Hassan al-Banna

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hassan Ahmed Abdel Rahman Muhammed al-Banna
حسن أحمد عبد الرحمن محمد البنا
Born(1906-10-14)14 October 1906
Died12 February 1949(1949-02-12) (aged 42)
Cause of deathGunshot wounds
ReligionSunni Islam
Political partyMuslim Brotherhood
Alma materDar al-Ulum
TariqaShadhiliyya (Hasafi branch)[7][8]
Senior posting
Founder and 1st General Guide of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood
In office
22 March 1928 – 12 February 1949
Preceded by(Position established)
Succeeded byHassan al-Hudaybi

Hassan Ahmed Abdel Rahman Muhammed al-Banna (Arabic: حسن أحمد عبد الرحمن محمد البنا; 14 October 1906 – 12 February 1949), known as Hassan al-Banna (Arabic: حسن البنا), was an Egyptian schoolteacher and imam, best known for founding the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the largest and most influential Islamic revivalist organizations.[10]

Al-Banna's writings marked a turning-point in Islamic intellectual history by presenting a modern ideology based on Islam.[11] Al-Banna considered Islam to be a comprehensive system of life, with the Qur'an and Sunnah as the only acceptable constitution.[12] He called for Islamization of the state, the economy, and society.[11] He declared that establishing a just society required development of institutions and progressive taxation, and elaborated an Islamic fiscal theory where zakat would be reserved for social expenditure in order to reduce inequality.[12][11] Al-Banna's ideology involved criticism of Western materialism, British imperialism, and the traditionalism of the Egyptian ulema.[13] He appealed to Egyptian and pan-Arab patriotism but rejected Arab nationalism and regarded all Muslims as members of a single nation-community.[12][11][13]

The Muslim Brotherhood advocated gradualist moral reform and had no plans for a violent takeover of power.[14] The "Jihad of the spirit"―self-initiated productive work aimed at bettering the conditions of the Islamic community―was a significant part of their ideology.[11] Under Al-Banna's leadership, the organization embarked on a wide-ranging campaign of social engagement; they especially emphasized public health improvements.[13] Following the abolition of the Caliphate in 1924, al-Banna called on Muslims to prepare for armed struggle against colonial rule; he warned Muslims against the "widespread belief" that "jihad of the heart" was more important than "jihad of the sword".[14] He allowed the formation of a secret military wing within the Muslim Brotherhood, which took part in the Arab-Israeli conflict.[13] Al-Banna generally encouraged Egyptians to abandon Western customs; and argued that the state should enforce Islamic public morality through censorship and application of hudud corporal punishment.[11] Nonetheless, his thought was open to Western ideas and some of his writings quote European authors instead of Islamic sources.[11]

Al-Banna was assassinated by the Egyptian secret police in 1949.[12] His son-in-law Said Ramadan emerged as a major leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s.

Early life[edit]

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

His father, Sheikh Ahmed Abd al-Rahman al-Banna al-Sa'ati, was a Hanbali imam,[15] muezzin and mosque teacher. His father was an important spiritual influence during al-Banna's early life. Sheikh Ahmed was known for his 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, Sheikh Ahmed forged connections with Islamic scholars that proved useful when his son moved to Cairo in 1932.

In addition to his early exposure to Hanbali puritanism, Hassan al-Banna was inspired by Rashid Rida's magazine, Al-Manar. He was also heavily influenced by Sufism as a youth in Mahmudiyya. He attended weekly Hadra and was a member of the al-Hassafiyya Sufi order.[9]

Al-Banna was first exposed to Egyptian nationalist politics during the Egyptian Revolution of 1919; he was thirteen years old at the time. In his personal accounts, Al-Banna identified himself with the widespread activism of the time. Despite his young age, al-Banna participated in demonstrations in Damanhur, published political pamphlets and founded youth reform societies. Although Al-Banna's family were not members of the Egyptian elite, they were relatively well-respected in Mahmudiyya. Sheikh Ahmed's was a distinguished imam and the family owned some property. However, during the 1920s economic crisis, the family had trouble sustaining the upkeep of their property and moved to Cairo in 1924.


