Egypt Islam and Democracy Anatomy of Egypt’s Militant Islamic Groups

Egypt Islam and Democracy




Anatomy of Egypt’s

Militant Islamic Groups

Methodological Notes And preliminary finding 1980


Iran’s Islamic Revolution took the world by surprise. The Western media have subsequently been alarming their readers with warnings of Islamic “revival” “resurgence” “rumble” and “anger” Strategists and political practitioners have joined in – invariably using the same or more academic – sounding jargon, such as the ” arc of trouble” or the “crescent of crisis.” The area referred to stretches from Morocco to Indonesia. Where nearly 800 million Muslims live in which some of the world’s most strategic raw materials and real estate are located. The rising attention and the West’s alarm are understandable and indeed quite justifiable. After all, most of that alleged anger is directed at the west and its local allies and surrogates – the Shah being a case in point. The seizure of the American embassy in Teheran along with some fifty hostages in November 1979 highlighted this deep-seated resentment. But in neighboring Afghanistan another chapter of the Islamic drama is unfolding – this time in the form of a resistance to the Soviets and their local surrogates. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in late December of 1979 compounded an already complicated situation. It plunged the world closer to the brink.

    The Islamic factor in all this should be studied with deserved care. It should not, however, be exaggerated. Mystified. Or metaphysicalized. The majority of American specialists on Middle East who subscribed to modernization, theories in the 1950 s and 1960 s have tended to ignore Islam as a salient social force. The Orientalists treated Islam ideationally and insulated it from a changing social structure. The modernization school of social scientists believed Islam to be a polar opposite of secularism, science, and technology, and they thought that as these modes spread and struck roots. Islam would weaken. Some have argued that Islam without a Martin Luther-like reformation would be antithetical to any socioeconomic and political development. The choice was to be between Islam and progress. Many of these contentions were propagated as social science theories until the mid 1970 s . their exponents, if they have not already disclaimed them, must now be hard pressed to come back with rejoinders or apologia. For the present and future, however, there is danger of an intellectual backlash that exaggerates. Mystifies. Or metaphysicalizes the Islamic comeback.


Anatomy of Egypt’s Militant islaic Groups

    Nothing can guard against such overreactions more than careful in depth observaltion of the indigenous scene. Specificities and local particularities have to be identified and correlated with the alleged Islamic revival. No matter how great the temptation to generalize. Such scientific quests must be checked until sufficient numbers of case particulars have been documented and analyzed. Only then will inductively based generalizations make sense. Otherwise how can we lump together what is happening in Saudi Arabia (where the regime is allegedly based on Islamic fundamentals) with what happened in Iran (where the former regime was secular and anticlerical) or what is happening in Egypt (where the regime prides itself on being based on faith and science [al-ilm wa-l-imanl] with what is happening in Afghanistan (where the antagonists are patriotism and tribalism on the one hand and allegedly progressive but Soviet-supported forces on the other) This is not to mention the Islamic eruptions in Turkey and Tunisia that have occurred recently- the regimes of these countries. As well as the problems facing them. Are quite diverse. Of course, there may be a common denominator underlying of these cases. But such vectors are not to be cavalierly ascertained without careful country case studies.

     Motivated by these methodological considerations. My colleagues and I undertook, in the fall of 1977 a study of Islamic movements in Egypt. That was at least one full year before the dramatic unfolding of events in Iran. Very few observers in September 1977 could have foretold the coming of an Islamic – led popular revolution in that country. Of course, there were signs of unrest in Iran, as there were in other Middle Eastern countries at the time. During 1977, however , Egypt witnessed three major events that had collective political implications. The first was the occurrence in January of massive food riots, which were blamed on leftist elements and communist organizations7 and which were followed by a multitude of repressive measures against all kinds of political opposition – right, center, and left. The second event was a bloody confrontation in July between the regime and the members of a militant Islamic group labeled in the mass media as “Repentance and Holy Flight” (RHF) (al-Takfir wa-l- Hijra) The incident was set off when the group kidnapped a former cabinet minister for religious endowments, demanding the release of RHF members being detained by the government, and then carried out their threat to kill the former minister when the release did not materialize. Crackdowns and shootouts resulted in scores of dead and wounded around the country. The third event was President Sadat ’s historic decision to travel to Israel in search of peace.

     The three events are, in a curious way, intertwined. The January riots reflected the mounting frustrations of the lower and lower-middle classes in Egypt with the negative payoff of President Sadat ’s socioeconomic policies. The bloody confrontation in July between a religious group and the government reflected the growing despair of the most volatile element of the population- youth of the lower – middle and working classes – who sought salvation in Islamic militancy. Sadat ’s visit to Jerusalem was motivated as much by these mounting internal problems as by a genuine desire for peace. He thought and said that with peace would come instant prosperity.

    My concern here is with only one of that year ’s three curiously interlinked events- the confrontation between the regime and RHF. Although known for some to exist, the size and organization of the group came as a surprise to the government and the public. The rounding – up operations, subsequent interrogations, and the trials revealed a sizable movement of between three thousand and five thousand active members who were highly organized and widely spread horizontally and vertically throughout Egyptian society.

     Having been challenged by a popular uprising earlier in the year that was officially blamed on leftists, the regime was now in the embarrassing position of having to blame the religious right. Moreover, with an equally serious challenge from the liberal center, represented by the New Wafd party, the regime found itself in an even tighter positing 12. absurd as it may sound, the regime eccused Moscow of supporting and instigating militant Muslim groups to challenge its legitimate authority 13. Thus the regime miraculously lumped the secular left. The atheist forces, and the religious militants into one sinister alliance directed by the Soviets. Later on the regime was add the Wafdists to the list.         

    The violent confrontation mounted by RHF was not the first of its kind against the Sadat regime. Three years earlier (April 1974) another militant Islamic group. Known interchangeably as the Islamic Liberation Organization. Or “Technical Military Academy” (MA). Al-Fanniya al-Askariya, attempted to stage a coup d`etat. The group succeeded in taking over the Technical Military Academy in preparation for a march on the Arab Socialist Union (ASU) where Egypt ’s top ruling elite were scheduled to listen to a speech by President Sadat, the plot was foiled while in process but only after dozens had been killed and wounded 14. This attempt was spectacular in size. Planning, and timing. Significantly it took place only a few months after the October War, which was hailed as a victory for President Sadat, and while he was presumably still riding high in popularity.

     There were further scattered confrontations between the authorities and other militant Islamic elements, but they attracted much less publicity than the two mentioned above.

Most Observers of the Egyptian scene agree on the following 15.

1.         the rise of these religious movement dates back to aftermath of the Arab defeat of 1967.

2.         the regime of President Sadat made a reconciliatory gesture toward these groups from 1970 to 1973 to counterbalance what the regime perceived as a Nasserist-leftist opposition.

3.         these Islamic groups represent   the small hard core of a broad but amorphous mass of religiosity in the society a whole.




     The Islamic resurgence was further evidenced by landslide victories of Muslim groups in university student union elections from 1975 to 1979 – a fact that prompted the government to dissolve these unions by presidential decree in the summer of 1979 . Religious publications have. In addition. Increased in number and circulation. Two important periodicals. Al-Da’wa (the or the mission) and al-Itisam (per-severance) are run by former members of the Muslim Brotherhood (technically banned since its dissolution by the Nasser regime in 1954). Since these periodicals appeared in 1976. their readership has steadily increased. At first. They were encouraged by the Sadat regime to counterbalance the leftist and Nasserist opposition and to enhance Sadat ’s popular base. But while bitterly anti-Nasserist, these publications have gradually become more critical of Sadat ’s domestic and foreign policy. A near total break with the regime occurred over his peace initiative. The signing of the Camp David Accord. And the peace treaty with Israel. 16 The regime is understandably annoyed and embarrassed by the escalating attacks in these publications but is in a predicament as to how to deal with them. Sadat had staked his quest for legitimacy on a democratization drive’ and on declaring religious faith (al-iman) as one of the two pillars of the state ( the second being science, al-ilm). If sadat were to counterattack against these respectable Muslim critics, he would appear to be both antidemocratic and anti-Islamic. So far, Sadat has grudgingly tolerated al-Dawa and al-Itisam. Meanwwhile both publications  have continued to solidify opposition to Sadat ’s policies. His only chances to crack down on them arise when militant groups use violence. This gives the regime a legitimate excuse to go on an allout Overkill against all Islamic groups. 17 Government counterattacks. However, do not seem to have stemmed the rising tide of militant groups. For every group that is liquidated. Two or three new organizations emerge spontaneously.

     In our research we approached the phenomenon of these emerging religious groups as social movements. The government labeled members of these militant groups as “deviants” “abnormals”  “heretics, ” and Khawarij. When we applied for permission to interview the leaders of the two most prominent groups. We were first turned down because we had called them members of “revivalist movements.” After prolonged negotiation we reached a compromise on the label: our work was to be called a study of religious violence. The state nevertheless continues to treat members of these groups as common criminals, although prison wardens who are daily touch with them cannot help treating them as de facto political prisoners.

Methodological note

Our interest in militant Islaic groups was stimulated by a multitude of academic as well as existential factors. First, to a social scientist these groups represent a significant variant of social movements that have been proliferating all over the Third world in recent decades:

Some of the movements have developed into full-fledged revolutions. whose goal is to establish new social orders. Second, these Islamic social movements have not been sociologically studied before. Similar movements (for example, the Wahhabis, the Mahdiya. And the Muslim Brotherhood) have been studied by historians, often a long time after the event and with different emphases. The study of such movements. By employing a typically sociological perspective and sociological methods, would no doubt complement historical treatises. The sociological investigation. In this context at least, promises firsthand data (throughinterviews and questionnaires) and a quest for an explanation that would anchor them in their broader social structure.

     The recent emergence of Islamic militant movements in Egypt takes on a special importance. Since Egypt is the center of the Arab-Mus-lim world, vibrations from Egypt often reach the much broader cultural hinterland beyond its borders. This has been the case with other political and ideological currents throughout the last two centuries. The cultural unifiers in the Arab-Muslim world make it possible for this vast area to respond to one center, especially in times of crisis.

