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Ekhvan Al-Muslemin

Islamic movements have two notional and sociological dimensions. Some pundits study movements in terms of ideological dimension and some consider them in terms of their sociological emphasis; but for a thorough study, both aspects must be considered. Perhaps we can divide the response of Muslims in the last two decades into two streams of Following the West and Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Religious Thought. The main objective of the Islamic Reform movement in Islamic communities in nineteenth century was a reaction against the Cultural and political domination of Europe and resolving their sovereignty in Islamic societies.
One of the main movements that impact significantly on Egypt and some other Islamic countries is Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin. This organization was established while Egypt was in a critical condition politically, socially, economically and religiously and it fought for the ruling of fundamental principles of Islam in social and political life and on the other hand wanted to get the Islam true believers out of the static mode.
Formation of Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin
The founder of Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin, Hasan Al-Banna, was born in 1900 AD in Northwest of Cairo. After entering high school, he joined an Islamic association and in this way, he founded a new organization called Hasafia Aid Society which had two purpose of "maintenance and development of Islamic values" and "defense against the invasion of European missionaries". This organization was a model according to which Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin was planned later. He was concerned about the young generation and students’ split from their culture and realities of Islam and believed that the future of every nation and ideology is in the hands of the youth, students, and intellectuals; therefore, he focused most of his major efforts on these strata. He thought, like the leftist revolution that revolutionary cadres arise of the proletariat, in the Islamic Revolution, the oppressed should be considered to advance the goals. He lectured in mosques, cultural centers and public on Islamic ideological issues and those who were influenced by his words were invited to private meetings and he chose the main personnel of the organization from these people. In 1927, Islamic Youth Organization was established in Cairo by some of his old friends. Hasan Al-Banna took the responsibility of being the organization’s representative and “Al-Fatth” magazine.
In 1928, Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin was founded by allegiance of Hasan Al-Banna and six of his allies. At first, their activities were half-hidden and used pamphlets, letters, speeches and personal meetings for the movement propagation.
In 1920, Hasan Al-Banna established his own organization and Islamic political thought fluctuated between three schools of thought:
1. Al-Azhar conservatives or traditionalists that rejected any compromise or modernization and transformation of religion.
2. Abdo’s students or modernization supporters who aim at having a society in which religion and politics were separated.
3. Rashid Reza reformist followers who wanted to return to the beliefs and practices of the first generation of Islamic laws; Hasan Al-Banna was fond of the third school.
Hassan Al-Banna’s social and political activity can be expressed in three stages; the first phase from 1928 to 1939 that all his attempts were on the theoretical work, speeches, journals and making the movement more inclusive in Islamic countries; the second phase from 1939 to 1945, he politically organized the movement; the third from 1945 to 1949, that was the period of influence of the Muslim Brotherhood on Egypt’s fundamental issues which ended with his assassination in 1949.
Hassan Al-Banna’s objectives
Hassan Al-Banna began its efforts in three steps "propaganda", "recruitment and organization" and "practical steps". The principles he believed in included: 1. “avoiding religious and sectarian disputes” (Since the approximation congregation was founded between Islamic religions, Hassan Al-Banna and Ayatollah Qomi were involved in its establishment; cooperation between Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin and the Shias was instituted that finally led to the meeting of Navab Safavii in Egypt in 1954. In 1948, in Hajj rituals, Hassan Al-Banna met with Ayatollah Kashani and they reached an understanding and some Shia students who were studying in Egypt joined Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin.) 2. “Step by step politics” (in his perspective, before the movement reaches its ultimate goal, it must pass these stages (propaganda, expression and interpretation, practice and conclusions) step by step.) 3. "The use of differences forces to achieve the goals” 4. “Establishment of Islamic government” (Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin does not want the power for itself, but it supports those who can take over the responsibility of the government and implement the rules of Quran and if such a person is not found, foundation of the government will be a priority to Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin. ) 5. “Resistance against the invaders”.
The Second World War and the consequences of Egypt helped to the exponential expansion of influence of Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin in Egypt. The organization of Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin became more structured and their political and ideological positions were more consistent. After the war, the organization took use of Vafad party’s disoriented state and introduced itself as a revolutionary organization and opposed to the current system and quickly captured Vafad party’s mass bases. Due to the conspiracies of some arbitrary measures that some people in the government conducted, in 1948, Government accused the organization with thirteen terrorist activities, like conspiracy to overthrow the monarchy of Egypt, collect ammo and so on and disbanded the organization and Hassan Al-Banna was assassinated in an organized plot in February 1949.
