Σαγίντ Κουτμπ: The Karl Marx of the Islamic Revolution

Leslie Evans

Σαγίντ Κουτμπ (October 9, 1906-Αύγουστος 29, 1966), the Egyptian literary critic, philosopher, and theorist of the contemporary jihadist movement is only becoming a familiar name in the West in recent years, but his voluminous writings have had and continue to have enormous impact in the Muslim world. It is not an overstatement to say that it is hardly possible to understand the reasoning and goals of the Islamic militants without some familiarity with the outlook Qutb (pronounced KUH-tahb) enunciated.
A search of Amazon.com returns no less than seven books in English about Sayyid Qutb as well as collections of his writings and many of his own books in translation. The two works touched on here are only a random sampling of a very large literature which is again but a minute fraction of what exists in Arabic. These two are quite different in scope and attitude. Adnan Ayyub Musallam, a Palestinian native of Bethlehem, holds a doctorate from the University of Michigan
and is currently professor of history, politics, and cultural studies at Bethlehem University in the West Bank. His generally sympathetic but critical biography concentrates on the evolving politics of Qutb’s affiliations and thought. The quite brief and more critical piece by Paul Berman for the New York Times looks at Qutb’s theology and helps to clarify his argument with Christianity and Western secularism.
Brilliant from his earliest youth, Sayyid Qutb was an unlikely figure to serve as the inspiration for a global revolutionary movement. Although for a brief period he was a member of the militant Muslim Brothers, where he served as an editor not as an organizer, he spent most of his life as a lone intellectual. Where Marx, the theorist of world communism, labored in the British Museum, Sayyid Qutb wrote his most influential works in an Egyptian prison, where he spent most of the last eleven years of his life, until his execution by the Nasser government in 1966. Even his turn to Islam in any serious way did not take place until he was past forty, yet in prison in his fifties he produced a controversial rethinking of the religion that reverberates around the world.
Qutb was born in the village of Musha, between Cairo and Aswan into a family of small landowners. He was sent to the local madrasa, the government school, rather than the still more religious kuttab, the Islamic school, but he won a contest between the two schools for the best memorization of the Qur’an. He recalled his life there in his only biographical work, “Child from the Village,” recording local customs and superstitions. From that period he acquired a belief in the world of spirits that he carried with him all his life

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Filed Under: ΑίγυπτοςΠροτεινόμεναJemaah IslamiyahΜουσουλμανική ΑδερφότηταΣπουδές & έρευνες

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