Muslim Brotherhood

Marion Boulby

in Islamic Studies

ISBN: 9780195390155
Published online May 2011 | | DOI:
Muslim Brotherhood

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The Muslim Brotherhood was established in Egypt in 1928 by a schoolteacher, Hasan al-Banna, with an educational, reformist agenda to challenge European influence on Egyptian society by the revival of Islam. The fundamental idea of al-Banna was that Muslims should live according to Islamic law and throw off the Western influences that had contributed to the decay of society. The group’s initial aim was to educate its members in a correct understanding of Islam, and it set up branches along the canal zone. After al-Banna was transferred to Cairo in 1932, he and his followers became more politicized, holding mass youth demonstrations to demand the implementation of Sharia. During World War II the brotherhood took part in anti-British plotting, with the result that they were temporarily jailed and banned. As a result, al-Banna formed the Special Apparatus, also known as the “Secret Apparatus,” a secret paramilitary group. After the war the brotherhood’s Special Apparatus actively attacked British, Jewish, and Egyptian targets. The brotherhood’s assassination of Prime Minister Mahmud al-Nuqrashi led to al-Banna’s own assassination. His death plunged the movement into a period of crisis, with a retired judge, Hasan al-Hudaybi, emerging as the next general guide. In July 1952 the Muslim Brotherhood supported the Free Officers’ coup but was quickly disillusioned with a regime that would not implement Sharia. The group’s opposition culminated in a crisis when a young member of the brotherhood attempted to assassinate Egypt’s president, Gamal Nasser. Members of the movement were then executed and imprisoned. Among these was Sayyid Qutb, who wrote extensively in prison, devising a revolutionary ideology for the overthrow of despotic Muslim leaders and the introduction of Sharia rule. Qutb was hanged in 1966, but his legacy lived on not only in Egypt but also abroad in the formation of more radical Islamist groups. The brotherhood itself has retained a reformist agenda and has evolved into the largest and most popular Islamist organization in Egypt, with broad participation in civil society institutions. The Muslim Brotherhood also spread beyond Egyptian borders, as branches were established in Jordan, Syria, and Palestine by the mid-1940s. The Jordanians made a partnership with the Hashemites, maintaining a commitment to pursuing its goals through legal, nonviolent means; establishing a network of civil society institutions; and serving in parliament and on the cabinet from 1989 to 1993. In Syria a Muslim Brotherhood uprising erupted against the secularist Baathist regime. The insurgency was quickly put down, but clashes resumed in the late 1970s until the brotherhood was brutally crushed and eradicated by the Baathist regime in Hama in 1982. In Palestine the Muslim Brotherhood remained active in the West Bank and Gaza with a reformist educational and charitable platform. In 1988 the Muslim Brotherhood formed Hamas in order to abandon its policy of reformism and join the intifada (uprising). The Muslim Brotherhood can be seen as the “parent” of contemporary Islamism, spawning numerous and ideologically disparate Islamist organizations in the Middle East, including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq; Europe; and North America.

Article.  9607 words. 

Subjects: Islam

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