Hassan al-Banna

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Hassan al-Banna

Hassan al-Banna (born October 14, 1906 near Cairo Egypt, died February 12, 1949) was an Egyptian Radical (violent jihab-promoting) Islamist and founder of the Muslim Brotherhood (also called Jamaat al-Ikhwan)[1]

Alternate spellings: Hasan El Banna, Hasan Al Banna, Hassan El Banna. (The English spelling of Middle-Eastern names is often arbitrary, since it is not possible to find exact English equivalents for some letters.)[2]

Early life

Hassan was born to pious Muslim parents. His father sold record players and repaired watches to make a living, but he was also a local imam, Shayk (Sheik) Ahmad al-Banna. He was a teacher of the Hanbali Madh’hab Fiqh school of Islamic jurisprudence, and well-regarded in the community. He studied Islam and wrote and collaborated on books on Islam. The family owned property but was not wealthy.[3] By the age of 13, Hassan was involved in politics, participating in the 1919 demonstrations during the revolution against British rule. At 15, he joined the Hasfiya Iufi Order, having been interested since the age of 12.[4]

Education and Influences

In 1923, he entered the State Teacher's Training Center, and graduated at the age of 16, first in his class. Then he entered Dar al-Ulum College (Al Azhar University) in Cairo. Those proved to be influential years in his life. He met many prominent Islamic scholars because of his father's connections. The greatest influence was his adverse reaction to the breakdown of Islamic society and the trend toward secularism that he found in the city. He was concerned that young people were abandoning Islam and blamed the onslaught of Western culture.[5] The teaching he received there may also have been influential. Several other radical Islamists also studied there, including Abdulla Azzam, 1941–1989, an educator considered “gatekeeper of the jihad”; Huari Boumedienne, 1932–1978, an Algerian dictator; Sayyid Qutb, 1906–1966, Muslim Brotherhood philosopher and successor of Hassan, and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, 1936–2004, Hamas leader.[6] Hassan graduated in 1927. Al Hassan was a follower of Islamic reformists, the Egyptian Muhammed Abduh and his disciple, the Syrian Rashi Rida. They believed that the trend of declining Islam could only be reversed by a return to “pure” Islam.[7]

Affiliations & Philosophy

Al-Banna was a Sunni Muslim [8] He was heavily influenced by the extremist Wahhabi Islam of Saudi Arabia.[9] Al-Banna claimed to be a Salafi, but other Salafis criticized both him and his mentors, Abduh and Rida. They saw his cause as a political expediency.”[10]

Early Work and Efforts to Attract Followers

Although a strict Muslim, Al-Banna made many adaptations in order to attract followers. He adopted semi-western dress and a modest, trimmed beard. He preached at sites where followers of folk Islam worshiped dead “saints” a practice he despised, yet he did so without criticizing the practice, drawing followers to himself. He took work as an Arabic language teacher in a state primary school in Ismailiya near the Suez Canal zone. At night he gave classes to his pupils’ parents. While a teacher, he also preached in local mosques and coffee houses, dedicating his life to being a “counselor and teacher” of young and old alike.[11]

Al-Banna wanted Islam to be more active in condemning and combatting atheism, Christian missionary work, and colonialism.[12] Key themes of his teaching were violent jihad, the cult of martyrdom, the supremacy of Islam, the restoration of the Islamic caliphate, the decadence and he believed, imminent demise of the West, anti-semitism and later, anti-Zionism.[13]

Founding of the Muslim Brotherhood

The Muslim Brotherhood was launched in March, 1928, barely one year after Al Hassan completed university. The impetus in Al-Banna's mind seems to have been his devastation over the abolition of the last caliphate of the Ottoman Empire by Kemal Atatürk in 1924.[14] He wanted to revive political aspects of Islam that had declined under British rule.[15] But his goals transcended politics. There were not just about anticolonialism or the renewal of Islam. Rather, they were about a world revolution establishing Islam as the dominant religion of the world.[16] He said, “We will not stop at this point (freeing Egypt from secularism and modernity) but will pursue this evil force to its own lands, invade its Western heartland, and struggle to overcome it until all the world shouts by the name of the Prophet and the teachings of Islam are spread throughout the world. Only then will Muslims achieve their fundamental goal…and all religion will be exclusively for Allah.”[17]

