The Ideological Roots of Radical Islam
On Saturday, 1 August 2015, the Wall Street Journal published an essay by Dr. Richard N. Haass on the Gulf War: “Desert Storm, the Last Classic War. Twenty-five years after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, the lessons of the Gulf War remain urgent, even in today’s chaotic Middle East”
After recounting the details of the discussions that took place at the White House and at Camp David, Dr. Haass described the steps that were taken to assemble a large U.S. Army in Saudi Arabia in preparation for launching Operation Desert Storm. He summed up his assessment of the war with these words:
“The Gulf War was a signal success of American foreign policy. It avoided what clearly would have been a terrible outcome—letting Saddam get away with a blatant act of territorial acquisition and perhaps come to dominate much of the Middle East. But it was a short-lived triumph, and it could neither usher in a “new world order,” as President Bush hoped, nor save the Middle East from itself.”
“The Last Classic War” was won quickly and decisively; unfortunately it did not lead to peace in the Middle East. The 2003 Invasion of Iraq, and the end of Saddam Hussein’s regime, ushered in the era of the “Unconventional Wars” that took place not only in the Middle East, but globally, such as the 9/11 attack on the US mainland, followed by attacks in Mumbai, India, London, Madrid, and West Africa. A growing list of terrorist organizations surfaced beside Al-Qaeda such as Boko Haram in Nigeria, Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria, and Da’esh (known also as ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq and Syria. These terrorist groups attracted “volunteers” from North America and Europe, adding to the complexity of the problem of war and peace in our globalized world.
Several theories on the origin and dynamism of these “unconventional Islamist wars” have been advanced by Western experts. Searching in my Arabic-language files, I came across the following article that connects the rise and multiplicity of terrorist organizations to their source the Muslim Brotherhood. Posted on 16 February, 2014, on the online Al-Awan, it carried the title: “The Muslim Brotherhood’s Fundamentalism as Expounded by Sayyid Qutb[i] in his book, “Signposts on the Road” (Ma’alim fil Tariq.)”
The following are excerpts from the article, followed by my analysis and comments.
“The Muslim Brotherhood was organized by Hassan al-Banna in 1928, [four years after the Caliphate was abolished by the Turkish strongman, Mustapha Kamal Ataturk.] To learn about the nature of their aggressive and exclusivist message, it is best to consult the writings of their ideologue, Sayyid Qutb. His major work, “Signposts” is replete with belligerent calls for armed Jihad. Qutb argues that Muslims must engage in militant struggle, the application of the stringent rules of punishments as prescribed by the Qur’an, and expounded in Sharia Laws. For him, Islam requires the continuation of the Futuhat (Conquests) by the invasion and occupation of other nation’s lands. Domestically, he called for the toppling of the “corrupt” regimes of the Arab world! In one of his pronouncements he declared ‘The land where Islam does not dominate, and Sharia does not have its sway lies within Daru’ Harb (House of War). It’s the duty of Muslims to wage war against it.’
“Sayyid Qutb rejects the very notion that Islam needs to change or reform; in his view genuine Islam is that of the ‘Founding Fathers.’ As he put it, ‘A Muslim society doesn’t consist of people who consider themselves as Muslims; as long as Islamic Sharia is not observed as the law of the land, the claim is null and void, even if Muslims did their daily prayers, fasted in Ramadan, and went on Pilgrimage to Mecca! A Muslim society must conform itself to what Allah has ordained, and what his Prophet has expounded.’” (Page 106)
Qutb’s book functions among his followers as Karl Marx’s Das Kapital did among Communists, and as Hitler’s Mein Kampf did among the Nazis; Signpost’s words are sacred, and must not be questioned. According to Qutb, the world at present is living in Jahiliyya;[ii] it has lost its way. He explains his thesis: “This Jahiliyya has rebelled against Allah’s sovereignty on earth; its governance is based on the thoughts of human beings making them as Lords similar to the era that had preceded the rise of Islam in Arabia! As a consequence of this rebellion against Allah, is the oppression of Allah’s people. Thus, Islam must be reborn, i.e. undergo a renaissance; this is the right time for it rebirth, as all the Western systems, ideologies, and values have failed to offer mankind the needed guidance.”
“In order to bring about the renaissance of Islam, Sayyid Qutb advocates the one and only way: Jihad. Violence must be met with violence. There is only one ‘Dar’ that is a legitimate world or realm, where Allah’s rule is in force. The rest of the world is ‘Daru’l Harb’ where the only relation between Muslims and non-Muslims can only be war, or Hudna (a momentary ceasefire).
“The only truly civilized society or culture is that of Islam; all others are backward societies, according to Qutb. Therefore, he rejects all aspects of modern civilization, since there can be only one Party that belongs to Allah; all other parties belong to Satan. ‘Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah, and those who disbelieve fight in the cause of Taghut. So fight against the allies of Satan. Indeed, the plot of Satan has ever been weak.’ Surat An-Nisā’ (The Women) – سورة النساء 4:76
“As for the organization of human society, Qutb accepts no other source save the Qur’an, and his own interpretation of the sacred text. This goes against the teachings of the Hadith which encouraged the pursuit of knowledge: ‘Utlub il ‘ilma wa law fis-Sin. The Prophet (s) said, ‘Seek knowledge even in China.’
“Qutb neglects to mention the activities of the early Muslims, especially during the 9th century A.D. when several foreign books were translated into Arabic. He doesn’t inform us what to do with our educational institutions, and how are we to convince our youth of the vanity of our sportive activities as well as of other aspects of modernity! Qutb was especially wary of philosophy and its incompatibility with the Islamic worldview. He was also suspicious of the study of the “pure” sciences, since it was at present a product of Western civilization, thus making its suspect as it does not share the Islam view of reality, and even s small amount of these sciences is capable of poisoning the pure Islamic source of knowledge.
“It’s clear by now that Qutb harbored a type of racism in claiming the superiority of Islam over the other theistic religions. He believed in the basic superiority of Islamic peoples over the rest of mankind. This attitude manifested itself when Qutb called for fighting against all other nations, simply because they were not followers of Islam, and forcing them to pay the Jizya tax, or embracing Islam
“Unfortunately, this was the ideology of Sayyid Qutb that he propagated during the middle of the past century without taking into account the actual political and civilizational situation and the status of the world powers that he seeks to fight and conquer!
“To sum up: It is important to point out that Sayyid Qutb, the theorist and ideologue of the Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimoon proved in his book, the complete similarity between the Brotherhood’s ideology and the Salafist ideology. Both are Fundamentalist, and violently Jihadist”
[i] Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966,) an Egyptian and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was a prominent Islamist (revivalist) figure whose career spanned the middle decades of the twentieth century. His thought, deeply influenced by Mawdudi’s revolutionary radicalism, falls into two distinct periods: before 1954, and from 1954 on during which he suffered imprisonment and torture in Nasser’s jails. Following the attempt on Nasser’s life in October, 1954, Nasser rounded up large numbers of the Muslim Brothers, including Qutb, and put an official ban on the organization.
[ii] Jahiliyya is a term used by Muslim historiographers to refer to the period that preceded the rise of Islam in Arabia. The Muslim Brotherhood applies the word to present-day Arab and Islamic regimes that do not walk in the “Right Path” of early Islam; therefore they cannot be regarded as truly Islamic!