Fatah Movement has been leading, for forty years, the Palestinian national action arena; about twenty years ago, Hamas movement started to share with it the influence in this arena. Taking into consideration that the two movements were founded by the Muslim Brotherhood womb (although we realize that Fatah adopted from an early stage a secular trend), we may perceive how far was the influence and ideology of Sheikh Hassan Al-Banna on the action for the Palestinian cause.
Al Banna and his school have achieved three distinguished successes, which are rarely realized by any movement or person:
First: Al Banna managed to offer an Islamic discourse which is, in addition to being comprehensive, easy to understand; this made this Islamic discourse get divorced from the monopoly of the elite and cultured communities ( that branded Al-Afghani, Abdou and Rasheed Reda ‘s discourses...) to reach all classes in the society.
Second : Al Banna and his movement managed to cross the regional borders, while other past or contemporary Islamic movements were confined to the borders of the country, like Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia, Al-Mahdiya in Sudan, the Sanusiya in the Arab Maghreb, Al-Nourisiyah in Turkey, the Islamic Group in the Indian sub-continent. Al Banna managed to build a movement whose members are distributed in most Islamic countries and Muslims communities in the west and lead the Islamic action in a number of countries.
Third: Al Banna succeeded in establishing a viable movement which is renewable and can outlive generations; this movement is still (more that 75 years after his martyrdom ) enjoying much strength, vitality and spread, in spite of the many difficulties that it faced and is still facing.
We mark these days the centennial anniversary of Hassan Al Banna ( he was born in October 1906 ); despite the huge debates within the cultural and political arenas around sheikh Al Banna and his school, this article tries to focus on the intellectual view of sheikh Al Banna towards Palestine.
One nation ..one concern
When Al Banna established the Muslim Brotherhood group, in March 1928, the Egyptian official and even popular interest in the Palestinian cause was little; to give an example of the Egyptian negative official attitude, the Egyptian Prime Minister, Mohamed Mahmoud, answered, when asked about his policy around the Palestinian cause in a news report published in Al-Ahram newspaper on 20th June 1938, that he is Egypt’s Prime Minister, not Palestine’s Prime Minister.
This was said while the great revolution was at its peak in Palestine and while the Egyptian consul in Jerusalem was still- until 1938- inviting the Zionist leaders to parties marking the anniversary of the king’s birth and the anniversary of his ascension to the throne!!.
Sheikh Al Banna considered the Islamic nation, one homeland; he said " For every region in which there is a Muslim saying: ‘There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.’, is our homeland, inviolable and sacred, demanding love, sincerity, and sincere effort for the sake of its welfare. "
Sheikh Al Banna saw patriotism, Arabism and Islam as integrated- not incompatible -circles and that the one can work with faithfulness for the interest of his homeland, and work at the same time for his Arab and Islamic world.
Al Banna said ( according to his collected messages ), ; the Muslim Brothers are most faithful people to their homelands and the most dedicated people to serving these homelands and respecting all those working for it sincerely; you have known to what extent their patriotism is; and what is they honour they want for their nation, but the difference between the Muslim Brothers and others calling for sheer patriotism is that: the Muslim Brothers" patriotism is based on Islamic doctrine; they work for a homeland like Egypt, fight for its sake, sacrifice their lives in this jihad; because Egypt an Islamic land, and the leaders of the Muslim nations; also, they do not stop this feeling at such limits, but they include with it every Islamic land and every Islamic homeland, while every nationalist just stops at the limits of his nation, not feeling the necessity of working for the homeland except through imitating, boasting or gaining benefits, not through a revealed order from Allah to his slaves; the patriotism of Muslim Brotherhood includes their belief that leaving any span of land on which Muslim is living is a crime which is not forgiven, till they restore it or die while trying to restore it; Allah won"t foregive them except through this " .
Palestine...position and responsibility
Therefore Al Banna"s interest in the Palestinian cause was in the natural context for his Islamic understanding and in the essence of his working program; it even became a criterion for testing the credibility and seriousness of his thought and his call.
Therefore Al Banna confirms that " Palestine is the homeland of every Muslim as it is from among the land of Islam and as it is the cradle of prophets and where there is Al Aqsa Mosque around which Allah throw His blessing”. Al Banna sees that " the Palestinian cause is the cause of every Muslim".
