Great Movements of The 20th Century: Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimin*
Soon will Allah, His Prophet, and the believers observe your work. And soon will you be brought back to The Knower of what is hidden and what is open; then will He show you all that you did. [Surat-at-Tawbah 9:94]
Throughout recent history there has been a proliferation of self-indulgent Muslim organizations claiming to be enlightened and committed to the guidelines of Islam. Although a few of them are sincerely striving toward what they profess, the overwhelming majority are corrupt and grossly negligent in their adherence to Islamic practices and principles. In sharp contrast, there is the example of the Islamic Movement of Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimin.
With the 1924 demise of the “Khilafa” or so-called Ottoman Turkish Empire, European acts of aggression against many Muslim lands exceeded all bounds of propriety. In response to such blatant hostility, there was a resurgence of Islamic awareness that manifested itself in the establishment of an organization known as “Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimin” (The Muslim Brotherhood) in Egypt in 1928. Soon thereafter, Al-Ikhwan began to spread the ideas that Islam is “Creed and state, book and sword, and a way of life”, and these concepts were embraced by Muslims outside of Egypt as well. Many of the colonized governments in Muslim countries responded with harsh efforts to repress the movement by imprisonment, torture, and persecution of its members.
The media and press often slander and attempt to cast aspersions on the organization, attributing acts of terrorism to it and questioning its motives. However, close examination of Al-Ikhwan operations in more than 70 countries throughout the world reveals quite another perspective. Al- Ikhwan groups are committed to reject any action or principle which contradicts the Qur’an or Sunnah. They strive to spread the Sunnah in all aspects of life and invite others to it. Al-Ikhwan members are expected to work toward increasing their iman by focusing on purifying their hearts, loving their fellow Muslims for the sake of Allah, and remembering Allah in the proper way. Al-Ikhwan does engage in political activism by studying the governments in various countries in order to implement political programs that can shape governments according to Islamic guidelines.
Contrary to popular misconceptions, members of Al-Ikhwan are encouraged to maintain personal physical health through sports and exercise as well as engage in intense studies of Islam and “Shari’a” (Islamic law). In addition, the organization strengthens its economic base by only permitting its own members to support its Islamic projects. Its policy of refusing funds from external organizations or agencies helps to maintain its autonomy and discourages corrupt conflicts of interest. In general, the thrust of Al-Ikhwan’s efforts is to nurture brotherhood throughout the Islamic society.
Members of Al-Ikhwan have common goals on both individual and organizational levels. Members are urged to strive to develop themselves in terms of Islamic moral and spiritual qualities and correct practice of worship. At the same time, the organization encourages developing Muslim families by choosing a good spouse and educating children Islamically.
Though individual and family developments are crucial, members are also committed to work to improve the Muslim society according to Qur’an and Sunnah. Al-Ikhwan seeks to assist in the development of Muslim countries and strives toward eventually unifying them into an Islamic state, Khilafa. In general, Al-Ikhwan’s programs are designed to prepare individuals and the overall Muslim society to provide correct, Islamic leadership for the world.
Training in Al-Ikhwan takes a number of different approaches to accomplish the Islamic upbringing known as “tarbiyah”. Some techniques used include Halaqa (weekly unit study and practice meeting), Katibah (monthly meetings of several-units), trips, camps, courses, workshops, and conferences.
Al-Ikhwan does not advocate hasty action to overthrow governments which could jeopardize the safety and liberty of the governed. Instead, Ikhwan doctrines assert that preparation of a society is achieved through plans for spreading Islamic culture through mosques and da’wah work in public organizations. Ikhwan members seek training to administer political, economical, social, and student organizations efficiently and Islamically. Moreover, the Ikhwan welcome and offer support for any leader who wants to establish a true Islamic government.
The benefits of Al-Ikhwan should be measured by the organization’s track record. For instance, it has been instrumental in liberating Muslim lands. However, its philosophy emphasizes action and work over mere propaganda. The Ikhwan’s bravery in the 1948 Palestine war is a matter of record. The total number of volunteers from Al-Ikhwan in 1948 numbered 10,000 from Egypt, Syria and other countries. In addition Al-Ikhwan tries to increase the awareness of Muslims and to re-instill a spirit of struggle and dignity. Al-Ikhwan members were active among Muslims struggling to liberate Central Asian Muslim republics since the 1970s, and members have contributed significantly in the battlefields of Afghanistan and Kashmir. Al-Ikhwan is also in the forefront in providing emergency relief, food, shelter, supplies, and medical treatment to the homeless, to orphans, and to victims of natural disasters such as an earthquake in Egypt.
