The MB’s Organizational Structure: Any Christian Similarity?

Today the court postponed ruling on a case calling for the dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood as an entity. It will be reviewed again on September 4, at which point the group may be declared illegal and forced to disband.

The following is an effort to understand the structure of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as an effort to compare it to a more familiar Western expression of religion: The small group Bible study. Too often the Brotherhood is only seen from its top administrative levels, which fill the headlines of newspapers and command cries of conspiracy and caliphate. It is hoped a greater understanding of its organizational reach can provide perspective about the group as a whole, through which the current legal questions are being asked.

Please feel free to skip a few paragraphs if the following details become tedious.

The lowest level of organization in the Muslim Brotherhood is called the ‘family’. This consists of between 5-9 people who meet regularly, led by an established member. It focuses on general education into the Brotherhood ‘way’, so to speak. Membership in a family is not permanent; people are shuffled so as to build better and wider community. But every Muslim Brother, no matter how lofty his title, is constituted into a regular family meeting somewhere.

The family, however, is not an administrative structure. Instead, members of families in a particular neighborhood or district comprise a ‘branch’, which numbers no more than 90 people. Once it expands beyond this number the district is divided into two branches.

The up-to-90 members of a branch then elect 40 of their number to serve on the Branch Consultative (Shura) Council. In turn, the council elects 7-9 members for the Branch Administrative Council. See this geographically, for example, as the Maadi neighborhood of Cairo.

This pattern will repeat itself as the organization moves upward in hierarchy. The basic idea is that the Administrative Council runs and supervises the activities of the Brotherhood within its geographical scope. These activities include preaching, youth, politics, religion, students, service, etc. The Consultative Council is the group with its ear to the ground, running the different programs, so that the Administrative Council can make decisions and filter information upwards in the chain of command.

Every 3-4 branches then constitute a Region. Members of the Consultative Council in each branch elect 40 members to serve on the Region Consultative Council. These 40 then elect between 9-11 individuals to be on the Region Administrative Council. Geographically, this could represent South Cairo, for example.

Next, between 8-12 regions are grouped together, and the respective Consultative Councils elect 80-90 members for Administrative Office’s Consultative Council. This group proceeds to elect 13-15 members of the Administrative Office, which runs the affairs of the Brotherhood on roughly the governorate level. At this point the geographical scope might include all of Cairo.

At the highest level of the Muslim Brotherhood, The Administrative Office’s Consultative Council elects around 100 members to the General Consultative Council. This body elects and advises the Guidance Bureau, which currently has 18 members. Finally, the Guidance Bureau elects the General Guide, sometimes called the Supreme Guide. This is the position currently occupied by Dr. Mohamed Badie. For past leaders of the Brotherhood, click here.

Those who skipped ahead can pick up reading again now.

The important consideration now is to find an understandable parallel to the Muslim Brotherhood from Western culture. Along these lines it may be easier to consider whether or not the group should be dissolved on legal grounds.

From the lowest ends of Brotherhood bureaucracy, their ‘family’ appears to be akin to the concept of a small group Bible study. For those unfamiliar with American evangelical Christian culture, these Bible studies usually comprise up to ten individuals who meet weekly to monthly to study and discuss a predetermined passage of the Bible, often with the aim of finding application in one’s life. Yet within the religious discipline is the development of fellowship, knitting the group together in mutual and oftentimes local service.

These Bible studies are often but not always connected to a local church, but have no obligation to register with the authorities in any formal way. In fact, such oversight would be interpreted immediately as a curb on religious freedom and an invasion of privacy, representing ‘Big Brother’ government at its worst.

Now, it is not uncommon for these independent small group Bible studies to use pre-developed study guides or curriculums. There are numbers of options to choose from – Beth Moore, John Piper, Wild at Heart. Sometimes there can even be leadership training options offered to small groups, sponsored by these larger organizations. Sometimes there are regional conferences which celebrate unity and build fellowship among a larger constituency.

Moreover, many churches, especially larger ones, work to create extensive networks of these small group Bible studies. Inasmuch as the pre-developed study guides offer their resources for cost, however minimal, they are registered with the government as a business or a charity. These churches also are registered with the government. The network of Bible studies, however, is not. These are simply composed of ordinary citizens who open their homes to friends and neighbors.

But what would happen if these small group networks began to informally advocate for a particular presidential candidate? Or, along other lines, what if they collected donations to organize clothing drives for poor neighborhoods in their communities? Or, what is the situation if these networks spill over national borders into Mexico or Canada?

The situation is not exactly parallel, but at increasing levels of organization and complexity the question is fair: At what point should government regulation begin?

When the Muslim Brotherhood began, Hassan al-Banna utilized this ‘small group Bible study’ methodology to spread the message of Islamic renewal throughout Egypt. He wished to see the individual, family, society, and eventually state return to the principles advocated in the Quran and prophetic traditions. It was, first and foremost, a preaching organization, composed of small groups linked together creating common identity and purpose.

At different times in its history, the Muslim Brotherhood has moved away from its roots in preaching to consider politics, or even violence. Following the January 2011 revolution the group’s leadership was faced with a choice – to remain primarily a preaching and service organization or to enter full force into the political struggle.

There were voices on each side, but the majority opinion was to create a political arm – the Freedom and Justice Party. This party pushed against the limits of Egyptian law which stated no political party may be based on religion. But the final government ruling was that the party’s ‘Islamic reference’ was sufficient distance from Islam to allow its formation. This ruling is being challenged in court, also postponed to September. Nevertheless, the political party is fully registered and accountable to government oversight.

The Muslim Brotherhood is not. It never has been.

What is the Muslim Brotherhood, then? Is it simply a collection of ‘small group Bible studies’ with a developed administrative network? No members of the bureaucracy described above receive any salary for their leadership and administration. They collect dues and use these to finance programs and activities, but individuals do not profit financially from their association; they are volunteers.

As such, it is more fitting to call the Brotherhood a non-governmental organization, perhaps along the lines of the Rotary Club. Yet given the level of financial arrangement (with international donations circulating as rumors) along with the Brotherhood’s influence on the ground, government oversight would seem necessary and acceptable.

The Brotherhood has stated it will register under the NGO law, once a new government is formed and the restrictive, perhaps oppressive laws of the past are annulled. It also states that it could never file in the past due to the efforts of the Mubarak regime to discriminate against them.

Yet one reason for such discrimination is because, ultimately, the Brotherhood does not believe in the concept of the modern nation-state. While working for the good of Egypt, the group clearly advocates for some conception of a revival of the caliphate. Not only did they consider the rule of Mubarak illegitimate, they also worked toward a future in which such national boundaries become irrelevant.

Here, we move beyond the small group Bible study model. Even if such networks were to advocate for a certain presidential candidate or the reform of certain laws, none to my knowledge are calling for a return to Christendom.

This is not to argue in favor of a court ruling against the Muslim Brotherhood come September. In the middle of revolutionary struggles over legitimacy, it is quite possible the verdict could be a political move to silence opposition. Or, it could be a threat to hang over the group’s head in effort to control their actions, if not their rhetoric. Too much is going on between all parties to draw strict lines of black and white.

Yet it is not unreasonable to ask the Muslim Brotherhood to behave transparently. To a great degree, they do. The information above was supplied freely by Islam al-Bishlawi, Central Cairo Secretary for Youth in the Freedom and Justice Party, to whom thanks is offered. Yet to my knowledge, their finances are not open for public view. Billing themselves a ‘Muslim’ organization, does such secretiveness befit Islam or run counter to its sense of ethics or morality?

In September, perhaps, the court will decide.


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Early History of Islamism in Egypt

(L) Hassan al-Banna, (R) Sayyid Qutb

Egyptian presidential campaigns have entered the mudslinging stage. Ahmed Shafiq has been on the defensive since his entry into the race, in which he is accused of being a member of the former regime and seeking to reconstitute it. He has also faced charges of financial corruption during his time as Minister of Civil Aviation.

In recent days he has hit back, especially against the Muslim Brotherhood. He has accused them of working with Qatar to sell/lease the Suez Canal to the Gulf state, and working with Mubarak to make secret deals in exchange for a proportion of parliament seats. In terms of the revolution he said they are the often-touted third party who killed protestors and burned police stations.

As best I can follow, no conclusive evidence has been issued to support his charges. Yet the political climate reminded me of a project I have been working on to establish a chronology of Islamism in Egypt since the dawn of the Muslim Brotherhood. The following list is disputed in points, and is compiled from a book entitled ‘Islamic Fundamentalism in Egyptian Politics’, by Barry Rubin. It outlines moments in history where Islamists have been violent, and others where they have shied away.

Shafiq asserts we are now in another violent period. I have significant doubts, but as with all things revolutionary, anything is possible, even plausible.