He links closes the Muslim Brotherhood’s action for Islam and for Palestine, something that elevates not only the religious position of Palestine or the emotional and historical ties with it, but it considers procrastinating about protecting and defending it as procrastinating about supporting Islam itself; he says in the Muslim Brotherhood’s newspaper " al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimount” on 6/6/1936: " the Palestinian people are our brethren; those stopping short of helping Palestine, are actually stopping short of defending Allah and His messenger, and didn’t defend Islam; those who helped it and exerted efforts and money for it, defended Allah and His messenger and defended Islam".
This tight connection is repeated in other places when the Muslim Brothers state in an article published by “Al-Nazeer” magazine on 25/3/1937 that saying:" I am not related to Palestine in such circumstances " means I am not related to Islam. Palestine is not the case of a specific geographical entity; it is rather the case of the Islam that you embrace; Palestine is an injured part of the Islamic body; any part that doesn’t feel the pain and suffering of Palestine doesn’t belong to that body or structure".
Improvement project, liberation project
Al Banna sees that jihad for liberating Palestine and supporting its people is a must; he said in a message that he sent to the British ambassador to Cairo- published in Al-Nazeer on 26/12/1938 that " The Muslim Brothers will sacrifice their lives and their money for the sake of keeping every span of Palestine with its Arab and Islamic identity until doomsday". He said also in a message that he sent in may 1939 to the Egyptian Prime Minister, Mohamed Mahmoud:” the British and the Jews will understand only one language, the language of revolution, force and blood".
Al Banna"s thought expressed an early and advanced state of maturity in the dialectics of the relation between the project of the Islamic revival and the liberation of Palestine, as he saw that solving the Palestinian cause will be with through the paralleled lines of unity and jihad.
The two projects can, according to him, move side by side so that every one support and complete the other; also, one project shouldn’t be hindered in order to wait for achieving the other.
This is because liberating Palestine requires working for the revival of the Nation to complete the elements of its strength and unity, to be consequently qualified for addressing the challenge of liberation and defeating the Zionist project.
Also, jihad in Palestine and resisting the enemy is consisted itself an important element in the process of reviving the Nation, and preaching the meanings of jihad and exposing the enemies of the Nation and unifying it to face the big challenges. This is the ideological line proposed by Hamas.
Therefore, we find the Muslim Brotherhood’s literature dating back to 1936 that working for the Palestinian cause won’t bring in only the Arab unity, but it will also achieve the Islamic unity.
Al Banna saw-in an article that he published in “Al-Nazeer” on 27/7/1938 that the Palestinian cause and its revolution had a good great effect on the Muslim countries; when the great revolution was launched in Palestine in 1936, it restored jihad to reality again, and the Palestinians started " again mastering the craft of martyrdom".
This feeling spread " from the souls of the little group of fighters neighboring Al-Haram Al-Shareef to Arab and Muslim youth” according to him; Al Banna addressed the Palestinians saying:" Oh Palestinians, If the result of you revolution is nothing but ending submission and surrender from the Islamic souls, and guiding the Muslim peoples to the decent martyrdom and rewards, then you are the winners".
Al Banna links between the inability to liberate Palestine and the Muslims’ weakness and backwardness away from their religion; in other words, the process of liberation is related to the reviving the Nation; he said in “Al-Nazeer” in July 1938 that " the Palestinian cause was not solved, not because the Muslims can’t solve it, but because they don’t want to solve it, and they don’t want because they don’t feel; this is because they are fake Muslims".
While seeking to encourage holding contacts among Muslims and pressing towards the unity project, Al Banna contacted a number of Arab and Islamic leaders to have their support for holding a conference for supporting Palestine; Al Banna wrote in 4 October 1937 in “Al-Nazeer”:" Muslims, don’t waste any time without preparing for the liberation; be able thereafter to choose he battlefield in stead of being driven like herds ... Muslims you need strength and need unity which is the first step towards attaining strength". It is a message that points out Al Banna"s understanding of comprising both projects of unity and liberation.
