After al-Qaradawi and Munir Died: What is Waiting the Muslim Brotherhood?

Position Estimation| This paper examines the situation of the Muslim Brotherhood Group after two of its most prominent and important leaders in the political and theoretical dimensions died. Those two figures namely: Yusuf al-Qaradawi; the last prominent authority of the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islam, and Ibrahim Munir; the acting general guide of the Muslim Brotherhood.

by Dr. Hani Nsera
  • Release Date – Nov 14, 2022

 The Muslim Brotherhood Group witnessed the demise to two of its most significant leaders regarding the political and theorizing aspects; with the death of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the last prominent authority of political Islam, and also the death of Ibrahim Munir, the Muslim Brotherhood's acting general guide, the Muslim Brotherhood will face significant repercussions and effects, as the two men are iconic in the space of political Islam, besides their role in the organizational structure, as well as to their role in controlling disputes within the Group's ranks. Even if the latter may not have the influence al-Qaradawi had, but their demise, however, has an impact on three fronts, the first of which is the front he led in London, the other is the one in Turkiye; led by Mahmoud Hussein, and the third is Front for Change, that one emerged a few months ago, which represents the followers of former leader Muhammad Kamal, who appeared in October of 2022, less than a month before Munir's death.

The timing of the Muslim Brotherhood's loss of its leader and ideologue comes in light of the crisis the Group is suffering since the fall of its rule in Egypt 2013, as well as the ensuing series of setbacks it suffered in various Arab countries. This supports the hypothesis that the Muslim Brotherhood will enter a dark tunnel of defections and intellectual wandering with the death of the said figures. This idea is what such paper will discuss within its axes.

Al-Qaradawi is the Most Prominent Theorist of Political Islam

Yusuf al-Qaradawi belongs to the second generation of "The Brotherhood" theorists. He was a key player in the effectiveness of the Muslim Brotherhood after its second establishment in the seventies of the last century. Also, al-Qaradawi was a prominent station in the Group's image and orientations, due to the nature of his personality; the diversity of his skills and talents, the quantity and quality of his writings; and his role and ability to establish many institutions that carry his views, orientations, and participations, the most important of which is the International Union of Muslim Scholars, which he founded in Doha 2004, and continued presiding it for 14 years until late 2018.

Nonetheless, during the few years after the fall of the Brotherhood's rule in 2013, al-Qaradawi lost much of his popularity and symbolism among the public, as he shifted from moderation, to completely side with the Muslim Brotherhood, becaming one of the Muslim Brotherhood's hawks or the so-called "Qutbists": he supported hostility and violence against the authorities, called for jihad in Egypt, and at the same time failed to reunite the Muslim Brotherhood and neutralize conflicts within it.

It remains important to question the future of the Muslim Brotherhood, in both theoretical and reference terms after al-Qaradawi's death, for even if al-Qaradawi did not have an organizational position within the Muslim Brotherhood, but he was a lever and a jurisprudential and intellectual bridge, attempting to renew the Group and make it be re-acceptable it in the Arab and Islamic world, as well as for other currents of political Islam. This leads to the belief that his death will create a stage before the end of the Brotherhood, at least in their the intellectual and theoretical levels,  the matter which we will explain below:

First: The Brotherhood crisis of theoretical drought

The Muslim Brotherhood, based on its belief in the priority of organizing over theorization, suffered theoretical and intellectual drought since the its discourse and intellectual tributaries moved no span away from the authority of its founder Hasan al-Banna alone, in addition to the Group's inability to integrate and contain any renewal or diligence or put forward different from what al-Banna put forward. Al-Banna represents, to the Group's leaders and conservative guides, a link and the pole of its large and heavy organizational presence, that does not bear the transition, leaping, and intellectual override. The presence of Sayyid Qutb seems to be an explanatory and in-depth presence of what was put forward by al-Banna and increased, of poetic composition, and the attempt to religiosity and doctrinal rooting for his intellectual ideas.

Hasan al-Banna himself was aware of the difficulty and seriousness of ideas renewal on the Muslim Brotherhood and its organization: in a dialogue between al-Banna and the founder of the Young Egypt Movement, Ahmed Hussein (1911-1982), who was busy with development, renewal, and transformation in his discourse, in order to transfer from nationalism to Islamic nationalism, then to socialist Islam. In that dialogue, Hussein demanded al-Banna with intellectual renewal of his Muslim Brotherhood, al-Banna responded by saying:  "The Organization is heavy, the rapid and continuous movements may fall it down".

As a result of this stagnation, plus the theoretical and intellectual drought, which stopped at specific intellectual rhetoric for more than seven decades, the choice was between was either the obedience to the conservatives and hawks within the Group, or leaving it at any disagreement (whether positive or negative, rational or violent). The destiny of any departure from this framework, in the second half of the twentieth century, was exclusion and isolation, or dismissal and dissenting, whether in the life of Hasan al-Banna or after his death.