     The sociological study of militant Islaic groups presents the researcher with a host of obstacles. There are political, ethical, and practical problems in carrying out empirical research on groups that are extremely polemical and whose activities are still unfolding. Both the protagonists and the antagonists may be tempted to use the research project for their own purposes. There are vast and continuously fueled reservoirs of suspicion concerning the motives of the social scientist. Furthermore, there is overall inhospitality to empirical research even when initial goodwill is established. The theoretical problems are equally complex.

     Our interest in studying militant Islamic groups was translated into a simple research design. We defined Islamic militancy as actual violent group behavior committed collectively against the state or other actors in the name of Islam. Two groups of substantial size met this definition. The first is the Islamic Liberation Organization (Munazzamatal – Tahrir – al-Islami), known in the Arab mass media as Gama’at al-Fanniya al-Askariya (Technical Military Academy group) henceforth abbreviated as MA. The second is Gama’at al-Muslimin (the Muslim group) known in the Arab media as Repentance and Holy Flight (al-Taktir wa –L – Hijra) henceforth RHF.

    After the arrest, trial, and sentencing of most their members in 1974 and 1977. the two groups had no legal existence, technically speaking. The two leaders of MA and the five leaders of RHF were exected. However, many of their second-echelon leaders were still in prison. Continued clandestine activities by both groups were rumored. The two groups seemed, from the preliminary information we gathered, to be typical of several others that have mushroomed under various names since the late 1960s. Many of the leaders of these groups, including the two in question, had some direct or indirect affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, 19 as we shall see shortly.

     The approval of the authorities. Difficult and protracted as it was to obtain. Proved to be the easiest of a host of research problems we were to encounter. The initial refusal by the militants to see us was predicated on several grounds. For some of them we were simply part of a corrupt society, contact with which could only mean pollution (najasa). The majority, However, strongly suspected that we were working for the government. The prison officials had told us of earlier unsuccessful attempts by others, ostensibly religious clergy, to talk with the militants. After several weeks of negation with their leaders, frist through written messages, then in face-to-face contact, they agreed to cooperate with us.

     Our objective, as we told them, was to hear their story in their own words and then to communicate it to the outside world as objectively as possible. We promised to draw a sharp line between the facts as stated by them on one hand and our analysis and opinions on the other. We stressed that they had been smeared so much by the government. We stressed that they had been smeared so much by the government – controlled mass media that whatever we said could not really be any worse.

     Our promise to be neutral and objective did not mean much to them at first. The militants requested to be allowed to read every-thing the members of the research team had ever published. They read the material carefully and discussed some of these interviews were more like graduate seminar sessions, with lively and hot-tempered exchanges. In other words, they refused to play the conventional role of research subjects. They interviewed us as much as we interviewed them. At times they asked us to react to their views, something that goes against the grammar of social research. Some of them accepted our refusal to react; others made our reaction a condition for continuing the interview. They asked us some very personal questions and commentated critically on the dress and appearance of female members of the team. Some would not meet with women researchers; others would if these women wore veils or covered all parts of their bodies. The leaders subjected us to some “honesty tests” and ran their own security checks on us through their out-of-prison followers. We acquiesced to some of these measures, negotiated some, refuse others. One of the three women in the team rejected their veiling demand; and the militants finally tolerated her “sinful” behavior.

     We must ultimately have seemed honest and credible enough to the jailed militants, for they allowed us to spend approximately four hundred hours interviewing them over a two-year period. This amounts to more than ten hours per person for the thirty-three militants we managed to interview. Some of the interviews, especially with RHF militants, were collective. As in other protracted research encounters, a human bond developed between the research team and the Muslim Militants. They became not only open but quite eager to talk. Some of them even dared to discuss their internal differences and to offer candid criticism of the movement. So deeply did they become committed to our research objective that when the government withdrew research permit, their leaders tried to reach us through secret channels, bypassing the prison authorities altogether.

      In February 1979, the Egyptian authorities put an end to our prison interviewing. They did not give official reasons, but we attributed this action to the tense situation that prevailed in Egypt as a result of the steady march of the Iranian revolution toward seizure of power. President Sadat never hid his disapproval of Khomeini or his unequivocal support for his friend the Shah. Egypt ’s mass media echoed that sentiment.

     Throughout the remainder of 1979 we attempted to obtain a permit to resume our interviewing but in vain. The research data, therefore, remain incomplete. What is reported here must be read with this caveat in mind.

     The data reported in the following section were obtained primarily from interviews conducted inside prison, as well as some from outside prison with members who had been charged but acquitted. The information gained in interviews was supplemented by three additional sources of data. We tried to use questionnaires, but many of the militants refused to fill them out, preferring to be interviewed. Eleven people did respond to the questionnaire, however, and refused to be interviewed. Three people did both. Thus questionnaire data represent the second source of information. The third source was material written by leaders of the two militant groups on various issues – some of which was prepared for their rank – and file members and some especially written in answer to questions we raised in the course of our research. Finally we used official documents to obtain strictly factual data (dates, numbers, arrests, trial proceedings, and so forth).

     The amount of data gathered from these four sources is staggering. No attempt is made here even to summarize it. Instead we have selected a few aspects of the two militant groups to analyze in light of our preliminary findings.

      Sociologists who study social movements are invariably interested in the general societal conditions that give rise to a movement, as well as its ideology, leadership, membership recruitment, and membership profile ( that is, social base) its internal organization, strategy, and tactics. Some of these aspects are discussed below. One striking feature of the militants’ response to our questions is their uniformity. There was practically no variance among the responses of members of each group. A high degree of ideological discipline (or homogeneity) existed. On rare occasions where variance did exist, we report on it. But there were significant differences between the two groups, and these are pointed out in the text. Instead of quoting respondents at length, we have synthesized and paraphrased their answers to various questions, helped by the fact almost the same words and phrases, the same Quranic verses, and the same Hadith (Saying of the Prophet) were used by most members of each group in making their points regarding various issues.




Much has been written on what Islamic movements are seeking: the rebuilding of a new social order based on Islam. This has generally come to mean application of the Shari’ a (that is, the Quran and Hadith ) to everyday social life. Islam regards itself as the repository of the will of cod, which has to be acted out on earth through a political order. Members of the two militant groups we interviewed are no exception in this respect. They subscribe to this objective wholeheartedly. There is no point in repeating here what has elsewhere been written about extensively in this regard. Suffice it to say that for the militants we interviewed, adherence to Islam provides a complete and righteous vision for a healthy society on earth and provides for a heavenly paradise for a heavenly paradise hereafter.

     A vision of what ought to be, however, is one part of any ideology. Analysis of the past, the present, and the unfolding process that links them is often an integral part of an ideology. In describing the present, an ideology offers an assessment of the role played by major segments of society (classes, tribes, ethnic groups, institutions, and so forth). It also points out actual and potential enemies of the new social order envisioned by the ideology.

      One most of the principal elements of ideology, we found a near consensus among members of the two militant groups, Typically they start with axiomatic statements to the effect that man was created for a purpose to embody the will of god by leading a righteous life and following the correct path (al-sirat al – mustaqima). The operational content of such life is well-detailed in the Quran and the Sunna (the Prophet Muhammad ’s words and deeds). It goes without saying that strict adherence to the five pillars of Islam is an irreducible minimum for every Muslim. But to become a good Muslim a person must do more: aside from observing the commandments, taboos, and other rituals, a good Muslim is one who sees to it that the will of god in creating mankind is truly fulfilled on the collective level as well. Phrased differently, the righteous Muslim cannot exist individually; he must strive to build and maintain a righteous community of the faithful (al-umma). Struggling to bring that about is a duty of every true Muslim.

      It is this last component of their ideology that sets the militants apart from others in Muslim societies at present. Creating and sustaining a social order in the moral image outlined in the Quran is problematic, both intellectually and politically. Intellectually, most ruling regimes in Muslim countries, Egypt included, claim to be following the essence or the spirit of Islam. They justify what may otherwise seem to be variations in form necessitated by a changing and complex world. Spokespeople for these regimes, including establishment “ulama” would be quite prepared to marshal religious evidence in such debates.

      Against this moral “relativism” the militants believe that it is their religious duty to see to it that a truly Muslim social order comes about. Such a belief sooner or later takes on an organizational form leading to confrontation with the ruling elite. The objective is to force the elite either to conform to the precept and edicts of Islam or to step down. In other words, a serious challenge to the status quo is a built-in component of militant Islamic ideology.

    The way in which the two groups view the present is an integral part of their ideology. Both agree that the political system is corrupt and inept. The evidence is abundant. Externally it has been defeated by the enemies of Islam: the Christian West. Jewish Zionism, and atheist communism. The regime has made humiliating concessions to those enemies. The system. By deviating from the “straight path” has failed to prepare sufficiently to repel external assaults on Dar al – Islam (the homeland of Islam) Internally. The regime is oblivious to the Shari, a and has adopted and enforced man-made. Western-im-ported legal codes. The leaders have not set an Islamic example in behavior and lifestyle, nor have they displayed any intention to rein state Muslim institutions. The inevitable outcome is moral decay. Poverty. Disease. Illiteracy. and the spread of vices (radhila) . In short, all the external setbacks and internal socioeconomic ills of Egypt (and other nations in the Muslim world) are attributable to a corrupt, inept system that has intentionally deviated from the correct path embodied in the Shari ’a. the obverse of this proposition is clear: the sure solution for all such problems is a system is a system that commits itself and indeed begins to implement the Shari a.

     There were some differences between the two groups on these aspects of ideology. The Military Academy group (MA) condemned the political system in the main. The society at large, though described as decaying and riddled with problems, was not blamed. It was viewed as a victim of unscrupulous and God-fearless leaders at the top of the political system. Thus a victimized society is seen as eager but unable to rid itself of its Victimizers. The militants reading of the nature Egyptian society with regard to religion is quite interesting. One of the surviving leaders of the attack on technical Military Academy stated, “we believe that the Egyptians are basically the most religious of all Islamic peoples. They were so before Islam, from the time of the Pharaohs. They have continued to be very religious. Egypt would therefore be a good base to start the world Muslim revival. All that the religious Egyptians need is a sincere Muslim leadership. This conviction, we believe, had a decisive impact on shaping the strategy of Ma, as will be shown later.

