Citation for Hawwā, Saʿīd

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Weismann, Itzchak . "Hawwā, Saʿīd." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online. May 20, 2022. <>.


Weismann, Itzchak . "Hawwā, Saʿīd." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, (accessed May 20, 2022).

Hawwā, Saʿīd

Saʿīd Hawwā (1935–1989) was the chief ideologue of the Muslim Brothers (Muslim Brotherhood) society in Baʿthist Syria. Hawwā was born and raised in a poor quarter of Hama, Syria, to a father who was active in the local anti-landlord movement. Passing through the state school system, he graduated in 1961 from the Sharīʿah Faculty at the University of Damascus. In high school Hawwā was influenced by the charismatic teacher of religion Muhammad al-Hamid, who was an adept in the Ṣūfī Naqshbandī order, as well as a founding member of the Hama branch of the Muslim Brothers society. Hawwā joined the Muslim Brothers at his teacher 's instigation in 1953, at the same time immersing himself in the Ṣūfī path.

In the wake of the Hama disturbances of 1964, which followed the rise of the Baʿth to power, Hawwā was nominated acting head of the Muslim Brothers society in the city. Two years later he left for Saudi Arabia to reformulate the movement 's doctrine. Returning to Syria after Ḥafeẓ al-Asad 's seizure of power, Hawwā was imprisoned for his role in the opposition to the 1973 constitution, which failed to mention that the president 's faith must be Islam. On his release in 1978 he fled to Jordan and joined the collective leadership of the Islamic Front in the confrontation with the regime, which ended in the Hama debacle of 1982. Hawwā died an exile in Jordan seven years later.

Hawwā 's literary output reached almost thirty works. These range from multi-volume Qurʿān and ḥadīth commentaries, through extensive expositions in the spheres of theology, law, Sufism, and daʿwah (preaching), to a detailed autobiography and pamphlets on current issues. Hawwā was critical of the radical wing of the Islamic movement, the followers of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Sayyid Quṭb. Although sharing the radicals ’ analysis of the lamentable state of the Islamic world and its inferiority to the West in the modern age, he objected to their denunciation of contemporary Muslim societies as jāhilī (living in “ignorance,” as in the pre-Islamic period). Instead Hawwā maintained that Muslims might degenerate into a state of riddah (apostasy) if they were not guided on the right path. This entailed striking a new balance between the Salafī call to follow the example of the pious ancestors and a reformed type of Ṣūfī spirituality to fight present-day materialism.

In both doctrinal and organizational matters Hawwā claimed to follow the original program of the Muslim Brothers society as delineated by its Egyptian founder, Ḥasan al-Bannā. His ideas also reflected the positive democratic experience of the Muslim Brothers in post-independence Syria. Hawwā accepted the idea of an Arab national identity, as part of the larger Islamic ummah (community) and as an indispensable stage in the formation of the universal Islamic state. He called for the reinstitution of the caliphate, the holder of the office to be elected by shūrā—a permanent consultative organ consisting of ʿulamāʿ (religious scholars) proficient in both the religious sciences and worldly affairs. The role of the Islamic movement in Hawwā 's scheme was to organize all Islamic forces under a unified political leadership and remold society, essentially by peaceful means, into a party of God.

In the wake of the establishment of the ʿAlawī-based authoritarian Baʿth regime, Hawwā offered the Syrian Muslim Brothers a new program, which he called iḥyāʿ al-rabbānīyah (revival of the Godly men). This was modeled on the Ṣūfī reformist tradition he had imbibed from his former teacher, Muhammad al-Hamid. The essence of Hawwā's scheme was to create a loose grassroots organization of Islamic groups around local mosque-schools. The rabbānīyah were to provide the Islamic movement with spiritual guidance and restrain the radicals who called for immediate confrontation with the regime. Unable to convince his colleagues of the need for moderation, Hawwā joined the 1982 Islamic uprising, which ended, as he had feared it would, in disaster.


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