March 17, 2005

Qutbdex 3

...which, logically, deals with the 2 Qutb series, or ideofact's analysis of what may well be Qutb's most influential work, Milestones. Yes, the slightly annotated index to all Sayyid Qutb posts on paleo Ideofact and ideofact continues. Depressingly, all of the links to Milestones are broken as of this writing; maybe I'll fix them later. Milestones has been called by some a sort of Mein Kampf or (perhaps more accurately) Communist Manifesto for Qutb. I prefer to think of it as a "What is to be done?" -- though I have never been certain whether it is the comically bad What is to be done of Nikolai Chernyshevsky or the tragically bad What is to be Done of V.I. Lenin. So, without further ado...

In 2 Qutb I, we learn that curiosity salted the snail. Also, that Qutb has "this new thing" which "cannot be appreciated" unless a "vanguard" of the Islamoteriat emerges, or some such.

2 Qutb 1 contains a regrettable error on my part, but also tells us that only the first generation of Muslims really rocked, the rest are all poseurs because of this damnable, Western induced Jahiliyyah.

2 Qutb 2 is a bit of a waste of time, but does note that even in the time of Prophet, just as in Calvin's Geneva or any other religious community, there are sinners...

2 Qutb 3 suggests a contradiction: if 2 Qutb 2 argues that the central organizing principle of Islam is complete and total submission to God, then how is thatt Qutb can turn around and call for the complete submission to a vanguard that has completely submitted to God?

2 Qutb 4A quotes this bit: "This movement does not confine itself to mere preaching to confront physical power, as it also does not use compulsion for changing the ideas of people." It also quotes this bit: "...[this movement] uses physical power and Jihaad for abolishing the organizations and authorities of the Jahili system which prevents people from reforming their ideas and beliefs but forces them to obey their erroneous ways and make them serve human lords instead of the Almighty Lord." Nice to know there's no compulsion involved.

I wrote in 2 Qutb 4a that it's very difficult for me to have anything intelligent to say (a self evident statement if there ever was one) but also point out this gem from Qutb: "What [Islam] wants is to abolish those oppressive political systems under which people are prevented from expressing their freedom to choose whatever beliefs they want, and after that it gives them complete freedom to decide whether they will accept Islam or not."

2 Qutb 5a worries that we might mistakenly worship school board members, dog catchers, members of Congress, township supervisors and presidents.

2 Qutb 5b notes that Qutb's ideas on politics suffer from a disturbing lack of specificity.

2 Qutb 6 notes some hope for humanity. It's mine, not Qutb's...

2 Qutb 7a concerns itself with Bernard Shaw, progressive Islam, and Qutb's rejection of same (despite his fondness for Shaw)...

2 Qutb 7b tells us that a society in which "people are permitted to go to mosques, churches and synagogues" actually "denies or suspends God's sovereignty on earth."

In 2 Qutb 7c, a critique of journalism in the jahiliyya is offered, particularly the idea (which I believe the New York Times, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer and Wall Street Journal all garnered Pulitzers in the 1950s for arguing) that sex, premarital sex, sex, infidelity, sex, more sex, extra sex, casual sex, sex out of wedlock, and -- did I mention sex? -- should be encouraged.

2 Qutb 7d further explores Qutb's obsession with sex, premarital sex, sexy sex, sex cetera...

2 Qutb 7e tries to wrap up the seventh chapter of Milestones with a few quotes I found interesting....

...but 2 Qutb 7f offers the most interesting quote:

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.

...suggesting to me a not uninteresting fiction: Perhaps Egypt in the 1950s, the Egypt Qutb railed against, was in fact the ideal Islamic community, and Qutb's position of responsibility (prisoner, ranter) perfectly matched his capacity...

2 Qutb 8a is devoted to the themes of art, literature, classical music, poetry, and other tricks concocted by World Jewry, LLP.

2 Qutb 8b demonstrates Qutb's scientific acumen, particularly his notion that some questions cannot be asked.

2 Qutb 8c was a bit of a stinker, not my best work, but it does tell us that in "principles of economics and political affairs and interpretation of historical processes" only a Muslim is worthy of consultation.

2 Qutb 8d notes strange disparities between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sayyid Qutb.

In 2 Qutb 8e, we learn that the decision to hold the scientific and industrial revolutions, the enlightenment, and even the Protestant reformation in Europe was a regrettable scheduling mistake (and they were pretty much stolen from Islam anyway...).

2 Qutb 8 note offers some intelligent analysis (hint: I didn't write it).

2 Qutb 9 (too) briefly suggests that the chapter was designed to appeal (psychologically) to younger Muslims; I recall that when reading it you could almost count the beats until the next manipulative passage designed to stoke the would be jihadi.

