Abd al-Hamid Kishk

Abd al-Hamid Kishk

Sheikh Abdul-Hamid Kishk ( _ar. عبد الحميد كشك) (1933 – December 6, 1996) was a well-known Egyptian preacher, scholar of Islam, activist, and author. He was a graduate of the prestigious Al-Azhar University in Cairo and was said to be known for his humour, popular sermons, and for "his outspoken stance against" music, restrictions on polygamy, and "injustice and oppression in the Muslim world." [ [http://www.jannah.com/akishk/biography.html Short Biography of Sheik Kishk] ]


Abd al-Hamid Kishk was born in 1933 in Shibrakheet, a small village near Alexandria, Egypt. His father passed away before Abd al-Hamid reached schooling age. He joined one of the schools of Azhar and by the age of 8 he had memorized the Quran. It was at this time that he was inflicted by an illness which took his eye sight. He graduated as a scholar from the faculty of Usoul al Din in Azhar and was appointed as an Imam, giving "khutbas" (speeches) throughout Egypt. [ [http://www.jannah.com/akishk/biography.html Short Biography of Sheik Kishk] ]

Around 1964 he took up the minbar of 'Ain al-Hayat mosque in Cairo as his platform. A vocal critic of the Egyptian government, he was imprisoned in 1965 for two and half years. "The peak of his fame" is said to have been "between 1967 and early 1980s," when crowds of 10,000 would regularly attend his often "hilarious" Friday sermons at a mosque in the Kobry Al Koba district in Cairo. [ [http://fadfadation.blogspot.com/2007/05/sheikh-abdul-hamid-kishk.html Sheikh Abdul Hamid Kishk] ] A French scholar noted:

In the last years of the Sadat's presidency, it was impossible to walk the streets of Cairo without hearing [Kishk's] stentorian voice. Climb into a collective service-taxi and the driver is listening to one of Sheikh Kishk's recorded sermons... They listen to Kishk in Cairo, in Casablanca, and in the North African district of Marseilles. A Saudi-funded magazine has dubbed him `the star of Islamic preaching`... none commands his incomparable vocal cords, his panoramic Muslim culture, his phenomenal capacity for improvisation, and his acerbic humour in criticizing infidel regimes, military dictatorship, the peace treaty with Israel, or the complicity of al-Azhar... So great was his fame that the Ministry of Waqf had to build several annexes to the mosque to accommodate the Friday crowds. In 1981, however, even these were insufficient to shelter the approximately 10,000 people who regularly attended. [Kepel, Gilles, "Le Prophete et Pharaon, " English translation published in 1986, University of California Press. Original French edition published in 1984, Le Prophete et Pharaon, Editions Le Decouverte, p.172, 175]

He was arrested again in 1981 shortly before Sadat's assassination, but was released by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 1982 under the condition that he end his career as a public activist. His cassette tapes continued to be widely available thereafter, but the mosque in Cairo where he preached was converted into a public health center. [John Esposito, "The Oxford Dictionary of Islam", Oxford University Press 2003]

Beliefs and political activities

As a preacher at 'Ain al-Hayat mosque he condemned the social conditions in Egypt and the suppression of the Islamic Movement. This did not stop him from having distinctly spiritual approach to life, something which his speeches reflect. He was a dissident under the Nasser regime, refusing to sanction the government's execution of Sayyid Qutb or assert compatibility between Islam and socialism. He was boycotted by the official media under the Anwar Sadat regime (1970-1981), but cassette tapes of his sermons were widely distributed all over Egypt and the Arab world. Kishk held political views opposed to the modern bureaucratic state, and emphasized personal and private piety in his speeches. [ [http://www.jannah.com/akishk/biography.html Short Biography of Sheik Kishk] ]


Some of Kishk's interpretations of the Quran were very strict. He opposed singing and music. In a 10 April 1981 sermon he preached that Qur'an ayat 17:61-5 where God tells the devil "Rouse with your voice whomever you are able" refers to the dangers of singing. "Song is the devil's pipe, the courier of fornication! ..." [Kepel, "Le Prophete et Pharaon" (1986), p.181]

Marriage law

One of the issues for which Sheikh Kishk attacked secularists in Egypt was the "abolition" of "personal statute" ("al-ahwal al-shakhsiyya"). This referred to the passing of a law (44/1979) on spousal relations which required men to inform their wives if they had married another woman. "Under the new law, if the first wife objected, she could immediately obtain a divorce and would preserve the right to live in the husband's home until their children attained the age of majority. This law was drafted by the office of the Ministry of Social Affairs and a commission of Al-Azhar scholars, and aroused the fury" of Kishk and other sheikhs, who held that it "contravened the shari'a". [Kepel, "Le Prophete et Pharaon" (1986), p.181]

Greater jihad

According to Kishk, the greater jihad is a continuous struggle aimed at subduing one’s baser nature and attuning oneself to Allah’s moral standards. It is the basis for personal moral development, creating pious and philanthropic activism, promoting justice and prosperity in society, while combating ignorance, injustice and oppression. As a result of this greater jihad, says Kishk, Islam "heals those societies which follows its guidance and are built on consciences which have been awakened and hearts which have been illuminated by the light of belief." [‘Abd al-Hamid Kishk, "Dealing With Lust and Greed According to Islam" (London: Dar Al Taqwa, 1995) pp.2-9]


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