• June 13, 2007
  • 74 minutes read

Muslim Brotherhood: Structure & Spread

Muslim Brotherhood: Structure & Spread

Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is one of the most important Islamic movements in the Arab world and the Muslim world. It represents a broad and distinguished trend within modern Islamic thought. Moreover, the ideological dissertation developed by its intellectuals is taken as a reference authority for most of Islamic movements.

The significance of the movement lies in its faculty of understanding and expressing all social powers at the time of its emergence, in addition to its ability to survive in spite of all hardships, obstacles and oppression.

This ability of defeating all difficulties relates, for the most part, to the great organizational faculties that the MB movement has. Such organizational characteristic enables MB to reconstruct itself during tribulations as much as it enables it to spread throughout various sections of society and its institutions during the time of ease





First: Membership Structure


The process of recruiting new members, within the public activity of MB, has certain phases. The first phase is represented in the direct call through direct communication with people. Actually MB group started with seven persons including Hasan al-Banna himself, the founder of MB and this is mentioned in his diaries. The number began to expand gradually due to the direct communication with people. Al-Banna undertook the task of communicating directly with people throughout Egypt, consequently he visited villages and towns calling for his Da”wa.

As for the second phase of recruitment process, it is represented in the political recruitment adopted by al-Banna to establish a well-knit membership procedure. During the MB third congress in 1935, al-Banna stipulated the membership prerequisites and its degrees. The third phase denotes the recruitment of mujahid members. Al-Banna instituted a new system known as `Usra (The smallest unit of MB structure) which represents the practical area of MB spiritual education and Tarbiah (training). When the MB membership had been divided into categories, the “`Usra “membership was limited to MB active members.

Al-Banna wrote in his diaries (Proceedings of Third Congress) a paragraph subtitled (The Practical Structure of Muslim Brotherhood) in which he mentioned the following:

1-The main offices and bodies of MB should work for cultivating members spiritually and psychically in a way consistent with MB values and strengthening them. To do so, the MB membership varies into three degrees:

  • General membership: given to every body accepted by district administration provided that this person shows his readiness to be righteous, agrees to sign membership form and pays a volunteering subscription.
  • Brothers” membership: given to every Muslim accepted by the district administration- the member of this category is called “Associate Member”.
  • Practical membership: given to every Muslim accepted by the district administration and agrees to maintain his duties (Al-Banna detailed these duties); such a member is called “Active Member”.
  • Jihad membership: limited to Active Members that the general executive bureau (GEB) realizes his observance of duties and commitments.



Three Parallel Lines


Imam Hasan al-Banna established the MB Da”wa to be a general one depending on a substructure of knowledge, Tarbiah (training) and jihad which represent basic pillars of comprehensive and all-encompassing Da”wa.

Consequently the group adopted the following methods to achieve this concept:


  • The system of study circles to achieve knowledge line.
  • The system of `Usar al-Takween (The smallest units in the preparation stage) to achieve the line of Tarbiah (training).
  • The system of `Usar al-`amal (Action Unit) to achieve the line of jihad.


1- Study Circles System

This system achieves “Knowledge” which is the first pillar of Da”wa along with the principle of publicity in calling for Islam and Islamism. Mosque is the natural target for establishing such circles.


2- `Usar al-Takween Achieving Tarbiah (training) Line


While the study circles system aims at strengthening general attachment to Islam, the objective of `Usar system is to achieve special attachment to Islam and stimulating all powers, consequently there are two forms of `Usar:

  • `Usar al-Takween entrusted with preparing and cultivating MB members,
  • `Usar al-`amal entrusted with stimulating one”s powers in the continuous daily work for implementing Islam entirely or partially.


Now, it is time to shed light on characteristics of the membership three degrees, namely Nas?r (Advocate), Munaffidh (a member who has the characteristics of piety, obedience and jihad) and Naq?b (a leader with specific characteristics).

Every membership category has its own stipulations and requirements. The person entrusted with education and Tarbiah (training) should take into consideration such requirements and give every person the due membership and help him attain perfection in terms of this membership.


