Still, I Rise: Reflections on the Massacres in Egypt

Aug 21st, 2013 | By | Category: Latest, Religion, World

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

“By the sky containing great stars. And by the Promised Day. And [by] the witness and what is witnessed, Woe to the makers of the pit (of fire)! Fire supplied (abundantly) with fuel: When they were sitting near it. And they witnessed (all) that they were doing against the Believers. And they ill-treated them for no other reason than that they believed in Allah, Exalted in Power, Worthy of all Praise!- Him to Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth! And Allah is Witness to all things.

Indeed, those who have tortured the believing men and believing women and then have not repented will have the punishment of Hell; they will have the punishment of the Burning Fire.

Lo! those who believe and do good works, theirs will be Gardens underneath which rivers flow. That is the Great Success.

Truly strong is the Grip (and Power) of thy Lord. It is He Who creates from the very beginning, and He can restore (life). And He is the Oft-Forgiving, Full of Loving-Kindness, Lord of the Throne of Glory, Effecter of what He intends. Has the story reached thee, of the forces- Of Pharaoh and the Thamud? Nay, but those who disbelieve live in denial. But Allah doth encompass them from behind!”

(Surah Burooj: Chapter 58)


1376490683000-AP-Mideast-Egypt-009Hope is a stubborn thing. From the blood and gore, the spine-chilling images of charred bodies clinging to the pages of the Quran, there still rises hope.

History’s verdict is unforgiving. Pages of history are reddened with massacres, genocide, killing of innocents: but at the end of the day what matters is whose side we were on, or whether we chose to be passive bystanders in a time of crisis.

Echoes from Egypt shall ring on for a long time to come, the images shall remain etched in memories. And the lessons we learn shall endure, reshaping our narrative, our destinies.

And that is the most crucial point: the lessons we learn. For one, the events in Egypt have exposed the hypocrisy of the secular-liberal elite that has proven itself to be a bedfellow of the military junta, the ruling oligarchies. We have all learned the terrifying truth, as Peter Galey puts it, that

“many would rather see a military junta rule with impunity and autocracy than see a democratic administration govern with fecklessness and error. Many people who call themselves revolutionaries and advocates of democracy simply hate Islamism more than they love freedom. That people are fully prepared to welcome the army back to political life, with a cheer, two fingers up to those killed since 2011, and a good riddance to Egypt’s first experiment with democracy.”

There is hope for the future of political Islam as the terrible events necessitate a soul-search, reflection and engagement with the daunting socio-political issues and realities we face. Such a soul-search took a long time in coming, but it will help us make vital conclusions for steering the course of the journey.

The more simplistic and superficially drawn lesson will be to abandon democratic process- but it will not hold because the victim for whom sympathy is understandably high, was committed to democratic process; while the brutal perpetrators subverted the democratic process- even though the rhetoric of democracy was shamelessly used for the purpose. Only a very superficial understanding would consider this to be the death-knell for Islam’s democratic experiment.

But to ensure the right lessons are learned, Muslim scholars, writers, academics and ulema have a crucial role to play: to rescue the narrative from those who would use it for subversive ends calling for rejecting the democratic project.

Muslim scholarship must also recognize, following the events in Egypt, Syria, Bangladesh, Pakistan- the terrible danger of schisms and ideological polarization within Muslim societies- the widening rift between the secular and the religious, the cleavages of sect, denomination, ethnicity, nationalism. Understanding the gravity of this danger, they must become active agents of reconciliation- mending the cracks and helping the healing process by empowering the voices of ‘middleness’ that refuse to take sides, except as supporters and advocates for the sinned-against, the sufferers, the anonymous victim.

It is heartening to see the black-n-yellow image signifying solidarity with the victims of the Rabia massacre going viral on facebook profiles. It is in our capacity for empathy that our humanity lies. The symbolism of it is remarkably suggestive and layered, too: with the resistance bearing the name of a Muslim woman (Rabia Al Adawiyyah). It has in it the makings of a fresh and brand new Muslim feminism articulated as a response to the savage use of chauvinistic power: military and political.  The fact that Rabia Al Adawiyyah was an icon of Islamic spirituality- a tradition ignored and eclipsed as we embroiled ourselves in the battle for temporal power- is significant too. Salvation lies in rediscovering and reviving that spiritual tradition- not as a clever antidote to the socio-political struggle; not as a ploy to neutralize, but as a means to return the soul to that struggle; to inspire and revitalize and direct the course; and render that struggle meaningful.

Blood has been shed- but not in vain, inshaAllah. It must water the springtime- which may not reach its blossoming in our lifetimes, but we must sow the seeds and water it with sacred blood and tears. We must stand on the right side of history, realizing that we owe this to the future. Or we shall never be forgiven as History pens down its verdict in eternal stone.

“You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I’ll rise.

Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain

I rise

I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope…

I rise

I rise

I rise.” (Maya Angelou: Still I Rise)


Maryam Sakeenah

About the author

Maryam Sakeenah teaches Sociology, Literature and Islamic Studies in Lahore, Pakistan. She authored a book documenting Islamic and Oriental responses to the Clash of Civilizations thesis. Maryam is also a social worker running an organization providing free virtual primary education for the poor.

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  1. Powerful!

  2. very good piece. May Allah give victory to Ikhwan as soon as possible. as its struggle is for Islam.

  3. clinical and soul igniting analysis..a gud read quite capable of inspiring any human heart…allah be with u sister..

  4. Clinical and soul igniting analysis,quite capable of inspiring any human heart…may allah reaward u sister..

  5. Clinical and soul igniting analysis,quite capable of inspiring any human heart…may allah reaward u sister..amin

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