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Sayyid Qutb

Sayyid Qutb

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Sayyid Qutb (ˈsæjjed ˈʔotˤb, ˈsæjjed ˈqotˤb) (also Said, Syed, Seyyid, Sayid, or Sayed; Koteb, Qutub, Kotb, or Kutb) was an Egyptian
Egyptians
Egyptians are nation an ethnic group made up of Mediterranean North Africans, the indigenous people of Egypt.Egyptian identity is closely tied to geography. The population of Egypt is concentrated in the lower Nile Valley, the small strip of cultivable land stretching from the First Cataract to...

 author, educator, Islamist theorist, poet
Poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

, and the leading member of the Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

ian Muslim Brotherhood
Muslim Brotherhood
The Society of the Muslim Brothers is the world's oldest and one of the largest Islamist parties, and is the largest political opposition organization in many Arab states. It was founded in 1928 in Egypt by the Islamic scholar and schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna and by the late 1940s had an...

 in the 1950s and '60s.

Author of 24 books, including novels, literary arts’ critique, works on education, he is best known in the Muslim world for his work on what he believed to be the social and political role of Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

, particularly in his books Social Justice and Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq
Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq
Ma'alim fi al-Tariq, also Ma'alim fi'l-tareeq, or Milestones, first published in 1964, is a short book by Egyptian Islamist author Sayyid Qutb in which he lays out a plan and makes a call to action to re-create the Muslim world on strictly Qur'anic grounds, casting off what Qutb calls Jahiliyyah,...

 (Milestones). His magnum opus
Masterpiece
Masterpiece in modern usage refers to a creation that has been given much critical praise, especially one that is considered the greatest work of a person's career or to a work of outstanding creativity, skill or workmanship....

, Fi Zilal al-Qur'an
Fi zilal al-Qur'an
In the Shade of the Qur'an or Fi Zilal al-Qur'an[p][n] is a highly influential commentary of the Qur'an, written during 1951-1965 by Sayyid Qutb[a] , a leader within the Muslim Brotherhood. Most of the original 30 volumes were written while in prison following an attempted assassination of...

 (In the shade of the Qur'an), is a 30-volume commentary on the Qur'an.

During most of his life, Qutb's inner circle mainly consisted of influential politicians, intellectuals, poets and literary figures, both of his age and of the preceding generation. By the mid-1940s, many of his writings were officially among the curricula of schools, colleges and universities.

Even though most of his observations and criticism were leveled at the Muslim world, Qutb is also known for his intense disapproval of the society and culture of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 which he saw as obsessed with materialism, violence, and sexual pleasures. Views on Qutb vary widely. He has been described by some as a great artist
Artist
An artist is a person engaged in one or more of any of a broad spectrum of activities related to creating art, practicing the arts and/or demonstrating an art. The common usage in both everyday speech and academic discourse is a practitioner in the visual arts only...

 and martyr for Islam
Shahid
Shahid is an Arabic word meaning "witness". It is a religious term in Islam, meaning both "witness" and "martyr." While a martyr may die as a consequence of fighting, a shahid is a "witness" because he gives his life out of passion for truth. The shahid exchanges himself for the divine and thereby...

, but by many Western observers as one who shaped the ideas of Islamists and particularly of groups such as Al Qaeda Today, his supporters are identified as Qutbists
Qutbism
Qutbism is a strain of Sunni Islamist ideology and activism, based on the thought and writings of Sayyid Qutb, an Islamist and former leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood who was executed in 1966. It has been described as advancing the ideology of jihadism, i.e...

 or "Qutbi" (by their opponents, not by themselves).

Early childhood


Qutb was raised in the Egyptian village of Musha, located in Upper Egypt's Asyut Province. His father was a landowner and the family estate's administrator, but he was also well known for his political activism, holding weekly meetings to discuss the political events and Qur'anic recitation. At this young age, Sayyid Qutb first learned about the melodic illustrations of the Qur'an, which would fuel the artistic side of his personality all the way to his last book. In his teens, Qutb was also a critic of the religious institutions he came into contact with, he disliked how those institutions were used to form public opinion and thoughts. He had a special disdain, however, for schools that specialized in religious studies only, and sought to prove that locals school that held regular academic classes as well as religion were more beneficial than the unevenness of the religious school program. At this time, Qutb developed his bent against the Imams and their traditional understanding of education, and this would be the standard of confrontation throughout his life.

He moved to Cairo
Cairo
Cairo , is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa, and the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life...

, where he could receive an education based on the British style of schooling, between 1929 and 1933, before starting his career as a teacher in the Ministry of Public Instruction. During his early career, Qutb devoted himself to literature as an author and critic, writing such novels as Ashwak (Thorns) and even helped to elevate Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz
Naguib Mahfouz
Naguib Mahfouz was an Egyptian writer who won the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature. He is regarded as one of the first contemporary writers of Arabic literature, along with Tawfiq el-Hakim, to explore themes of existentialism. He published over 50 novels, over 350 short stories, dozens of movie...

 from obscurity. In 1939, he became a functionary in Egypt's Ministry of Education (wizarat al-ma'arif ).

From 1948 to 1950, he went to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 on a scholarship to study its educational system, spending several months at Colorado State College of Education (now the University of Northern Colorado
University of Northern Colorado
-Organization:The University of Northern Colorado offers 100 undergraduate programs and more than 100 graduate programs. The university has a satellite campus in Denver, Colorado...

) in Greeley, Colorado
Greeley, Colorado
The City of Greeley is a Home Rule Municipality that is the county seat and the most populous city of Weld County, Colorado, United States. Greeley is located in the region known as Northern Colorado. Greeley is situated north-northeast of the Colorado State Capitol in Denver. According to the...

