Qutb: Between Terror and Tragedy

Qutb: Between Terror and Tragedy

 Sayyid Qutb grew up in a very trundled time in Egyptian history.  It was a time of demagogues and revolutionaries.  At the age of thirteen in his village he participated in the 1919 uprising, by preaching to crowds and reading to them his own prose on freedom and imperialism.  In the mosques after prayers he would stand in front of congregations, and speak of liberty and justice for the Egyptians to a crowd of shopkeepers and illiterate peasants.  Egypt was demanding its independence from its British protector, and the spokesperson for the insurrection, S’ad Zaghlul, was being turned away like a schoolboy from the Paris Peace Conference.  Sa’d returned to Egypt only to later be put into exile to the Seychelles. He later returned to Egypt and became Prime Minister and head of the Wafd Party.  The Wafd party could not maintain its parliamentary coalition but S’ad continued to fight for complete Egyptian independence until his death in 1927.  S’ad Zaghlul was one of the protégés of the great Islamic Egyptian revivalist Mohammad Abduh, and who like Qutb and many other Egyptian reformist and Islamic thinkers come from a distinctive creative Egyptian class.  Albert Hourani in his famed classic Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age describes this class as ‘village families of some local standing and with a tradition of learning and piety.”  These families were usually large landowners or had the eminence of having one of their member’s educated at the great Al-Azhar University.3, 4


Qutb is a tragic and a highly misunderstood personality.  His detractors have labeled him an atheist and a communist.  During the height of his popularity with the Egyptian public, the Nasser regime attacked him claiming he was a spy and traitor of Egypt.  Even after his Execution in 1966 popular media labels him a terrorist, and more recently, he is considered the intellectual godfather of Osama bin Landen.  The 9-11 Report established by a bipartisan committee of Congress in 2004 has depicted Qutb’s philosophy as one of holy war and the killing of innocents. Never does the report quote Qutb as ever saying that carnage was an answer to the condition of his countrymen that were still living under British occupation and, in service to the British Crown.  Despite all of these labels being inaccurate and misguided, the myth of Qutb’s violent nature continues.

Sayyid Qutb was born in 1906 in the small village of Musha (or Qaha), of the Asyut Province in Upper Egypt.  He was second in line of five children to Haij Qutb Ahrahim.  His father a landowner and the administrator of the family estate, was well respected and known in the village for his generosity and for his political activism.  Haij Qutb would hold weekly gatherings in his home to discuss political events or have a Quranic recitation.  From this vantage point Sayyid started to learn about the melodic illustrations and imagery in the Quran, and at a young age have the seeds of activism sown in his vivacity.  His mother a very religious caretaker, would sit in her seclusion and listen to the Quran.  It was her dream, as Sayyid himself tells us, that he would memorize the whole of the Quran and be an accomplished rector of it.   Sayyid never was able to recite the Quran with much eloquence, but by the age of ten he had known all 6,238 verses by heart.  Early on Qutb would develop a disdain for the various religious institutions that shaped Egyptian public opinion.  He would later refer to this religious band as tacit culprits of western imperialism.4, 10

Contrary to popular belief Sayyid, never went to the Kuttab[1] to memorize the Quran.  In fact he lasted about one day at the hands of the Imam. When Sayyid was in pre-school there was a falling out between the Imam of the local school, who taught Quranic studies, and the principle.  The Imam decided to spread rumors that the school was waging a war against religion.  The Imam opened a Kuttab and encouraged parents to send their children there.  The Imam contacted Sayyid’s father and convinced him to put the young Sayyid in his care.  Sayyid lasted for one day in the Kuttab, and came back strutting and fretting at the educational mediocrity in the classroom.  His mother encouraged his father to reverse his decision, and the next day Sayyid went back to the local school. To prove the Kuttab wrong Sayyid started his quest to memorize the Quran.  He believed at this young age that he could prove the Imam wrong and that the local school, which taught regular academic subjects as well as religion, can triumph over the unevenness in the Kuttab.  It took Sayyid two years to commit the Quran to memory.  And so, at this young age of ten Qutb develops his radical bent against the Imam’s and the traditional understanding of education in the village.  This event would be the standard of his behavior throughout his life.  This defiance and boldness marked his attitude towards everything he encountered.3

