During the last 80 years, the Muslim Brotherhood, also known
as the Society of Muslim Brothers, played a significant role in Egyptian
politics. This society was established in 1928, in Ismailia. Hassan
al-Banna defined their goal as a resumption of the Caliphate. They
focused on implementing Sharia law as the main law for everyone. This
movement quickly spread from Egypt to other Islamic states, where the
Muslim Brothers gained a significant political power. As for Egypt, this
society created a lot of challenges for the modern country.
Hassan al-Banna was born in Al-Behaira, Egypt, in 1906. He was raised
in a traditional middle-class family. His father was an imam; he worked
as an instructor in the Hanbali rite. He also wrote many books about
Islam, and was teaching at the local madrasah. Along with that, he owned
his business. In his shop, he sold phonographs and repaired watches.
Even though he and his wife had certain property, they have never been
rich; moreover, they constantly struggled for life and tried to make
things work. In 1924, they moved to Cairo and realized that Islamic
education is no longer as important in the capital, and small business
cannot compete with big corporations anymore.
Hassan al-Banna’s religious and leadership skills developed during
the early childhood. When he was 12 years old, he joined the Sufi order.
At the age of thirteen, he was involved in revolution against British
rule, which took place in 1919. A year after, he memorized Quran. He
always was interested in the most xenophobic and extremist features of
Islam. Especially, he was focused on women’s rights. Since the secondary
school, he and his friends organized a number of events devoted to
Islamic issues. They discussed a Middle East conflict, Islamic laws and
British impact. Their rhetoric was a part of the reaction to the
collapse of the Muslim Caliphate, as well as to the end of the Ottoman
Empire, and the British occupation. They wanted to replace Western
values with traditional Arab laws, and strengthen Islam in all aspects
of Egyptian life.
In Cairo, al-Banna joined a number of Islamic educational
organizations. A short time later, he realized that such a peaceful kind
of activity cannot bring the power of Islam back. He organized people
from different universities and organized a number of activities in
public places. Students started praying in mosques an in front of people
on streets. They wanted to make Islam a part of a public life again,
and involve more people in such a process.
In 1927, he graduated and started teaching grammar in a small town.
Along with his school, this town also hosted headquarters of a huge
European corporation. Along with major European community, a lot of poor
Muslim workers worked in the Suez Canal Company, and they formed a
strong basis for al-Banna’s ideas. He criticized European lifestyle,
saying that liberal laws are dangerous and unacceptable for Muslims. In
1928, his first followers inspired him to create the Society of the
Hassan al-Banna, just like many other Muslims, considered the end of
the Caliphate as a catastrophe of Muslim civilization, and they haven’t
found anything better than blaming Western countries for that. Hassan
al-Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood in order to strike back and stop
Western influence on Egypt. However, there were a lot of such
organizations in Egypt, and many people pointed out the significance of
following Sharia laws and reforming moral base of Egypt. The Brotherhood
considered Islam as not just religious rules and moral principles, but
as a whole lifestyle, therefore focusing its members on political and
social aspects of Islam. Every member should be personally engaged in
religion and in the process of reformation. They said that their only
leader is Allah, and their only constitution is Quran. They openly
promoted Jihad as the only way of life, and the death for Allah as the
only reason to live. Al-Banna considered fundamental Islam as the only
right kind of Islam, arguing that many Muslims are influenced by Western
civilization, and Islam must dominate the social life of all Arabs.
Obviously, despite the religious background, the Brotherhood was a
social and political movement. They created different social incentives
in order to protect working class from foreign business, especially
major monopolies. They participated in building hospitals, schools, and
other social institutions.
Al-Banna set the key goals of the Brotherhood as fighting against
Western lifestyle, and returning traditional Islamic values. He
considered ancient rules as the only right way for Arabic society, so he
addressed his speeches to wide audience of teachers, medics, social
workers, and managers. He pointed out such sensitive issues as
colonialism, inequality, Islamic nationalism and Middle East conflict.
Along with it, he was quite sympathetic to the radical European
ideologies, such as fascism and Marxism.
Number of members of al-Banna’s organization grew from 800 in 1936,
up to 200,000 in 1938. The main reason was a situation in Palestine. The
Brotherhood kept building social institutions and educating people
about Islam. In later 1930’s, there were more than 500,000 members of
the Brotherhood. More and more people registered in more than 2,000
branches in different Arab countries. Robin Hallett notes that the
success of the Brotherhood was determined by Pan-Islamic ideology.