Successors of Hassan Al-Banna
After the assassination of the founder of the organization, crises and problems became apparent to the organization and one of the reasons for its failure was politics of exclusion and intolerance to comments in the period after the death of Hassan Al-Banna. In 1951, Hassan Haziby was officially appointed as Master General of Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin.
Some of his actions, such as changes in the organization, his relationship with Farouk, limiting the secret branch of Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin and opposition to violence caused some opposition in the organization.
Haziby believed, “Islam is a religion of mercy, not terror and violence”. Meanwhile, the Free Officers organization decided to communicate with the Muslim Brotherhood and a treaty was signed between them, indicating Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin was willing to put all its resources available to Free Officers and their cooperation reached its between peak in 1951. Nasser and his team relied on Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin to win the support of the masses and in return, the organization found weapons and military training through Free Officers. Supporters of Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin made people go to the streets in favor of revolution. After the victory of the revolution in Egypt, dispute became apparent between the two groups. Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin asked the government for permission to start its activities in the society for the sake of Islamic objectives but Nasser believed that religion and politics should be separated from each other and that religion is the personal relationship between a person and God and should not interfere in the affairs of society. As Haziby opposed to Nasser’s land reforms, Nasser accused them of Capitalism and announced that his dispute with Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin was not on implementing Islam; but the issue was capitalism. The truth was that Nasser did not want any powerful group in the country but his.
In January 1954, under the law of dissolution of political parties, the government disbanded Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin and its membership became illegal and also brought some charges to it including: Haziby’s silence after the revolution and showing no support to it, opposition to land reform, objection of Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin with the formation of National Guard and librating troops and Haziby’s meeting with British Ambassador.
At that time, there were three major factions in Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin: the first faction was Abdol Rahman Banna, brother of Hassan Banna, who was in favor of supporting Nasser. The second faction was Haziby, the leader, who was against Nasser’s political perspective. The third faction was moderate and impartial and wanted to bring peace between the organization and the government.
Because of the assassination attempt on Jamal Abdel Nasser, Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin was subjected to persecution in Egypt once in 1954 and once in 1965. In 1954 assassination, Hassan Haziby was arrested and sentenced to death but due to his age, it was reduced to life imprisonment. Although he insisted he did not participate in the attempt, the secret organization which was part of Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin had done the assassination.
Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin believed that Nasser’s failure to Israel in 1967 war was due to Nasser’s lack of attention to religion in his policies and introduced this failure as the sign of divine retribution for the repressive climate in Egypt and also Nasser’s alliance with an atheist state (former Soviet Union).
Anwar Sadat in the face of leftists released members of Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin from prison including Hassan Haziby and invited them to draft the constitution but because the Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin could not give their views on the constitution, they tracked their struggles through Egyptian parliament and the media. Between 1970 and 1978, Sadat had peaceful relations with Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin But between 1978 and 1981 as a result of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel and the Islamic Revolution, their relation was strained and the assassination of Sadat took place in 1981 by a branch of Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin organization.
After the death of Hasan Haziby in 1974, Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin’s leader was Sheikh Omar and after his death in 1986, his successor was Hamed Abounasr. After the election, he sent a letter to President Hassan Mubarak in February 1986 and in that, examined Egypt's foreign policy and domestic issues and gave recommendations to the president and demanded the Egyptian government to halt its cooperation with Israel and called for greater participation of women in the community.
Organizational structure of Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin
The head boards includs Morshed Aam who was the head of organization, Public Guidance Office which is for administrative Board of the population and training tips and advertisements, and the Board of Founders which is established by Public Assembly and the General Assembly for Public Guidance Office.
Morshed Aam is the chairman of the organization, the head of Public Guidance Office and the Board of Founders. Public Guidance Office has twelve members who are selected from the Board of Founders’ members. Board of Founders is constructed by those who established it and that, their records of working in line with organization’s objectives are more than others; their responsibility is to manage and usher the process of propagation, training, and progress in actions and also choosing the members of Public Guidance Office and assessing the organization members’ works. The responsibility of Public Guidance Office is awakening the Muslims and commitment to attend meetings and keeping the confidentialities.
Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin is divided into different branches in terms of regions and cities that every one of these branches has a head by the name of Administrative Council which is elected by the General Assembly of each branch. Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin is disported administratively into three branches of Managing Office, Regional Office and Administrative offices that all three are subordinates of Public Guidance Office.
The major committees related to Guidance Office include Financial Committee, Judiciary Committee, Political Committee, Service Committee, jurisprudence Committee and Statistics Committee. Budget is provided by collecting dues and donations and endowments.
