Islamic history, religion, Syrian history

Hasan al-Banna the founder of al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun (the Muslim Brotherhood in Arabic), al Qutb and his doctrine in brief

This entry continues to trace the origins of the Islamic principles, which are said to shape the ideology of the mercenary groups operating in modern day Syria, notably Islamic State. The last entry ended with a brief account of al-Banna, who was the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood and described how he was a follower of Rashid Rida, a member of the Salafiyyah who later gravitated toward Wahabiizm and the doctrine of the Hanbali School. Follow the links below for a more comprehensive view see:

A vision for Palestine, Hasan al-Banna: ‘We Are All Palestinians’, just a chant or a manifestation of Islamic Revivalism?

Mohammed Abd’al-Wahab, the original Muslim Brotherhood, the Hanbali School of theology,

al-Ikhwan, Origins and organisation

According to Ikhwanweb (the official Muslim Brotherhood site) al-Banna, though just one of its founders, formulated most of the policies for the movement. The movement was founded in, Ismailiyyah, Lower Egypt but al-Banna always intended it to transcend geographical boundaries in keeping with the basic tenets of the Khalifa. The organisation like today was particularly attractive to the residents in the Nile Valley, parts of Sinai as well as the Suez region. al-Banna was an adherent of Sufiism in his early life but later one of his prime purposes was the reform of that philosophy. He was opposed also to any form of nationalism based on secularism and western ideolology.

The movement was headed by administrative boards comprised of members of an executive council. The provincial boards were connected through a central headquarters in Cairo, which resembled a parliament as it consisted of various departments representing all aspects of public life. These including education, military, family and social services, the Muslim sisters and communications with the Muslim world.

al-Banna was essentially a pacifist and believed there were three stages to reform, the first was ”communication and propagation”. As a movement al-Ikhwan spread its doctrine through the education system; al-Banna was a primary school teacher by profession. The second was ”mobilisation and organisation” and the third was the execution and implementation of Islamic principles. Thus the movement was well organised and grew quickly throughout Egypt.

Ikhwanweb describes how al-Banna condemned party politics and how, at one point, he suggested the King dissolve them all. The site points out, that this request was anomolous as, if political parties were banned then political societies might face the same fate. The Brotherhood was outlawed for a time under the Pasha dynasty and then under the socialist regime of Jamal abd’ul Nasser. I believe I read somewhere, that al-Ikhwan and Nasser supporters joined forces to rid Imailiyyah of British troops in the early 1950s; though ideologically this must have been uncomfortable alliance they had a common aim.

al-Banna argued, that as all political parties were self serving thus representation did not require a party political system. In Britain this form of privelege is referred to as the ”old boys network”. In Syria from the 1980s, the ruling Ba’ath party came to rely more and more on its friends for support against Islamisation, external western forces and in its ambition to create a united Levant. Forms of patronage are even more pronounced in Lebanon where its electoral system is grounded in sectarian values. Quite honestly its the way of the world but if the alternative is a return to an antiquated way of life many would say it is preferable.


During the 1948 war al-Ikhwan sent volunteers to Palestine to oppose the British occupation and Zionism, which for al-Banna represented western values and posed a threat to Egypt and the surrounding Arabic countries. He’d warned of the threat from Zionist expansionism from 1936 and subsequent events have proven him correct. The author Haim Levenberg onserved In his book ‘Military Preparations of the Arab Community in Palestine, 1945-1948’, that the number of volunteers were scant. In his view al-Ikhwan was plotting the overthrow of the Pasha dynasty. /2014/02/12/the-journey-of-the-pashas-trade-and-power-struggles-in-the-18th-and-19th-centuries/  This is likely as al-Ikhwan were indeed politically active in Egypt at that point.

Gudrun Kraemer, in his book ‘Hasan al-Banna’ describes the intrigue and refers to the dissolution of the Brotherhood on December 8th, 1948 and the subsequent assassination of the Egyptian prime minister on December 28th. al-Banna himself was assassinated on February 12th, 1949 and his murder appears to have been carried out by the anti-terrorism police in retalliation for the late prime minister.

Earlier in 1948 the Egyptian government, who previously had opposed their activities in Palestine, finally gave way and provided al-Ikhwan with armaments. This may have been to deflect their activities from Egypt whilst fulfilling Egyptian obligation to Palestine.

The situation is somewhat comparable to that in Lebanon where the government stayed out of the conflict leaving Hizb’allah to defend its North Eastern border against Islamic mercenaries. Eventually the Lebanese government recruited its own army but here the comparison ends as the two forces are separate and the latter is largely responsible for the defence of its northern border in recognition, that young impoverished Sunni Muslims are attracted to Islamist ideology.

Sayyid al-Qutb and his doctrine in brief

Qutb succeeded al-Banna as leader of al-Ikhwan and is known for his works ‘Social Justice In Islam’ and ‘Milestones’ the writing of which resulted in his execution in 1964. al-Qutb was said to inspire many like minds in Syria, Lebanon, Sudan and Tunisia as well as the establishment of similar movements in those countries. His following included Osama bin Laden who was taught by his brother. Though he was Sunni his doctrine influenced Imam Ayatollah Khomeini and the Shia revolution in Iran in 1979.

The Muslim faith recognises Jesus Christ as a prophet but not as the son of God, who is divine. Qutb rejects the notion of man as a rational being who is able to govern himself, rather he sees people as spiritual beings who are guided by God alone. Qutb also disagrees with the hierarchical nature of the Christian church and its ability to forgive sin, which he construes as a divine right.

Next time al-Wahab, the Hanbali School



One thought on “Hasan al-Banna the founder of al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun (the Muslim Brotherhood in Arabic), al Qutb and his doctrine in brief

  1. Pingback: Pan Islamism |  SHOAH

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