From Quietism to Politics: The Egyptian Salafist Movement from 1970 to 2012

Prof. Dr. Henner Fürtig
2014 - 2019
German Research Foundation (DFG)

Dr. Annette Ranko, Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation, Jordan



Research Questions

  • Which developments have Egyptian Salafist groups and thought demonstrated over the period from 1970 to 2012?
  • How has the political trend within the Salafist movement emerged and developed? How has it been articulated vis-à-vis the movement’s mainstream, apolitical trend?
  • What impact have other Islamist (but non-Salafist) actors (e.g. the Muslim Brotherhood, MB) had on the development of the Salafist movement in Egypt?
  • What influence have transnational Salafist debates and thinkers had on the development of the Salafist movement in Egypt?
  • In how far does the Egyptian Salafist movement influence debates and developments within transnational Salafism

Contribution to International Research

Political Salafism is a relatively recent phenomenon. Starting in the 1980s, Bahrain and Kuwait were the first countries to witness the entrance of Salafists into parliament. It was only after the fall of Mubarak in 2011 and the formation and electoral success of Salafist parties in Egypt however, that political Salafism has entered into the limelight. Scholarship on this phenomenon – though growing since 2011 – remains scarce, especially compared to more widely studied groups as the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). This project, thus, aims to shed light on the genesis of this political strand within Egypt and to trace its historical roots beginning in the 1970s. It further seeks to trace the mutual influences, interactions, and transformations of national and transnational manifestations of Salafism, so as to contribute to the study on Salafism as a transnational phenomenon.

Research Design and Methods

The project will use summarising qualitative content analysis as its primary research method. It will analyse the most important programmatic writings, sermons, and fatawa of Salafist leaders from 1970 to 2012 in order to discern the different ideational trends, their development and their articulation in relation to each other. In order to analyse these developments, the project will utilise social movement theory approaches that integrate process tracing.

Preliminary Results

Most Egyptian Salafist parties have – like the MB – adopted some democratic elements, such as the rotation of power through regular elections or separation of powers. However, especially al-Nur and al-Raya have aspired to set their political visions apart from that of the MB and to ground these visions within Salafist legal-theological concepts and discourses. The most striking marker of their political thought is the linking of citizenship to a Muslim’s quality or quantity of creed, and the attaching of an eschatological function to the envisioned state. But as the Salafist spectrum diversifies, some Salafist parties not only choose their points of reference from within Salafist circles but also use arguments that emulate MB discourse. These ideological moves of certain segments of the Salafist movement towards the MB are matched by a "Salafisation" of parts of the MB.