Hasan al-Hudaybi

Hassan al-Hudaybi (also Hassan al Hodeiby) (Arabic: حسن الهضيبي) (Dec 1891-Nov 11, 1973) was the second "General Guide", or leader, of the Muslim Brotherhood organization, appointed in 1951 after founder Hassan al-Banna’s assassination two years earlier. Al-Hudaybi held the position until his death in 1973.

Early life

Hassan Isma‘il al-Hudaybi was born in the village of Arab al-Suwaliha, located in north-east Cairo, in December 1891. The eldest of four sisters and three brothers, he was raised in a poor, working-class family. His father wanted his eldest son to become a cleric and thus began Hassan’s education with Qur'an lessons at the local village school. However, after a year of religious schooling, Hassan chose to transfer to a secular government primary school. He continued his secular education through secondary school and later received a degree in law in 1915.

In 1924, al-Hudaybi was promoted to judgeship and received his first posting at Qena, but gradually worked his way up the judicial system. By the 1940s, al-Hudaybi was one of the highest ranking representatives of the Egyptian judiciary, with his final post being Chancellor of the Court of Appeals before leading the Muslim Brotherhood.[1]

Appointment as General Guide

Al-Hudaybi was aware of the society of the Muslim Brotherhood beginning the 1930s, and was introduced to Hasan al-Banna approximately ten years later. His friendship with al-Banna grew and he began to serve as an unofficial personal advisor to al-Banna. Through this secretive relationship, al-Hudaybi gradually learned about the internal affairs of the Brotherhood.[2]

Following the dissolution of the society in 1948 and the assassination of al-Banna in 1949, the survival of the Muslim Brotherhood was at stake. If the Muslim Brotherhood wanted to continue as a political-religious movement instead of maintaining its reputation as a violent elite, they needed to improve their public image.[3] Given that the leading members of the society were all shrouded by the stigma of violence and crisis, the leaders appointed al-Hudaybi as the new Murshid, or guide. Al-Hudaybi was a strategic choice by the Brotherhood. With his strong ties to political power, aversion to violence, and clean public image, al-Hudaybi was seen as an outsider whose image could help the Muslim Brotherhood regain legitimacy.[1]

However, although al-Hudaybi was appointed as the leader of the society, his role was initially intended to only be a symbolic one.[4] Many of his demands were initially disregarded, including requests to appoint his supporters to key administrative positions as well as calls to dissolve of the Secret Apparatus of the Brotherhood.

Conflict with the Secret Apparatus

Once al-Hudaybi entered office, he condemned the violence that engrossed the movement from 1946-1949 and ordered that the Brotherhood dissolve their secret military branch immediately. This created deep tensions between him and other high-ranking members supportive of the Secret Apparatus, including Salih al-’Ashmawi and Abd al-Rahman al-Sanadi. Throughout his leadership, all-Hudaybi continued to oppose violent action and repudiated any preparations for armed conflicts by the Brotherhood. Members of the Secret Apparatus who considered themselves fighters in a noble cause felt alienated by him and soon joined ranks to try to force al-Hudaybi to resign.[5][6]


After a former member of the Secret Unit, Mahmud ‘Abd al-Latif, allegedly attempted to assassinate President ‘Abd al-Nasir in October of 1954, the government began a new wave of arrests against members of the Muslim Brotherhood. On December 4th, seven defendants of the Brotherhood, including Hassan al-Hudaybi, were condemned to death by the court. Three days later, the death sentences were carried out except that of al-Hudaybi’s, whose verdict was commuted to life in prison.

Preachers, Not Judges (Du'at la Qudat)

While in prison, al-Hudaybi is said to have completed the manuscript for Du’at la Qudat, which was published after his death in 1977. Many have argued that the text is a refutation of Sayyid Qutb’s Islamist manifesto Ma'alim fi al-Tariq (Milestones Along the Way) and his argument of takfir, or the practice of declaring another Muslim a non-believer.[7][8][9] Scholar Barbara Zollner suggests that Qutb is not a direct target of the text, but rather that al-Hudaybi wanted to respond to a radical marginal group of the Brotherhood.[10]

One of the main objectives of the text is to define Muslims and kafirs, or unbelievers. Qutb had previously argued that so-called Muslim governments were actually non-Islamic Jahiliyyah that must be abolished by "physical power and Jihaad."[11] However, al-Hudaybi responds even though someone may have committed a sin that may require punishment, that person cannot be considered an apostate. Judgement over Muslims should be left to God alone.[12]

Al-Hudaybi also questions whether the shahada, or profession of the belief in Islam, is sufficient to be a Muslim, or whether there are requirements to act beyond this profession. He argues that only those who actively engage in the Islamic cause can be called Muslim.[13]


Hassan al-Hudaybi died while under house arrest on November 11, 1973. Al-Hudaybi was succeeded by Umar al-Tilmisani. Years later, Hudaybi's son, Ma'mun al-Hudaybi, briefly headed the Brotherhood from 2002 until his death in 2004.


Religious titles
Preceded by
Hassan al-Banna
General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood
Succeeded by
Umar al-Tilmisani

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