One of the leading Islamic political thinkers and activists, Dr Hasan al-Turabi passed away today in Khartoum. He was 84. A specialist in Islamic Law (he had a PhD in Islamic Law), he had contributed many books on the subject as well as served in various capacities in political office. Close to many Sudanese leaders, he eventually fell out with them ending in prison on numerous occasions.
Saturday March 05, 2016, 20:09 EST
One of the leading Islamic intellectuals and political activists in Sudan, Dr Hasan Abdullah al Turabi passed away today. He was 84.
After suffering a heart attack at his office in the morning, he was rushed to the Royal Care International Hospital in Khartoum. He slipped into a coma and did not recover and was pronounced dead in the evening.
Dr Turabi was a well-known scholar who specialized in Islamic Law. After studying at Khartoum University, he went to Britain and enrolled at King’s College London for a law degree. After graduating from there, he went to Sorbonne University in Paris, France for a PhD in Islamic Law.
Once back in Sudan, he exercised considerable influence in politics serving in various capacities including speaker of Parliament, Attorney General as well as Foreign Minister. He was also close to several Sudanese leaders exercising considerable influence over their policies but eventually falling out with them and ending up in prison.
He was jailed on numerous occasions the last being on January 17, 2011 for nine days when he led protests in support of the Islamic Awakening movements sweeping the Muslim East (aka the Middle East) and North Africa.
Given his political activism as well as contribution to Islamic political thought, he was well known among Islamic movement activists. However, given the racism among Arabians who consider the Sudanese as Africans (they are because they are based in Africa, just like Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco and Mauritania) and not Arabs, hence they treat them with indifference and even contempt.
Dr Turabi’s intellectual contributions were not widely recognized in the Arab world even though he made important contribution to the development of Islamic political thought.
In his political career, he was initially close to Jafaar al-Numeiri who brought about a military coup in Sudan in the late seventies and early eighties. He fell out with him and was imprisoned.
Dr Turabi was also initially close to General Omar al-Bashir who also came to power through a coup and is currently the president of Sudan. He fell out with him as well although the two were politically close for nearly a decade. Power, however, is intoxicating and once Bashir consolidated his hold on power, he had no more use for Dr Turabi.
Fluent in English, French and German besides Arabic, Dr Turabi was able to reach Western audiences and intellectual circles through the media.
Since falling out with Bashir, he had been fiercely critical of his government’s policies and was the only Sudanese politician to support the International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant for Bashir's arrest on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
Turabi’s political career shows the pitfalls of Islamic leaders falling into the trap of supporting dictatorships in hopes of implementing Islam from the top. Once the dictators have consolidated their grip on power, they turn against the very people that helped them propel into power.