Ideology of Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin
Hassan Al-Bana knew Quran and Sirra(lifestyle) of Holy Prophet Muhammad as the main source of Islamic teachings and emphasized that people can reach to success and prosperity by these two and wanted to return to the original Islam and not the Islam that over time and in different societies, due to the influence of the powerful, had become a means to achieve their interests against the common. However, the noble Islam pays attention to human life in both worlds; so we can refer to it as “school of prayer, patriotism, civilization, religion, government, ethics and sword”. In criticizing those who believed they should not enter political issues replied that the main objective of Islam was establishment of an Islamic state and solidification of justice in society and that without entering into politics, religion could not achieve its main ends. If people want to prosper, they should follow Islamic principles with emphasis on Islamic values and if the main religion of the country is Islam, all country’s issues should be Islamic and governmental organizations should obtain their power from Islam.
At first, Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin had the following goals:
1. Freedom of Egypt in all areas
2. Freedom of all Arabic lands
3. Endeavor for union of world of Islam.
In regard to invasion to Muslim land the belief was that Muslim land was united and that invading any part of it meant assaulting the whole land and Islam emphasized that Muslims should make decisions about their destiny and life and if anyone invaded Muslim lands, they are treated as usurpers. So Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin’s great endeavors in favor of the Palestinians in Arab world started in 1935 with the visit of Abdol Rahman Bana, brother of Hassan Bana, of Palestine and later, some groups were sent to Palestine for military training.
He thought of Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin as a movement for a complete reform and intellectual and social reconstruction and a movement for a return to true Islam and the establishment of Islamic society and the ideological emphasis of Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin was on universality of Islam, assertion on return to the noble Islam, stress on practicality of establishment of an Islamic government anytime and anywhere.
Another leader of the movement, Omar Telemsani, believed that Islam was propagator of faith, worship, and love for homeland, culture, law and power also a complete system for managing and guiding all aspects of human life and it could, and this is why people reach out to Islam to solve their problems. To justify the obtainment of power by Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin, he believes: “the fist ring of power is faith and belief, the second one stem from unity and empathy, and the third one is power of gun and physical force; if there is no faith and Muslims live in differentiation and dispersal, reliance on weapons could lead to the destruction and tragedy. Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin does not want revolution and does not believe that it can be efficient, it does not desire to have the power for itself, and if it finds someone in the Muslim society who can take the heavy burden of the government based on Islamic principles, it will support him and if does not find such person, the it will try to apply its special plan.”
His words that Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin was not for revolution gave the Egypt government hope that Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin did not want to fight the government violently to achieve its goals. However, the radical Islamists knew the Egyptian government as the root of all the problems of Egyptian society and desired their overthrowing. They accused Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin of forgetting Jihad and being content to cooperate with government. These people later separated from Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin and established radical movements like Islamic Jihad of Egypt. But the leaders of Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin insisted that the state religion in the country’s constitution was Islam. And on the other hand, there was no colonist in the country who wanted to engage in armed struggle with them.
Omar Telemsani believed that Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin wanted to propagate the true Islam in the world. Like the founder of Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin, he was of the opinion that Islam was against all sectarianism and religion conflicts and its main objective is unity among Muslims in order to reach to the greater goals.
However, Sayyad Ghotb, one of leading founders believed that true faith in Islam is made by complete submission to the will of God and the current societies are ignorant and Dar-Al-Islam is a society in which Islamic government is ruling and God-indicated limitations are followed. Against those lands which fight against believes of a true Muslim and do not adhere to Islam’s teachings, there is Dar-Al-Harab(House of War) even if Muslims live in there. The responsibility of a true Muslim is fighting with this situation and changing it to a Muslim society and the last objective of Muslims is to establish Sovereignty of God on earth. He believed since the Muslim practice is always fundamental, we must construct a religious believing society even if it is small and obeying the leader in Islamic principles is not because of the person himself or his position in the society, but this obedience is because of his submission to God’s commands.
Hammed Abu-Nasr, like Omar Telemsani, while opposing to violence, believed that the main end of Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin in Egypt was to create an Islamic government which would be ruled based on principles of God and that establishment of God-driven governance would mean freedom of human beings. Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin pays attention to democracy and supports it. It considers democratic freedoms and establishment of a multiparty system in Egypt and believes that the abilities of a powerful government are not in military force and repression of people but they are in civil liberties and public trust in government.
Mostafa Mashhour believes that transformation of Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin into a party would help the betterment of its relation with government and election campaigns would show people that Islam is not just about praying but it encompasses all aspects of human life. Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin can reach its goals much better by having a formal TV channel.
