The Muslim Brotherhood: Origins, Efficacy, and Reach

[Note: The following essay, written nearly a year ago but only recently published, has, in light of the June 30 Revolution and ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, been slightly updated with additional bracketed text.]

The Muslim Brotherhood is the most important Islamic organization in the world, with tentacles of influence everywhere, both in the Islamic world but also in the West, wherever its purpose—the establishment of a Sharia-enforcing caliphate—can be achieved. The efficacy of this group can be seen in the fact that, less than a century ago, when it was founded, it consisted of very few members; it was violent and eventually crushed and outlawed; today in Egypt, a MB leader, Muhammad Morsi, sits on the throne of the Middle East’s most strategic nation, ironically in the name of democracy, where he is trying to enable the totality of Sharia law in Egypt, even as many resist [and they have succeeded, via the June 30 Revolution that saw the ousting of Morsi].

History and Approach

The story of the Muslim Brotherhood, as with many other stories dealing with Islamic importance, begins in Egypt—which still serves as something of a paradigm of the group’s strategies and approach in general. Hassan al-Banna (1906-1949), the son of a mosque imam and Sheikh of the Hanbali school of law, founded the Muslim Brotherhood. Hassan incorporated Sufi views, which tend to be more moderate and which teach, among other things, pragmatism and patience. Of course, in an Islamic context pragmatism and patience can easily take on the form of taqiyya and tawriya—Islamic doctrines that instruct Muslims to deceive when it is perceived to be in Islam’s interest—and may well explain how Banna came to develop the Muslim Brotherhood’s way of operating, to be discussed further below...Continue reading