Attitude towards Jews
Although many Islamic writings haven’t differentiated ( till recent years ) clearly between enmity or fighting the Jews just for their being Jews and an enmity and fighting the Jews who are usurping Palestine, but sheikh Al Banna presented- from a very early stage- a crystal clear concept that separates the Jews as People of the Book, who are treated according to general judgements, and they have rights which are well-known in the Islamic jurisprudence, and between the Zionist oppressing Jews who must be fught because they occupied Muslim lands and the rights of Muslims, something Al Banna confirmed in front of the US British investigation committee in 5 March 1946 .
Al Banna denounced the injustice that the Jews were exposed to in Europe, but he refused that they attain their justice through causing injustice on the Palestine people and Arabs; Al Banna said:” we are undoubtedly feel pity for the Jews ordeal, but this doesn’t mean that their injustice is lifted through causing injustice over the Arabs and to elevate them through launching aggressions on others" .
Attitude towards British occupation to Palestine
Sheikh Al Banna rejected Balfour Declaration and saw that Britain broke its pledges of liberation and independence with the Arabs, and he expressed his anger over the British repressive policies, quelling freedoms, intimidating civilians and banishing leaders, and he declared his solidarity with Haj Amin Al-Husseini the leader of Palestine; he also warned the Muslim delegations to London conference (February/March 1939) from the British cunning and deception .
Al Banna said in an article published in “Al-Nazeer” on 6 December 1938 that the real problem is basically between the Arabs who own this land in Palestine and the Britain that controlled the country, and put it under such conditions.
This understanding reflects the same result that the Arabs in Palestine reached after the revolution of Al-Buraq (August 1929) that Britain is " the root of the disease and the cause of every epidemic " as their opposition and revolutions focused on the British.
Thus, sheikh Al Banna adopted the proposals of the Palestinian national movement concerning demands of the Palestinian people from Britain and for solving the Palestinian cause. He demanded from Britain to completely stop the Jewish migration, release prisoner, return those in exile, compensate victims, and that Britain recognizes the full independence of Palestine as an Arab and Muslim country; this can be done through an agreement that guarantees the rights of the Arabs, and in which the Jews are dealt with as a minority.
On the practical side
Although this article isn’t sufficient for speaking about Al Banna’s practical efforts towards Palestine, things which filled several studies, it is beneficial to indicate that the Muslim Brothers were among the first prominent societies that made the Palestinian cause a public issue and moved the public opinion to react towards it, especially in Egypt since the 1930s.
Their first attempt to spread their call outside Egypt started in Palestine in 1935. The Muslim brotherhood says usually that the most important reason for Al Banna’s establishing the special secret apparatus (Al-Nizam Al-Khas) inside the Muslim Brotherhood in about 1940 was that its members would participate in the fight for liberating Palestine from the British Mandate, and foiling the Jewish scheme of establishing a national homeland on their land; the members of this apparatus were selected from among the best Muslim Brotherhood members and they were carrying out hard physical exercises in addition to a training on weapons.
In October 1947, Al Banna declared sacrificing ten thousand Muslim Brothers as a first batch for fighting in Palestine battle whose signs of eruption were starting to appear; he told the Arab League. However, the Egyptian government tightened the grip on them, and denied them travel except in very limited methods. In spite of this, hundreds of them managed to participate in the battles, and they carried out heroic roles.
Hassan Al Banna was not happy with the performance of the Arab armies, and their defeats and retreats; therefore, he decided to prepare a huge force to defend Jerusalem, which was exposed to a great danger, saying he will declare religious jihad (holy war) and a popular mobilization, after the Arab governments failed, and he was repeating this cliché " it is useless, those people don’t want to fight"!
However, the Muslim Brotherhood group was dissolved in December 1948 before ending the battles; what is worth noting that when Muslim Brothers fighting in Palestine got worried abut dissolving their group and what was happening in Egypt, Al Banna sent a letter to them asking them to continue their fight, confirming that their battle is in Palestine.
Their fate was eventually detention and prisons even before their return to Egypt. The Egyptian Intelligence Service assassinated Hassan Al Banna himself on 12 February 1949, just before signing the truce agreement with the Zionist entity.
To sum up, Al Banna deserves, on his centennial anniversary, a special mention and estimation; he paid the bill of his love to, sincere commitment to defend and liberate Palestine; the history will always remember him as one of the age’s most prominent men who gave so to Palestine much and contributed to making it under the spotlight.