Hassan al-Banna

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Hasan al-Banna
حسن البنا
Hassan al-Banna.jpg
Founder and 1st General Guide of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood
In office
1928–1949
Succeeded by Hassan al-Hudaybi & Said Ramadan
Personal details
Born (1906-10-14)October 14, 1906
Mahmoudiyah, Beheira, Egypt
Died February 12, 1949(1949-02-12) (aged 42)
Cairo, Egypt
Alma mater Dar al-Ulum
Religion Sunni Muslim

Sheikh Hassan Ahmed Abdel Rahman Muhammed al-Banna (Arabic: حسن أحمد عبد الرحمن محمد البنا‎, IPA: [ˈħæsæn ˈæħmæd ʕæbdeɾɾˤɑħˈmɑːn mæˈħæmmæd elˈbænnæ]) known as Hassan al-Banna (14 October 1906 – 12 February 1949) was a school teacher and imam, best known for founding the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the largest and most influential 20th century Muslim revivalist organizations.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Hassan al-Banna was born on the 14th of October of 1906 in Egypt in Mahmudiyya, a rural town located northwest of Cairo in Beheira Governorate in the Nile delta.

His father, Shaykh Ahmad Abd al-Rahman al-Banna al-Sa'ati, was a Hanbali imam,[1] muezzin, and mosque teacher. Shaykh Ahmad was an important spiritual influence during al-Banna's early life, ensuring that Hassan and his brother Gamal had a pious upbringing that emphasized strong Islamic values. Shaykh Ahmad was also known for his extensive work as a Hanbali scholar, particularly his classifications of the traditions of imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal al-Shaybani. These classifications became known as musnad al-fath al-rabbani. Through this work, Shaykh Ahmad forged valuable connections with Islamic scholars, which later proved useful when Hassan al-Banna moved to Cairo in 1932.

Many attribute Shaykh Ahmad's affiliation with the Hanbali school as Hassan al-Banna's primary religious influence. However, despite his early exposure to Hanbali Puritanism, al-Banna was also inspired by Rashid Rida's book al-Manar. Furthermore, al-Banna was heavily influenced by Sufism as a youth in Mahmudiyya. He attended weekly Hadra and was a member of the al-Hassafiyya Sufi order.[2]

Although Hassan al-Banna was only thirteen years old during the Egyptian Revolution of 1919, it was an important event that first exposed al-Banna to Egyptian nationalist politics. In his personal accounts, al-Banna proudly connects himself with the widespread activist efforts of the time. In spite of his young age, al-Banna participated in demonstrations in Damanhur, self-published political pamphlets, and founded youth reform societies. During this time, al-Banna experienced a political awakening that would later inform his already established religious fervor.

Although al-Banna's family were by no means members of the Egyptian elite, they were relatively well-respected in Mahmudiyya, as evidenced by Shaykh Ahmad's distinction as both an imam and ma'dhun, and by the fact that the family owned property. However, with the 1920s economic crisis, the family had trouble sustaining the upkeep of their property and moved to Cairo in 1924. Despite their financial troubles, al-Banna's parents placed a large value on providing educational opportunities for their sons.

Education[edit]

In Mahmudiyya, al-Banna studied in the village mosque with Shaykh Zahran. The two would develop a close relationship and al-Banna, adding to al-Banna's early intellectual and religious development. In addition to the mosque school, al-Banna received private instruction from his father, Shaykh Ahmad. In 1923, Hassan al-Banna moved to Cairo and attended Dar al-‘Ulum, an Egyptian institution designed to educate prospective teachers in modern subjects. As it was a less traditional school, al-Banna enrolled against his father's wishes, marking a notable break from typical Islamic conservatism. He studied in Cairo for four years, and during this period, al-Banna established valuable relationships with various Islamic circles. Building upon his father's scholarly connections, al-Banna became associated with the Islamic Society for Nobility of Islamic Morals and the Young Men's Muslim Association (YMMA). Through his involvement with the YMMA, al-Banna published over fifteen articles through Majallat al-Fath, an influential Islamic journal associated with the organization.

Ismailia establishment of the Muslim Brothers[edit]

After completing his studies at Dar al-‘Ulum in 1927, al-Banna became a primary school teacher in Ismailia, which was the location of the Egyptian headquarters of the Suez Canal. At this time, Ismailia was the Egyptian town that had the highest foreign influence. While living there, al-Banna grew increasingly disillusioned with the British cultural colonization he witnessed. He was especially concerned that hasty attempts to modernize Egypt often resulted in the negative effect of sacrificing or forgetting Islamic principles. Al-Banna was also among many Egyptian nationalists who were dissatisfied with Wafd leadership, namely because of its moderate stances and its insistence on secularism. According to al-Banna's accounts, the Muslim Brothers organization was established in March 1928 when six unnamed workers affiliated with various Suez Canal companies approached al-Banna, complaining about the injustices suffered by Arabs and Muslims at the hand of foreign control. Feeling that their complaints resonated with his own concerns, al-Banna became their leader and the Muslim Brothers was created.

At first, the society was only one of the numerous small Islamic associations that existed at the time. Similar to those that Al-Banna himself had joined since he was 12, these associations aimed to promote personal piety and engaged in charitable activities. By the late 1930s, it had established branches in every Egyptian province.

A decade later, it had 500,000 active members and as many sympathizers in Egypt alone, while its appeal was now felt in several other countries as well. The society's growth was particularly pronounced after Al-Banna relocated its headquarters to Cairo in 1932. The single most important factor that made this dramatic expansion possible was the organizational and ideological leadership provided by Al-Banna.

