Milestones: A Critical Analysis

Christopher Hurtado —  November 13, 2009
Milestones: A Critical Analysis | Christopher Hurtado

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).

Qutb began his career as a teacher in the Ministry of Public Education in 1933. From 1939 through 1952, he worked as an inspector of schools at the Egyptian Ministry of Education under the regime of King Farouk. It was during this time that he began to publish literary criticism. He also published a poorly received novel and short stories. However, his work, Literary Criticism: Its Principles and Methodology, written during this period, was very well received. According to Hamid Algar of the University of California at Berkeley who translated the work into English, it was a “Western-tinged outlook on cultural and literary questions” (Hamid Algar as quoted by Paul Berman 2).

It was also during this early period in Cairo that he became aware of the contrast between his early Islamic training and the practices that he observed in the city. Coming to a teeming urban area from a small provincial village where he was immersed in religious training must have been somewhat of a shock to him. Most abhorrent to him seemed to be the level of freedom that the women of Cairo enjoyed. His writings clearly show that he was very uncomfortable with female sexuality on display. He writes disapprovingly of women with “thirsty lips, bulging breasts, smooth legs” and “the calling eye, the provocative laugh” (quoted in Amis 4). In an early short story entitled “Thorns,” he relates his first disappointment in affairs of the heart. He later wrote that he never married because he was unable to find a woman of sufficient “moral purity and discretion” (quoted in Amis 3).

When he was 43, the Egyptian Ministry of Education sent Qutb to America, where he worked toward a master’s degree in education at the Colorado State College of Education (now University of Northern Colorado) in Greeley, Colorado. During the two years he spent in America (1948-1950), he found much to condemn. He found America “materialistic, mechanistic, trivial, idolatrous, wanton, depraved” (Amis 4). He went to a church dance in Greeley and wrote, “The dance is inflamed by the notes of the gramophone … the dance-hall [sic] becomes a whirl of heels and thighs, arms enfold hips, lips and breasts meet, and the air is full of lust” (Quoted in Amis 4).

Many researchers who have written on Qutb agree that his visit to America between 1948 and 1950 radicalized him. However, Paul Berman disagrees. In his work on Qutb, Berman states that Qutb’s book Social Justice in Islam, initially published in 1948 before his visit to America, demonstrated that he was already “well set in his Islamic fundamentalism” (2). Amis seems to agree with Berman, and asserts that it was working at the Ministry of Education that “radicalized him” (Amis 3). According to Amis, “He felt oppressed by the vestiges of the British protectorate in Egypt, and was alarmist about the growing weight of the Jewish presence in Palestine – another British crime, in Sayyid’s view” (Amis 3). These were the concerns that drew him into radical circles and caused him to risk imprisonment under King Farouk. Instead, the Ministry of Education sent him to America.

Qutb came back from America and resumed his job at the Ministry, but because of “repeated philosophical disagreements” with many of those with whom he worked, including the minister of education, he resigned in 1952. He also joined the Muslim Brotherhood shortly after his return from America and became the chief editor of the Brotherhood’s newspaper, Ikhwan (El-Kadi 1-2). It was during this time that he concentrated on the problem of living in a world devoid of values and denounced a world steeped in jahiliyyah, (the state the world was in before the advent of Islam, i.e. pagan ignorance of divine guidance). Asserting that the whole world, including the Muslim world, was in jahiliyyah due to rebellion against God’s sovereignty, he argued for a revival of Islam and the return of society based on Qur’anic principles. According to Barry Rubin, Qutb was not the first Muslim thinker to urge a return to “religious fundamentals,” but he was “the first thinker who paired them to a radical, sociopolitical ideology” (Rubin 14). He became, in Berman’s words, “Islamism’s principal theoretician in the Arab world” (2).