     The Repentance and Holy Flight (RHF) group does make that distinction between the political system and the society at large. They see both as equitable and as manifestations one another, According to RHF . a corrupt society breeds a corrupt political system, and vice versa. Thus the present political and society in Egypt are beyond redemption. The most frequent term used to describe this state of affairs is a new jahiliya, that is, a combination of infidelity, decadence, and ignorance, similar to that prevailing in pre-Islamic Arabia.

     There are also several doctrinal differences between the two groups but they are not as significant as the one mentioned above. These differences are reflected in the organizational, strategic, and tactical aspects of each movement, as will be seen shortly.

      In order to go beyond ideological generalities, we built several probes into our research design about specific issues. In both the questionnaire and the freewheeling interviews, members of the two groups were challenged to answer their critics as to how an Islamic social order would handle some contemporary problems on which the Shari ’a is either vague or noncommittal. A sample of typical responses helps put their ideological perceptions in focus.

     On the question of the status of women the consensus was that the Shari ’a in essence gives women balanced rights and obligations. The militants concede that men have neglected women’s rights and have been excessive in extracting obligations. But this is due to the overall corruption and religiosity of the present social order. The militants are not against women receiving equal education up to the highest level. They insist, however that a woman’s rightful place is the home and that her first obligation is to her husband and to the socialization of truly Muslim children. Women could work outside the home if they had fulfilled their primary obligations and if the interests of the community (maslahat al-umma) called for it. Significantly, members of Ma were closer to the egalitarian model on this issue than members of RHF. But the latter accepted female members in their movement while the former did not, Both groups insisted on the imperative of modesty, the protection of women from temptation (al-fitna, al-ghiwaya) and the separation of sexes in public places. They believe that the application of hudud (Islamic penal codes) with regard to sexual offenses is both necessary and sufficient to ensure these ends. They perceive the family as being the basic unit of Muslim society. Its soundness derives from strict observance of Shari ’a values and regulation. Authority and protection from the male head of a household down to females and the young; respect and obedience flow in the opposite direction. The Muslim family is built around obedience, complementarity, protection, and respect not around equality, competition, and self-reliance.

     On economic issues, both capitalism and communism were dismissed as inhuman and ungodly. But or could give a complete and coherent answer. But one emerges from scattered incomplete answers and an overall impression. Excessive wealth and excessive poverty would have no place in a Muslim society- if the faithful respect religious edicts and taboos (muharammat). The edicts include payment of the zakat (alms tax) fair payment of wages to laborers, hard and honest work by every Muslim. And charitableness (aside from zakat) The taboos include cheating, extravagance (tabdhir) hoarding (iktinaz), and extracting or receiving usury interest. It is also clear that no single individual or group of individuals could monopolize or control public utilities (the analogy from early Islam is water, fire, and grazing land, or al-ma wa-l-nar wa –l-kala) Private property, profit, and inheritance are allowed. A Muslim government, however, could and should create something analogous to a public sector if the interest of the umma required it.

     This last stipulation, interest of the community, seemed to perform two import ideological functions. First, it gives the Islamic state tremendous flexibility to engage in or refrain from engaging in major economic activities. Second, it accentuates the collective or communal nature of the envisioned Muslim society. We nothing about the interest of the individual; it was always that of the umma.

     The militants perceive Egypt’s present economic problems as the outcome of the mismanagement of resources, the application of imported policies, conspicuous consumerism, the corruption of top officials, and low productivity. Other factors- overpopulation, scarcity of cultivable land and other natural resources, the burdens of defense, And the war efforts – are not considered causes of Egypt’s present economic difficulties.

     The militants blueprint for dealing with Egypt’s problems is rather straightforward: it requires austerity, hard, work, and self-reliance.

Building basic industries and developing appropriate technology are integral parts of Islamic economics.

     An important component of the militants’ economic thinking is its pan-Islamic nature. This point raised interesting issues during the interviews. The excessive differential in the wealth of various Muslim countries is frowned upon by the militants. They believe that no true Muslim rulers would allow some Muslims to enjoy too much wealth (as in Saudi Arabia) while fellow Muslims elsewhere were starving (as is the case in Bangladesh)

    On the question of classes and stratification the two groups readily concede social differentiation as an accepted pillar of the Muslim social order, as the Quran states, “we (god) have put some of you in classes above others. ” But the only acceptable mechanism of differentiation is man’s labor, not his race, color, tribal or family origin. As a matter of fact, this labor differentiating mechanism determines one’s standing. Both in this life and in the hereafter. The concepts of social justice (adala) and equity (al-qistas) are central in the envisioned Muslim society. It is the responsibility of the ruler, commander of the faithful (amir al-mu’minin, the caliph) to ensure that justice and equity are observed. This constitutes the essence of governance, al-adl asas al-hukm. Contless episodes were related by members of the two groups to show such principles were implemented and observed by the Prophet and the Guided Caliphs.

    What the militants are calling for in the socioeconomic organization of Muslim society may come very close to a variety of moderate socialism (similar, say, to that of the British Labor party or even to Nasser’s socialism), but any suggestion to that effect invariably produced an outraged response. Islam is not be likened to any manmade doctrine or philosophy. It would be more acceptable to them if we were to say that British socialism resembled Islam. In fact some of them have attributed Mao Zedong ’s success in China to his emulation of Islam, rather than to his adherence to Marxism. The Marxism. The militants often use phrases such as “the poor ” (al-fuqara) “the wretched” (al-masakin) and “the weak on earth” ( al-mustada afinfi-l-ard) to mean what secular leftists call ” the working class” the exploited” or ” the proletariat.” The militants, however, have an instant adverse reaction to the latter terms because of their association with imported secular ideologies. By the same token. The militants use terms such as ” the corrupt on earth” (al-mufsidun fi-l-ard) and ” the unjust” (al-zalama) to mean what secularists call “exploiters” or “oppressors.”

    As to the political system, the two groups expressed their conviction that the head of the community, the ruler, must be selected by the faithful, must be an adult, rational, pious male and must abide by the Shari’a. He must consult his fellow Muslims in all important decisions on which there is no clear-cut ruling in the shari’a.

     But how would they organize matters related to selecting the ruler or ensuring his consultation with the community? The militants had not worked out the details of that, but when asked if they would go about it the same way as in western-type democracies, they agreed in essence. Aside from not liking to use the word democracy and preferring the term shura (consultative) both groups stipulated that elected shura assemblies would have no legislative powers in matters covered by the shari’a. Rather, these elective bodies would be responsible primarily for the enforcement of Shari’a they would choose among alternative interpretation and would issue rules on matters not directly dealt with in the Shari’a. Elective bodies would have the authority to check on the rulers, to hold them accountable, and to remove them from office if they to carry out their duties. So long as the rulers are dutiful to God and the community, it is the obligation of every Muslim to obey their orders.

     The tradition of tolerating an unjust ruler for the sake of preserving the unity of the umma is completely rejected by Ma and RHF. In fact they believe it is the duty of every true Muslim to remove injustice (al-zulm) and misguidance (dalala), including that committed by a ruler.

    How do the militants see the ulama ’ the learned men of religion? Here there was no consensus among members of either group or between the two groups. Attitudes ranged from indifference to hostility. None had anything positive to say abput the ulama as a group. Those who ignored or expressed indifference toward them tended to view the “ulama” as just a group of state employee bureaucrats who take no initiative and who are more interested in observing rituals and formalities than in the essence and spirit of Islam. The “ulama” were invariably described as babqhawat al-manabir (pulpit parrots) Most members of MA dismissed them as pathetic cases for whom pity rather than anger should be felt. Most RHF group members, however, were openly hostile toward the ’ulama’ especially their top leaders. They viewed such men as hypocrites and opportunists and described them as people who would reverse religious edicts (yuhallilun al-haram wa yuharrimun al-halal) to suit the whims of the rulers. So much were the ’ulama’ considered a disgrace to Islam that members of RHF were strongly advised not to pray behind them or in mosques where official ’ulama’ presided. As a matter of fact, when RHF decided to confront the Egyptian state. They kidnapped no less a person than one of Sadat ’s former cabinet members. The minister of religious endowment. The man, Husayn al-Dhahabi. Was one of Egypt’s top ’ulama’ His kidnapping and subsequent execution by RHF dramatized the group’s hostility toward Egypt’s religious establishment.

     Underlying these negative attitudes is the Muslim militants’ belief that the ’ulama’ and al-Azhar have abdicated their responsibility toward Islam. Have emptied the religion of its sociopolitical component, and have therefore ceased to be qualified to lead the community of believers. Worse still. From the militants’ point of view, the ’ulama’ stand in the way of rebuilding a true Islaic social order.

      If these are their attitudes toward Egypt’s religious establishment, what is their attitude toward similar militant Muslim groups, namely the Muslim Brotherhood? In terms of the religious component of their ideology, their reading of history, and their overall vision for the future, members of Ma and RHF expressed no difference with the Muslim Brotherhood. In fact consider themselves a natural continuation of the Brotherhood, which was banned and persecuted by both the royalist regime before 1952 and by Nasser’s regime after 1952. MA and RHF revere the founder of the Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna, and the pioneers who gave their lives as martyrs for Islam.

     It is generally with the surviving members of the Brotherhood and their current practices that MA and RHF group members take some exception. They consider some of these surviving members either as weak, burned out, or as having sold out. Some of the early member-hood, seeking advice and offering support. They were advised to mind their own business, to stay out trouble, and to worship God. This was quite disillusioning to the youngsters, who then decided to form their own organization.

     In closing this sketchy presentation of the militants’ ideology, it may be appropriate to say a word about the intellectual roots of their ideas. According to its members’ own testimony, MA has been primarily influenced by the literature of the Muslim Brotherhood, especially the writings of Hassan al-Banna and Sayid Qutb. Also important in shaping their ideas were the translated works of Abu al-Ala al-Mawdudi in Pakistan and ’al Shariati in Iran. In Iran. The intellectual roots of RHF group were far more complex. Besides the above sources, its leader Shukri Mustafa synthesized the works of the Kharajites (al-khawarij), Ibn Taymiya (thirteenth and fourteenth centuries). Muhammad Ibn al-wahhab (late eighteenth century), and Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (nineteenth century). Curiously enough, the works of some modern Islamic reformers were not endorsed by the militants, notably those of Muhammad Abdu and ’Ali Abd al-Raziq. The primary reason for that seems to be the association of the latter with secularst trends that opted for separation of religion and state.