In Mahmudiyya, al-Banna studied in the village mosque with Sheikh Zahran. The two developed a close relationship that influenced al-Banna's early intellectual and religious development. In addition to the mosque school, al-Banna received private instruction from his father. He also studied in Cairo for four years; he attended Dar al-‘Ulum, an Egyptian institution that educated prospective teachers in modern subjects. The school was not very traditional and al-Banna enrolled against his father's wishes, as a break from typical Islamic conservatism. 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). He published more than fifteen articles in Majallat al-Fath, an influential Islamic journal associated with the YMMA.

Hasan Al-Banna headed to Cairo in 1923 to enroll as a student in Dar al-Ulum college. His student life would be a significant experience for his ideological formation. In the face of an urban social life vastly different from his rural upbringing, Al-Banna "noticed a defection of the educated youth from what he considered to be the Islamic way of life." Al-Banna also had disdain for Egypt's liberal political class. It was during this time that he became exposed to the works of the Salafi scholar Rashid Rida. He was a regular visitor of the Salafiyya book store, at that time directed by Muhibb al-Din al-Khatib; and often attended the lectures of Rashid Rida. For Al-Banna, Rida's works provided him theological guidance to rectify the faults he was witnessing in Egypt.[16][17]

Muslim Brotherhood[edit]

Al-Banna learned of the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate in 1924, while he was still a student. This event influenced him greatly; although the caliphate had no power, he viewed its end as a "calamity". He later called the events a "declaration of war against all shapes of Islam".[18]

After completing his studies at a Dar al-‘Ulum in 1927, al-Banna became a primary school teacher in Ismailia. At that time, Ismailia was the location of the Egyptian headquarters of the Suez Canal. Foreign influence was stronger in Ismailia than in other parts of Egypt. While living there, al-Banna grew increasingly disillusioned with British cultural colonialism. He was especially concerned that hasty attempts to modernize Egypt often had the negative effect of compromising Islamic principles. Many Egyptian nationalists were also dissatisfied with Wafd leadership, mainly because of its moderate stances and insistence on secularism.

Hassan al-Banna became acquainted with many important thinkers in Cairo, and had also established personal correspondence with Rashid Rida. Here, Al-Banna developed an ideological framework which synthesised the worldview of past Islamic revivalists in Rashid Rida's interpretation. One of the most important revivalist ideas advocated by Rida was the formation of an Islamic state that would govern by the Sharia and return to a society modelled during the time of Muhammad and his companions. This idea of a revolutionary struggle based on Islamic principles would guide Hassan al-Banna's later life and manifest in the formation of the Muslim Brotherhood.[16]

Hassan Albanna with his followers and supporters

Following the ideas of Rashid Rida, Al-Banna believed that moral decay was the primary cause of societal and political decline and felt that talks held within the arena of mosques were not sufficient to hold the influx of societal liberalisation encouraged by political secularisation. In his time at Ismailia, Al-Banna took to the cafes to preach to the general public in short lectures. His charismatic speeches attracted a large number of youth to his call. In March 1928 six workers affiliated with the Suez Canal company approached Banna, complaining about injustices suffered by Muslims at the hands of foreign colonialist control. They appointed Banna as their leader and to work for Islam through Jihad and revive Islamic Brotherhood. Thus, the Muslim Brothers were born; under the pledge that its members would

“be soldiers in the call to Islam, and in that is the life for the country and the honour for the Umma... We are brothers in the service of Islam.. Hence we are the “Muslim Brothers”.”


At first, the Muslim Brotherhood was only one of many small Islamic associations that existed at the time. Similar to the organizations that al-Banna had himself joined at a young age, these organizations aimed to promote personal piety and engaged in pure charitable activities. By the late 1930s, the Muslim Brotherhood had established branches in every Egyptian province.

