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Who was the Writer Sayyid Qutb?

Updated on April 22, 2013
Sayyid Qutb
Sayyid Qutb | Source

Sayyid Qutb

Sayyid Qutb was born in Egypt October 9, 1906 and lived as an author, educator, Islamist theorist, poet, and leading member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood until his death on August 29, 1966. He is known for his extreme views and remembered today as a great influence on many well-known Islamic activists and groups today. Some even believe that Qutb is the leading cause of the 9/11 tragedy in the United States.

As a writer, Sayyid Qutb published 24 books total. He is best known for Social Justice (1949), Milestones (1954), and In the Shade of the Qur'an (1952) as well as his social and political role in the Muslim world, alongside his hatred for the United States. In these novels, Qutb lays out his beliefs for all the world to see and calls for violent actions to fight what he sees as a corrupt world both within and outside of the Muslim sphere.

There are some very different memories of Sayyid Qutb out there. Some remember him as a martyr and a great artist, while others can't help but recall how his ideas helped shaped those of groups like Al Qaeda.

Today, Qutb's greatest supporters are known as the Qutbists (also known as the "Qutbi" by their opponents). They believe in an "offensive jihad" based on Qutb's writings and have gained notoriety because of the common belief that they have strongly influenced extreme jihadi like Osama bin Laden.

Hassan al-Banna
Hassan al-Banna | Source

Islamic Brotherhood

The Islamic Brotherhood, also known as the Muslim Brotherhood, was initially founded by Egyptian leader Hassan-al-Banna as a youth club for social and moral reform. In March of 1928, him, his brother, and five others pledged to live and die by Islam, a pledge that would be shared by many others once the Brotherhood expanded in 1936 to every Egyptian providence. As it grew, the group quickly became more than just a youth club and expanded into a political, cultural, and social movement, led by the charismatic Al-Banna who inspired and taught audiences efficiently and entertainingly until he was assassinated in February 1949.

The next person to take the spotlight was Sayyid Qutb, who took the reigns in the propaganda sector of the Islamic Brotherhood from the 1950s to the 1960s. In 1951, Qutb resigned from the Egyptian government when they took a pro-Western stance and joined the Brotherhood, quickly rising to the top of its ranks as a prominent leader.

In 1954, he published one of his most infamous works, Milestones, in which he outlined plans for a political jihad to bring Islam into power. This book and In the Shade of the Qur'an were both written while he was imprisoned after trying to assassinate Nasser. In Milestones, Qutb divided the world into two groups, the Order of Islam and the Order of Jahiliyya, the latter being a state of ignorance that existed before Mohammed's message.

Sayyid Qutb was released from prison in 1964, only to be thrown back in the next year for once again attempting to assassinate Nasser with other members of the Muslim Brotherhood. On August 29, 1966, he was finally executed both for this assassination plot and for his writings in Milestones.

Open Qur'an
Open Qur'an | Source

Muslim Brothers in Egypt

Qutb's ideology is largely based on his time in the Muslim Brotherhood and the beliefs of the group's founder, Hassan al-Banna. The basic premise is that the world has fallen into a state of ignorance, or Jahiliyyah, both within and outside of Muslim states. He believed that this was because men had begun to follow their own laws rather than the laws of God. According to him, the only true laws that should be followed are outlined within the Qur'an. He believed that the Order of Islam would free the world and that everyone should follow it in order to bring everyone to peace and order.

Like the rest of his Muslim Brothers in Egypt, Qutb believed that in order for his beliefs to be realized, violence was necessary. This belief in a violent Jihad was based off of theological arguments and included even going against Muslim governments that he believed were heretics. Qutb was very anti-Semitic, anti-United States, and his beliefs are still followed today by many extremists.

© 2012 LisaKoski


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    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      I was unaware of him, so thank you for this introduction. It was quite compelling. With any extreme thinker, I am always curious to consider what specifically in their personal background or experience propelled them to think and believe as they do/did. Interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    • marwan asmar profile image

      Marwan Asmar 4 years ago from Amman, Jordan

      An interesting read on the man. I am not sure with his thought can be traced all the way upwards to Al Qaeda, but nevertheless. a very important focus on the man himself, as a modern thinker on Islam.

    • LisaKoski profile image

      LisaKoski 4 years ago from WA

      Thanks for letting me know :)

    • Stormy1990 profile image

      Stormy1990 4 years ago

      just wanted to let you know that the video doesn't anymore. :-/ Great article anyway!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for the introduction.

    • NateB11 profile image

      Nathan Bernardo 5 years ago from California, United States of America

      I did not know about this man, his writing, his organization, or the history of it all. Very fascinating information, and well presented. It is interesting what happens when religious fundamentalism mixes with politics. Thanks for the lesson.