    We have already indicated that following the Arab defeat of 1967, a tidal wave of religiosity swept the country. In an organizational sense, however, this religiosity remained by and large quite amorphous. Part of this religiosity took retreatist, mystical, or sufist forms- individual search for meaning and salvation by turning inward. What distinguished both MA and RHF in this ocean of generalized religiosity was precisely their organization and their outward turning, their desire to change not just their individual lives but also the world. To be sure, the climate of religiosity enabled to groups to recruit members and challenge the Egyptian regime, but their organization, as far we were able to determine from their testimonies, began with a single man in each case. The organizational evolution of both groups reflected to a significant degree the style and temperament of the two men responsible for their initiation. But the organizational structure and matters of strategy were just as much reflections of their respective ideologies. Below are some of the organizational features of both groups, their leadership, membership. Internal control, and strategy.




MA began on the initiative of Salih Siriya, a modern, educated man with a science education. A Palestinian by birth and in his mid-thirties, he had been a member of the Muslim Brotherhood branch in Jordan (Known as the Islamic Liberation Party, Hizb al-tahrir al Islami). After the Arab defeat of 1967 he intermittently joined various Palestinian organizations, tried to cooperate with various Arab regimes that claimed to be revolutionary (Libya and Iraq, for example), spent brief periods in, and finally settled in Egypt in 1971 and Joined one of the specialized agencies of the Arab League in Cairo. It was from that vantage point that he began to attract the attention of some of the religious students. Undergound cells, called usar ((families) by the group, began to form in Cairo and Alexandria.

      Interestingly enough, the initiator of RHF, Shukri Mustafa, was also in His early thirties and a veteran of the Muslim Brotherhood. He had been arrested in 1965, tried, and jailed for a few years on charges of being a member of the Brotherhood. In prison he became disillu-sioned with older members of the Brotherhood. As he saw some of them either breaking down under torture during interrogation or engaging in petty fighting. The prison experience nevertheless did not disillusion him as far as the Brotherhood’s ideology was concerned. If anything, it made him more of a true believer. The first RHF cell in fact was started while Mustafa was in prison. As soon as he was released, in 1971 , he launched a steady and relentless effort to expand his movement. Mustafa was also educated in Cairo, with a B.Sc. in agricultural science.

      Thus the founder – leaders of the two groups had several characteristics in common: age, modern scientific education, previous membership in the Muslim Brotherhood. Prison experience. And a disposition toward secret organization. Both leaders had been hanged by the time we started our research. So personality characteristics of the two leaders could not be directly observed. We therefore relied heavily on what their closest lieutenants, the second-echelon leaders, told us. Both leaders were said to have possessed a great amount of charisma. They commanded tremendous respect from their followers, were considered exemplary Muslims, and were emulated. Besides the respect and admiration commanded by both leaders, Siriya reportedly elicited love and Mustafa elicited awe (some would say fear). None of the members of the two groups had anything negative to say about their fallen leaders. If there was criticism at all, it was self-criticism on the part of those interviewed for having failed or misled their leaders. This was especially true in the case of Ma members, some of whom considered themselves primarily responsible for pressuring Siriya into a miscalculated action against the Egyptian regime. Both leaders were perceived as extremely eloquent, Knowledgeable about religion, well-versed in the Quran and Hadith, and highly understanding of national, regional, and international affairs. Both were perceived as virtuous, courageous, fearless of death, and even eager for martyrdom (istishhad).

     Siriya and Mustafa initiated their respective groups about the same time, in the early 1970s, but independently from one another. It was somewhat later, in early 1974, that each became aware of the other’s group. They made one attempt to join forces, but it ended because of differences in leadership style, ideology, organization, and strategy.

       The leadership style differed significantly in the two militant groups. MA was fairly democratic in its deliberations and decision-making. An informal executive council of about twelve members was presided over by Siriya. All points view were expressed and discussed. Formal voting however, was quite rare. Consensus was always sought by the leader. His power of persuasion was often decisive in steering the views of the majority in one direction. As far as those interviewed could remember, there was only one occasion when Siriya was unable to persuade the council to adopt his point of view. The occasion involved the question of when to confront the regime violently in an attempt to take over power.

Siriya, as one those who was present, felt very strongly that the time was not ripe for such an attempt. His argument was predicated on several facts: that the regime was still riding a popular upswing following the October War, that MA had not perfected its organizational machinery, and that it had not thoroughly prepared a program of action for running the country in case of success and seizure of power. Siriya estimated their chances of success at the time as no more than 30 percent. The majority (all but one other member) saw otherwise. Even if success was not assured, they argued. Their action would be an “outrage for god” (ghadba li-llah) – propaganda by deed. The ideological justification for those who wanted to act immediately was the saying of the Prophet, “Any of you who sees something repugnant (Munkar) ought to remove it with his hands; if unable, then by his tongue; and if unable. Then by his heart. “The political justification was Sadat ’s apparent moves toward the West and toward an accommodation with Israel, both of which are perceived (along with communism) as archenemies of Islam. An immediate action, therefore, was needed to circumvent such treasonous acts. At any rate, the majority view prevailed, and the leader was obliged to go along in accordance with the shura principle that the group had adopted from the beginning.

       The leadership style of RHF, on the other hand, was quite autocratic. Mustafa, the founder, was established by his followers as the amir gama ’at al-mu ’minin (commander of the faithful group) Although he encouraged discussion and dialogue. The final word was always that of the amir. The multitude of issues on which he made such final judgments ranged from the very personal (marriage and divorce) to intergroup and international issues. He was considered by his followers as an authority on matters of doctrinal theology, Islamic jurisprudence, worship, and Islamic social transaction. His followers’ perceptions of the general competence of their leader was steadily reinforced by both leader and followers. Over time, the RHF leader was elevated in their eyes until he became an almost omnipotent figure. Even after the death sentence had been issued, Mustafa ’s followers would not believe that the government could take his life. For several weeks after he was hanged, his closest followers refused to believe the news. We asked them if they thought that Mustafa was immortal; they answered in the negative. However, they all believed that, because God had ordained him and his group to restore Islam, he would not die before accomplishing “divine mission.”




Both leaders recruited followers from among students or recent university graduates. Three recruitment mechanisms were employed: kinship, friendship and worship. RHF relied heavily on kinship and friendship, Mustafa began with close friends from prison days, and relatives, like his brother and a nephew. These in turn enlisted their close friends and relatives as members of the group. MA relied on friendship and worship. In the late 1960 and early 1970, with so many young people increasingly observing religion and attending mosques for prayers, members of the first cell formed by Siriya would find their potential recruits among the worshipers. Typically, the older members would observe young worshipers in the college or neighborhood mosque. If the young persons appeared to be deeply religious (especially if they observed the dawn prayer). They would be approached to attend religious discussion after regular prayers. It was during these discussions that the potential member was discovered already to be or capable of becoming politically conscious. Since plain religiosity was evident, it was ’politicizability’ that had to be ensured before a person was actually invited to be a member. More significant sociologically, of course, was the social selectivity of members, that is, their background and the segment of society they came from.

     Since we studied only thirty-four members of both groups (twenty one MA and thirteen RHF members) generalizations on the social selectivity of members must be taken with extreme caution. It must also be borne in mind that those studied were among the most active in both groups, as is evidenced by the fact that the government considered them responsible enough to sentence them to imprisonment. 

      Regional background. There were some regional background differences. Most MA members were from Cairo. Alexandria, and the Delta, while most RHF members were from Upper Egypt. This difference is readily explainable; Siriya operated from Cairo and had a link with Alexandria university; Mustafa. On the other hand, operated from Asyut, his hometown in Upper Egypt, before moving to Cairo at a later stage. Since recruitment mechanisms were kinship, friendship, and worship, it followed that potential members would tend to be marked by social and geographical proximity.

     Age. Aside from these regional differences, the profile of membership in both groups was extremely similar. Age, a crucial veriable in most militant organizations, ranged from seventeen to twenty-six at the time of joining as a fully fledged member. The median age for Ma was twenty-two, and for RHF twenty-four.

     The leader of MA, Siriya, was fourteen years above the median age of his followers, and the leader of RHF, Mustafa, was sixteen years older than the average member of RHF, Mustafa, was sixteen years older than the average member of his group. Thus, although youthful in both leadership and membership, followers were significantly younger than their respective leaders. This may suggest that, even in a radical movement such as we are discussing here, the age reverence tradition of Middle Eastern society still operates.

     Rural and small-town origins. Another important component of the membership profile is the rural and small-town background of two-thirds of those interviewed (twenty-one of thirty-four). They were born in villages or small towns and were recent arrivals in big cities when they joined MA or RHF. Most of them had come to Cairo, Alexandria, or Asyut after completing secondary school, to enroll in a university. Fully one-half of those interviewed were living in the city by themselves or with roommates, but not with their parents. Even some of the one-third were born in urban centers had lived in smaller communities during their early and middle teens. Five such members had moved with their government-employed fathers to smaller communities and had lived there for several years.

     Although women are not represented in our sample, RHF did recruit from both sexes. At the time of the government crackdown on the group, some eighty women members were arrested along with several hundred male members. Secondary analysis of the backgrounds of these women indicates that they were mostly relatives or wives of male members of RHF. Interestingly enough, RHF (as indicated earlier) was the more literal and dogmatic on women ’s inequality. The more flexible MA group did not recruit female members.

     Class affiliation of the members was hard to establish directly, Broadly speaking we inferred it from the occupation and education of fathers, as well as of the members themselves. There was no significant difference between MA and RHF in this respect. With regard to fathers’ occupation , about two-thirds (two-thirds (twenty-one out of thirty four) were government employees, mostly in middle grades of the civil service. Four members had fathers who were in high-level professional occupations (two university professors, one engineer, and one pharmacist). Four members had fathers who were small merchants; three had fathers who were small farmers (owning between six and eleven acres); and two had working-class fathers. With regard to education, only seven fathers (20 percent) had a university education. A majority of nineteen fathers (56 percent) had intermediate education (ranging from secondary school to less than four years of college). Five fathers had below intermediate certificates, and three were illiterate.

