• June 13, 2007

The Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian Society

The Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian Society

Many a year passed and the time came for the East to be resurrected and restore its power. Many trends appeared here and there; while the most effective trend was that of Al-Afghani, which was the first glimpse of hope after a long period of darkness. Al-Afghani strove hard to bring Islam back to its high status in the society, and he faced the political corruption of those who exploited Islam throughout the Islamic world. Al-Afghani spared no effort until he passed away, and only some of those who were his contemporaries heard about the strife he faced. Thus, he died and left behind some true men.


By: Dr. Muhammad Kamal Khalifah – Professor at Cairo University and the supervisor of the thesis

The Islamic creed came to different environments that varied in development and culture, and to different classes in standards of living, thought, and social life. In the early days of Islam, the Islamic creed came to those who lived a harsh Bedouin lifestyle, as they adhered to and focused on the literal meanings of the Qur”anic verses and the honorable hadiths. Then, the Islamic creed spread to more flexible people in the times of prosperity and the expansion of the Islamic state. They interpreted the texts in a way that guaranteed them more freedom of thought and more numerous fields of activity in the society. Afterwards, it oscillated between some groups of people whose thoughts vacillated between the two extremes, and some others who had nothing to do with the thoughts of the believers or with the independent judgment of thinkers; as they were in complete ignorance caused by malicious desires and oppressive greed. Thus, they lived in servility and submission to the oppression of their rulers, and were diverted from the creed and its right path.

Consequently, the mighty Islamic state collapsed when the support of the creed and faith abandoned its people. During these times, the Muslim society found security and faced fear and, afterwards, its smaller countries oscillated between power and weakness until the West managed to devour them all; hence, the Muslim empire was defeated.

Many a year passed and the time came for the East to be resurrected and restore its power. Many trends appeared here and there; while the most effective trend was that of Al-Afghani, which was the first glimpse of hope after a long period of darkness. Al-Afghani strove hard to bring Islam back to its high status in the society, and he faced the political corruption of those who exploited Islam throughout the Islamic world. Al-Afghani spared no effort until he passed away, and only some of those who were his contemporaries heard about the strife he faced. Thus, he died and left behind some true men.

Muhammad `Abdu followed Al-Afghani”s example in the beginning; afterwards, he preferred a peaceful style of scientific striving, which he thought the most useful and beneficial way for both the religion and the society. He established an intellectual advancement, to which Islamic thought is indebted. Then, he passed away and left behind many of his followers and valuable Islamic books.

Afterwards, Hasan Al-Banna made use of them both and adopted a popular way to guarantee a believing group, and an educational one to spread the Islamic creed and the comprehensive understanding of Islam and its system. He consistently persevered to achieve that in a way that surprised everyone. He managed to regain the status of Islam in society thanks to the wonderful simplicity, the convincing method, the logic that satisfied the commoners, and the notables, and the constructive spirit that aimed at adhering to the fundamental principles of Islam and avoiding side disagreements. He gained both the confidence and the love of all people and established a well-appreciated movement of believing youths, which strove hard to restore the national rights and to save the Arab dignity.

Then, he adopted a scientific trend in reforming the society; as he established social, economic, health, and educational foundations under the umbrella of Islam. A growing confidence re-emerged gradually, the inherent faith grew up and came to light, and people began to understand the comprehensive nature of Islam according to the understanding of the movement and as it was understood in the early days of Islam. Thus, Al-Banna conveyed the message before his death and left behind a faithful generation that still moves around this earth surrounded by the shade of revelation, the light of honorable prophethood, and the living examples of believing men and women and the glorified striving in the Cause of Allah.

Many people wrote about Hasan Al-Banna and the movement that he established, i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood. No movement in Egypt or anywhere else in the East is examined like the Muslim Brotherhood. However, many of these studies were affected by an enthusiastic style resulting from strong faith, unlike the few studies which dealt with the movement in a scientific way that resulted from deep thinking that greatly depends on facts and data. This study belongs to the latter type and much of the statistical data mentioned in it is based on field studies and not on references; thus, it is unique in this field.