Therefore, some of the Muslim Brotherhood's ideologues left it, or been excluded since the largest defection of a number of its first generation, after the Muslim Brotherhood's crisis in 1954, in which big names emerged, such as al-Bahi al-Khouli (1901-1977), Muhammad al-Ghazali (1917-1996), al-Sayyid Sabiq (1915-2000), Ahmed Hassan al-Baqouri (1907-1985), and Dr. Abdul Aziz Kamel (1919-1991). The latter two held the position of Egyptian Minister of Awqaf for a long period of time. Such crisis culminated with the dismissal of the Muslim Brotherhood former leader, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, in April 2011.


The hyperbole came in the thought of Sayyid Qutb, and in his tendency to violence, after his classification of governments to be the guillotine of  al-Hakemyya (rule) he created, and also for societies and nations on, based on the principle of Jahilyya (pre-Islamic era) he generalized. In this point, al-Banna's lost his flexibility and ability to camouflage the discourse, and harmonize pragmatic and procedural fitting, despite the same agreement in the central concepts but with different expressions and intensity. Al-Banna's discourse and pragmatism spoke about the "Islamic homeland" and doctrinal aspect of "ruling", although Banna did not use the term "al-Hakemyya" but used the same contents.

Second: Al-Qaradawi between Hasan al-Banna and Qutb

Despite the dominance of Hasan al-Banna's orientations and rhetoric on the Muslim Brotherhood's thought, Sayyed Qutb tendency, which increased and hardened such idea turning it into a belief, that remained in the Muslim Brotherhood, while adjusting it with the founder's intellectual flexibility.

The organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, remained under the control of the Qutbists for the longest period of its history, before and after 2011. Most of those who led the Muslim Brotherhood, since the fourth guide, Muhammad Hamid Abu al-Nasr (1913-1996), through the fifth guide, Mustafa Mashhour (1921-2002) and then the sixth guide, Muhammad al-Mamoun al-Hudaybi (died in 2004) until now, belonged to the Qutb movement.

Perhaps the exception was periods of reconciliation with the regimes, during the reign of the second guide, Hassan al-Hudaybi (died in  1973) and the third guide, Omar Tlemceni (died in 1986), but the higher ranks in the Muslim Brotherhood remained belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood of Qutbists and the special organization. Some of their current leaders are: Mahmoud Ezzat, Khairat al-Shater; and the current guide Mohamed Badie, whom all are sentenced in Egypt to prison. perhaps the Qutbist orientation, with its hardcore tendency, was a simultaneously guarantor and dominant, for the said figures, for the organizational coherence and while the Group's losses.

In the past, Al-Qaradawi, with his writings, was one of the Brotherhood's (al-Banna tendency) pillars; he criticized Qutb's ideas in many of his writings, although not in the clarity and severity of some who criticized of Sayyid Qutb, such as the Pakistani Wahiduddin Khan (died in 2021) and the Indian Abu al-Hassan al-Nadawi (died in 1999). Al-Qaradawi succeeded in collecting jurisprudence in a literary guise, that increases the depth of al-Banna's ideas, paving the way for the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islam integration and acceptance in a number of countries' public spheres.

Nevertheless, al-Qaradawi's criticism of the Qtub's ideas did wasn't halted for long, as al-Qaradawi's way was marred by many transformations and contradictions, most notably: his intellectual transformations after 2013. It can be said that he set the theoretical and reference framework, that governs and controls the discourse and orientations of the Muslim Brotherhood, towards the Egyptian regime, since the fall of Group's experience in Egypt, a position that was similar various Arab regimes. The said theoretical and reference framework remained the dominant and ruling of the Brotherhood's referential leaderships, who were as close as possible to the Qutb's concepts regarding al-Hakemyya and al-Jahelyya (the rule and the pre-Islam-like conditions). This appeared in al-Qaradawi's controversial fatwa "suicide attacks are permissible" after "obtaining the Muslim Brotherhood's approval", and if "there is a need for a person to blow himself up" provided that "the Muslim Brotherhood should manage how to carry out {the suicide attack} while minimizing losses as much as possible".

Therefore, the participation of al-Qaradawi in the thought of political Islam, increased the rootedness, besides political Islam’s doctrine, conservatism, and readiness for violence, more than putting forward moderation or development in such thought. Perhaps the results of this is what the Muslim Brotherhood is witnessing of permanently facing crises, or otherwise attributing crisis to the Muslim Brotherhood. Also, other results is that the Muslim Brotherhood tended for more stagnation and violence, without the Group would have ability to overcome the same towards moderation and renewal. This led to what the Muslim Brotherhood is witnessing today of crises and disputes, which cracked the Group from within, the matter that may lead to its collapse at any moment.

Third: The last ideologues of the Muslim Brotherhood

Over the past decades, al-Qaradawi was considered the first ideologue of the Muslim Brotherhood. Through many of his books, al-Qaradawi succeeded in establishing the sharia image of political Islam, especially in the position on issues such as partisanship, political pluralism, the position on takfir, and violence, in addition to the jurisprudential representation of the paradox and the gap between political Islam; as represented by the Muslim Brotherhood on  hand, and other fundamentalist currents on the other,  especially "Salafi jihadism". Al-Qaradawi was able to present himself - as the last great icon - for his views, and what he historically represents of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Although names, such as Sheikh Muhammad al-Ghazali (died 1996), take precedence in many of this proposition, but al-Qaradawi distinguished himself from other Muslim Brotherhood and political Islam ideologues, whether in Egypt or the Arab world. Such distinguish came on several issues:

1- Continuing his intellectual affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, and not announcing his defection from it.

