Abd AL Hamid Kishk (1933–1996CE) عبد الحميد كشك

Abd AL Hamid Kishk (1933–1996CE) عبد الحميد كشك

`Abd al-Hamid Kishk was born in an Egyptian village. He was the son of a small merchant. In his early youth, he not only his eyesight, but also became an orphan. By age twelve, he had memorized the Qur’an and began to attend religious schools in Alexandria and Cairo. As he grew, he enrolled at al-Azhar University, graduating in 1962, while topping the class and, thus, became fit to be taken as a teacher. He was appointed Imam at a Cairo mosque. His troubles started soon. It is reported that, in 1965, he was asked to denounce Sayyid Qutb, which he flatly refused. He was arrested and tortured in prison for two and a half years. In the early 1970s, cassette recordings (tape-recorders being a new introduction in Muslim societies) of his sermons and lessons began to circulate throughout Egypt. In a few years, he was the most popular preacher in the Arab world. For Friday sermons, attendance at his Mosque reached 10,000 by the early 1980s. Due to his fearless criticism of the ruling class, he was again arrested in 1981 as part of a crackdown on political opponents, but was released in 1982. Luckily, he was in prison when Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian president at the time, was assassinated. But the Mosque where he preached was converted into a Public Health Care unit and his refusal to preach Socialism and condemn Sayyid Qutb had sealed his fate with the governments. The media, too, boycotted him. His opposition to the amendments to Islamic Laws pertaining to personal life was another reason for ruling-class hatred of the Sheikh who could not be punished owing to his popularity. In fact, his declaration of music as forbidden in Islam not with standing, he retained his popularity and deep respect for being outspoken at a time when many others in his country, and many many more in other countries, drew satisfaction from issuing Fatwas in favour of government rulings. His tapes, on 2000 topics, were sold all over the Arab world in hundreds of thousands.

Abd al-Hamid Kishk was remarkably witty. Appealing for space in the Mosque, as people patiently stood outside in the open, he would say, “O my brothers of the secret-service-agency filling the first row, please make room for our brothers outside.”

He was remarkably witty. Appealing for space in the Mosque, as people patiently stood outside in the open, he would say, “O my brothers of the secret-service-agency filling the first row, please make room for our brothers outside.” When the 70-year old Umm Kulthum sang, “Take me, my dear, take me,” he remarked, “O old woman, let our Lord take you.” Commenting on Egyptian prisons, famous for their brutality in tortures, he said: “Nine parts of oppression lives in Egyptian prisons, while one-tenth of it resides in the rest of the world. By night, the tenth part spends its night in Egypt.”

His autobiography, The Story of My Days, was published in 1986. Reaching the Prophet's age, he died in 1996 on a Friday, in the Mosque where he used to deliver Friday sermons, while in prostration offering Tahiyyatu al-Masjid (Prayers at entry to a Mosque), before start of the sermon.