This essay concerns itself with exploring the Islamic and political orientation of Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966), an Egyptian civil servant turned political and religious activist, inspired by fundamentalist Islam. To gain an understanding of what influenced and formulated Qutb’s ideas it has been necessary to provide some background information relating the history of modern day Egypt and the emergence of reformist and fundamentalist Islam, from the 19th century until Qutb’s time. The essay also seeks to give some biographical information in order to provide a fuller picture of Qutb the man.
Qutb’s involvement with Egyptian religious politics caused him to come into conflict with the Nasser government of 1950s’ Egypt and Qutb spent a decade in prison. It was during this period he produced many of his seminal writings on the establishment of a truly Islamic society. By drawing on early Islamic thinkers and on direct interpretation of the Qur’an, Qutb advocated violence in establishing an Islamic state. The thinking behind and the implications of these interpretations are discussed at length in this essay to demonstrate how they have informed the belief of many Islamic fundamentalists, especially with regard to the use of violence to achieve their aims. The latter part of the essay focuses on the legacy of Qutb’s ideas and how these have been manifest in various fundamentalist groups. However, because academic literature is often a few paces behind the present it has not been possible to explore some recent developmenst of Islam inspired violence in any detail, namely the emergence of fundamentalist groups within the Muslim diaspora of the West.
The rise of fundamentalist Islam, especia...
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