Following is a brief summary of the characteristics of membership degrees.

  1.  The first category of membership is” Nas?r”; In this category of membership the focus is directed to faith, loyalty and Tarbiah (training). This stage is a test of confidence which shapes and defines the next stage but it is considered the least degree in terms of stipulations and requirements.
  2. The second category of membership includes Munaffidh, A`mil (Active) or Mujahid. It stands for the member who has got the characteristics of piety, obedience and Jihad.
  3. The third category of membership is Naq?b. It stands for the person entitled to practice education and Tarbiah (training), take pledge of allegiance, participate in taking decisions and know the MB secrets. Moreover, he has the right to lead. This necessitates high degree of Tarbiah (training), absolute confidence along with many other requirements which make eligibility limited to a few people.






Second: the wide and fast spread of the group (place and category.)


In the statement of the fifth congress of MB, ten years after its establishment, Hassan al-Banna identified some characteristics of the group, including “the wide spread in cities and villages”. He mentioned how the group was first established in Alesma”elia governorate, then its existence in Cairo “till its circulation all over Egypt, from Aswan to Alexandria.

The MB widely spread as a political organization, since the 30s and especially in the 40s, during and directly after the Second World War. The group recruited many members, established scouts groups and weapon gatherers, a militant special outfit (Attantheemul khaas.) In the 40s- twenty years after its establishment- the group had, approximately, two million members and two thousand branches all over Egypt.

Al-Banna spent ten years intensifying the group”s pillars and imprinting it with “a pedagogic” stamp. This orientation granted the group a relatively free atmosphere for work. Al-Banna was really aware of his spontaneous and objective capabilities, so he was not involved in any conflict with political parties and associations; even he utilized the differences between all of them to promote the pillars of his Da”wa.

The group prevailed in the Egyptian society from the very beginnings; it concentrated on the social, educational and service fields and had an organizational existence at many levels, including: domestic mosques which it established, small educational institutions for teaching religion and eliminating illiteracy, hospitals, and some commercial and industrial projects. After the Second World War, the group assumed a great role in distributing and printing books, and issuing magazines.

“The mosque wasn”t only a place for worship, but for Tarbiah (training) as well. It represented a place for gathering and mobilizing people, and selecting the good characters to be members of the group. When the group moved the main headquarter to Cairo, the most important development of activities was the concentration on universities, schools and Alazhar. It established a new section for students, and began forming relevant militant groups. Another important development was that the group began to face political issues, having different opinions from that of the government and parties, these two developments strengthened each other.” Judge Tareq Albeshri said, commenting on the group”s widespread activities through mosques.


The categorical spread:


The Islamic reformist movements(IRM) – especially, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) – basically and may be exclusively spread in the modern social classes, especially the middle class, so it was different from religious movements which the Arab Islamic world experienced till after the end of the nineteenth century; because- then- they concentrated on the traditional social classes.

Some believes that there was a link between the spread of the Islamic trend in the Arab countries among the middle class and the modernization processes in this world; actually, this is in concord with the Islamic religion faculty of penetrating all the society classes (Aristocratic, middle and lower.) with its comprehensive teachings. But modernization processes represent the aptness for more spread. The spread of the IRM in the middle class rather than the radical ones which usually spread in the lower classes- is due to the characteristics of middle class in the Arab world, which is oriented to reciprocal reformative change, not violent change.

The most prominent phenomena of modernization were the wide range of Tarbiah (training) and industry, and development of cities, the important result of which was the wide range of the middle class. The middle class has a high political spirit- compared to other classes- and great aspirations concerning policy and a better life, which helped it enthusiastically participate in policy.

There were several elements that led a huge number of the middle class to be enlisted in religious groups:

1-The effect of modern Tarbiah (training):


The educational process includes creating new values instead of traditional ones. Tarbiah (training) represents the social activity tool of eradicating traditional society bonds. Educators of religious lessons- especially the Islamic history- are affected by religious ideological romantic impacts.


2- The political experience:

In fact, religious opposition movements” emergence is due to the exposure of ideologies and parties which represented the middle class, this exposure is due to their failure in authority, or an intensified political oppression which led to withdrawal and ineffectiveness, therefore depriving them of the legitimacy to represent middle class.


