World Bulletin - Fatma Ozyagli
“Islam does not recognize geographical boundaries, nor does it acknowledge the racial and blood differences, considering all Muslims as one Ummah. The Muslim Brethren consider this unity as holy and believe in this union, striving for the joint action of all Muslims and the strengthening of the brotherhood of Islam, declaring that every inch of land inhabited by Muslims is their fatherland… They believe that the caliphate is a symbol of Islamic Union and an indication of the bonds between the nations of Islam.”
Muslim Brotherhood is continuing the political and religious legacy of Hassan Al-Banna. To understand the preceding events, the role and the vision of Muslim Brotherhood, we should go back to the roots and try to comprehend the movement through the eyes of the founder: Hassan Al-Banna.
Hassan Al-Banna was born in 1906 in Mahmudiyya, a village north of Cairo. His father Ahmad ibn Abd al-Rahman al-Banna was an Al-Azhar graduate, Imam for the local mosque and a watch repairer. Hassan Al-Banna grew up in an intellectual environment that supported a strict Islamic life style. He was greatly influenced by his father’s devotion to learning and teaching.
At the age of thirteen Banna was already engaged in active strikes and demonstrations against British authority in Egypt. He supported religious student associations that were dedicated on upholding the Islamic standards of moral behaviour; furthermore he was against Christian missionary activities as well as everything that deemed un-Islamic. He joined Hasafiyya Brothers of Sufi order at the age of thirteen. At seventeen, Banna decided to enrol at a well established teachers collage at Dar al-Ulum in Cairo. After four years of studying, Banna graduated in 1927, with over 18,000 memorized poems and immediately began teaching as an Arabic instructor in Isma’iliyya in Suez Canal Zone.
Starting from an early age Banna was constantly bothered by the troubles of the Ummah and sought solutions that would end the suffrage. He was greatly disturbed by the declining Islamist morals in Egyptian society and the disunity of the Muslims. Banna was greatly disappointed by the end of Caliphate in Turkey and blamed western influence. Thus most if his ideas were centred about the unity of the Ummah under one state and community.
Banna developed most of his ideas in early years of his life. He was greatly influenced by Rashid Rida and a dedicated reader and a follower of Rida’s magazine, Al-Manar. Like Rida, he argued about the decline of Islam in the Middle East. He was mostly disappointed with rise of secularism, westernization of Egyptian society and the breakdown of traditional Islamist morals in British controlled Egypt.
Banna was attracted to the xenophobic aspects of Islam which were hostile towards western influence, secularism and materialism. His plan was to develop a community by returning to ancient and traditional Islamic values. His vision included complete practice of Sharia law, imposition of Islamic dress codes, prohibition of alcohol and prostitution as well as reorganization of the alms. His biggest concern was the banking system and the issue of interest, reorganization of the banks according to the Islamic code was needed.
“…There was also a deterioration of behaviour, morals and deeds in the name of individual freedom… I saw that the social life of the beloved Egyptian nation was oscillating between her dear and precious Islamism which she had inherited, defended, lived with and became accustomed to,… and this severe Western invasion which is armed and equipped with all the destructive and degenerative influence of money, wealth, prestige, ostentation, material enjoyment, power, and means of propaganda.”
Banna formed Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, as a response and a protest to the declining state of Islam. He argued that the decline of Islam was due to the ineffective teachings of the scholars and their failure to preserve Islam in its purest state. Ihkwan included both political and social aspects. Banna Ikhwan was a salafi movement, a Sunni path, Sufi truth, a political organization and social idea.
The organization was formed with six other people. Banna started the organization as a youth club by preaching at coffee house. Brotherhood gained much popularity in 1930s and extended its activities around Egypt. He established branches all over Egypt and formed the headquarters in Cairo. By 1936 the Ikhwan had around 800 members, and by 1938 it had over 200,000 members with 50 branches in Egypt. Muslim Brotherhood opened branches in Palestine and Jordan as well. The organization established mosques, schools, clubs, factories and welfares. By the end of 1930s brotherhood stretched throughout the Middle East and had more than half a million active members. In less than twenty years Muslim Brotherhood became a huge political entity. Banna attempted to run for parliament twice however he was pressured to withdraw in both attempts. During the 1942 elections government agreed to take action against alcohol consumption and prostitution upon Banna’s withdrawal from the elections.
1948-Arab-Isreal Conflict: "...when words are banned, hands make their move."
Banna with the growth of the organization opened a new Jihadist branch within the Muslim Brotherhood; El-Nizam el-Hass. This new branch was found in 1940 to defend the Muslims against the Zionist movement in Palestine as well as the British occupation of Suez Canal. The new branch was developed underground to train soldiers for Jihad. During the Arab Revolt in Palestine, Banna sent troops to Jerusalem to fight against Jews. Brotherhood actively engaged in Islamic conflicts such as Algerian War of Independence, as well as recent conflicts in Afghanistan, Kashmir and the Arab Spring.
Banna throughout his life fought for two things; the unity of Ummah and independence of Muslim land from foreign authority. Growing support for the Ikhwan was a threat to both Khedive Farouk and the British. Both powers were specially disturbed by Ikhwan’s Jihadist branch in Palestine, as they were a major threat to the declining popularity of Egyptian government. Prime Minister Mahmoud an-Nukrashi, fearing a coup disbanded the organization in December 1948, confiscated the funds and imprisoned most of its members. Twenty days later Nukrasi Pahsa was shot by a member of Muslim Brotherhood. Banna immediately declared that the organization was not behind the assassination act and the one who committed the crime was "neither brothers nor Muslims". On February 12, 1949 Banna was shot by two assassins and deliberately left to bleed to death. Banna was buried by few women since man were not allowed join the funeral. Many hoped that Banna’s death would split up the organization and end the resistance of the Brotherhood. The organization was banned for more than sixty years during this period; Brotherhood developed both politically and socially.
Banna was a great leader and an organizer. He once was asked “Why don’t you write books?” for that he replied “I’m writing man”. Banna’s message appealed to rich and the poor, old and the young, intellectual and the illiterate. He spent his entire life dedicated to Ummah. Today Banna’s ideas are reawakened and his political and religious legacy is supported by the Ikhwan.