As a young boy he developed a strong sense of the written word, and was an avid reader.  He would buy books from Am Saleh, the bookseller who would roam from village to village and sell used and new books.  Sayyid would save his allowance to make sure he had enough money when Am Saleh passed through to buy his favorite book.  This young and productive beginning of Sayyids’ was suddenly disrupted due to the events of the 1919 uprising.  The family had come onto tough economic times and had to sell the family estate.  Sayyid moved to Cairo to live with his uncle, Ahmed Uthman, who was a graduate of Al-Azhar, and an accomplished journalist.  His uncle was a close friend of one of the most controversial and well-known literary critics and poets of the time, Abbas Mahmoud Al-Akkad.  Qutb’s uncle lived fairly close to Al-Akkad’s house, and Qutb would frequent his home and listen to intellectual debates between Al-Akkad and his colleagues.  Al-Akkad was well known for his fiery critiques, breath of knowledge, and his vast library of books.  In his library he had the classical books on Greek philosophy and Islamic history.  He owned volumes of translated works to western scholars and intellectuals.  Qutb would spend hours in Al-Akkad’s library reading and contemplating about the world, satisfying his ever-growing appetite for culture and education.3

Qutb’s college years were satiated with literary debates and literary activism. His higher education was completed at the College of Dar El-Uloum.  This college was established to be a counter to the religious education of Al-Azhar.  Among Qutbs’ subjects of study were the Arabic language and literature, Logic, Philosophy, Syriac, History, and Political Economy.   Despite the wide array of topics available at the college, Sayyid was disenchanted with the depth and breadth of his classes.  One of his biggest disappointments with the college curriculum was the lack of foreign language instruction.  So, Sayyid sought out to change the curriculum of the college.  In his pro-active and energetic self, he wrote a memo to the administration of the school seeking to change the curriculum, to add more foreign language instruction (especially the English language), additional courses on religious studies, literary and artistic critique, and to increase the years of study to six.3, 4

Among his other activities was setting up literary debates among the college students.  These debates would take on popular contemporary writers.  Qutb would take on the giants of his time and lecture on the limits in Showki’s poetry, and the frailty in El-Rafayee’s logic.  He would lecture on the importance of poetry in society and life, and take on his professors with eccentric opinions about conventional arguments.3

Upon his graduation in 1933 from the college with the equivalent of a bachelor degree in the Arabic language, he was appointed as an Arabic instructor in a government school as part of the Education Ministry.  In 1940 he was internally transferred to work as an editor on Ministry publications.  After approximately four years he transferred back again into the field as an inspector of schools.    The reason for his transfer was because of a falling out he had with the Minister of Education.  He returned in building in 1945 when the leadership at the ministry had changed.  He was constantly at odds with his superiors about the program of study taught in Egyptian schools. While at the Ministry he kept up his earlier efforts to change the curriculum at the College he graduated from.  He also started a program for the translation of foreign books that was eventually dropped by the Ministry.  He also embarked on a project to establish a free library system in rural Egypt, and a literacy program, and proposed new curriculums and methods for teaching history in the schools.3

During this period of time he also published hundreds of columns and essays in Egyptian newspapers and magazines.  His total contribution throughout his life was approximately 450 articles, the majority of them written before his ascension to the Muslim Brotherhood.  The topics ranged from imperialism and culture to religion and literary criticisms.  Polemic wars raged on the pages of popular magazines between Qutb and his literary adversaries.  His contenders accused him of being everything that was politically prejudiced such as being a communist (despite being a staunch anti-communist) and an atheist.  His book writing did not take off until after officially joining the Muslim Brotherhood after which, he wrote several books including his volumes work In the Shade of the Quran.2, 3, 8

