Bayanuni, Ali Sadr al-Din (1938–)

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Bayanuni, Ali Sadr al-Din

Ali Sadr al-Din al-Bayanuni (also Sadreddin Bayanouni) is an exiled Syrian politician and the head of the Muslim Brotherhood.


Al-Bayanuni was born in 1938 in Aleppo, Syria. Both his father and grandfather were well-known Sunni Muslim scholars. He joined the Muslim Brotherhood in 1954. The brotherhood was first established in 1928 in Egypt by Hasan al-Banna and soon spread to other Arab countries. It was a political and social movement seeking to create an Islamic state and revitalize society by encouraging ordinary Muslims to live more dedicated religious lives.

After training as a lawyer, Bayanuni eventually was arrested by the Syrian government, which took a dim view of the brotherhood. After release from prison, Bayanuni went on to become the deputy leader of the brotherhood in Syria in 1977. In 1979 he went into exile in Jordan and was there during the vicious suppression of armed Islamic militants in the Syrian city of Hama in February 1982 and the subsequent crackdown on all Islamic-based opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood. Bayanuni was elected the head of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1996. After being expelled from Amman, Jordan, in 2000, he took up residence in London.


Bayanuni and the Muslim Brotherhood have shifted strategy over the past two decades, away from violent opposition to the secular Ba'th Party government of President hafiz al-asad and, after 2000, his son, President bashar al-asad. Bayanuni is largely associated with having overseen this shift. He has claimed that the brotherhood is willing to work within a democratic, secular system in Syria. He has foresworn the forced application of shari'a (Islamic law), and the brotherhood has ceased its denunciation of Alawite Muslims (who hold power; the Asads are Alawites) as non-Muslims. Bayanuni has called for the formation of a broad-based government made up of different parties and factions to rule in place of the Ba'thist government.

Bayanuni has taken steps to form such a coalition. In May 2005 he reportedly tried to start a dialogue with the Bush administration through Farid al-Ghadri, head of the Reform Party of Syria, which is based in the United States. In October 2005 the Muslim Brotherhood signed the Damascus Declaration with other opposition groups, which called for the establishment of a liberal democracy in Syria. After the defection of high-ranking Ba'thist official abd al-halim khaddam in January 2006, Bayanuni reportedly met with him and agreed to join forces in a common front, despite having denounced Khaddam just weeks earlier for his long-time role in the regime.


Bayanuni is much more familiar to Syrians today than any past Muslim Brotherhood leader because of television. He appears on al-Jazeera and communicates with followers in Syria vie e-mail. He and the brotherhood are not only more recognized in their home country than in the past but have been described as the best-organized opposition group within the country.


Bayanuni is still active in Syrian politics today but surely will go down in history as a man who shifted the wider purpose of the brotherhood in a more moderate direction. He has sought to make the Muslim Brotherhood more relevant and accessible to those in Syria seeking to change the Ba'th Party system that has run Syria since 1963.


Abedin, Mahan. "The Battle with Syria: An Interview with Muslim Brotherhood Leader Ali Bayanouni," Terrorism Monitor 3, no. 16 (11 August 2005). Available from

Gambill, Gary C. "Dossier: The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood." Mideast Monitor 1, no. 2 (April-May 2006). Available from

McCarthy, Rory. "We Would Share Power, Says Exiled Leader of Syrian Islamist Group." Guardian (26 January 2006). Available from,,1694985,00.html.

                                    Michael R. Fischbach


Name: Ali Sadr al-Din al-Bayanuni (Sadreddin Bayanouni)

Birth: 1938, Aleppo, Syria

Nationality: Syrian

Education: Trained as a lawyer


  • 1954: Joins the Muslim Brotherhood
  • 1977: Becomes deputy leader of the brotherhood
  • 1979: Goes into exile in Jordan
  • 2000: Expelled from Jordan, moves to London
  • 2005: Brotherhood signs the Damascus Declaration
  • 2006: Reportedly meets with exiled ex-Ba'th Party official Abd al-Halim Khaddam