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Makram Ebeid Pacha & Hassan El-Banna: Egypt's golden age of national unity

A 1952 tribute to slain Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan El-Banna by prominent Christian government official Makram Ebeid Pacha speaks to a bygone age of Egyptian national unity

Mohamed Elmenshawy , Wednesday 17 Apr 2013
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Three months after Egyptian Prime Minister Mahmoud Fahmy El-Nokrashi announced the dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood group, confiscated its funds and arrested most of its members, group founder Hassan El-Banna was assassinated on 12 February 1949 and died at Qasr Al-Aini Hospital.

The government wanted the body to remain at the hospital and go straight to the cemetery, but his father insisted it should first go to his home. The government allowed this on condition that he was buried at 9am the next morning without a wake.

Security forces and the palace did not allow any men to attend the funeral, and therefore his coffin was carried by women. Any male who came near El-Banna's home before the burial was either stopped or arrested; his father and Makram Ebeid Pacha were the only men at the funeral.

The latter was not arrested since he was a government figure, a Christian, and El-Banna's friend for many years.

Three years later, Al-Da'wa ('The Call') magazine, founded by several Brotherhood members, asked Ebeid to write an article on the anniversary of El-Banna's assassination. The following article was published on 12 February 1952, authored by Ebeid:

Al-Da'wa magazine asked me to write an article on the anniversary of the death of the good man, who by God's mercy left this treacherous world to be with his Benevolent and Merciful God. God's mercy chose for us that the deceased whom we lost remain among us in memory and by his virtue.

The deceased is none other than the late Sheikh Hassan El-Banna.

Yes, although the Muslim Brotherhood lost its supreme leader, of eternal memory, remember well this man who surrendered his faith to Allah righteously, and surrendered his soul to the nation with chastity. Remember him alive in his glory whenever you remember him dead in his solitude.

While death and life are continuously battling over humanity, exchanging victories and defeats equally, victory to life comes through remembering and to death through forgetting. And thus, the dead are alive if you remember them and the living are dead if you forget them.

There is no doubt that the good Sheikh Hassan El-Banna is alive among us in our memories; how could he not be immortal, as a man who was inspired in religion by God's guidance. Remembering him gives both you and him life.

The person writing these words is Makram Ebeid, his Christian friend who found in his good Muslim brother the traits of honesty and friendship combined. I will always remember how we visited and interacted often during his lifetime. I must also note his influence after death. This – in all truth – is but an honest testimonial as God is my judge, and I only speak from my heart.

This is testimony by a man who shares with the dear deceased a belief in the one God, one people and unification of all Heavenly religions. Not only should we believe in one God but we must also unite because national unity needs more than uniting regions; it must first be preceded by uniting the people!

The Muslim Brotherhood and the Wafd bloc were the only groups that exchanged visits in the Muslim Brotherhood Office and Wafd Club. I was fortunate enough that the deceased, God bless his soul, visited me at home.

We had a long conversation and exchanged our personal and national opinions. In his conversation, he went well above appearances and minor issues which made me sense that he was a rare breed in terms of deep thought and integrity.

I visited him, God have mercy on his soul, at home after his death. It was a visit I will never forget as long as I live because of its tragic and solemn impact. I was shocked to see the police surrounding the street where the deceased's home is located. If the police officer had not recognised me and allowed me to pass through, I would not have been able to deliver my condolences.

I will never forget how his father, the kind Sheikh, was deeply touched by this visit, and told me – as the tears rolled down – how they had prevented people from attending the funeral. Only his father was allowed to walk behind his casket.

No one was allowed to deliver their condolences at his home, and his good father thanked me and prayed for me – prayers that bless me until today. I told him that expressing condolences was a duty, and if I or any Egyptian failed to perform it, this would be an aberration of our traditions and loyalty.

My brothers:

Yes, you are my brothers, oh Muslim Brothers.

You are my brothers in country and race; you are my brothers in soul and sentiment; you are my closest brothers because we share the same faith of patriotism.

And since patriotism is part of faith, we are thus brothers in the one Beneficent God. Today, as you remember him in his grave as a symbol of virtue, also remember what he always remembered: freedom.

Let us then demand freedom for our country, liberation for our wretched imprisoned sons. Releasing them would be consolation and reward at the same time.

As a young man, Ebeid participated in the 1919 revolution against the British occupation of Egypt. This revolution was viewed as the first event in which all Egyptians participated without religious discrimination, and the crescent and cross were raised together for the first time.

In fact, Ebeid was the first to declare: "Egypt is not a country we live in but a country that lives in us."

Ebeid was very popular as an Egyptian, and not for being a Christian.

Where are the likes of Makram Ebeid and Sheikh Hassan El-Banna in today's Egypt?

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