Mohammed Abduh. Throughout his life he was an activist for Muslim self-determination, but several times he visited London where, according to one biographer,
"he reestablished ties with his lodge members."
When al-Afghani died in1897 he left behind a large body of political and religious writings that would form part of the basis for the later Islamist movements.
After al-Afghani was expelled from Egypt in 1879 Mohammed Abduh continued to promote his reformist message. For this Abduh was expelled in 1882. During his exilehe met up with al-Afghani in Paris where they collaborated to publish a Muslim journal and where they expanded their contacts within the Masonic Brotherhood. Four years later the British had a change of heart and they allowed Abduh to return. He became a teacher at Al-Azhar University where he focused on reforming the prestigious Islamic institution. At the same time he quickly rose to become a judge inthe National Courts. Only eleven years after returning from his British-imposed exilethe ruling British governor, Lord Cromer, made Sheikh Mohammed Abduh the GrandMufti of Egypt, in 1899. He was now the Pope of Islam.
At the same time he wasthe Masonic Grand Master of the United Lodge of Egypt.
There was of course an ulterior motive for Cromer making Abduh the most powerfulfigure in all of Islam. You see, in 1898 the ruling council of Al-Azhar University hadreaffirmed that usury, and thus banking according to the Western model, was
(illegal) according to Islamic Law. This was unacceptable to Lord Cromer because hisgiven name happened to be Evelyn Baring - he was an important member of England's prestigious Baring banking family that had grown rich off of the opiumtrade in India and China. Lord Cromer installed his friend Sheikh Abduh to changethe law forbidding banking, and once he was made Grand Mufti he used a very liberaland creative interpretation of the Quran to fabricate a loophole that allowed theforbidden practice of usury. British banks then had free reign to dominate Egypt. InLord Cromer's writings he says,
"I suspect my friend Abduh was in reality anagnostic,"
and he commented on Abduh's Salafiyya movement saying,
"They are thenatural allies of the European reformer."
Even Cromer saw that the Islamistmovement could be used to Britain's advantage.
Sheikh Mohammed Abduh had two students that were important in continuing theSalafiyya movement after he died in 1905. One of them was Sheikh Ahmad Abd al-Rahman al-Banna, who was Hasan al-Banna's father. The other was MohammedRashid Rida, a freemason who became Sheikh Abduh's good friend and publisher of the monthly magazine,
. This mouthpiece of the Salafiyya movementwas first published in 1897, and Rida remained the publisher for thirty-seven years.Rida also existed within the British circle of influence and his publication reflectedthe British point of view by agitating against the Ottoman Empire. He praised thefreemasonic Young Turk movement, but after World War I he castigated Turkey'snationalist revolution under Ataturk.
Hasan al-Banna's young life was influenced by all of these factors: by the Islamicmovement, by the British occupation, by his father, and by his most important mentor,Mohammed Rashid Rida. Al-Banna grew up reading Rida's publication and throughhis family connections they became good friends. At his death in 1935 Rida had placed all of his hope for an Islamic resurgence in al-Banna's Muslim Brotherhood.The other factor in Hasan al-Banna's life was Freemasonry. Al-Banna experimented