The Power of the Jama‘A: The Role of Hasan Al-Banna in Constructing the Muslim Brotherhood’s Collective Identity

In: Sociology of Islam

This article explores the role of Hasan al-Banna (1906-1949) in creating the collective identity of the Muslim Brotherhood. It examines the enduring impact of al-Banna’s thoughts and legacy on the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). The article argues that al-Banna interweaved a distinctive frame of identity for the MB which is still vibrant and operative. It also contends that the MB’s identity plays a pivotal role in preserving the movement’s coherence and sustaining its political and social activism. Al-Banna, the founder and the chief ideologue of the MB, had crafted what this article calls the ‘Jama‘a’ paradigm. It refers to the cognitive system of aims and objectives, duties and means, phases and norms, symbols and meanings that encompasses and guides the MB’s members in everyday life. The Jama‘a paradigm operates as a frame of reference to the MB’s collective action. While other studies focused on the historical and chronological journey of al-Banna, this study unpacks al-Banna’s legacy and investigates its effects on the MB’s identity. Based on a field research, the article provides a fresh and nuanced account for al-Banna enduring impact on the MB.

  • 1

    Richard Mitchell’s book (1969) is the standard scholarly work on the history of the MB and Brynjar Lia’s work (1998) has replicated much of Mitchell’s analysis with more historical scrutiny. For English sources on the history of the MB see for example Richard Mitchell The Society of the Muslim Brothers (London: Oxford University Press 1969); Brynjar Lia The Society of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt: The Rise of an Islamic Mass Movement 1928-1942 (London: Ithaca Press 1998); J. Heyworth Dunne. Religious Trends in Modern Egypt (privately published 1950). For Arabic sources on the MB see for example Ishaq Musa al-Husayni The Muslim Brothers: The Greatest of Modern Islamic Movements (Beirut: Khaya’t’s College Book Cooperative 1956); Mahmoud Abd al-Halim al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun: ahdath sana’at al-tarikh [The Muslim Brotherhood: Events Made History] (Alexandria: Dar al-Da’wa 1979) the autobiography of Hasan al-Banna Mudkarrat al-daw’a wa’l-da’iyaa (Cairo: Dar al-Shihab n.d); Hamada Ismail Hasan Al-Banna and the Society of Muslim Brothers between Religion and Politics 1928-1949 (Cairo: Dar el-Shorouq 2010).

  • 5

    MitchellThe Society of the Muslim Brothers (London: Oxford University Press1969) p. 1.

  • 6

    Ibrahim El-Bayoumi Ghanimal-fikr assiyasi lil’imam Hasan Al-Banna (Cairo: Dar al-Shorouk1992) p.140.

  • 7

    Ibid. p.141.

  • 15

    Ghanimal-fikr al-siyasi p. 130.

  • 16

    Gershoni and Jankowski p. 58.

  • 17

    Hasan al-BannaMajmuat al-rasail al-Imam al-Shahid Hasan al-Banna (Cairo: Shorouk Press2002) p. 23.

  • 19

    al-BannaMajmu’at al-Rasa’il p. 25.

  • 21

    al-BannaMajmuat al-rasail p. 25.

  • 22

    Brynjar LiaThe Society of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt: The Rise of an Islamic Mass Movement 1928-1942 (London: Ithaca Press1998) p. 58.

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  • 23

    Ibid p. 59.

  • 24

    Mohamed Abdullah al-SimmanHasan al-Banna: al-rajul wa-l-fikra (Cairo: Dar al-Nasr1977) p. 23.

  • 25

    Ghanimal-fikr assiyasi p. 112.

  • 26

    Ibid. p. 113.

  • 32

    David Commins“Hasan al-Banna,” in Pioneers of Islamic Revivaled. Ali Rahnema (London: Zed Books 1994) p. 134.

  • 36

    Ibid. p. 171.

  • 37

    Ibid. p. 173.

  • 38

    Ibid. p. 174.

  • 39

    Commins‘Hasan al-Banna’ p. 136.

  • 41

    Lia Muslim Brothers in Egypt p. 140.

  • 47

    Ibid. p. 339.

  • 49

    David Snow and Doug McAdam“Identity Work Processes in the Context of Social Movements” in Self identity and social movementsedited by Sheldon Stryker Timothy Owens and Robert White (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 2000) p. 614.

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  • 51

    MelucciChallenging Codes p. 320.

  • 53

    Ibid. p. 115.

  • 54

    Ibid. p. 116.

  • 55

    Ibid. p. 45.

  • 56

    Ibid. p. 48.

  • 57

    Ibid. p. 65.

  • 58

    Ibid. p. 187.

  • 59

    Ibid. p. 188.

  • 60

    Ibid. p. 161.

  • 61

    Ibid. p. 336.

  • 62

    Ibid. p. 178.

  • 67

    Ibid. p. 174.

  • 68

    Mohamed Badie‘Oh, Brothers: Let’s Work’the weekly statementavailable at

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  • 69

    Ibid. p. 174.

  • 70

    Zakaria Bayumial-Ikhwan al-Muslimon wa’l-Jama‘at al-Isalmiyya fil-hayah al-Siyasiyya 1928-1948 (Cairo: Maktabt Wahba1991) pp. 75-82.

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