  • 1929 – Muslim Brotherhood founded by Hassan al-Banna
  • 1930-39 – MB grows to tens of thousands of members, including in police, army, and government institutions, and includes a Secret Organization for militant activity and terrorism
  • 1948 – MB raises funds, buys weapons, runs training camps, and sends volunteers to Palestine
  • 1948 – Egypt’s government dissolves the MB using emergency law from Palestine war
  • 1949, February – MB member shoots Prime Minister Mahmoud Nuqrashi, regime retaliates by assassinating Hassan al-Banna
  • 1951 – MB supplies many fighters during the Suez Canal crisis, links with Free Officers in the army including Anwar Sadat
  • 1952, July – Gamal Abdel Nasser overthrows monarchy during revolution/coup d’etat
  • 1952 – Sayyid Qutb returns from America horrified at its society, becomes a leader in the MB and was involved in meetings with Nasser
  • 1952-54 – al-Banna’s successor Hassan al-Hudaybi works as a reformist to prevent consolidation of Nasser’s power, while Qutb plays hardball and promotes seizing power
  • 1954, August – al-Hudaybi opposes Nasser’s treaty with the British over the Suez Canal and is arrested
  • 1954, October – MB member (allegedly) opens fire on Nasser; he survives and takes over as head of state, 6000 arrested as organization is outlawed
  • 1954 – Qutb arrested and sentenced to 25 years in prison, after he developed theory of jahiliyya­, which describes Egyptian society as non-Islamic
  • 1954-64 – Nasser establishes Muslim credentials as mosque building flourishes, Islamic radio is established, the Azhar is incorporated into the state and modernized, and religion is made a compulsory subject in schools
  • 1961 – Nasser undermines Azhar authority and introduces new, non-religious faculties
  • 1964 – Nasser frees MB members in prison in an effort to counter Egyptian Marxists
  • 1965, August – Nasser accuses MB of assassination plot, 27,000 arrested, 26 tortured to death, Qutb, Yusuf Hawash, and Abdel Fattah Ismail hanged
  • 1967 – Egypt suffers humiliating defeat against Israel, undermining Nasser’s legacy and legitimacy
  • 1970-85 – Government supported mosques double their religious programs, with triple student enrollment
  • 1970, October – Anwar Sadat becomes president
  • 1970 – First Islamist association founded in Qasr al-Aini Hospital among doctors and interns who treated Islamists released from prison
  • 1971, May – Sadat purges socialists and frees MB prisoners to combat them, including al-Hudaybi and future leader al-Tilimsani
  • 1971 – MB works with Sadat on new constitution making ‘the principles of the Islamic sharia a principle source of legislation’, but complain it does not make it the sole source of authority
  • 1971 – Shukri Mustafa breaks with the MB following his release from prison, sets up Takfir wa Higra
  • 1971-77 – MB cooperates with Sadat and his ‘Corrective Revolution’, until splitting over his peace initiative with Israel
  • 1973 – al-Tilimsani becomes Supreme Guide of the MB, was a close associate of al-Banna
  • 1974, April – Islamic Liberation Organization, led by Salah Sariyya (a Palestinian) fails in coup d’etat at the Military Technical Academy in Heliopolis, 92 people indicted, including 18 cadets; 30 officers and 100+ soldiers discharged for sympathy
  • 1975, July – Sadat issues full pardon to MB members still in prison
  • 1976 – Sadat creates Arab Socialist Union to open up political life, MB supports him during parliamentary elections; wins right to publish al-Da’wa journal
  • 1977, January – riots breakout over Sadat’s policy to trim food subsidies, MB mocks government for blaming the communists
  • 1977, July – Takfir wa Higra kidnaps and murders former Endowments and Azhar minister Husain al-Dhahabi, who criticized their idea of jahiliyya and isolation from society in preparation for violent overthrow of the government
  • 1978, March – Takfir wa Higra leader Shukri Mustafa hanged with four others, many imprisoned
  • 1978, September – Sadat crafts Camp David Accords with Israel
  • 1978, December – Parliament forms committee to study if current laws comply with sharia
  • 1979, March – Egypt signs peace treaty with Israel, MB opposes it and Camp David harshly, but al-Tilimsani calls on Arab League not to ostracize Sadat
  • 1979, June – Sadat suspends publication of MB’s al-Da’wa journal
  • 1979, July – Sadat accuses al-Hudaybi’s successor Omar al-Tilimsani of trying to overthrow regime
  • 1979 – Islamist independent candidates Sheikh Salah Abu Ismail and Hassan al-Gamal elected to parliament
  • 1979 – Sadat cracks down on Islamic associations, especially in universities, arresting many and limiting freedom of association, criticizing them for Muslim-Christian clashes
  • 1979 – Asyut Islamic association succeeds in forcing university to segregate students by gender
  • 1980 – Army publishes religious magazine for soldiers to keep them from radicalism, increases mosque construction on bases; government publishes two religious magazines, al-Liwa’ al-Islami and al-Urwa al-Wuthqa
  • 1981, June – Muslim-Coptic riots in Zawiya al-Hamra, Cairo; al-Da’wa accuses Copts of slandering Islam and gathering arms to kill Muslims
  • 1981, September – Popular preacher Abdel Hamid Kishk accuses Sadat of betraying Islamic principles, following his sermon Muslims exit and attack neighboring church
  • 1981, September – Sadat arrests 1500 activists, 90% of whom are Islamists, including al-Tilimsani, MB spokesmen Saleh Ashmawi and Mohamad Abdel Qudus, as well as Kishk; also arrests Copts and secular activists; government assumes control over 40,000 privately owned mosques
  • 1981, September – Among the above Sadat arrests brother of Khalid al-Islamboli who was a member of an Asyut Islamic association
  • 1981, October – Sadat assassinated by Khalid al-Islamboli of al-Jihad
  • 1981, November – al-Tilimsani denies the MB ever used violence or terrorism
  • 1982, March – Investigation into Sadat assassination sentences al-Jihad leader Mohamed Abdel Salam Farag (author of ‘The Neglected Duty’ about jihad) to death with four others, five given life imprisonment, twelve long sentences, but Omar Abdel Rahman acquitted, though he authorized the assassination with a fatwa
  • 1982 – al-Tilimsani suggests violent Islamic groups were set up by the government to counter the MB
  • 1982 – Government sends Azhar and MB clerics into the prisons to instruct extremists about proper Islam, program mostly publicity and false reform
  • 1982 – Parliament committee finishes work finding most laws already comply with sharia, the rest should be reformed gradually
  • 1984 – al-Tilimsani secures MB-Wafd Party partnership with Fuad Sirag Eddin to elect MB members through Wafd’s legal structure, wins 15% of the vote with eight seats for MB
  • 1985, February – After Mubarak permits resumption of Islamic associations’ work, Egyptian University Student Federation reestablished
  • 1985 – Wave of bumper stickers spread through Cairo bearing Islamic slogans
  • 1985, June – Hafez Salama, popular war hero, tries to launch a demonstration from his mosque in Abbasiyya, Cairo in support of sharia law, relents, re-launches later, is removed from his pulpit and arrested; MB did not support his efforts
  • 1986, April – Four officers and 29 people arrested for stealing ammunition in a plot to take over the government, linked to al-Jihad
  • 1985, May – Parliament defeats law authorizing sharia as the law of the land
  • 1986, May – al-Tilimsani dies and is succeeded by Mohamed Abu al-Nasr
  • 1986, October – Police foil an armed effort to takeover an Alexandria radio station
  • 1986 – MB breaks with Wafd over internal power struggle, joins with Liberal Party instead; Salah Abu Ismail becomes vice-president and party drops support for Camp David
  • 1986 – Security forces arrest 2500 Islamic radicals, MB raises no protest
  • 1987 – Jihadist group Survivors from Hellfire fail to assassinate al-Musawwar magazine editor Makram Mohamed Ahmed and former interior minister Nabawi Ismail
  • 1987 – Mohamed Abu al-Nasr revises MB history claiming the regime made them out to be violent promoting myths of their earlier insurrection, though he took MB oath fifty years earlier on a Qur’an and a gun
  • 1987, April – Islamist Alliance wins 17% of seats in parliamentary elections with 36 seats to MB
  • 1987, July – MB agreed with ruling NDP to support Mubarak’s bid for second six-year term
  • 1987, Members of Islamic associations sweep student elections at all faculties in Cairo University
  • 1987, MB electoral program calls for ending military cooperation with the United States, but favors Western ‘People of the Book’ over Soviet Russia

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Interview with Abdel Munim Abul Futuh

Dr. Abul Futuh

Back in February I had the opportunity to participate in an Arab West Report interview with Abdel Munim Abul Futuh, a presidential candidate who was formerly part of the Muslim Brotherhood. At the time he was one of many. Though several candidates are still running, he and Amr Moussa, long time secretary of the Arab League, are considered the two frontrunners.

The interview was prepared by all but conducted by AWR Editor-in-Chief Cornelis Hulsman. The following are selections which I found most interesting. Please click here for the full transcript at AWR.

Egypt is currently deeply divided, including Islamists and liberals in the sense that many Islamists and Liberals primarily operate in their own circles. This also applies to many Christians. How would you be able to unite all Egyptians, regardless of their background, to rebuild the country?

First of all, your words that Egypt is divided are not right. Egypt has pluralism, but is not divided and the basis of pluralism in Egypt is political, not sectarian or religious, like many other countries. …

The Christian brothers after the Revolution left the “ghetto” [he means that they came out of their isolation] they were in before the Revolution. They became present in the Egyptian community, participating in political parties; they are present in the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and other parties, doing their work. Christians went from protesting inside the church to protesting in their community, the community of all.

The nation belongs to all Egyptians, whether they are Christians or Muslims, men or women, Islamists or they have Islamic, leftist, or liberal ideologies. This is the state of our community: I believe it is a positive and a vibrant state and does not engender any division—this expression is not accurate.

When I go in circles of course these people who are crossing the boundaries are definitely there, but there are many who are not and who are afraid and they lock themselves up in their community. How would you unify them? How would you be a president for all?

The most important trait he should have is seeking and achieving the independence of the nation, meaning that the strategic decisions of the presidency seeks the interest of Egypt only, not the interest of a specific political party, or any foreign body; the interest of only Egypt and the Egyptians. This, in itself, will unify Egyptians because it means that the icon that brings them together and whom they elected to be their leader, is seeking to protect their interests.

The second most important trait is that this president is reconciled with religion. Egyptian people, Christians and Muslims, are religious from the time of Pharaohs; they are a religious people, they love religion. We do not have extremist secularism in Egypt as there is in Tunis or Turkey, which is why it cannot be imagined that a president who is against religion or who is secular will rule Egypt. There is no way the Egyptian people are going to elect him.

The third important thing is that this president seek to deepen the meaning of citizenship, so that citizens may feel that they are equal before the law and that the basis for any Egyptian to apply for any position is his qualifications not his gender, faith, or political orientation. …

The fourth trait: When there is justice with the presence of a real independent judiciary, it will make the citizens, whose rights were violated by any means, to refer to the judiciary to take their rights. Then the nation will be independent and will grow and develop.

