Qutb emphasises that there is no middle way between Islam and jahiliyya, since the jahili‐society ‘crushes all elements which seem to be dangerous to its personality’. 36 36. Qutb, Milestones, III, p.46.View all notes Therefore compromise is not an option. 37 37. Ibid., I, p.21.View all notes Human actions are either based on the inner willingness to submit to God and his commandments, or on the intention of putting oneself in God's position:
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Before his departure from the United States, even though more and more conservative, he still was "Western in so many ways—his dress, his love of classical music and Hollywood movies. He had read, in translation, the works of Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein, Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, and had immersed himself in French literature, especially Victor Hugo".
Qutb refused every offer, having understood the reality of Nasser's plans. Upset that Nasser would not enforce a government based on Islamic ideology, Qutb and other Brotherhood members plotted to assassinate him in 1954. The attempt was foiled and Qutb was jailed soon afterwards; the Egyptian government used the incident to justify a crackdown on various members of the Muslim Brotherhood for their vocal opposition towards the Nasser administration. 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.
The two key concepts these thinkers borrowed from Leninism were the “state” and “revolution”. It was in their view, the state that symolized social justice, social unity, and the struggle against the West. Such a state could only be established through revolution, this being under the leadership of a pioneering group.
A main model of socialist theocracy was the invention of Sayyid Qutb, who is considered to be the founding father of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. His books, “Milestones” (1964) and “In the Shade of the Quran” (written 1951–1965), played a large role in creating the new Islamic regimes that have swept the Arab world.
Of course, we have to be careful. Qutb’s vision can easily argued to be more fascist than it is socialist, even with its hostile attitudes to centralized power. Anti-capitalism isn’t enough. The right structures need to succeed established societies, and in his love for a fetishized interpretation of Islam, Qutb certainly falls short.
107. Qutb's understanding of the conflict of beliefs incidentally helps to explain why Islamic terrorism appears to often have no clear political purpose (with respect to terrorism in Iraq see: James Bennet, “The Mystery of the Insurgency”, The New York Times (Sunday edition, Week in Review), 15 May 2005, pp.1, 4): for many of the terrorists the struggle itself is the purpose.
Even when his intellect was fully engaged with the passages in the Qur'an describing violent jihad, he emphasised the humanity of the Islamic war ethic. In volume 8 of In the Shade of the Qur'an Qutb reminded his readers of one hadith where the Prophet, on discovering that a woman had been killed during one of his expeditions, issued an order forbidding the killing of women and children. In the Islamic ethic of war, he argued, "kind treatment is extended even to enemies ... [Islam] has nothing of the barbarism against children, women or elderly people ... or the disfigurement of dead bodies."
It was only with the arrival of the prophet Muhammad that the initial covenant was renewed, when he assembled the ideal community together with his followers. In several passages of his writings Qutb analyses the reasons why Muhammad was successful, since this idealised community is supposed to be the role model for all future attempts at reviving the rightful Islamic order. 46 46. E.g. Qutb, Commentary, IV, pp.60–63.View all notes In Milestones he lists the three main reasons for Muhammad's success: 47 47. Qutb, Milestones,, I, pp.16–20.View all notes
The first task should be to unmask the ideology of radical Islamism by showing that its true nature is not striving for a renaissance of Islamic values, but that it is a distortion of these values, inspired by the western ideologies like National Socialism and Communism. National Socialism disguised itself as a form of German patriotism; the Germans' experience that Hitler cared about Germany only as long as it served his ideological interests might have been among the most convincing arguments against National Socialism at the end of World War II. In a similar way, the experience of Communism revealed that the leaders in Communist countries were in no way interested in ‘freeing’ the workers. The task is to show that Qutb and al‐Qaeda have a similar approach. They abuse Islam for a fight which is, in fact, not for the cause of Islam. This exposure of radical Islamism will mainly be a task for Muslim religious leaders, since they have the knowledge of Islamic belief and the moral authority among their people. The main challenges for these leaders will be to clarify the understanding and role of the jihad, and to explain the relationship between Islam and violence. If there is a difference between radical Islamism and traditional Islam, it has to be pointed out by the Islamic religious leaders. The dialogue with these leaders is of an importance which can hardly be overestimated.
Marx sees true freedom in the fulfilment of the promise of self‐actualisation, which is the enjoyment of the collective self in Communism. Hitler and Qutb see the same fulfilment in the struggle which leads to the creation of values. For all three, the ideal state is perceived as a true liberation, since it consists in realising the God‐like nature of man. Self‐actualisation does not consist of forcing oneself or others to submit to rules and values, but in creating values. Needless to say that this concept of self‐actualisation and freedom is leading to its direct opposite.
71. Cf. Barbara Zehnpfennig, “Einleitung” (Introduction), in Karl Marx, Ökonomisch‐philosophische Manuskripte, ed. B. Zehnpfennig (Hamburg: Meiner, 2005); Hendrik Hansen, “Karl Marx: Humanist oder Vordenker des GULag?” (How far away is Marx from the GULag?), in: Politisches Denken – Jahrbuch 2002, pp.152–74.