Comments: 5 Qutb II.

This is a perturbing question. Would Qutb knowingly lie if he knew it would increase his prestige and power, and advance a cause he thought was right?

I seem to remember reading somewhere that Muslim ethics do not condemn lying to non-Muslims, especially when the lie will advance the cause of Islam. Whether or not this is true in all cases, was Qutb operating under this principle? Would he be careful with his definition of "true Islam" to help him justify this?

Posted by steve h at January 10, 2005 04:50 PM

steve h,

At least for Sunnis (I can't comment on the Shi'a), it is not at all true that it is acceptable to lie to non-Muslims.

It is acceptable to lie or deceive during a war -- that is to engage in spying, etc. but as a general matter it is not at all acceptable.

More centrally to your question, I don't think any of Qutb's writings were directed to non-Muslims, so I don't see how it is relevant to his writings.

Which is to say, perhaps Qutb would have felt justified in lying to his torturers about whether he knew any other members of the Muslim brotherhood, but I assume that's not what you were talking about.

Posted by Abu Noor al-Irlandee at January 10, 2005 06:47 PM

The most troubling examples you cite to me are ones you do not quote. I do not say that you should quote them but I think you are talking about issues on which there is possible confusion between the belief of a pure monotheist and the belief of a genocidal maniac.

For example, a Muslim believes that Allaah is fully in control of everything. So for sure Allaah allowed the holocaust to happen for a reason just as Allaah allowed the Muslims to be slaughtered until the streets ran red during the Crusades or during the Mongol onslaught.

To say Hitler was a gift of Allaah is a stupid, offensive, ignorant, and morally reprehensible statement. To say that God allowed Hitler to do all that he did is a fact.

As I'm sure you can note, the same belief would follow that the despicable state of the Muslims in the world during Qutb's time and up to today is undoubtedly the decree of Allaah. It is the result of what the Muslims have wrought. God says explcitly in the Qur'an that he does not punish a people until they have first changed themselves. God says "Whoever finds good should thank God and whoever finds other than good should blame his own self". Now of course, the people who are killed by oppressors and tyrants like Hitler or like the Mongols may be martyrs who God wanted to bring to himself out of his extreme love and affection for them, but as a whole Islam undoubtedly says that in the long run people are responsible for their own condition and God is always just, and God is always in control.

These comments may be out of place, and I am not trying to defend Qutb. In truth they are more directed at the confusion amongst people I have observed in trying to understand the Muslim reaction to recent events like the tsunami. There seems to be a real problem with the secular mind grappling with the fact that Muslims really do believe such calamaties, whether they are caused by so called natural disasters, or by evil maniacs, are part of the signs and plan of God.

This is what the Qur'an says.

Just so there's no misunderstanding, this doesn't lessen Hitler's evil or Pharoah's evil or say they didn't have free will -- nor does it justify any slowness to fight against such oppression, in fact it mandates one to fight against it with everything they have.

Posted by Abu Noor al-Irlandee at January 10, 2005 06:59 PM

Abu Noor,

First of all, I'll provide as many quotes as you want -- I'd type the whole ugly essay into ideofact if it weren't for my worrying that I'd violate the rights of the translator or publisher and my fear that no matter how stridently I condemned it some anti-Semites would read it as a confirmation of their beliefs.

There are several passages from which I could quote; how about this one for starters:

Whenever the Children of Israel reverted to evil-doing in the Land, punishment awaited them. The Sunnah is resolute here: "If you return, then We return."

And the Jews did indeed return to evil-doing, so Allah gave to the Muslims power over them. The Muslims then expelled them from the whole of the Arabian Peninsula. ... Then the Jews again returned to evil-doing and consequently Allah sent against them others of His servants, until the modern period. Then Allah brought Hitler to rule over them. And once again today the Jews have returned to evil-doing, in the form of "Israel" which made the Arabs, the owners of the Land, taste of sorrows and woe. So let Allah bring down upon the Jews people who will mete out to them the worst kind of punishment, as a confirmation of his unequivocal promise: "If you return, then We return"; and in keeping with His Sunna, which does not vary.

Would you prefer an uglier quote, or does this sufficiently make the point?

Regarding the Tsunami, I'm sorry, but I think you're misinterpreting the reaction of we secular Westerners to the crackpot Imams. I would have no problem with someone saying that terrible as this is, this was God's will and it is not for us to question God, etc. etc. It's when they pretend that the Qur'an is a ouiji board good for catching every little nuance of intent behind God's awesome power that we little satans can't help snickering, laughing, or thinking to ourselves in disgust, "Get over yourself."

Posted by Bill at January 10, 2005 10:25 PM

Originally I decided that this discussion was not fruitful (I actually emailed you when the site was down earlier to ask you to delete my posts so they wouldn't be misunderstood).

Then when I read your recent post I began to think that you were really misunderstanding at least a part of what Qutb was saying in the quotes you provided so I composed a lengthy discourse going into this idea of what the "sunna" of God is with regard to different peoples and communities in the Qur'anic worldview.

I lost the post and I take this as a sign (at least for now) that I should just leave off the discussion). Maybe if we ever meet in person or if I get my own blog up and running I can try to explain what I think you and some of your readers are missing but it is probably not the best approach to try to do it in the comment format in the context of these writings by Qutb.

And God knows best.

Your brother,

Abu Noor

Posted by Abu Noor al-Irlandee at January 11, 2005 10:09 PM

Abu Noor,

I think I understand the definition of "Sunna" perfectly well, and I don't think it makes a dime's bit of difference.

But I'm happy to entertain any explanation you care to offer. If you want to define Sunna in such a way that can persuade me or my other readers that the above quoted passage is actually a wonderful affirmation of the creed (or whatever other label you'd care to give it) rather than a hateful bit of genocidal cheerleading, I'd be happy to read it.

Posted by Bill at January 12, 2005 01:35 AM