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[This entry comprises five articles:
An Overview
Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt
Muslim Brotherhood in Syria
Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan
Muslim Brotherhood in the Sudan

The introductory article provides an overview of the origin, ideological development, and geographical spread of the movement; the companion articles focus on four countries where the Muslim Brotherhood has played an active role in religious, social, and political life.]

An Overview
Founded in Isma’iliyah, Egypt, in 1928 by Hasan alBanna’ (1906-1949), the Muslim Brotherhood (alIkhwan al-Muslimun) is the parent body and the main source of inspriation for many Islamist organizations in Egypt and several other Arab countries, including Syria, Sudan, Jordan, Kuwait, Yemen, and some North African states. The movement was initially announced as a purely religious and philanthropic society that aimed to spread Islamic morals and good works. Its emergence, however, was part of a widespread reaction to various alarming developments that were sweeping through the Muslim world. The Arabs had been divided into spheres of influence by the European powers, and the attempted restoration of the caliphate, abolished in Turkey in 1924, failed in 1926. Western influence also appeared to be making serious inroads into the Islamic culture of the region. Not only did writers such as Salamah Musa and Taha Husayn propagate openly secularist ideas, but even some al-Azhar scholars adopted apparently Western approaches in analyzing “Islamic” issues, a trend that reached its most disconcerting point with the publication in 1925 of `All `Abd al-Raziq’s book on Islam and government in which he denied that Islam was in any way concerned with politics. [See the biographies of Husayn and `Abd al-Rdziq.]
As a teacher and gifted orator, al-Banna’ was able to attract to his movement various members of the local intelligentsia, as well as some artisans and a few workers. The Ikhwan became increasingly interested in public affairs, developing a distinctive conception of the comprehensiveness of Islam, which contrasted with that of both the established clergy and the existing conventional philanthropic charities. Al-Banna’ called for a total and activist Islam. He perceived the Islamic state as a significant ingredient of the desired Islamic order, but the Ikhwan leaders probably did not consider the assumption of political power an imminent possibility at the time. At such an early stage in the group’s formation and development, the tasks of moral reform (isldh alnufus) and of agreeing on an Islamic approach and “methodology” (minhdj Islami) must have appeared more appropriate for the requirements of that phase. Too much emphasis on government might also have subjected the society to even more official suspicion.
The Ikhwan did not identify itself as a political party, although it acted very much as if it were. Its activities began to acquire a distinct political character around 1938. The weekly Al-nadhir (The Warning) was started, and occasionally threatened to “fight any politician or organization that did not work for the support of Islam and the restoration of its glory.” Its concept of absolute obedience (al-ta’ah) to the leader and its tight organizational pattern, which linked the highest level of the Guidance Council to the most basic level of the usrah (“family” or cell) and included all the technical sections and committees as well as the consultative council, have been likened by some observers to those of fascist organizations.
By now the Ikhwan had more than three hundred branches advocating its ideas, although it had been careful so far not to antagonize the Palace, and to avoid confrontation with the British at any price, while building up its own organizational and paramilitary capacity. A special “secret apparatus” was established within the movement (its membership is believed to have reached 75,000 by 1947), and special “phalanges” were formed, sometimes under the guise of ranger scouts (jawwdlah). The Ikhwan also built its own companies, factories, schools, and hospitals, and infiltrated various organizations, including the trade unions and the armed forces, to such a degree that by the end of the 1940s it almost represented “a state within the State.” By this time it also had escalated terrorist attacks on British and Jewish interests in Egypt, in which many Egyptians were inevitably killed or injured. The government was forced to respond by dissolving the brotherhood; the confrontation between the two reached its peak late in 1948 and early in 1949 with the Ikhwan’s assassination of Prime Minister Mahmud Fahmi al-Nuqrashi and the government’s assassination of the leader of the Ikhwan, alBanna’ himself. Membership of the brotherhood had by now reached its peak, including nearly a half million active members (`udw `amil) and another half million sympathizers, spread among some 200,000 branches throughout Egypt.
New Political Emphasis. The disappearance of the charismatic leadership of al-Banna’ in 1949 and, more specifically, the confrontation between the Ikhwan and the new revolutionary regime in Egypt in the 1950s caused it to raise the “political” to a much higher rank within its order of concerns. It should be noted that the Muslim Brothers were no strangers to the Free Officers who launched the 1952 revolution. Their various contacts with the officers enabled them to escape the fate of dissolution after the coup, since they were classified as a “movement” or a “society,” not as a political party. Many brothers, including the new “general guide” (almurshid al-`amm) Hasan al-Hudaybi, seem to have hoped that given the affinity between the two movements, the Free Officers would be prepared to allow the Ikhwan direct participation in government after the revolution. When this hope was frustrated, relations between them deteriorated, resulting in two bloody confrontations (in 1954 and 1965), repeated imprisonment, and severe torture. It was this confrontational atmosphere that eventually effected a shift in the thinking of the Ikhwan associate Sayyid Qutb, a shift that subsequently colored the ideas of most of the regiments of radical political Islam in Egypt and the Arab world.
