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“Milestones by Sayyid Qutb”

 

In today’s world of scientific development and technological advancement, man has entered into a stage of spiritual vacuity- as the world has denied or ignored the spiritual life. Though the Western civilization has brought people under the umbrella of democracy, yet it has created within every modern man moral debility and spiritual desiccation. With this degradation in the democratic set up, Western civilization also tried to adopt socialism on the lines of Marx but failed. Sayyid Qutb, the most imperative upholder of Jihadi Salafi, ardently advocated this voice. A member of the Muslim brotherhood, Sayyid Qutb who suffered torture for ten years in Nasser’s concentration camps echoed his voice in a insinuating yet subtle way in his most influential work, “Milestones”, where he asserted that all the societies of the contemporary world are following jahiliyya. In other words, they are totally ignorant of ways of Islam; neglecting the authoritative position of God, they have turned their loyalty and devotion toward other agents in authority. I will give analytical assumption on Sayyid Qutb’s way to re-analyze and conceptualize Quran to bring the world into the viscidity of Jammat movement, which he thought would coax the world to follow the tenets of Islam implying the trust in God.

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Besides his woeful experience in concentration camps, his stay in America and his experience with the life of United States from 1948 to 1951 also had a deep impact on his mind and induced him to conceptualize his Jahiliyya. [1] He was send to United States for studies but the racism and the open sex, which he witnessed created a nonchalant wound in his heart.

 

 

Condemning Jahiliyya he said, “We must also free ourselves from the clutches of jahili society, jahili concepts, jahili traditions and jahili leadership. Our mission is not to compromise with the practices of jahili society, nor can we be loyal to it. Jahili society, because of its jahili characteristics, is not worthy to be compromised with. Our aim is first to change ourselves so that we may later change the society”. [2]

The roots of Jahiliyya lay only in the non abidance of the God’s sovereign rule on this Earth and when we do not believe in God, we show our allegiance to man who rule over others as Gods. He further said that it is not a primitive form of rule but the rule to make laws regarding creation of values, laws on collective behavior, and even on the ways we live without giving any regard to God. These framed laws and rules are nothing less than tools to oppress people.  Humiliation that man suffers under the communist regime, exploitation of natural resources and working force under capitalism is against the God’s realm and defiance of the dignity of mankind. In Islam only, all men are treated equally; they all worship God alone and derive all inspiration from God alone.

He based his notion on the sovereignty of Allah as against imparting sovereignty to man and on the man’s compliance to the will of God; if it is not done or if any principle or doctrine does not follow this path, it amounts to Shirk. It is not only an unforgivable sin but it also amounts to mix other Gods with Allah, which is against the fundamental concept of faith, ‘la laha illalah’. On this earth, there is no other form of God except Allah, and only through announcing

the name of Allah that man can attain freedom on this Earth. [3]

The most inspiring part of the Qutb’s book is approach towards his final verdict which is in stages and the repeated contention that there wouldn’t be any need to implement the Islamic law if all the members of the community from their heart and soul surrender themselves to the will of Allah and abide wholeheartedly the laws of Allah. Then there would be laws only to meet the needs of the people.

His understanding of jihad is a departure from the conventional thinking. Jihad according to him takes different forms according to the different development stages of Muslim community. In the initial stage, it implies the constant efforts to impose the principles of Tawhid against any upheavals and secondly it means encouraging and helping the communities to freely practice their Islamic beliefs even it means use of arms.  According to him, Jihad is a very crucial moment to reassert their right to reestablish the sovereignty of Allah on Earth. Hereby he was all the more ready to emphasis that it does not necessary means violent ways rather it is a way to preach. But he also said that to follow the path of Jihad is not compulsory. But if someone wanted to move on the path of Jihad, then no one has right to stop him also. For Qutb also, Jihad, was not only his way to show his ardent belief to live the Islamic way but also his fight to establish the sovereign rule of Allah on Earth. ‘Milestones’ was his jihad against the jahiliyya that he saw all around him.

Qutb focus was sharp when he made his intention clear for all Jahili societies as their enemies and to give his point a concrete focus, he reinterpreted some fundamental Islamic concepts: Tawhid and Hakimiyya. Tawhid means following the sovereignty of Allah. To neglect the sovereign position of God is the biggest sin according to Sharia and you can fully realize it

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by putting yourself totally into God’s hakimiyya in individual’s political and social life.

