Radical Islamic Fundamentalism: the Ideological and Political Discourse of Sayyid Qutb

Radical Islamic Fundamentalism: the Ideological and Political Discourse of Sayyid Qutb by Ahmad S. Moussalli American University of Beirut, 1992

Intro: "Although funadmentalism appears conserviative, it is actually a progressive program, more progressive than Islamic modernism ... fundamentalism, when compared to modernism, exhibits a better understanding of science as well as its impact on the structure of society and its values, but is less aware of the benefits of philosophy." (p.9-10)

Accolades for Sayyid Qutb

"Qutb's importance and influence on fundamentalist movements and contemporary Islamic revival are acknowledged by Westerners and Easterners; he has been long considered one of the most distinguished contemporary fundamentalist thinkers and numerous labels have been bestowed on him: ...

How Important was Qutb?

"In 1953 Qutb was appointed editor-in-chief of the weekly Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimmin.. But this journal was banned in 1954, and the Muslim Brethern was dissolved, and many of its members, including Qutb, were jailed." The court found them not guilty and ban was lifted. "Then Qutb was appointed member of the of the Working Committee and of the Guidance Council, the highest branch in the organization, as well as head of the propaganda section," where he increased the number of books the MB published. (p.31-2)

"The Muslim Brethern was the civil organ of the 1952 revolution. It was in charge of protecting foreign institutions and minorities. Moreover, it was to provide support from revolution among the civilian population. Among the Brethren, Qutb played a special role in this revolution and was, according to one of the Free officers (the leaders of the revolution), very instrumental in preparing for the revolution. He is descibed by the officer as `our leader and teacher Sayyid Qutb....` ... Moreover, Qutb was the only civilian who attended the Revoutionary Council." (p.32)

Qutb's Appearance and Personality

"From his early life, Qub was plagued with poor health that dictated many limitations on his work. He lived in Halwan because of lung troubles and needed dry, sunny weather. He looked pale with sleepy eyes. His illness was one of the reasons for his introvertedness, isolation, depression and concern." (p.35)(source: Hamudah, Sayyid Qutb p.60-61)

Qutb's Influence

"His ideas of al-hakimiyyahal-jahiliyyah of societies" were taken up later by quite important radical organizations such as al-Takfir wa Hijrah and al-Jihad" (p.36)

Qutb's Imprisonment

"While in Prison, one of Qutb's most important works, Fi Zilal al-Quran ... was completed and published. Qutb was allowed to write because the Press, Dar Ihya al-Kitab al-Arabi sued the Government for obstructing Qutb's fulfillment of the terms of his contract.

In prsioin ... produced a trmendous output of books which constituted a systematic, ideological and political discourse ... Also after the dissolution fot he Muslim Brether and while behind bars, he managed to establish an effective, secret organization for the Brethern and became its chief spokesman. (p.35)

[footnote: "Qutb himself did not deny the charge that he was establishing an organization within the Brethern. Its basic goal was educational because he believed that a new society could not be established unless peole were educated in their religion first. Also, he admitted that he was building a military organization around 1962-64, but he insisted that its purpose was not to overthrow the government but to defend the Brethern in case the government attempted again, as it did in 1956, to repress and torture the Brethern. In other words, according to Qutb, the military option was only the last measure and defense. (source: "Li-Madha `A 'damuni?", March, no.4 p.6-7, no.6, p.9) But a more important issue is not whether the Brethern took arms against the government but whether the government was legitimate and representative of the people. Also, in dealing with the Brethern one needs to address the question whether the government was just: becaue if the government was not just, taking arms would be warranted. In short, what I am saying is that people can and sometimes, should fight an unjust government ..." (p.63)

COMMENT: Really? Sometimes? Well which came first, the chicken or the egg? Also note that in Milestones Qutb preaches that Jahiliyya will never leave islam alone but alway try to fight it.]