For all these reasons, I welcomed the chance to supervise this study and I was greatly pleased with the efforts I exerted. As I felt that the writer of this study was very active, with pleasant readiness and a scientific mentality that aimed at observing facts without exaggeration while presenting evidence honestly and accurately, I asked him to spare no effort in this project so that it would be a thesis that explains an idea, rather than a thesis to gain a scientific degree. I think he left no stone unturned within the framework of the time of the thesis and the limitation of the individual abilities. Thus, I thank him for the great efforts he exerted and for the impartial method that he adopted in this study.

Now, I will leave the reader to read and judge for himself.

Muhammad Kamal Khalifah





Chapter One

A General Preview of the Muslim Brotherhood Movement



Section One: The History of the Movement

Section Two: The Muslim Brotherhood”s Ideology; Islam is a social system that encompasses both religion and politics

Section Three: The Administrative Composition of the Funding Board




Section One: The History of the Movement

1-      I wish to be objective in this research, dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood as a movement that influenced the attitude of so many Muslims in Egypt at that time, and which has expanded to include many Muslim and Arab countries. That is why I wanted to make a separation between the history of the movement and the history of any other individual even if he was the founder. However, I concluded that this is first, impracticable, and second, it contradicts my objectivity since I deduced from my readings of the history of the Muslim Brotherhood that it stemmed from the mind of Imam Hasan Al-Banna.

2-      I grew up with him in his early years; he was revolutionary against all acts of dissolution and immorality. When he was a student in his preparatory school (Ar-Rasahd Religious School), I urged him to protest against an impudent naked wooden statue hung on the mast of a ship, on the beach of Al-Mahmoudiyya waterway. He went to the police station – guided by his straightforward instinct and faith – informing them of what he had seen and condemning the situation. Thus, the officer-in-charge rushed to the captain of the ship commanding him to take the statue down, and so down it came.

3-      This fiery revolution kept on boiling in the young man”s breast, and never abated for a single moment in his life. He did not like the kind of lazy faith that makes the person apathetic to stand up to practice his beliefs in both his personal life and within the whole community. This creed crystallized in his soul, and was plainly expressed afterwards when he said, “The difference between us and our folks is that while they sentenced their faith to sleep within their souls, the Muslim Brotherhood allowed its faith to be practiced in everyday life.”

4-      It seems that the elements of leadership formed within Hasan Al-Banna”s soul since he was young. In the above-mentioned preparatory school, he was remarkable and was elected to leading positions among his classmates; when the Literary Moralities Society was established, he was chosen to be Chairman of the Board.

5-      It was as if his circumstances helped him develop his tendency for guidance and leadership. Maybe it is also a coincidence that chose for him Ar-Rasahd Religious School in order to be prepared from the beginning to lay the foundations of the largest religious movement in Egypt and to be the General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood.

 However, this school society did not satisfy the ambition of either such a young man or his enthusiastic classmates. Hence, they set up another society outside their school barriers called Restraining Prohibitions Society. Its activities were typical to its name, as it tried to score that goal with all possible means. Their mission was to send letters to all the people who were known to the society of committing sins, or not performing acts of worship properly.

6-      The idea was conceived in his mind after he joined the Teachers” School in Damanhur. He also joined a Sufi group called (Al-Hasafiyyah) whose sheikh he greatly admired to the extent that Al-Banna was immensely influenced by him. Afterwards, he set up – together with some members of the mentioned Sufi group – a society called the Philanthropic Hasafiya Society. He took the post of the Secretary of this society which worked in two main fields:

Firstly: Spreading the call of virtuous manners, and struggling against the general prohibitions, and immoralities.

Secondly: Resisting the Christian missionaries that settled in Egypt, giving refuge to the boys and girls under the cover of teaching them stitching.

