On October 19, Mohamed Habib, the deputy guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, said that he had been asked by Mohammed Mahdi Akef, the group's 81-year-old supreme guide, to take on many of the leadership responsibilities until 2010.
In January, the opposition group is expected to hold elect a new supreme guide.
Akef's decision is unprecedented in the group's 80-year history and it came after a heated dispute between Akef and members of the Guidance Bureau - the group's highest ruling body.
Last week, Akef, who announced months ago that he will not run for a second term in January, wanted bureau members to approve the appointment of Esam el-Erian, a senior and outspoken member of the group, to the ruling body.
The 55-year-old el-Erian is widely known for his political and media activism on behalf of the group, and is often described by the press as a relatively younger and reformist leader, who wants to take the group into a different direction that is more open toward women, Coptic Christians and other political groups.
Shortly afterwards, news about the rift was leaked to the Egyptian press who reported that Akef had resigned.
The resignation was initially denied by his group, but they eventually admitted Akef had "delegated most of his powers" to his deputy, Mohamed Habib, until a new leader is elected in January.
The rift could not have come at a worse time for the group.
The group says hundreds of its members, including top leaders, are in Egyptian jails following a government crackdown on the Brotherhood after it won 20 per cent of seats in Egypt's 2005 parliamentary vote.
Observers believe the split will only serve to further weaken a leadership already under pressure.
Source: Al Jazeera (English)