On a general ideological level, the detention of Qutb and his colleagues led to an overall revision of the movement’s thought, the major part of which now was affected by a hatred for the state and the regime. The Qutbian ideas that have come to influence most of the contemporary movements of political Islam are mainly the ones to be found in the writings he produced between his two periods of imprisonment. The key concept in this later Qutbian discourse is undoubtedly jahiliyah (total pagan ignorance). Inspired partly by Ibn Taymiyah but most specifically by Sayyid Abu al-A’la Mawdudi, and influenced by the fascist ideas of Alexis Carrel, Sayyid Qutb extracted this concept from any historical or geographical context, giving it a universal validity that covers all contemporary societies, Muslim ones included. The way out of such jahiliyah, as prescribed by Qutb, is also simple: a declaration of the total sovereignty and rulership of God (al-hakimiyah). Strongly affected by such ideas, the imprisoned brothers in their anguish and isolation and with the ever-present memory of their martyrs, were to create an alternative to Nasserism, a “counterproject” that reflected the maturation of the contradictions between the brotherhood and the Nasserist state (and, indeed, between Islamists and all similar “modernizing” projects such as Ba’thism and Bourguibism). This contradiction in fact has become, since the late 1970s, the main ideological confrontation in the Arab world. [See Nasserism and the biography of Qutb.]
From its inception, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt attracted a membership drawn principally from among the urban and recently urbanized afendiyah strata of lower- and middle-level officials, clerks and school teachers and from among the “traditional” artisans and merchants; from its beginning, too, it has had a fringe of professionals (lawyers, accountants, and doctors). In the 1940s, it managed to make serious inroads into the industrial proletariat. The splinter groups that have broken away from the brotherhood since the 1960s are characterized by their radicalism, their generally younger age, and a more scientific and technical slant in their educational backgrounds. A similar membership profile seems to characterize the brotherhood in other countries, although the relative importance of various social groups differs from one country to another, with, for example, the intelligentsia more heavily represented in a country like Jordan, the merchants and artisans in a country like Syria, and the students and professionals in a country like Sudan. However, the exact relationships, in terms of personnel, organization, and strategy, among the older Muslim Brotherhoods and the newer militant groups (often functioning under such names as Tanzim al-Jihad (The Jihad Organization) or Al-Jama’at al-Islamiyah (The Islamic Group) are far from entirely clear. [See Jama’at al-Islamiyah, al-.]
Pan-Arab Activities. Soon after its founding, the Muslim Brotherhood movement spread into the countries adjacent to Egypt; today it remains the main PanArab Islamic movement. Its basic charter stipulates that it is a “universal Islamic assembly” (hay’ah islamiyah jami`ah) rather than an Egyptian or even an Arab organization. It actively established branches from the mid1930S onward, following a number of working visits to Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere, and set up special tents in Mecca during the pilgrimage seasons in the 1940s and 1950s to greet, entertain, and convert pilgrim delegates from all over the Muslim world. Several Sudanese and other Arab students, attracted to the movement while studying in Egypt, carried their ideas back to their countries. A number of fellow associations were also established, initially not always under the same title of the Muslim Brothers. The Pan-Arab activities of the Ikhwan were stepped up during the Palestine War of 1948, to which it contributed with voluntary personnel. From that time onward, the Ikhwan did its best to give support to its fellow movements from other Arab countries when they came under persecution, an activity that was soon caught up in the dynamics of inter-Arab politics. For example, the Syrian brothers gave support to their Egyptian colleagues (and perhaps even acted as the main regional headquarters, under the leadership of Mustafa al-Siba`i) following the ordeal of the Egyptian Ikhwan in 1954. The Syrian brothers in turn received support from their Jordanian colleagues (and some say from the regime as well) after their ordeal at the hands of the Syrian government in 1981. The movement also had some appeal in North Africa, especially in Morocco (where it had close relations with the Istiqlal Party and with Muhammad `Allal al-Fasi), and was not completely unknown in Tunisia, Algeria (where it maintained cordial relations with the `ulama’) and in some regions of Sudan, Jordan, Kuwait, Yemen, and some North African states. The movement was initially announced as a purely religious and philanthropic society that aimed to spread Islamic morals and good works. Its emergence, however, was part of a widespread reaction to various alarming developments that were sweeping through the Muslim world. The Arabs had been divided into spheres of influence by the European powers, and the attempted restoration of the caliphate, abolished in Turkey in 1924, failed in 1926. Western influence also appeared to be making serious inroads into the Islamic culture of the region. Not only did writers such as Salamah Musa and Taha Husayn propagate openly secularist ideas, but even some al-Azhar scholars adopted apparently Western approaches in analyzing “Islamic” issues, a trend that reached its most disconcerting point with the publication in 1925, Of ‘Ali `Abd al-Raziq’s book on Islam and government in which he denied that Islam was in any way concerned with politics. [See the biographies of Husayn and `Abd al-Rdziq]