7-      After he finished his studies in the Teachers” School in Damanhur, he moved to Cairo, and joined Dar Al-`Ulum (the High School of Knowledge). He joined the Islamic Nobility of Character Society which was the only society in Cairo at that time. He was keen to attend all its lectures and the preaching sessions given by influential scholars in the mosques.

8-      Nevertheless, all the corruption he had seen in Cairo made him believe that mosques only are not enough to deliver the edicts of Islam to the people. Here comes the creative genius of Al-Banna; those people outside mosques are in more need of preaching than those within; since the former party knows nothing about religion. He suggested to his colleagues in the college, and some friends from outside Al-Azhar to preach in the cafes, and in the general communities; at first, they rejected his idea, but approved of it afterwards. The argument between them ended with the deal that the practical experiment shall determine their decision. The experiment proved a great success, and it encouraged them to go on. A group of them became responsible for preaching in the countryside during the summer vacation. This gave them self-confidence and popularity.

9-      A wave of atheism and dissoluteness conquered Egypt afterwards as a result of the coup in Turkey that resulted firstly in the downfall of the Ottoman caliphate, and secondly in separating religion from politics. The seeds of the Democratic Party were planted in Egypt, but the party died before its birth. It had no attitude but calling for liberty with the meaning known at that time: dissolution, and immorality. Newspapers, books, and magazines were issued to claim the death of religion, to liberate the people intellectually and practically from its “shackles”.

10-   This atheist movement caused a severe reaction from the Muslim communities in general and from Hasan Al-Banna in particular who expressed his feelings to all the acquaintances and scholars he could contact. Among them were Sheikh Muhammad Rashid Rida, Sheikh Al-Dajawi, Muhammad Al-Khidr Hussein – the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, and the eminent scholar Al-Sayyid Mohibb Ad-Din Al-Khateeb. He always discussed with them how to deal with this issue in a positive manner. These efforts resulted later in many beneficial consequences such as the establishment of Al-Fath Magazine, and The Muslim Youth Society.

11-   It is clear that the initial thought of the Muslim Brotherhood took shape in his mind when he was a student in Dar Al-`Ulum, as he wrote in an essay titled “What are your hopes after graduation?”: My greatest hopes after graduation are:

Personally: to make my family and relatives as happy as I can afford.

Generally: to be a teacher who guides and enlightens the children in the morning and their parents in the evening with the objective of their religion, and the utmost sources of their happiness. This shall take place in all possible manners of writing, discussing, or traveling.

12- Some people might be astonished when they hear this from a young man in college. This is the age when all instincts boil, asking for nothing save immediate satisfaction. This astonishment, though, shall disappear when they are acquainted with the religious family Hasan Al-Banna descends from. His father, Ahmad `Abd Ar-Rahman Al-Banna, was a scholar who compiled many books about the purified Sunnah, among which is the explanation of both Imam Ahmad”s and Imam Ash-Shafi`is Hadith Compilations. Therefore, all these environmental and paternal factors formed his character, directing him to take the course of the Islamic preaching.

The needs of the Egyptian community at that time required a religious-based reformation due to the ethical chaos that prevailed. There was no cure but the divine edicts respected by all people. He who tracks the biography of Hasan Al-Banna concludes that he never deviated from that course he planned. In this very respect, he showed that his way of preaching was through writings, discussions, and traveling. I can say that throughout his life, his innermost goal was deeply attached to that essay he wrote. The strongest evidence of such a fact is that he later refused to call himself Chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood, and grasped at the title” General Guide” which was mentioned in his essay.

13- Hasan Al-Banna received his diploma in 1927. He graduated on top of his class. He traveled to Ismailia on 19th of September, 1927 when he was 21 years old. There, he worked as a teacher in the Ismailia primary school.

14- There also, he was touched by the military invasion embodied in the British camps, and the economic invasion of Suez Canal Company. What hurt him even more was the fact that the Muslims were divided due to sectarian extremism, and refused any other point of view. This caused him to start again preaching in cafes instead of mosques.

