Die Muslimbruderschaft: Hasan al-Hudaibi und Ideologie

Hasan Isma>il al-Hudaybi led the Society of the Muslim Brotherhood during a
time of crisis and dissolution. Succeeding Hasan al-Banna’, who was the founder
and fi rst leader of the organisation, al-Hudaybi was to be its head for more than
twenty years. During his leadership he faced severe criticism from fellow Brothers.
Following the Revolution of July 1952, he was pitted against the antagonism
of >Abd al-Nasir, who became increasingly infl uential in the council of
leading Free Offi cers. >Abd al-Nasir’s determination to thwart the cause of the
Brotherhood and its infl uence on society was part of his path to absolute rule.
Considering the signifi cance of al-Hudaybi’s years as leader of the Muslim
Brüderlichkeit, it is surprising that there is little scholarly work on the subject.
When taking into account that his moderate ideas continue to have a strong infl uence
on the policy and attitude of today’s Muslim Brotherhood, e.g. his conciliatory
position towards the state system and his refutation of radical ideas, the fact
that so little attention is paid to his writing is even more startling. Certainly, there
has been interest in the Muslim Brotherhood. There are quite extensive studies
available on Hasan al-Banna’: the founder and fi rst leader of the Muslim Brotherhood
has been described as a model fi gure of Islamic campaigning; others depict
him as the originator of threatening political activism in the name of Islam. There
has been even more interest in the ideas of Sayyid Qutb; some see him as the
ideologue of Islamist radicalism, whose concepts trained extremist groups; others
describe him as a victim of state persecution who developed a theology of liberation
in reaction to his maltreatment. No doubt, it is important to examine the
work of these thinkers in order to understand currents of Islamist ideology and
Islamist movements. Whatever the verdict on al-Banna’ and Qutb, it is a fact
that certain ideas of the two thinkers have been incorporated into the modern-day
Muslimbruderschaft. Aber, this focus has led to an incorrect perception that
the Islamic movement is necessarily radical in its thinking and/or militant in its
deeds, an assumption which has, in recent years, been questioned by a number
of scholars, among them John L. Edwards, Fred Halliday, François Burgat, und
Gudrun Krämer. 1 The following study of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood under the
leadership of Hasan al-Hudaybi will form an addition to these theses, addressing
and reassessing the viewpoint that political Islam is a monolithic block, all in all
disposed towards violent means.
2 Introduction
There are reasons why al-Hudaybi is hardly mentioned in the literature on the
Muslimbruderschaft. The fi rst that comes to mind is the observation that Islamist
movements are, by defi nition, seen as fundamentally radical, anti-democratic and
anti-Western. This reasoning questions any distinction between moderate Islamism
and its radical counterpart. The argument goes that both have the objective
of establishing an Islamic state system, that they both aim to replace existing
secular governance and that they therefore differ only in the degree of their methods,
but not in principle. This book, however, clearly joins the scholarly circle on
politischen Islam, which identifi es arguments such as these as neo-Orientalist. As
Esposito shows, this approach to political Islam is based on what he terms ‘secular
fundamentalism’.
The external view of political Islam is focused primarily on radical thought,
and this may be due to the creation, on the part of power politics, of a fear of
Islam as a religion, which is different, strange and seemingly in opposition to
Western thought. Alternatively, it may be because radical or even militant groups
are constantly appearing in the media by reason of their actions. Tatsächlich, militant
Islamists actually seek such publicity. While radical thought and militant action
make it necessary to study extremist groups, the focus on terrorism in the name
of Islam marginalises moderate Islamists. It also makes it diffi cult to explain the
differences between radical and moderate Islamism. In effect, the scholarly focus
on radical or militant groups reinforces the generally negative public perception
of Islam in the West.
A further reason why al-Hudaybi in particular has not been studied by Western
scholars has to do with the internal affairs of the Brotherhood. It is astonishing
that his name is not mentioned much by the writers of the Muslim Brotherhood
itself. There is no simple explanation for this. One reason may be that members
particularly stress their sympathies for al-Banna’, depicting him as an ideal
leader who died for his activist convictions. Aber, as many Brothers endured
imprisonment, hard labour and even torture inside >Abd al-Nasir’s prisons and
camps, their personal histories have resulted in a dearth of discourse on Hasan
al-Hudaybi. So, there is a tendency to remember al-Hudaybi’s period of leadership
as a time of near defeat and destruction. Still, the experiences of the
persecuted are caught in the ambiguous relationship between forgetting and reappraisal.
Many personal accounts of the time have been published since the mid
1970s, 2 narrating stories of torture and stressing steadfastness of faith. Only a
few of the books written by Muslim Brothers take a broader approach, which
includes discussion of a crisis within the organisation and of al-Hudaybi’s part
therein. Those authors who do tackle this issue not only reveal the society’s weak
position vis-à-vis >Abd al-Nasir, but also expose signs of disintegration within the