Finally, their headquarters become a center of Islamic world. Students
and activists from different countries met in Cairo, implementing new
incentives and strategies. In 1940, there were more than a million
members of the Brotherhood; this organization opened new offices in
Transjordan, Lebanon and Syria.
If in the early 1930’s al-Banna was focused on social issues and
religious revivalism, now he paid all his attention to the restoration
of the Caliphate. He stated that this goal can be achieved only through
Jihad, which attracted even more members. Al-Banna’s speeches were
focused on hell and pain for sinners and heretics. He said that Muslims
must return to their roots and follow all rues of Quran. His key thesis
was Jihad against Kafir (non-Muslim people), as well as establishment of
a new Caliphate. He also expressed all his ideas in a dissertation
called “The Way of Jihad”.
First of all, al-Banna considered Jihad as a part of a defensive
strategy. He said that Jihad will protect Muslims and embrace Islam.
According to al-Banna, Muslim community was constantly attacked by
Western world, so they needed to strike back and get rid of
“unbelievers” who influenced many Muslim countries. He paid special
attention to individual engagement, saying that every Muslim must make
his contribution to Jihad, using all possible sources. He said that God
will give Muslims a sign, so they could understand when and how their
goal will be accomplished.
In his Five Tracts of Hassan al-Banna, he writes about Hanafi-rules
and points out the significance of Jihad in all forms. He writes that
every Muslim must put maximal effort in Jihad, killing the unbelievers,
beating and raping them, destroying their homes and churches. He states
that Muslims should fight the unbelievers right after the invitation to
accept Islam as the only right religion, killing them, even if they
don’t fight back.
Al-Banna started his terrorist activity during the events of
1936-1939 years in Palestine, which were called the Arab revolt. At the
same time, a supreme leader of Muslims, Grand Mufti Hajj Amin
al-Husseini, called all Muslims for Jihad against Jews and Britain. The
Brotherhood organized an underground network of members who stole
weapons, provided terrorist activity and formed assassination squads.
They had many supporters in the police and army, who supported their
terrorist activity and provided them with necessary information.
Many documents from American, British, and Nazi German archives
confirm that members of the Brotherhood actively collaborated with
Nazis, agitating against Britain, organizing sabotage, and receiving aid
from Nazis. They started collaborating during the 1930’s, and continued
supporting each other during the World War II.
Nazis and the Brotherhood found common interests easily, since both
of them wanted to destroy the Jews. At the same time, both of them
realized that transformation of their ideas is impossible in a
nation-state. These ideologies can be called somewhat anti-nationalist,
since they have been looking for a bigger, universal community. For the
Brotherhood, it was a community of Muslims, and for Nazis it was a
master race. Collaboration between radical Muslims and Nazi Germany
started as an underground chain of events, but then developed to the
official stage. Members of the Brotherhood translated Mein Kampf, which
in Arabic sounded like “My Jihad”. This fact made Muslims even closer to
a Nazi ideology. Al-Banna’s followers also published a lot of other
Nazi literature, translated Der Sturmer and shared anti-Semitic
cartoons, where Jews were represented as demons and enemies of Allah.
When United Nations started considering the Palestinian issue, Amin
al-Husseini and al-Banna rose up against the creation of Israel, even
though the UN resolution included an Arab state besides the Jewish
state. Al-Banna said about the world conspiracy ruled by Jews, and urged
Muslims to kill Jews in Palestine.
In 1948, police found documents that illustrated how military wing of
the Brotherhood, called “secret apparatus”, planed a series of
assassinations and bombings. Some of these events took place later, and
thirty two leaders of the Brotherhood were arrested.
In Egypt, Prime Minister Mahmoud an-Nukrashi Pasha studied
information about activity of the Brotherhood members, directed against
Egyptian government. Considering the growing popularity of this
organization, he banned it and included the Brotherhood in the list of
outlawed groups, in 1948. Many members of the Brotherhood were arrested
during next three weeks, and then, on December 28, young student Abdel
Meguid Ahmed Hassan killed the Prime Minister Mahmoud an-Nukrashi Pasha.
Al-Banna immediately condemned this act, saying that terrorism is an
unacceptable form of Jihad.
However, his words haven’t convinced the Egyptian government, so in
1949, al-Banna with his followers were in their headquarters in Cairo,
waiting for a representative from the government. Al-Banna should meet
Minister Zaki Ali Basha at 5 o’clock, on February 12. He waited for a
few hours and then decided to take a taxi. Two men shot al-Banna seven
times, and he died in a hospital.