. Qutb's first major theoretical work of religious social criticism, Al-'adala al-Ijtima'iyya fi-l-Islam (Social Justice in Islam), was published in 1949, during his time in the West.

Though Islam gave him much peace and contentment, he suffered from respiratory and other health problems throughout his life and was known for "his introvertedness, isolation, depression and concern." In appearance, he was "pale with sleepy eyes." Qutb never married, in part because of his steadfast religious convictions. While the urban Egyptian society he lived in was becoming more Westernized, Qutb believed that 'the current ideas of the society and its prevalent traditions apply great pressure - back-breaking pressure, especially in the case of women; the Muslim woman is really under extreme and oppressive pressure'. Qutb joked to his readers that he was never able to find a woman and had to reconcile himself to bachelorhood.

It was clear from his childhood that Qutb valued education, playing the part of a teacher to the women in his village:

Syed Qutb from a young age would save up his money for a man
called Amsaalih, who used to sell books around the local villages.
He would have a big collection of books, and another small
collection specifically for Syed Qutb. If Syed never had the money,
he would tell him that I don't have the money now, so let me
borrow it and I'll give it you next time you come around. And
Amsaalih would let him do that.
At the age of 12, he had his own library collection of 25 books,
even though books were really expensive during that time.
He would imitate the scholars by reading the books, and then give
lectures to the rest of the village. If any women needed any
information, they would wait till Syed Qutb came back from school,
and ask him to share the knowledge he had to them. In many
occasions he would be shy because he was a young man, but in
some occasions he would go and teach the knowledge he had to
the people who asked him.

Visit to America


This turning point resulted from Qutb's visit to the United States for higher studies in educational administration. Over a two-year period, he worked in several different institutions including what was then-Wilson Teachers' College in Washington, D.C. and Colorado State College for Education in Greeley, as well as Stanford University
Stanford University
The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...

. He also traveled extensively, visiting the major cities of the United States and spent time in Europe on the return journey to Egypt.

On his return to Egypt, Qutb published an article entitled "The America that I Have Seen." He was critical of many things he had observed in the United States: its materialism
Economic materialism
Materialism is a mindset that views the consumption and acquisition of material goods as positive and desirable. It is often bound up with a value system which regards social status as being intrinsically linked to affluence as well as the perception that happiness can be increased through...

, individual freedoms, economic system, racism
Racism
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...

, brutal boxing
Boxing
Boxing, also called pugilism, is a combat sport in which two people fight each other using their fists. Boxing is supervised by a referee over a series of between one to three minute intervals called rounds...

 matches, "poor" haircuts, superficiality in conversations and friendships, restrictions on divorce
Divorce
Divorce is the final termination of a marital union, canceling the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage and dissolving the bonds of matrimony between the parties...

, enthusiasm for sports, lack of art
Art
Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect....

istic feeling, "animal-like" mixing of the sexes (which "went on even in churches"), and strong support for the new Israeli state. Hisham Sabrin, noted that:

As a brown person in Greeley, Colorado in the late 40s, studying English he came across much prejudice. He also felt quite appalled by what he perceived as loose sexual openness of American men and women (a far cry by any measure, from Musha, Asyut where he grew up). But, in fact this American experience was not truly a
crisis for Qutb, but rather a moment of choice and fine-tuning of his already Islamic identity. He himself tells us on his boat trip over “Should I travel to America, and become flimsy, and ordinary, like those who are satisfied with idle talk and sleep. Or should I distinguish myself with values and spirit. Is there other than Islam that I should be steadfast to in its character and hold on to its instructions, in this life amidst deviant chaos, and the endless means of satisfying animalistic desires, pleasures, and awful sins? I wanted to be the latter man.”.


Qutb noted with disapproval the sexuality of American women:
the American girl is well acquainted with her body's seductive capacity. She knows it lies in the face, and in expressive eyes, and thirsty lips. She knows seductiveness lies in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs—and she shows all this and does not hide it.

He also commented on the American taste in arts:
The American is primitive in his artistic taste, both in what he enjoys as art and in his own artistic works.

“Jazz” music is his music of choice. This is that music that the Negroes invented to satisfy their primitive inclinations, as well as their desire to be noisy on the one hand and to excite bestial tendencies on the other. The American’s intoxication in “jazz” music does not reach its full completion until the music is accompanied by singing that is just as coarse and obnoxious as the music itself. Meanwhile, the noise of the instruments and the voices mounts, and it rings in the ears to an unbearable degree… The agitation of the multitude[2] increases, and the voices of approval mount, and their palms ring out in vehement, continuous applause that all but deafens the ears.

Return to Egypt


Qutb concluded that major aspects of American life were primitive and "shocking", a people who were "numb to faith in religion, faith in art, and faith in spiritual values altogether". His experience in the U.S. is believed to have formed in part the impetus for his rejection of Western values and his move towards Islamism
Islamism
Islamism also , lit., "Political Islam" is set of ideologies holding that Islam is not only a religion but also a political system. Islamism is a controversial term, and definitions of it sometimes vary...

 upon returning to Egypt. Resigning from the civil service, he joined the Muslim Brotherhood
Muslim Brotherhood
The Society of the Muslim Brothers is the world's oldest and one of the largest Islamist parties, and is the largest political opposition organization in many Arab states. It was founded in 1928 in Egypt by the Islamic scholar and schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna and by the late 1940s had an...

 in the early 1950s and became editor-in-chief of the Brothers' weekly Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin, and later head of its propaganda
Propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

 section, as well as an appointed member of the working committee and of its guidance council, the highest branch in the organization.

