Book Review: Refuting common ideas about Brotherhood founder El-Banna

Mahmoud El-Wardani, Wednesday 10 Sep 2014

Former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sameh Eid, refutes ideas about the group's founder, Hassan El-Banna, that elevate him to sainthood and regard his ideas as pure and spotless

Book Review

Rasa'il Al-Takfeer fi Fikr Hassan El-Banna (Takfirist Messages in Hassan El-Banna's Thought) by Sameh Eid, Dar Al-Mahroussa Publishing, Cairo, 2014. pp.176

Many may consider, whether they are members of the Muslim Brotherhood or not, that Hassan El-Banna, has presented ideas and practices since founding the organisation in 1928, which are different from that of the Takfiri groups (charging a person with unbelief, which is the Islamic equivalent to Catholic excommunication). Those groups are a direct extension of Sayyid Qutb's ideas through which he considered the whole society to be unbelievers.

However, Sameh Eid, in his book Takfirist Messages, deems Hassan El-Banna the direct father of the Takfirist groups and the real originator of the ideas of terrorism. The significance of the author's analysis lies in that many people have elevated El-Banna to sainthood. They regard his ideas as pure and spotless, ideas which advocates a return to the behaviour, practices and ideas of the Righteous Salaf (Ancestors) and the earliest of the Prophet's Sunnah (teachings and sayings).

Such common ideas deem El-Banna a preacher only, and that all his ideas were focused on preaching and being committed to morality and Islam's teachings. Those ideas became widespread without being scrutinised, discussed and analysed except rarely. But the author directs his efforts throughout the book to rereading El-Banna's most significant, famous and influential works which are his messages, written to his followers and were published many times. The author, however, relies on the edition of Dar Al-Daawah, affiliated to the Brotherhood, published in 1992.

On another perspective, the significance of discussing, rereading and analysing El-Banna's messages is not based solely on what some Brotherhood leaders such as Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh and Kamal El-Helbawy said and wrote that the current leaders of the organisation such as Mohammed Badie, Mohammed Morsi, Mahmoud Ezzet, Khairat El-Shater, El-Erian and El-Beltagy and others, deviated from El-Banna's path and that they were more influenced by the approach and ideas of Sayyid Qutb. The significance is extended to a group of dissident youth who announced their intention to set up a society in the name of Hassan El-Banna, deeming that this was the right path that the current Brotherhood members had strayed from.

Anyway, the author reread seventeen messages of the Guide El-Banna in which he tackled preaching matters. He also directed messages to youth and students in particular and others concerning the relationship between the Brotherhood and the governance, i.e. whether the Brotherhood forms a government, or to seek to govern and messages concerning the Brotherhood's stand on the Caliphate, parties and jihad, and messages to Muslim women and to the families system (one of the organisational levels in the group) and other messages.

In fact, El-Banna's messages, which Eid analysed, reveal obviously his arrogance and vanity, and his readiness to forge any alliance for the sake of the organisation which he founded. It is well-known that the money that allowed El-Banna to found the organisation was a donation from the British who were occupying Egypt at the time.

In this context, we can read a number of messages, such as the message titled The Boundaries of Our Patriotism, or the message dealing with the end as the origin [or the root] and the works We and Politics, or The Biggest Source of Power and others.

We can also contemplate the Teachings message because it is taught at certain levels, especially when the member is granted active membership, which is the basic course preceding swearing the Oath and the Pledge of Allegiance for Listening and Obeying within the organisation. As Eid has explained, active membership is not a matter to be taken lightly, for there are those who spend their entire lives within the organisation without being granted this kind of membership. Voting inside the organisation, just the voting, starts with active membership. Although the associate member pays the subscription and is assigned all the tasks, being granted active membership is another rank and is considered the real beginning to go through to the heart of the organisation.     

In this message El-Banna equates Islam as a state and a homeland and he sees that the state should be established with Imam the Caliph as its head as the Shadow of God on Earth. The message stated that the opinion of the Imam and his deputy "in what there is no holy text (i.e. the Holy Quran or Sunnah) is final." This means that the opinion of the Imam (who is El-Banna) is to be executed in all circumstances. They granted legitimacy even to killing people, as in the case of Appellate Judge Ahmad El-Khazendar and the Prime Minister Mahmoud El-Nuqrashi, whom the Imam El-Banna spoke about the Sharia rules approving such acts, according to the author.

What's more is that the author was interrogated while he was a Brotherhood member, which he left, because he said in a private meeting with Brotherhood friends that Hassan El-Banna had committed mistakes. The higher organisational level was notified thus the author was interrogated in 1996 in the Yemen. This incident reveals to what extent El-Banna was like a saint among his followers. 

In the same message, El-Banna mentions that "he who refrains from sacrifice with us is sinful." Eid comments that "He who wasn't with the Brotherhood is sinful, what about those who went to the streets on 30 June chanting 'down with the rule of the Brotherhood Supreme Guide?' Undoubtedly, they have committed a deadly sin, while El-Banna gives his followers in the same message Indulgences (the Islamic equivalent of the Middle Ages Catholic practices) of Paradise".

Moreover, El-Banna demands in the same message from his followers to comply totally with orders and execute them immediately in fair weather or foul, while at work and you hate it.

El-Banna divides the Muslims through the eyes of Muslim Brothers, saying as follows: "People according to the truthful brother are one of six" he added, "Muslim Mujahid or refraining Muslim or a sinful Muslim or a contracted Dhimmi (a Jew or a Christian living in an Islamic state) or neutral Dhimmi or warrior Dhimmi. For every one of those there is a judgment in the balance of Islam. According to these divisions, individuals and institutions are weighed and thus the loyalty and enmity is based upon." Of course, there is no comment on this obviously fascist talk especially when he adds in the same message that "the truthful brother puts his brothers above himself, because if he doesn't have their support he will have nobody else's support, however, if they don't have his support, they will have it from anybody else. The wolf hunts but the wandering sheep."

Hence, the Brotherhood is an organisation closed on its members isolated from society; it is even hostile towards society. It sets up institutions and companies; it treats the sick, helps the needy among the members of the Brotherhood of course. As for the society, it constitutes "the Gentiles" in the view of the organisation.

Finally, the author points out in the book's introduction that its contents are a compilation of a series that were aired on Al-Tahrir satellite channel previously. This should have made him re-edit these series to be fit for the book form, which is definitely different from that of TV broadcasting.

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