15- He chose for that purpose three major cafes that attracted thousands of people. He planned one session a week for each in which he was careful to deal with topics that created no divergence. He also managed to give examples of the tolerance of the first Muslim scholars concerning difference of opinion. This preaching indeed affected many listeners, who gave feedback through questions on how to carry out their duty towards Islam.

16- In Dhul-Qi`dah (the 11th month in the Hijri calendar), 1337 A.H. / March 1928, Hafizh `Abd Al-Hamid, Ahmad Al-Husari, Fu”ad Ibrahim, `Abd Ar-Rahman Hasaballah, Isma`il `Izz, and Zaki Al-Maghrabi visited Hasan Al-Banna in his home to discuss a way to save the nation, and they entitled him with the responsibility which he accepted. They all paid allegiance to work for Islam with devotion. They then asked what they shall call themselves: a sect, a society, a union, or what? Imam Al-Banna answered that he rejected formalities, and that they were but brothers in Islam. In this moment, and in this manner these six persons formed the first shape of the Muslim Brotherhood.

17- This was how the seeds of the movement were planted in the fertile land of these six hearts who vowed to struggle in the cause of Allah. That is why Allah supported them as the honorable verse states; “He who keeps his oath with Allah shall be rewarded greatly by Him.

Imam Al-Banna kept on working for that cause quietly and seriously with no propaganda. The movement gained a lot out of that and gathered many supporters everyday due to his consecration, and deep comprehension for the ideology. This success motivated him to expand his base, and exert more effort: he visited almost everywhere whether villages or towns, where he spent entire days, and nights. He always preferred to sleep at the nights in the mosques where he felt safe, and warm.

 18- His travels were either in the summer vacation, or on the weekends. In the former, he went to the far villages, and towns, and in the latter, to the near ones. All this time, he was careful not to quit teaching in the primary school; he never feigned sickness, or claimed a false excuse to get a vacation. His work at the school, and his natural humbleness kept the rage of envy far away from him. Most of his followers were among the laborers who believed him because of his noble popularity; his travels taught him how to communicate his message to all kinds of people. This was like his personal constitution. Mr. Ahmad Al-`Abd narrated that he heard him say in a lecture attended mostly by laborers in 1940 in Tala, Munufiyyah, “Recruit lots of those who have rough hands.” Al-`Abd stated that he meant laborers because they can be depended on in times of hardships.

In two years, his travels resulted in sectors in Port Said, Abu-Sarsour, and Al-Ballah, in three years another one in Suez, and in four years about ten sectors, and an institute in Ismailia to raise up girls to be Muslim sisters.

 19- Five years after the establishment of the movement, Al-Banna was sent to work in Cairo in 1933. This represents a new phase in the history of the movement although the factors of secrecy and preaching were reserved. In one of his issued articles in 1934 – one year after moving to Cairo, Al-Banna stated that the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood spread in over fifty Egyptian territories where a constructive project or institution had been set up for each; in Ismailia, the Ikhwan (Muslim Brothers) Mosque was established together with their club, Hira’ Boys School, and Ummahat Al-Mu”minin school for girls. In addition, a mosque, a club, a boy”s school, and a workshop for teaching handicrafts for those who could not finish their education in Shobrakheet were set up. Also, at Mahmudiyya, in the governorate of Al-Bihira, a weaving factory was established next to an institute for teaching the Holy Qur’an. Moreover, at Manzal, in the governorate of Dakahliyya, an institute for teaching the Qur’an was founded. In every sector of the Muslim Brotherhood, there were reformations similar to those mentioned.

 20- Imam Al-Banna’s daily routine was to pass by the General Center to leave them some notes, and missions to be accomplished. Then, he used to go to the school; then, in case he would travel, he used to go to the train station, and if not, he would return back to the General Center to meet the people there, and instruct them. In the evening also, he used to go there for a third time to meet visitors, hold meetings, or give lectures. All these matters never prevented him from visiting the countryside in his summer vacation.