You mentioned on October 2, 2011 that you would appoint a Coptic vice president if you win the election and then the caliphate was mentioned. What are your thoughts on the caliphate?

What is the caliphate? Caliphate is not a religious term, in all cases it is not a religious matter, it expresses the cooperation and unity of the Islamic countries, represented by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). That is it. But some of the ultra-conservative Islamists lent certain incorrect meanings.

In addition, we are not thinking about these matters now: Neither the unity of the Islamic world nor alliance, because we are occupied now with reforming the nation. What is the value of a unified world when it is ruled by dictators, corrupted, and diverted people? Of course it has no value.

Consequently, we are occupied with building our nation, not unity, unity with who? [laughing] Weak nation ruled by tyranny and corruption for 60 years! It is better to reform it and strengthen it before even thinking about cooperating with others.

According to Hasan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, God has given Muslims the right of sovereignty and hegemony, what does this mean?

What is Hassan al-Banna saying? Is this book written by Hassan al-Banna? Ah yes, “Who are We and What do We Want”. That is not the meaning of the verse and when God says “…you will be witnesses over the people and the Messenger will be a witness over you.”

If he interprets, “You will be witnesses over the people” as, “You will be guardians over the people” and dominance too, that is not true. Yes of course, if he wrote that text… I do not know where that text came from. Even if that text is of Hassan al-Banna or even Ahmad Bin Hanbal, that text is unacceptable because God in the Holy Qur’an never appoints a person to be a guardian over the other. Never.

For more clarification, when Allah told his Messenger, the Prophet and the Greatest human being in the Qur’an, in the Holy Qur’an: “So remind, [O Muhammad]; you are only a reminder. You are not over them a controller.” Allah said to the Prophet that his role is to advise only! Nothing else! Not dominance, not control, not a guardian of people! …

“To be witnesses over people” has the same meaning that God told the Prophet which is to be an advisor, wise, and give advice to people, not more. The greatest thing that came in Islam is human dignity, which opposes the idea that some human being like me can be a guardian or I become inferior to him because he is a Muslim and I am Christian for example. Or he is better than me? Or he is more religious than me? Who makes him better than me? If he is better than me to God then it is between him and God! …

What kind of government does Egypt need in your opinion? One with a strong president (such as France, USA) or one in which the parliament has a stronger role?

I support the existence of a president who has specialties, strong specialties, and I support the mixed parliamentary-presidential system, not only the parliamentary system because in the parliamentary system there has to be various parties which we do not have now. Which means three or four parties competing and that is not here.

What should be the role of the President and Parliament in overseeing the budget of the army? Would the army and police take orders from the President to maintain internal security?

Everything…the army is one of the power tools like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That is why the parliament should observe all these power tools whether it is the army, foreign affairs, police, etc.

The army is not above the power, it is a tool. But how we go with this with the parliament budget? These are details. It can be through a committee, like the committee of defense and national security, media committee, etc… These are details, but everything should be under the knowledge of the parliament. That is how it is done in the democratic respectful countries.

How should Article 2 of the constitution function in your opinion? Especially since Article 2 was used in verdicts in courts where it concerns religious conversions.

Freedom of Belief in the Azhar document is not related to faith switching. Article 2 does not contradict with the Freedom of Belief. Islamic Sharia has been there in the constitution since 1971 and the Egyptian people, including Christian brothers, approve of it. …

It is settled that the legislation is done through the parliament and there is no other body that can legislate except the parliament. Legislation is done under the observance of the Constitutional Court and the role of clerics—Christian and Muslim, is only to advise and give opinions and not to dominate, to legislate, or to monitor the legislation.

What percentage of Egyptians is Christian and would you make public the figures of the number of Christians from the ID cards?

I am not occupied with the number of Christians or the number of Muslims, because in a nation that has citizenship these matters are not important. Publishing information as information regardless of the way it is used.

Wrong or right, it is the right for any citizen to obtain the information they need. It is not acceptable to hide any information from citizens. As for misusing this information to hurt the interest of the nation, it is another matter.

On May 16, 2011, you stated that you support full rights of conversion to any religion, saying the state should monitor this and not Church or Azhar. How would you guarantee that conversions would be fully voluntary and how transparent would state monitoring be?

I did not say “supervise” I said “enable” the state to protect the Freedom of Religion. It is not acceptable that if a Christian wants to convert to Islam, we ask the church and vice versa. It is a personal right. That is why the Azhar document that was signed by the Azhar, Pope Shenouda, Azhar’s Grand Shaykh, political party leaders, and myself is for the Freedom of Faith. It is not the role of the church, the Azhar or the state to supervise it.

What is your stance on the proposed unified law on building places of worship?

I am against these laws. People have a right to build places of worship. I am only with laws to regulate the building of places of worship like any other building, for instance a house, only to ensure that the building meet the technical requirements.

Egyptians do not need churches or mosques, they need farms, scientific research centers, colleges, factories, houses; but churches and mosques are not needed. None of the Muslims or Christians complained that they do not have a place of worship. These matters are unnecessary. The interference of the state in these matters is the reason of all the tension.

Read the full transcript at Arab West Report, here.

Read an article about this interview at Christianity Today, here.


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Dr. Osama Farid on the Brotherhood, Hamas, and Salafis

Translation: The Muslim Brotherhood; Prepare

Who are the Muslim Brotherhood, and what do they represent? Having thousands of members means that many people are able to speak as representatives, whether they are qualified or designated to do so or not. Yet if one relies only on an official spokesman, it is difficult to know if the comments are sanitized for public consumption, especially if directed towards a Western audience. A useful remedy can come through personal interviews, though one must still be wary of a politician’s skill in PR.

Cornelis Hulsman, editor-in-chief of Arab West Report, secured such an interview in June 2011 with Osama Farid, the son of Dr. Farid (94), secretary-general of the Muslim Brotherhood, several decades ago and until today highly revered in the Muslim Brotherhood.
Based on his notes I prepared this report.

Osama Farid echoed the caution needed in applying any and every statement a Muslim Brother makes as the heartbeat of the group, saying care should distinguish between the organization and the community. As an example he spoke of Subhi Saleh, who in the past several months has made outspoken comments on how the Muslim Brotherhood will apply Sharia law if elected, and that Muslim sisters should take care to only marry within the group. Salah had been a high profile Muslim Brother in the aftermath of the revolution, having served on the legal committee to propose constitutional amendments submitted for the March 19 referendum. Osama Farid, however, states categorically that he does not represent Muslim Brotherhood thinking, though he gets frequent attention in the press.

The press has been equally misleading, states Osama Farid, by characterizing the Muslim Brotherhood as beset by internal splits. Yes, he says, there is a difference of opinion on several issues, and there are different attitudes in how to deal with change. This is normal in an organization of its size, but reflects only the biased press the Brotherhood has dealt with for years.

Is, then, Osama Farid a capable source of information for the group? As a the son of a Guidance Bureau member he speaks from authority, and in this interview provides insightful comments on his personal history with the Brotherhood, the current relationship between the Brotherhood and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, the relationship with Hamas and attitudes toward Israel, as well as other comments on Salafis and other Islamists in the contemporary arena. Osama Farid is an accomplished businessman; his investments once included a fleet of private airplanes for charter.


Osama Farid described several periods of the Muslim Brotherhood. In the 1970s many members of the al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya joined the group. Osama Farid states that al-Gama’a was internally divided, however, over the question of violence. The members opposing violence broke away and enrolled into the more established Muslim Brotherhood, which had committed itself to a nonviolent methodology. The large influx represented a sort of second founding for the historic organization, which began in 1928 founded by Hasan al-Banna.

Osama Farid expresses admiration for the thought of Sayyid Qutb, a Muslim Brotherhood ideologue executed in 1966. Osama Farid described his execution as a tragedy, and celebrated him as a great thinker whose philosophy was on par with Georg Friedrich Hegel. Though many believe Qutb was a primary factor in the radicalization of the Muslim Brotherhood, Osama Farid countered that Qutb’s view of hakimiyya (God’s sovereignty) has been mistranslated and misunderstood by the majority of media and critics.

The Brotherhood, Osama Farid says, looks to select members who enjoy a good reputation in society, and who demonstrate leadership in morals, athletics, and intellect. If agreeable, candidates are given a syllabus to progress through. Yet regardless of entry, many Muslim Brothers have wound up imprisoned for their association and/or activities – over 30,000 in the group’s history, according to Osama Farid. His own uncle, Saleh, spent twenty-five years in prison.

Relationship with the Freedom and Justice Party and current politics

As an organization, the Muslim Brotherhood seeks to engage Egyptians to build a good culture of citizenship. Historically, though always having a political component, this has meant the provision of social services, engagement in society, helping the jobless (with priority to members but including all). They have also supported the families of imprisoned members, and provided legal services to those run afoul of the government. Only following the revolution, however, has the Muslim Brotherhood been able to channel their social gains into a legal political party.

The Muslim Brotherhood believes the primary purpose of government is to cultivate the good life for the people, so they can be happy. Yes, the government should be concerned with matters of Sharia, but it also needs to promote a culture of tolerance. The Freedom and Justice Party, Osama Farid believes, is working towards this end.

For example, the Muslim Brotherhood, through their party, will seek neither the majority of seats in parliament nor the presidency. Yet he also believes that the ruling military council should fulfill its vow to the people and turn over soon the matter of governance to the people. The military council made agreement to do so in six months, providing elections first for the parliament, then the Shura Council (upper house), then the presidency, and culminate in the drafting of a new constitution. They should not deviate from this, though some decry liberal parties and others have not yet had time to develop their constituencies. Farid, though, believes this to be their own problem, and of more serious concern is the return to civilian rule.

The Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) has faced criticism within Egypt on several fronts, and Osama Farid provided perspective on certain issues pertaining. Political parties must be independent, and in the case of the FJP not be based on the organization of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Freedom and Justice Party is believed by many to simply be an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood. Osama Farid said the current leadership of the party was proposed by the broad Shura Council of the Brotherhood, and chosen by the Guidance Bureau. Yet he confirmed that this was only for the creation of the party, and that after their initial term expired all positions would be determined by internal party elections.

Yet Osama Farid also provided some statistics that suggest an ongoing strong linkage between the party and the Brotherhood. 40% of the party membership originated in active, working members of the Muslim Brotherhood, all of whom had 10-15 years of experience in the group. Though not a majority, there is the potential for significant overlap between the agendas of the two entities.

In another controversial accusation, some believe there to be a secret pact between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military council. Osama Farid finds it normal that there is a direct line of communication between the two since the Brotherhood has a large following, but the military council also has established links with other political forces.

Osama Farid also gave historical perspective to suggest that the Muslim Brotherhood has not been averse to making such deals. In 2005 many Muslim Brotherhood members ran as independents for parliament, as the group at that time was banned from official participation. Eight-five of these members won a seat, and Osama Farid believed it could have been much more had the elections not been rigged. Yet he stated that within the context of political corruption, the Muslim Brotherhood cooperated with the authorities to determine which Brotherhood candidate would be victorious in which district. That was politics at the time, and the Muslim Brotherhood played along.

Relationship with Hamas and Israel

Another fear expressed about the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt concerns their relationships with Hamas and their Israel policy in general. Osama Farid stated that Hamas are our brothers, but that while there is coordination between the two groups, the level of coordination is low. Personally, Osama Farid hopes this coordination will increase, but he recognizes the sensitivity of the issue keeping the groups largely separate.

Osama Farid also stated that each group secures its own financing. While there is no money that moves from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to Hamas (though there has been sharing of medical supplies during Israeli operations), the Brotherhood does provide consultative services if needed, though Hamas takes its own decisions. As an example Osama Farid revealed that the Brotherhood intervened to secure the release of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, but their advice was not heeded.
Concerning Israel, Osama Farid stated the Muslim Brotherhood believes that all international resolutions directed at Israel (such as UN #242) should be implemented. While he does not want normal relations with Israel, he also stated the Muslim Brotherhood does not want war. He stated they know the line between the ideal and the possible, and that the Brotherhood is realistic. Any war with Israel would be suicide. In this matter and in political matters of all sorts, he believes the Brotherhood to be a wise and moderate organization, aiming for stability both domestically and internationally.

Salafis and Other Islamists

In presenting the Brotherhood as a moderate organization, he contrasted it starkly with another Islamist group emerging in Egyptian politics, the Salafis. Having never been in political life previously, Osama Farid explained, the Salafis were taken advantage of by Mubarak since many opposed participation in politics. For many Salafis, the God-appointed leader should be obeyed without question. These believe democracy to be akin to kufr (unbelief), and though they may enter into upcoming democratic elections, they are not democratic. Osama Farid believed they needed to be monitored due to the danger they posed; it is quite possible they could win a large percentage of parliament.

The Salafi role in society, by contrast, is quite positive, Osama Farid explained. They help families and widows, provide finances for the poor to go on pilgrimage to Mecca, as well as for needed school supplies and fees. Yet they have an aggressive social agenda, focusing on gaining control of the larger and more influential mosques where they are strong in number. Small mosques, Osama Farid elaborated, are not as influential, and will often follow the ideological trend of the largest mosque of the area.

Osama Farid also provided a description of Salafi organization in Alexandria, considered a stronghold of the movement. There are three main Salafi trends, the largest of which is led by Sheikh Hasan Yaqub, drawing support from the slum areas of the city. These three trends have organized a Shura Council for each of Alexandria’s fifteen districts, and each trend supplies five members so that each council has fifteen members. As such they have established themselves in the city, and their influence is strong.

Osama Farid recommended contacting Salafi sheikh Safwat Hejazi for more information. Though he is not their official coordinator he unofficially links between the Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Osama Farid made briefly a few closing comments about al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya. These also are participating in politics since the revolution, and the group has sought to make revisions to its former methodology, especially in forswearing the use of violence. Mitwali al-Sharawi is in the lead of the revision group, but not all members accept the changes. Without placing him in either category, Osama Farid commented on al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya leading figure Abbud al-Zumur, who is unapologetic over his involvement in the assassination of President Anwar Sadat. Osama Farid believed al-Zumur to be deficient in Islamic jurisprudence.

The essential question posed concerning the Muslim Brotherhood remains: Do their public statements reflect internal policy, or, especially when speaking to the West do they put on a moderate face? It is never possible to know a man’s heart or to discern fully his true intentions. Yet the information provided by Osama Farid displays a level of openness suggesting his words to be both transparent and authoritative. Certainly he has commented on matters often not addressed in Brotherhood public discourse.

As such, this interview is offered for public consumption, so that interested parties might hear from the Muslim Brotherhood through an Egyptian who knows them well. In the controversial and confusing public square of Egypt, it is necessary to filter the news from the din. Much more is necessary, but it is hoped this contribution may help shape English language readership in their understanding and opinion of the Muslim Brotherhood.

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Interview with a Presidential Candidate, Summarized

Dr. Abul Futuh

Dr. Abdel Munim Abul Futuh is a frontrunning candidate in the Egyptian presidential elections. He has been a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Council for twenty-five years, but now finds himself officially outside the organization as a result of his desire to run for the presidency. The Brotherhood has stated it will not field a candidate for this post, and thus expelled him from the group. Nonetheless, his stature as a liberal-leaning Islamist positions him well among current declared candidates, and there is a better-than-fair chance he may be Egypt’s next president.

Arab West Report was able to secure an interview with him; questions were posed by Editor-in-Chief Cornelis Hulsman, and composed under his supervision by Yousef Habib, Jenna Ferrecchia, and myself.  Prior to the full transcript and analysis thereof I will place now a brief preview. The final transcript will be posted with a link to the video of this interview in a few days.

The interview was conducted in Arabic, so the nuances of his answers must wait until the proper and precise translation is finished.

How do you plan to unite Egypt as president, given her current divisions?

Egypt has diversity, not division. In order to unite Egyptians the president must have four characteristics:

  • He must work for Egypt’s independence and national benefit
  • He must be religious to fit with the population
  • He must deepen the reality of citizenship
  • He must render justice according to the law

Are you truly independent from the Muslim Brotherhood?

I take pride in the Muslim Brotherhood and in its moderate Islamist ideology. But my separation now is not a tactic. I do not represent the Brotherhood and am completely independent in terms of organization.

What is your opinion about the caliphate?

This is not an Islamic religious term. It represents simply the idea of international cooperation but is misused by many. In any event it does not concern me. I am interested in building Egypt. Besides, as we are now, who can we unite with?

What is your opinion of the Hassan al-Banna quote: ‘The Qur’an has made Muslims to be the guardians for an incapable humanity, giving them the right of superintendence and sovereignty over the world.’

If Banna or anyone else said this, it is an incorrect idea. No person may claim guardianship over any other person, and Islam does not support this. If someone claims to be on better standing with God than someone else, fine, but let him take this up with God. Between men, anyone who sets himself up as better than another, even religiously, damages the essential dignity of humanity.

Note: al-Banna is the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. Click here for a summary translation of a compilation of his writings, here for an analysis thereof, and here for the response of a regional leader of the Brotherhood to some of its quotes.

Earlier your said creating the Freedom and Justice Party was ‘a risky gamble’ in the likelihood it would mix proselytizing and politics. What do you think now after their electoral success?

Now as before I do not support the Muslim Brotherhood in creating a political party, as there is an obvious mixture between the two. Every day you get some Muslim Brother – non-affiliated with the Freedom and Justice Party – speaking about politics. It is not good.

How do you see the proper role of Egypt’s president and parliament?

The president should have strong powers but these should be shared with parliament, which maintains both a legislative role and one of oversight on the executive branch.

How do you view the process of reform at the Ministry of Interior?

It is not simply a matter of firing officers, but engineering a change in culture so the police become in service to the people. But this must be done with respect to the preservation of stability.

What are you views about the coming constitutional assembly?

This must be representative of all sectors of society, some of which may come from parliament, but not most. It must produce a national dialogue in order to create consensus, even if this takes time. But out of respect to the March referendum, the writing of the constitution should take place after presidential elections, not before.

What is your view about Article Two of the old constitution, making Islam the religion of the state and the principles of Islamic sharia to be the source of legislation?

It was part of the 1971 constitution and was approved widely by the people. Today, everyone supports it, including Christians.

How many Christians do you think are in Egypt, and should their official number be made public?

I do not have an estimate on their number, but the fact of their number should be part of public information. What is done about this number is another matter, but as a statistic it should be released.

You stated previously there should be no barriers to religious conversion in any direction. What is your view?

Freedom of doctrine is a basic human right and enshrined in the recent Azhar document. But neither the Azhar nor the church should have any role in conversions, as if they must give their approval. It is the state alone which must guarantee this freedom.

What do you think about the unified law for building houses of worship?

This is an invented issue. There is no need for a law but only for administrative permits where there is a need. But really, Egypt does not need more mosques or churches; it needs farms and factories.

How do you view issues of marriage and divorce?

In Islam, marriage is a civil matter, not a religious issue. But if a Christian wishes to have a religious marriage, this is a matter for his community. But in terms of the state marriage and divorce should be civil matters. The problem some Christians have in getting divorces is simply a matter between him and the church; the state is not involved.

What are your ideas on economic policy and Islamic banks?

Time does not permit a full answer, but the gap between the rich and the poor is largely an issue of corruption and poor administration. As for Islamic banks, they exist now everywhere in the world. People should have the freedom to choose the bank they wish to use, with all options available.

Thank you very much for your time, Dr. Abul Futuh.

Update: The interview has now been transcribed. Please click here for the post.

