March 09, 2004

2 Qutb 7f

Just an aside really, no doubt inspired by the particularly fine example of dystopian literature I'm rereading -- the late Anthony Burgess' excellent novel The Wanting Seed, described as a Malthusian comedy on the back of the book, although it's much more. I began to wonder what a Qutbian dystopian novel would look like. I haven't the imagination to do so myself, of course, but it might be an interesting exercise.

I bring this up, because one thing I didn't remark on in my review of the seventh chapter of Milestones is this passage, suggestive of Qutb's utopian leanings:

This movement, from the moment of its inception until the growth and permanent existence of its society comes about, tests every individual and assigns him a position of responsibility according to his capacity, as measured by the Islamic balance and standards. The society automatically recognizes his capabilities, and he does not need to come forward and announce his candidacy; in fact, his belief and the values to which he and his society subscribe compel him to keep himself concealed from the eyes of those who want to give him a responsible position.

But the movement which is a natural outgrowth of the Islamic belief and which is the essence of the Islamic society does not let any individual hide himself. Every individual of this society must move! There should be a movement in his belief, a movement in his blood, a movement in his community, and in the structure of this organic society, and as the Jahiliyyah is all around him, and its residual influences in his mind and in the minds of those around him, the struggle goes on and the Jihaad continues until the Day of Resurrection.

One can well imagine the difficulties of being a talented individual in a corrupt society, and the Arab nationalists against whom Qutb railed were certainly corrupt (although that didn't stop the Muslim Brotherhood from collaborating with them early on). Jobs dispensed on the basis not of what you know, and what you're able to do, but rather who you know. Still, the notion that true talent will simply shine through, that society (society?) will automatically recognize talent and put it in its proper place, without any effort on the part of the individual, strikes me as being either a bit naive, at best, or fairly sinister, at worst.

Posted by Ideofact at March 9, 2004 10:18 PM

I try hard to resist remote psychoanalysis (it was something about reading Young Luther at an impressionable age, I think) but gosh! What a sad, sad little man Qutb must've been!

Posted by: Michael Tinkler at March 10, 2004 08:36 AM