Muslim Brotherhood

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Muslim Brotherhood,

officially Jamiat al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun [Arab.,=Society of Muslim Brothers], religious and political organization founded (1928) in Egypt by Hasan al-BannaBanna, Hasan al-
, 1906–49, Egyptian religious and political leader; founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. He was involved with traditional Islamic education in Egypt. In 1928 he formed the Society of the Muslim Brothers, which sought a return to original religious precepts.
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. Early opposed to secular tendencies in Islamic nations and also anti-British and anti-Zionist, the organization has sought to foster a return to the original precepts of the Qur'anQur'an
or Koran
[Arab.,=reading, recitation], the sacred book of Islam. Revealed by God to the Prophet Muhammad in separate revelations over the major portion of the Prophet's life at Mecca and at Medina, the Qur'an was intended as a recited text, and was not compiled
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. It grew rapidly, establishing an educational, economic, military, and political infrastructure. Threatened by the group's popularity and its bombings and other politically motivated violence, Egypt's government twice banned (1948, 1954) the organization. It subsequently existed largely as a clandestine but often militant group, marked by its rejection of Western influences. The Muslim Brotherhood remains strong in Egypt, Syria, Sudan, and other Arab countries, and has organizations in most Islamic nations.

The group was permitted to operate openly in Egypt in the late 1980s and early 90s after disavowing violence in the 1970s, but the government again moved against the group beginning in the mid-1990s. Members were elected to Egypt's parliament as independents, and in 2005 candidates linked to the group won a fifth of the seats in parliament, a record. Egypt subsequently mounted a new crackdown on the group, beginning in late 2006, and in 2007 the nation's constitution was amended to ban religious-based political parties.

Candidates linked to the group won almost no seats in 2010 amid government efforts to exclude them from the parliament. The group joined in the 2011 protests that led to President MubarakMubarak, Muhammad Hosni
, 1928–2020, president of Egypt (1981–2011). Air force commander (1972–75) and vice president (1975–81) of Egypt, he became president after Anwar al-Sadat was assassinated on Oct. 6, 1981.
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's ouster. It subsequently established the Freedom and Justice party (FJP), which aligned itself with other opposition groups. The FJP won the largest bloc of parliamentary seats in the 2011–12 elections, but the parliament was dissolved by the supreme court for election violations in mid-2012. Mohamed MorsiMorsi, Mohamed
, 1951–2019, Egyptian engineer and political leader, grad. Cairo Univ. (B.A. 1975. M.A. 1978), Univ. of Southern California (Ph.D. 1982). He taught engineering at California State Univ., Northridge, and after returning to Egypt in 1985, at Zagazig Univ.
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, the FJP presidential candidate, won the June, 2012, runoff election, becoming Egypt's first democratically elected president. He was overthrown a year later amid increasing unrest. The Brotherhood was again banned and then declared a terrorist group, and the FJP was later ordered dissolved by the courts. Many of its leaders and supporters were arrested or went into exile, and later (2014–15) some of those arrested were sentenced to death or life imprisonment in mass trials. Hundreds of its supporters also were killed (Aug., 2013) when protests were crushed.

The Syrian branch of the group sought to drive Hafez al-AssadAssad, Hafez al-
, 1930–2000, president of Syria (1971–2000). He graduated (1955) from the Syrian Military Academy and advanced through the army ranks to become a general.
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 from power through a terror campaign and insurgency in the late 1970s and early 1980s, which culminated in the government's 1982 massacre in Hama. In Jordan the Muslim Brotherhood's political arm, the Islamic Action Front, is an important opposition party. The Muslim Brotherhood also has given rise to a number of more militant and violent organizations, such as HamasHamas
[Arab., = zeal], Arabic acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement, a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization that was founded in 1987 during the Intifada; it seeks to establish an Islamic state in Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip (the former
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, Gama'a al-Islamiya, and Islamic Jihad.


See studies by B. Rubin (2010) and C. R. Wickham (2013).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Muslim Brotherhood


(Arabic, al Ikhwan al Muslimun), political and religious pan-Islamic association, founded on Apr. 11, 1929, by a small group that was established in Al Isma’iliyah (Egypt) in 1928 by the teacher Hassan al-Banna. The association reflected the mood of the most conservative groups of the petite bourgeoisie. Its center was transferred to Cairo in 1934. In 1937 sections of the brotherhood were founded in Syria and Lebanon and later in Iraq, Jordan, Sudan, and Palestine. The association called on all Muslims to unite in the struggle against the West; it sought the reestablishment of the caliphate, in which life would be regulated by the principles of the Koran.

Striving for political power, the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood employed social demagoguery and the slogans of the struggle for national liberation. By 1939 it had turned into a mass organization with a large network of local cells; it had paramilitary battalions, youth detachments of the boy scout variety, and secret terrorist groups. After an unsuccessful attempt to take power in Egypt, the association was banned (Dec. 8, 1948). Hassan al-Banna was killed on Feb. 12, 1949. The period 1948-54 was filled with internal factional struggle. Hassan al-Banna’s successor, Hassan al-Hudaibi, was not able to restore completely the brotherhood’s influence in Egypt, and the association was dissolved on Oct. 29, 1954. Since that time it has operated underground, unifying the forces of reaction. The brotherhood has branches in Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Sudan. Imperialist and reactionary forces attempt to utilize the Muslim Brotherhood for subversive activity against progressive forces and movements in the Arab countries.


Sultanov, A. F. “Klassy i partii v sovremennom Egipte.” Tr. Moskovskogo in-ta vostokovedniia, 1953, no. 7.
Goldobin, A. M. “Razgrom assotsiatsii brat’ev-musul’man v Egipte v 1954.” Uch. zap. LGU. 1962, no. 304, issue 14.
Seiranian, B. G. Egipet v bor’be za nezavisimost’: 1945-1952. Moscow, 1970.
Harris, C. P. Nationalism and Revolution in Egypt. The Hague, 1964. (It has a detailed bibliography.)
Al’-Huseini Ishaq, Musa. Al’Ikhvan al’-musliman-kubra al’-khara-kat al’-islamiia al’-khadisa. (The Muslim Brotherhood—a Most Important Present-day Islamic Movement), 2nd ed. Beirut, 1955.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.