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Gamal Nassar on the Muslim Brotherhood

A primary accusation against the Muslim Brotherhood is that it is two-faced in its politics. Within Arab contexts the organization, it is said, promotes a radical Islamist agenda, yet when addressing Western audiences its discourse becomes more moderate. A comprehensive answer to this charge is not possible within a single interview, and may be impossible altogether. The Muslim Brotherhood is composed of diverse membership, all of which may be categorized as Islamist in the sense of esteeming the role of Islam in government, but which harbor different visions as per means, extent, and implementation. This interview is but one man’s opinion on some of the hard issues Western critique levels at the Brotherhood, but it is hoped that he is, to a degree, representative.

Dr. Gamal Nassar is a journalist, writer, and the director of the Civilizational Center for Future Studies. He has been a member of the Muslim Brotherhood for over thirty years, and served nine years as media advisor to the General Guides Muhammad Mehdi Akef and Muhammad Badie. He is a founding member of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), and one of the 550 members of the regional party office in Giza. He is a graduate of Cairo University, with MA degrees in Philosophy and International Negotiation.

The following text will convey Dr. Nassar’s perspective on the relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and the FJP, the Salafis of Egypt, and Hamas of Gaza. It will also seek his perspective on the writings of Hassan al-Banna from the treatise, ‘Who are We, and What do We Want?’ as described in a previous text. Dr. Nassar spoke passionately, authoritatively, and clearly on these topics.

The Freedom and Justice Party

Why does the Muslim Brotherhood have just one party, and why is it kicking out members who seek other political visions? What is the political vision of the FJP? What is the role of Islam? Furthermore, is it truly independent, as required by law, or under the direction of the Brotherhood? Each of these questions betrays distrust that the Muslim Brotherhood is being sinister. Are they after democracy, or an Islamic state?

Dr. Nassar celebrates that after the revolution all segments of society have had the freedom to craft political parties. Though only about 10% of Muslim Brotherhood activity is political in orientation, it is appropriate their politics formalizes into a party. Why only one party? It is pragmatic – otherwise the power of the Muslim Brotherhood would be diffused.

The extent of rebellion, he states, has been greatly exaggerated in the press. Yes, there have been several breakaway parties from the Muslim Brotherhood – the Renaissance Party, the Pioneer Party, and the Egyptian Current Party – but those members, generally acknowledged as youth, represent less than 1% of Brotherhood youth membership.[1] Sixty percent of the Muslim Brotherhood, in fact, are youth (under 40 years old), which is the same percentage as society at large. Dr. Nassar wondered that perhaps the Brotherhood might allow free political participation for members in the future, but that for now those leaving do not represent a new trend – in the 1990s the Wasat Party also emerged from the Brotherhood organization, and is independent today.

As for the independence of the FJP, Dr. Nassar related that party leadership tendered their resignation from their Brotherhood responsibilities in the Guidance Bureau and Shura Council, though they maintained general membership. The FJP is administratively and financially independent, taking its own decisions.

Does their continuing membership, however, imply necessary obedience to the general guide? This is not the way the Muslim Brotherhood functions, Dr. Nassar replied. First of all, the general guide does not issue instructions unless they are thoroughly studied by the group. Second of all, membership in the Muslim Brotherhood is akin to membership in a club. Anyone is welcome to join, but there are rules to abide by. The FJP operates within the framework of these rules.

Dr. Nassar made it clear that the FJP, like the Brotherhood in general, desires a civil state. It rejects the idea of a religious state, for this has never existed in the history of Islam. Yet what then about the ‘Islamic frame of reference’ which the party espouses? What does this entail?

The frame of reference is in one sense recognition of the heritage of Islamic civilization. In another and more telling sense, it is the obligation of the government to not issue laws which violate Islamic sharia. Dr. Nassar stated that sharia protects Muslims and Christians alike, guaranteeing their citizenship. This was seen with Muhammad during his Compact of Medina, in which Muslims, Jews, and pagans lived equitably under Muhammad’s rule. It was also witnessed during the caliphate of Omar ibn al-Khattab, when he entered Jerusalem and guaranteed freedom of worship to Christians now under his rule.

The decision on what violates the sharia, he added, is not to be made by religious scholars. An Islamic frame of reference is not the rule of men of religion. Rather, it places the decision in the hands of the regular judiciary, culminating in the constitutional court. This is the prerogative of a civil system.

Laws permitting adultery and the drinking of alcohol, for example, would be struck down as clearly contradicting sharia. Dr. Nassar believed, however that forced wearing of the hijab would not be enacted, as this was not a clear matter. He did state that the Brotherhood would encourage all women to be appropriately modest in their dress.

The Salafis

Well enough that the FJP wants a civil state, but what about Salafis? Does not the Brotherhood cooperate with them, even as they call openly for an Islamic state? Do they not call democracy a form of unbelief? Will democracy in Egypt be a one-time event?

Dr. Nassar acknowledged that the FJP cooperates with Salafi groups in Egypt, but that it does also with liberal and socialist perspectives. When asked the difference between the Brotherhood and Salafis, though, he stated there was no essential difference, only in non-essential matters. A key distinction was that traditionally Salafis avoided politics, while it has always been a component of the Brotherhood program.

Dr. Nassar went on to clarify, then, that when Salafis call for an Islamic state, he believes they are asking in essence for the same thing he described above. The problem is that the term ‘secular state’ has entered the political discourse, and Salafis take this to be anti-religion. They compensate by calling for an Islamic state, to make sure religion and politics are not separated.

Dr. Nassar realized that some were afraid Salafis, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood, would treat democracy like a ladder to power, and then kick it away once it was obtained. This is not the case, with the FJP at least. He believes in a democratic system that rotates and shares power. The Brotherhood does not seek to dominate the political scene. Rather, it is working for an overall goal of promoting an Islamic renaissance, not just for Egypt, but for all Muslim peoples and the world at large. It is a civilizational project, not to be achieved by force, but by wisdom, preaching, and good communication.

In terms of Egypt, however, Dr. Nassar appeared agitated. We are not from Mars, he declared, we are Egyptians. Everyone has the right to seek to gain authority, as do we. Yet it is the people who are to choose in elections, and we hope they will choose us. Just look at the recent university elections in Ain Shams. We lost; did anything bad happen afterwards? No, our goal is to serve the people, and Egyptians know well enough what they want.

Hamas and Israel

Is Hamas part of the Muslim Brotherhood network? Are their terrorist activities supported by the Brotherhood in Egypt? What does the Brotherhood think of the Camp David Accords? Of Israel as a state? Of Jews in the Middle East?

Dr. Nassar described the Muslim Brotherhood as an ideological organization, spread worldwide in over eighty countries including the United States. Yes, the general guide represents the Brotherhood in the world, but there is no worldwide organizational structure, and each region is free to shape its own policy as long as it does not go against the general principles of the group. This is the situation with Hamas; they know their circumstances best.

To begin with Egypt, however, Dr. Nassar acknowledges the Muslim Brotherhood does not recognize the state of Israel. All the same, they deal with the situation in reality, and are asking for the amendment of the Camp David Accords, given that the treaty works in favor of Israel and to the detriment of Egypt. Yet any international adjustments, such as these, must be ratified by the Egyptian parliament.

Asked, however, if reality permitted, would the Muslim Brotherhood seek the disappearance of the Israeli state, Dr. Nassar said this was not only the wish of the Brotherhood, but of Egyptians and all Arabs. He was clear that Islam called Muslims to support the followers of Judaism and Christianity, but that it was also clear Muslims should fight those who fight them. The state of Israel is akin to a thug who entered your home by force. Is it not right to resist his occupation? Should the homeowner recognize the thug’s right to be there? Should he enter negotiations with the thug in order to get him to leave? Should he accept any situation that grants the thug the living room and kitchen in exchange for the bedroom? Should there be a democracy in which the thug gets to vote? This is all ludicrous, Dr. Nassar explained, and as such the resistance of Hamas is legitimate.

Even the means Hamas utilizes, such as the firing of rockets into Israel, is legitimate. Dr. Nassar noted that Israel also fires rockets into Gaza, which kill indiscriminately. Yet the residents of southern Israel are not strictly civilians – they are settlers and occupiers; they have usurped the land. Even outside of the West Bank and Gaza, the Jews there have come from Europe, Russia, Africa and elsewhere, taking land that was not theirs. Should Palestinians then only ask for up to the 1967 lines? No, the whole land is occupied, and it is moral to fight back against oppression.

In this sense, in the ideal, even a one state solution would not properly satisfy justice. Dr. Nassar stated that while the Jews of Palestine resident for generations had every right to live in the land, the others should go back where they came from. Reality may not permit this, as the Zionist lobby is strong, especially in America. Why else is the United States threatening to veto UN membership for Palestine, when South Sudan has been granted a state? The US is neither for democracy nor justice, simply its own interests. By contrast, the Muslim Brotherhood idea is moderate, believes Islam is incorporated in all aspects of life, and intends to reform humanity.

Commenting on the Writings of al-Banna

Click here for a previous text exploring ‘Who are We, and What do We Want?’

  • The Quran establishes Muslims as guardians over an incapable humanity, giving them the right of superintendence and sovereignty over the world.

God has chosen Muslims to be guardians, or witnesses, to the world because they have received his grace. Humanity is not able to know the truth or what is good, suffering many problems and limitations. Muslims should therefore rise to meet this need, acting as guardians – though not as father to child – to benefit, advise, and direct the people.

In terms of sovereignty, previous prophets like Moses and Jesus were sent only to their own people, but Muhammad was sent to the whole world. In the world there is a struggle between right and wrong which will continue until the resurrection. Muslims enter this struggle to bless the whole world peacefully – not through war – and spread the message of Islam. As this message spreads, it will also take sovereignty over the areas that accept it.

  • We will pursue them and raid in their own lands, until the entire world celebrates the name of the Prophet and the teachings of the Quran.

Even though they are a minority, Muslims are in Europe, for example, and can play a role in spreading Islam there. European civilization is filled with materialism and desires, which Islam can balance with its focus on spirituality. This should be done with wisdom and good communication, and not with force, for there is no compulsion in religion.

