Sayyid Qutb


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(d. 1966)

Egyptian literary critic, novelist, and poet who became an important Islamist thinker and activist. Brother of Muhammad Qutb. Believed that Islam is a timeless body of ideas and practices forming a comprehensive way of life, rendering nonadherence to Islamic law inexcusable. Interpreted Islam as a call to social commitment and activism. Initially believed that violence against the government was justified only in cases where the government used violence, but later taught that Muslims who are actively engaged in a dynamic community of faith are mandated to apply God's laws as revealed, as well as to replace any leaders who fail to do so. Regarded leaders of whom he disapproved and societies they governed to be living in a state of jahiliyyah (ignorance), which he perceived to have pervaded contemporary life throughout the Islamic world. Called for resistance by turning away from existing society and creating a model community, which would eventually establish a truly Islamic state. Acknowledged the economic and scientific achievements of American society but was appalled by its racism, sexual permissiveness, and support for Zionism in view of the violation of Palestinian rights. Said to have been a key liaison between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Free Officers, who overthrew the monarchy in 1952. Tried and executed in 1966 for calling for armed overthrow of the Egyptian state. His writings advocating revolutionary change are influential among both Sunni and Shii Islamists.

Subjects: Islam.

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