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al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen - Youssef H. Aboul-Enein

al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen - Youssef H. Aboul-Enein

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Published by Political Islamism
A sympathetic account of the history and ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood.
A sympathetic account of the history and ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood.

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Political Islamism on Mar 02, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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July-August 2003
(the Muslim Brotherhood)founded in Egypt in 1928, it is impossible to tryto understand modern Islamic radicalism. Al-Ikhwan was the first of its kind to politicize Islamwithin the context of the colonial age and the firstto put into practice the theoriesof Salafist thinkers such asJamal-al-Din al-Afghani andMuhammad Abduh. These twoMuslim revivalists, who wroteand preached during the begin-ning of the 20th-century, es-poused that Islam and modernityare compatible and that Muslimslack control over their destiniesbecause they have fallen into fa-talism, abandoning the quest forunderstanding. According to Al-Afghani and Abduh, falling awayfrom their true faith has madeMuslim lands vulnerable toWestern colonialism.From the Muslim Brotherhood ranks came SayedQutb, who wrote the jihadist pamphlet
(Guideposts), and many members of the more mili-tant Gammaa al-Islamiya (The Islamic Group) andAl-Jihad as well as Al-Takfir wal-Hijra
(Excommu-nication and Migration). Most leaders of these mili-tant organizations and their members were oncemembers of the Brotherhood. The history of theBrotherhood is intertwined with the events surround-ing Egypt’s 1952 founding as a Republic.Al-Ikhwan members once included the lateMohammed Atef, Osama bin-Laden’s militarycommander, and Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda’spolitical ideologue. The question for those study-ing Islamic terrorism is, “To what extent did theMuslim Brotherhood influence the suicide bomberMuhammad Atta and the blind cleric ShiekhOmar Abd-al-Rahman?”
Hassan-Al-Banna, born in1906 in the delta town of Mahmudiya, saw an Egypt com-pletely dominated by England.By 1919 he was participating innationalist protests. He and hisfamily witnessed nationalistleader Saad Zaghloul calling forthe withdrawal of the British andthe granting of independence toEgypt. British high commission-ers in Cairo, including the distin-guished commissioner LordHoratio Kitchener, had governed the country since1882. Despite being granted independence in 1922,Egypt retained a de facto British high commissioner,who continued to dictate policy to King Fouad andhis son King Farouk. England continued to treatEgyptians with contempt, using such racial epithetsas “gyppos” and “camel jockey,” words that origi-nated with British and Australian troops serving toursof duty in Egypt. Egyptians have typically beenweaned on stories of English domination, some real,others exaggerated. One such story is about an En-glish hunter shooting pigeons on an Egyptian
Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimeen:
The MuslimBrotherhood
July-August 2003
farmer’s property. The farmer,seeing the birds he raised forfood being killed, tried to per-suade the hunter to stop. Thehunter refused to acknowledgethe farmer, so the farmer struck the Englishman, killing him. Inrelaliation, British troops razedthe village, causing many deathsand casualties. Today, this townis called Damanhour (FlowingBlood) in commemoration.Al-Banna’s childhood educa-tion consisted of an Islamic el-ementary education and learningwatch repair, his father’s craft.His father, a graduate of Al-Azhar University, was thevillage’s Islamic leader. At theage of 12, Al-Banna was en-rolled in primary school and be-gan his association with Islamicgroups. He also became a mem-ber of the Society for IslamicMorality, whose members wereto adhere to a strict code of Muslim behavior, with fines im-posed on those who cursed,drank, or smoked. This evange-lism expanded to include a mem-bership in the Society for Pre-venting the Forbidden. At 16,Al-Banna attended Dar-al-Ulum, an Islamic teacher’s train-ing college in Cairo where he fo-cused his studies on Tawheed(theology), Fiqh (jurispru-dence), Arabic literature, andKalam
(modern Islamic ideology or theosophy). TheHasafiya Order of Sufism also attracted Al-Bannabecause of its strict observance of scripture, rituals,and ceremonies. He found a sense of cause and im-portance in joining the order, and he became its sec-retary, handling charitable social needs. However, hisactivities were limited to upholding Islamic standardsand imposing them on others.During his 5 years in Cairo, Al-Banna saw Egypt’ssecular culture as immoral, decadent, and atheistic.He was alarmed also by the reforms of KemalAttaturk, who abolished the Caliphate. Al-Bannaworried that the 1925 establishment of secular Egyp-tian universities was the first step toward a Turk-ish-style abandonment of Islam.
Al-Banna, finding like-mindedmen at his school and other uni-versities, came under the influ-ence of Sheikh Al-Dwijiri, whoargued that Al-Azhar clericswere not capable of stemmingthe tide of Western influence.This idea was not new; it re-flected the writings of Mu-hammad Abduh, saying that theAl-Azhar clergy were corruptagents of the government andthat any cleric who helped main-tain colonial rule was to be con-sidered illegitimate. The most in-fluential person in Al-Banna’slife, however, was SheikhMuhibb al-Din Khatib, a Syrianreformer who ran the SalafiyaLibrary and helped found theYoung Muslim Men’s Associa-tion. From Khatib, Al-Bannalearned elements of organizingthe masses and mobilizing disaf-fected youth.
