Hassan al-Banna’s Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood immediately began to influence regional enclaves, most notably in Syria where Abu Ghudda (May 9, 1917 – February 16, 1997) established the first Islamic youth association in Aleppo, 1935. Sufi undertones were felt in the message and mission of these early Muslim Brotherhoods.
The principal task behind these movements was to rally supporters to purify their souls, and remove foreign elements. According to al-Banna, the crisis that plagued Egypt was led by the capitulations of Arab leadership towards Western power. He believed most of the Islamic world was under the spell of agents opposed to the Qur’an.
The indices of Islamic reawakening in personal life are many: increased attention to religious observances (mosque attendance, prayer, fasting), proliferation of religious programming and publications, more emphasis on Islamic dress and values, the revitalization of Sufism (mysticism). This broader-based renewal has also been accompanied by Islam’s reassertion in public life: an increase in Islamically oriented governments, organizations, laws, banks, social welfare services, and educational institutions.
The dire conditions of Islamic society required dhikr (spiritual training), which would then lead to a love of theshahada (self sacrifice). Spiritual conditioning was only a means to an end; confining oneself in personal devotion, the guiding light of Sufism, would not liberate Muslim society alone.
Al-Banna held Sheikh Al-Dwijiri, and Muhammad Abduh (1849-July 11, 1905) in the highest esteem; these men initiated and carried the argument against Egyptian Al-Azhar clerics, saying they were incompetent in curbing the influence of the foreign West. The Al-Azhar clergy were corrupt, according to these thinkers, and acted as agents of the government.
Above all, the most influential individual in al-Banna’s life was Sheikh Muhibb al-Din Khatib; a Syrian non-Sufi reformer, who directed the Salafiya Library. Khatib taught al-Banna methods in organizing communities. The link between the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Syria was short lived. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has survived up until today with very little influence or power in Syria.