Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Transformation of the Ennahda Movement from Islamic Jama'ah to Political Party

Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Transformation of the Ennahda Movement from Islamic Jama'ah to Political Party

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT The Ennahda Movement, foundations were laid in Tunisia at the beginning of the 1970s by Rached Ghannouchi and his friends, has continued its existence as an Islamic movement for many years, and has acquired the identity of a political party. This article analyzes the transformation of the Ennahda Movement--the role model of political transformations for Islamic movements in the Arab world post Arab Spring--from a religious movement to a political party. The article also addresses issues such as the role of the Ennahda Party in the democratization process started in Tunisia after the Arab Spring, its contributions to the new constitution, and its influence in the governments in which it has participated.

Historical Background of the Ennahda Party

Many intellectuals and activists made theoretical and practical contributions to the process in which the fundamental building blocks for the Ennahda Movement were laid by individuals such as Rached Ghannouchi, Abdelfattah Mourou, Hamida al-Naifar, Salah al-Din Jourchi, and Abdulmajid al-Najjar. The Ennahda Movement, which was affected by the methods of Islamic movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood but avoided slavish imitation, went through many stages until it acquired an idiosyncratic structure. Without a shadow of a doubt, the prominent leader at all stages has been Rached Ghannouchi.

Ghannouchi showed interest in Arab nationalism in his youth; however, he gravitated towards "Pan-Islamism" after realizing that the latter type of nationalism possessed a more secular and Western character rather than embracing the culture of Islam. In his own words, he "entered Islam" while he was studying philosophy in Damascus, after having realized that the socialist and nationalist movements he was involved in were crisis-ridden at the time. With this decision, he left both secular nationalism and traditional/imitational Islam and took a step toward fundamental or "real" Islam. This real Islam, whose main source was the revelation, is different from "imitational" Islam, which is the invention of history and traditions. (1)

After Ghannouchi, a significant actor in shaping Tunisia's Islamic Movement, gained Islamic awareness, he strengthened his world of thought theoretically by reading the works of thinkers such as Muhammad Iqbal, Hasan al-Banna, Abu A'la Maududi, Sayyed Qutb, Muhammad Qutb, Mustafa al-Siba'i, Malek Bennabi, and Abul Hasan Nadwi. He also kept in touch with the Ikhwan, Hizb ut-Tahrir, Sufi and Salafi communities in the field by participating in study circles with Damascus' prominent scholars. He attended the study circles of Nasiruddin al-Albani, an outstanding pioneer of contemporary Salafi movements. With the influence generated by Albani's grasp of the hadith (the Prophet Muhammad's sayings and deeds) and his efforts to purify Islam from superstition, Ghannouchi started showing interest in the works of Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya. After having completed his undergraduate study of philosophy in Damascus, Ghannouchi went to France to continue his education. In France, he contacted with the Tablighi Jamaat (Missionary Community) that he had known from his years in Damascus. He enjoyed the fact that the Jamaat members lived Islam simply and worked to spread the faith.

While it may seem contradictory for an individual who studied philosophy, who strived to grasp Islamic thought in depth, who was affected by Salafi interpretations of Islam and who criticized traditional piousness in no uncertain terms, to be influenced by the practices of Tablighi Jamaat, which involve adopting a type of asceticism--taqwa (piety). This seeming contradiction actually positively contributed to Ghannouchi's thought when he formed his own practice. During the time he spent with the Jamaat in Paris, he had to reduce the Islamic culture and thought which he had based on a philosophical foundation to a simple level and understanding. …

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