Syed Qutb is one of the most prominent Muslim thinkers of twentieth-century and is also known to be one of the most important ideological initiators of the Muslim Brotherhood. He was a part of Egypt’s liberal Intelligentsia and he produced a variety of works ranging from roman fiction to literary criticism.
His disillusionment with the corrupt democracy of pre-revolution Egypt made him approach Islam eventually for finding solutions of all the problems. In the early 1950s he was recognized as the key ideologue of the Muslim Brother Society and in 1954 he was imprisoned.
His ideological and political ideas however changed to extreme radicalism and at the same time, he wrote one of his important Islamist works while being in jail.
During 2011-12, the collapse of many autocratic regimes in the Middle East raise the issues of leadership and religion. In Egypt, newly elected democratic government which was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood was a primarily example of challenges where ruling was instigated and inspired by religion in a democratic state.
The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928, an Islamic organization that existed through the regimes of Hosni Mubarak and Gamal Abdel Nasser. After the revolution moment in Egypt that overthrow Mubarak’s government, voters were inspired by this organization, the Muslim Brotherhood. Because of the support of the people they had larger number of seats in parliament and had hold of presidency too. But after a year later they were overthrown by the military because of the dissatisfaction with their ruling.
The party was emerging as a strong political force in Egypt, and it raise an important question that the party which apparently is devoted to Islamic ideas and principles how it can blend with a polity that is truly devoted to democratic ideals.
The challenge for the country was what means can be used to integrate its larger number of population into democracy, which is inspired by the principles and ideas of Muslim Brotherhood. These problems could be solved by looking into the intellectual foundation of the organization, the Muslim Brotherhood.
And linked with this organization was Syed Qutb, who was regarded as the second, most controversial yet prominent ideological and intellectual leading figure of the Muslim Brotherhood.
An analysis of Qutb’s writings needs to pay attention to the radicalization of his political thinking in his last years of life. Before becoming politically active, he spent two years studying in the United States, an experience that influenced his disdain for Western society.
In the early 1950s, he became involved with the Muslim Brotherhood following his return to Egypt and soon rose to a prominent position inside the organization. In 1952 he was reportedly actively involved in the overthrow of the government and was in close contact with Nasir, but there seems to be no definitive evidence for his involvement.
After the rise of Nasir to power, the contrasts between his pan-Arabism and the Muslim Brotherhood’s radical Islamic vision soon became evident and led to a split in their relationship. The Muslim Brotherhood was kept accountable after an attempt at Nasir’s life in 1954, the association was disbanded, and its members imprisoned.
Qutb had been sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was released early in 1964 but was re-arrested soon afterwards and charged with treason, particularly due to the revolutionary nature of his book Milestones. He was eventually convicted by hanging, and sentenced to death. Qutb was executed on 29 August 1966. After his trial, Milestones became his most celebrated publication. Which is considered as a guidance for people who have been already converting to the radical ideology of Qutb. He gives guidance in Milestones to the radical ‘vanguard’ that is struggling to revive Islam. He points out where the enemy is to be found, and that battling this enemy requires the use of physical force. He also describes the movement’s ultimate goal of being global Islamic conquest.
A profound critique of the present circumstances as a reversed world order in which man denies the laws of God (jahiliyya); the battle between good (Islam) and evil (jahiliyya) is the guiding force behind human history, the means to battle the as of now winning jahiliyya is the jihad. These three stages of Qutb’s political thought, are a diagnosis of current conditions, the examination of the historical process, and jihad as a way to salvation.
Syed Qutb’s thought is transformed with different circumstances and situations and with time it became radical. He changed his view from literary and a secular perspective to theoretical and rational and political commitment with Islam. However, his most radical Islamic ideas came out in the last years of his life.
Qutb’s definition of jahiliyyah acts as the Muslim groups’ most theological defense against what they see as the infringement of Western political and ethical standards on Islam. The condition of jahiliyyah, wherein Allah is not considered as the supreme ruler, is a condition of kufr. And as Qutb argues that faith alone isn’t adequate for Islam, it is a global framework that integrates the experience of practical affairs and divine.