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Reviewed by:
  • The Muslim Brotherhood: Hasan al-Hudaybi and Ideology
  • Bjørn Olav Utvik (bio)
The Muslim Brotherhood: Hasan al-Hudaybi and Ideology, by Barbara H.E. Zollner. London, UK and New York: Routledge, 2009. ix + 151 pages. Notes to p. 184. Bibl. to p. 198. Index to p. 202. $140.

Barbara Zollner's book on Hasan al-Hudaybi fills an important gap in the study of the development of the Muslim Brothers (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun). According to a version of history that has been promoted by Gilles Kepel, among others, in his widely read Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam, the main development of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt after Hasan al-Banna was its radicalization through the ideological works of Sayyid Qutb. Inspired by Qutb's writings on the modern jahiliyya and the legitimacy and necessity of rebelling against the apostate Kings and Presidents of the Muslim world, the Islamic student groups which emerged in the 1970s chose a line of armed jihad against the authorities. They went on to launch a series of terror attacks and a small scale guerrilla war in the late 1980s and early 1990s under the banner of an organization called al-Jama'a al-Islamiyya (the Islamic Group).

There are serious flaws to this story. One is that the definite majority of the Islamist student movement of the 1970s chose to distance itself from the jihadis and opted to join the Muslim Brothers, who were by the early part of that decade consolidated on a line for peaceful work for gradual reform. This points to the second flaw with the story promoted by Kepel and others —its over-emphasis on Sayyid Qutb in tracing the evolution of the Brothers after their disastrous clash with the Nasser regime in 1954. For Sayyid Qutb was never the leader of the Muslim Brothers. The position as Murshid 'amm ("General Guide") was held by Hasan al-Hudaybi from 1951 to his death in 1973.

Barbara Zollner's work is of major importance in understanding this period of Ikhwan history and, therefore, the nature of the movement as it exists today. By outlining Hudaybi's policies and his understanding of Islam as guidance for politics and society, she provides us with an important key to understanding the ideology and practice of the Brothers as they re-emerged onto the public scene in Egypt from the early 1970s onwards. She focuses in particular on the book Du'a la quda [Preachers, not Judges], which was authored by leading Brothers under Hudaybi's supervision in the late 1960s in response to Qutb's ideas (although the criticism of Qutb is never explicit). Zollner points out that the discussions triggered inside the prison camps by Qutb's new radicalism represented a formative period for the "new" Brothers. Significantly, among the central authors of Du'a la quda we find Umar al-Tilmisani, Mustafa Mashhur, and Hudaybi's son Ma'mun —all three of whom later succeeded him as murshids.

Through her detailed discussion of Du'a la quda, Zollner shows how Hudaybi is carefully laying out a path for the Muslim Brothers that steers away from the extremism of Qutb while preserving the call for the individual Muslim to take responsibility in the fight for the cause of Islam and social justice. In its treatment of the basic question "who is a Muslim?" the book sticks to the classical idea that anyone who pronounces the declaration of faith in earnest must be considered a Muslim. This does not stop Hudaybi from holding forth the ideal of a good Muslim as one devoting his or her life to the struggle for the message of Islam. On this point, Zollner, at times, seems to see paradoxes where none exist. For Hudaybi's call for active struggle as an ideal does not imply the accusation that those who do not live up to the ideal are somehow unbelievers. As Zollner rightly points out, a major thrust of the book is exactly to guard against easy resort to takfir, the branding of others as unbelievers.

Hudaybi's moderation is also evident in the attitude towards the call for implementing the Shari'a...


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pp. 519-520
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