In 1948 the ministry was fed up with Qutb’s eccentrics and decided to send him away on sabbatical to the US.  It is generally accepted that this was a turning point in Qutb’s religious outlook, and that he found Islam and became radicalized due to the perceived false promises that American society had failed to fulfill for him.  As a brown person in Greeley, Colorado in the late 40’s, 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 idol 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 had already made a decision to hold on to his Islamic up brining before setting foot on American soil.  His Islamic identity had already formed and developed and had taken on an intellectual life of its own through his writings.  Before his transatlantic travel he had already written several articles that culminated into his book Artistic Illustrations in the Quran.  The book was seen in literary circles as the beginning of a new and modern Islamic library.3, 8

Before his trip he had completed his progressive book Social Justice in Islam.  This book was already being published while away on sabbatical.  Qutbs’ American experiences assisted him in illuminating and amplifying American society to the Egyptian public.  His interactions with Americans posed a social challenge, but not so much an intellectual one. His interactions allowed him to articulate and elucidate his ideas to Americans as well as to Egyptians. His thoughts about the Islamic world-view became even keener, and had taken on a much broader spectrum of understanding.  Islam for Qutb became a way of thinking and a measuring stick for all that surrounded him.  It was not only a spiritual commitment that was delegated to the private life or the home, but also a consistent modes operandi that engulfed his existence.  His American trip helped solidify his conventional arguments for his already self-accepted beliefs. His new arguments did not deviate from his old ones but, now they became more coherent and with more depth and breadth in their reach.  His ideas on Jahiliya[2] now had become a real example that he had personally experienced.4, 11, 14

In his final work Signposts in the Road he confesses to his early days as a literary as days of Jahiliya: “ I did not yet rid myself, and mind of the pressures of foreign defunct cultures…strange to my Islamic senses…and despite my clear Islamic inclinations at the time, those defunct ideas fogged my vision.  My impression of civilization (as it was represented in European thought) imagined by me, fogged my vision and impaired me from seeing the true clear picture.”  No doubt his experience in America contributed to what he believed to be the big American fib.  America was a charlatan of equality, and freedom.  In Social Justice in Islam he laid down the basic principles of an Islamic society.  These principles were based on the collective historical experiences of Muslims: 1) The absolute equality of all people and things, 2) The freedom of thought and, the freedom of conciseness, and 3) The mutual responsibility of individuals in a society.   For Qutb, America represented none of these ideals.  He saw minorities in America being treated as second-class citizens and despite the abundance of information, Americans lacked culture and fennec. In his opinion Americans had no concept to how the workings of military and cultural imperialism had quelled populations in the third world, and how they were subjected by western values and lifestyle.11, 14

One of his biggest American disappointments was how the American press treated the assassination of Hasan Al-Banna the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood.  According to Qutb’s account while in a Southern California Hospital being treated for respiratory complications, he observed nurses passing out champagne at the occasion of the news that the Muslim “fundamentalist” and “extremist” Hasan Al-Banna was assassinated.  Qutb was appalled at how the American public viewed Egyptians.  For Qutb Hasan Al-Banna was a great educator of the Egyptian masses.  Al-Banna’s organization upon his death had half million adherents and over one million sympathizers.  The Muslim Brotherhood had the primary mission of educating the public and making them literate and aware citizens.  The organization had huge public-works programs that employed people, and had opened schools, and medical clinics for the needy. Furthermore, Qutb was astonished at how American media manipulated the facts about the Brotherhood and its relationship with the ruling elite.4, 7

Upon his return from the States, Qutb continued his writing and in 1953 officially joined the Muslim Brotherhood.  He became its intellectual mouthpiece as he joined as its chief propagandist.  He was responsible for all of the Brotherhoods publications including the small pamphlets that were later distributed in the streets of Cairo as infomercials of the Brotherhoods analysis and opinions on government policy. Qutb’s reasons for joining the Brotherhood were many but, primarily he joined because of its emphasis on trying to change the spiritual foundation of Egyptians, based on their on historical experience.  The Brotherhood’s emphasis on education and the change of the collective self-conscious of Muslims was of paramount importance if Egyptians were to leap forward into modernity and be an important global actor among the nations of the world.8, 4