These perspectives and tendency toward sectarian thought is in conflict with those opinions and aspirations of Hassan Bana who wanted the interest of the whole Islamic Ummah. The first leaders of Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin wanted to disband all parties in Egypt (because foundation of many parties is based on personal not public interest).
Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin believed Al-Azhar was negligence in line with its goals to introduce Islam to the Muslim and did not fulfill its actual duty and this delinquency has lead to diversions in different aspects of Muslim societies; so the reason of this failure in teaching and learning is Al-Azhar which was acting in the traditional way and did not answer the needs of today’s Muslim. The motionless Islam of Al-Azhar is acceptable by all colonists and corrupted governors.
Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin indicates that one of the reasons of Egypt’s retardation and failure is the separation of religion from politics. In their idea, the political combat should be utilized as a crucial responsibility to reach to the aims of Islamic society and Islam is not just for personal praying, but it shows the framework of life in society. Corruption and diversion in Islamic society is because of negligence in religious teachings and propagation of foreign values in community. The solution is to return to the noble and original Islam; not the Islam that is being falsified over decades by the influence of powerful rulers and the ideas of those who believe Islam is just a praying religion or those who want the separation of Islam from politics, under the impact of western intellectuals or those who are not completely familiar with Islam principles.
The final goal of Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin is establishment of an Islamic government and in their opinion; the main basis is a God-driven government with a focus on Sharia. However, founding a Muslim country was not their only wish, but their main end was the fate of Muslim society. They knew return to Quran as an obligatory duty and for the purpose of protecting the Islamic society against diversions. Besides Quran, tradition, consensus, analogy and religious opinions could be used; therefore provisions should be evaluated and interpreted according to the contemporary requirement. They had special opinion about universality and applicability of the divine laws at all times and places. For example about cutting the thief’s hand, they believed that the thief’s act requires cutting the hand only when the society fulfills all his needs, and regardless of the situation of society, they should not perform the extent of theft. And until there is no true Islamic society, these rules should not be executed.
Hassan Hanfie, the Egyptian scholar, under the influence of notional climate of Arab world such as Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin, showed a clear reaction to identity-seeking, desire for justice, Islamic leftism, and challenging the West. He declared that militant fundamentalism of Islam World was “the cry of the oppressed” and believed it was not right to consider the West as cultural center of the world; Muslims should investigate the West thoroughly; he also believed Muslims should consider self-informing, internal production and vernacular improvement for better development. “God will manifest in one’s self, and man’s desire for freedom is a parade of God’s will “ and not every religious thought is absolute and holy and it is capable of being reinvestigated and criticized and people should consider it carefully, ”if God manifests nearby, in man’s self, in world’s context, history, culture, society and people, religious knowledge will also be human knowledge and with all its limitations and criticizability, with the condition of testing, will be able to have efficiency in order to promote the life of the pious and therefore, it is not necessary to look for a holy and pure religious knowledge which is beyond the realm of history, culture and understanding of human mind. He rejects violence and excommunication and believes that we should all be present in the society with our beliefs. Because of these beliefs, Hassan Hanfie was accused of eclectic thinking.
According to the policies of Hosni Mubarak in democratization in Egypt, Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin was allowed to participate limitedly in the election; they were able to gain seats in parliament. In 1995, he sentenced some of Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin leaders and main cadres to prison for providing political coverage for the militant Islamists. As the oldest fundamentalist organization, Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin provided some bases in some Arab countries for propagating its ideology and the exiled people of Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin became propaganda board that made so much effort to establish unity in Islamic societies. But Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin’s organizations in other countries do not have complete coordination with Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin in Egypt. So we can conclude that Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin organization from its foundation until now has faced many vicissitudes in its thoughts and aspirations. Formation of Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin was a reflection of social, economic and political situation that dominated the society of Egypt at that time (colonial expansion in Islamic countries, the economic disadvantage and discrimination in society). These factors played an important context in attracting people to the movement. Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin was founded in such situation by Hassan Al-Bana who wanted the return to Quran thoughts and avoiding sectarian disputes and unity of Islamic communities. They demanded a movement to return to true Islam for problem solving of society and being freed of the crisis. Hassan Al-Bana established an organization which was unique in its kind in the Islamic world.
They took great care of the deprived and the oppressed in the society. But it was not something new; most movements in most countries, when they want expansion and influence in society, they rely on this base which is unhappy about the current situation; Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin’s art was that it used all those different attitudes, goals and aspirations in accordance with its objectives. One of Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin’s mottos was social justice and establishment of an Islamic government in society which was a popular and ideal slogan. And because their slogans were about an Islamic society, it moved beyond Egypt and could find bases in other countries despite the differences they had with Ekhvan Al-Mouslemin in Egypt.

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