During the early 1950s, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Pan-Arabists under Gamal Abdel Nasser and a group of nationalist army officers cooperated to overthrow the Egyptian monarchy. Both groups sought to rescue the Arab world from the grip of European colonialism, to destroy Zionism and the newly installed Jewish state, and to fashion a modern version of the ancient Islamic caliphate. They succeeded in overthrowing the King in 1952 and in creating a new government headed by Nasser (Berman 2-3). The differences between the two groups became more apparent after Nasser came to power. While Qutb and the Brotherhood envisioned an Islamic state in which the sharia, the legal code of the Qur’an, was strictly enforced; Nasser and the Pan-Arabists envisioned a united Arab people going forth to conquer the world as did the Arabs of the seventh century. According to Berman (3), “The most radical of the Pan-Arabists openly admired the Nazis and pictured their proposed new caliphate as a racial victory of the Arabs over all other ethnic groups.” In 1954, when someone tried to assassinate Nasser, the Brotherhood was blamed, and a number of leaders in the Brotherhood were jailed, including Sayyid Qutb (Loboda 2, Berman 2).

While in prison, Qutb was tortured and forced to listen to tape recordings of Nasser’s speeches broadcast twenty hours a day; he witnessed first hand the oppressive nature of Nasser’s regime (Berman 3). During his ten years of imprisonment, he turned out an amazing volume of work, including his thirty-volume commentary on the Qur’an entitled In the Shade of the Qur’an. The work under analysis, Milestones, was made up partly of excerpts from In the Shade of the Qur’an and of letters written from prison that were compiled and published after his release in 1964 (Loboda 2). He was again arrested after the publication of Milestones and sentenced to death for conspiracy against President Abdul Nasser. Excerpts from Milestones were cited at his trial as proof of his conspiracy. Nasser banned the book, and on August 29, 1966, Qutb was executed by hanging (El-Kadi 2).

Following Qutb’s death, Milestones took on a life of its own. Nasser had banned the book because he saw it as a call for Muslims to overthrow secular Arab regimes such as his own. However, many Muslims viewed Qutb as a martyr who gave his life for Islam. Students secretly made copies of Milestones by hand and distributed them. His message of a politicized Islam influenced numerous Islamic leaders including the Ayatollah Khomeini (Loboda 2).

Qutb insisted that Islam practiced strictly according to the Qur’an was the only way of life worthy of man. He viewed the Western philosophy of separation of church and state as heretical. Islam as a theory would not do for Qutb. Even Islam in private practice was not good enough. In his analysis, Islam was a religious, social, and political institution. It was a way of life. Many accused Qutb of politicizing Islam, but he identified Islam as inherently political and the subjugation of it to secular authority as a deep perversion of God’s revealed religion.

The views expressed by Qutb in Milestones were shaped by numerous influences in his life. Once a prominent member of the Muslim Brotherhood which helped the Free Officers bring Nasser to power, then imprisoned and tortured along with his Muslim Brothers by Nasser, Qutb must have felt betrayed and must have deeply resented Nasser. He observed first hand the brutal reality of what hunger for power and corruption can do even to those he termed ‘so-called Muslims.’

Qutb argued for the restoration of God’s sovereignty on earth and the freedom of men from servitude to other men. He taught that any belief system or system of government that left final decisions up to man rather than have them be decided by God’s law was usurping God’s sovereignty. He equated any form of authority exercised by man over other men as polytheism because it ascribed Godly attributes to man.

Qutb portrayed a past embodiment of Islam not supported by historical analysis. He maintained a Utopian view of the expansionary period of early Islam and viewed the caliphate itself as godly. He argued that Muslim warriors of that period sought not for glory or gain, but for God’s sovereignty alone. What he did not recognize is that the spoils of war that financed Islamic expansion also compensated these warriors and increased the caliphate in wealth and sovereignty over other men.

Qutb’s influence as the father of modern Islamic fundamentalism is vast. One of his biographers has called him “the most famous personality of the Muslim world in the second half of the 20th century” (as quoted by Irwin 1). His Qur’anic commentary, In the Shade of the Qur’an, continues to be the most widely read Qur’anic commentary today. The list of those who have been influenced by his writings is long and includes numerous Muslim leaders around the world, among them the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and, of most interest since 9/11, Saudi exile Osama Bin Laden. Radical Islamic fundamentalists who profess to espouse his teachings and who commit violence in the name of Islamic jihad have cited his writings extensively. To the chagrin of mainstream Muslims, these perpetrators of violence have attempted to excuse themselves on the basis of the legitimacy of their interpretation of Qutb.

