Al-Masry al-Youm”.
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Also available in : العربية