(For your reading pleasure - sorry about the length, I edited as much as I could while still trying to leave relevant information. I edited in MSWord, so I hope the punctuation transfers. I post this because I believe it important to learn as much as possible about one's enemies)
Sayyid Qutb the father of modern terrorism
Sayyid Qutb October 9, 1906 – August 29, 1966 was an Egyptian author, Islamist, and the leading intellectual of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s and '60s. He is best known in the Muslim world for his work on what he believed to be the social and political role of Islam, particularly in his books. His extensive Quranic commentary Fi Zilal al-Qur'an (In the shade of the Qur'an) has contributed significantly to modern perceptions of Islamic concepts such as jihad, jahiliyyah, and ummah. Islamists consider him to be a martyr because of his execution by Nasser's (Egyptian 1950s) government.
Qutb is also known for his intense disapproval of the United States, and has been described as "the man whose ideas would shape Al Qaeda." Today, his supporters are often identified as Qutbists.
Qutb was raised in the Egyptian village of Musha and educated from a young age in the Qur'an. He moved to Cairo, where he received a Western education 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. In 1939, he became a functionary in Egypt's Ministry of Education. From 1948 to 1950, he went to the United States on a scholarship to study the educational system, studying for several months at Colorado State College of Education (now the University of Northern Colorado) in Greeley, Colorado.
There are indications of feelings of antagonism towards the West by Qutb, however, before he ever set foot in America. On his boat trip to America in 1948 he wrote:
“Should I travel to America, and become flimsy, and ordinary, ... 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? “
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 the Quran taught women that `Men are the managers of women's affairs ...' Qutb lamented to his readers that he was never able to find a woman of sufficient "moral purity and discretion" and had to reconcile himself to bachelorhood.
Qutb was extremely critical of many things in the United States: its materialism, individual freedom, economic system, racism, brutal boxing matches, "poor" haircuts, triviality, restrictions on divorce, enthusiasm for sports, "animal-like" mixing of the sexes (which went on even in churches), and lack of support for the Palestinian struggle. In an article published in Egypt after his travels, he noted with disapproval the sexuality of Americans:
“... 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.”
And their taste in music:
“Jazz is his preferred music, and it is created by Negroes to satisfy their love of noise and to whet their sexual desires...”
In 1950, Greeley Colorado's "wide steets were dotted with churches, and there wasn't a bar in the whole temperate town." Despite this, Qutb perceived its inhabitants (and by extension all Americans) as "brutish" people who had the poor taste to salt their watermelons and drink unsweetened tea.
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 radicalism upon returning to Egypt.
He joined the Muslim Brotherhood in the early 1950s and became editor-in-chief of the Brothers' weekly publication, and later head of the propaganda section, as well as an appointed member of the Working Committee and of the Guidance Council, the highest branch in the Brotherhood.
In June 1952, Egypt's pro-Western government was overthrown by the nationalist Free Officers Movement headed by Gamal Abdel Nasser. Both Qutb and the Muslim Brotherhood welcomed the coup against the monarchist government – which they saw as un-Islamic and subservient to British imperialism – and enjoyed a close relationship with the movement prior to and immediately following the coup. 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 was incompatible with the Islamism of the Brotherhood. Nasser's regime refused to ban alcohol, or to implement other aspects of Islamic law.
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 , and a manifesto of political Islam. These works represent the final form of Qutb's thought, encompassing his radically anti-secular and anti-Western 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.
Qutb was let out of prison at the end of 1964 at the behest of the then Prime Minister of Iraq, Abdul Salam Arif, 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 his publications and he adamantly supported his written statements. The trial culminated in a death sentence for Qutb and six other members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Qutb 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, Sayyid Qutb was executed by hanging.
Different theories have been advanced as to why Qutb, turned from secular reformism in the 1930s to radical Islamism in the 1950s and 1960s (the latter clearly evidenced in his books). One common explanation is that the conditions he witnessed in prison from 1954-1964, including the torture and murder of Muslim Brothers, convinced him that only a government bound by Islamic law could prevent such abuses. Another is that Qutb's experiences in America and the insufficiently anti-Western policies of Nasser demonstrated to him the powerful and dangerous allure of jahiliyyah — a threat unimaginable, in Qutb's estimation, to the secular mind.
Finally, Qutb offered his own explanation in hi book, arguing that anything non-Islamic was evil and corrupt, while following Sharia 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.
Even Qutb's early, secular writing shows evidence of his later themes. For example, Qutb's autobiography of his childhood 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.
In his book “Artistic Representation in the Qur'an”, Qutb developed a literary appreciation of the Qur'an and a complementary methodology for interpreting the text. His study of the interpretation of religous texts were applied in his extensive commentary on the Qur'an, which served as the foundation for the radical declarations of his books.
Late in his life, Qutb synthesized his personal experiences and intellectual development in the famous book “Milestones”, 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 radical Islamists of the 20th century.
Whether he espoused dictatorship, or later rule by Sharia law with essentially no government at all, defensive jihad or later offensive jihad, 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. In an earlier work, Qutb described military jihad as defensive, Islam's campaign to protect itself. 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 supported elections and democracy.
Qutb also opposed the then popular ideology of Arab nationalism, having become disillusioned with the 1952 Nasser Revolution and having been exposed to the regime's practices of arbitrary arrest, torture, and deadly violence during his imprisonment.
This exposure to abuse of power undoubtedly contributed to the ideas in his famous prison-written Islamic manifesto Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq (Milestones), where he advocated a political system the opposite of dictatorship. There Qutb argued:
“The Muslim world had ceased to be and reverted to pre-Islamic ignorance, because of the lack of sharia law. Consequently all states of the Muslim world are not Islamic and thus illegitimate, including that of his native land Egypt.”
“Rather than rule by a pious few, or democratic representation, 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 religious ignorance with a twofold approach: preaching, and abolishing the organizations and authorities of the exisiting system by "physical power and Jihaad."
The vanguard movement would grow until it formed a truly Islamic community, then spread throughout the Islamic homeland and finally throughout the entire world.
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."
Although earlier Muslims had used religious ignoarnce to refer to contemporary Muslim societies, no one before Qutb had applied it so widely, nor had such popular response. While Islam had seen many religious revivals urging a return to religious fundamentals throughout its history, Qutb was the first thinker who paired them to a radical, sociopolitical ideology.
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 world.
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.
Orthodox Salafi/Wahhabi scholars criticized Qutb has for his exaggerations. One frequently used example of his exaggeration is the declaration that a Muslim woman becomes a non-muslim if she wears western designer clothes. His reasoning follows as such: the designer, in prescribing a certain fashion, creates a way of life opposed to the one prescribed by Allah.
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. Zawahiri was first introduced to Qutb by his uncle and maternal family patriarch.
Osama Bin Laden was also acquainted with Sayyid's brother, Muhammad 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, at King Abdulaziz University, and that he and bin Laden both "read Sayyid Qutb.
Click to view image: 'Qutb'
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