In July 1952, Egypt's pro-Western government was overthrown by the nationalist Free Officers Movement
Free Officers Movement
In Egypt, the clandestine revolutionary Free Officers Movement was composed of young junior army officers committed to unseating the Egyptian monarchy and its British advisors...

 headed by Gamal Abdel Nasser
Gamal Abdel Nasser
Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein was the second President of Egypt from 1956 until his death. A colonel in the Egyptian army, Nasser led the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 along with Muhammad Naguib, the first president, which overthrew the monarchy of Egypt and Sudan, and heralded a new period of...

. Both Qutb and the Muslim Brotherhood welcomed the coup against the monarchist
Farouk of Egypt
Farouk I of Egypt , was the tenth ruler from the Muhammad Ali Dynasty and the penultimate King of Egypt and Sudan, succeeding his father, Fuad I, in 1936....

 government — which they saw as un-Islamic and subservient to British imperialism
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 — and enjoyed a close relationship with the movement prior to and immediately following the coup. Nasser would go the house of Syed Qutb and ask him for ideas about the Revolution
Revolution
A revolution is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time.Aristotle described two types of political revolution:...

. Many members of the Brotherhood expected Nasser to establish an Islamic government. However, the cooperation between the Brotherhood and Free Officers which marked the revolution's success soon soured as it became clear the secular nationalist ideology of Nasserism
Nasserism
Nasserism is an Arab nationalist political ideology based on the thinking of the former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. It was a major influence on pan-Arab politics in the 1950s and 1960s, and continues to have significant resonance throughout the Arab World to this day. It also...

 was incompatible with the Islamism of the Brotherhood.

Nasser and Qutb


Nasser had secretly set up an organisation that would sufficiently oppose the Muslim Brotherhood
Muslim Brotherhood
The Society of the Muslim Brothers is the world's oldest and one of the largest Islamist parties, and is the largest political opposition organization in many Arab states. It was founded in 1928 in Egypt by the Islamic scholar and schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna and by the late 1940s had an...

 once he came to power. This organisation was called "Tahreer' ("freedom" in arabic). It was well known that
the Brotherhood were made popular by their extensive social programs in Egypt, and Nasser wanted to be ready once he had taken over. At this time, Qutb did not realize Nasser's alternate plans, and would continue to meet with him, sometimes for 12 hours a day, to discuss a post monarch Egypt. Once Qutb realize that Nasser had taken advantage of the secrecy between the Free Officers and the Brotherhood, he promptly quit. Nasser then tried to persuade Qutb by offering him any position he wants in Egypt except its Kingship, saying:

We will give you whatever position you want in the government, whether it's the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Arts, etc."


Qutb refused every offer, having understood the reality of Nasser's plans.

After the attempted assassination of Nasser in 1954, the Egyptian government used the incident to justify a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, imprisoning Qutb and many others for their vocal opposition to various government policies. During his first three years in prison, conditions were bad and Qutb was tortured. In later years he was allowed more mobility, including the opportunity to write.

This period saw the composition of his two most important works: a commentary of the Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

 Fi Zilal al-Qur'an
Fi zilal al-Qur'an
In the Shade of the Qur'an or Fi Zilal al-Qur'an[p][n] is a highly influential commentary of the Qur'an, written during 1951-1965 by Sayyid Qutb[a] , a leader within the Muslim Brotherhood. Most of the original 30 volumes were written while in prison following an attempted assassination of...

 (In the Shade of the Qur'an), and a manifesto of political Islam called Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq
Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq
Ma'alim fi al-Tariq, also Ma'alim fi'l-tareeq, or Milestones, first published in 1964, is a short book by Egyptian Islamist author Sayyid Qutb in which he lays out a plan and makes a call to action to re-create the Muslim world on strictly Qur'anic grounds, casting off what Qutb calls Jahiliyyah,...

 (Milestones). These works represent the final form of Qutb's thought, encompassing his radically anti-secular and anti-Western
Anti-Western sentiment
Anti-Western sentiment refers to broad opposition or hostility to the people, policies, or governments in the western world. In many cases the United States, Israël and the United Kingdom are the subject of discussion or hostility...

 claims based on his interpretations of the Qur'an, Islamic history, and the social and political problems of Egypt. The school of thought he inspired has become known as Qutbism
Qutbism
Qutbism is a strain of Sunni Islamist ideology and activism, based on the thought and writings of Sayyid Qutb, an Islamist and former leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood who was executed in 1966. It has been described as advancing the ideology of jihadism, i.e...

.

Qutb was let out of prison at the end of 1964 at the behest of the Prime Minister of Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, Abdul Salam Arif
Abdul Salam Arif
Abdul Salam Mohammed Arif Aljumaily was President of Iraq from 1963 till his death. He played a leading role in the coup in which the Hashemite monarchy was overthrown on July 14, 1958.-1958 revolution and conflict with Qasim:...

, for only 8 months before being rearrested in August 1965. He was accused of plotting to overthrow the state and subjected to what some consider a show trial. Many of the charges placed against Qutb in court were taken directly from Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq and he adamantly supported his written statements. The trial culminated in a death sentence for Qutb and six other members of the Muslim Brotherhood. He was sentenced to death as the leader of a group planning to assassinate the President and other Egyptian officials and personalities, though he was not the instigator or leader of the actual plot. On 29 August 1966, he was executed by hanging.

