Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Seyyid Qutb on Jihad and Takfiir

Well, I am now in chapter 4 entitled "Jihad in the Cause of God." It is easy to see why this guy is said to be a great inspiration for Al Qaeda and other groups which use violence. One of the things that surprised me is just how unapologetic he is about jihad NOT being about defense:

...these defeatist-type people try to mix the two aspects and want to confine jihaad to what is today called 'defensive war'. The Islamic Jihaad has no relation to modern warfare, either in its causes or in the way it conducted.

He chalks it up to a bunch of pseudo-Muslim scholars and orientalistis--this terrible plot to redefine Islamic jihad to deprive it of such an important element and tool.

He also begins to touch on takfiir, which is an important aspect of the spirituality of al qaeda type gorups today. The doctrine is that anyone who is no following true Islam, even if they say they are a Muslim, are not. Such a person practicing an incomplete or incorrect Islam is a hypocrite and an apostate, and apostates should be killed. Thus the taking of the lives of all those fake Muslims (ie, the government of KSA, American and British soldiers who are Muslims, Iraqi police officers, etc.) is not a violation at all of the command to not kill Muslims. They are all unbelievers, they are mukaffariin, excommunicated ones, by their own incomplete allegiance to God and his law.

Anyway, Qutb is quite clear on the question of violence, and it boils down to this: it is lawful and obligatory to use violence to overturn all form of government that are not truly Islamic (by his standards), which means probably every government in the world today.

Good reading: Sayyid Qutb and Milestones

Milestones by Qutb is one of the key texts in understanding the recent rise of puritanical (and sometimes violent) movements within Islam.

I read the first chapter today and a few things caught my attention:

His view of the first generation of Islam is totally unrealistic. After the death of Muhammad tons of Muslims left (or tried to leave) Islam, and it was only after being 'convinced' (beaten in battle) that they came back to the fold.

I found his extensive concern with the scientific and military power of the West interesting. He says basically that the Muslim world won't catch up, so it has to offer something of a totally different category. For him that is the life-giving values of Islam. (And genuine freedom, but that's for another post.)

He also reminds me a little of Jospeh Smith with his ridiculous "the church disappeared from 100 AD through 1840 or so" thing. Qutb actually does not say that Islam has been polluted. He says that it has disappeared. It's not that the Ummah needs to be reformed. It's just gone. Pretty strong medicine.

So what is the project? To purify a community which will drink only from the clear streams of the Qur'an (and nothing else) and form a vanguard (how European of him!) that will demonstrate in some Muslim country the glory of Islam. And when people see this community with its blessings and live-giving properties, they will adopt the same kind of life style.

"...the beauty of this new system cannot be appreciated unless it takes a concrete form. [...] In order to bring this about, we need to initiate the movement of Islamic revival in some Islamic country." (p 11)