3- The modernization impact:

Rushing towards the quick modernization trial in societies in which Islamic groups had an important role, and its consequences, represented a significant element in the collapse of current social and political institutions.

4- The economic crisis:


Among the defects of current regimes is the economic organization failure to meet the increasing aspirations of middle class, and also the reason for the exposure of the middle class secular parties as failures.

The MB group does exist in all the classes, from the upper one to the lower, but it”s mostly dominant in the middle one, which is the main source for recruitment, it is represented by the small merchants in cities and the new comers to the city from the country.

University students in cities, whose origins go back to towns and villages, are very important.

The MB also prevails in the educated circles and the modern social category as well.

Spread in the educated circles may be due to the emergence of Islamic Wakefulness inside universities since the 70s. The leader students represented the organizational cadres in the regions. They may be the same figures who represented the syndicalistic movement, which raise the Islamic banner in unions and syndicates.

The MB suffered a lot of ordeals in the 50s and 60s, which helped promote and spread their Da”wa among the youth along with the written output of the MB cadres and intellectuals, such as: (Abdulqader “Uda, Said Qutub, Sheikh Muhammad al-Ghazali, Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi…etc)

The movement experiences a relative absence among the ranks of workers, peasants and the uneducated. These ranks represent an empty sphere in the Islamic arena.



Third: Organizational hierarchy:


1– The basic regulations: the first by-law organizing and codifying work within MB group- as mentioned by Hassan al-Banna- has been initiated between 1930 and 1931 A.D., and in September 1945, the group ratified a modified by-law presented by Hassan al-Banna who called it “The Basic Regulations of Muslim Brotherhood organization (BRMBO).” Three years later, al-Banna recommended some amendments to the Constituent Board (CB), after reading the recommendations twice, the CB agreed to amend the regulations of the group.

After the nomination of “Hassan al-Hudaibi” as a chairman of the group, the General Executive Bureau (GEB) ratified a new interior by-law, which interpreted the basic regulations using the entitled authorities of the GEB according to article 32 of this law to establish the necessary body for implementing the group”s aims, and article 62 which allows revisiting the current law and amendment. In July, 1982, the group ratified a new by-law “The Basic Rule”, justified by the widened activities of the group and the previous experience. The last amendment concerned with the limitation of chairman term of office, instead of staying in office for life.



The above-mentioned chart begins with the Constituent Board (CB) from which the primary authority of MB emanates. This board takes the place of general assembly in other organizations because it is impossible for the MB general assembly to convene due to its large number which amounts to some millions in that time. Consequently it was substituted by the constituent board.

The CB represents nowadays the MB general advisory council and the general assembly of GEB. It includes MB members who anticipated in working for Da”wa. The mission of this constituent board is to supervise the Da”wa, choose Executive Bureau members and elect a comptroller.

The CB convenes regularly in the month of Muharram (the first Islamic month) to discuss the executive bureau reports concerning the plan of Da”wa activities for the new year, elect new members if the time is due, discuss the comptroller report about the last year accounts and the expected budget for the year to come, elect a new comptroller (if the time is due provided that the new comptroller is one of the CB members and is not nominated to chairman position) and to discuss other affairs and suggestions.

There may be an extraordinary convention of the constituent board if needed or in case that Executive Bureau (EB) or twenty members called for it. If that happened, the chairman is the one who presides over the meeting or the general deputy if the chairman was absent or delegated his deputy. In case that the general deputy is absent, the eldest member presides over the meeting. The meeting will be valid if attended by the overwhelming majority (half of members plus one) unless a certain number is stipulated.

The constituent board has the right to grant its membership to any MB member during any meeting provided that the nominated member meets the following conditions:

  • He is an established member.
  • His age is no less than 25 lunar years.
  • He joined Muslim Brotherhood for 5 years at least.
  • He has the due moral, cultural and academic qualification.


As for the GEB elected by the constituent board, it consists of 12 members voted into office from among the board members except for the chairman. Nine of the elected members should be from Cairo, and three from the other governorates.

