In his interview with TIME magazine, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that the Muslim Brotherhood is the legitimate ancestor of all Islamist movements that have spread across the world. However, he said the followers of the Sururist Movement were the most extremist in the Middle East. This is actually accurate. But what is Sururism? To whom does it belong? And how did it come into existence?
Sururism is a movement that took from Salafist doctrines selectively but adopted the organizational forms of the Muslim Brotherhood, as the latter does not pay much attention to the doctrine, as the majority is Ash’arites.
The Muslim Brotherhood is lenient with groups that claim they are Islamic, but Sururism puts the doctrine first while adding a political dimension as a requirement so much so, that they say one’s Islam isn’t complete without it, calling it the concept of al Hakimiya (the governance), even though the elders of this movement never imposed this condition.
Over time, this movement was able to draw the attention of many enthusiastic youth, who were eager for a new revolutionary Sunni approach resembling Khomeini’s movement in Iran. In the early 1980s, the Sururists were able to infiltrate all the social classes and was embraced by many preachers, teachers and young judgesMohammed Al Shaikh
Life and ideology of Mohammed Surur
This group was founded in the Saudi Kingdom by Mohammed Surur Naif Zine El Abidine, who worked as a mathematics teacher in the institutes of the Imam University and who has not studied the Sharia methodology.
He began advocating his movement in Ha’il, while others say it was in Buraidah. He then relocated to the eastern province. When authorities were alerted about his activities, he travelled to Kuwait and from there to Britain, where he founded As-Sunnah Magazine, which was smuggled by his followers to the kingdom and the rest of the Arab world.
Surur was born in Hauran in the Levant in 1938. He first embraced the Muslim Brotherhood ideology. When he came to the kingdom, he found that political Islamization which does not care about the purity of the faith, as is the Brotherhood's ideology, was liable to fail in the Kingdom.
So from the 1960s onwards, he began establishing a new approach of mixing faith with politics, embracing the approach as he learned from the Muslim Brotherhood of which he was a follower.
Over time, this movement was able to draw the attention of many enthusiastic youth, who were eager for a new revolutionary Sunni approach resembling Khomeini’s movement in Iran. In the early 1980s, the Sururists were able to infiltrate all the social classes and was embraced by many preachers, teachers and young judges.
They even infiltrated officials in the Interior Ministry as Surur himself was assigned with the task of writing a book to defend Sunni people in the face of the Khomeinist revolution. The book was published under the title The Era of the Magi Has Come. Mohammed Surur wrote it under the pseudonym of Abdullah al-Gharib. Back then, fears of the expansion of the Khomeini revolution were at their peak.
At first, the state considered Sururism as a pure Salafist movement that abided by the orientations of the Salafist Saudi state. This gave members of this organization in the 1980s the freedom to move and attract young people to their ideology. At the time, much of the sheen of the Muslim Brotherhood was starting to fade, which created a hostile ideological struggle between the two movements. Triumph here was for the Sururists.
The decline of Sururism
Saddam's occupation of Kuwait and the Sururists’ feeling that they’ve spread and acquired a large number of followers were the defining moment in the divorce between the government and the Sururists, especially after the imprisonment of their senior figures who thought that the state was not capable of confronting them.
However it was a retroactive divorce as the kingdom’s victory in the liberation of Kuwait and the Sururists’ feeling that they had committed the mistake of rushing into a confrontation with the government, made them compromise to survive the storm, carefully awaiting the opportunities to prove their loyalty and pledging allegiance in a tactical maneuver that helped them reconcile with the government.
The government cautiously went along with it, trying to contain them. However, an ideologically driven person is like a drug addict, he may convince you that he has gone sober as long as he feels you are stronger than him, but as soon as an opportunity presents itself, he will return to his old habits with the spirit of the stubborn fighter who does not mind sacrificing himself to support his cause.
The regime of Hamad bin Jassim and Hamad bin Khalifa in Qatar managed to infiltrate them and recruit most of the group, especially their key figures. Qatar generously funded them and turned them into a fifth column. When Qatar flared up the Arab Spring, the Sururist Movement was at the forefront of those cheering for it and supporting it.
However, the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the decline of their role in Tunisia, the civil war in Libya and the failure of Islamists in Syria have exposed them to all those who were led astray by their ideas. Then came the knockout punch that paralyzed them, which was the severing of relations with Qatar, which was their first funder, as well as the determination and perseverance adopted by the state to confront them and their advocates.
This made many of them raise white flags, surrendering to defeat and trying to save themselves from the fate that the Salman state seems determined to execute, i.e. to eradicate all the politicized Islamized figures from our societies at any cost.
Prince Mohammed's recent statements seem to mean a lot and signify that eradicating them is a matter of time and prioritization, no more.
This article was originally published in Arabic in Al Jazirah.
Mohammed Al Shaikh is a Saudi writer with al-Jazirah newspaper. He tweets @alshaikhmhmd.