Theological stances


Qutb held that belief in matters that cannot be seen (or are imperceptible) was an important sign of man's ability to accept knowledge from fields outside of science:


The concept of the imperceptible is a decisive factor in distinguishing man from animal. Materialist thinking, ancient as well as modern, has tended to drag man back to an irrational existence, with no room for the spiritual, where everything is determined by sensory means alone. What is peddled as 'progressive thought' is no more than dismal regression.

Secularism


Different theories have been advanced as to why Qutb turned away from his secularist tendencies towards Islamic Sharia. One common explanation is that the conditions he witnessed in prison from 1954–1964, including the torture
Torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

 and murder
Murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

 of Muslim Brothers, convinced him that only a government bound by Islamic law
Sharia
Sharia law, is the moral code and religious law of Islam. Sharia is derived from two primary sources of Islamic law: the precepts set forth in the Quran, and the example set by the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Sunnah. Fiqh jurisprudence interprets and extends the application of sharia to...

 could prevent such abuses. Another is that Qutb's experiences in America as a darker-skinned person and the insufficiently anti-Western policies of Nasser demonstrated to him the powerful and dangerous allure of ignorance (jahiliyyah
Jahiliyyah
Jahiliyyah is an Islamic concept of "ignorance of divine guidance" or "the state of ignorance of the guidance from God" or "Days of Ignorance" referring to the condition in which Arabs found themselves in pre-Islamic Arabia, i.e. prior to the revelation of the Qur'an to Muhammad...

) — a threat unimaginable, in Qutb's estimation, to the secular mind. Two excerpts of the opening of his book Milestones contain the following view:

Finally, Qutb offered his own explanation in Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq, arguing that anything non-Islamic was evil and corrupt, while following Sharia
Sharia
Sharia law, is the moral code and religious law of Islam. Sharia is derived from two primary sources of Islamic law: the precepts set forth in the Quran, and the example set by the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Sunnah. Fiqh jurisprudence interprets and extends the application of sharia to...

 as a complete system extending into all aspects of life, would bring every kind of benefit to humanity, from personal and social peace, to the "treasures" of the universe.

In general, Qutb's experiences as an Egyptian Muslim—his village childhood, professional career, and activism in the Muslim Brotherhood—left an unmistakable mark on his theoretical and religious works. Even Qutb's early, secular writing shows evidence of his later themes. For example, Qutb's autobiography of his childhood Tifl min al-Qarya (A Child From the Village) makes little mention of Islam or political theory and is typically classified as a secular, literary work. However, it is replete with references to village mysticism, superstition, the Qur'an, and incidences of injustice. Qutb's later work developed along similar themes, dealing with Qur'anic exegesis, social justice, and political Islam.

Qutb's career as a writer also heavily influenced his philosophy. In al-Taswiir al-Fanni fil-Quran (Artistic Representation in the Qur'an), Qutb developed a literary appreciation of the Qur'an and a complementary methodology for interpreting the text. His hermeneutics were applied in his extensive commentary on the Qur'an, Fi zilal al-Qur'an
Fi zilal al-Qur'an
In the Shade of the Qur'an or Fi Zilal al-Qur'an[p][n] is a highly influential commentary of the Qur'an, written during 1951-1965 by Sayyid Qutb[a] , a leader within the Muslim Brotherhood. Most of the original 30 volumes were written while in prison following an attempted assassination of...

 (In the Shade of the Quran), which served as the foundation for the declarations of Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq.

Late in his life, Qutb synthesized his personal experiences and intellectual development in the famous Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq
Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq
Ma'alim fi al-Tariq, also Ma'alim fi'l-tareeq, or Milestones, first published in 1964, is a short book by Egyptian Islamist author Sayyid Qutb in which he lays out a plan and makes a call to action to re-create the Muslim world on strictly Qur'anic grounds, casting off what Qutb calls Jahiliyyah,...

, a religious and political manifesto for what he believed was a true Islamic system. It was also in this text that Qutb condemned Muslim governments, such as Abdul Nasser's regime in Egypt, as secular with their legitimacy based on human (and thus corrupt), rather than divine authority. This work, more than any other, established Qutb as one of, if not the premier Islamists of the 20th century.

Events that lead from secularism to Islam


Qutb told people of his shift from secularism to Islam.

His journey started when he studied the Qur'an in a literal way, and
he slowly began to understand the principles lined in the religion.
Then something happened to him in America to remove his
doubts. He says; that while he was going to America, he was on the
boat (ferry), and he saw the way the boat he was travelling in - was
rocking in the huge sea – all under the control of Allah without it
sinking or capsizing. At that point he realized the power of Allah.
He said Iman
Iman
Iman, also spelled imaan, may refer to:Islam* Iman , Islamic termGiven name:* Chanel Iman , American fashion model* Iman , Somali supermodel...

 (belief) entered into his heart due to this.

His second scenario was in San Francisco, when he went on top
of a mountain, and he could see the whole of creation in front of
him, and he realized the beauty and harmony that existed amongst
the creation as a whole. He said that, the sweetness of Iman hit
him.