Qutb’s target audience was what he termed “the vanguard,” Muslims who would strictly live the laws of the Qur’an and wage jihad against jahiliyyah institutions and governments in order to bring about a Utopian society in which all men would be free from subservience to other men – free to serve God alone. Since Qutb compiled Milestones from letters he wrote from prison and from excerpts from In the Shade of the Qur’an, and announced that the coming forth of this vanguard was imminent, it is possible that he may have known exactly who would make up this group. However, any Muslim who supported Qutb’s interpretation of the Qur’an, and acted according to the directions he gave, would, in so doing, self-qualify as a member of this vanguard.

Qutb identified three main opponents to his philosophy: the enemies of the believers, “so-called believers,” and jahili systems in general. Each of these categories is broad. The first, the enemies of the believers, are all pagans or polytheists – in other words, anyone who failed to recognize and worship none other than the one true God. The second category, the “so-called believers” are all those who profess to be monotheists, but who in fact submit to authority other than God’s – namely the authority of man. Here Qutb is extending the realm of jahiliyyah to include most Muslims. Finally, the most generally defined opponent of Qutb’s philosophy is any system or theory based on anything other than God’s sovereignty.

Qutb’s introduction to Milestones opens with a stern warning: “Humankind today stands on the brink of the abyss … because it is bankrupt in terms of moral values that can nurture and shelter human life and guide it down the right path.” (Qutb 5). Qutb tells us this is due to a lack of guiding values, a fact of which even the West is well aware, then calls for new leadership on behalf of mankind. Because Qutb believes that Islam is the only correct way of life, the new leadership would have to be Islamists who live strictly according to the sharia. His call for leadership is his first inconsistency since, later in Milestones, he denounces all forms of government, including theocracy.

Qutb then shifts his focus from the decline of Western leadership to what he sees as Islam’s role. But before he tells us what that role is, he points out that it cannot be fulfilled due to its lack of “concrete form.” He explains, “man does not listen . . . to an abstract theory which is not seen materialized in a living society” (as quoted in Bergesen 35). For Qutb, the Muslim community has been “extinct for a few centuries,” having “vanished at the moment the laws of God became suspended on earth” (as quoted in Bergesen 35). In other words, until Muslims begin to strictly observe the laws of God, they will not be ready for that leadership role. The role of Islam cannot be played out until Islam is actualized.

Qutb explains, “if Islam is again to play the role of leader of mankind . . . the Muslim community must be restored to its original form” (as quoted in Bergesen 35). Islam must purify itself by strictly observing the laws of the Qur’an and working to destroy those ideas, institutions, and practices that hinder man from complete freedom to live all the laws of God.

Qutb acknowledges that the struggle will be long and hard. It is not a revolt that he speaks of, but a slow, gradual revolution. He is aware that “between the attempt at ‘revival’ and the attainment of ‘leadership’ there is a great distance” (as quoted in Bergesen 35). Since the disappearance of the Muslim community long ago, Europe has taken the lead and made much progress, partially because of the advances in technology that drove that progress. He appears to approve of the scientific advances and the technology that fueled it and notes its absence in the Islamic world. This admiration of technological advances suggests that in looking backward toward the golden age of Islam, he is not suggesting that Islam should go back to the Dark Ages in terms of technology, but that technology can and should be incorporated into a modern Islamic state, as it was then, for the benefit of those that serve God.

The most important question Qutb addresses is how to begin the task of reviving Islam and how to proceed. He calls for a “vanguard” to undertake this task while “marching through the vast ocean of jahiliyyah which has encompassed the entire world” (as quoted in Bergesen 35). He reveals that he has written Milestones specifically for that vanguard, to point out the “landmarks and milestones of the road toward this goal so that [they] may recognize the starting place, the nature, the responsibilities and the ultimate purpose of this long journey” (as quoted in Bergesen 36). Qutb adds that he considers this vanguard “a waiting reality about to be materialized” (as quoted in Bergesen 36). His revelation of the imminent appearance of this vanguard leads one to wonder if he already had a specific group or specific individuals in mind for this struggle, perhaps the Muslim Brotherhood.

