Political Islam’s Crisis of Thought and Practice

This opinion article discusses the series of collapses, which the political Islam groups faced while in power after 2011, represent a political inevitability that has its indicators and signs in the intellectual roots of those groups and their practices throughout history.

by Dr. Hassan abu arqob
  • Publisher – STRATEGIECS
  • Release Date – Jan 9, 2022

This article is part of the series: Political Islam in Focus.



The rise and collapse of political Islam groups, post-Arab Spring period, posed several questions and controversies. Which focused on reasons regarding why political Islam failed after its experiences in ruling were limited to relatively short periods of time, during which political Islam experienced a series of failures, and faced a series of mass uprisings, executive measures, and electoral setbacks.

A wide spectrum of researchers and specialists interpret such stall, where they attribute the stall to the clear status of disengagement between these currents and the societies they dominated. Political Islam groups was not aware that administrating the government is very different than managing the groups, and that the government’s particularities are wider and more comprehensive than controlling a collective group which has the same ideas.

Hence, this article argues that the stall of political Islam is a political determinism. This is because the indicators and signs of this failure mainly lie in the intellectual roots and historical practices of political Islam groups. This article seeks to shed light on such intellectual roots and historical practices the nature, regarding its monopoly, superiority, and specialty these groups give to their members, and ideas at the expense of other social and political components. 

The Issue of Ruling for the Muslim Brotherhood

The Muslim Brotherhood adopts the idea that the issue of ruling is one of the principles of doctrine, i.e. it is one of the religion basics principles, rather than being a supplementary principle. In his letters p. 149, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hasan al-Banna, says “In our jurisprudence books, ruling is regarded as one of the doctrines and a basic principle and not as a jurisprudence theme or a supplementary principle”. It is known that this is not the case for the Sunnis, because ruling search cases are considered pure doctrinal issues. Rather, ruling was mentioned by our scholars to respond to Shiites and Kharijites, not because they are of theology, but as a matter of sub-jurisprudence, not a basic principle of theology, Imam Ibrahim Al-Bajouri Al-Shafei, sheikh of Al-Azhar, in his explanation of “Sharh al-Aqaid al-Nasafiyyah” book, P. 21 “if it is said that that leadership is of theology purposes, making it contradictory to jurisprudence, I would reply: it is of theology. It is of the jurisprudence in fact, in order to respond to the wrong believes regarding leadership and unnecessary disputes, especially by the Kharijities AND Shiites”.


Political Islam groups also agree on the desire to gain power, either through elections, coups, or fighting. Hasan al-Banna says in his letters "The Muslim Brotherhood does not ask for ruling to themselves. If they find in the nation who is preparing to carry this burden out, perform this burden, and rule as per a Qur'anic Islamic method, then they would be Islam’s soldiers, supporters, and associates. If they do not find that, then the rule from Muslim Brotherhood’s method. They will work to regain ruling from the hands of every government that does not carry out God's orders". Consider what Banna said "They will work to regain it from the hands of every government that does not carry out God's orders”, concluding that there is a permanent desire and a key goal for the Muslim Brotherhood to gain power.

Merging Islam with Islamic System

We do not find, in the groups of political Islam, a distinction between Islam and the Islamic system in terms of discourse. Whatsoever the political Islam groups may criticize, in the Islamic countries they live in, is nothing more than a breach of some aspects of the Islamic system, while does not amount to a breach in Islam itself. Breaching the system of Islam, by an individual or the state, only causes its doer to fall into sin, but breaching Islam itself is the way that may lead the owner to be a disbeliever. Deeming a breach of the same to be the other is what has led a party of political Islam groups to deem the governments and states to be infidels, causing such gripes to see nothing wrong is fighting such states and governments.

If we discuss Hasan al-Banna's above-mentioned statement, where he draws the Muslim Brotherhood's approach, he says, "They will work to regain it -that is: ruling- from the hands of every government that does not follow God's orders." This raises fundamental questions in the political method of Islam, about what are the governments that implement God's orders? For this may apply only to the Righteous Caliphs' era, and some short periods in the life of the Islamic nation.

Is the solution by the reformation and advice, as stated in Quran and sunnah of the Prophet, or by regaining ruling from the hands of the government as Hasan al-Banna wants, claiming that it violates God's orders? Is reform, advice to do good deeds and prevent vices, are only mandated when the violation is committed?

Regaining ruling would be when one of the pillars of Islam, or its beliefs, is destroyed. This means "praying" in the words of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) when he said in “Sahih Muslim”: (“The worst of your leaders are those whom you hate and who hate you, and you send curses on them and they send curses on you.” He was asked, “O Messenger of Allah (SWT) should we not fight them by the sword?" He said, "Not as long as they are establishing prayer amongst you. And if you see from those in authority over you something that you hate then hate his action and do not remove your hand from obedience”. 