Political philosophy



Sayyid Qutb's mature political views always centered on Islam — Islam as a complete system of morality, justice and governance, whose Sharia laws and principles should be the sole basis of governance and everything else in life - though his interpretation of it varied. Following the 1952 coup, he espoused a `just dictatorship` that would `grant political liberties to the virtuous alone.` Later he wrote that rule by Sharia
Sharia
Sharia law, is the moral code and religious law of Islam. Sharia is derived from two primary sources of Islamic law: the precepts set forth in the Quran, and the example set by the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Sunnah. Fiqh jurisprudence interprets and extends the application of sharia to...

 law would require essentially no government at all. In an earlier work, Qutb described military jihad
Jihad
Jihad , an Islamic term, is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihād translates as a noun meaning "struggle". Jihad appears 41 times in the Quran and frequently in the idiomatic expression "striving in the way of God ". A person engaged in jihad is called a mujahid; the plural is...

 as defensive, Islam's campaign to protect itself, while later he believed jihad
Jihad
Jihad , an Islamic term, is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihād translates as a noun meaning "struggle". Jihad appears 41 times in the Quran and frequently in the idiomatic expression "striving in the way of God ". A person engaged in jihad is called a mujahid; the plural is...

 must be offensive.

On the issue of Islamic governance, Qutb differed with many modernist and reformist Muslims who claimed democracy was Islamic because the Quranic institution of Shura
Shura
Shura is an Arabic word for "consultation". The Quran and Muhammad encourage Muslims to decide their affairs in consultation with those who will be affected by that decision....

 supported elections and democracy. Qutb pointed out that the Shura chapter of the Qur'an was revealed during the Mekkan period, and therefore, it does not deal with the problem of government. It makes no reference to elections and calls only for the ruler to consult some of the ruled, as a particular case of the general rule of Shura
Shura
Shura is an Arabic word for "consultation". The Quran and Muhammad encourage Muslims to decide their affairs in consultation with those who will be affected by that decision....

.

Qutb also opposed the then popular ideology of Arab nationalism
Arab nationalism
Arab nationalism is a nationalist ideology celebrating the glories of Arab civilization, the language and literature of the Arabs, calling for rejuvenation and political union in the Arab world...

, having become disillusioned with the 1952 Nasser Revolution after having been exposed to the regime's practices of arbitrary arrest, torture, and deadly violence during his imprisonment.

View on harmony of man


Qutb felt strongly that the world was meant to serve man if understood properly. He wrote:

"Islam teaches that God created the physical world and all its forces for man's own use and benefit. Man is specifically taught and directed to study the world around him, discover its potential and utilize all his environment for his own good and the good of his fellow humans. Any harm that man suffers at the hands of nature is a result only of his ignorance or lack of understanding of it and of the laws governing it. The more man learns about nature, the more peaceful and harmonious his relationship with nature and the environment. Hence, the notion of "conquering nature" can readily be seen as cynical and negative. Its is alien to Islamic perceptions and betrays a shameless ignorance of the spirit in which the world has been created and the divine wisdom that underlies it."

Jahiliyyah versus freedom


This exposure to abuse of power
Abuse of Power
Abuse of Power is a novel written by radio talk show host Michael Savage.- Plot :Jack Hatfield is a hardened former war correspondent who rose to national prominence for his insightful, provocative commentary...

 undoubtedly contributed to the ideas in his famous prison-written Islamic manifesto Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq
Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq
Ma'alim fi al-Tariq, also Ma'alim fi'l-tareeq, or Milestones, first published in 1964, is a short book by Egyptian Islamist author Sayyid Qutb in which he lays out a plan and makes a call to action to re-create the Muslim world on strictly Qur'anic grounds, casting off what Qutb calls Jahiliyyah,...

 (Milestones), where he advocated a political system the opposite of dictatorship—i.e. one with no government. There Qutb argued:
  • Much of the Muslim world approaches the Qur'an as a means to simply acquire culture and information, to participate in academic discussions and enjoyment. This evades the real purpose, for rather, it should be approached as a means to change society, to remove man from the enslavement of other men to the servitude of God.
  • Rather than support rule by a pious few, (whether a dictator(s) or democratically elected), Muslims should resist any system where men are in "servitude to other men"—i.e. obey other men—as un-Islamic and a violation of God's sovereignty (Hakamiyya) over all of creation. A truly Islamic polity would have no rulers—not even have theocratic ones—since Muslims would need neither judges nor police to obey divine law. It was what one observer has called "a kind of anarcho-Islam."
  • The way to bring about this freedom was for a revolutionary vanguard. to fight jahiliyyah
    Jahiliyyah
    Jahiliyyah is an Islamic concept of "ignorance of divine guidance" or "the state of ignorance of the guidance from God" or "Days of Ignorance" referring to the condition in which Arabs found themselves in pre-Islamic Arabia, i.e. prior to the revelation of the Qur'an to Muhammad...

     with a twofold approach: preaching, and abolishing the organizations and authorities of the Jahili system by "physical power and Jihad
    Jihad
    Jihad , an Islamic term, is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihād translates as a noun meaning "struggle". Jihad appears 41 times in the Quran and frequently in the idiomatic expression "striving in the way of God ". A person engaged in jihad is called a mujahid; the plural is...

    ."
  • The vanguard movement would grow with preaching
    Dawah
    Da‘wah or Dawah usually denotes the preaching of Islam. Da‘wah literally means "issuing a summons" or "making an invitation", being the active participle of a verb meaning variously "to summon" or "to invite"...

     and jihad
    Jihad
    Jihad , an Islamic term, is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihād translates as a noun meaning "struggle". Jihad appears 41 times in the Quran and frequently in the idiomatic expression "striving in the way of God ". A person engaged in jihad is called a mujahid; the plural is...

     until it formed a truly Islamic community, then spread throughout the Islamic homeland and finally throughout the entire world, attaining leadership of humanity. While those who had been "defeated by the attacks of the treacherous Orientalists!" might define jihad "narrowly" as defensive, Islamically correct Jihad (according to Qutb) was in fact offensive, not defensive.


