Sayyid Qutb Brought Leninism To Contemporary Takfiri and Jihadi Groups
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Topics: Sayyid Qutb Lenin Leninism Revolution
In the compilation, "Islam and the West, Critical Perspectives on Modernity" (compiled by Michael Thompson), Omer Caha writes (pp. 44-45):
Radical and revolutionary Islam, which emerged as reactions to colonialism, were inspired more by socialist values than by liberal democratic values, and they formulated their principles in line with this outlook. It was common in the Islamic world until the 1980s to consider Islam as a source of ideology as well as a revolutionary ideology. It was particularly the Iranian revolution, which became and inspirational reference for Islamic movements at that time. In this period, Islam was taken by Muslim thinkers of Iranian origin as well as by those of North African origin, almost as a kind of state religion, a revolutionary ideology, and a theocratic political structure.
Such interpretations of Islam can be traced back, in the case of some North African countries, to the period between the second half of the nineteenth century and up to the first half of the twentieth century. At that point in time, Muslim countries began to suffer a long period of painful setback in the face of the incredible economic growth and development western countries were experiencing. Moreover, the colonial ambitions of western countries directly over Islamic territories evoked strong reactions from Muslim thinkers of North Africa who began to think in terms of Leninism. This explains a great deal about the distance, which Muslims began to feel toward liberalism, democracy, capitalism,and other similar systems and ideas.
The two key concepts these thinkers borrowed from Leninism were the "state" and "revolution". It was in their view, the state that symolized social justice, social unity, and the struggle against the West. Such a state could only be established through revolution, this being under the leadership of a pioneering group.
The works of Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian Islamic intellectual who was hanged by the Nasser regime in 1966, for instance, emphasize the role of a revolutionary group. Largely on account of his Leninist background, Qutb envisaged the establishment of an Islamic state by means of a revolution led by a specially trained group versed in Islamic values. The project towards the creation of such a group, indeed, can be seen as an attempt to replace Lenin's proletariat vanguards with their Muslim counterparts. For Qutb, the salvation of Muslims, as well as the entirety of humanity depended on an Islamic state that would represent a third way, i.e., an alternative to socialism and capitalism.
Although critical of socialism, many Islamic intellectuals, as in the case of Sayyid Qutb, operated on values that might be combined with a Leninist style of state socialism in some form through its emphasis on collective brotherhood, revolution, equality, salvation, a centralized state, anticapitalism, and antidemocracy amongst others.
Hence, both authoritarian regimes and Muslim intellectuals with a first-hand experience of colonial domination completely refused the West, and sought to set up alternative institutions, which were authoritarian in character. When realizing the traditional interpretations of Islam fell short of enabling the deployment of adequate means by which to resolve existing problems, they began to borrow concepts and perspectives from Russian socialism, which was anticapitalist and antiliberalist in character, to develop an Islamic myth as an alternative.
Thought the writer is writing from the perspective of explaining the lack of democracy, or opposition to democracy in the Muslim lands, his analysis of the origins of ideologies based upon the notions of "state" and "revolution" and borrowed from Russian Bolshevism are extremely accurate.
Phil Paine, a writer and independent scholar as he describes himself observes, after reading Milestones for the first time:
... The first thing one notices about Qutb's ideological thought is how little it has to do with traditions of Islam, or the needs of people in Islamic countries. It is profoundly European in inspiration, and it's chief models are Hitler, Marx and Lenin ... Lenin is by far the strongest influence.
Whole passages look like they were simply copied out from his works and then a pseudo-Islamic terminology inserted, "revolutionary vanguard" becoming "Islamic vanguard", and so on... As Marxist mumbo-jumbo justified the telling of any lie, the betrayal of any value, the commitment of any atrocity, in the name of an implacable destiny, so too, does Milestones...
... Qutb was by no means alone. In the 1920's and 1930's, the Muslim Brotherhood and other precursers of today's jihadist movement were profoundly influenced by Marxism and Nazism. Before WWII, Hitler was the greater influence, but with his defeat, Communism became the principal inspiration. In fact, Qutb himself was a delegate to the Communist International, its principle liaison with the Muslim Brotherhood. [R. R. Reilly, "The Roots of Islamist Ideology"]
... Qutb draws on the Asharite tradition, as well as on his Marxist and Nazi sources. But today's totalitarian Islamism is not an attempt to restore the glories of early Islam. Far from it --- it draws its inspiration from the deviations from classical Islam that destroyed those glories...
It is very interesting to see how individuals that are learned, well-read and well-versed can immediately recognize - after reading just a single book (Milestones) - the true and real origins of Qutb's ideology. The writer also had the knowledge and understanding to recognize Qutb's Asharite leanings. So much for those ignoramus journalists and half-boiled writers linking Qutb to Salafiyyah.