A decade later, the organization had 500,000 active members and as many sympathizers in Egypt alone.[citation needed] Its appeal was not limited only to Egypt; its popularity had grown in several other countries. The organization's growth was particularly pronounced after al-Banna relocated their headquarters to Cairo in 1932. The most important factor contributing to this dramatic expansion was the organizational and ideological leadership provided by al-Banna.[citation needed]

In Ismailia, al-Banna preached not only in the mosque, but also in the coffee houses; in those times, coffee houses were generally viewed as a morally suspect novelty. When some of his views on relatively minor points of Islamic practice led to strong disagreements with the local religious elite, he adopted the policy of avoiding religious controversies.[21][22]

Al-Banna was appalled by the many conspicuous signs of foreign military and economic domination in Ismailia: the British military camps, the public utilities, farms, food supply was owned by foreign interests by forces, and the luxurious residences of the foreign employees of the Suez Canal Company, next to the squalid dwellings of the Egyptian workers.[21]

Political activity[edit]

Hassan Albaana eating with Islamic battalion

Al-Banna endeavored to bring about reforms through institution-building, relentless activism at the grassroots level and a reliance on mass communication. He built 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. Declaring Islam as the only comprehensive religious system that could solve the challenges of modernity and calling upon Muslims to reject Western ideologies, Al-Banna wrote:

"If the French Revolution decreed the rights of man and declared for freedom, equality and brotherhood, and if the Russian revolution brought closer the classes and social justice for the people, the great Islamic Revolution [had] decreed all that 1300 years before. It did not confine itself to philosophical theories but rather spread these principles through daily life, and added to them [the notions of] divinity of mankind, and the perfectibility of his virtues and [the fulfilment of] his spiritual tendencies".[23][24]

Al-Banna relied on pre-existing social networks―in particular those built around mosques, Islamic welfare associations and neighborhood groups―to anchor the Muslim Brotherhood into Egyptian society. 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 with the movement through a series of cells, revealingly called usar ("families").[citation needed]

The material, social and psychological support provided by the Muslim Brotherhood were instrumental to the movement's ability to generate enormous loyalty among its members and to attract new recruits. The movement was built around services and an organizational structure intended to enable individuals to integrate into a distinctly Islamic setting that was 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.[25] 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 decision-makers. Al-Banna was also active in resisting British colonial rule in Egypt.

Al-Banna warned his readers against the "widespread belief among many Muslims" that jihad of the heart was more important and demanding than jihad of the sword.[26] He called on Muslims to prepare for jihad against colonial powers:

Muslims ... are compelled to humble themselves before non-Muslims, and are ruled by unbelievers. Their lands have been trampled over, and their honor besmirched. Their adversaries are in charge of their affairs, and the rites of their religion have fallen into abeyance with their own domains ... Hence it has become an individual obligation, which there is no evading, on every Muslim to prepare his equipment, to make up his mind to engage in jihad, and to get ready for it until the opportunity is ripe and God decrees[27]

Muslim Brothers and the Palestine conflict[edit]

Al-Banna (third from left) with Aziz Ali al-Misri (fourth from right), Mohamed Ali Eltaher (second from the 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 which contributed to making the Palestine issue a widespread Muslim concern. The Muslim Brothers carried out a fundraising campaign said to have relied upon donations from the rural and urban working classes, rather than wealthy Egyptians. In addition to their 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 repression and military action, the Muslim Brothers' impressive mobilization efforts helped make the Palestinian question a pan-Arab concern in the Middle East.

When Rashid Rida died in August 1935, his Al-Manar magazine also perished with him. Sometime in 1939, Hassan al-Banna resurrected Al-Manar to further promote the revolutionary ideology pioneered by the Muslim Brotherhood and claim Rashid Rida's legacy.[16]

According to Steven Carol, the Brotherhood was heavily financed by Nazi Germany, which contributed greatly to its growth.[28] According to Carol, in 1939 al-Bannah received twice as much funds from Germany per month, as the entire yearly Muslim Brothers' fundraising for the Palestinian cause.[28]

Hassan al-Banna in two of his writings, Peace In Islam and Our Message, criticises the ultra-nationalism of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy as being a "reprehensible idea" within which was "not the slightest good"[29] and which gave power to "chosen tyrants".[30]

Final 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 organization reached its climax. Concerned with the Brotherhood's increasing assertiveness and popularity among the masses, as well as being alarmed by rumours that the Brotherhood was plotting a coup against the monarchy and cabinet, Prime Minister Nokrashy Pasha (whose predecessor had been slain by a Brotherhood adherent near the end of World War II) outlawed the organization in December 1948. The Brotherhood's assets were impounded and scores of its members were sent to jail. Following the murder of Nokrashy Pasha by a student member of the Brotherhood,[31] Al-Banna released a statement condemning the assassination and stating that terror is not acceptable in Islam.[32][33][34]