The GEB candidate has to meet these conditions:

1-     He has been a member of constituent board since three years at least.

2-     He has the necessary moral, practical and academic qualifications.

3-      His age is no less than thirty years according to Islamic calendar.

After those members are balloted and the final results are declared, the member takes an oath to maintain and keep the MB principles and values, hold confidence in the leadership abide by their decisions even if they were not consistent with his opinion, then he takes the pledge of allegiance.

The constituent board then elects from among the nine members of Cairo a deputy, general secretary and a treasurer. The GEB membership lasts for two years then new elections are to be held.

The member can be elected for more than a term. In case of a vacancy before the term is over, the person who came next in votes occupies this position.


The Chairman:


The chairman is elected by the constituent board in the presence of no less than four-fifth of its members; three fourths of them must vote for him. In case that the legal quorum is not present, the session would be adjourned to no less than two weeks and no more than four weeks since its first convention. If the quorum is not complete again, the session would be adjourned under the same conditions but the scheduled meeting and its objectives must be declared; the chairman is to be nominated in this session by three fourths of the attendance votes regardless of their number.

 The chairman has to meet the following conditions:

1-     He has been a member of the constituent board since five lunar years at least.

2-     He must be one of knowledge and good character in addition to being acquainted with scholarly affairs.

Having been elected, the new chairman takes an oath of loyalty then he would be given a pledge of allegiance by the CB members and by the members of the group either directly upon meeting him or through those members” leaders.

1-The General Headquarter (GH):

This is the main headquarter of the MB, the chairman and the executive bureau. This acts as a junction point for the horizontal and vertical MB hierarchy formed at the end of thirties. Actually till the beginning of the Second World War, there was nothing but some dispersed branches in certain provinces. These branches would take instructions directly from the general headquarter that was branched into administrative sub bureaus in 19 governorates. Moreover, the general headquarter was subdivided into 300 districts, in the same way as governmental division system; the districts were divided into branches which were considered the basic units in the group structure.

The general headquarter has a board of directors made up of the chairman of the administrative bureau, in most cases the same chairman of the main branch or any member the executive bureau may nominate him. He may be neither a head of a branch nor a member therein. The board of directors also includes a deputy, a secretary and a treasurer; in most cases they occupy the same positions in the main branch. The other administrative bureau members are the districts heads and members of the constituent board in the bureau constituency, administrative activity representatives in addition to a visitor of the GEB whose viewpoint is of consultative nature and who has no right to vote.

The district board of directors is made up of the main branch head and the heads of other branches in the district, the branches visitors, the GEB visitors and the main branch activity representatives.

The branch board of directors is made up of five persons, one of them is selected by the general headquarter to be the branch head, the others are elected by the branch general assembly provided that  two of them are deputies, the third is a secretary and the fourth is a treasurer. The election must be run secretly.

The member of branch board of directors must be at least 21 lunar years old, and must be one-year member of the board, during which he did not violate the membership duties.

The branch member has to meet the following conditions:

1-     His age is no less than 18 years.

2-     He has a good character and never been sentenced for immoral practices.

3-     He fully comprehends the MB principles, and fulfils his duties.

4-      He pledges to pay a monthly subscription regularly to the branch administration.

5-     He takes upon himself to abide by MB laws and gives the pledge of allegiance.

The branch is subordinate to its respective district and the district is subordinate to its respective administrative bureau which in turn is subordinate to the general executive bureau. Communication runs between theses units upwards or downwards in the same sequence.

The intellectual framework of the MB has really affected its regulatory formation. Actually, the comprehensiveness of thought which is a characteristic of the movement has reflected itself in the organizational structure of the movement which overwhelmed the individual from all sides and regulated his social life and family relations in a way that results in full intermingling with the group.


2-Regulations Amendment in 1982:

In 1982 the group amended the main system. They justified that saying:” Due to increasing group fields of activity and in the shadow of its experiences, and to keep up with the present conditions and requirements, the general advisory council, instituted according to the provisional by-law that was approved on 10/05/1982 by the honored chairman, discussed in its meeting convened on 29/07/1982 the by-law and decided on amendment.