As a teacher and gifted orator, al-Banna’ was able to attract to his movement various members of the local intelligentsia, as well as some artisans and a few workers. The Ikhwan became increasingly interested in public affairs, developing a distinctive conception of the comprehensiveness of Islam, which contrasted with that of both the established clergy and the existing conventional philanthropic charities. Al-Banna’ called for a total and activist Islam. He perceived the Islamic state as a significant ingredient of the desired Islamic order, but the Ikhwan leaders probably did not consider the assumption of political power an imminent possibility at the time. At such an early stage in the group’s formation and development, the tasks of moral reform (isldh alnufus) and of agreeing on an Islamic approach and “methodology” (minhdj Islami) must have appeared more appropriate for the requirements of that phase. Too much emphasis on government might also have subjected the society to even more official suspicion.
The Ikhwan did not identify itself as a political party, although it acted very much as if it were. Its activities began to acquire a distinct political character around 1938. The weekly Al-nadhir (The Warning) was started, and occasionally threatened to “fight any politician or organization that did not work for the support of Islam and the restoration of its glory.” Its concept of absolute obedience (al-ta’ah) to the leader and its tight organizational pattern, which linked the highest level of the Guidance Council to the most basic level of the usrah (“family” or cell) and included all the technical sections and committees as well as the consultative council, have been likened by some observers to those of fascist organizations.
By now the Ikhwan had more than three hundred branches advocating its ideas, although it had been careful so far not to antagonize the Palace, and to avoid confrontation with the British at any price, while building up its own organizational and paramilitary capacity. A special “secret apparatus” was established within the movement (its membership is believed to have reached 75,000 by 1947), and special “phalanges” were formed, sometimes under the guise of ranger scouts (jawwalah). The Ikhwan also built its own companies, factories, schools, and hospitals, and infiltrated various organizations, including the trade unions and the armed forces, to such a degree that by the end of the 1940s it almost represented “a state within the State.” By this time it also had escalated terrorist attacks on British and Jewish interests in Egypt, in which many Egyptians were inevitably killed or injured. The government was forced to respond by dissolving the brotherhood; the confrontation between the two reached its peak late in 1948 and early in 1949 with the Ikhwan’s assassination of Prime Minister Mahmud Fahmi al-Nuqrashi and the government’s assassination of the leader of the Ikhwan, alBanna’ himself. Membership of the brotherhood had by now reached its peak, including nearly a half million active members (`udw `amil) and another half million sympathizers, spread among some 200,000 branches throughout Egypt.
New Political Emphasis. The disappearance of the charismatic leadership of al-Banna’ in 1949 and, more specifically, the confrontation between the Ikhwan and the new revolutionary regime in Egypt in the 1950s caused it to raise the “political” to a much higher rank within its order of concerns. It should be noted that the Muslim Brothers were no strangers to the Free Officers who launched the 1952 revolution. Their various contacts with the officers enabled them to escape the fate of dissolution after the coup, since they were classified as a “movement” or a “society,” not as a political party. Many brothers, including the new “general guide” (almurshid al-`amm) Hasan al-Hudaybi, seem to have hoped that given the affinity between the two movements, the Free Officers would be prepared to allow the Ikhwan direct participation in government after the revolution. When this hope was frustrated, relations between them deteriorated, resulting in two bloody confrontations (in 1954 and 1965), repeated imprisonment, and severe torture. It was this confrontational atmosphere that eventually effected a shift in the thinking of the Ikhwan associate Sayyid Qutb, a shift that subsequently colored the ideas of most of the regiments of radical political Islam in Egypt and the Arab world.
