Before September 11, 2001, very few Americans were aware of the book Milestones or its author, Sayyid Qutb. Islamists, on the other hand, consider this work a manifesto for the fundamentalist movement, and its author, Sayyid Qutb, the most influential Muslim ideologue of the last half of the 20th century. This paper will look at the background of Qutb and present a critical analysis of his work, Milestones. It will argue that Qutb’s ideology is internally inconsistent. It will identify numerous major inconsistencies found in Milestones. For example, while Qutb calls for Islamic leadership, he insists that anyone who exercises authority over men is usurping God’s role. He also insists that men have complete religious freedom while advocating the destruction of all jahili groups. This paper will begin with a chronological background, while the critical analysis of the work will proceed in the order in which the work was written.
The author of Milestones, Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian novelist and literature teacher, was born in 1906 in the village of Musha, township of Qaha, in the province of Assyout in Southern Egypt (El-Kadi 1). His parents were highly religious and sent him to a religious school in his village. He was a good student, industrious, and eager to acquire knowledge, a trait that persisted throughout his life. By the time he was ten years old he had already memorized the entire text of the Qur’an. Qutb transferred to a government school and graduated in 1918. In 1920 he moved to Cairo to continue his schooling, where he received a Western-style education attending college at Dar al-Ulum University. It was there that he met Hasan al-Banna, who founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, an organization that would become an important influence later in his life (Amis 3, Berman 2, Loboda 1, Irwin 1).