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Engineering the “Islamic personality”: Muslim Brotherhood education between theory and practice

Sebastian Elsässer EMAIL logo

Abstract

The Muslim Brotherhood’s ideological belief in Islam as a comprehensive system (šumūlīya) implies ambitious ideas about forming and re-forming the minds, spirits and bodies of Muslim individuals through educational activities within the organisational framework of the Brotherhood. Internal debates reveal that actual educational practice in the Muslim Brotherhood balances different priorities and goals and allows a range of different expressions of Muslim subjectivity. Tensions between different, sometimes contradictory goals are solved theoretically by the concept of balancing (tawāzun) and practically by a division of labour within the movement that only requires a small elite to reach the highest levels of an “Islamic personality” (šaḫṣīya islāmīya). This article traces debates in programmatic and educational writings, in memoirs and in weblogs and social media outlets in order to reach a critical assessment of Muslim Brotherhood education in the Arab world, primarily between the 1980s and the mid-2010s and focused on Egypt and the Arab East.


Corresponding author: Sebastian Elsässer, Christian-Albrechts-Universitat zu Kiel, Seminar fur Orientalistik, Leibnizstr. 10, 24118 Kiel, Germany, E-mail:

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Received: 2020-11-06
Accepted: 2021-08-26
Published Online: 2021-09-22
Published in Print: 2021-09-27

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