Muslimbruderschaft. 3 This has led to differing attitudes towards al-Hudaybi, with
most portraying him as an incompetent leader lacking the charismatic personality
of his predecessor, al-Banna’. In particular, he was accused of not commanding
the authority to bring together the different wings of the Muslim Brotherhood
or to adopt a strong position in relation to the authoritarian state system. In the
latter view lies an ambiguity, for it would appear to show al-Hudaybi not just as a
Introduction 3
failure, but also as a victim of the political situation. Finally, these accounts reveal
an ideological gap which opened at the beginning of the period of persecution in
1954. To a certain extent, Sayyid Qutb fi lled this gap. During his imprisonment
he developed a radical approach, rejecting the then state system as illegitimate
and ‘un-Islamic’. In developing a revolutionary concept and explaining thereby
the reasons underlying the persecution, he turned the condition of victimisation
into one of pride. So, he gave many imprisoned Muslim Brothers, particularly
young members, an ideology that they could hold on to.
It has to be said that al-Hudaybi did not react decisively to the situation of
internal crisis and dissolution. Indeed, to a certain extent his indecisiveness triggered
this situation. This was especially obvious during the period of persecution
(1954–71), when he omitted to provide any guidelines to help in overcoming
the feeling hopelessness ushered in by >Abd al-Nasir’s mass imprisonments. His
reaction to the radical ideas which fl ourished in the prisons and camps among
certain, especially young, members came fairly late. Even then, his scholarly and
juridical argumentation did not have the same sweeping effect as Sayyid Qutb’s
writings. In 1969, al-Hudaybi proposed a moderate concept in his writing Du<bei
la Qudat (Preachers not Judges). 4 This writing, which was secretly distributed
among fellow Brothers, is considered the fi rst substantial refutation of Sayyid
Qutb’s ideas. 5 Qutb, who was hanged in 1966, was by then considered to be a
martyr, his thoughts already having a considerable infl uence. This does not mean
that the majority of Muslim Brothers did not pursue a moderate approach, but the
lack of guidelines left them voiceless and reinforced the perception of al-Hudaybi
as a weak leader.
Nevertheless, al-Hudayb’is moderate thought had an impact on his fellow
Muslim Brothers. After the general amnesty of 1971, al-Hudaybi played a major
part in the re-establishment of the organisation. Although he died in 1973, his moderate
and conciliatory ideas continued to be relevant. The fact that close companions
such as Muhammad Hamid Abu Nasr, >Umar al-Tilmisani and Muhammad
Mashhur, who died recently, succeeded him as leaders shows the continuance of his
thought. Furthermore, his son Ma’mun al-Hudaybi has played a major role in
his capacity as the Brotherhood’s secretary and spokesman. Another reason why
his thinking became important lies in the changed attitude towards the Muslim
Brotherhood since Anwar al-Sadat’s presidency. Al-Sadat, who succeeded >Abd
al-Nasir, released the imprisoned Brothers and offered the organisation a half-legal
though not offi cially recognised status. A period of reorganisation (1971–77) followed,
during which the government lifted the censorship of books written by
Muslim Brothers. Many memoirs of formerly imprisoned members were published,
such as Zaynab al-Ghazali’s account or al-Hudaybi’s book Du<at la Qudat
(Preachers not Judges). Dealing with the past, these books did not merely preserve
the memory of the cruelties of >Abd al-Nasir’s persecution. Al-Sadat followed
his own agenda when he allowed these publications to fi ll the market; this
was a deliberate political stratagem, implying a change of direction and aimed at
distancing the new government from the old. The posthumous publication of
al-Hudaybi’s writings was not merely aimed at providing ideological guidance to
4 Introduction
the Muslim Brothers; they were distributed because of their statements against
radical thought, and were thus used to address a new and rising problem, namely
the establishment of Islamist groups, which began to fi ght actively against the
political system in the early 1970s. In these terms, Du<at la Qudat remains an
important critique of radical thought.
Hasan al-Hudaybi’s main aim was to change society, i.e. Egyptian society,
which, in his view, was not aware of the political nature of Islamic belief. So,
real change could only be brought about through creating awareness and by
tackling the issue of Islamic identity (as opposed to a Western perception). Only
through developing a sense of Islamic consciousness could the ultimate goal of the
establishment of an Islamic society be reached. Given this approach, al-Hudaybi
refuted revolutionary overthrow, instead preaching gradual development from
within. A major point was therefore education and social engagement, as well as
participation in the political system, appealing by means of mission ( da<wa ) to the
consciousness of the individual believer.
This path of his is now followed by today’s Muslim Brotherhood, which endeavours
to be recognised as a political party and which infl uences political decision
making by infi ltrating the political participatory structures (parliament, Verwaltung,
non-governmental organisations). This study of the Muslim Brotherhood
from the 1950s until the early 1970s, therefore, is not only a piece of research into
the modern political history of Egypt and an analysis of a religious ideology, but
has also a relationship to current politics.

