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CH-14 - 14 Al-Banna Mawdudi and Qutb Hasan al-Banna was...

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Hasan al-Banna was born in a small provincial town, Mahmudiyya, some 90 miles northwest of Cairo in October 1906 . 1 He was the eldest of five sons. Much of his early religious training came from his father, the imam and teacher at the local mosque who supplemented his income as a watch repair- man. Another formative influence was his Qur’anic school ( kuttab ) teacher. At the age of twelve he moved from the kuttab to the local primary school. During these years he also became involved with the local chapter of the Hasafiyya Sufi brotherhood as well as other religious organizations. The next step, in the early 1920 s, was enrollment in the Primary Teachers’ Training School in Damanhur, also in the Delta, 13 miles from his home- town. At age sixteen he entered Dar al-‘Ulum, a higher-level teacher training institution that had been founded in 1873 to offer the modern (i.e.,Western) curriculum that al-Azhar had resisted adopting. Graduating from Dar al- ‘Ulum in 1927 at the age of twenty-one, al-Banna accepted his first post as a primary school teacher of Arabic in Isma‘iliyya. Located on the Suez Canal, Isma‘iliyya in those years was replete with the signs of alien military, economic, and cultural domination. British mil- itary bases, 2 the foreign officialdom of the Suez Canal Company, foreign economic domination of all major businesses and public utilities, even street signs in English brought home to al-Banna the colonized status of his fellow Muslims. It was in this environment that he organized his Muslim Brethren, the first members being, significantly, six Egyptian workers from the British military camp. The earliest recruits and activities were in the 14. Al-Banna, Mawdudi, and Qutb
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canal zone, but when al-Banna succeeded in getting transfered to a teach- ing post in Cairo ( 1932 ) he was ready to make the organization a national force. The continued British control, the uprootedness following on the accel- erating exodus from countryside to city, and the added hardships brought by the depression years of the 1930 s produced an Egyptian population longing for security, fellowship, a sense of personal worth, simple and clear answers to what was needed plus equally simple and clear answers to what must be opposed. That all this could be presented as getting back to the clear moral imperative demanded by Islam made the call even more attractive. Al- Banna’s charismatic personality and good organizing skills did the rest. The Muslim Brethren experienced explosive growth. Mitchell’s careful study offers the following estimate: “Four branches in 1929 ; 5 in 1930 ; 10 in 1931 ; 15 in 1932 ; 300 in 1938 ; 500 in 1940 ; 2 , 000 in 1949 .” And the peak mem- bership is estimated to have been perhaps a half million active members with at least an equal number of sympathizers.
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