ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Ideological Frameworks Faced with Practical Demands: The Evolution of the Muslim Brotherhood through Compromise

Updated on December 15, 2013
The Muslim Brotherhood
The Muslim Brotherhood | Source

The draw of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt

In his article ‘Normalization of the Islamic Movement in Egypt from the 1970s to the Early 1990s’, Gehad Auda identifies two phases of the Islamic movement. The first is characterized by “radical ideas concerning the legitimacy of political authority, the definition of Muslim society, and the projection of force as the means for advancing the Islamic cause,” while the second phase is characterized by a shift during which “the Islamic movement came to influence the institutions and norms of Egyptian political life through a mixture of peaceful and violent means…[and] radical Islamic ideas loosened their grip on the political behavior of the believers” (Auda, 374). Every social movement is rooted in a world-view distinct from the reality in which it finds itself, and the successful one offers an ideology that speaks to the people and structures the way they envision social change. The Islamic movement, broadly speaking, offered a demoralized and alienated population a strong identity rooted in Islam that could bolster national and ethnic pride while addressing the political and social failings of Westernization and modernization that plagued their institutions and dealt severe psychological blows to their pride and sense of self. However, the Muslim Brotherhood illustrates how a radical ideology and program can begin to become normalized within the institutions and established power structures that initially had served as the basis for the organization’s ideological identity, in the sense that social movements are most easily and widely defined by what they are not - by what they are fighting to change.


Contradictions and Compromises

Auda summarizes three distinct meanings of the Islamic movement which speak to the different levels on which groups like the Muslim Brotherhood operate. The first, “Islam as the source of political conduct and social life” speaks to the world-view the Brotherhood’s ideological framework is based upon. The second, “the rapid proliferation of groups that acted, mostly through violence, to apply Islamic theology,” (Auda 375) speaks to the methods employed by the Brotherhood towards their ideological end. It’s in this second level that contradictions begin to make themselves known and compromises must be made between staying true to the ideological base and world-view of the organization, the pragmatic demands of the reality in which the group in fact has to operate. The Muslim Brotherhood was created during a peak in anti-colonial struggles against the British, who were physically in Egypt doing things like razing villages and executing members of the opposition. In that situation, using violence to throw off the colonizers was a common tactic among opposition groups. However, once the British were thrown out and secular nationalist groups took power in 1952, the Muslim Brotherhood had to re-evaluate. Discussions regarding how an organization will act revolve around the relative benefits and drawbacks of different relationships with the established institutions and how to remain true to the ideological foundation. When Gamal abd-Nasser banned the Muslim Brotherhood in 1954, it became clear that though the violent and radical approach did perhaps win them the support of a marginalized population, it did little (practically speaking) to further their goals. However, because Nasser, and later Sadat, could use the Brotherhood to balance the communist opposition parties that were also a threat, the Brotherhood was given leverage within the legitimate political sphere which they could use to their advantage.

The third meaning, “the rise, consolidation, and expansion of an Islamic social formation, that is, a constellation of institutions, ideas, practices, wealth, power, and relationships which served together to implement the ideological program,” shows the outcomes of different choices and compromises with regard to the ideological aspect of the organization and offers the specifics for arguments about the relative merits of different relationships with established institutions (Auda 375). This last level is what most strongly influences the evolution of an organization because it encompasses the pragmatic, practical demands of remaining viable and effective in a political and social landscape that’s ultimately shaped by the established institutions. While trying to figure out how to be most effective, the Muslim Brotherhood was constantly reaffirming its goals, commitment to and understanding of its ideological foundation- the prioritizing and reevaluation that takes place dictates how the organization will evolve and its relationship with the established power. All of the questions and issues of compromise arise from two basic facts: the mark of a successful social movement organization is growth and that growth necessitates a change in the relationship with the established authority- in the case of the Muslim Brotherhood, a growing involvement in sanctioned, legitimate politics.

The Muslim Brotherhood, at its inception, was primarily concerned with the basic concept of da’wa- “the act of persuading the Muslim to abide by the tenets of Islamic law and to apply them to everyday life” (Auda 376), which lead the group to prioritize working within communities directly and visibly (note that in the beginning, the Muslim Brotherhood focused on influencing individuals through teaching and guidance, built schools etc.) and didn’t really operate on the larger, established political level. However, their teaching and guidance wasn’t reinforced or supported by the institutions that shaped the society in which they were working, so they had to also address these institutional short-comings so as to make their individual outreach viable and lasting. In order to “[build] an independent Islamic state and [reform] individual lives according to Islamic norms” (Auda 377), the Muslim Brothers would have to actively seek to re-establish the institutions that structure society around their ideological framework of an Islamic state. To the extent that this directly challenged established power structures, the Muslim Brothers found themselves under direct attack from the government and had to find a way to effect change subtly so as to not have their influence entirely exterminated. To do this necessitated working within the system they are trying to change, which drew fire from more radical followers who saw it as an unforgivable compromise of values. As previously mentioned, the primary function and draw of the Islamic movement was the strong sense of distinct identity that it offered, and any perceived compromise could easily be seen as a compromise in this identity causing it to loose strength and consequently, followers. If the Muslim Brothers lost enough popular support, it would be in danger of losing all legitimate political influence- but while it did have strong support and broad appeal, the government would be forced to make concessions to it. It’s the maintenance of this delicate balance- between remaining true to its ideological source of strength and identity (and thus retaining the popular support necessary to be influential in established political spheres) and using that influence to gain power in the institutions that are seen as the tools of oppression, symbols of the imperialistic influence that’s being fought against- that characterizes the evolution of the Muslim Brotherhood from radical fundamentalist ideology-driven organization characterized by Mitchell as a reaction to Western secular influence to a “middle-of-the-road” organization whose members participate in elections, hold office, and try to effect change, slowly, through legitimate means- as a force of modernization on ‘Islamic terms’.

What Do You Think?

Is the Muslim Brotherhood going about this in the best way? How do you think such compromises between political legitimacy and ideological purity play out? What other groups do you see struggling with similar compromises?

A lot has happened in the last few years - what do you think has changed?


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)