Barbara HE. Zollner

HasanHasan Ismail al-Hudaybi led the Society of the Muslim Brotherhood during a time of crisis and dissolution. Succeeding Hasan al-Banna’, who was the founder and first leader of the organisation, al-Hudaybi was to be its head for more than twenty years. During his leadership he faced severe criticism from fellow Brothers.

Following the Revolution of July 1952, he was pitted against the antagonism of Abd al-Nasir, who became increasingly infl uential in the council of leading Free Officers. Abd al-Nasir’s determination to thwart the cause of the Brotherhood and its infl uence on society was part of his path to absolute rule. Considering the signifi cance of al-Hudaybi’s years as leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, it is surprising that there is little scholarly work on the subject.

When taking into account that his moderate ideas continue to have a strong infl uence on the policy and attitude of today’s Muslim Brotherhood, e.g. his conciliatory position towards the state system and his refutation of radical ideas, the fact that so little attention is paid to his writing is even more startling. Certainly, there has been interest in the Muslim Brotherhood.

There are quite extensive studies available on Hasan al-Banna’: the founder and fi rst leader of the Muslim Brotherhood has been described as a model figure of Islamic campaigning; others depict him as the originator of threatening political activism in the name of Islam.

There has been even more interest in the ideas of Sayyid Qutb; some see him as the ideologue of Islamist radicalism, whose concepts trained extremist groups; others describe him as a victim of state persecution who developed a theology of liberation in reaction to his maltreatment.

No doubt, it is important to examine the work of these thinkers in order to understand currents of Islamist ideology and Islamist movements. Whatever the verdict on al-Banna’ and Qutb, it is a fact that certain ideas of the two thinkers have been incorporated into the modern-day Muslim Brotherhood.

Aber, this focus has led to an incorrect perception that the Islamic movement is necessarily radical in its thinking and/or militant in its deeds, an assumption which has, in recent years, been questioned by a number of scholars, among them John L. Edwards, Fred Halliday, François Burgat, and Gudrun Krämer.

The following study of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood under the leadership of Hasan al-Hudaybi will form an addition to these theses, addressing and reassessing the viewpoint that political Islam is a monolithic block, all in all disposed towards violent means.

There are reasons why al-Hudaybi is hardly mentioned in the literature on the Muslim Brotherhood. The fi rst that comes to mind is the observation that Islamist movements are, by defi nition, seen as fundamentally radical, anti-democratic and anti-Western.

This reasoning questions any distinction between moderate Islamism and its radical counterpart. The argument goes that both have the objective of establishing an Islamic state system, that they both aim to replace existing secular governance and that they therefore differ only in the degree of their methods, but not in principle.

This book, however, clearly joins the scholarly circle on political Islam, which identifi es arguments such as these as neo-Orientalist. As Esposito shows, this approach to political Islam is based on what he terms ‘secular fundamentalism’.

The external view of political Islam is focused primarily on radical thought, and this may be due to the creation, on the part of power politics, of a fear of Islam as a religion, which is different, strange and seemingly in opposition to

Western thought. Alternatively, it may be because radical or even militant groups are constantly appearing in the media by reason of their actions. Tatsächlich, militant Islamists actually seek such publicity.

While radical thought and militant action make it necessary to study extremist groups, the focus on terrorism in the name of Islam marginalises moderate Islamists.

It also makes it difficult to explain the differences between radical and moderate Islamism. In effect, the scholarly focus on radical or militant groups reinforces the generally negative public perception of Islam in the West.

A further reason why al-Hudaybi in particular has not been studied by Western scholars has to do with the internal affairs of the Brotherhood. It is astonishing that his name is not mentioned much by the writers of the Muslim Brotherhood itself. There is no simple explanation for this.

One reason may be that members particularly stress their sympathies for al-Banna’, depicting him as an ideal leader who died for his activist convictions. Aber, as many Brothers endured imprisonment, hard labour and even torture insideAbd al-Nasir’s prisons and camps, their personal histories have resulted in a dearth of discourse on Hasan al-Hudaybi.

So, there is a tendency to remember al-Hudaybi’s period of leadership as a time of near defeat and destruction. Still, the experiences of the persecuted are caught in the ambiguous relationship between forgetting and reappraisal.