Ladan and Roya Boroumand wrote in an article titled "Terror, Islam and Democracy", Journal of Democracy 13.2 (2002) 5-20:
Like Mawdudi and various Western totalitarians, he [Qutb] identified his own society (in his case, contemporary Muslim polities) as among the enemies that a virtuous, ideologically self-conscious, vanguard minority would have to fight by any means necessary, including violent revolution, so that a new and perfectly just society might arise. His ideal society was a classless one where the "selfish individual" of liberal democracies would be banished and the "exploitation of man by man" would be abolished. God alone would govern it through the implementation of Islamic law (shari'a). This was Leninism in Islamist dress.
Contemporary members of the Muslim Brotherhood acknowledge that Qutb was influenced by Leninist revolutionary methodology. Ibrahim al-Houdaiby writes in an article "Four Decades After Sayyid Qutb's Execution" (bold emphasis is ours):
In "Milestones" Qutb presents a manifesto for change, one heavily influenced by Lenin's "What is to be done," with the clear Islamization of its basic notions. He argued that society was suffering from "jahiliyya" (a state of ignorance which preceded the revelation of Islam) and that consequently, there is no room for middle ground between Islamists and their societies.
Paul Berman writes in an article published in the New York Times, 23rd March 2003:
The few had to gather themselves together into what Qutb in "Milestones" called a vanguard - a term that he must have borrowed from Lenin ...
In "Sayyid Qutb: The Father of Al-Qaida", published in the Independent in August 2006, Daniel Martin quotes from Lawrence Wright observing about the book "Milestones":
...Its ringing apocalyptic tone may be compared with Rousseau's Social Contract and Lenin's What Is to Be Done? - with similar bloody consequences.
Rod Dreher writes in the Dallas Morning News (27th August 2006):
What is to be done? Lenin famously asked about Czarist Russia. Qutb's answer to the same question about the West was, in part, "Milestones," a Leninist-style tract advocating worldwide Islamic revolution.
As we have noted in a previous article that:
The esteemed scholar, Rabee' bin Haadee al-Madkhalee, who has authored numerous works in refutation of the heresies and extremism of the father of all modern takfiri groups, pointed out in 1995 Qutb's exposition of elements of Communist ideology as well as his Leninist revolutionary activities.
Secondly: This tashree (legislation) that Sayyid Qutb ascribes to Islaam (referring here to some aspects of socialism-marxism related to confiscation of wealth from the rich for redistribution amongst the poor that Qutb permitted), he borrowed them from the Communist and Western principles (mabaadi) and theorems (nadhariyyaat) which had become widespread in his lifetime. In fact he himself used to imbibe (such principles and theorems) and they remained settled in his soul and in his intellect at the time when he would write in the name of Islaam. Especially when he mounted the peak of the Nasserite Taaghootee revolution which in its application, centered around Socialism, based upon the theorem of Sayyid Qutb and his likes, those who had mixed Marxist Socialism with the garment of Islaam, and by which Islaam and the Muslims were pounded.
And in the footnote, the Shaikh adds to this:
And the Free Officers, at the head of them, Jamaal Abd an-Nasser, used to be students, learning from the books of Sayyid Qutb, and he (Qutb) used to partner with them in plotting the revolution. Refer to the book "Sayyid Qutb min al-Meelaad Ilaa Istish.haad" (p.299-304) and before these pages, and also the book "Sayyid Qutb al-Adeeb an-Naaqid" (p.105-107)."
Sayyid Qutb based his ideologies on his own Socialist, Marxist, Leninist background. He had already been involved in one Leninist-style revolution when he along with Nasser and the Free Officers plotted the revolution by which Nasser came into power - though he and Nasser later fell out.
The fact that Sayyid Qutb was heavily influenced by Marxist Socialism and Leninism is being firmly established as more and more academic studies are conducted looking at the evolution of Qutb's writings and ideologies in the background of the changing social, economical and political landscapes in the time that Qutb lived (early to mid 20th century).
As all contemporary takfiri and jihadi groups who promote revolution as a means of reform have inevitably taken their methodologies from Sayyid Qutb, they can rightly be called Leninist-Kharijites, as the true intellectual basis of their ideologies and methodologies has been thoroughly exposed. Leninism. Qutb could not find the revolution he envisaged in the Qur'an, or the Sunnah or from any of the Orthodox Muslim scholars.
In fact the above author has shrewdly pointed this out:
When realizing the traditional interpretations of Islam fell short of enabling the deployment of adequate means by which to resolve existing problems, they began to borrow concepts and perspectives from Russian socialism...
So he took it from Lenin, and then tried to quote from historical and prominent scholars such as Ibn Taymiyyah to argue for aspects of his methodology. As we will show in future articles, Qutb's use of Ibn Taymiyyah to argue for his Leninist methodology is false.
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