2- The depth, foundation, and jurisprudential clash of the intellectual proposal, while Sheikh Al-Ghazali was more intellectually clear but with less doctrinal clash.

3- The institutional and media dimension were more present in the biography of Al-Qaradawi than in Al-Ghazali, which made al-Qaradawi’s efforts and proposals be of greater dimensions and impacts.

4- al-Qaradawi was characterized by his jurisprudential and intellectual discourse, along with his individual and institutional presence, its association and its independence at the same time. This was not available to other members of the Group, whether the late or contemporaries, from Muhammad Al-Ghazali and Al-Sayyid Sabiq to the neighborhoods of the Iraqi Muhammad Ahmed Al-Rashed or Rashid Al-Ghannouchi or others.


Therefore, al-Qaradawi was the last of the most influential voices and icons in the authority in the contemporary Sunni political Islam, without anyone of his followers to match him, such as Ahmed al-Assal (died in 2010) and Abdel Moez Abdul Sattar (died in 2011) or later, such as Muhammad Abdullah al-Khatib, the traditional and conservative mufti of the Muslim Brotherhood (died in 2015). There are no theorists or authorities that together are iconic and influential, whether in the Muslim Brotherhood's branches, or in the political Islam groups outside Egypt.

Ibrahim Munir and the Muslim Brotherhood Fronts Conflict

Since he took office as acting guide in 2015I, brahim Munir was not been able to achieve the unity of the Muslim Brotherhood, nor he was able to reunite it in the diaspora. The gap of disagreement between the Group’s front in London, and Mahmoud Hussein's front in Ankara, got widened, as the latter issued a statement in October 2021, relieving him from his duties, appointing Mustafa Tolba, who also resides in London, as his replacement to be a spokesman on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood, the matter that was not accepted by Ibrahim Munir's front, which issued a counter-decisions to fire the objectors. Munir and his front remained the widest and most acceptable in the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood, raising the question about the future of the Muslim Brotherhood and its conflicts after his death, and whether such conflicts are in favor of the Turkish front, led by Mahmoud Hussein, or not?!

In this regard, it should be noted that Ibrahim Munir succeeded in maintaining the most prominent wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, away from the Group’s previous administration, led by its Secretary-General Mahmoud Hussein, who leads the Turkish front. Ibrahim Muunir emerged as more acceptable inside and outside the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood, opposed to Mahmoud Hussein and his group, which faced many accusations within the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood, most notably its failure to lead the Muslim Brotherhood at a dangerous stage in its life.


Perhaps for the previous reasons, the Muslim Brotherhood announced, one day after Munir's death on the fifth of November 2022, the appointment of his assistant Mohieddin Al-Al-Zayit as a spokesman and acting guide on an interim basis, and he worked with Munir for a period of time at his request, al-Al-Zayit worked with Munir for some time upon the latter’s request, but he is also accused of a number of security cases, judgments were issued against him in absentia.

Muslim Brotherhood Fronts:

1- London Front, which was led by Ibrahim Munir before his death, temporarily led by Mohieddine Al-Zayit.

2- The Turkish front, led by Mahmoud Hussein, Secretary-General of the Muslim Brotherhood.

3- The Change Front, which follows the al- Kamal’s current within the Group, such group was named after Mohammad Kamal, one of the theorists of violence and clash with the Egyptian state after the fall of the Brotherhood rule in 2013.

The latter group had earlier rejected a declaration by Ibrahim Munir to withdraw from any power struggle in Egypt, declaring its support for revolutionary discourse and violence as a means of reaching power.

Munir's supporters deny that his death is in favor of Mahmoud Hussein's front, asserting that the Muslim Brotherhood's heavy and large body, under the interim leadership of Muhyiddin al-Zayit is still holding together after Munir’s death and, and that the financial and logistical capabilities of the TurkishFront, led by Mahmoud Hussein, are what give him presence and strength now, not his organizational strength.


In General, after the departure of Qaradawi, it seems that the theoretical and reference aspects are significantly receding in the space of political Islam, but in the Muslim Brotherhood in particular. With the death of Ibrahim Munir, the Muslim Brotherhood will face exacerbations in its rift between three fronts, making it the biggest crisis to continue since the Group’s establishment, whether in its internal or foreign relations with the regimes and the outside world.

In the absence of the two leaders, the possibility of bridging the rift between the opposing fronts of the Muslim Brotherhood has become more complex and difficult, as such rifts will transfer towards the organizational rigidity dominance as a priority over the intellectual development, which leads to further defections and fragmentation in the coming days, the matter that will also apply to the various currents of political Islam.


Dr. Hani Nsera

Writer and Political Expert