Prior to the 1952 revolution The Muslim Brotherhood and the “Free Officers” that executed the coup, had become strange bedfellows.  The Free Officers including the demagogue Gammal Abd El-Nasser had used the popularity of the Brotherhood to their advantage by gaining legitimacy by association.  They had provided arms to the Brotherhood prior to the coup to help in case of a mishap.  Qutb himself was a liaison to the Free Officers despite having not yet officially joined the Brotherhood.  He served as an advisor to the officers on matters of ideology and policy while attempting to influence their approach towards Islam.  Qutb inevitably became frustrated at the acquiescence of the officers at instituting Islamic principles into the new government.  In 1952 Gammal Abd El-Nasser and his band of Free Officers came to power in the so-called bloodless coup, and King Farouq, the last of the Mohammed Ali dynasty, was exiled to France.  Nasser became the people’s pharaoh.  His popular national movement swept the streets of Egypt and a new dawn had started for the control of Egyptian public opinion.  The new regime and the Brotherhood immediately became rivals.  Nasser and the Brotherhood competed for power among the masses for their popular loyalty. Nasser felt threatened by the potential overthrow of his new and budding government.  On January 15, 1954 Nasser issued orders to have the top brass of the Brotherhood rounded up and imprisoned as an outlawed political party trying to overthrow the legitimate and popular peoples government.  Among the imprisoned was Hasan Al-Hudaiby the General Guide of the Brotherhood after Al-Banna, and Sayyid Qutb. 2, 4, 8

After a public outcry and mass demonstrations, Nasser slowly started releasing his political prisoners.  Nasser did his best to discredit his opponents as atheist and traitors of the state.  Over the course of 2 ½ months Nasser released members of the Brotherhood while slowly attacking the Brotherhoods public image.  As soon as they were released, the Brotherhood, embarked on a massive public awareness campaign to discredit the regime, and reverse the negative public image that Nasser had skillfully portrayed of them. They distributed secret pamphlets and issued a newspaper that Qutb edited. 4, 8

At this point Nasser was furious with his rivals and felt that his generosity was over extended to a group that challenged his power in the most populous Arab country.  In what has become one of the greatest political theatrical performances in the Middle East, in October 1954 Nasser staged an assassination attempt while giving a speech to a crowd in Alexandria, Egypt.  Nasser stood still in defiance and grandeur in front of a crowd as bullets zoomed pass him and declared, “…all of you are Abd El-Nasser.”  Nasser used this incident to round up the usual suspects and incarcerate over one thousand members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Qutb being at the helm of the incarcerated. With this second sentencing starts Qutb’s long and dreadful journey with prison life. 4

After 2 months of incarceration Qutb was summoned to the Revolutionary Court to be a witness against Hasan Al-Hudaiby.  Qutb was exhausted from the torture over the prior two months.  Before entering the court he was made to stand for six hours in inhumane positions.  After brief tension between him and the Judge, Qutb suddenly took off his shirt to the crowd and journalist in the courtroom.  The traces of torture were clear on his back.  Sayyid Qutb and his cellmates had been tortured, wiped, and subjected to psychological abuse throughout the previous two months.  The judge immediately closed the session.  Even under the harshest of circumstances, Sayyid did not give in to what he saw as injustice.  He wanted the world to know what was going on behind the prison walls of Abd-El-Nasser.4

In 1955 Qutb was transferred to a military hospital for treatment of his wounds and a heart complication.  While in bed-stay a secret tribunal sentenced Qutb to 15 years in prison with hard labor.  In early 1964 he was released from prison on health grounds.  His health had gotten so bad from the torture, and his already existing lung condition, that he had to be transferred to a hospital outside the prison walls to be treated.  The transfer never came through but, Sayyid received a reduction in prison time due to his bad health and his need for continuous health monitoring due to his severe lung condition.  Another reason for Qutb’s release was due to the request of the Iraqi President at the time Abd El-Salam Araf.  The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and their counterparts in Iraq made a request to the president of Iraq to ask Nasser, since he was on good terms with him, for the release of Qutb.  Upon Qutb’s release the Iraqi government offered Qutb a position in the Iraqi Education Ministry.  Qutb humbly declined the offer suggesting that Egypt needed him instead.3

