26 November 2020 Passing away of Sadiq Al-Mahdi

The middeeastmonitor.com reports on the death of former Sudanese Prime Minister Sadiq Al-Mahdi, leader of the Ummah Party. It notes, “Sudan’s transitional military-civilian government has declared three days of national mourning. According to a statement by his party, Al-Mahdi’s body will arrive in Khartoum tomorrow morning with his funeral set take place in his home city of Omdurman, situated in Khartoum state, at the dome of his grandfather Imam Mohammad Ahmed Al-Mahdi where he will be buried. ” He succumbed to the Corona virus on 26 November at a hospital in the UAE, aged 84.

A note from salaam.co.uk : Oxford graduate (PPE) Sadiq Al-Mahdi served as Prime Minister twice: 1966-67 and 1986-89. In the interim period between holding this office, he was an opposition leader, leading the Ummah Party which drew its support from the Mahdist Ansar Order .

Sadiq addressed the annual conference of the Federation of Students Islamic Societies UK & Eire at its twelfth annual conference at Owens Park, Manchester in 1975, at a session chaired by Professor Khurshid Ahmad. The FOSIS publication The Muslim at the time reported, “the speaker was erudite, though his grasp of Islamic history was controversial.” In hindsight (45 years later!) his lecture entitled ‘Islamic ideology and government in the modern state’ contained much wisdom.

He acknowledged Abul ‘Ala Maududi’s breakthrough in Muslim political thought when proposing Islamic government is theo-democratic, “distinguishing it from theocracy and democracy”. Though not named, the lecture also revealed an intellectual debt to Malek Bennabi by the reference to two ideas; that the dynamism of Muslim civilisation died about the fourth century after Hijrah; and that “in the political field we had the emergence of a despotism which suffocated all originality. It started with the appointment of Yazid bin Mu’awiyah. The appointment of Yazid was outright power politics.” Sadiq al-Mahdi’s conclusion sums up the challenge that had captured the imagination of Muslim activists in the 1970s,

I believe a revival of Islam is only possible through the revival of the dynamism which accompanied its birth. This is something that we must do if we are serious about the role of Islam in modern society, and make it the basis of politics and government There are several ways and means open to us to achieve a consensus about such new ideas. One is through discussion. Another is perhaps through the emergence of people who are head and shoulders above their contemporaries, and are able to define certain ways and means of revival and application of Islam. The time has come for the rebirth of Islam in modern society. All that we can hope for is that when there is a call there will be supporters. I hope that all of us in this generation would through different ways and means be able to really contribute in this phase of the revival of Islam.

For the lecture transcript, The Muslim, August – September 1975 click here

Sadiq had an on/off relationship with his brother-in-law, Dr. Hassan al-Turabi, leader of the Sudanese Islamic Movement (SIM)/National Islamic Front. When Sadiq was in power in 1988, he appointed Dr. Turabi as Attorney General. However, the political classes were divided, which provided an opportunity for a military coup by Omar Hassan al-Bashir in June 1989. While Sadiq remained aloof, the Islamic Front collaborated with the military regime. Dr. Turabi was a power behind the scenes, seeking to both partner and outmaneuver al-Bashir. He took on the role of the Parliament’s speaker. Many prominent personalities of the Islamic Front held positions in the Bashir regime, some succumbing to the trappings of power and quick wealth. In an ensuing power struggle, Bashir with army support, isolated Turabi and imprisoned him several times: 1999-2004; 2004-2005; 2009 and 2001. Sadiq himself went into exile in 1996, and returned to Sudan in 2000.

Dr. Turabi died in 2016, also at the age of 84. At the time Sadiq was in exile again, spending time in the UK. Imam Al-Mahdi was keen to reach out to British Muslim representative organisations and share his ideas. His political mantle as leader of the Ummah Party in the Sudan has been taken by his daughter, Dr. Maryam Al-Sadiq.