On a general ideological level, the detention of Qutb and his colleagues led to an overall revision of the movement’s thought, the major part of which now was affected by a hatred for the state and the regime. The Qutbian ideas that have come to influence most of the contemporary movements of political Islam are mainly the ones to be found in the writings he produced between his two periods of imprisonment. The key concept in this later Qutbian discourse is undoubtedly jdhihyah (total pagan ignorance). Inspired partly by Ibn Taymiyah but most specifically by Sayyid Abu al-A’la Mawdudi, and influenced by the fascist ideas of Alexis Carrel, Sayyid Qutb extracted this concept from any historical or geographical context, giving it a universal validity that covers all contemporary societies, Muslim ones included. The way out of such jahiliyah, as prescribed by Qutb, is also simple: a declaration of the total sovereignty and rulership of God (al-hakimiyah). Strongly affected by such ideas, the imprisoned brothers in their anguish and isolation and with the ever-present memory of their martyrs, were to create an alternative to Nasserism, a “counterproject” that reflected the maturation of the contradictions between the brotherhood and the Nasserist state (and, indeed, between Islamists and all similar “modernizing” projects such as Ba’thism and Bourguibism). This contradiction in fact has become, since the late 1970s, the main ideological confrontation in the Arab world. [See Nasserism and the biography of Qutb.]
From its inception, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt attracted a membership drawn principally from among the urban and recently urbanized afendiyah strata of lower- and middle-level officials, clerks and school teachers and from among the “traditional” artisans and merchants; from its beginning, too, it has had a fringe of professionals (lawyers, accountants, and doctors). In the 1940s, it managed to make serious inroads into the industrial proletariat. The splinter groups that have broken away from the brotherhood since the 1960s are characterized by their radicalism, their generally younger age, and a more scientific and technical slant in their educational backgrounds. A similar membership profile seems to characterize the brotherhood in other countries, although the relative importance of various social groups differs from one country to another, with, for example, the intelligentsia more heavily represented in a country like Jordan, the merchants and artisans in a country like Syria, and the students and professionals in a country like Sudan. However, the exact relationships, in terms of personnel, organization, and strategy, among the older Muslim Brotherhoods and the newer militant groups (often functioning under such names as Tanzim al-Jihad (The Jihad Organization) or Al-Jama’at al-Islamiyah (The Islamic Group) are far from entirely clear. [See Jama’at al-Islamiyah, al-.]
Pan-Arab Activities. Soon after its founding, the Muslim Brotherhood movement spread into the countries adjacent to Egypt; today it remains the main PanArab Islamic movement. Its basic charter stipulates that it is a “universal Islamic assembly” (hay’ah islamiyah jami’ah) rather than an Egyptian or even an Arab organization. It actively established branches from the mid1930s onward, following a number of working visits to Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere, and set up special tents in Mecca during the pilgrimage seasons in the 1940s and 1950s to greet, entertain, and convert pilgrim delegates from all over the Muslim world. Several Sudanese and other Arab students, attracted to the movement while studying in Egypt, carried their ideas back to their countries. A number of fellow associations were also established, initially not always under the same title of the Muslim Brothers. The Pan-Arab activities of the Ikhwan were stepped up during the Palestine War of 1948, to which it contributed with voluntary personnel. From that time onward, the Ikhwan did its best to give support to its fellow movements from other Arab countries when they came under persecution, an activity that was soon caught up in the dynamics of inter-Arab politics. For example, the Syrian brothers gave support to their Egyptian colleagues (and perhaps even acted as the main regional headquarters, under the leadership of Mustafa al-Siba’i) following the ordeal of the Egyptian Ikhwan in 1954 The Syrian brothers in turn received support from their Jordanian colleagues (and some say from the regime as well) after their ordeal at the hands of the Syrian government in 1981. The movement also had some appeal in North Africa, especially in Morocco (where it had close relations with the Istiqlal Party and with Muhammad `Allal al-Fasi), and was not completely unknown in Tunisia, Algeria (where it maintained cordial relations with the `ulama’) and in some regions of the Horn of Africa, such as Eritrea and Somalia. Sympathetic groups, with somewhat similar orientations, have also existed in places as far away as India, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and of course Pakistan where the Jama’at-i Islami shares the Ikhwan ideology. In cooperation with such organizations the Muslim Brothers are believed to exercise a certain degree of influence over the Islamic World Congress (Mu’tamar al`Alam al-Islami). [See Istiqlal; Jama’at-i Islami; and the biographies of Siba’i and Fasi.]