     Although fathers spanned both the educational and occupational spectrums, the central tendency was decidedly and occupational spectrums, the central tendency was decidedly in the middle-62 percent occupationally and 56 percent educationally. It is not unsafe therefore to conclude that the class affiliation of most members of these militant Islamic groups is middle and lower-middle class.

     Achievement and mobility. The educational and occupational attainment of the members themselves was decidedly higher than that of their parents. All but five (twenty-nine out of thirty-four) were university graduates or university students who were enrolled in college at the time of their arrest. The rest were secondary school educated. Occupationally, only sixteen (147 percent) of the members were classifiable, the rest being students. Most of these were professionals (twelve out of sixteen) employed by the government: five teachers, three engineers, two doctors, and two agronomists. Three were self-employed (a pharmacist, a doctor, and an accountant), and one worked as a conductor for a bus company. Among those who were students at the time of their arrest (eighteen members. Or 53 percent), six majored in engineering, four in medicine, three in agricultural science, two in pharmacy, two in technical military science , and one in literature. It is worth nothing here that four of the above majors require very high grades in Egypt’s statewide examination of thanawiya ’amma:

Medicine, engineering, technical military science, and pharmacy. These four majors accounted for fourteen out of the eighteen students (80 percent). In other words, student members of the two militant Islamic groups were decidedly high in both motivation and achievement.

     Incidence of family cohesion. Most members came from ’normal’ cohesive families, that is, families with no divorce, no separation. No death of either parent. None in ether group was an only child. And none reported any significant tragic events in his family history. Seven members (20 percent) had experienced what may be considered family strain. Of these, three had lost their fathers, and the mother of one had remarried. The parents of two had divorced, and one father had remarried. One member had lost both parents and was living with an older brother. One member reported having been “shocked” by the behavior of his westernized parents at a New Year’s party and had subsequently moved out and was living with a friend. Aside from these seven cases, everyone else reported what a friend. Aside from these seven cases, everyone else reported what may be generally considered a normal family background.

     The typical member of the militant Islamic groups could therefore be described as young (early twenties), of rural or small-town back-ground, from the middle or lower-middle class, with high achievement and motivation, upwardly mobile, with a scientific or engineering education, and from a normally cohesive family. This profile, as we shall discuss later, poses theoretical problems, since it is sometimes assumed in social science that members of ’radical movements’ must be alienated, marginal, or must possess some other abnormal characteristic. Most of those we investigated would normally be considered model young Egyptians. If they were not typical, it was because they were significantly above the average in their generation.




        Another aspect of organization worth looking into is membership control. Both MA and RHF demanded total commitment and ironclad discipline from their members. Decisions arrived at by the semi democratic MA leadership and orders given by the autocratic RHF leadership were by carried out scrupulously. Members in varying levels of the organizational structure did so with zeal and joy, in the unshakable belief that they were serving the cause of Islam. Thus the primary factors in controlling members’ behavior were the members’ own internal conviction and their exhilarating sense of mission.

     RHF, however, employed additional secondary means of controlling its members. One such mechanism was the virtual absorption of all the members’ time in activities related to the group-worshiping, studying, proselytizing, exercising, or working in one of the group’s economic enterprises. This tended gradually to insulate the members from outside society, something that was urged and welcomed openly in any case. Indirectly, this total absorption and insulation made the typical member quite dependent one the group to satisfy spiritual, social. And economic needs. In fact at a certain point in the evolution of RHF, members were ordered to relinquish their jobs in the society at large, to desert their families, and to sever all relations with the outside world. In other words, RHF was to become the members’ total and only world.

       Both groups were quite keen on preparing their members for maximum personal sacrifice of worldly possession as well as life itself. Simply expressed, the member was rigorously conditioned to be a martvr (shahid). The heavenly rewards awaiting martyrs are boundless. Fear or hesitation to die for Islam is the ultimate betrayal of fellow faithful Muslims, and among other things it means one’s exclusion from their spiritual communion in both livers. Thinking of the joy and rewards of martyrdom is said to make any physical torture by the enemies of Islam quite bearable. Several members reported that the stories they had heard about the torture of members of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1966 had a profound on them at the time and on their subsequent decision to join MA and RHF. The severe torture seems to have marked sharply the diving line in their minds between a “merciless jahiliya society and a community of self denying faithful.”  

    Another mechanism for controlling members is the threat of being excommunicated from the group should one fail fellow members or the movement. In several instances, RHF not only carried out such a threat but also meted out physical punishment to mrmbers31 .             

    What most of these control mechanisms amount to in the end is no. less than an attempt at total resocialization of their members. The individual member was asked not only to adhere to the ideas and principles of the group but also to in a serious transformation of behavior, attitudes, and relationships. In other words, both MA and RHF represented the kind of movements that fundamental, simultaneous transformation of both the individual and society. It was quite evident to us that typical members felt (and readily expressed) a moral superiority vis-à-vis people outside the movement. Their ability to impose self-discipline in accordance with the commandments and prohibitions of Islam while others cannot or will not was the source of this feeling. It was equally evident that, aside from the moral superiority, members felt deep joy in defying society and its physical means of coercion. Several who claimed to have been severely tortured reported having images and drams of prophets and saints welcoming them to the Garden of Eden or of the just Islamic society that would be established after their martyrdom.


     The two groups, as should be clear by now, have one common objective: to topple Egypt’s present social order and establish an Islamic social order. It is on questions of strategy that MA and RHF differ most. Interestingly enough each group invoked a different Islamic principle or precedent to justify strategy in achieving the ultimate goal of truly Muslim society.

MA perceived the majority of Egyptians as basically religious people who were helpless victims of ungodly political regimes that had superimposed on them non-Islamic institutions. Such a situation was read as sinful and abhorrent, necessitating immediate removal of such regimes by those who are truly Muslims. One of the Prophet’s famous saying was invoked to justify direct and immediate action, we have already reported on the debate on the debate on this subject within MA. An ’outrage for god’ (ghadba li-llah) was the rallying cry for a violent confrontation designed to topple the regime. Of course they had to prepare well for the showdown. Arduous training in the use of various arms, infiltration of the army and the police, detailed study of the behavior and daily routines of the president and other leaders, map construction and map reading of all important strategic site in the capital, and communiqués to be aired on radio and television were all prepared long in advance. Several rehearsals of parts of the plan were carried out before the actual final countdown on 18 April 1974.

       The RHF strategy on the other hand was a patient and long-range one. Their reading of the situation was quite different from that of MA. It was not just the political regime that was corrupt, but other social institutions as well. It was not only the rulers who were ungodly and sinful, but most members of the society were as well. Thus the moral revamping had to be done from the ground up. Their strategy was to build a nucleus community, a miniature society of believers who would act out the true life of Islam. This was to be a genuine alternative to the sinful ways of Egyptian society at large. Establishing this model community was the first step in RHF strategy. After its completion, this Islamic community of believers would grow in numbers and in spiritual and material strength. When it had reached a certain point the true believers would march onward to bring down the already crumbling sinful social order of Egypt at large.

      Like MA, RHF invoked a precedent from early Islam to justify this strategy. The prophet Muhammad, surrounded and harassed by the jahiliya people of Mecca. Fled to Medina with a few followers and established there the first true Muslim community. As the community gained in strength it engaged the infidels of Mecca in a series of battles (Ghazwat) and finally  conquered Mecca itself. It is this model that was being emulated RHF.

      Thus while the Ma showdown with the regime followed logically from its strategy, the RHF confrontation did not. In other words, MA timed its move and planned a coup d’etat in April 1974. But RHF, when it clashed with the regime in July 1977, had no such intention in mind. RHF had long way to go in implementing the first component of its strategy-building the model community of believers somewhere in the unpopulated hinterland on edge of the Nile. They had barely begun. It is safe to accept RHF ’s explanation that their move in July 1977 was basically a tactical one forced on them by the regime. As they tell the story, the security forces arrested several of their brothers and detained them without trial, thus going far beyond what the law allows. The rest of RHF demanded that their brothers be tried or set free. When their pleas were ignored, they kidnapped the former minister of endowments and kept him as a hostage, saying they would hold him until their brothers were freed. The deadline set by RHF passed without a positive response from the government. They felt they had to kill their hostage as they had warned they would.

     But there were signs of other influences of the Iranian example on the strategic thinking of both groups. The use of popular uprisings as a mechanism to topple the regime was more seriously looked into in late 1978 and early 1979. until then such organizational weapons were perceived by the Islamic militants as essentially “communistic.” Our interviewing was terminated before we could establish whether either or both groups had adopted popular uprisings as a strategic weapon in their fight against the regime. It is worth noting, however, that during 1979 and 1980 a host of Islamic groups began to stage sit-ins as well as campus and street demonstrations- protest activities similar to those that occurred during the early stages of the Iranian Revolution.


In search of an explanation for the rising tide of Islamic militant movements, we would do well to place the phenomenon in its historical and comparative perspectives.

       In modern Arab history, militant Islamic movements have sprung up in several countries – Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Libya, Sudan, and Egypt. Most of them have used violence to change the status quo or to repel an external encroachment. They members were mostly puritanical, fundamentalist, or neotraditionalist. They are to be distinguished from the rising tide of Sufist movements. The latter, although they have revivalist overtones, are basically oriented toward the individual’s spiritual rejuvenation and toward changing the social structure. The militant movements are also to be distinguished from the religious reformism that was attempted by people like Muhammad ’abduh’ and from action oriented but nonpolitical movements like al-Shubban al-Muslimin, which was a character –building organization equivalent to the YMCA in the west. Here it may be useful to adopt a typology that looks simultaneously at the locus of change and the amount of change sought by the movement. Some Islamic movements aim at changing the individual as means of reforming society; others aim primarily at society as the locus of change. Some movements seek partial change; others seek total change in whatever locus they believe to be most significant. Both MA and RHF were of the type that aimed at total change of the individual and society, using violence if necessary to bring this about.

    In premodern time the Muslim world witnessed several such movements. As early as the middle of the first century of Islam, one such protest movement appeared on the Islamic landscape under the name of the Kharajites (al-khawarij, or the ’dissenters’ as the most establishmentarian Muslims were to call them). This was to be followed by one Islamic militant movement after another. In all these movements throughout the last ten centuries we find three common components: total change, change of the individual and society, and the use of violence.