Why not use a different word, then? And do not Muslims celebrate the raids of Muhammad?

When al-Banna wrote his message what I explained was understood naturally; ‘raiding’ was not intended. What is meant is that the religion should spread, but it is not my job to force you. I can only advise you, since freedom of religion is very important.

  • The Muslim should then work to restore the international position of the Islamic nation, so that its lands are liberated and its glory revived in the return of the lost caliphate and all desired unity.
  • We desire the flag of God to fly high over the lands which once enjoyed Islam and the call of prayer declaring ‘God is great’, but then returned to unbelief. Andalusia, Sicily, the Balkans, southern Italy, and the islands of the Mediterranean were all Islamic colonies and must return to the bosom of Islam.

‘Caliphate’ is only a word; what is intended is the unity of the Islamic nations, not dissimilarly to the European Union. We want them to cooperate, even to have a single leadership decided by elections.

Yes, this should also include the former Muslim lands – this should be the goal of every Muslim, not just the Muslim Brotherhood. ‘Colony’ in Arabic linguistic terms is positive – it means to develop and build up. What European nations did, however, was to destroy and exploit, seeking to make the colonies European. In terms of those nations mentioned in the text, they were originally Islamic, until the European raids took them away.

  • We desire to announce our call to the whole world, and to cause every tyrant to submit to it, so that there is no sedition and all of religion is for God.
  • The Muslim should work for professorship of the world by spreading the call to Islam in all corners (quoting the Quranic verse): Fight them until there is no sedition, and all of religion is for God.

A tyrant, like Israel today, overturns what God has made natural for people. This is the meaning of sedition; it should be fought against, so that religion – the natural state – is for God. Elsewhere the Quran teaches that you should only fight someone who fights you, and that this should be a last resort.

Yet if it is your job to spread Islam and others deny and fight you, should you be silent? Reason says you should fight back; people must know that God’s will is to be implemented. Yet if it is said that the United States is oppressing Muslims, this does not mean there should be a counterattack in the US. No, the foundation of preaching religion is in wisdom and good communication; fighting is only a last resort.

  • Do not adorn tombs of the deceased or call upon the help of departed saints.

If Sufism in its interpretation of Islam helps people to lift up their souls, it is very good. Yet if they deviate from proper religion, the Muslim has an obligation to make their error clear to them. This also is the role of the state, to raise consciousness as per right religion. Yet we should stop no one from visiting tombs, nor should we tear them down as happened in Saudi Arabia. A large part of the problem is simple ignorance, but yes, the practice should be prevented.

[1] Bassam Qutb, who had his membership frozen for supporting the presidency of Abdel Munim Abul Futouh, running in defiance of a Brotherhood decision not to pursue the presidency, estimated in June that 4000 youth were similarly disciplined. Unofficial estimates put total Muslim Brotherhood membership between 400,000 and 700,000 people, suggesting Dr. Nassar’s figure to be accurate.

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Who are We, and What do We Want? – Evaluation

This post is part two, following up with an evaluation of a post-revolution Muslim Brotherhood booklet which reprints selected writings of their founder, Hassan al-Banna. For part one, which is a summary translation of the book, please click here. This post opens by finding first that which is worthy, and then re-lists controversial statements which are provided with commentary.

In evaluating this booklet, several observations emerge, which must be carefully delineated. First of all, there is much worthy of respect. The Muslim Brotherhood commands the allegiance of its followers due to its insistence on following God and Islam completely in every phase of life. There is commitment to personal piety, family wholeness, social solidarity, and national transformation. The vision is simultaneously large and minute. Furthermore, it is advanced in transparency, as should be expected for a mission built upon fidelity to God and religion.

As an aside, this puts a question to many in the Brotherhood today. The organization is accused of acting in non-, or at best partial, transparency, especially as they argue their support for a modern, civil, democratic state. How do they respond to the more controversial remarks of this booklet? Are they willing to deny them outright? Or, are they violating the commitment of al-Banna to clarity and transparency? More on this below.

Second of all, the reader should take care not to dismiss the Brotherhood’s portrayal in the booklet due to their insistence on partisan interests. It may be true the Brotherhood will clash with Western powers over several issues, and it may be that in some cases Western policy is in the right. Yet the Brotherhood advances a program on behalf of its different identities – Egyptian, Arab, Muslim – many of which are legitimate aspirations of a sovereign people. The issue in al-Banna’s day was that the Arab world did not enjoy sovereignty. Arguments are possible its full sovereignty was often limited post-independence as well. Anti-Western sentiments should not be dismissed out of hand.

As an aside, it is worthwhile to note in this particular booklet at least, there is no polemic leveled against the Jews. Al-Banna wrote before the advent of the Israeli state, which was thereafter viewed principally as another colonialist project. There is a difference between being anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli; arguing from silence, this historical text suggests there is no necessary opposition to Jews in the Muslim Brotherhood, at least in its incarnation.

Third of all, the domestic ambitions of the Muslim Brotherhood are depicted as peaceful. They begin with a call, then the formation of committed bands of believers. They seek influence in all areas of society, and eventually engage in a constitutional struggle. They wish to win the entire nation within their fold, and if successful, who can argue with their ascendance?

Addressing the question of their current transparency, then, they furthermore announce the stages of their program. Propagation, empowerment, implementation. While the stages can be simultaneous, public statements about the importance of democracy may be fully transparent for a stage in-between empowerment and implementation. This does not deny them the right to further propagate – democratically and civilly – for more and more implementation. The issue, perhaps, is that their propagation has not yet been sufficient. The test will be if circumstances propel the Brotherhood to abort their methodology and grab power prematurely. Patience has been their virtue, but is the tree yet ripe?

Critical attention, then, after this sympathetic introduction, must turn to the quite objectionable statements of the booklet. These fall into two basic categories, which overlap substantially. First, there are the statements which assert not only the superiority of Islam (permissible in terms of doctrine and belief), but also its sovereignty. Second, there are the statements which envision violent promotion of international aims. There is within Islam that which can be understood as a call to unite faith with politics, religion with state. The Muslim Brotherhood clearly believes in this interpretation. Modern members of the Brotherhood, therefore, must speak clearly to the following issues extrapolated from the booklet:

  • We believe Islam incorporates … the Quran and the sword.

To what degree does this involve the right of any state to monopolize violence, which would be governed by Islamic principles, to be argued as virtuous? Or, is it an invitation to carry out the principles of Islam through violent methods?

  • The Quran has made Muslims to be the guardians for an incapable humanity, giving them the right of superintendence and sovereignty over the world.

It is a far different matter to assert one’s faith is absolutely correct, than to take this principle and demand sovereignty over all others. Muslims should be free to argue the benefits of their religion, in both faith and policy. Yet assuming ‘the right’ of sovereignty precludes one from learning for others, who are then established in an adversarial relationship, unless they submit as those ‘incapable’.

  • We will establish a state which implements practically the regulations and teachings of Islam.

Perhaps it can be semantics to argue what makes a state ‘civil’ versus ‘religious’. There is no necessary reason a civil state cannot enshrine moral or religious principles in law. The question concerns the a priori nature: Must religious regulations be implemented? Furthermore, under whose interpretation? Does this include controversial rulings such as cutting the hand of a thief and death for the apostate? Though the booklet does not answer this last question, the apparent answers for the first two are: ‘Yes’, and, ‘ours’.

  • [We] will pursue them and raid in their own lands, until the entire world celebrates the name of the Prophet and the teachings of the Quran. The shade of Islam will cover the earth, and then what the Muslim desires will be achieved: No sedition and all religion will be for God.

Again, the preaching of Islam is free to convert the whole world, should it be successful. Yet by all appearances this statement calls for the violent, offensive, military advance of the religion. Islamic nations currently do not have the power to do so. Would they, if so equipped? Do not statements like this, unless clearly repudiated, justify those who might wish to keep the Muslim world weak and subjected, or at the least interpret the world through a clash of civilizations?

  • We recognize no system of government that does not emerge from the foundation of Islam. We recognize no political parties or traditional forms which the infidels and enemies of Islam have forced upon us.

Many modern Islamic scholars, politicians, and analysts find the principles of a modern democratic system within Islamic sources and history. Their academic efforts should not be dismissed out of hand. Yet the stridency of this statement begs the question if the Brotherhood is only using democracy as an ascent to power. If established, would they allow the flourishing of the democratic necessity – political parties – seemingly declared forbidden by this statement?

  • [We desire] an Islamic nation, desiring every part of the Islamic world to join with us.

There is no necessary reason why Islamic majority nations should not come together in some sort of union, as Europe has already accomplished to some degree. Yet this statement appears to resurrect the controversial idea of ‘caliphate’ (stated clearly elsewhere), and at the least indicates the Brotherhood’s ambition stretches far beyond the governance of Egypt. Their members may have legitimate answers, but they deserve to be served the question.

  • We desire the flag of God to fly high over the lands which once enjoyed Islam and the call of prayer declaring ‘God is great’, but then returned to unbelief. Andalusia, Sicily, the Balkans, southern Italy, and the islands of the Mediterranean were all Islamic colonies and must return to the bosom of Islam.

As above, the people of all nations should be free to choose their religion, and why should Muslims not harbor dreams of seeing their former territories reconvert to Islam? Yet the tone here is aggressive and militaristic, especially in light of earlier statements. Should the nations of southern Europe be on alert?

  • We desire to announce our call to the whole world, and to cause every tyrant to submit to it, so that there is no sedition and all of religion is for God.

People in the west should be slow to judge this statement, given the policies of their nations which have sought the downfall of tyrants. It is true a tyrant can be made to peacefully submit, and this statement does lead with the priority of ‘call’. Nonetheless, the question is fair: Who would be considered a tyrant, and should non-Muslim leaders be on alert? Is a religion, in this case Islam, a fair measure in which to pursue international justice?