Al-Ikhwan’s record in the realm of intellectual development is stellar because it has quite an impressive list of members who have proven to be outstanding Islamic thinkers, scholars, and committed activists who have endured persecution, torture, and even martyrdom. Among its membership we find the names of such extraordinary leaders as: Sayyid Qutb – author of In the Shade of the Qur’an and author of Milestones, Yusuf al-Qaradawi – author of the Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam, Abdullah ‘Azzam the mujahid and shaheed, Shahid Hasan Al-Banna – author of Towards The Light, Shaikh Syed Sabiq – author of Fiqh Us Sunnah, Sister Zainab al-Ghazali – author of Return of the Pharaoh, and Shaikh Muhammad al-Ghazali. These remarkable brothers and sisters have used their talents to construct Islamically sound theories in areas of fiqh, finance and economics, political systems, etc. Their writings and their deeds provide inspiration and tangible models for continuing Islamic work.
Also to its credit, Al-Ikhwan has focused on working to establish sound Islamic communities in Europe and North America by fostering local community organizations, Islamic schools, national associations, and special interest organizations of committed Muslims in various professional fields. Likewise, Al-Ikhwan has been the catalyst for national and international projects in Islamic financing and banking without interest.
While the enemies of Islam try to claim that Al-Ikhwan may lack focus or unity, its founder, Shahid Hasan Al-Banna, has eloquently and clearly instructed the members of Al-Ikhwan, “always bear in mind that you have two fundamental goals:
1) Freeing the Islamic homeland from all foreign authority, for this is a natural right belonging to every human being which only the unjust oppressor will deny.
2) Establishment of an Islamic state within this homeland which acts according to the precepts of Islam, applies its social regulations, advocates its sound principles, and broadcasts its mission to all mankind. For as long as this state does not emerge, every Muslim is sinning and is responsible before Allah the Almighty for the failure and slackness of establishing it.”
Perhaps the theme and slogan of Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimin is the clearest indication of the level of focus and commitment of the organization. The words are striking because of their simplicity and the high degree of devotion and sacrifice that they have been able to extract from the members of Al-Ikhwan: “Allah is our objective. The Messenger is our leader. Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”
One cannot avoid being touched by these words knowing that their author, Hasan Al Banna did, in fact, make the ultimate sacrifice in his struggles on behalf of Islam. In 1949 in Cairo, he was assassinated by the Egyptian government. Furthermore, his words helped to inspire the same type of devotion in Sayyid Qutb who also became a shahid when he was executed in 1966 by the Nasser regime.
One should hasten to add that the organization of Al-Ikhwan, like any other Islamic movement is not perfect. After all, its membership consists of human beings. Nevertheless, there is clear evidence of something quite noble and remarkable about the foremost members of Al-Ikhwan. As Yusuf Al-Qaradawi has stated in the book entitled, Islamic Education and Hasan Al-Banna, “Respected readers! I do not say that the Ikhwan are angels, free from all mistakes or prophets by whom there is no possibility of commitment of sin. No, the Ikhwan too are similar to other ordinary men, who commit mistakes and reap virtues as well. They stumble in their way and regain their balance. They are like any common individual of this Ummah who has inherited the Book of Allah. Allah says in the Qur’an: ‘But there are among them some who wrong their own souls; some who follow a middle course; and some who are by Allah’s leave foremost in good deeds.’ [Surah Fatir: 32].
Yusuf Al-Qaradawi continues, “They were bold and brave for the religion of Allah, and lovers of public welfare. They had a sense of honor for Islam and were fully active to establish its glory and splendor. They toiled continuously for the rule of Islamic Shari’ah and the leadership of the Muslim Ummah.” Thus, the legacy of the leaders of Al-Ikhwan has been their demonstration of the following words from the Qur’an: “Say: “Truly my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death are all for Allah the Cherisher of the Worlds.” [6:162]
* By Ama F. Shabazz