     Our investigation revealed that in modern times (that is, since 1800) ideological and organizational similarity has existed between MA and RHF on the one hand and the Wahhabi (Arabia). The Muslim Brotherhood (Egypt), and the Mujahidin (Iran) on the other.

     Since both the Muslim Brotherhood (1928-54) and the Mujahidin (1963- 80) are more recent, and since one appeared in the same society (Egypt) and the other in a structurally similar society (Iran), the sociological comparison between them and the two militant groups we studied is theoretically more promising. Our tentative investigation revealed that MA and RHF members. Neither MA nor RHF had the kind of leadership that could navigate its wa through the mainstream of Egyptian politics without becoming polluted by it. The Brotherhood, as a result of its more effective leadership, was able to survive much longer (about thirty years), to broaden its social base, to increase its membership (some say to over one million) and to organize at the grassroots level.

     The Brotherhood kept a low profile politically until the early 1940s and did not use violence until the late 1940s and early 1950s. in other words, it had more than ten years to develop organizationally before its first confrontation with the regime. Neither Ma nor RHF had such a long organizational evolution. In internal control of membership there was more similarity between the Brotherhood and MA than between the Brotherhood and RHF. The Brotherhood never demanded of its members the kind of insulation and absorption that RHF insists upon.

     In comparing MA and RHF with Iran ’s Mujahidin, we found similarities with regard to age, educational background. Rural and small town background, and class affiliation. Organizationally, there were also significant similarities, especially between MA and the Mujahidin. Both resorted to violence early on as a means of toppling the regime. Both believed that society was ripe. That the regime was vulnerable, and that an example had to be set (propaganda by deed).

      Ideologically all four groups subscribe to Islam and believed that the implementation of the shari’a would be the fundamental solution to all existing societal ills. None of them had detailed operational plans or action programs to implement once in power. All had a primary social commitment to the poor (al-mustada afin fi-l-ard, ’the meek of the earth) and to social justice. All perceived their foreign enemies as western capitalist imperialism. Marxist communism, and Zionism. They perceived local political regimes in their area as explicit or covert allies or by-products of one or more of the external enemies of Islam. In brief, all four militant groups were ideologically hostile to any external encroachment (economic, military, political, or cultural) on Dar al-is-lam. Any outside influence is termed “imperialism” and considered inimical to Islam. The most apparent of the three archenemies of Islam at a particular point in time is usually the one that receives the harshest attack. Thus the enemy is Israel (and Zionism) at all time and for all four movements. It was Britain for the Brotherhood in the 1940s. it was the Soviet union for MA and RHF in Egypt during the 1960s early 1970s. It was the United states for the Mujahidin in the 1960s and 1970s and for MA and RHF in the 1970s.

     If such similarities exist between past and present militant Islamic movements in Egypt or between contemporary movements in countries like Iran that are structurally similar to Egypt, then we must move a step forward toward an explanation. What common structural features existed in all three situations – Egypt, then we must move a step forward toward an explanation. What common structural features existed in all three situations- Egypt’s past (1930s. 1940s), Egypt’s present’s present (1970s) and Iran’s present (1970s) ? if we can put a finger on common underlying structural forces, then we are that much closer to an explanation. Are these militant Islamic groups the only ones whose ideology and actions challenge the present social orders? If not, what other groups and ideologies do so and why have they not made similar headway? Again, answers to these questions would advance an explanation as to why Islamic movements and no others at this time carry the banner for change.

      As to the first set of questions it seems that all four comparable Islamic movements (MA, RHF, Brotherhood, and Mujahidin) have grown primarily out of the middle and lower sectors of the new middle class; they are of recent rural background, experiencing for the first time life in huge metropolitan areas where foreign influence is most apparent and where impersonal forces are at maximum strength. There seems also to be, in each case, an acute national crisis intertwined with social and psychological frustration. In Egypt in the 1930s there was the great Depression and its aftermath, combined with the feeling that the earlier national struggle for independence had come to a halt before the signing of the 1936 treaty with great Britain a treaty that fell short of national expectations. The events of the 1940s the war, increasing influx of foreign troops, soaring migration from rural areas to serve the war efforts of the Allies, rising inflation, immediate postwar unemployment – all contributed to widespread social discontent. That was the decade during which the Brotherhood enjoyed its greatest expansion and organizational strength. The middle and lower – middle classes were most adversely affected by the socioeconomic and political developments of the 1930s and 1940s. and sure enough, they were the most responsive to the call of the Muslim Brotherhood50.

Iran in the 1960s and 1970s witnessed developments of a similar nature to those of the 1930s and 1940s in Egypt: frustration of the national struggle (the crushing of the Musaddaq movement), increasing foreign (especially American) presence and influence, massive migration from rural to urban areas, and soaring inflation. In Egypt during the late 1960s and the 1970s there was a national defeat (1967) followed by an increasing foreign presence (Russian, then American), hardening of the social and political arteries of the country *as upward mobility and political participation significantly diminished) soaring inflation, and dim future prospects for the youngest and brightest members of the middle and lower middle class.

     What we argue here is that a sense of national crisis, accompanied by a class factor interacting adversely with personal aspirations have been common structural features surrounding the rise of the four movements. The national crisis in all four cases has something to do with foreign encroachment. The class factor in all cases has to do with collective status incongruity (that is, strong achievement motivation, with justified high aspiration, yet little economic and political apportunity). In all four cases the middle and lower-middle classes felt this incongruity most sharply. The individual biography element sensitizes the confluence of both the national crisis and the class incongruity in a highly anomic, impersonal setting – the big urban centers.

     It may be argued, however, that the combination of factors (national crisis class incongruity, and individual anomie) could lead individuals to join non – Islamic movements. In this quite possible. The social profile of those who join radical leftist movements seems quite similar to that of Islamic militants in all four cases. The only significant difference in profiles, at least the case of Egypt, is a preponderance of rural background among Islamic militants, compared with a preponderance of urban background among leftists. It is evident that both Islamic and leftist (including Marxist) ideologies provide a persuasive intellectual response to the issues of national crisis, class malaise, and individual alienation. The question remains why,

In Egypt and the Arab world, people with roughly the same social profile have flocked into militant Islamic movements more readily than they have into leftist or Marxist groups?

       Without more data and proper statistical controls than we have, this question cannot be satisfactorily answered. However, we submit that at least four factors in recent years have tilted the balance in favor of Islamic groups over their leftist or Marxist counterparts.

The first factor is the ability of the ruling elite to dismiss leftist and Marxist opposition as atheists or agents of a foreign power (usually the Soviet union) bent on destroying Islamic and authentic national heritage. With the mass media nearly controlled by the government, such charges are repeated daily, enabling the elite to crush these leftist elements with impunity. It is much harder to use the same propaganda weapon against groups proclaiming Islam as their ideology, especially when those groups are avowedly opposed to foreign influence – Soviet, western, and Zionist.

The second factor has to do with recent historical setbacks suffered by quasi-socialist experiments in Egypt and the Arab world. Even though Egyptian socialism was reasonably effective, Nasser’s crushing defeat in the 1967 war was blamed on his entire system, including his socialist policies. The soviet Union was equally blamed for letting the Arabs down in that war. Thus socialism, Marxism, and the Soviet Union have gradually acquired negative reputations. They were tried, s it is claimed, and they did not Egypt’s problems.

     The third factor has to do with the deep-rootedness of Islam in the entire Middle East. In Egypt particularly people are said to be quite religious. There is a positive sociocultural sanction to being religious. Even the most avowed liberal or leftist secularist regimes in the area find it necessary and expedient to invoke Islam when the try to institute any major new policy. The point is that for any militant Islamic movement, half task of recruiting members is already done by socialization and cultural sanctions in childhood. The other half of their task is merely to politicize consciousness and to discipline their recruits organizationally. For a Marxist movement, the task must be three times harder: it involves eradicating negative cultural stereotypes of Marxism, teaching its precepts. Politicizing, and organizing.

     The fourth factor is the strong sense of communion that Muslim groups provide for their members. As we have seen, the typical recruit is usually of recent rural background, a newcomer to an impersonal city. Abu-Lughod found that in an earlier time relatives and fellow villagers who may have preceded him would offer the rural newcomer a soft landing in the city. This mode of adjustment still exists for some. But for an increasing number of migrants such adjustment mechanisms may not be there. In such cases the militant Islamic groups with their emphasis on brotherhood, mutual sharing, and spiritual support become the functional equivalent of the extended family for young people who have left theirs behind. In other words, the Islamic group fulfills a de-alienating function for its members in ways that are not matched by other rival political movements.




     In the absence of a credible, secular national vision effective means to repel external encroachment, Islamic movements exert a strong attraction. To enhance the present and future socioeconomic prospects of the middle and lower classes, and to galvanize the imagination of the educated youth and give them a sense of being essential parts of a grand design, Islamic militancy offers the alterative. To their credit, Egypt’s middle classes have given the benefit of the doubt to some other secular alternative: a liberal experiment (1922-52), a nationalist-socialist experiment (1952-70) and a quasi-liberal, quasiautocratic regime (1970-80). These experiments all seem to have fallen short of fulfilling their promises. It may be argued that none of those experiments was allowed to run its full course or that one of them (Nasser’s regime, 1952-70) was aborted by foreign powers. Such arguments nay very well be valid not the formal level. But history seldom operates as neutral laboratory for societal experiments. Thus, a fact of Egypt’s modern history is that with the mounting troubles of each secular alternative, the appeal of Islamic militancy grows until it becomes a tidal wave. The last such cycle was stemmed by the 1952 Revolution, which addressed itself to most of the national and socioeconomic issues bedeviling the middle and lower classes. It was only when Nasserism seemed to have run out of steam in the late 1960s that Islamic began its present resurgence.