Many personal accounts of the time have been published since the mid 1970s, 2 narrating stories of torture and stressing steadfastness of faith. Only a few of the books written by Muslim Brothers take a broader approach, which includes discussion of a crisis within the organisation and of al-Hudaybi’s part therein. Those authors who do tackle this issue not only reveal the society’s weak position vis-à-vis Abd al-Nasir, but also expose signs of disintegration within the

Muslimbruderschaft. 3 This has led to differing attitudes towards al-Hudaybi, with most portraying him as an incompetent leader lacking the charismatic personality of his predecessor, al-Banna’. In particular, he was accused of not commanding the authority to bring together the different wings of the Muslim Brotherhood or to adopt a strong position in relation to the authoritarian state system.

In the latter view lies an ambiguity, for it would appear to show al-Hudaybi not just as a failure, but also as a victim of the political situation. Finally, these accounts reveal an ideological gap which opened at the beginning of the period of persecution in 1954.

To a certain extent, Sayyid Qutb fi lled this gap. During his imprisonment he developed a radical approach, rejecting the then state system as illegitimate and ‘un-Islamic’. In developing a revolutionary concept and explaining thereby the reasons underlying the persecution, he turned the condition of victimisation into one of pride.

So, he gave many imprisoned Muslim Brothers, particularly young members, an ideology that they could hold on to.

It has to be said that al-Hudaybi did not react decisively to the situation of internal crisis and dissolution. Indeed, to a certain extent his indecisiveness triggered this situation.

This was especially obvious during the period of persecution (1954–71), when he omitted to provide any guidelines to help in overcoming the feeling hopelessness ushered in by Abd al-Nasir’s mass imprisonments. His reaction to the radical ideas which fl ourished in the prisons and camps among certain, especially young, members came fairly late.

Even then, his scholarly and juridical argumentation did not have the same sweeping effect as Sayyid Qutb’s writings. In 1969, al-Hudaybi proposed a moderate concept in his writing Duat la Qudat (Preachers not Judges).

This writing, which was secretly distributed among fellow Brothers, is considered the fi rst substantial refutation of Sayyid Qutb’s ideas. 5 Qutb, who was hanged in 1966, was by then considered to be a martyr, his thoughts already having a considerable infl uence.

This does not mean that the majority of Muslim Brothers did not pursue a moderate approach, but the lack of guidelines left them voiceless and reinforced the perception of al-Hudaybi as a weak leader.

Nevertheless, al-Hudayb’is moderate thought had an impact on his fellow Muslim Brothers. After the general amnesty of 1971, al-Hudaybi played a major part in the re-establishment of the organisation. Although he died in 1973, his moderate and conciliatory ideas continued to be relevant.

The fact that close companions such as Muhammad Hamid Abu Nasr, Umar al-Tilmisani and Muhammad Mashhur, who died recently, succeeded him as leaders shows the continuance of his thought.

Furthermore, his son Ma’mun al-Hudaybi has played a major role in his capacity as the Brotherhood’s secretary and spokesman.

Another reason why his thinking became important lies in the changed attitude towards the Muslim Brotherhood since Anwar al-Sadat’s presidency. Al-Sadat, who succeeded Abd al-Nasir, released the imprisoned Brothers and offered the organisation a half-legal though not offi cially recognised status.

A period of reorganisation (1971–77) followed, during which the government lifted the censorship of books written by Muslim Brothers. Many memoirs of formerly imprisoned members were published, such as Zaynab al-Ghazali’s account or al-Hudaybi’s book Du<at la Qudat (Preachers not Judges).

Dealing with the past, these books did not merely preserve the memory of the cruelties of Abd al-Nasir’s persecution.

Al-Sadat followed his own agenda when he allowed these publications to fi ll the market; this was a deliberate political stratagem, implying a change of direction and aimed at distancing the new government from the old.

The posthumous publication of al-Hudaybi’s writings was not merely aimed at providing ideological guidance to the Muslim Brothers; they were distributed because of their statements against radical thought, and were thus used to address a new and rising problem, namely the establishment of Islamist groups, which began to fi ght actively against the political system in the early 1970s. In these terms, Duat la Qudat remains an important critique of radical thought.

Hasan al-Hudaybi’s main aim was to change society, i.e. Egyptian society, which, in his view, was not aware of the political nature of Islamic belief. So, real change could only be brought about through creating awareness and by tackling the issue of Islamic identity (as opposed to a Western perception).

Only through developing a sense of Islamic consciousness could the ultimate goal of the establishment of an Islamic society be reached. Given this approach, al-Hudaybi refuted revolutionary overthrow, instead preaching gradual development from within. A major point was therefore education and social engagement, as well as participation in the political system, appealing by means of mission ( dawa ) to the consciousness of the individual believer.

This path of his is now followed by today’s Muslim Brotherhood, which endeavors to be recognised as a political party and which infl uences political decision making by infi ltrating the political participatory structures (parliament, Verwaltung, non-governmental organisations).

This study of the Muslim Brotherhood from the 1950s until the early 1970s, therefore, is not only a piece of research into the modern political history of Egypt and an analysis of a religious ideology, but has also a relationship to current politics.

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