Conflicts and Battles: The turbulent history of the Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian Salafists


by Khaled Hamoud Alshareef

The Muslim Brotherhood encourages the Jihadist policy in their practices.

The historical relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists began with the emergence and attempts to contain and “separation” amid a fence of transcendent Brotherhood thought that sees itself as “the most powerful, rightful and able representation of Islam”.

Amid “Salafi” accusations of being away from “Sahih al-Din” or “Abandoning life materials in the pursuit of redemption in the afterlife” a philosophy sometimes emerges, and sometimes declines according to circumstances. It is the struggle of enemy brothers with a common goal.

Perhaps what the Egyptian scenario witnessed during the past century to date from a dispute that amounts to a conflict between the “dissolved” Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi currents has historical dimensions, one of many episodes of conflict between the two groups, each of which is kept under the umbrella of “political Islam” i.e. Islamism.

The historical roots of this conflict in what was known as the golden age of student work, the Salafi Da`wah in Alexandria arose between 1972 and 1977 at the hands of a group of religious students, most notably Ismail al-Muqaddim and Ahmed Farid, and Yasser Barhami. They all met at the faculty of Medical school of Alexandria as they were included in the currents of the Islamists group but refused to join the Brotherhood.

They were influenced by the Salafi approach, which they adapted by reading through the Islamic heritage books and chatting with the Salafi elders, and then they were influenced by the invitation of Ismail al-Muqaddim, who had preceded them to the Salafi approach by learning from elders of the moderate Ansar al-Sunna Muhammadiyah Association since the mid-1960s.

Over time, the first nucleus of Salafi youth was formed under the name of the Salafi School in 1977 as they rejected the Islamist teachings of absolute obedience to the Brotherhood that the Brotherhood followed and imposed their curriculum upon others, as Muhammad Ismail set out to establish the first nucleus through a lesson he was giving in the Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Mosque in Ibrahimia.

Thus this was the beginning of the Brotherhood’s Salafi conflict and the occurrence of clashes with the Brotherhood inside the university, as Yasser Barhami mentioned.

The early Salafist used to distribute papers and conduct lectures in the college square and talk about the issue of guidance and faith. The Brotherhood in fear from the expanding population of the young Salafists plotted to prevent their meetings and prevent students from going out to participate in their gatherings.

Researchers in the history of the relationship between the Brotherhood and the Salafists find that the Salafi advocates and affirms the rejection of the dominance of one faction in political life.

The Salafists (in Egypt, Salafist outside Egypt especially in the gulf countries are actually Muslim Brotherhood offshoots) and believes that they attribute this to their suffering from the Muslim Brotherhood dominance and its possession of power over the Islamist spheres.

Despite the differences between the Brotherhood and the Salafists, this does not deny many common matters between them. The Salafists and their symbols carry a great appreciation for the founder of the Brotherhood movement, Sheikh Hassan Al-Banna.

They always praise him by saying “God sent him down the homes of the martyrs”. They believe Hassan Al-Banna’s mistakes are immersed in the sea of ​​his good deeds, even if Hassan Al-Banna had no goodness except renewing the call to youth. But that the Brotherhood’s adherence to the principles of Al-Banna himself was a reason for the dispute between the Brotherhood and the Salafists.

Thus, the differences over the application of Sharia, according to the Salafists and the Brotherhood’s implementation of it according to the principles of Hassan al-Banna that the Salafists reject in full.

Likewise, the difference in jurisprudence is also one of the most important points of disagreement. Salafism adhere to the doctrine of Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal on the path of the scholar Muhammad bin Abdul Wahab on monolithic Islam, while the Brotherhood doctrine stand on the group’s supremacy as conviction stems from its being a political before a religious group with a basis in which its structured religious hierarchy (inspired by the Sufi hierarchy).

The Muslim Brotherhood span off movements that bear aspects of its ideology, but the Brotherhood remained a political movement – claim it aims to reform according to the Murshid’s and top officials directive, unlike the Salafists, Muslim Brotherhood was established and had a clear structure.

The Muslim Brotherhood encourages the Jihadist policy in their practices. As for Salafism, it says that there is no policy of Jihad except as means of resistance, but it varies from one scholar to another based on their attachment to the Islamist or Islamic spheres.

The Salafists varying from the tolerant to the extremist is a result of the lack of structure and detachment from a political unity, as the tolerant Salafists are detached from politics and lack interest in engaging in politics, the more extreme Salafis are engaged in politics, and are more or less mirror models and teachings adapted from the Muslim Brotherhood ideology and other Kharijites groups.

The Salafists in essence do not adapt Takfir and embrace the peaceful calling to Islamic teachings in complete contrast to the extremist factions of Salafist (Jihadists Salafism) that’s more leaning towards Muslim Brotherhood teachings. The main criticism of the tolerant Salafist is that they don’t do enough to separate themselves from the extremist groups that poison their bodies, also Salafism is an umbrella that carries multiple schools of Salafism that vary greatly in their beliefs.

Unlike the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafism can be redeemed through regulation and reform that can shift the Salafists spheres to the moderate aspects of the belief system.

Khaled Homoud Alshareef holds PhD in Business and he earned Masters in Philosophy. He often writes about Islamism, Islamist factions and modern Terrorism. He tweets under @0khalodi0.

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