On 12 February 1949, al-Banna and his brother-in-law Abdul Karim Mansur were scheduled to negotiate with the government's representative, Minister Zaki Ali Pasha, at the Jama'iyyat al-Shubban al-Muslimeen headquarters in Cairo—but the minister never arrived. By 5 p.m., al-Banna and his brother-in-law had decided to leave. As they stood waiting for a taxi, they were shot by two men. Al-Banna eventually died from his wounds. King Farouk and his Iron Guard of Egypt were accused of being behind the assassination.[35] His father Ahmed retrieved his corpse from Qasr El Eyni Hospital to his house, then his coffin was carried by women with the police escort who prevented men from attending his funeral except for Makram Ebeid who was a government figure.[36]


Al-Banna's daughter Wafa al-Banna was married to Said Ramadan, who became a major leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Their two sons, Tariq Ramadan and Hani Ramadan, are Islamic scholars and educationists. Hassan al-Banna's younger brother, Gamal al-Banna, was a more liberal scholar and proponent of Islamic reform.[37]


Hassan al-Banna wrote more than 2000 articles and many books, including an autobiographical novel entitled Mudhakkirât al-da'wa wa al-dâ'iya (Remembrances of Preaching and of a Preacher).[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Shaimaa Fayed." :(2012)
  2. ^ R. Halverson, Jeffrey (2010). Theology and Creed in Sunni Islam. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 49, 62. ISBN 978-0-230-10279-8.
  3. ^ C. Martin, R. Woodward, Richard, Mark (2010). Defenders of Reason in Islam: Mu'tazilism from Medieval School to Modern Symbol. 185 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 7AR, England: One World Publications. p. 218. ISBN 978-1-85168-147-1.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link) CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Ryan, Patrick J. "Fellow Travelers?." Commonweal 137.13 (2010): 23. "Not as intellectually acute as Afghani and 'Abduh, Hassan al-Banna nevertheless took his heritage from the same modernist school"
  5. ^ Kramer, Gudrun (2010). Makers of the Muslim World: Hassan al Banna. Oneworld Publications, 10 Bloomsbury Road, London WC1B 3SR, England: One World Publishers. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-85168-430-4.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  6. ^ R. Halverson, Jeffrey (2010). Theology and Creed in Sunni Islam. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 62, 65. ISBN 978-0-230-10279-8.
  7. ^ Mchugo, John (2013). A CONCISE HISTORY OF THE ARABS. The New Press, New York, 2013: The New Press. p. 136. ISBN 978-1-59558-950-7.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  8. ^ Kramer, Gudrun (2010). Makers of the Muslim World: Hassan al Banna. Oneworld Publications, 10 Bloomsbury Road, London WC1B 3SR, England: One World Publishers. pp. 14–16, 23, 30. ISBN 978-1-85168-430-4.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  9. ^ a b 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
  10. ^ "Hasan al-Banna – Islamic Studies – Oxford Bibliographies – obo". Archived from the original on 2017-01-01. Retrieved 2017-01-08.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Olivier Carré; Liv Tønnessen (2009). "Bannā, Ḥasan al-". In John L. Esposito (ed.). The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Translated by Elizabeth Keller. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195305135. Archived from the original on 2017-09-13. Retrieved 2017-01-31.
  12. ^ a b c d John L. Esposito, ed. (2014). "Banna, Hasan al-". The Oxford Dictionary of Islam. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195125580.
  13. ^ a b c d Patrick S. O'Donnell (2010). "al-Banna', Hasan (1906–49)". In Oliver Leaman (ed.). The Biographical Encyclopaedia of Islamic Philosophy. Continuum. ISBN 9780199754731. Archived from the original on 2017-09-13. Retrieved 2017-01-31.