 21- In his travels, he was always received by the members, and taken to their homes. Pavilions were held to address his audience. He did not just lecture the audience, then leave; he used to speak with those who were interested in his speech, after the lecture. There he spoke about his renaissance hopes for Egypt, the east, and the whole nation. He used to go all over Upper Egypt in twenty days; he sometimes had to spend the morning in Bani-Swif, have lunch in Baba, spend the evening in Al-Wasety, and sleep in Fayyum. That is how he slept for an hour, or even less, while we spoke around him.

 22- This was the beginning of the political course. He started giving religious speeches in the radio and the clubs, and sent letters to the Egyptian prime ministers starting from Muhammad Mahmoud until the Second World War took place. The content of these letters were how to set up a reformation on a religious basis; however, he never received the least attention from the concerned authority due to the Islamic form the letters had.

 23- In 1355 A.H., 1936 A.C., Imam Al-Banna sent a message titled (To the Light) to King Farouk, Prime Minister Mustafa An-Nahhas, the presidents and kings of the Arab and Muslim countries, and their religious and political leaders. In this message, he called upon them to follow Islam, not the West, drawing an analogy between both, and concluded that Islam can provide the nation with what it needs of army systems, health, economy, and ideology. He ended his message asking them to treat that social sickness with the prophetic medicine. On fifty articles he set a plan for a comprehensive reformation. Among the most serious elements of this message was “Discarding partiality, and directing the whole nation as one league.”

 24- In 1938, the movement completed its missing elements to frame the complete picture, when the Imam showed that it is a collective ideology that includes all sides of reformation. Indeed it is:

·        A Salafi movement: since it is but a call for following the purified Sunnah and the Ever-Glorious Qur”an.

·        A prophetic attitude: since it adheres to the noble Sunnah in every sense.

·        A Sufi Fact: since its base is self-purification, clarity of the heart, co-operation to serve the noble goals, and love in the cause of Allah.

·        A political body: since it seeks internal and external reformation, and plants the seeds of dignity within the souls of the citizens.

·        A sports group: since it cares about fitness and sports through its clubs that are nothing less than the specialized ones.

·        A cultural and a scientific union: since its clubs are but institutes for spreading culture and knowledge to purify the body and the soul.

·        An economic foundation: since Islam is concerned with the financial issues; the Muslim Brotherhood supported the national economy through their financial institutions.

·        A social ideology: since it tries to cure the social defects of the Muslim community.

 25- From 1939 to 1945, the movement started a new phase concerning its relationship with politics that started to flourish. The movement activity expanded and was reinforced by new members from the universities of Cairo and Al-Azhar, various labor unions, doctors, engineers, lawyers, and teachers. The movement also started to have representatives from all the Egyptian classes. It was also deeply involved in the economical and sports activities through all the branches that spread throughout Egypt. It now became a power to be feared.

 The Egyptian prime ministers at that time were: `Ali Mahir, Hasan Sabri, Hussein Serri, Mostafa An-Nahhas, Ahmad Mahir, An-Nuqrashi, Isma`il Sidqi, and An-Nuqrashi again. Especially during the government of the mentioned `Ali Mahir and Hasan Sabri, the Muslim Brotherhood kept on preaching through its books and sermons, just like it did with the other governments. During `Ali Mahir”s government, it expressed its approval of his decision to avoid the war, without meeting him or presenting any request to his office.

 The first trial that faced the Muslim Brotherhood came on the hands of Hussein Serri under pressure from the British embassy and government; his government confiscated Al-Ta`aruf, and Al-Shu`a` weekly, and Al-Manar monthly magazines. He also banned the issuance of any of its messages, and its press was closed. Even the newspapers were banned from mentioning any of the Muslim Brotherhood”s news, and its meetings were banned too. Afterwards, the leaders of the movement were detracted from their work; Imam Al-Banna was sent to work in Qena, and his representative in Damietta. They were then called back under a parliamentary pressure. Then, the government resorted to a more violent way through arresting Imam Al-Banna again and the General Secretary. They were later released due to the outrage of the Muslim Brotherhood.