Al-Banna gradu-ated from Dar-al-Ulum in 1927and proceeded to teach at a postin the port city of Ismailiah.
Al-Banna and theMuslim Brotherhood
Ismailiah, a town on theSuez Canal, Al-Banna’s influ-ences caught up with him as hewitnessed the exploitation of Egyptian workers by foreignerswho ran the Suez Canal Com-pany. In response, Al-Banna andhis colleagues founded Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen.He declared that Egyptian poverty, powerlessness,and lack of dignity resulted from failing to adhereto Islam and adopting Western values and culture.“Islam hooah al-hal” (Islam is the solution to allEgyptian and mankind’s ills), a buzzword still ut-tered today, represents a frustration with socialism,capitalism, and a democracy manipulated to favorthe ruling party.The first 10 years of Al-Ikhwan activities focusedon recruiting and establishing branches throughoutEgypt. Al-Banna called for a constitution derivedfrom the
, as well as the pre-cedents set forth by the first four rightly-guided Ca-liphs. He wanted the abrogation of secular law and
July-August 2003
the introduction of Islamic law asthe law of Egypt. Another as-pect of Al-Banna’s messagewas the prohibition of vices suchas gambling, prostitution, usury,monopolies, books, and songs, aswell as ideas not conforming toIslamic law. Although Al-Bannapreached pan-Islamism, he wasnot opposed to pan-Arabism andEgyptian nationalism. In his pam-phlet
 Diary of Dawa and  Dai’iah
, Al-Banna clearly out-lines the early years of the or-ganization saying, “I prefer togather men than gather informa-tion from books.”
He empha-sized building the Ikhwanic orga-nization and established internalrules to keep it going beyond hislifetime.
Al-Ikhwan under KingsFouad and Farouk
In 1936, Al-Banna sent a let-ter to King Farouk and PrimeMinister Nahas Pasha encourag-ing them to promote an Islamicorder. That same year Egyptsigned the Anglo-EgyptianTreaty, giving more control andautonomy to local governments.By 1938 Al-Banna called onKing Farouk to dissolve Egypt’spolitical parties because of their corruption and thedivision they caused within the country.
TheBrotherhood’s tactics began to change from work-ing within the system to advocating an armed revo-lutionary struggle to facilitate change.
Today, thedebate on whether Islamists should work within thesystem or propagate violence continues withinIkhwan ranks, a debate that has led to the creationof such splinter groups as Gamaa
Islamiya andTanzeem al-Jihad.As early as 1940, guerrilla training camps wereestablished in the Mukatam Hills that overlook Cairo as well as in areas in southern Egypt, withmembers of the Egyptian officer corps (someaffiliated with Nasser’s Free Officers’ Movement)providing training. So organized was the Brother-hood’s militant wing that during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War there was an increase in the types of weapons in its arsenal. That same year several thou-sand Ikhwan members fought in the Arab-Israeliconflict, increasing the organization’s stature andrecruiting ability and further cementing its relation-ship with the Egyptian Army.When the Brotherhood began,it included political, educational,and social arms. The organiza-tion added a militant arm duringWorld War II and established anIkhwan quasi-judiciary that is-sued fatwas against those whowere judged to have betrayedfaith and country. Once the ju-diciary arm condemned a per-son, the Brotherhood’s militantarm carried out the sentence.Brotherhood activities also in-cluded the 1948 bombing of theCircurrel Shopping Complex andthe assassinations of internal se-curity officials, Judge Ahmed Al-Khizindaar, and Prime MinisterNoqrashi Pasha. In retaliation,King Farouk’s internal securityapparatus assassinated Al-Banna in 1949, but the Brother-hood endured and has since be-come intertwined in Egyptiandomestic politics.
Ikwan under Nasser
Anwar Sadat played a pivotalrole in bringing together theBrotherhood and members of the Free Officers’ Association.As early as 1946, he saw thatthe two groups had commonaims (the overthrow of the monarchy blamed for themilitary failure in Palestine) and that the recruitmentof officers and infiltration of troops was redundantand often divisive.When Nasser finally met Al-Banna in 1948,Nasser convinced Al-Banna that gaining a wide baseof support among the military through his Free Of-ficers and uniting secular and Muslim officers un-der the banner of Egyptian self-rule would be moreconstructive and lead to a quicker revolution than apurely Islamist one. Once liberated, Egypt could de-termine the best way to govern the country.
Nasser succeeded in overthrowing the monarchyin July 1952 and, with the help of the Muslim Broth-erhood, hoped to steer a course toward an Islamicgovernment. But the Brotherhood was rebuffedwhen Nasser offered it only a ministerial post in theAwqaf (religious endowments) and an appointmentto the post of Mufti of Egypt. A deterioration of therelationship between Nasser and the Ikhwan en-sued. Nasser’s decision to set aside the Brotherhoodhad much to do with the Coptic Christian and Mus-
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