This honeymoon did not last long.  On August 9, 1965 he was rounded up with other members of the Brotherhood, yet again on the grounds that he and his group were plotting to overthrow the government.  This time with his sister Hamidah and Aminah and twenty thousand Egyptians were jailed.  During his nearly ten years in prison the communist and socialist movements in Egypt had grown in power and strength.  Nasser was playing the superpowers against one another.  The war with Israel in 1956 and the looming war of 1965 had pressed the Nasser regime to go globe trotting for arms and funds.  Since the US was pro-Israel and Nasser needed to build his arsenal he went to the Soviets for military assistants.  In return there was an appeasement towards communist political groups in Egypt.  While in Moscow in August of 1965, Nasser was pressed by the Soviets to do something about the Muslim Brotherhood who were staunch anti-communist.  And upon his return decided to hang Qutb and others of the Brotherhood who had already been rounded up a few days earlier on his departure to Moscow.  A year later Sayyid and two others were executed.  This time nothing was going to stop Nasser from having complete control over Arab and Egyptian public opinion.  Even King Fasil of Saudi Arabia had tried to intervene with no hope.4

On August 29, 1966 Sayyid Qutb at the age of 63 was executed.  He had lived a life of activism and education that few can emulate.  While in prison he wrote several books among them are In the Shade of the QuranThe Islamic Concept and its Characteristics, and Sign Posts on the Road.  Nasser’s incarceration and prosecution of the moderate Muslim wave that was taking over Egypt created a void that was filled by extremist who were willing to take innocent lives to achieve their ends.  Such is the case throughout most the modern history of the Middle East.  Their governments with the help of foreign aid, and despite growing popular support, have only quelled Islamists seeking to bring about democratic reform in the Middle East.  This void created by the lack of a political outlet and participation in legitimate government has been willingly filled by groups like Al-Qaida, that have flourished under dictatorship regimes.

Qutb like many other Islamic revivalists before and after him had a very similar background, and followed a very analogous path in his Islamization.  He started out as a secular literary, and ended as a spiritual jihadist.  He never advocated violence and believed that the only way for Islam to be revived in people’s life was from the bottom up.  Islam had to be a grass roots movement; a slow education of the masses.  In order for the condition of Muslims to change there had to be a change in the collective self-consciousness of Muslims.16

He certainly wanted Islam to come into power and be the guiding principle of Muslims the world over.  However, he did not want Islam to be reduced to a basket of laws to govern over a people with no spiritual composition.  If Islam is to achieve its goals of justice and equality on earth then, it is a system that has to be thoroughly understood and practiced by those how call themselves Muslims.  In Social Justice he says “The process Islam has traversed by laying down the general, universal rules and principles, and leaving their application in detail to be determined by the processes of time and by the emergence of individual problems.  But Islam itself does not deal with the incidental related issues of the principle, except insofar as such are expressions of an exchanging principle whose impact is felt universally.  This is the limit of the authority which can be claimed by any religion, in order that it may guarantee its flexibility and ensure the possibility of its own growth and expression over a period of time.” With this Qutb is far from being a fundamentalist (I use this word loosely because fundamentalism is purely a European & Christian historical experience).  Furthermore, Qutb allows for disagreement and dynamism in the application of Islamic principles given the time and place of which Muslims live.  In his work The Islamic Concept he insists that the application of Islam is not a rigid system of laws: “This does not mean a freezing of thought and action.  On the contrary the Islamic concept not only permits but encourages movement and change as long as they are within its own framework and around its fixed axis.” Furthermore, In Islam: The Religion of the Future: “Growth and evolution, being phases of the correlation between the ideological ideal and the social order, may be generalized to comprise principles for a complete system of life which would include man’s emotions, morals, forms of worship, rituals, traditions and every terrestrial human activity.”11, 13, 15, 16

