July 25, 2004

2 Qutb 11b

Through rest of the eleventh chapter of Sayyid Qutb's work Milestones, the brain of bin Laden dwells on the superiority of the believer, as Qutb defines him, to the milieu in which he finds himself. I imagine the language is very effective, and Qutb several times reinforces the idea that the believer, as he defines him, "from his height looks at the people drowning in dirt and mud." By "the people," Qutb here is including Muslims who do not share his own theocratic vision. I can well imagine that a zealot reading this would draw a great deal of emotional sustenance from it -- again, Qutb addressed Milestones to his vanguard of the Islamofasciteriat.

I found this passage of interest, where Qutb is trying to reinforce the vanguardi's ardor in the face of society's approbation:

A society has a governing logic and a common mode, its pressure is strong and its weight heavy on anyone who is not protected by some powerful member of the society or who challenges it without a strong force. Accepted concepts and current ideas have a climate of their own, and it is difficult to get rid of them without a deep sense of truth, in the light of which all these concepts and ideas shrink to nothingness, and without the help of a source which is superior, greater and stronger than the source of these concepts and ideas.

I find it a little hard to discern a governing logic in a free society. Take the United States, as one example: where is the common mode that joins, say, Jerry Falwell and Hugh Hefner? I think Qutb is probably drawing on German romantic notions here -- and for my part I think Ulrich's Austrian virtue, as noted in Robert Musil's great novel The Man Without Qualities, of just muddling through is far more worthy goal to aspire to than the destiny of the nation or race or class or Ummah, but of course that goes without saying.

The ability to adapt to new situations, new technology, new knowledge, is for Qutb not a strength of society, but a weakness:

The Believer is most superior in his values and standards, by means of which he measures life, events, things and persons. The source of his belief is the knowledge of God and His attributes as described by Islam, and the knowledge of the realities prevalent in the universe at large, not merely on the small earth. This belief with its grandeur provides the Believer with values which are superior to and firmer than the defective standards made by men, who do not know anything except what is under their feet. They do not agree on the same standard within the same generation; even the same person changes his standard from moment to moment.

I'm reminded of the Groucho Marx line: "I've got principles, and if you don't like them, I've got other principles," which is apparently what Qutb thinks of those of us who have a certain amount of intellectual flexibility. And he has little patience for those who don't have that flexibility:

The picture of the world which this Faith presents is far above the heaps of concepts, beliefs and religions, and is not reached by any great philosophers, ancient or modern, nor attained by idolaters or the followers of distorted scriptures, nor approached by the base materialists.

For Qutb there can be no compromise, and one can well understand why those disposed to self-detonation would find his message appealing. Of the believer he says,

Even if death is his portion, he will never bow his head. Death comes to all, but for him there is martyrdom.

Posted by Ideofact at July 25, 2004 11:52 PM