     Two sets of factors will decide the future of Egypt’s Islamic militancy. The first has to do with the ability of the present regime or another secular alternative to address itself to the issues discussed above (independence, social equity, and a credible vision for the future that enlists the commitment of educated youth). The second set has to do with other regional models. An effective secular alternative may not readily appear in Egypt but in a neighboring country, and yet may appeal to middle-class educated youth. However, the most salient regional effect on the future growth of Islamic militancy in Egypt and elsewhere is likely to come from the Iranian Revolution. Its success in dealing with the host of global, societal. And individual issues discussed in this paper would enhance Islamic militancy. Its failure, especially from within, and without foreign intervention, would set back Islamic militancy. The vision of establishing an Islamic social order has dazzled the imaginations of all Muslims for ages. But it usually becomes a passionate craving during national crisis or in the aftermath of a humiliation at the hands of the outside world. The Islamic vision will never be cut down to its proper size until it is tried at least once. This is why the Iranian Revolution is uniquely significant for the present and the near future.



1-   I wish to express my gratitude to the National Center for Sociological of the research team-Sohair Lutfy, Afaf Mahfouz, Ibrahim al-Fahham, Adly Hussain. Mohammad Mohi-eddin, and Mona Al-Arint.

2- See for example time magazine, 15 Jan. 1979 “the Crescent of Crisis”; in other stories on Iran the same theme, the resurgence of Islam, was central (see Time, 17 Feb, 26 Feb, 26 Nov, and 3 Dec. 1979) the New York Yimes, 2 June, 23 Nov. 9 Dec., 13 Dec 1968, 7 Jan and 11 Dec. 1979. The Guardian (London) featured a special report on Islam (Dec. 1979) and several articles on 26 Jan. and 23 July 1977 and an article by Martin Woolacott, “New Politics of the Muslim World, 22 Nov . 1979.

3-Zbigniew Brzezinski is reputed to be fond of these. Recent scholarly treatment of resurgence of Islam includes Bernard Lewis, “The Return of Islam, “Commentary, Jan 1976, P. 3949; John A. Williams, “A Return to the Veil in Egypt, “Middle East Review, vol. 11, no, 3, spring, 1978. pp 40 – 55; R.S. Humphreys, “Islam and Political Violence in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria.” Middle East Journal 33, winter, 1979 pp. 1-19 Israel Altman “Islamic Movements in Egypt, “The Jerusalem Quarterly, winter, 1979. pp. 1-19; Israel Altman. “Islamic Movements in Egypt in Egypt. “the Jerusalem Quarterly. Winter, 1979 pp. 87-108 : Hrair Dekmejian.  “The Anatomy of Islamic Revival and the Search for Islamic Alternatives. “Middle East Journal, 34, winter, 1980 pp. 1-12.

4-        See, for example, Manfred Halpern. Politics of Social Change in the Middle in the Middle East (Princeton . N. J. : Princeton University press, 1963) A native Arab, Western – educated scholar Hisham Sharabi echoes the same thesis about the decline of Islam. In 1966 he wrote. “In the contemporary Arab world, Islam has simply been by-passed…. The decline if Islam in the twentieth century as an organized institutional force capable of exerting direct influence on society and the state cannot be explained or accounted for a simple or unitary diagnosis. “Sharabi then lists the factors that contributed to the decline of Islam. See his article “Islam and Modernization in Arab world. “in J.H. Thompson and R.D. Reischauer, eds., Modernization of the Arab World (New York: Van Nostrand, 1966) pp. 26-27.

5-        For a critical discussion of the limitation of the Orientalist approach see Ed-ward Said. Orientalism ( New York; Pantheon, 1978).

6-        Writing some thirteen years later and taking note of what is happening in Iran and eisewhere. Hisham Sharabi, for example, wrote in 1977 that “Islamic conservatism is at present the dominant ideological force in Arab society.” See his “Islam, Democracy and Socialism in the Arab World. ” in M.C. Hudson, ed., The Arab Future: Critical Issues (Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1979) pp. 95-104 .

7-        The reference here is to the countrywide urban uprising on 18 and 19 January 1977. following an announcement that the government in effect would end the state subsidies of a number of essential consumer items (such as rice. Flour. Cigarettes, and sugar), thus raising their prices by 30 t0 50 percent. The rioting and clashes with the police left an estimated seventy-nine people dead and about eight hundred injured. The rioting subsided by 20 January after the government retracted its economic measure and restored the subsidies, declared martial law, and called in the army to enforce a curfew. See al-Ahram, 19,20,21January 1977; also Arab Reports and Records (henceforth ARR) 16-31 Jan 1977.p. 35.

8-        Interior Minister Sayid Husayn Fahmi announced on 20 January 1977 that the authorities had uncovered a plot to burn Cairo. As reported by Middle East News Agency (henceforth MENA) and quoted in ARR 16-31 January 1977.p. 35 Public Prosecutor Ibrahim al-Qalyubi announced on 26 January that “two hundred suspects have been arrested and are being questioned by the security forces for being linked with subversive groups – namely the Egyptian Communist labor party, the Revolutionary Current and Eighth of January organizations. “ARR, 16 -31 January 1977. p. 35, then on 30 January Prime Minister Mamduh Salim repeated the same accusations in the People’s Assembly, adding that the National Progressive Unionist party, one of Egypt’s legitimate parties but one that is leftist and Nasserite. Had involved itself shamefully in this abominable national crime. “al-Ahram, 31January 1977.

9-        The Egyptian cabinet on 26 January 1977 issued an order banning all demonstrations and strikes, Le Monde, 27 Jan. 1977.

10-   The group calls itself Gama at al-muslimin (the Muslim Group). But the security forces and the mass media call it al-Takfir wa-l-Hijra group (Repentance and Holy Flight’ (RHF). After initial resentment of this imposed name. members of the group began gradually to adopt it as their own.

11-   The estimated number of those Killed in shootouts was six, and those injured in shootouts and explosions numbered fifty – seven, ARR, 1-15 July 1977. Eventually all top leaders of RHF as well as some 620 members of the group were arrested, of which 465 were to stand trial before military courts, al-Ahram, 21 July 1977.

12-   See especially Sadat ’s statements in interviews published in the Cairo weekly Uktubir, 18 and 25 December 1977.

13-   The original wafd party was established in 1919 as a result of a popular  uprising in that year. The founder and leader of the party until 1928 was the Egyptian nationalist Saad Zaghloul. The party continued under the leadership of his successor, Mustafa al-Nhhas, as a grassroots majority party until it was banned along with all other parties in 1953 by the new revolutionary regime. During 1977 some of the survivors of the old wafd began attempts to resurrect the party. The initial rallying of many young and prominent intellectuals took Sadat ’s regime by surprise. In 1978 regime was to resort to legal, constitutional, and plebiscite maneuvers to ban several of the leaders of the New Wafd from political life. In mid-1978 the party decided to dissolve itself rather than function without its prominent figures, namely Fu’as Sirag al-Din and Ibrahim Farag.

14-   See Sadat ’s speech at Alexandria University, al-Ahram, 27 July 1977.

15-   al-Ahram, 20 April 1974. reported that eleven people were killed and twenty seven wounded when the group, henceforth MA, attacked the Technical Military Academy on 18 April 1974.

16-   See for example Humphreys, “Islam and Political Values” ; Dekmejian. “The Anatomy of Islamic Revival”; Nazih Ayubi, “The Political Revival of Islam: The Case of Egypt, “mem. (April,1980) Ali Dessouki, “the Resurgence of Islamic Movement in Egypt, Mem. (1979).

17-   Al-Da’wa, unlike most Egyptian opposition publications, never veiled its outright disapproval. The reader can see the escalation of its criticism of the whole Sadat peace strategy, starting with its issue of December 1977 and continuing through 1979.

18-   An example of the use of one incident as a pretext for an all-out crackdown on Islamic groups was the government ’s arrest of members of two other religious groups in the aftermath of the confrontation with RHF. Thus according to Uktubir magazine. 28 August 1977, security authorities had arrested 104 members of an extremist religious group calling itself Jund Allah (Soldiers of God) Two days later al-Ahram reported. 30 August 1977, that “security police had arrested eighty of the leaders of a group called Jihad (’Holy Struggle’) in Alexandria. “No violent showdowns were reported, but the media alleged that the two groups were preparing and plotting an attack on the state and its citizens.

19-   al-Khawarij, or Kharajites, were a group of early Muslim dissidents who sought strict adherence to Islamic egalitarian and pious principles as they saw them. They disapproved of the behavior and action of the fourth Guided Caliph Ali, as well as that of his challenger Mu’awiya. The Kharajites fought both at one time and never consented to the central authority of the Umayyad in Damascus or the Abbasids in Baghdad. The mainstream Sunni establishment consider the Kharajites heretics. The term has now come to be used in describing any group that the established political and religious authority perceives as threatening the ’unity’ of society by rebelling. For a concise account of the evolution of Kharajites in history see Fazlur Rahman, Islam (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1966) pp. 167-80 .

20-   The Muslim Brotherhood was founded by Hassan al-Banna in 1928, One of its avowed principles was the creation of an Islamic society through the application of the Shari’a. it gradually grew until it became one of the largest mass movements in Egypt during the 1940s. for a detailed account the rise and fall of the Muslim Brotherhood see Ishaq Musa Husayni, The Moslem Brethren, the Greatest of Modern Islamic Movements, trans. From Arabic (Beirut: Kayat College Book Cooperative, 1956) Richard Mitchell. The Society of the Moslem Brothers (London: Oxford University Press, 1969).

21-   These were later revealed to us by members of the two groups themselves. The honesty tests were designed to see if we were consistent and reliable. Different militants would ask us at various times the same questions about ourselves or other matters and then compare our answers.

22-   The security checks, as the militants later told us. Put members of the research team under surveillance for several weeks. When they told us the kind of things they knew abut us (including some very personal information) we were quite impressed but also somewhat frightened by their intelligence network.

23-   The veiling that the militants demanded of the female members of the team varied widely. Some militants insisted on complete covering of the body, including the face. Others were satisfied with long. Maxi-type dresses with full sleeves and with a covering for the hair.

24-   President sadat ’s most violent attack on the Iranian Revolution and the ayatollah Khomeini came in a long television interview on 25 December 1979 (his birthday) which was reported fully in al-Ahram the following day. Among other things, he described Khomeini as a “lunatic madman … who has turned Islam into a mockery.” In the same interview Sadat renewed his invitation to the exiled Shah to reside in Egypt, an invitation the Shah accepted in March 1980.

