Gamal al-Banna died yesterday, at 92. The progressive Islamic thinker was the younger brother of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna. He took a markedly different direction from his more famous sibling, writing books such as "My Coptic Siblings;" "The Muslim Woman, Liberated by the Quran and Enchained by the Fuqaha';" and "A Refutation of the Call to Punish Apostasy."
On the several occasions when I visited him in his office in Cairo -- the repository of a dense library with many rare old books, which he dearly loved -- he was funny, gracious and daring, the rare Islamic scholar with the guts to roundly dismiss Salafis as examples of "the outmost ignorance" and to tease: "The only way they can go back to the early days of Islam is if they can produce another Prophet Muhammad, another Abu Bakr."
In our last interview, on the pledges of contemporary Islamist groups to "apply Sharia," he argued that the Sunnah (the enormous collection of reported sayings and doings of the Prophet, on which much Islamic jurisprudence is based) are largely unreliable; that correctly interpreted the Koran would almost never lead to the application of the hudud (the infamous corporal punishments such as the cutting of hands); and that "another, better word of Sharia is justice [...] If a society implements freedom and justice, it can implement Sharia."
I was looking forward to more conversations with him. After the jump, an excellent obituary and overview of his work from the Arab-West Report.
Arab-West Report, January 30, 2013
Editor-in-chief of Arab-West Report