Goals of the Muslim Brotherhood in the time of Al-Banna

In 1934 Al-Banna wrote that “it is a duty incumbent on every Muslim to struggle towards the aim of making every people Muslim and the whole world Islamic.”[18] He rejected the Western ideal of democracy because it did not line up with his ideal of universal Islamic rule. According to him, “the nature of Islam is to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its laws on all nations, and to extend its power to the entire planet.”[19] His writings paved the way for all the forms of jihad that would come later. Concerning jihad, he wrote, “Fighting the unbelievers involve all possible efforts that are necessary to dismantle the power of the enemies of Islam including beating them, plundering their wealth, destroying their places of worship and smashing their idols.”[20] He developed their motto, still in use today: “God is our purpose. The Prophet is our leader. The Qur’an is our constitution. Jihad is our way. Dying for God’s cause is our supreme objective.”[21] Although it has tried to project a moderate image to the Western world, the character of the Muslim Brotherhood has been “extremist and violent from its inception.”[22] Its original charter, Article (2) declared as its goals “establishing Allah’s law in the land, establishing the Islamic State, and building a new basis of human civilization as is ensured by the overall teachings of Islam.”[23] It also declared in Article (3) E, “The Islamic nation must be fully prepared to fight the enemies of Allah as a prelude to establishing an Islamic state.” .”[24] “Yet al-Banna was “not offering Muslims a new version of Islam, but a deeply traditional one. The call to restore the purity and vitality of Islam has always struck a chord among Muslims.” This was part of the reason for its attractiveness and rapid growth.[25] Stackelbeck agrees, noting that Al-Banna didn't create it “ex nihilo”. “The Muslim glorification of martyrdom is as old as Islam itself and comes directly from the Koran and Hadiths.”[26]

Methods of the Al-Banna’s Muslim Brotherhood

Al Banna's Muslim Brotherhood was inherently subversive. He used it as a channel of political discontent,” leading agitation against the government[27] He developed separate sections to promote the brotherhood amongst various groups, and developed businesses, schools and clinics to support it financially and aid in recruiting. .”[28] On one level, the Muslim Brotherhood operated openly as a social and political membership organization. On the other hand, other aspects of it also operated secretly, training combatants, enforcing their ideas by intimidation, initiating attacks against Jews, assassinating officials.[29] These underground cells began major acts of violence in the 1940s.[30] They have been described as acting with “military-like efficiency”[31] A group of Brotherhood members were tried and found guilty of violence. Eight months later, the judge was assassinated by two Brotherhood members.[32]

The Art of Death

Al-Banna called martyrdom by jihad “the art of death” in a famous essay by that name. He insisted that the Qur'an teaches believers to love death more than life.[33] One of the Brotherhood's goals was to “mobilize the entire Ummah into one body to defend the cause with all its strength…to jihad, to warfare…[34] The call was always to Dawa (proselytization), then to jihad. Another method of operation was gaining control of mosques and Islamic centers.[35]

Muslim Brotherhood Association with Nazis

The growth of the Muslim Brotherhood was aided by its association with Nazism and the Third Reich.[36] The two movements share several common views and goals: hatred of the Jews, authoritarianism, addiction to violence, desire to defeat the British, and a predilection to say one thing while doing another. .”[37]

Growth of the Muslim Brotherhood

Using the slogan formed by Al-Banna, “Islam is the answer,” the Brotherhood spread like wildfire.[38] By 1936, only 8 years after its founding, the Muslim Brotherhood had about 800 members around Cairo, and braches in eleven countries, including one in Paris, France.[39] Two years later there were nearly 200,000 in Egypt, Jordan, and Palestine. On the eve of World War II, there were half a million in 2,000 branches around the world[40] By the late 1940s, there were about 2 million. Today, there are 100 million members or devotees.[41]


In December 1948, Prime Minister Mahmoud El-Norqrashi Pasha had dissolved the Muslim Brotherhood by military decree because they had secretly plotted to overthrow the monarchy. Twenty days later, the Muslim Brotherhood assassinated him. In typical Muslim Brotherhood duplicity, Al-Banna publicly declared that those who did it were “neither brothers nor Muslims.” The government, unconvinced, had him assassinated on February 12, 1949. Al-Banna was 43 years old. The Muslim Brotherhood went underground, where it continued to pursue its goal of Islamic world domination.[42]


Al-Banna is a revered figure in the Muslim world today, amongst those who claim to be “moderates” as well as “radicals”.[43] He invoked the term “Islamism” to describe terrorists and all who share the terrorist goal of installing a society ruled by Shariah law, which was one of his own top goals.[44] The Muslim Brotherhood has never disavowed its jihadist founder.[45] The statements and actions of Al-Banna laid the groundwork for the anti-semitism of today's organization.[46] Stakelbeck, an acclaimed expert on terrorism, sees Hassan al-Banna's main accomplishment as “updating and repackaging the time-tested Islamic supremacist ideology of jihad and conquest for the restless masses of his day.”[47] Despite Al-Banna's published writings advocating violent jihad and the overthrow of Western Civilization, the Muslim American Society calls the group “moderate” and admits that they are influenced by the ideas of the Brotherhood.[48] Today, the Muslim Brotherhood boasts of seventy offshoot terrorist organizations.[49] Two of these organizations are Hamas and Al Qaeda.[50] The Hamas Covenant specifically identifies Hamas as the Palestinian faction of the Muslim Brotherhood.[51] In fact, Stakelbeck claims that “all modern jihadists trace back in one way or another to the Muslim Brotherhood and the teachings of Al-Banna and his successors.”[52] He calls the Muslim Brotherhood the “dean of all modern Islamic terrorist groups, having provided the ideological inspiration and blueprint for Al-Qaeda, Hamas, and many of today’s most violent jihadist outfits.”[53]


