Urbanization and ‘‘re-Islamization’’ in Postcolonial Egypt: Al-Jam‘iyyāt al-Islamiyya and the Muslim Brotherhood

Document Type : Original Article


Open Hellenic University & Department of Balkan, Slavic and Oriental Studies, School of Economic and Regional Studies, University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece


This essay elucidates the background against which al-jam‘iyyāt al-islamiyya al-ahliyya [Islamic private associations] emerged in the Egyptian cities and embarked on ‘‘re-islamizing’’ the urban public space throughout the interwar period. Their figureheads were among the urbanized/westernized middle class, better known in the bibliography as the effendiyya. It should be noted that under the guidance of those modern teachers, lawyers, merchants and other professionals, al-jam‘iyyāt and most notably the Muslim Brotherhood were instructing the Muslim dwellers of Cairo, Damanhur, Ismailia, etc. on the necessity to live in conformity to their religion and preserve public morality. As we will see, such attempts constituted an ‘‘alternative’’ not only to the Christian missionaries but also to al-Azhar and the traditional Sufi brotherhoods. The latter had been active in rural areas and poverty-stricken urbanized districts as well. Henceforward, this article aims to revisit the early manifestations of Islamism in Egypt in tune with the broader modernization/urbanization process that the region of the Delta had been going through since the early 20th century.