Qutb emphasized this struggle would be anything but easy. True Islam would transform every aspect of society, eliminating everything non-Muslim. True Muslims could look forward to lives of "poverty, difficulty, frustration, torment and sacrifice." Jahili ersatz-Muslims, Jews and Westerners would all fight and conspire against Islam and the elimination of jahiliyyah.

Criticisms



Though greatly admired by many in the Muslim world, Qutb also has critics. Following the publication of Milestones and the aborted plot against the Nasser government, mainstream Muslims took issue with Qutb's contention that "physical power" and jihad had to be used to overthrow governments, and attack societies, "institutions and traditions" of the Muslim—but according to Qutb jahili—world. The ulema of Al-Azhar University
Al-Azhar University
Al-Azhar University is an educational institute in Cairo, Egypt. Founded in 970~972 as a madrasa, it is the chief centre of Arabic literature and Islamic learning in the world. It is the oldest degree-granting university in Egypt. In 1961 non-religious subjects were added to its curriculum.It is...

 school took the unusual step following his death of putting Sayyid Qutb on their index of heresy, declaring him a "deviant" (munharif).

Reformist Muslims, on the other hand, questioned his understanding of sharia
Sharia
Sharia law, is the moral code and religious law of Islam. Sharia is derived from two primary sources of Islamic law: the precepts set forth in the Quran, and the example set by the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Sunnah. Fiqh jurisprudence interprets and extends the application of sharia to...

, i.e. that it is not only perfect and complete, but completely accessible to people and thus the solution to any of their problems. Also criticized is his dismissal of not only all non-Muslim culture, but many centuries of Muslim learning, culture and beauty following the first four caliphs as un-Islamic and thus worthless.

Conservative/puritan criticism went further, condemning Qutb's Islamist/reformist ideas—such as social justice and redistributive economics, banning of slavery,—as "western" and bid'ah
Bid'ah
Bid‘ah is any type of innovation in Islam. It linguistically means "innovation, novelty, heretical doctrine, heresy". In contrast to the English term "innovation", in Arabic, the word bid'ah generally carries a negative connotation...

 or innovative (innovations to Islam being forbidden ipso facto). They have accused Qutb of amateur scholarship, overuse of ijtihad
Ijtihad
Ijtihad is the making of a decision in Islamic law by personal effort , independently of any school of jurisprudence . as opposed to taqlid, copying or obeying without question....

, innovation in Ijma
Ijma
Ijmāʿ is an Arabic term referring to the consensus of the Muslim community. Various schools of thought within Islamic jurisprudence may define this consensus as that of the first generation of Muslims only; the consensus of the first three generations of Muslims; the consensus of the jurists...

 (which Qutb felt should not be limited to scholars, but should be conducted by all Muslims), declaring unlawful what Allah has made lawful, assorted mistakes in aqeedah (belief) and manhaj (methodology).

Legacy


Alongside notable Islamists like Maulana Mawdudi, Hasan al-Banna, and Ruhollah Khomeini
Ruhollah Khomeini
Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini was an Iranian religious leader and politician, and leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution which saw the overthrow of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran...

, Qutb is considered one of the most influential Muslim thinkers or activists of the modern era, not only for his ideas but for what some consider his heroic martyr's death. According to authors Daniel Benjamin
Daniel Benjamin
Ambassador-at-large Daniel Benjamin is the coordinator for counterterrorism at the United States Department of State appointed by Secretary Clinton.-Life:He was a 1983 Marshall Scholar at New College, Oxford where he studied for BA in PPE....

 and Steven Simon, "it was Sayyid Qutb who fused together the core elements of modern Islamism
Islamism
Islamism also , lit., "Political Islam" is set of ideologies holding that Islam is not only a religion but also a political system. Islamism is a controversial term, and definitions of it sometimes vary...

: the Kharij
Kharij
Kharij, sometimes translated as The Case is Closed, is a 1982 Bengali film by Mrinal Sen. It is based on a novel by Ramapada Chowdhury. It tells the story of a middle class family whose child servant is found dead, and their efforts to pacify his grieving father.-Cast:* Anjan Dutt - Anjan Sen*...

ites' takfir
Takfir
In Islamic law, takfir or takfeer refers to the practice of one Muslim declaring another Muslim an unbeliever or kafir...

, ibn Taymiyya's fatwa
Fatwa
A fatwā in the Islamic faith is a juristic ruling concerning Islamic law issued by an Islamic scholar. In Sunni Islam any fatwā is non-binding, whereas in Shia Islam it could be considered by an individual as binding, depending on his or her relation to the scholar. The person who issues a fatwā...

s and policy prescriptions, Rashid Rida
Rashid Rida
Muhammad Rashid Rida is said to have been "one of the most influential scholars and jurists of his generation" and the "most prominent disciple of Muhammad Abduh"...

's salafism, Maududi
Abul Ala Maududi
Syed Abul A'ala Maududi , also known as Molana or Shaikh Syed Abul A'ala Mawdudi, was a Sunni Pakistani journalist, theologian, Muslim revivalist leader and political philosopher, and a major 20th century Islamist thinker. He was also a prominent political figure in Pakistan and was the first...

's concept of the contemporary jahiliyya and Hassan al-Banna
Hassan al-Banna
Sheikh Hasan Ahmed Abdel Rahman Muhammed al-Banna known as Hasan al-Banna was a schoolteacher and imam, best known for founding the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the largest and most influential 20th century Muslim revivalist organizations.-Early life:Banna was born in 1906 in Mahmoudiyah, Egypt...

's political activism."

