The Muslim Brotherhood in 'Iraq Until 1991

by Dr. Alan Godlas

The Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamic revivalist movement begun by Shaykh Hasan al-Bana in Egypt, came to Iraq in the early 1940s. It gradually expanded, and sometime after 1960 issued a specific program which was titled "Manifesto of the Iraqi Islamic Party." But with the coming to power of the Ba'th Party in the coup of 17 July 1968, its expansion began to be curtailed. Finally on 1 April 1971 all of the Brotherhood's leaders and chief activists were arrested, although some did managed to leave the country. Recognizing that the Ba'th's power far exceeded their own, the Brotherhood decided that for the time being they would adopt a policy of not confronting the Ba'th and would instead engage in "ideological struggle" between Islam and the Ba'th. From then until 1991, the Brotherhood was only minimally active. Nevertheless, members were often persecuted, arrested, and executed. Some left the country and some remained. 

In 1991, however, following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the Muslim Brotherhood in Iraq awoke from its slumber. Extensive talks were held; it was decided to revive the "Iraqi Islamic Party," and four of its leader's names were announced: Usama al-Tikriti, Ayad al-Samarra'i, Farouk al-'Ani, and Basim al-'Adhami. The party began publishing the periodical, Dar al-Salaam, in November 1991. At that time the stated aim of the party was to save Iraq from succumbing to a "...US-led western conspiracy which was plotting to destroy it in the interests of Israel and ensuring oil supplies to the western world." A pamphlet that they published, which (according to 'Adhami, one of their leaders) may be regarded as a program of the party, was titled "The Iraqi Islamic Party, Guidelines and Concepts." The following were among its main points: 

1) Calling for the establishment of an Islamic state; 
2) Recognition that Islam would have to be re-implemented slowly and gradually after the many years of dominance by the anti-Islamic Ba'th, and hence they regarded the ijtihad (jurisprudential judgments) of all madh'habs (school of jurisprudence) to be valid. 
3) Pluralism, as long as one respected Islam and its major principles. Hence, pursuasive dialogue should be engaged in rather than coercion. 
4) The ideal Islamic political system emphasizes the following qualities as being essential to the decision making process: freedom, toleration of different opinions, and consultations (shura). In addition it goes beyond the form of democracy found in the West, since it places restrictions on legislation so as to prohibit Muslims from legitimating activities that would otherwise be forbidden. 
5) All political parties should promote peaceful elections and refrain from political violence. As long as its members' freedoms and rights are respected, the Iraqi Islamic Party asserts that its ideas must be promulgated though peaceful means 

Basim al-'Azami [al-Adhami ??], "The Muslim Brotherhood," in Abdul Jabbar, Ayatollahs, Sufis, and Ideologues, pp. 162-176 

Return to Muslims, Islam, and Iraq