The 'Ikhwan-al-Muslimin', or in English the 'Muslim Brotherhood' was founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna. Although today portrayed as a highly political and religious entity, the Ikhwan was created as a youth organisation, striving for social and moral reform through information and propaganda. Its ideals were based upon a return to Islam; al-Banna stated
"Islam based on Hadith is a comprehensive self-evolving system applicable to all times and places"
As a response to the 1936 Anglo-Egyptian Treaty which allowed further British intervention in Egyptian affairs, angering the fiercly independent-minded Egyptian public, plus the oppression of 'brothers' in Palestine by the British, the growing Ikhwan morphed into its more political form more familiar today. It began to expand to other Arab areas (Not yet independent from the British), particularly Transjordan. By 1940, the Ikhwan had approximately 500 branches based around mosques, running schools and clubs. The growing popularity was due partly to the nascent Arab nationalist and pan-Islamist movement, but also a response to the British colonialism - a peasant boy could receive a better education at the hands of the Brotherhood than at those of the British ruling class. The resentment of the British swelled during the Second World War, again increasing the numbers as the anti British struggle mounted. In 1946, 500 000 members at 500 branches were claimed.
During al-Nakba ("The Catastrophe"), or the Israeli War of Independence, Ikhwan members fought in several of the armies involved. In Egypt, blaming the government for the war's failure, the Brotherhood started subversive activities to undermine the decadent government. In December 1948, The MB was banned by the Egyptian government. The fate of the Ikhwan seemed further doomed as in 1949 the founder, Hassan al-Banna, was assassinated.
Things began to look up in 1950 when a moderate president was elected in Egypt, who lifted the ban on the Brotherhood and allowed them to function as a religious body. The following year, they were allowed back into politics. Things began to change as the Revolutionary Control Council took power following the Nasser-Neguib coup in 1952. The Ikhwan initially supported the revolution, but support waned when the RCC showed more interest in land reform than following the Sharia. Relations between the progressive new government and MB worsened: in 1954 they were banned again, and a huge number of members were arrested and 5 executed after an attempted assassination of Gamel Abdul Nasser on 23rd October 1954. Members fled all over Arabia, boosting branches in other countries.
Again in 1964 the government attitude towards the Brotherhood was altered, as Nasser released members from prison to counter growing communist influence and gain support for his newly established Arab Socialist Union with Syria. Again, an Ikhwan member tried to assassinate Nasser so the heads of the movement were executed. Post 1967, after Egypt lost to Israel in the June/Six day War, more people turned to the brotherhood as they felt that Allah was punishing them for turning away from Islam and Arabism, tinkering with ideas such as Arab Socialism. Nasser again releases thousands of brethern, who reintegrate themselves into Azhar University. Under Sadat, who was worried by the Brotherhood's influence, the MB was banned from politics. 9 members gained seats in parliament running as independents; this cooperation with the government causing more radical splinter groups to form on the fringe on the organisation. Sadat's economic and foreign policies lead to the Brotherhood turning against him, and he was assassinated by a brotherhood member on 6th October 1981.
Under Mubarak (despite his hard attitude towards fundamentalists), the influence of the Brotherhood is clear, as Egyptian society has moved away from the secular sixties, and exists much more in Sharia based law. The Brotherhood continues to exist and is particularly concerned with the Palestinian situation.