The Confusion between Calling to Embrace Islam and Politics

Political Islam groups have mixed Da'wa (the call to embrace Islam) with politics. This caused many mistakes, the most important of which is the exploitation of mosques' platforms and niches on the pretext that they are callers to embrace Islam, while they practice their politics, incitement, or their own ideas. this adds more value for them over other competing political currents, the matter which contributes in their favor concerning elections. Then, they enter the parliamentary councils as preachers not as politicians, while they practice Da'wa instead of politics, i.e., they are politicians in the mosque, and in preachers in parliaments, achieving, thus no success neither here or there.

The confusion between things, was perhaps seeking perfection. But in fact, it is a confusion that does not carry any good. it is the title of inferiority and not distinguishing between things, where this obscures the clear vision and the specific goal, while who embraces such ideas would be lost and the lose his identity. Hasan al-Banna talked about the Muslim Brotherhood embodies a micro image of the losing the orientation, where he says about the identity of the Muslim Brotherhood in his letters, p. 110: "It is a Salafist invitation, a Sunni way, a Sufi truth, a political body, a ritual group, a cultural scientific bond, an economic partnership, and a social idea". How can be right as the call to embrace Islam is based on tolerance, advice, and being kind to others, while partisanship is based on political and partisan competition, which may not often know no integrity! 

Unity and Identification with Islam

One of the biggest problems which political Islam followers have fallen into, is the identification with Islam, or the unity with it, where it -falsely- became in minds that they are Islam, and Islam is them, just like in the idea of Holool (God's presence in someone) and Ittihad (unity with God). For them, talking about them is talking about Islam, the objections against them is an objection against Islam, and criticizing their understanding of a sub-issue means nothing but challenging Islam. Their ideas are the very Islam, their opinions are the Islam, and their orientation is the Islam. Hasan al-Banna said in 1945, at the Conference of Regions Presidents “We are the Islam, O' People. Those who understand Islam know us as well as they know themselves.”. So, they consider themselves the absolute righteousness, that there is no right but it.

One of the results of that, was that the Islamists deemed the other dismissed, overlooking his as if he does not exist, for he challenges them, i.e., challenges Islam. Ignoring the other became even a sharia must, in order not to breach Islam, which is {to the Islamists} challenging the opinions of the Party or the Group. This made such groups to be dismissive, which cannot work with any Muslim except when there is an interest likely to be obtained. Hasan al-Banna points out this idea in his letters p. 110: "The Muslim Brotherhood is wiser and firmer than advancing towards the task of ruling the hearts and souls of this nation while the situation as it is. There must be a period in which the principles of the Muslim Brotherhood would widespread and prevail, and when the people will learn how the public learn how to prefer the public good over the private interest". Consider him saying "There must be a period in which the principles of the Muslim Brotherhood would widespread and prevail'.

If you may ask: why didn’t he say "Islam's principles" to spread instead of "Muslim Brotherhood principles"? they would answer "both are the same. He meant the Islam's principles by the Muslim Brotherhood's principles".

One of the most dangerous consequences of the foregoing, is that the failure of the political Islam groups has become unjustly attributed to Islam. This is because of the delusive status they have experienced and brought people into against their will. Failure, then, has been attributed to the experience of Islam, not to the experience of the Islamists. This is a huge gore caused by Islamists to their religion. As a result, a group of political Islam saw nothing wrong in murdering and assassinating actions. In Egypt, we do not forget these bloody incidents that killed: Judge Al-Khazindar, Prime Minister of Egypt Mahmoud al-Gorkashi Basha, Sheikh Mohammed al-Dhahabi the Egyptian Minister of Endowments, writer Faraj Fouda, Speaker of the People's Assembly Mr. Rifaat al-Mahjoub, and others. Their bloods were allowed to be shed because they challenged Islam, i.e. they challenged what the Group or Party sees.

Not only that, but there is the assassination of the character, in the sense of insulting prominent and affecting figures, and trying to discredit them. This is what the followers of such currents did with the great imam Professor Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb, who is sheikh of al-Azhar Mosque. They did the same to his eminence imam Professor Dr. Ali Juma, former Grand Mufti of the Republic.

They, then, carried on their assassination to the character of the workers in the religious institutions, by describing these workers as sultan's scholars[1], in an attempt to abuse them. Later, the same thing went towards the institutions themselves, so they challenged al-Azhar and its being a reference, in addition to Dar al-Fatwa and its being a reference, on the pretext that only the of political Islam followers are who represent Islam. They deemed the institutions, and the majority of the best scholars therein, to be an arm of political tyranny and scientific backwardness, because they did not opposed the ruler, and stuck to the ancient written traditional jurisprudence.


This explains the meaning of one of their well-known slogans (Islam is the solution), that is: our presence in ruling, because we and Islam are one thing: the solution to your problems. Apparently, they are saying: the reason for our backwardness is our distance from Islam, because returning to it would improve our situation. In this regard, we should inquire about two things: the first of which: did Europe and America progressed because they took Islam as a religion, or for they adopted the worldly reasons, to which God linked its results, normally, to the people of truth? Second: Does that slogan mean that we are not Muslims, and do not live In Islam? If that's not what you're saying, then what's the value of saying it? If it is a goal, so do we live in disbelief and do not know about Islam? Let's ask, do you consider us non-believers? If you say no, we will reply you: If we are Muslims, then what is the use of your claim? Then, what Islam do you mean?

