According to Arabic-English dictionaries, Tamkeen means empowerment, which barely explains it. Tamkeen is one of those rich Arabic terms that can explain a whole phenomenon in one word. It is a unique blend of meanings that include empowerment, reinforcement, enabling with a feeling of spreading comprehensive control.
Tamkeen is also a Quranic term that is always associated with other thoughts of providing power and authority to the believers in order to fight corruption and pursue justice. Examples from the Holy Quran, among others, can be stories of the Prophets Tho Al Qarnayn, Yousuf, and Muhammad, peace upon them all.
However, the concept of Tamkeen in modern terms has of course developed significantly in the past two centuries especially with the rise of Wahhabism – a version of fundamental Islam – in Saudi Arabia and some of the Arab Gulf States.
According to Ali Al Salaby in his book Fiqh of Victory and Empowerment in the Holy Quran, Tamkeen means, “the study of types, conditions, reasons, stages, goals, obstacles and constituents of empowerment in order to bring the nation – Ummah – back to what it possessed in the past of authority, power and status in people’s life and implementation of Shari’a of Allah.”
Egyptian Islamists – the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi movements – are definitely not isolated from other movements in the Muslim World. However, the country’s history and relatively sophisticated society make it challenging for local Islamist movements to copy or develop simplistic political plans to take over power and “fix” the country.
The Brotherhood as the most sophisticated Islamist movement in Egypt, and probably the world, decided to take a very gradual and peaceful approach almost eighty years ago to wait for the right moment for Tamkeen. The moment they think is the right time to seize power and enforce full control over the state in order to fix the state and bring justice and development to the nation after ages of corruption.
Since the days of the Brotherhood’s founding father Imam Hassan Al-Banna (1906 – 1949), the group has patiently waited for the right “takeover moment”, using whatever limited democratic methods were allowed to climb the political power pyramid. We have to admit that the Brotherhood had many reasons over the past eight decades to turn into a violent group, but they did not (except for a few overestimated incidents) and chose to wait and work on all social, political and economic levels; which was very smart and responsible.
The worrying part about this patient strategy is what follows after they reach power. The Brotherhood has democratically climbed the political pyramid on a ladder; now they are at the top they are pulling it up behind them.
A legitimate, albeit pessimistic, worry is that now they are in power, their commitment to democracy will wane. It is one of those moments for the Brotherhood that does not happen twice, and messing it up is not an option; as the people would be aware of the plan to seize power the second time around and would not tolerate it.
Obviously, the Brotherhood decided that the Tamkeen moment had come after Mubarak’s fall. Over the past twenty months, they dramatically converted patient tactics to extremely rapid ones, spreading power by all democratic means (referenda and elections) and non-democratic ones (alliances with the military, the business elite and religious manipulations). But was it really the right moment of Tamkeen? I claim it was not.
If the Brotherhood had decided to wait and keep up their patient approach, they could have been extremely respected by society as a powerful political group that did not think of taking advantage of the fragile political situation in post-Mubarak Egypt.
They had a perfect chance to side with the revolutionaries and wait for about five years until some other parliamentary elections that they could massively win. That would have been the perfect Tamkeen moment. Unfortunately for them, they lost it forever and it is too late to fix this mistake.
We have recently observed a desperate attempt to enforce and empower the Tamkeen process in the Brotherhood’s political and non-political practices, with the help of the less organised salafi groups. And it is expected that they will escalate their power grab further than what we have already seen, as they have no other choice.
They simply see no more chances, since their hand has been exposed to the people and other political players. What is happening now in Egypt is simply a decision to empower the empowerment, or Tamkeen At-Tamkeen. It is the only choice left for them in a game they are forced to play differently given their fatal timing miscalculation.