His written works are still widely available and have been translated into many Western languages. Qutb's best known work is Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq
Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq
Ma'alim fi al-Tariq, also Ma'alim fi'l-tareeq, or Milestones, first published in 1964, is a short book by Egyptian Islamist author Sayyid Qutb in which he lays out a plan and makes a call to action to re-create the Muslim world on strictly Qur'anic grounds, casting off what Qutb calls Jahiliyyah,...

 (Milestones), but the majority of Qutb's theory can be found in his Qur'anic commentary Fi zilal al-Qur'an
Fi zilal al-Qur'an
In the Shade of the Qur'an or Fi Zilal al-Qur'an[p][n] is a highly influential commentary of the Qur'an, written during 1951-1965 by Sayyid Qutb[a] , a leader within the Muslim Brotherhood. Most of the original 30 volumes were written while in prison following an attempted assassination of...

 (In the Shade of the Quran). This 30-volume work is noteworthy for its innovative method of interpretation, borrowing heavily from the literary analysis of Amin al-Khuli, while retaining some structural features of classical commentaries (for example, the practice of progressing from the first sura
Sura
A sura is a division of the Qur'an, often referred to as a chapter. The term chapter is sometimes avoided, as the suras are of unequal length; the shortest sura has only three ayat while the longest contains 286 ayat...

 to the last).

The influence of his work extends to issues such as Westernization
Westernization
Westernization or Westernisation , also occidentalization or occidentalisation , is a process whereby societies come under or adopt Western culture in such matters as industry, technology, law, politics, economics, lifestyle, diet, language, alphabet,...

, modernization
Modernization
In the social sciences, modernization or modernisation refers to a model of an evolutionary transition from a 'pre-modern' or 'traditional' to a 'modern' society. The teleology of modernization is described in social evolutionism theories, existing as a template that has been generally followed by...

, and political reform and the theory of inevitable ideological conflict between "Islam and the West" (see Clash of civilizations
Clash of Civilizations
The Clash of Civilizations is a theory, proposed by political scientist Samuel P. Huntington, that people's cultural and religious identities will be the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War world....

), the notion of a transnational
International
----International mostly means something that involves more than one country. The term international as a word means involvement of, interaction between or encompassing more than one nation, or generally beyond national boundaries...

 umma, and the comprehensive application of jihad
Jihad
Jihad , an Islamic term, is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihād translates as a noun meaning "struggle". Jihad appears 41 times in the Quran and frequently in the idiomatic expression "striving in the way of God ". A person engaged in jihad is called a mujahid; the plural is...

.

Qutb's theoretical work on Islamic advocacy, social justice
Social justice
Social justice generally refers to the idea of creating a society or institution that is based on the principles of equality and solidarity, that understands and values human rights, and that recognizes the dignity of every human being. The term and modern concept of "social justice" was coined by...

 and education, has left a significant mark on the Muslim Brotherhood
Muslim Brotherhood
The Society of the Muslim Brothers is the world's oldest and one of the largest Islamist parties, and is the largest political opposition organization in many Arab states. It was founded in 1928 in Egypt by the Islamic scholar and schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna and by the late 1940s had an...

 (at least outside of Egypt).

Al Qaeda and Islamic Jihad


Qutb had influence on Islamic insurgent/terror groups in Egypt and elsewhere. His influence on Al Qaeda was felt through his writing, his followers and especially through his brother, Muhammad Qutb
Muhammad Qutb
Muhammad Qutb, , is an Islamist author, scholar and teacher best known as the younger brother of the Egyptian Islamist thinker Sayyid Qutb...

, who moved to Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

 following his release from prison in Egypt and became a professor
Professor
A professor is a scholarly teacher; the precise meaning of the term varies by country. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a "person who professes" being usually an expert in arts or sciences; a teacher of high rank...

 of Islamic Studies
Islamic studies
In a Muslim context, Islamic studies can be an umbrella term for all virtually all of academia, both originally researched and as defined by the Islamization of knowledge...

 and edited, published and promoted his brother Sayyid's work.

One of Muhammad Qutb's students and later an ardent follower was Ayman Zawahiri, who went on to become a member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and later a mentor of Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was the founder of the militant Islamist organization Al-Qaeda, the jihadist organization responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States and numerous other mass-casualty attacks against civilian and military targets...

 and a leading member of al-Qaeda. Zawahiri was first introduced to Qutb by his uncle and maternal family patriarch, Mafouz Azzam, who was very close to Qutb throughout his life. Azzam was Qutb's student, then protégé, then personal lawyer and executor of his estate — one of the last people to see Qutb before his execution. According to Lawrence Wright
Lawrence Wright
Lawrence Wright is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American author, screenwriter, staff writer for The New Yorker magazine, and fellow at the Center for Law and Security at the New York University School of Law...

, who interviewed Azzam, "young Ayman al-Zawahiri heard again and again from his beloved uncle Mahfouz about the purity of Qutb's character and the torment he had endured in prison." Zawahiri paid homage to Qutb in his work Knights under the Prophet's Banner.
Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was the founder of the militant Islamist organization Al-Qaeda, the jihadist organization responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States and numerous other mass-casualty attacks against civilian and military targets...

 was also acquainted with Sayyid's brother, Muhammad Qutb
Muhammad Qutb
Muhammad Qutb, , is an Islamist author, scholar and teacher best known as the younger brother of the Egyptian Islamist thinker Sayyid Qutb...

. A close college friend of bin Laden's, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, told Wright, that bin Laden regularly attended weekly public lectures by Muhammad Qutb
Muhammad Qutb
Muhammad Qutb, , is an Islamist author, scholar and teacher best known as the younger brother of the Egyptian Islamist thinker Sayyid Qutb...