In 2 Qutb 10a, apparent inconsistencies in his thought are noted.

2 Qutb 10b is about the odd contrast implicit in much of Qutb's thought, but explicit here: that human desire invariably is at odds with Islam.

In 2 Qutb 10c, we find a confession of a lack of good manners.

2 Qutb 11a returns to the theme of the psychological impact of Qutb's statements, particularly suggestions that a believer should be "above all the powers of the earth which have deviated from the way of the Faith, above all the values of the earth not derived from the source of the Faith, above all the customs of the earth not colored with the coloring of the Faith, above all the laws of the laws of the earth not sanctioned by the Faith, and above all traditions not originating in the Faith." I imagine Mohammad Atta was feeling something similar as the World Trade Center came into view...

2 Qutb 11b continues this theme; Qutb writes, "Even if death is his portion, he will never bow his head. Death comes to all, but for him there is martyrdom."

Unable to restrain my crusader blood, in 2 Qutb 12, I point out that Qutb was merely a Christian heretic; hopefully, the idea that I regret not having had the chance to run my sword through him personally is implicit in the post.

Ugh. and that's it for Milestons. More later...

Posted by Ideofact at March 17, 2005 11:17 PM

Re. 2 Qutb 3 -- I think the contradiction is explained, or could be, by presuming some exposure on Qutb's part to Marxism-Leninism. Lenin introduced the concept of the "vanguard of the proletariat," justified on the grounds that the proletariat itself had insufficient "social consciousness" to fully grasp the nature of dialectical materialism, and so must submit to being led by the few who DO understand it. This simple, alluring concept readily transfers itself to other, radically different ideologies.

Posted by: Ralph Hitchens at March 18, 2005 02:05 PM

One of the many things I find perplexing about the many critics of Qutb and other Islamists is the suggestion that Marxism-Leninism iventend the idea of a vanguard -- or a small group leading the way in societal change.

I don't know the exact etymology of the term vanguard but Sayyid Qutb, who of course was writing in Arabic so he did not use that term, was familiar with the Qur'anic concept of sabiqoon. These are the forerunners, the people who work for a certain goal or movement when it is still unpopular as opposed to the bandwagon jumpers who just move with whatever is popular and widely accepted.

Indeed, throughout most of history, small groups of people have been highly influential in the direction that societies have moved. These could be aristocratic, clerical, intellectual or many other different king of small groups that advocate an idea and work to make it a reality even thought it is not favored by most of the people.

Almost all revolutions that I am aware of in human history have been led by such core groups and reactionary forces opposing those have as well.

I do not say that Qutb was not in any way influenced by Marxism. Obviously the environment he was in and the extent to which he argues against Communism show that he clearly was familiar with the ideology.

But to think that anyone who thinks that an influential people who sacrifice a great deal for a cause even when it is not generally popular are necessary as part of the process of large scale societal change is automatically a Marxist-Leninist is, to me, a silly proposition and argument.

And Allaah Knows Best.

Posted by: Abu Noor al-Irlandee at March 18, 2005 04:18 PM

Bill, I don't know what other readers gain from your work, but I think reading your indexes and reflecting it is probably time for me to bow out of any further discussion.

At times you have questioned the fact that I seem to defend Qutb on every point. It is clear that you believe Sayyid Qutb had nothing intelligent to say, nothing really interesting to say, had no inclinations in his heart except to spread evil and embraced every single negative characteristic that you can think of -- racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, etc. etc.

If you really think that someone like that would become popular on a widespread basis throughout the Muslim world, you must have an extremely low opinion of Muslims generally. As an alternative explanation, I have tried to show you that the way Muslims understand Qutb is different than the way you understand him. You have had none of that.

The summaries you have put on your posts indicate to all observers what you think about Qutb and the fact that you have basically made your mind up so there is little point of me trying to engage in any further discussion.

I ask God to bless and guide all of us. I also ask that He and you or anyone else who has read them forgive all my mistakes in my posts and any time in which people have felt personally offended or insulted by anything I have written.

Sayyid Qutb's reckoning is with his Creator. I know I am not qualified to defend Islaam and that God's religion is not in need of my or anyone else's defense. I have simply tried to share some things I have learned and thought with brother and sister humans. Where I have done that with any other motive than seeking the pleaure of our Lord, then I beg forgiveness for I am just one descended from Adam and Adam was made from dirt.

Peace to you Bill and your family. I hope that we can part company with some positive feelings between us.

Posted by: Abu Noor al-Irlandee at March 18, 2005 04:29 PM

I would like to throw out this thought and get some reponse.

