Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, spent much of his early life fervently reading through large volumes of Sufi teachings. Shortly after he founded the Muslim Brotherhood al-Banna decided that Sufism was not an absolute remedy to revive Islamic society. The longer al-Banna spent in unwinding the Sufi scroll, the more dissuaded he became toward Sufism’s role in repairing the disenfranchised socio-political system in Egypt. One of his main critiques of Sufism was its place of irrelevance in Islamic society.
Sufi mystics’ emphasis on disengaging, and withdrawing from society irked the Muslim Brotherhood leader. He needed his movement to be more active, more politically engaged. This perception drew al-Banna to reach a lasting conclusion toward Sufism. He admired Sufi leaders for holding the Islamic flag in the face of, what he considered an immoral society; however, its banner was too soft, and campaigned only to open the door for Islamic values to worship clandestinely.
According to Hassan al-Banna, this paradox rendered the Sufi platform ultimately powerless against state power. The Sufi doctrine had become neutralized as a result of its mixture with non-Islamic, and foreign ideas.
The same curiosity and desire that carried al-Banna towards Sufism’s steadfast position to reject foreign, and heretical Islamic rule, seems to be one of the main drivers in removing his commitment to the Sufi platform. He disliked its mystical, non-public, passive way.
For the Muslim Brotherhood today, Sufism is a distant memory. However, the question remains, would the Muslim Brotherhood have been in a better position after the January 25, 2011 revolution in Egypt if they maintained the traditional, passive Sufi approach? One way of analyzing the question is to point to the simple fact that Sufism seems to have outlasted the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, for now.