Qutb went to impart  two type of strategies to revive the old Islamic ways. He said that the Muslims are true only if they engage themselves in the da’ wa i.e. spread of message and simultaneously try to set up a true Muslim community (jama`a) which will act as a vanguard (taliya) of renewal. [4] Qutb never propagated idol worship.

With a true Salafi style, Qutb also re-analyzed Quran. He tried to reestablish the Quran to find a new ideology. He said that God had given revelations of his plans to Muhammad in particular sequence which jamaats needed to follow if they wanted to see the Muslim world to again retain their golden glory.

Milestones generated new ways of thoughts regarding changes in political set up by making use of Salafist interpretation of the Quran as a means of revolution. After Qutb was executed by Nasser regime in 1966, Muslim brothers were confused regarding the interpretation of Milestones. Some stated that terms like hijra, mufassala or I’tizal or Jihad had been used metaphorically whereas some took his book in a literary sense. Others followed what became Qutb’s Maududi’s strong hold that the current society and state were jahili or kufr (infidel), and therefore were a part of the takfiri, category of Salafism and Salafism is following this dictate to this day. There was also a strong debate within Takfiri camp that by following hijra and mufassala, we have to withdraw from society physically and spiritually and this had become the matter of discussion and debate within Salafi circles.

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Qutb was a man with strong conviction and faith, strongly advocated against idolatry,

called upon people to believe in one God, rebuked the ways religious and political parties were

making their bases, left behind the legacy of the spiritual thoughts and steered the waves for radical change among youngsters. On the other hand, he also became the most controversial figure and sore in the eyes of Western world. According to western world, he sowed the seeds of violence and unleashed the spread of terror through Jihad in their own regimes. From the Islamic stand point; he was a modernist who brought revolution in the Islamic ways of thinking. He also termed takfir as the most dangerous and accepted with proof the term heretic, which was often being used against him by Al-Azhar.

Through his doctrines and reinterpretation of Jahiliyya, takfir and jihad, Qutb unleashed a reign of terror and made many Muslims victim of his fanatic designs in the name of Allah and Islam. His most tempting appeal to name rival groups and individuals as Kuffars heralded new ways of violence in the world. His ideas and theories were for the benefit of whole human race and wanted to discover the mankind with high values and ideologies maintaining a cordial harmony with the nature around but his approach was harsh and volcanic. He wanted to spread Utopia with force and bring about the New World on the ruins of the Old World but he failed as history is replicated with examples that no New World can be formed through violence.

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WORKS CITED

Khan, Muqtedar.  “A Fresh look at Sayyid Qutb’s Milestones”. The Milli Gazette. Internet.  Available: http://www.milligazette.com/Archives/01-8-2000/Art4.htm, April 23, 2008
Qutb, Sayyid. “Chapter 1: The Unique Qur’anic Generation” in Milestones.  Young Muslims Online Library. Available: http://www.youngmuslims.ca/online_library/books/milestones/hold/chapter_1.asp,

April 23, 2008

Stanley, Trevor. “Sayyid Qutb: The Pole Star of Egyptian Salafism”.  pwhce.org. Internet. Available: http://www.pwhce.org/qutb.html, April 23, 2008.

Zeidan, David. “Book Review: Milestones (Ma`Alim Fil Tariq) By Sayyid Qutb” Available: http://www.angelfire.com/az/rescon/Bkrvqtb.html, April 23, 2008.

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[1] Trevor Stanley. “Sayyid Qutb: The Pole Star of Egyptian Salafism”.  pwhce.org. Internet. Available: http://www.pwhce.org/qutb.html, April 23, 2008.
[2]  Sayyid Qutb. “Chapter 1: The Unique Qur’anic Generation” in Milestones.  Young Muslims Online Library. Available: http://www.youngmuslims.ca/online_library/books/milestones/hold/chapter_1.asp, April 23, 2008
[3]  Muqtedar Khan. .  “A Fresh look at Sayyid Qutb’s Milestones”. The Milli Gazette. Internet.  Available: http://www.milligazette.com/Archives/01-8-2000/Art4.htm, April 23, 2008.

[4] David Zeidan. “Book Review: Milestones (Ma`Alim Fil Tariq) By Sayyid Qutb” Available: http://www.angelfire.com/az/rescon/Bkrvqtb.html, April 23, 2008.

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