25-   See articles already cited: Mitchell, Husayni, Humphreys, Altman, and Dekmejian.

26-   See Sadat ’s speech before Egypt ’s people ’s Assembly, al-Ahram, 16 May 1980, in which he proposed a constitutional amendment to appease the Muslim groups but in which he insisted on separation of religion and state.

27-   Husayn al-Dhahabi, who was kidnapped and assassinated by RHF, was a typical example of the establishmentarian ulama of al-Azher, While a minister of religious endowments and religious affairs, he mounted blistering attacks on militant groups. Calling them misguided. In that he echoes the line of the ruling elite toward these groups.

28-   Sheikh ’Ali Abd al-Raziq especially was condemned by the militants for his famous book, al-Islam wa Usul al-Hukm (Islam and the Foundations of Governance) in which advocated a secular theory of state.

29-   See al-Ahram, 7 July 1977. for more details about those arrested and their backgrounds see al-Ahram 7-20 July 1977.

30-   This Kind of proposition is to be found. For example. Enic Hoffer. The True Believer: thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (New York: Harper, 1951) The Ordeal of Change (New York: Harper & Row, 1963) Reflections on the Human Condition (New York: Hark Harper & Row 1973) An exponent of similar arguments is Hadley Cantril, The Psychology of social Movements (New York: Wiley, 1941); The Politics of Despair (New York: Basic Books, 1958)

31-   Most of the RHF enterprises were small in scale and in an embryonic stage at The time of the group ’s showdown with the government. These enterprises included bakeries, Bookshops, candy making and vegetable gardening.

32-   It was such attempts to penalize former members that first drew government attention to the potential strength and danger of RHF. See al-Ahram. 7 July 1977.

33-   The saying of the Prophet is addressed to all Muslims “Whom of you sees a repugnance (munkarun) he must remove it with his hands: if unable, then by his tongue; and if unable. Unable, then by his heart, and that is the least the pious can do.

34-   For details on this early period of Islam. Consult any of the standard references on the history of Islam, the Arabs, or the Middle East. See for example, Fazlur Rahman, Islam (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1966) S.C Coon, Caravan: the story of the Middle East (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. 1958) Bernard Lewis, The Arabs in History (London: Hutchinson Univ. Library, 1950) The flight from Mecca to Medina the day of the first year of the Islamic calendar.

35-   This strategy by the Prophet Muhammad is explicitly discussed by Fazlur Rahman in Islam, pp 18-29.

36-   As those RHF members reported it to the research team, “The group debated several places to start its new community of believers. “The sites included Yemen. Libya, The Sudan, and several spots in Egypt. Two sites were actually used by RHF. One was in Minya governorate in Upper Egypt. The second and more important was in the desert strip between Ma’adi, Ma’asara, and Helwan, south of Cairo. The group however, never moved entirely to either site.

37-   Three MA leaders (Salih Siriya, Karim al-Anaduli, and Tallal al-Ansari) and five RHF leaders (Shukri Mustafa, Mahir A.Bakri Zanati, Ahmad Tariq ’Abd al-’Alim, Amwar Ma’mun Saqr, and Mustafa A.Ghazi) were sentenced to death. All but one (Tallal al-Ansari, whose sentence was reduced to life imprisonment) were actually executed on 9 November 1976 and 19 March 1978, of the other ninety-two MA members tried by the state security court, twenty-nine were found guilty and sentenced to varying penalties (eight to life imprisonment; seven to fifteen years; eight to ten years; and six to four years). Of the 204 RHF members who were tried, thirty six were found guilty (twelve received life sentences, six got ten years with hard labor, and the remainder received sentences varying from five to ten Years) al-Ahram, I December 1977.

38-   MA members who this contention claimed that one member of the group who was part of the plan betrayed them by informing the state security forces of the intended plot to overthrow the regime. Curiously enough the informant was not taken seriously for several hours, and that enabled MA to implement the first part of its plan successfully-that is, the occupation of the Technical Military Academy. By the time they were to move on to Arab Socialist Union building to carry out the second part of the plan, the authorities had already acted on the information and had started a siege and a counterattack on the academy, al-Gumhuriya, 21 April 1974.

39-   A typical example of this was reported in al-Ahram, I April 1980  quoting the minister the interior’s account to the People’s Assembly of a student conference that began in a mosque in Asyut. Then was converted into a march across the city protesting Sadat ’s invitation to the Shah to reside in Egypt and also protesting the peace treaty with Israel. Islamic in other universities staged similar demonstrations.

40-   For an account of these movements see Fazlur Rahman, Islam, pp. 193-254: and Zeinab al-Bakry, “Mahdiyya Movement in the Sudan with a Comparison of Wahhabis and Sanusiyya, “unpublished M.A. thesis in sociology, American University in Cairo 1977.

41-   For the meaning of ’puritanical. Fundamental, and ’neotraditionalist, see John A. Williams, “A Return to the Veil in Egypt, pp. 51-55; Stephen Humphreys, “Islam and Political Values in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Syria, Middle East Journal, vol. 11,no. I, winter 1979, pp 1-19 Ali Dessouki, “The Resurgence of Islamic Movements in Egypt, mem,: Nazih Ayubi, “The Political Revival of Islam, mem. In oral remarks to the author, Professor Nikki Keddie suggested that the term neotraditionalists ’describes most of the militant Islamic movements of recent times (such as the Wahhabis and the Iranian Revolution).

42-   Muhammad ’Abduh (1854-1905) an Egyptian religious thinker, was a disciple of Jamal al-Din Afghani, but he was significantly less militant in the latter part of his life. He is credited with serious attempts to modernize Islamic thought by showing that Islam is consistent with reason, science, and adoption of modern technology. Among his famous writings is Rasa ’il al-ghufran (Messages of Atonement’) For more on Muhammad ’Abduh see Malcolm Kerr, Islamic Reform: The political and Legal Theories of Muhammad ’Abduh and Rashid Rida (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966).

43-   Al-Shubban al-Muslimin, literally Muslim Youth. Was established in 1927 in emulation of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). The founders, headed by a retired army general, Salih Harb , meant it to be a nonpolitical, social, and athletic organization.

44-   This typology is an adaptation of that proposed by David F. Alberle in The Peyote Religion among the Navaho (Chicago: Aldine, 1966) Alberle ’s typology entails only four types (two by two) along the two axes of locus and amount of change.

45-   The Kharajites (al-Khawary) were the first dissident group in Islam: see note 18. One fundamental tenet of the Kharajites is insistence on the unity of faith and deeds. Thus a tyrant a tyrant ruler is not to be obeyed, nor can there be obedience to a sinful command. This goes against the mainstream Sunni doctrine, which would tolerate a tyrant for the sake of preserving the unity the umma. See Fazlur Rahman, Islam, pp 168-70.

46-   Other militant Islamic movements in premodern times include the Shia, on and off from the end of the first Islamic century to the present. One of the Shia sub-sects, the Isma’ilis, staged a revolt and a socioreligious campaign under the leadership of Hamdan Qarmat, after whom they came to be called Qarmatiyas (al-Qaramita). He established a post near Kufa (A.D. 890) in Iraq and levied taxes on his followers. This process of taxation was soon replaced by a communist – type society (common ownership of all objects of general utility in the imam). See Fazlur Rahman Islam, p. 176 . Bernard Lewis surveys many modern militant Islamic movements and argues that some two hundred such cades were primarily resistance movements against foreign intrusion, The Return of Islam, pp. 17-20 .

47-   The Wahhabi movement began in the latter decades of the eighteenth century. Its founder, Muhammad Ibn ’Abd al-Wahhab, a puritanical fundamentalist, allied himself politically with the house of al-Sa’ud of Najd in central Arabia. Together they began a drive to unite Arabia and to institute fundamentalist Islamic Institutions. Despite the ups and downs of this alliance. Vis-à-vis the outside world. It persisted and finally triumphed politically in the early decades of the twentieth century. Saudi Arabia today is a culmination of this effort. For more details on ’the Wahhabis. See John S .Habib. the Ikhwan Movement the Najd: its Rise, Development and Decline (Ann Arbor University of Michigan Press. 1970) Harry S. Philiby, Saudi Arabia (Beirut: Librairie du Liban. 1968)

48-   The data on the Muslim Brotherhood are derived from R . Mitchell, The Society of the Muslim Brotherhood; I.M. Husayni, the Moslem brethren: and Christina Harris, Nationalism and Revolution in Egypt: the Role the Muslim Brother hood (The Hague: Mouton 1964)

49-   Our data on the Mujahidin in Iran are derived from Ervand Abrahamian. “The Guerrilla Movements in Iran 1963-77 “in MERIP Reports, 86, March/ April, 1980, pp 3-15 The social profile of the Mujahidin could be inferred from the characteristics of those who died during the struggle against the Shah’s regime. Of some eighty known cases, thirty were college students five teachers, fourteen engineers, ten professionals and office workers, ten women (including housewives) two shopkeepers, two workers, one clergyman. And six of unknown occupational background.

50-   The concept of the new middle class come to modern-educated university graduates, professionals, or salaried employees. For a full discussion of this social formation see Halpern, Politics of Social change. Pp. 51-68.

51-   For substantiation and elaboration of this point is, the appeal of the Brotherhood to the lower-middle class in Egypt) see Mitchell, Brotherhood, and Ayubi. “Political Revival.”

52-   The social profiles of those who joined militant leftist movements in both Iran and Egypt were similar to those of their Islamic counterparts in several respects. For a substantiation of this contention in Iran see Abrahamian “The Guerrilla Movements, especially table I and table 11 .P.5 For information about militant Egyptian leftists we relied on published lists in al-Ahram and ARR of over two hundred alleged members of communist organizations (for example, the Egyptian communist party, communist labor party) who have been charged, tried or sentenced during the period from January 1977 to April 1980 . of 198 whose occupations were identified, sixty-eight were students, sixty-one were professionals, twenty –eight were workers. Twenty-five were middle-and lower-level civil servants, eight were peasants and eight were small shopkeepers.

53-   On this point see R.S. Humphreys, “Islam and Political Values”

54-   See Janet Abu-Lughod. Migrant Adjustment to city life: The Egyptian case,” American Journal of Sociology, 67/1, July 1961,             


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