Article

Sayyid Qutb

William Shepard

in Islamic Studies

ISBN: 9780195390155
Published online February 2010 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0072
Sayyid Qutb

Show Summary Details

Preview

Sayyid Qutb (1906–1966) (sometimes spelled Sayed and Qutub or Kotb) was one of the leading Islamist ideologues of the 20th century. For the first half of his adult life he was part of the secular literary movement in Egypt as a poet, literary critic, and social critic. He also worked in the Ministry of Education. In 1948 he adopted an Islamist position, reflected especially in his book Social Justice in Islam (see Sayyid Qutb’s Writings). Two years spent studying in the United States (1948–1950) confirmed and strengthened his view of America as technologically great but morally bankrupt. Some time after his return Qutb joined the Muslim Brothers, the leading Islamist movement in Egypt, and became one of its spokespeople. In 1954 he was imprisoned along with other members of the Muslim Brothers and remained in prison for ten years. Qutb was allowed to write, however, and his writings from prison became increasingly radical and even revolutionary, claiming that all so-called Muslim societies were anti-Islamic (jahili). It is generally held that the harsh treatment he and others suffered in prison was a major factor in this development. Qutb was released in 1964 but rearrested the following year and accused of conspiring against the government. He was convicted and executed in 1966, becoming a martyr in the eyes of many. Probably his most important and long-lasting work is his multivolume Qurʿan commentary, begun in 1952, In the Shade of the Qurʿan (see Sayyid Qutb’s Writings), parts of which reflect his radical views. His most influential radical work, published in 1964, was Milestones—sometimes translated as Signposts (see Sayyid Qutb’s Writings). His later works have been widely read and have helped inspire several violent radical groups in Egypt and elsewhere, including al-Qaeda, though whether al-Qaeda’s sort of violence was his intent is a matter of debate. Many of the details of Qutb’s life and writing, such as when he joined the Muslim Brothers, are uncertain and also subject to debate.

Article.  3914 words. 

Subjects: Islam

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.