  • We declare no Muslim to be an infidel, unless he speaks of his unbelief, or denies a fact of religion, or impugns the purity of the Quran.

There have been numerous Islamist groups which do declare those of opposing orientation to be infidels, and the Brotherhood here takes a stand against this trend, consistent with historical Muslim practice. At the same time, does this statement limit what in the west would be considered legitimate academic study or religious debate concerning the Qur’an? Furthermore, does it limit the ability of a convert from Islam to publish his new or non-faith? On this point many Muslim Brothers are quite clear in the affirmative. Those who find this a threat to religious and intellectual freedom would appear right, therefore, in opposition to the Brotherhood.

  • [Government] members should be Muslims who perform the pillars of Islam and not those who willfully neglect them … It is permissible to seek the help of non-Muslims should this be necessary, but not in the positions of general authority.

This is an important point for Muslim Brothers today to be clear about, as most assert that the coming Egyptian state should be one of equal rights for all citizens. Will they then clearly denounce the founding opinions of al-Banna – consistent with much of Islamic history – as a relic of the past? It is not necessary to condemn this history outright, as arguments are possible it was more inclusive and tolerant than other contemporary versions of governance. That it does not match the ideals of a modern, pluralistic world, however, appear clear.

In conclusion, given the growing international stature of the Muslim Brotherhood, it is incumbent not only upon Egyptians but also the world to clearly understand both the near- and far-term goals of the organization. Al-Banna preached the Brotherhood must be transparent; do his descendants honor his example?

Yet ultimately, what is most important is not the answers which savvy Muslim Brothers might deliver to a Western audience, no matter their level of sincerity and transparency. What matters is the meaning these words convey to a Muslim audience. This text has sought to reveal what Muslims are hearing, though it is limited in precision through the interpretation of a non-Arab, non-Muslim. Yet it appears that if this booklet represents current Brotherhood philosophy, it is distinctly different than the public image displayed to Westerners and Egyptian non-Islamists.

Egypt, the region, and perhaps the world are in a crucial phase of history. Opinions and policies must be built on fact and clarity; the Brotherhood owes it to all to define who they are, and what they want.

Arab West Report Middle East Published Articles

Who are We, and What do We Want? – The Muslim Brotherhood

This is the very question many people are asking about the Muslim Brotherhood following the Egyptian Revolution of January 25, 2011. While the world was enthralled by a peaceful youth movement to overthrow a corrupt regime, many feared then, and more fear now, that the aftermath will result in national leadership in the hands of Islamists, led by the Muslim Brotherhood. Some believe the Brotherhood will transform Egypt into a theocratic state as in Iran. Others believe the movement is largely moderate, compatible with a modern democratic state. Some Muslim Brothers speak of a return to a caliphate; others speak of human rights and religious freedom. Are some stuck in the past? Do others obscure their ultimate goals? Who are they, and what do they want?

Fortunately, the Muslim Brotherhood issued a booklet answering this very question. It is subtitled: Readings from the Letters of Imam Hasan al-Banna. Hasan al-Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, and lived from 1906 until his assassination in 1949. Al-Banna was eager to put forth clearly his aims and understanding of Islam. He wrote:

For this reason I have wished to speak to you about the definition of Islam and its ideal picture in the souls of the Muslim Brothers, so that the foundations of which we call for, take pride in, and seek the expansion of, may be completely clear.

The booklet newly gathering his thoughts was published in April 2011, thus reflecting an effort, at least on the part of some Muslim Brothers, to make clear once again the principles of the group following the revolution. It was presented to the author of this text while attending ‘Tuesday Conversations’ at the Omar ibn al-‘As Mosque in Old Cairo. A helpful young member of the organization selected it from a wide variety of books made available at the entrance to the mosque. ‘Tuesday Conversations’ was a weekly public lecture conducted by al-Banna until it was forbidden by the government in 1948. General Guide Mohamed Badie re-launched the session under the slogan, “Listen to Us, not about Us.” This is fitting with al-Banna’s original desire to present a clear image of the Brotherhood.

The booklet is divided into two sections. The first is a general introduction to understanding the call of the Muslim Brotherhood, while the second is a more specific treatment of its definition, end, goals, means, etc. This text will provide summaries of each section which represent loose translations of the content. It will also provide direct quotes in italics, especially in areas that appear more provocative and need further explanation. The text will follow the outline provided by the booklet.

One caveat to present the reader before beginning: The Muslim Brotherhood is a flexible and evolutionary organization which has consistently changed with the times. That the information which follows is drawn from its founder and re-presented is a fair indication this vision still drives the organization. Yet it must be emphasized the current leadership may have moved on from certain statements or understandings its founder possessed, which were forged in the period of European colonialism. This can only be assessed through monitoring their statements and direct questioning in interviews, which will hopefully be possible in the days to come.

The Muslim Brotherhood is more than a political organization, though it includes this function as witnessed in the creation of its Freedom and Justice Party. Politicians of all stripes are accused of changing their statements to suit their audience, and Brotherhood politicians should not be excused from this suspicion. Yet as Mina Magdy, political affairs coordinator for the Maspero Youth Union, a largely Coptic Christian human rights organization which rejects cooperation with the Brotherhood, says,

They interact according to what people want to hear, and maybe some of them are sincere in their kind words. But we judge them according to their books, by what is written.

This text is an effort to present one example of what is written and distributed by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Who are We, and What do We Want?

Part One – A General Introduction to Understanding the Call of the Muslim Brotherhood

   1.    Islam … As the Brothers Understand it

Many people misunderstand both Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood. Some think of Islam as rules for worship and the provision of serenity in life. Others view it as a system of virtue and avoiding vice, while others think it is an inherited, backward tradition. As for the Brotherhood, some see it as a preaching organization for prosperity in this life and reminders of the next. Others view it as a Sufi organization promoting self-denial.

a)      We believe Islam incorporates all things to organize life in this world and the next: Doctrine and worship, nation and nationality, religion and state, spirituality and work, and Quran and the sword.

b)      We follow the Quran and the Sunna as practiced by the followers of Muhammad and those who followed them.[1]

c)       Islam organizes all of life for all peoples at all times.

In times past Islam came under the powers of the infidel world, so that it and its empire grew weaker and lost its meaning.

The theoretical part of our call is to show people clearly the pure Islam; the practical part is to ask them to carry it out. To this we will strive, calling people to the task, expending everything for its sake, so that we live nobly either in life or in death.

Our slogan: God is our end, the Apostle[2] is our leader, the Quran is our constitution, jihad[3] is our way, and death is the path of God is our highest hope.

2.       The Muslim’s Duty in Life, as the Muslim Brotherhood Understands it

The Quran is the measure by which we judge our call and our goals in life. It teaches that some people seek food or riches, or even to spread trouble and evil. But the Muslim’s goal is higher: It is to guide people to the good, giving them the light of Islam.

Therefore, the Quran has made Muslims to be the guardians for an incapable humanity, giving them the right of superintendence and sovereignty over the world. This is in service to our noble teachings and is our business, not that of the West; for the civilization of Islam, and not the civilization of materialism.

Muslims should expend themselves in sacrifice for this call, and not profit from it. As they do they create civilization, unlike Western imperialism, which promotes desires and cravings.

It is necessary we make this clear and specify it, and I think we have arrived to a place of clarity and agreed: Our duty is to have sovereignty over the world and to guide humanity to the good ways of Islam and its teachings, which alone can make a man happy.

3.       The Muslim Brotherhood on the Path of its First Call

We call people along the same path Mohamed did, so that they maintain these three strong feelings:

a)      Faith in the greatness of the message

b)      Pride in belonging to it

c)       Hope in the support of God in achieving it

Part Two – Getting to Know the Call of the Muslim Brotherhood

1.       Essence of the Muslim Brotherhood

The essence of the Muslim Brotherhood is to explain carefully the call of the Quran in its entirety, in accordance with the modern age.[4] We seek to win hearts and souls to the principles of the Quran, so that we may renew our heritage and bring all Islamic viewpoints closer together.

We seek to develop and liberate the national wealth, raising standards of living, achieving social justice and security for all citizens, combating ignorance, sickness, poverty, and vice.

We wish to liberate Egypt and all Arab and Islamic lands from foreign control. We will support Arab unity and the Islamic league.

We will establish a state which implements practically the regulations and teachings of Islam, protecting them domestically and publishing them abroad.

We will support global cooperation in protection of rights and freedoms, to promote peace in the balance between faith and the material world.

Muslim Brothers are:

  • Strangers who seek reform among the corrupt
  • A new mind to judge between right and wrong
  • Callers for Islam and the Quran, connecting the earth with heaven
  • Possessors of the noblest call, the greatest aim, the strongest foundation, the securest band, who have light for the way

The Muslim Brotherhood is:

  • A Salafi call to return to the Islam of Quran and Sunna
  • A Sunni way in worship and doctrine
  • A Sufi truth to promote purity of self and love for God
  • A political organization to reform governance both home and abroad
  • A sporting group to build strong bodies in performance of the pillars of Islam
  • A scientific and cultural club to promote learning
  • An economic company to make clean profits
  • A social idea to treat social ills


2.       The Goal of the Muslim Brotherhood

The goal of the Brotherhood is to create a new generation of believers from the teachings of Islam, in order to give the nations a complete Islamic imprint in all aspects of life.

3.       The Message of the Muslim Brotherhood

Ruling the world, guiding all of humanity to the ways and teachings of Islam, which alone can make people happy.

For too long the civilization of materialism has divided the Muslim peoples and retarded their progress. It stands against them and the leadership of the Prophet, denying the light of Islam to the world.

We do not stand for this, but will pursue them and raid in their own lands, until the entire world celebrates the name of the Prophet and the teachings of the Quran. The shade of Islam will cover the earth, and then what the Muslim desires will be achieved: No sedition and all religion will be for God.

4.       Goals of the Muslim Brotherhood

Our program has clear and specific stages and steps, since we know exactly what we want and the means by which to achieve it.