Qutb came to the conclusion that the movement had to set up a shield, i.e. an armed organization, against external attacks, destruction, torture and dislocation of families as happened to the Muslims Brethern in Egypt in 1948, 1954, and 1957...

The protection of the Islamic movement required in his mind training a group of Muslijs in ideology and military action. ... " (p.35)

Qutb's Imprisonment - Massacre that turned him against jahiliyyah

The massacre that took place in the prison of Limon Tara in 1957 had a terrifying effect on Sayyid Qutb. In that massacre 23 Brethern were shot dead and 46 were injured, out of 180 Brethern. Qutb was in the hospital wher eht inured were treated. It seems that this even had made hime convinced that the Egytpian regime was definitely un-Islamic and jahili and consequently could be overthrown legitimately. This period constituted the beginning of this radical comtemplation that resulted in the belief of al-hakimiyyah of God ..." (p.36)

The Trial that Led to his Execution


Why Sayyid Qutb Hated America

Concerning Qutb's 1948-1950 stay in America. "From his book, Amrika allati Ra'aytu (America that I Saw), one can discern three features, among others, that shocked Qutb and propelled his mind towards further rejection of the West as the model to be emulated. The three features were materialism, racism, and sexual permissiveness." (Moussalli, p.25)

COMMENT: Don't forget mixing of the sexes, barbaric African jazz music, and restrictions on divorce.


author quotes from the well known description of a "priest" at a Greely CO church basement dance turning down the lights to make the atmosphere more romantic "while people listened to tones of a gramophone, dancing intensified, the dance floor started swarming with legs, hand embraced waists, and lips touched. The whole atmosphere was one of romance." (Moussalli, p.28)

Qutb quoting "a young American women at the institute in Greeley, CO":

The issue of sexual relations is purely a biological matter. You .. complicate this matter by imposing the ethical element on it. The horse and mare, the bull and the cow ... do not think about this ethical matter ... and, therefore live a comfortable, simple, and easy life.
(Moussalli, p.29)

COMMENT: No doubt he thought the young woman's advanced academic ideas were typically American and that the church basement dancers would soon be leaving to make as the horse and mare, bull and cow do. What an unfortunate intersection of a proud, pompous, pious literato, with an equally proud, cocky young country. A country fresh from its victory in the biggest war in human history with even less time than usual for what this preachy visitor from a backward old country, a middle age virgin bachelor hypersensitive to sex, has to say.

Hatred for the MB

"Two event in particular from his sojourn in the United States made him entertain joing the MB. The first was `the happy and joyous American reception` in 1949 of the assassination of Hasan al-Banna, the founder of the MB." (p.38) (Source: In his footnote Moussalli goes on to say that this (i.e. American joy was the reason for joining the MB) was "conjecture." See Khalidi Qutb p.136. Qutb `witnessed the ecstasy of the American general public at the assassination of Hasan al-Banna`)

America's Betrayal of the Arabs

"One more feature that antagonized Qutb was what he called the international crusade (imperialism and colonialism) and Zionism. For instance, imperialism and colonialism had been attempting to impose their domination over the Muslim world by trying to restrict Islam to the domain of personal belief. As a consequence of their endeavors, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, for instance, had won a battle for them by terminating the Caliphate and by separating politics from religion. Moreover, the creation of Israel did not have any positive outcomes or encourage good relations between the Arabs and the Americans. ... Qutb percieved that the West had betrayed the Arabs. The British, for instance, defaulted on their promises of independence for the Arabs and had been attempting to stifle the spirit of the Egytpian people as well as the movement of the Muslim Brethren's fighting forces in Palestine. Also the United States had betrayed the Arabs by siding in the United Nations with the Zionists on the question of Palestine and by sponsoring and approving the creation of the Jewish state." (Moussalli, p.29-30)

from Radical Islamic Fundamentalism: the Ideological and Political Discourse of Sayyid Qutb by Ahmad S. Moussalli American University of Beirut, 1992