Exclusive Sneak Peek at the Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought — Muslim Brotherhood

The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought is the first reference to Islamic political thought from the birth of Islam to today. Comprehensive, authoritative, and accessible, the Encyclopedia provides much-needed context for understanding contemporary politics in the Islamic world and beyond. In this exclusive excerpt, Malika Zeghal, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Professor in Contemporary Islamic Thought and Life at Harvard University, sheds light on one the Arab world’s most prominent and immense Islamic movements — the Society of the Muslim Brothers. Her entry on the influential Islamic group traces its history:

Muslim Brotherhood

The Society of the Muslim Brothers (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun) is a political movement whose ideology is based in Islamic principles. It was one of the most significant political opposition movements in the second part of the 20th century. Founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hasan al-Banna (1906— 49), it produced offshoots elsewhere in the Middle East, such as in Palestine, Syria, Jordan, and Sudan, and influenced the ideologies of Islamist movements in Northern Africa.
In the 1940s, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood became the first mass grassroots political organization in the modern Middle East. Under the leadership of Banna, it sought recruits from the educated middle class and from the lower classes “who thereby gained a nonelitist access to politics“ in contrast to the recruitment of politicians from higher socioeconomic backgrounds through patronage and clientele networks. This style of recruitment partially explains the extraordinary growth of the movement, in combination with Banna’s focus on moral and religious education as well as on a practical vision of Islam reflected in active preaching and in the construction of schools and mosques. This vision brought to life many of the principles underlying reformist intellectual trends such as those inspired by Muhammad ’Abduh (1849— 1905) and Rashid Rida (1865— 1935). The Muslim Brotherhood has authoritarian forms of internal governance as well as administrative structures that resemble those of a political party. Banna was not in favor of parliamentary partisan life as it played out in Egypt between the two World Wars, however, and it was not until the end of the 20th century that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and some of its offshoots located elsewhere attempted to become legal political parties.

View the rest of the Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought excerpt here: Muslim Brotherhood