In Ismaïlia, he preached in the mosque, and even in coffee houses, which were then a novelty and were generally viewed as morally suspect. At first, some of his views on relatively minor points of Islamic practice led to strong disagreements with the local religious élite, and he adopted the policy of avoiding religious controversies.[3][4]

He was appalled by the many conspicuous signs of foreign military and economic domination in Isma'iliyya: the British military camps, the public utilities owned by foreign interests, and the luxurious residences of the foreign employees of the Suez Canal Company, next to the squalid dwellings of the Egyptian workers.[3]

Political activity[edit]

He endeavoured to bring about the changes he hoped for through institution-building, relentless activism at the grassroots level, and a reliance on mass communication. He proceeded to build a complex mass movement that featured sophisticated governance structures; sections in charge of furthering the society's values among peasants, workers, and professionals; units entrusted with key functions, including propagation of the message, liaison with the Islamic world, and press and translation; and specialized committees for finances and legal affairs.

In anchoring this organization into Egyptian society, Al-Banna relied on pre-existing social networks, in particular those built around mosques, Islamic welfare associations, and neighborhood groups. This weaving of traditional ties into a distinctively modern structure was at the root of his success. Directly attached to the brotherhood, and feeding its expansion, were numerous businesses, clinics, and schools. In addition, members were affiliated to the movement through a series of cells, revealingly called usar (families. singular: usrah).

The material, social and psychological support thus provided were instrumental to the movement's ability to generate enormous loyalty among its members and to attract new recruits. The services and organizational structure around which the society was built were intended to enable individuals to reintegrate into a distinctly Islamic setting, shaped by the society's own principles.

Rooted in Islam, Al-Banna's message tackled issues including colonialism, public health, educational policy, natural resources management, social inequalities, pan-Islamism, nationalism, Arab nationalism, the weakness of the Islamic world on the international scene, and the growing conflict in Palestine.[5] By emphasizing concerns that appealed to a variety of constituencies, Al-Banna was able to recruit from among a cross-section of Egyptian society — though modern-educated civil servants, office employees, and professionals remained dominant among the organization's activists and decisionmakers. Al-Banna was also active in resisting British rule in Egypt. Hassan Al-Banna wished to produce a national identity for their followers.

Muslim Brothers and the 1936 Palestinian Revolt[edit]

Al-Banna (third from left) with Aziz Ali al-Misri (fourth from right) and Egyptian, Palestinian and Algerian political and religious figures at a reception in Cairo, 1947

Among the Muslim Brothers' most notable accomplishments during these early years was its involvement in the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine. The Muslim Brothers launched a pro-Palestine campaign that was largely responsible for making the Palestine issue a widespread Muslim concern. The Muslim Brothers carried out a fundraising campaign that was impressive because it relied upon donations from rural and urban working classes rather than wealthy Egyptians. In addition to fundraising efforts, the Muslim Brothers also organized special prayers for Palestinian nationalists, held political rallies, and distributed propaganda. Although the Palestinian Revolt was ultimately suppressed through tough military action, the Muslim Brothers' impressive mobilization efforts helped make the Palestinian question a pan-Arab concern in the Middle East.

Last days and assassination[edit]

Between 1948 and 1949, shortly after the society sent volunteers to fight against Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the conflict between the monarchy and the society reached its climax. Concerned with the increasing assertiveness and popularity of the brotherhood, as well as with rumours that it was plotting a coup, Prime Minister Mahmoud an-Nukrashi Pasha disbanded it in December 1948. The organization's assets were impounded and scores of its members sent to jail. Following Pasha's assassination by a student member of the Muslim Brotherhood,[6] Al-Banna promptly released a statement condemning the assassination, stating that terror is not an acceptable way in Islam.[7][8][9]

On February 12, 1949 in Cairo, Al-Banna was at the Jamiyyah al-Shubban al-Muslimeen headquarters with his brother in-law Abdul Karim Mansur to negotiate with Minister Zaki Ali Basha who represented the government side. Minister Zaki Ali Basha never arrived. By 5 p.m., Al-Banna and his brother-in-law decided to leave. As they stood waiting for a taxi, they were shot by two men. He eventually died from his wounds.

Following his death in 1949, he has often been referred to as Al-Shaheed Imam Hassan Al-Banna ("the Martyr Imam Hassan al-Banna").

Legacy[edit]

Al-Banna has had a huge influence on Islamic thought.[10]

He is the grandfather of Tariq Ramadan and older brother of Gamal Al-Banna.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "من أعلام الدعوة والحركة الإسلامية المعاصرة":الشيخ المحدّث أحمد عبد الرحمن البنا الساعاتي بقية السلف وزينة الخلف، مجلة المجتمع الكويتية، 20 ديسمبر 2008م
  2. ^ Introduction to Princeton Readings in Islamist Thought: Texts and Contexts from Al-Banna to Bin Laden, pg. 26. Part of the Princeton Studies in Muslim Politics series. Eds. Roxanne Leslie Euben and Muhammad Qasim Zaman. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006. ISBN 9780691135885
  3. ^ a b Mitchell, 7.
  4. ^ Lia, 32-35.
  5. ^ Mura, 61-85.
  6. ^ Biographical Dictionary Of Modern Egypt (American University in Cairo Press ISBN 1-55587-229-8)
  7. ^ Mitchell, Richard Paul, The Society of the Muslim Brothers, Oxford University Press, 1993, p.68-69
  8. ^ [1] suggests that al-Banna favoured assassination and therefore was assassinated by the government.
  9. ^ "The Roots of al-Qaeda". All Things Political Today. Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  10. ^ Wright, 19

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Religious titles
Preceded by
New position
General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood
1928–1949
Succeeded by
Hassan al-Hudaybi