  14. ^ a b Kadri, Sadakat (2012). Heaven on Earth: A Journey Through Shari'a Law from the Deserts of Ancient Arabia ... Macmillan. p. 160. ISBN 9780099523277.
  15. ^ "من أعلام الدعوة والحركة الإسلامية المعاصرة":الشيخ المحدّث أحمد عبد الرحمن البنا الساعاتي بقية السلف وزينة الخلف[permanent dead link]، مجلة المجتمع الكويتية، 20 ديسمبر 2008م
  16. ^ a b c "The Family Tree of Islamist Extremism". Encyclopedia Geopolitica. 2 March 2021. Archived from the original on 2 March 2021.
  17. ^ P. Mitchell, Richard (1968). "Chapter 1: HASAN AL-BANNA AND THE FOUNDING OF THE SOCIETY OF THE MUSLIM BROTHERS". The Society of the Muslim Brothers. New York-4314: Oxford University Press. p. 5. ISBN 0-19-508437-3.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  18. ^ Farmer, Brian R. (2007). Understanding Radical Islam: Medieval Ideology in the Twenty-first Century. Peter Lang. p. 83. ISBN 9780820488431. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  19. ^ Pankhurst, Reza (2013). The Inevitable Caliphate? - A History of the Struggle for Global Islamic Union, 1924 to the Present. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 68–69. ISBN 978-0-19-932799-7.
  20. ^ DE BELLAIGUE, CHRISTOPHER (2017). "Chapter 6: Counter-Enlightenment". The Islamic Enlightenment: The Struggle Between Faith and Reason- 1798 to Modern Times. New York: LIVERIGHT PUBLISHING CORPORATION. p. 376. ISBN 978-0-87140-373-5.
  21. ^ a b Mitchell, 7.
  22. ^ Lia, 32–35.
  23. ^ P. Mitchell, Richard (1993). "IX: The Solution". The Society of the Muslim Brothers. New York-4314: Oxford University Press. pp. 232–233. ISBN 0-19-508437-3.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  24. ^ Ahmad, Talmiz (2022). "5: Islam at the Heart of West Asian Politics (1979-2001)". West Asia at War: Repression, Resistance and Great Power Games. 4th Floor, Tower A, Building No. 10, Phase II, DLF Cyber City, Gurugram, Haryana – 122002: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-93-5489-525-8.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  25. ^ Mura, 61–85.
  26. ^ Kadri, Sadakat (2012). Heaven on Earth: A Journey Through Shari'a Law from the Deserts of Ancient Arabia ... Macmillan. p. 158. ISBN 9780099523277.
  27. ^ Al-Banna, Hasan, Five Tracts of Hasan Al-Banna, (1906–49): A Selection from the "Majmu'at Rasa'il al-Imam al-Shahid Hasan al-Banna", Translated by Charles Wendell. Berkeley, CA, 1978, pp.150, 155;
  28. ^ a b Carol, Steven (2015). Understanding the Volatile and Dangerous Middle East: A Comprehensive Analysis. iUniverse. p. 481. ISBN 9781491766583.
  29. ^ "Six Tracts of Hasan Al-Bana", page 70, Africaw for Publishing and Distribution, 2006
  30. ^ "Peace in Islam - Hassan Al-Banna | PDF | God in Islam | Muhammad".
  31. ^ Biographical Dictionary Of Modern Egypt (American University in Cairo Press ISBN 1-55587-229-8)
  32. ^ Mitchell, Richard Paul, The Society of the Muslim Brothers, Oxford University Press, 1993, pp. 68–69
  33. ^ http://www.mideastweb.org/Middle-East-Encyclopedia/hassan_al-banna.htm Archived 2012-02-08 at the Wayback Machine suggests that al-Banna favoured assassination and therefore was assassinated by the government.
  34. ^ "The Roots of al-Qaeda". All Things Political Today. Archived from the original on 22 November 2011. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  35. ^ Zeinobia (27 February 2008). "Egyptian Chronicles: Egyptian X-files: Who Killed Hassan Al Bana ??". Archived from the original on 20 April 2015. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  36. ^ "Makram Ebeid Pacha & Hassan El-Banna: Egypt's golden age of national unity". ahram.org. 17 April 2013.
  37. ^ Caroline Fourest, Brother Tariq: The Doublespeak of Tariq Ramadan, Encounter Books (2008), p. 7
  38. ^ Brigitte Maréchal, The Muslim Brothers in Europe: Roots and Discourse, BRILL (2008), p. 89


External links[edit]

Religious titles
Preceded by
New position
General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood
Succeeded by