I think that the great divergence in science between Europe and the rest of the world began with the invention of calculus by Newton and Leibnitz. This provided an extremely powerful tool for the analysis of the natural world, from describing planetary motion, optics, and so on.

Without calculus, you cannot really understand planetary motions, design columns, build complex machinery.

Without calculus we would have no Maxwell's equations, Einstein's work, quantum mechanics, space travel, among other developments.

Posted by: Harry at March 18, 2005 07:56 PM

Abu Noor,

With all due respect, how would you expect me to react to Qutb? Do you think I should say, "Well, he's a religious bigot, but a well read one," particularly when he is so obviously and atroctiously ignorant of and prejudiced against the West? Do you think I should applaud him when he suggests that as a non-Muslim, I am not fit to govern myself, and that Jihad against my country is perfectly legitimate and justified?

Should I applaud when Qutb argues that most Muslims are insufficiently Muslim?

You have fairly consistently said that Qutb has wide influence among most Muslims and that you are attempting to defend that Qutb. Frankly, you are the only Muslim I have ever encountered who has defended Qutb's thought, which can often be disgusting, small minded and hateful.

Do you think that valuing the products of cultures other than my own is an attitude foisted on me by World Jewry, for example? Aside from this contention being classically anti-Semitic, it's also, historically speaking, absolutely inaccurate. But I am supposed to concentrate on the good in Qutb, and ignore this?

I tend to think, unlike Qutb, that you can be Muslim and not believe that the Jews are the root of all evil in the world, and have been since the time of the Prophet. Maybe you would disagree with me, but if so, who is it who really has the low opinion of Muslims? Once again, you seem to be under the misimpression that there is no god but Qub, and that, by noting his failings, I am attacking not Qutb but all Muslims.

I also find it odd that you presume to speak for Muslims regarding Qutb. I don't pretend that my wife, for example, or any of the other Muslims I know can stand in for all Muslims or represent the view of all Muslims. I would point out that I am often asked by them why I'm wasting my time with this Qutbian rubbish when there are far more interesting and worthwhile things to read, whether it's H.P. Lovecraft's short stories or Tolkien or the economic writings of John Kenneth Galbraith. But my sample of Muslim opinion in this regard is statistically insignificant, as are you, only moreso. I'm surprised that you, a convert to Islam, believe you're so in synch with your co-religionists that you can speak for all of them.

But to return to your beloved Qutb, what good there is in his writing is not his, but rather its pilfered from Islam. To Islamic values, he adds his bitter narrow experience, his multiple hatreds of his fellow men whether they be American or African or European or Jew or Asian or Turk or Persian, his love for totalitarian regimes, his disgust for women and sex, his political, cultural, intellectual impotence and the prolonged rage that all these provoked in him...

What good should I find in him? That he opposed the corrupt dictatorship in Egypt? The same one that he enthusiastically welcomed, and only turned against when it became clear that his party, like others before it, would be excluded from power? That he favored nationalizing oil wealth? That's worked out well in every corrupt Middle Eastern autocracy, hasn't it? That he looked at women in offices or working as journalists or in embassies and saw nothing but whores? Do you honestly think these are attitudes I could find some good in? "In all fairness to Qutb, women who work really are nothing but tramps and sluts, and men like me who allow their wives to work are little more than pimps." That's what you expect from me?

So tell me what good there is in Qutb's political writings, beyond your insistence that he's the cat's meow in the Muslim world. Tell me how it is that saying that women who work are merely being exploited for sex is a useful thing. You can find a tremendous amount of serious reflections about the role of women, the family, the raising of children in the works of Alija Izetbegovic. There is nothing malicious or hateful in any of it. There are concrete ideas, worries, questions, suggestions, weighing of costs. Some women might disagree with Izetbegovic's preference for tradition, but few would argue that he is unable to put that aside in an honest attempt to wrestle with the challenges modernity poses to the family. Do you find anything of that sort in the piss poor excuse for a human being you so often identify with pure Islam?

So yes yes yes, Qutb has wonderful redeeming qualities -- he's only a third rate demagogue, for example. Sorry you don't care for my writing or me or my reaction to Qutb -- as I've said several times before, you're under no obligation to read a word I've written.

Posted by: Bill at March 19, 2005 12:19 AM

I've just run across a journal that--appallingly--I never before knew existed. Anyway, its most recent issue has an article that made me think of your Qutb work. The cite:

Wiktorowicz, Quintan. "A Geneaology of Radical Islam," Studies in Conflict & Terrorism; 28/2: 75-97

I think Routledge puts it out.

Posted by: Stygius at March 22, 2005 11:41 PM