, at King Abdulaziz University
King Abdulaziz University
King Abdulaziz University was founded in 1967 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Designed by English architect John Elliott, it had 2,000 teachers and more than 37,000 students in 2000/2001....

, and that he and bin Laden both "read Sayyid Qutb. He was the one who most affected our generation."

While imprisoned in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki
Anwar al-Awlaki
Anwar al-Awlaki was an American and Yemeni imam who was an engineer and educator by training. According to U.S. government officials, he was a senior talent recruiter and motivator who was involved with planning operations for the Islamist militant group al-Qaeda...

 became influenced by the works of Qutb. He would read 150–200 pages a day of Qutb's works, describing himself during the course of his reading as "so immersed with the author I would feel Sayyid was with me in my cell speaking to me directly.”

On the other hand, associate professor of history at Creighton University
Creighton University
Creighton University is a private, coeducational, Jesuit, Roman Catholic university located in Omaha, Nebraska, United States. Founded by the Society of Jesus in 1878, the school is one of 28 member institutions of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. The university is accredited by...

, John Calvert, states that "the Al Qaeda threat" has "monopolized and distorted our understanding" of Qutb's "real contribution to contemporary Islamism."

Works


Literary:
  • Mahammat al-Sha'ir fi'l-Hayah wa Shi'r al-Jil al-Hadir (The Task of the Poet in Life and the Poetry of the Contemporary Generation), 1933
  • al-Shati al-Majhul (The Unknown Beach), 1935
  • Naqd Kitab: Mustaqbal al-Thaqafa fi Misr (Critique of a Book by Taha Husain: the Future of Culture in Egypt), 1939
  • Al-Taswir al-Fanni fi'l-Qu'ran (Artistic Imagery in the Qur'an), 1945
  • Al-Atyaf al-Arba'a (The Four Apparitions), 1945
  • Tifl min al-Qarya (A Child from the Village), 1946
  • Al-Madina al-Mashura (The Enchanted City), 1946
  • Kutub wa Shakhsiyyat (Books and Personalities), 1946
  • Askwak (Thorns), 1947
  • Mashahid al-Qiyama fi'l-Qur'an (Aspects of Resurrection in the Qu'ran), 1946
  • Al-Naqd al-Adabi: Usuluhu wa Manahijuhu (Literary Criticism: Its Foundation and Methods'), 1948


Theoretical:
  • Al-Adala al-Ijtima'iyya fi'l-Islam (Social Justice in Islam), 1949
  • Ma'arakat al-Islam wa'l-Ra's Maliyya (The Battle Between Islam and Capitalism), 1951
  • Al-Salam al-'Alami wa'l-Islam (World Peace and Islam), 1951
  • Fi Zilal al-Qur'an
    Fi zilal al-Qur'an
    In the Shade of the Qur'an or Fi Zilal al-Qur'an[p][n] is a highly influential commentary of the Qur'an, written during 1951-1965 by Sayyid Qutb[a] , a leader within the Muslim Brotherhood. Most of the original 30 volumes were written while in prison following an attempted assassination of...

     (In the Shade of the Qur'an), first installment 1954
  • Dirasat Islamiyya (Islamic Studies), 1953
  • Hadha'l-Din (This Religion is Islam), n.d. (after 1954)
  • Al-Mustaqbal li-hadha'l-Din (The Future of This Religion), n.d. (after 1954)
  • Khasais al-Tasawwar al-Islami wa Muqawamatuhu (The Characteristics and Values of Islamic Conduct), 1960
  • Al-Islam wa Mushkilat al-Hadara (Islam and the Problems of Civilization), n.d. (after 1954)
  • Ma'alim fi'l-Tariq
    Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq
    Ma'alim fi al-Tariq, also Ma'alim fi'l-tareeq, or Milestones, first published in 1964, is a short book by Egyptian Islamist author Sayyid Qutb in which he lays out a plan and makes a call to action to re-create the Muslim world on strictly Qur'anic grounds, casting off what Qutb calls Jahiliyyah,...

     (Signposts on the Road, or Milestones), 1964 http://www.kalamullah.com/Books/MILESTONES.pdf (Reviewed by Yvonne Ridley
    Yvonne Ridley
    Yvonne Ridley is a British journalist, war correspondent and Respect Party activist best known for her capture by the Taliban and subsequent conversion to Islam after release, her outspoken opposition to Zionism, and her criticism of Western media portrayals of the War on Terror...

    )
  • Basic Principles of Islamic Worldview
  • The Islamic Concept and Its Characteristics
  • Islam and universal peace

See also


  • Fi zilal al-Qur'an
    Fi zilal al-Qur'an
    In the Shade of the Qur'an or Fi Zilal al-Qur'an[p][n] is a highly influential commentary of the Qur'an, written during 1951-1965 by Sayyid Qutb[a] , a leader within the Muslim Brotherhood. Most of the original 30 volumes were written while in prison following an attempted assassination of...

  • Theocracy
    Theocracy
    Theocracy is a form of organization in which the official policy is to be governed by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided, or simply pursuant to the doctrine of a particular religious sect or religion....

  • Islam and antisemitism
  • Taqiuddin al-Nabhani
    Taqiuddin al-Nabhani
    Taqiuddin al-Nabhani was the founder of the Islamic political party Hizb ut-Tahrir.He died aged 68 in 1977.- Philosophy and Theology :Nabhani in his books 'Thought' and 'System of Islam' placed...



External links



Sayyid Qetb This Religion of Islam.