The Departure of Salafi Pillar: Mohammad Surur

By Mohammad Aburumman

تم نشره في Sun 13 November / Nov 2016. 01:00 AM
  • Mohammad Aburumman

Last Friday, Muhammad Surur bin Nayif Zayn al-'Abidin, died, one of the most prominent former Syrian Muslim Brotherhood leaders, and founder of what was later known as the “Sururi Movement”, one of today’s most important Salafi currents.

Surur, born in Houran, an area south west of Syria, extending into the north western corner of Jordan, in 1938, was a maths teacher, and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood there, before splitting and going to Saudi Arabia to teach in the city of Breda, where his idea began to nourish and spread, causing a deep division in the traditional Salafi communities, by establishing a Salafi generation there that combines the methods and worldview of the Muslim Brotherhood with the theological puritanism of Salafism.

Even though he did not remain long in Saudi Arabia, 1965 to 1973, he however constituted a massive transition in the thoughts and dialects of many youths there, prefacing the birth of what was known as the “Awakening” current, which is by some considered an extension of Surur’s school of thought. The current’s most prominent symbols include Salman Odeh, Bisher Bisher, Aed Qarni, as well as Sifr Huwwali, who is Sururi-leaning and was influenced by Mohammad Qutob.

The Sururi movement is the foundation of what is the Salafi Political “Qutobi” school, summarised, and is one of the cornerstones of the Salafi movement, next to the Salafi Brotherhood movement, founded Hasan Banna. Both Suru and Abdul Rahman Abdul Khaliq, the Egyptian sheikh who represents the more moderate Salafi movement, shared the momentous influence on the Salafi movement and Salafi-Proponents around the world.

After Surur left Saudi Arabia, went to Kuwait, not staying there long either, he decided to settle in London, and established a research institute in Birmingham, took part of the inception of the magazine; Al Bayan, along with his friend, Mohammad Abdo, whose son now heads the Syrian opposition coalition. Surur also published the Sunna magazine, which was prohibited around the Arab world, and played a massive role in shaping the Sururi dialect around the world.

In 2004, Surur left London to live in Amman; he resided in Shumeisani, and his health began to deteriorate, as he travelled back and forth between Doha, Amman, and London.

I had met him at his house some years ago, and was shocked to learn that he has gone back on his sharp position against Democracy, was extremely interested in the Syrian revolution, and was keeping a keen eye out for developments there. Most of his recent literature focus on what he sees as the “Iranian” threat. In fact, he was the first who wrote about it, under a pen name. His book, “Wa Ja'a Dawr al-Majus”, which roughly translated from Arabic to “And the Era of the Magians Has Come, preceded most Islamists, as they were generally supporting the Islamic Revolution in Irani. Among the most recent of his writings was his book on the percussions of Hariri’s assassination on Sunnis in Lebanon.

Surur’s presence in the Syrian revolution was not at all any less important than his global presence; many Salafi Syrian opposition factions are influenced by his dialect. In the field, his role among Syrians was vital, as he himself oversaw the establishment of several rescue, education, and charity bodies in many of the “liberated Syrian areas”.

Surur Zayn al-Abidin’s departure came after the flame of his school has thinned and receded before the world. And that happened for several reasons; he first detached himself from a part of his Qutobi thought, in recent years, and second, politicised Salafism is no longer a novel thing in a Salafi world packed with different, sometimes colliding directions. Hence, the Sururi presence in the Arab World, save for its historic role in driving a massive division among Salafis in a previous state, and leading into the establishment of organisation and politicisation, is no longer as concrete.