The new amendment provided that the MB administrative bodies are the chairman, the general executive bureau and the general advisory council.

The chairman of the MB is the main responsible person in the group; he is the one to head the general executive bureau and the general advisory council. As for the general executive bureau, it is the supreme executive body of the MB which is to supervise the promulgation of Da`wa and to direct its policy and administration. It is made up of 13 members other than the chairman, its term of office is four lunar years, and the member may be nominated for more than a term.

The general advisory council is the legislative authority of the MB; its decisions are binding and its term of office is four lunar years.

 Amendments followed forth afterwards so as to consolidate the principle of consultation through basal elections- i.e., through the bases and ranks of the MB- among all administrative and regulatory bodies, giving much attention to institutionalism instead of individualism in managing the group.


3-     The regulatory Congress phenomenon:

Having moved in 1932, along with the group general executive bureau, to Cairo, and having concluded the leading and basal administrative group establishments, al-Banna sought to hold general congresses for the group. Such congresses acted as regulatory frameworks that control approving and reviewing plans and policies in addition to developing insight concerning the coming stage necessities.

 Al-Banna was eagerly anxious to hold such general congresses. The first congress came in May 1933, the second came lately in the same year, the third in March 1935, the fourth in 1937 and the fifth came in January 1939. These congresses had its importance in establishing values of consultation, exchanging viewpoints and regulatory and political reviewing of decisions. They represented all the group administrative bodies including the executive bureau, the general advisory council and the central advisory councils.

Al-Banna dedicated himself, during the stage of establishment to work for organizational structure of the group, so he strived to model it in a well-knit framework that manifested itself in theses general congresses.

Thanks to his personal and psychic capacities, Hasan al-Banna managed to establish some positive administrative and regulatory principles and traditions, including the general congresses phenomenon held under his personal auspices and his active following up. He was keen that all the group administrative bodies should take part in theses congresses and in their deliberations and discussions. The number of the attendance was great, and the discussions in the special committees run in detail.

 Al-Banna managed to establish regulatory and administrative senses through delegating authorities in all leading posts in the MB administrative hierarchy.

4-    Limiting the Chairman Term of Office:

At the beginning of Shaban month in 1416 A.H, the MB deputy chairman stated that the group leaders made an administrative decision limiting the MB chairman office term to renewable six years instead of selecting him for lifetime as run before. The decision reflected developments in the internal system of the group that permitted circulation of the chairman post, setting an example to the Egyptian political powers that support and follow persons not ideas.


1-     “Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian Society” by Muhammad Shawqi zaki

2-     “The Political Islam in Egypt“, Al-Ahram Political and Strategic Studies Centre. 1992 AD, Cairo; by Hala Mustafa.

3-     “The Qur`an and the Sword, conflict of State and Religion in Egypt” Nabil Abdul Fattah

4-     “Organizational Structure of Political Islam Groups in Arab World and its impact on their Political behavior (Egypt as Case Study) by Muhammad S`ad Abu-`Amoud.

5-     “The Approach to the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood” by Sa`eed Hawwa.

6-     “The Collection of Messages” by Hasan al-Banna.

7-     “The political Islam in the Arab World” by Muhammad Darif.

8-     “A Study of Arab Strategy in 1958” Al-Ahram Political and Strategic Studies Centre.

9-     “Radicalism in the Arab World” by Richard Heriar and Wokmigan.

10- “The Ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood” by Dr Richard Michael.

11- “Internal Democracy within the Egyptian Political Parties, Comparative Study 76-1987, faculty of Economics and Politics doctoral thesis, not published 1993; by Wahid Abdul Maj?d.

12- “(Liberty) of the Islamic Movement: Future Viewpoint, Papers in Self-criticism; by Dr Abdullah An-Naf?s.

“Islamic Movements in Egypt and the Issue of Multi-party political System” 76-1986, faculty of Economics and Politics doctoral thesis 1994; by Abdul `Ati Muhammad Ahmad Abdul Halim.