Last updated on: 5/19/2008 10:37:00 AM PST

What Is the Muslim Brotherhood?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Edward Said, PhD, the late Columbia University Professor, in his 1994 book titled The Politics of Dispossession, wrote:

"They [the Muslim Brotherhood] represent the original semiclandestine Islamic political party and have created offshoots and branches throughout the mashriq, or Eastern Arab world. Theirs is the literature and the ideas, principal among them Sayyid Qutb's Ma'alim fil Tariq, 1964 (Signposts Along the True Way), which pioneered the use of jahiliyya ['pagan ignorance and rebellion against God'] as a term of contemporary description. In the Occupied Territories [West Bank & Gaza Strip], Hamas is a local branch of the Brotherhood...

In Egypt and Jordan (and to some extent in Palestine) the Brotherhood, in the minds of many, has a symbiotic relationship with the government. In Jordan, for example, they have a considerable number of parliamentary seats and to the more nationalist-minded Islamists are remembered for their use by the king as buffers against Arab nationalism and Abdel Nasser. A similar configuration exists between the Brotherhood and the Egyptian government.

Despite its confusing status the Muslim Brotherhood remains the major Islamic political party."

1994 - Edward Said, PhD 

Bernard Lewis, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, in his 1993 book titled Islam and the West, wrote:

"The Muslim Brothers (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun), was founded in Egypt in 1928 by a religious teacher named Hasan al-Banna. The early history of the movement is not clearly known, but it appears to have been mainly concerned, for the first eight years, with religious and social activities. The founder, known as the 'Supreme Guide,' sent missionaries to preach in mosques and other public places all over Egypt. The Brothers undertook large-scale educational, social, charitable, and religious work in town and countryside and even engaged in some economic enterprises.

They began political action in 1936, after the signature of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty in that year and, by taking up the cause of the Palestine Arabs against Zionism and British rule, were able to extend the range of the movement to other Arab countries and especially Syria...

It [the Muslim Brotherhood] remains a powerful force and has enjoyed the material support of conservative Muslim regimes, including, at different times, the Saudi, Jordanian, and Iranian monarchies. Partly for this reason, it has been overtaken in popular appeal by more radical and subversive Islamic groups, some of them sponsored by self-proclaimed Islamic revolutionary regimes and some of them expressing authentic grass-roots discontents."

1993 - Bernard Lewis, PhD 

Albert Hourani, the late Oxford Historian, in his 1991 book titled A History of the Arab Peoples, wrote the following regarding the beliefs of the Muslim Brotherhood:

"The Muslim Brothers began as a movement for the reform of individual and social morality, based on an analysis of what was wrong with Muslim societies, similar to, and in part derived from, that of the Salafiyya [first Islamic generation]. Islam, it believed, had declined because of the prevalence of a spirit of blind imitation and the coming in of the excesses of Sufism [Islamic mysticism]; to these had been added the influence of the West, which, in spite of its social virtues, had brought alien values, immorality, missionary activity and imperial domination. The beginning of a cure was for Muslims to return to the true Islam, that of the Qur'an as interpreted by genuine ijtihad [authorities on Islam], and to try to follow its teachings in every sphere of life...

In a famous book, al-Adala al-ijtima'iyya fi'l-islam (Social Justice in Islam), Sayyid Qutb put forward a powerful interpretation of the social teaching of Islam. For Muslims, as distinct from Christians, there was, he suggested, no gap between faith and life. All human acts could be seen as acts of worship, and the Qur'an and Hadith [traditions of the Prophet] provided the principles on which action would be based. Man was free only if he was released from subjection to all powers except that of God...

In a work published earlier, in 1964, Ma'alim fi'l-tariq (Signposts on the Path), Sayyid Qutb had defined the true Islamic society in uncompromising terms. It was one which accepted the sovereign authority of God; that is to say, which regarded the Qur'an as the source of all guidance for human life, because it alone could give rise to a system of morality and law which corresponded to the nature of reality. All other societies were societies of Jahiliyya (ignorance of religious truth), whatever their principles: whether they were communist, capitalist, nationalist, based upon other, false religions, or claimed to be Muslim but did not obey the sharia [Islamic Law]:

'The leadership of western man in the human world is coming to an end, not because western civilization is materially bankrupt or has lost its economic or military strength, but because the western order has played its part, and no longer possesses the stock of 'values' which gave it its predominance... The scientific revolution has finished its role, as have 'nationalism' and the territorially limited communities which grew up in its age...the turn of Islam has come.'"

1991 - Albert Hourani