Qutb insists on developing a system based on the historical experience of Muslims.  Nor is he inherently anti-western by doing so.  Rather, he offers a point of reconciliation with the west.  In Social Justice: “This does not mean that our summons is to an intellectual, spiritual, and social avoidance of the ways of the rest of the world; the spirit of Islam rejects such an avoidance, for Islam reckons itself to be a message for the whole world. Rather, our summons is to return to our own stored-up resources, to become familiar with their ideas, and to test their validity and permanent worth, before we have recourse to an untimely and baseless servility which will deprive us of the historical background of our life, and through which our individuality will be lost to the point that we will become merely hangers-on to the progress of mankind.”  Qutb did not want to borrow wholesale from the west systems and lifestyle.  He saw that the west was waging a war against Islam and its historical experience, reducing Islamic civilization to an anomaly of chance.  Qutb was bewildered by what he perceived to be western arrogance.  Cromer the viceroy of Egypt and an Orientals was quintessential: “It is absurd to suppose that Europe will look on as a passive spectator whilst a retrograde government based on purely Muhammadan principles and oriental ideas, is established in Egypt.  The material interests at stake are too important…the new generation of Egyptians has to be persuaded or forced into imbibing the true spirit of Western civilization.”  The majority of Muslims in the world today, especially in the aftermath of September 11th, still feel and perceive Cromer’s attitude in western foreign policy towards their governments and people. 1, 11

Furthermore, Qutb was rebellious against the religious establishment that echoed government policy and towed the line to maintain its resources of public funding for its universities and mosques.  In this regard Qutb would have preferred a separation between the church and state to keep the opinions of the Islamic scholars clear from any bias or appeasement to the Egyptian ruling class.   His activism against the ruling class was contrary to the traditional Islamic opinion of his time, which was not to speak out against the established authority.  Some Muslim scholars shunned this behavior and referred to those who objected to their rulers as religiously rebellious.  Qutb rejected the professional religious clergymen that became a tool of nationalistic Arab leaders.  He considered them as enemies of progress because they denied the Islamic principle that there are no professional clergy to create a link to God or to understanding Islam.  In The Battle Between Islam and Capitalism: “If Islam were to rule, the first act would be to banish the indolent who do not work but make a living in the name of religion.”  Qutb also saw the state as a choking apparatus to maintain man’s servitude to other men.  In Sign Posts on the Road he states the purpose (of Islam/religion) is to free those people who wish to be freed from enslavement to men so, that they may serve God alone.” And again “the faith is a universal declaration of freedom of man from slavery to other men and his desires, which is also a form of human servitude.”  Here Qutb fills an Islamic intellectual void menacing his time.  Muslims around the world in the 1950’s and 1960’s are bewildered by imperialism, both of the physical and the intellectual kind. He was fighting the imperial culture that was sweeping over the Middle East represented primarily by the British and French occupation of all the Middle East an throughout the Muslim world.2, 5, 14

He does for the Islamic world what John Locke did for western democracy and liberalism.   In Lockes’ The Second Treatise of Government, he states, “The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authoritative of man, but to have only the law of nature for his rule.”  Locke too was responding to a contemporary belief that not all men are equal.  In his First an Second Treatise he goes to great length to refute Sir Robert Filmer, and his notion that in Revelation it could be found that God had made some men more superior than others, and therefore justify a ruling class and monarchy that knew what was best for the masses.5, 6

Nor does Qutb ever advocate the use of violence.  Never does he call for an armed movement against the government or against non-Muslims.  In fact, he continues through all of his work to strengthen his argument that Islam must be a movement that overtakes peoples’ minds and hearts from the bottom up.  In Islam: The Religion of the Future “ We must prepare ourselves for quite a long time to be fit for this un-relaxing task.  We must be prepared by means of exalting ourselves to the level of true religion.”  However after he was released from prison the second time in 1964, ideas that he was working on while incarcerated for over nine years, were summed up in 6 points that were to guide the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood: 13

1)    The unequivocal importance of starting with the education of Muslim youth and others on the primary principles of Islam, faith, worship, and the importance of shariah.