  1. Online Middle East Encyclopedia, Hassan al Banna
  2. http://www.mideastweb.org/Middle-East-Encyclopedia/hassan-al-banna.htm Retrieved March 30, 2015
  3. Online Middle East Encyclopedia, Hassan al Banna
  4. Online Middle East Encyclopedia, Hassan al Banna
  5. ibid.
  6. http://www.nndb.com/people/6321/000135227/
  7. Op. cit.
  8. ibid.
  9. Erick Stakelbeck, The Brotherhood—America’s Next Great Enemy, Regnery Publishing, Washington, D.C., 2013
  10. Online Middle East Dictionary, Hassan Al-Banna
  11. Online Middle East Encyclopedia, Hassan al Banna
  12. Ibid.
  13. Online Middle East Encyclopedia
  14. http://counterjihadreport.com/history-of-muslim-brotherhood-penetration-of-the-u-s-government/ Accessed March 30, 2015
  15. Spencer, Stealth Jihad, Regnery Publishing, Washington, D.C., 2008, p. 14
  16. Online Middle-East Encyclopedia, “Hassan Al-Banna”
  17. Habeck, Knowing the Enemy, p. 120.
  18. Spencer, Onward Christian Soldiers, p. 218.
  19. Andrew C. McCarthy, Willful Blindness—A Memoir of the Jihad, Encounter Books, New York & London, 2008, p. 39
  20. McCarthy, The Grand Jihad, p. 56
  21. Online Middle East Dictionary, Hassan Al-Banna
  22. Online Middle East Dictionary, Hassan Al-Banna
  23. Online Counter-Jihad Report, History of the Muslim Brotherhood
  24. Online Counter-Jihad Report, History of the Muslim Brotherhood. From 2005 to 2011, the Original By-Laws were posted on line by the Brotherhood’s English-speaking website, Ikhanweb. Since then they have been preserved by Steven Emerson at The Investigative Project on Terrorism. See www.investigativeproject.org/documents/misc/673.pdf.
  25. Spencer, Onward Christian Soldiers, p. 220
  26. Stakelbeck, The Brotherhood, p. 75
  27. Online Middle East Dictionary, Hassan Al-Banna
  28. Online Middle East Dictionary, Hassan Al-Banna
  29. Spencer, Onward Muslim Soldiers, p. 219
  30. Online Middle East Dictionary, Hassan Al-Banna
  31. McCarthy, Willful Blindness, p. 39
  32. Online Middle East Encyclopedia, Hassan al Banna
  33. Stakelbeck, The Brotherhood, p. 14
  34. http://counter-jihadreport.com/history-of-muslim-brotherhood-penetration-of-the-u-s-government/ Accessed March 30, 2015, quoting “On Jihad” by Hasan al-Banna. Accessed online January 1, 2013 at http://www.islamic-world.net/book/jihad_preface.htm
  35. Stakelbeck, The Brotherhood, p. 7
  36. Middle East Dictionary, Hassan al Banna
  37. Middle East Encyclopedia, Hassan Al Banna
  38. Stackelbeck, The Brotherhood, p. 7
  39. Spencer, Onward Christian Soldiers, p. 219-220.
  40. Middle East Encyclopedia, Hassan al-Banna
  41. Stakelbeck, The Brotherhood, p. 7
  42. Online Middle East Encyclopedia, Hassan al Banna
  43. Robert Spencer, Onward Muslim Soldiers, Regnery Publishing, Washington, D.C., 2003
  44. Andrew D. McCarthy, The Grand Jihad—How Islam and the Left Sabotage America, Encounter Books, New York & London, c. 2010, p. 38-39.
  45. Stakelbeck, The Brotherhood, p. 79
  46. Stakelbeck, The Brotherhood, p. 84
  47. Stackelbeck, The Brotherhood, p. 79
  48. Stakelbeck, The Brotherhood, p. 211
  49. Brigitte Gabriel, They Must Be Stopped, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2008, p. 73
  50. Spencer, Stealth Jihad, p. 14
  51. Stakelbeck, The Terrorist Next Door, p. 201.
  52. Stakelbeck, The Brotherhood, p. 75
  53. Stakelbeck, The Terrorist Next Door, p.37