Government circles in several Arab countries believe that there exists at present a “Muslim Brotherhood International” that coordinates activities and finances among the various countries’ branches. According to unconfirmed reports, this organization’s structure includes, in addition to the highly authoritative position of the General Guide, a General Guidance Bureau (GGB, Maktab al-Irshad al-`Amm) and a General Consultative Council (GCC, Majlis al-Shura al-`Amm), both of which provide a distinct advantage to the Egyptian brothers. The members of the GGB are the Egyptian General Guide, eight more Egyptians, and one representative each from Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Algeria, and Kuwait, guaranteeing the Egyptian brothers an automatic majority. A similar pattern obtains in the GCC, the legislative branch of the organization, which has a minimum required membership of thirty: thirteen members from the personnel of the GGB, the guide himself and three persons appointed by him; three members from Syria, and two each from Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen; and one each from Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia, Tunisia, Algeria, Europe, and the United States. In 1989 the GCC had thirty-eight members including twelve Egyptians and nine from the Gulf region; the Egyptians and the Gulf members (representing numerical weight and financial means) had an automatic majority within the Council.
Although meetings and exchanges among Ikhwan leaders from various countries certainly occur, and some transfer of funds likely takes place, the coordination of activities and finances is probably not as well planned and tightly executed as the authorities sometimes imply. For one thing, some of these movements (for example, in Sudan, Tunisia, and the Gaza Strip) have acquired a certain degree of autonomy in their intellectual and political outlook that noticeably distinguishes them from the conventional Muslim brothers’ position. Most of them (with the partial exception of Sudan) are underground or opposition movements that have sufficient problems of their own in their own territory. And though the possibility of some Saudi Arabian financing is sometimes mentioned, many of the brothers have acquired part of their financial resources through working personally in the Arabian oil-exporting countries. Furthermore, the Gulf crisis of 1990-1991 reportedly has led to further divisions, not only among the brotherhoods from various countries but sometimes within the Muslim Brotherhood movement of one country.
A relatively recent development has been the electoral success and the participation in government by Muslim Brother elements in a number of Arab countries (notably Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, and Kuwait). The main question that follows from this is: will such a measure of success turn the Muslim Brothers into a milder, “legal” political force that accepts the rules of the game within their specific countries, or will it prompt them into a more radical, Pan-Islamist line in the belief that the universal triumph of political Islam lies virtually at hand? [See also Pan-Islam and the biography of Banna’.]
BIBLIOGRAPHY
`Abd al-Halim, Mahmud. Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun. 3 vols. Alexandria, 1979-1985. Very detailed account (including testimony) of the history of the brotherhood from 1928 to 1971, by a member of its Constitutive Body.
Ayubi, Nazih N. Political Islam: Religion and Politics in the Arab World. London and New York, 1991. Includes reviews of the political thought of al-Banna’, Qutb, and the Jihadists, and studies on the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Syria, the Sudan, Jordan, and other Arab countries.
Bayyumli, Zakanya S. Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun wa al -Jama’at alIsldmiyah (The Muslim Brothers and the Islamic Groupings). Cairo, 1974. Good study, especially on the shades and multiplicity within the Brotherhood and its relations with other Islamic groups. Carre, Olivier, and Gerard Michaud. Les Freres Musulmans, 19281982. Paris, 1983. Good account of the brotherhood in Egypt and Syria.
Centre for Political and Strategic Studies. Al-Taqrir al-Istratiji al’Arabi (The Arab Strategic Report). Cairo, 1991. Part 2, section i.ii, includes a detailed account of the “Muslim Brotherhood International.”
Harris, Christina. Nationalism and Revolution in Egypt: The Role of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Hague, 1964. Useful study of the interplay between religious and secular influences in the development of Egyptian nationalism.
Husayni, Ishaq Musa al-. The Moslem Brethren. Translated by John F. Brown et al. Beirut, 1956. Useful, detailed study, although now somewhat dated.
Mitchell, Richard P. The Society of the Muslim Brothers. London,1969. Still the best account of the brotherhood in Egypt to the mid-1950S.
Naftsi, `Abd Allah F. al-. Al-harakah al-Islamiyah (The Islamic Movement). Cairo, 1989. Analysis and self-critique by a Kuwaiti Islamist of the aspects of unity and division within the Islamic movement in the Arab world.
Zahmul, Ibrahim. Al-Ikhwdn al-Muslimun: Awraq tarikhiyah (The Muslim Brotherhood: Historical Papers). N.p., 1985. Sympathetic account with useful material and some information on the brotherhood outside Egypt.
NAZIH N. AYUBI

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Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/muslim-brotherhood/
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  • writerPosted On: September 30, 2014
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