2)    Educating Muslim youth on the proper Islamic character, and on world events, and how they are being affected by these events.

3)    No organization was to be set up until all people were educated on the primary Islamic principles of faith (aqidah), and a strong Islamic character and behavior were reached.

4)    When and if an Islamic organization was built, it should not demand the implementation of shariah but, it should concern itself with the proper education of the rulers and the ruled on the true Islam.

5)    No Islamic order would come about with the forced overthrow of the government, or from the top-down.  But, change must first come by changing the perceptions of society or reaching a critical consensus thereof.  Society must have an Islamic character and culture, and by having such character they will acknowledge that shariah is a necessary obligation.

6)    It is necessary to defend the Islamic movement symbolized in its quest for Islamic education from government incursions and military threats.  As long as the movement does not wish to use force against anyone, and does not want the forceful overthrow of the government then, it should be allowed to continue in its endeavor of the Islamic education of the public.  And if the movement is attacked by force then, it will respond with equal force to defend its right to propagate its message.9

In his 6th point Qutb defends the right of Muslims to propagate the Islamic message.  But, it is clear that Qutb did not want a violent overthrow of the government. He insists that Islam and Islamic government must come from the bottom-up.  He goes to great lengths in Islam and Universal Peace published in 1951 to describe how the underlying foundation of Islam is peace and not war.  For Qutb the foundation of order in the universe is peace and order between all creatures.  Jihad for Qutb is not necessarily defined in diametrically opposed ideas of offensive and defensive war.  Rather, physical Jiahd for Qutb is primarily for the sole purpose of defending the right of the Muslim to do Dawa[3] for the sake of Islam. In this regard it can be said that for Qutb, jihad is a manifestation of the will of a people to propagate their ideal of justice.12



  1. Esposito, John L., Voll, John O. Makers of Contemporary Islam. 2001.
  2. Esposito, John L. Voices of Resurgent Islam. 1983.
  3. Hourani, A. Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age:1798-1939. 1962.
  4. Khalidy, Saleh. Sayyid Qutb: From Birth to Martydom.  Dar Al-Qalam 3rd edition 1999.
  5. Khan, Muuqtedar. Syed Qutb-John Locke of the Islamic World?  The Globalist, July 28, 2003.
  6. Laslett, Peter. Locke’s Two Treatises of Government. 1966.
  7. Lia, Brynjar. The Society of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt: The rise of an Islamic Mass Movment 1928-1942.  1998.
  8. Mitchell, Richard S. The Society of The Muslim Brotherhood. 1969.
  9. Mouussalli, Ahmad S. Radical Islamic Fundamentalism: The Ideological and Political Discourse of Sayyid Qutb.  1992.
  10. Qutb, Sayyid. Artistic Illustrations in the Quarn. Dar al-Shourouk 16th edition 2002.
  11. Qutb, Sayyid.  Social Justice in Islam.  Islamic Publications International 1953.
  12. Qutb, Sayyid. Islam and Universal Peace.  American Trust Publications 1977.
  13. Qutb, Sayyid. Islam: The Religion of the Future. International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations 1992.
  14. Qutb, Sayyid. Sign Posts on the Road. Dar Al-Shorouk 9th edition 1982.
  15. Qutb, Sayyid. The Islamic Concept and its Characteristics. American Trust Publications 1991.
  16. Qutb, Sayyid. The Religion of Islam. Human Welfare Trust 1st edition 1996.

[1] Kuttab: A religious school focused on memorizing the Quran and Quranic Arabic.


[2] Jahiliya: Qutb views Jahiliya as a state of tribalism, where each nation sees itself as better and more worthy than another nation.  He saw the contemporary understanding and emphasis of the nation-state as reminiscent of the Arabian Peninsula before Islam where various warring tribes fought for family, fortune, and pride.

[3] Dawa: The process and method of propagating the Islamic message.