  • First, a Muslim man, clear in his thought, doctrine, morals, sympathies, work, and behavior.
  • Second, a Muslim house, in the areas above but we care also for the women as we do for the men, and for children as we do for youth. This is how we shape the family.
  • Third, a Muslim people, so that our message is heard in every village, district, and city.
  • Fourth, a Muslim government, which will lead the people to prayer and the guidance of Islam, as did the Companions of the Prophet and the caliphs Abu Bakr and Omar. We recognize no system of government that does not emerge from the foundation of Islam. We recognize no political parties or traditional forms which the infidels and enemies of Islam have forced upon us. We will work to revive the Islamic system of rule in all its forms, and we will shape an Islamic government from this system.
  • Fifth, an Islamic nation, desiring every part of the Islamic world to join with us, which was previously divided by Western politics and whose unity was weakened by European colonialism. We do not recognize these political divisions and will not submit to these international agreements which turned the Islamic nation into weak, torn apart, tiny states, easily swallowed by usurpers. We will not be silent as these peoples’ freedom is digested by autocrats. Egypt, Syria, Iraq, the Hijaz,[5] Yemen, Tripoli, Tunisia, Algeria, Marrakesh,[6] and all lands where Muslims say ‘There is no god but God’ – these are one large nation which we aim to liberate, rescue, and save, incorporating its parts one with the other. If the German Reich forced itself as a protector of all who had German blood, then Islamic doctrine obliges every strong Muslim to consider himself a protector of all who imbibe the teachings of the Quran. It is not possible in Islam for the racial factor to be more powerful than the factor of faith. Doctrine is everything in Islam, for what is faith except love and hatred?
  • Sixth, we desire the flag of God to fly high over the lands which once enjoyed Islam and the call of prayer declaring ‘God is great’, but then returned to unbelief. Andalusia,[7] Sicily, the Balkans, southern Italy, and the islands of the Mediterranean were all Islamic colonies and must return to the bosom of Islam. If Mussolini saw as his right to recreate the Roman Empire, whose so-called ancient empire was built on nothing but avarice and pleasure, then it is within our right to restore the glory of the Islamic Empire which was founded on justice, fairness, and spreading light and guidance to the people.
  •  Seventh, we desire to announce our call to the whole world, and to cause every tyrant to submit to it, so that there is no sedition and all of religion is for God.

Those incapable cowards who suppose this is all fantasy or dreams are simply suffering from weakness of faith that God has cast into the hearts of Islam’s enemies. We announce clearly that every Muslim who does not believe in this program and work for its realization will have no fortune in Islam.

5.       The Preparedness of the Muslim Brotherhood

Those who follow this path possess a faith that cannot be shaken, confidence in God that cannot grow weak, and souls which rejoice most in their martyrdom. Furthermore, they possess great psychological power, having a strong will, firm loyalty, great sacrifice, and knowledge of faith. They implement the Quranic verse which states: God will not change a people until they change themselves.

6.       The Means of the Muslim Brotherhood

As stated in the Muslim Brotherhood foundational system law, we pursue our goal through the following means:

  • Preaching – through letters, publications, newspapers, magazines, books, and delegations both here and abroad
  • Nurturing – inclusive of spiritual, intellectual, and physical
  • Directing – so that all issues of life might be guided practically to their Islamic solution
  • Work – creating economic, social, religious, and scientific establishments, in addition to mosques, schools, and clinics, to get rid of all which is harmful, such as drugs, drinking, gambling, and prostitution

It is true that speeches, lectures, money and other means may help identify an illness and proscribe a cure, but the only means to solve it are through deep faith, precise strengthening, and continuing work.

The general means we pursue our goals are:

  • First, spreading our call and convincing people of it until it becomes the general opinion.
  • Second, using all proper elements necessary to strengthen the firm support for reform.
  • Third, engaging in a constitutional struggle until our call is supported by official professional clubs and the executive powers. Then, when the time is right, we will nominate ourselves for parliamentary bodies.
  • We will not deviate from these means unless we are forced to, but we will not refrain from declaring our position openly without ambiguity, ready to bear the results of our work.

We will not burden anyone but ourselves, or court favor except among our own. We know that which is God’s is best and will remain. We know expending yourself for truth is the key to immortality. There is no call except that which comes from striving for God, and there is no striving for God which is not met with persecution. But then comes the hour of victory when the Quranic verse is achieved:

When the apostles give up hope and think that they were treated as liars, there reaches them Our help, and those whom We will are delivered into safety. But never will be warded off our punishment from those who are in sin.

7.       Peculiarities of the Muslim Brotherhood Call

It is a call to God, resisting the materialism of the world. It is a universal call, rejecting racism or distinction between persons. Unlike other contemporary calls, it is composed of:

  • Distance from points of contention
  • Distance from the cult of personality and pride
  • Distance from political parties and associations
  • Care for growing stronger in gradual steps
  • Securing work and production through promotion and advertisement
  • Great acceptance among the youth
  • Rapid spread through villages and cities


8.       Foundations of Understanding Islam in the Muslim Brotherhood

So that all understand Islam in the manner we do, we present these twenty foundational statements:

1)      Islam is a complete order of life, inclusive of state and nation, government and people, creation and power, mercy and justice, culture and law, science and jurisdiction, material and resources, earning and wealth, jihad and preaching, army and idea, trustworthy doctrine and true worship.

2)      The Quran and Hadith are the reference for every Muslim.

3)      Faith and worship give light and sweetness, but illumination, impressed ideas, and visions are not part of Islamic principles.

4)      Amulets and sorcery must be fought against.

5)      The teaching about the imam and the one who stands for him[8] is not based on Islamic texts, and opinions about this always change.

6)      We accept all that the earliest Muslims did which fits with the Quran and Hadith, but we do not oppose those who view things differently.

7)      Everyone who does not possess sufficient standing in religion should follow an imam until he does.

8)      Differences in subordinate matters should not divide Muslims.

9)      Be careful about discussion of matters which often descend into minutia.

10)   The most sublime Islamic doctrines are the knowledge of God, his unity, and his transparency.

11)   We must rid our faith of heresies, but in a proper way which does not lead to evil.

12)   Certain matters between Muslims are for jurisprudence, examining them with proofs and evidence.

13)   The early companions of Mohamed should not be criticized.

14)   Do not adorn tombs of the deceased or call upon the help of departed saints.[9]

15)   It is wrong to call upon God’s help through the intercession of his creation.

16)   Customs of a people should not change religious norms.

17)   The basis of all work is our doctrine, which should push us toward perfection.

18)   Islam frees the mind and enables modern science.

19)   The opinion of sharia and the opinion of reason should not conflict with each other, though true science always submits to true doctrine.

20)   We declare no Muslim to be an infidel, unless he speaks of his unbelief, or denies a fact of religion, or impugns the purity of the Quran, or explains it outside of what the tools of the Arabic language can accommodate, or behaves in a way unexplainable except by unbelief.


9.       Working for Islam according to the Muslim Brotherhood

The Muslim should continually work to reform himself, set straight his Muslim home, guide his society, and liberate his country from any foreign, non-Muslim political, economic, or spiritual power.

He should work to reform his government until it becomes truly Islamic. Its members should be Muslims who perform the pillars of Islam and not those who willfully neglect them, to implement the regulations and teachings of Islam.

It is permissible to seek the help of non-Muslims should this be necessary, but not in the positions of general authority, as long as he agrees on the general basis of the Islamic system of governance.

The characteristics of this government are a feeling of subjection, kindness towards its subjects, just dealings with the people, keeping itself from the general wealth, and economy in working with it.

The obligations of this government are the provision of security, making laws, promoting education, keeping itself strong, preserving general health, watching over the general interest, developing wealth, protecting capital, strengthening morals, and issuing the call to Islam.

The rights of this government, when it performs its duties, include loyalty, obedience, and assistance through its people and their money.

The Muslim should then work to restore the international position of the Islamic nation, so that its lands are liberated and its glory revived in the return of the lost caliphate and all desired unity.

Then, finally, the Muslim should work for professorship of the world by spreading the call to Islam in all corners… (quoting the Quranic verse):

Fight them until there is no sedition, and all of religion is for God.

10.   The Process of Formation is among the Firm Principles of the Muslim Brotherhood

Moving gradually in steps: All aspects of our call move in three steps:

  1. Propagation, definition, and preaching the idea so it is received by the masses in all classes of people.
  2. Empowerment, selecting helpers, preparing soldiers, and outfitting the troops[10] among those who are called.
  3. Implementation, work, and production.

Many times these three stages can work simultaneously. The preacher calls to Islam, while he also chooses people and educates them, while he also works to implement the goals.

11.   Describing the Muslim in the Call of the Muslim Brotherhood

He is characterized by:

  • Believing in the idea with faith, sincerity, zeal, and work
  • Sincerity in dispossessing himself for the cause
  • Striving in the path of its realization
  • Influencing both work and production
  • Incorporating time for preaching
  • Keeping from being miserly in his belief
  • Aware of all his duties
  • Brings love to all people
Related Texts:

[1] Following the practice of these three groups is also a key distinction of the Muslim party called Salafi, though it is not restricted to them alone.

[2] That is, Mohamed.

[3] The term jihad incorporates an idea of ‘striving’, of which violence and warfare are possible but not necessarily implied.

[4] The designation of ‘modern age’ moves the Brotherhood beyond the aforementioned Salafis, who generally speaking reject philosophical world advancements in favor of the original vision of Mohamed and his companions.

[5] The Red Sea coastal region of present day Saudi Arabia, within which are the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

[6] A designation for Morocco.

[7] Designating the lands of Spain and Portugal, where Islam ruled for 800 years.

[8] Representing a prominent teaching of Shi’ism.

[9] Representing a practice among some Sufis and traditional Muslims.

[10] It appears these military allusions are symbolic rather than a call for militias, but further clarification is necessary.