 26- That is how the Egyptian governments at that dark era were but tools for the British colonization, putting neither the dignity nor the freedom of the people in consideration, as long as this would satisfy their British allies. In other words, these governments were ready to battle with any reform movement in order to satisfy the British colonialists. However, this persecution caused an unexpected counter reaction: the people paid more attention to the movement, and more people joined the Muslim Brotherhood.

 Then, the government of An-Nahhas came when the Imam contemplated joining the parliamentary elections as representative for the Ismailia electoral district – the cradle of the movement – to be a spokesperson for the Muslim Brotherhood. However, An-Nahhas pleaded with him not to, and the Imam consented. An-Nahhas started to make peace with the Muslim Brotherhood allowing it to hold meetings again, and permitting the issue of the magazine and the working of the press. But later, the movement faced the same trial in an even harsher manner. Under pressure from the British embassy; An-Nahhas closed all the sectors but the General Center, and severely restricted the movement”s meetings, press, and all other activities. The Muslim Brotherhood met this with patience and stamina. Hence, the government reconciled with the movement. But the situation between them was unstable; at times the government allowed it to practice its activities, and at other times did not. The Muslim Brotherhood exercised patience throughout, and kept on carrying out their guiding activities, whether in verbal or written forms, until An-Nahhas” government fell down in 1944.

 27-After An-Nahhas” government had been abolished, Ahmad Mahir took over. He was very severe with the Muslim Brotherhood, and hindered its success in the parliamentary elections that were based on the Muslim Brotherhoods’ decree – in their conference held in 1941 – to participate in the People’s Assembly candidacy in secret, to serve the Islamic movement. Luckily enough, the researcher was involved in the Ismailia elections in those days, and witnessed that the people themselves funded the set-up of sixty pavilions to achieve the electoral publicity for him. There was no doubt that he would achieve incomparable success. The street posters and all people”s acclamations cried “Hasan Al-Banna; the leader of the Islamic Renaissance”. Nevertheless, the Egyptian government and the British embassy resorted to all possible means to cause his failure.

 On the one hand, the Egyptian government wanted to satisfy their British allies, and wished their candidate from Al-Ahrar Party (Liberal Party) to win.

 On the other hand, the British embassy realized that the Muslim Brotherhood threatened their colonial objectives. The cars of the British army worked in a visible manner for the other candidate, transporting his voters to the election centers; these cars also transported some laborers who did not belong to the electoral district.

 Despite all means of terror, forgery, corruption, and pressure, Imam Al-Banna won the elections. It was decided by the government that the elections shall be repeated due to the narrow margin between the leading candidates. During the repetition, Harmasli Pasha, Al-Banna”s representative, was dismissed from the electoral centers of Al-`Arish and Sinai by the Sinai British Commander. Also, they doubled the number of fake voters from other districts. So, the votes for the other candidate doubled in some electoral centers, in the second election.

That was how Imam Al-Banna failed the elections, so too did the rest of the members of the Muslim Brotherhood who were candidates in the other districts; even though the war with them was less brutal. All these efforts were exerted by the movement for one noble aim: to reform the community in a formal manner.

 When Ahmad Mahir waged war on Germany and Italy, the Muslim Brotherhood protested against that, and wrote him not to. Then, Al-`Isawi assassinated Ahmad Mahir for that reason, and An-Nuqrashi took over. An-Nuqrashi started his government with arresting the General Guide – Hasan Al-Banna, the General Secretary, and some other members of the Muslim Brotherhood under the accusation of participating in Mahir”s assassination.

 28- The reason for this arrest might be that Al-`Isawi mentioned in his investigation that Mahir should have consulted the country leaders before waging war; he further mentioned the name of Imam Al-Banna among the leaders to be consulted. However the prosecution released him afterwards. He then went to An-Nuqrashi to give condolences for the death of Ahmad Mahir, and to plead to An-Nuqrashi to let him work with no restraints. An-Nuqrashi did not agree to that, and rigorously restricted the Muslim Brotherhood”s activities and meetings, but he allowed it to hold conferences, and public meetings under high pressure.