A lot of Muslim Brothers were executed and imprisoned, but other
members continued to spread their ideas in Egypt and other Arab
countries. Sayyid Qutb became a new leader of this movement, stating
that Quran approves any sorts of violence against unbelievers. He
focused on fighting against non-Islamic countries where Muslims live. He
said about importance of destroying Western values, and so formed an
ideological basis for many radical Islamic groups, such as al Qaeda. He
studied in the United States in 1949, often speaking about the American
culture, and how dangerous it is for Muslims. Then he returned back in
Egypt, where he led the Muslim Brotherhood and urged people to fight
against non-Islamic countries. In 1964, many members of the Brotherhood
were amnestied due to the President Gamal Nasser’s resolution. Right
after that, he faced three assassination attempts from members of the
Brotherhood. In 1966, almost all leaders of the organization were
executed for anti-government activity. Many others tried to escape the
country, but were arrested and imprisoned instead.
Next president of Egypt, Anwar-as-Sadat promised that he’s going to
implement Sharia law as the main Egyptian law. Just like his
predecessor, he released many members of the Muslim Brotherhood from
prisons. This fact initiated a short-term peace between the Egyptian
government and the Muslim Brotherhood, but this peace couldn’t last
long. As soon as a peaceful agreement between Egypt and Israel was
signed in 1979, the Muslim Brotherhood resumed their attempts to fight
the government, since they still supported Palestinians, based on
Pan-Islamic ideas. In 1981, Anwar Sadat was assassinated by the Muslim
Brotherhood during the victory parade in Cairo.
Members of the Muslim Brotherhood joined many other terrorist
organizations. Different Muslim unions supported different methods of
Jihad, but all of them were united by the common goal. Such societies
openly promote violence as a key to building an Islamic State, focusing
on promotion of Islam among “infidels”, and on fighting against them as
well. Nowadays the Muslim Brotherhood denies any involvement in
terrorist activity, but most security organizations all over the world
consider this union as an underground terrorist organization, or at
least a supporter of terrorism. Despite that, the United States haven’t
included the Muslim Brotherhood in the list of terrorist organizations,
unlike HAMAS or IJG (Islamic Jihad Group).
We mentioned these two organizations, because their founders were
members of the Muslim Brotherhood, promoting methods of extreme violence
against non-Islamic governments and unbelievers. In 1976, Egyptian
Parliamentary Elections led to formation of several groups based on the
Muslim Brotherhood community. The reason is that Anwar Sadad never
considered the Brotherhood a political structure, so members of this
organization should run as members of the ruling party (it was called
Arab Socialist Union), or as independent candidates. In total, members
of the Muslim Brotherhood occupied 15 seats, six of them were also
members of the ruling party, and nine of them were independents. Many
members of the Brotherhood were resent that some brothers collaborate
with the government, so the militant brothers decided to create several
new organizations, such as Mukfirtiya, Jund Allah, Munnazamat al Jihad,
and Al Takfir wa al Hijra. Translated in English, these names mean
“Denouncers of Infidel”, “Soldiers of God”, “The Jihad Organization”,
and “The Denunciation of Infidels and the Migration”, respectively.
The Islamic Jihad Group became one of the biggest organizations. It
was founded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who weren’t satisfied
by official responses of the Egyptian government to the Palestinian
conflict. Generally, the Brotherhood was looking for the gradual
development of the Islamic government, implementing more Islamic
principles in politics. Many members of the organization didn’t like
such a peaceful approach, considering terrorism as the only way to build
an Islamic State. They found many like minds and founded the Egyptian
Another terrorist organization, HAMAS, was founded by members of the
Muslim Brotherhood in 1987. Their leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, developed
this movement as a wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine. In
1988, they officially broke away from the Brotherhood, and in 2006 they
won Palestinian Authority’s general legislative elections. Now it’s the
biggest and the most powerful militant organization in Palestine. Their
main goal is to destroy Israel, and build an Islamic State instead. They
are well-known for a lot of violent acts, including suicide bombings.
Since members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been arrested and hunted
in Egypt throughout its history, a lot of them have settled in Europe,
America, Africa and Middle East. They are mostly focused on helping
Palestinians and converting non-Muslims. On the one hand, the
Brotherhood has changed its approaches, trying to present itself in a
more peaceful context. Their leaders consider it necessary to gain more
acceptance and influence in different countries. On the other hand,
financial networks of the Brotherhood participate in funding and arming
radical Islamic organizations all over the world. Members of this
organization still promote the idea of the worldwide Islamic State, a
Caliphate. This goal makes this organization appreciated by almost all
Sunni terrorist organizations in the world.