January 12, 2005


Okay, one last bit before bed, an answer to a question Aziz posed here somewhere. In the fifth Surah of the Qur'an, in the 82nd verse, we find the following passage (at least according to this translation, which is the one that happens to be nearest at hand at the moment:

You will find the Jews and idolaters
most excessive in hatred of those who believe;
and the closest in love to the faithful
are the poeple who say: "We are the followers of Christ,"
because there are priests and monks among them,
and they are not arrogant.

Let's tease this apart: I'm no expert, so correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this passage is referring to a particular historical moment, when the Prophet and his followers are facing a challenge from both the Jewish tribes of Medina and the Arabs who follow the polytheist cult. The warning is to be wary of both, that both groups oppose the Prophet, but that Christians (who were, in any case, hardly a factor there) don't have a dog in that fight.

Qutb takes this passage, and argues that, because Jews are mentioned first (that is, the passage mentions Jews before it mentions polytheists), they are more evil than the Polytheists. Qutb goes on to argue that this is a permanent condition: this is where the catalog of alleged Jewish sins through history -- from the murder of 'Uthman to the fall of the Caliphate -- are listed, which is followed by this bit:

The war which the Jews launched against Islam was longer, more extensive and of greater ferocity than the war which the polytheists and idol-worshippers perpretated--then and now. Indeed, (Islam's) struggle witht he Arab polytheists did not last more than twenty years altogether...

Aziz, in his comment, noted that Qutb is going against the Qur'an here; there are passages that stress the importance of treating people of the Book well, there are passages that say that to each people comes their own revelation; there is a passage insisting that there is no compulsion in religion. Qutb will have none of this, ever, of course: To paraphrase an old line, he asks, who are you going to believe, Qutb or your own lying eyes reading of the Qur'an?

As for the Jews not being "People of the Book," I may be reading too much into Qutb, but this notion seems to be implicit throughout. Qutb argues that Jews are implacable foes of Islam engaged "in a conspiracy of calumnies agaisnt Islam's books. The only thing which was spared from this conspiracy was Allah's Book [the Qur'an], which was guaranteed by His protection..." Qutb goes on to stress that Jews had rejected their own covenant with Allah, and that, "Is there any alternative, then, but to expose them to the Muslim Community, so that the Community may know who its enemies are; what the enemies' nature is; what their history is; what means they use; and what is the reality of the battle with them in which the Muslim Community is immersed?"

Again, Qutb doesn't come out and say "Jews aren't people of the book," but he does argue that Jews are implacable foes of Islam who must be destroyed rather than protected as people of the book...

One last thing -- in quoting the above verses of the Qur'an, Qutb doesn't mention the Christian part, only the Jew and idolater part.

Posted by Ideofact at January 12, 2005 12:49 AM