January 01, 2005

Qutb, Sayyid 3)

I don't often delete things I've written, but I did delete the original version of this post, a further exploration of the identity of Sayyid Qutb, which I dashed off last night. I started thinking about this question when frequent ideofact commenter Abu Noor al-Irlandee challenged the characterization of Qutb as the premier philosopher of Islamic terror, and was pushed to further reflections by a comment Aziz Poonawalla of City of Brass left on this post, in which he notes that in my Qutb writings, the broader context is sometimes obscured (he's too nice to say lost altogether, although I think that's happened as well); originally, that context was noting contrasts between historical Islam and Qutb's political interpretation of Islam.

Along the way, other themes have cropped up. I find it fascinating, for example, that Qutb would dismiss Islamic philosophy -- which borrowed terminology and techniques from Aristotle, Plotinus and other classical figures in order to better think about the universe, the nature of God and man according to Qur'anic precepts -- that goes out the window as being insufficiently Islamic. Yet the same Qutb imbibed some of the worst of European anti-Semitism, wrote a pamphlet called "Our Struggle with the Jews" in which he Islamicizes the most despicable forms of Western and Christian anti-Semitism -- the notion that Jews are some malevolent, deviant, polluted race attempting to degrade the whole world and destroy Islam -- and he sees nothing wrong with that. No Aristotelian logic, but the poison of a Julius Streicher is something that is consistent, in Qutb's view, with Islam.

This is not the sort of thing that strikes me as a minor point. If Qutb believes the fantasies of Nazis regarding Jews, if he believed the plots of "world Jewry" (note that the reference has nothing to do with Israel; Qutb's wraith is directed at Jews the world over) is what afflicted the Ummah, why would we regard his prescriptions as anything but nonsense? If you went to a doctor with a painful twinge in your elbow, and he diagnosed it not as tendinitis or arthritis but rather as a case of witchcraft, would you regard his recommendation that you boil your urine in a pot to inflict pain on the witch who cast the spell as a useful treatment?

Posted by Ideofact at January 1, 2005 10:00 PM

I've enjoyed reading your posts on Qutb. Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Karlo at January 4, 2005 11:22 AM