By Professor Sulayman S.Nyang, Howard University
Dr. Hassan Turabi, the celebrated scholar and political leader from Sudan, is now gone. Born in that part of the colonial Africa called British Sudan as opposed to the French Sudan, this young and ambitious Sudanese lived long enough to witness political independence, civil wars and the demarcation of the geopolitical entity then called Old Sudan. That great Sudan was a political creature that affected the life and times of Turabi. Not only was he affected by the trends in politics in Sudan and beyond, but he also developed a new narrative that underscored his wit, ambition and political ambitions. Being perceived as a militant Islamist who yearned for revolution and change in the Sudan, Hassan Turabi soon altered the political map of the country.
Coincidentally, his political activities paralleled those of Imam Khomeini in Iran. Self-consciously, this Sudanese scholar whose political campaigns against his political opponents led to his seizure of the state in Sudan. Here, in the largest geopolitical unit on the continent, Turabi dreamed about an Islamic state in the heart of Africa and in doing so created what many of his companions saw as a dream. Real or imagined, these political strategies of his National Islamic Party ( The Ikwan) left to the current situation in the country. Not only did he contribute to the gradual if not speedy polarization of the country, but he also galvanized many of his contemporaries who dreamed about an Islamic state to match the Islamic state in Iran. Captured by the idea of an Islamic state, Turabi played a major part before political intrigues and miscalculation worked against.
As a result of this train of events, life for Turabi after his political downfall led to both marginalization and political irrelevance. In the event, rapidly changing political situation in Sudan left to the C.P.A. This was the guide for the perplexed in Sudanese politics before the total redrawing of the borders . Having lost his initiatives in the Islamization of the country, Hassan Turabi lived his last days in a changed and different country. No longer the Islamic Guru who could call the shorts and point out the way forward, but he changed his nationality unintendedly, and recognized willy nilly the old messages of the people from South Sudan.
In summing up this brief obituary on the late Dr. Hassan Turabi of Sudan, let us list the following points for the record: he was a solid scholar of Islam and was familiar with competing Islamic perspectives; not only was he aware of the Jumboreems but he took a hostile position against them; he was grounded in Western thoughts and developed the capacity to negotiate their difficult waters; last but not least, he was a personality whose religious perspectives put him at loggerheads with other players in the Old Sudan. RIP