The answer is: Islam is them and what they see. It is a kind of arrogance and superiority which Pharoah[2] practiced on his people, where he said " I but point out to you that which I see (myself); Nor do I guide you but to the Path of Right" (Surah: Ghafer, 29). This slogan, and similar slogans, are the guise which Islamists obscured the lack of a strategic vision, and well-made and studied programs. With such resounding slogans, they demonstrate how superficial their view is and how simplified thy deem everything. This reveals a true lack of political, economic, social, and administrative awareness, among others.

The language of superiority of the Muslim Brotherhood

The Muslim Brotherhood got from their previous roles a language in which it was derived from arrogance and superiority over others. An example of this is what Hasan al-Banna addressed his eminence, Sheikh Yusuf al-Dajawi, the jurist and a member of the body of Senior Scholars in Al-Azhar. He was 36 years older than Hasan al-Banna, when al-Djoy asked him to do as much as possible, and leave the results to God. Al-Banna replied according to (the diary of the da'wa) "Sir! If you do not want to work for God, then work for this life and for the bread you eat. If Islam is lost in this nation, al-Azhar will be lost, and the scholars will be lost. Then you will not be able to afford food or spend money. Thus, defend your welfare if you don't intend to defend the entity of Islam, and work for this world if you don't intend to work for the afterlife. Otherwise, both your worldly life and your afterlife will be lost”. I spoke with enthusiasm, passion, and intensity, and from the depths of my heart. Many of the attending scholars reacted cruelly to me as well, accusing me of insulting the Sheikh, addressing him inappropriately, and insulting the scholars and Al-Azhar.

Therefore, this disease (superiority) is reflected on the relationship of the of political Islam followers with other workers in the same field. Instead of cooperating on righteousness and piety, one may find animosity and hatred spreading between the followers of this trend, and some of them are caught in the fire of the other. The Liberation Party and the Muslim Brotherhood are on opposite sides, and the Muslim Brotherhood have many inner divisions. For example, the Muslim Brotherhood Association in Jordan appeared to challenge the existence of the Muslim Brotherhood. Muslim Brotherhood Association in Jordan was created by Zamzam Initiative, which emerged as an alternative project for the Group, and also for other parties and groups. The Muslim Brotherhood could not unite their opinion and ranks, so how will they unite a society and a nation? It is the competing, that dominates relations because of partisanship and politics, when the Da'wa dropped its morals and ethics.

If these groups and parties cannot exercise Shura (consultation) and democracy in their internal entity, then how will they practice it outside its ranks? They would dismiss and suspend the membership of anyone who disagrees with their opinion, as if it prevents the individual from thinking or being different. If it is said: What do you say about their participation in democratic elections? Their answer would be: Democracy and its elections are nothing but shoes to wear when they wish, and take it off when thy wish, that's it. In this issue, Hasan al-Banna says in the "Letter of Teachings" (if we were decisive and declared clearly that: we Islam nations, are not communists or democratic, or anything else of what you claim). he says in (Tuesday Talk) "This is our call, which has no method but the Holy Book, and there are no soldiers but you, and no leader except our horned prophet (PBUH), how can we compare these dilapidated and trivial systems to ours? This democracy, communism, and dictatorship) but democracy will be civilized when it is a way to reach power. This is expediency, pragmatism, and opportunism in its clearest forms.

The Palestinian cause was a winning card for political Islam groups. Their slogans were addressed on and without an occasion, to tacitly criticize the ruling regimes on a hand, and to achieve popular and electoral gains on the other. If we take a close look, we will see that the arrival of these groups to power did not hit a silver shot towards resolving the Palestinian cause. The Palestinian cause is nothing but a ladder the Is mists are climbing towards power and ruling, just as they have done with the Islamic religion itself before.

To sum up, political Islam groups have made Islam a cover they hide behind, so that they beg for the sympathy of people and voters in particular. It is a means of illegal profiteering and grafting electoral votes, because our Arab world is known for its sweeping religious passion that political Islam groups exploit. Nevertheless, this cover will not continue forever, for the followers of political Islam will be exposed, bare of any sound political or diplomatic thought, economic, social, educational, or even religious plans. Then, a group of people will wake up from the effects of the deception they were under, which came in the form of slogans and chants, that make Islam the lifeline of the state and demand the removal of political Islam followers from power. While another group will remain under the control of these deceptions, demanding political Islam groups to remain and give them more opportunities and time. We will see another group watching and waiting for a solution. Thus, dividing society will be divided, and the nation will remain divided, destroying an important purpose of Islamic sharia, which is the purpose of the unity of the nation.

1. In Quran, Pharoah was mentioned several times as arrogant (the Translator).

2. Sultan Scholars: traditionally, in the Arabic context: the religious Islamic scholars who may allow the ruler to do whatsoever he likes to do, by extracting a religious permission to him (the Translator).



The opinions expressed in this study are those of the author. In no way does Strategiecs take responsibility for the views and positions of its author on security, economic, political, social, and other issues, and such views and/or positions do not reflect those of Strategiecs.

Dr. Hassan abu arqob

Dr. Hassan abu arqob