Qutb explains that Muhammad was the last in a chain of prophets issuing an invitation toward God. Specifically, “that human beings should recognise that their true Sustainer and Lord is One God, that they should submit to Him Alone, and that the lordship of man be eliminated” (as quoted in Bergesen 36). This is a paradoxical statement, for, according to Qutb, anyone in a leadership position exercises authority over other men and once they are in a position of authority, they are acting as God, usurping his role. The big question that hangs over all of Qutb’s work is, who is to decide? Who will make the decisions that are necessary to create the movement and forward it? The answer is unclear in Milestones.

Qutb believes that for the most part, mankind as a whole has not denied God and His sovereignty, but rather erred either in not comprehending His attributes or in associating other gods with Him. This association, he explains, is twofold: “either in belief and worship, or in accepting the sovereignty of others besides God” (as quoted in Bergesen 36). Either one of these options is shirk, or polytheism. This suggests that he believes that all that is needed is for the majority of humankind to be educated in the truth. According to Qutb, each time the people have regressed to a state of jahiliyyah, God has sent a prophet to bring them back. The people then followed God’s religion until, generations later, shirk led them back to jahiliyyah. And yet, Qutb insists that Muhammad was the last of the prophets. Has God changed? He claims that man, including the Muslim community, is now in a state of jahilliyah and he claims that, in the past, whenever manking has reverted to that state, God has always sent a prophet to bring it back to Islam. If the majority of Muslims are in a state of jahiliyyah as Qutb claims, and if God never changes, then God would send another prophet at this time.

Qutb stresses that it is necessary for Islam to move from theory to practice through an organized, active group. But this group must separate itself from jahili society, which he warns is active and organized to block Islam. According to Qutb, if this movement is to overtake the jahiliyyah that “prevails over ideas and beliefs, and which has a practical system of life and a political and material authority behind it” (as quoted in Bergesen 36), the Islamic movement must counter by using preaching and persuasion for reforming ideas and beliefs, and physical power and jihad to put an end to “organizations and authorities of the jahili system which prevents people from reforming their ideas and beliefs but forces them to obey their erroneous ways and make them serve human lords instead of the Almighty Lord” (as quoted in Bergesen 36). He seems to be calling for the vanguard to physically remove themselves from the cities with their governments and civil authorities in order to live God’s laws and prepare themselves to lead the struggle against jahiliyyah. One cannot help but think of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Just as this movement isn’t confined to preaching alone in the face of physical power, neither does it compel people to change their ideas. Qutb explains its purpose as one of freeing those who wish to be freed from enslavement to men in order that they might serve God alone. He insists that Islam doesn’t force its beliefs on people, but that its goal is to create an environment in which people are free to choose their own beliefs. Islam’s goal is to eliminate the oppression of political systems that prevent people from choosing their own belief system and then to allow them complete freedom in deciding whether or not to accept Islam. Qutb wants people to be free of the forces that seem to prevent them from hearing the word of God and making a choice. Therefore, those forces, or what he identifies as oppressive political systems, need to be eliminated. Here is the conundrum, another major inconsistency. How are they to be eliminated? Who will decide? Who will decide what systems prevent people from freely making a choice? What if they don’t choose Islam? If they don’t choose Islam are they not then part of the jahili system that the vanguard is duty-bound to destroy? How free, then, is their choice in rejecting the message of Islam? Again, the answer is not clear in Milestones.

While Qutb proclaims that Islamic jihad has “no relationship to modern warfare, either in its causes or in the way in which it is conducted” (as quoted in Bergesen 37), he also calls for the destruction of jahili governments, institutions, and organizations. If modern warfare is out, how then does Qutb propose to attack and annihilate modern governments and organizations? How do you take power away from a tyrant without being militant? This appears to be the question Al Qaeda has repeatedly answered with violence. His next statement, “The causes of Islamic jihad should be sought in the very nature of Islam and its role in the world, which have been given to it by God and for the implementation of which God appointed the Prophet” (as quoted in Bergesen 37), suggests that Qutb’s definition of jihad is, for him, Islam in action.

Qutb emphasizes that Islam must combat any system that usurps God’s sovereignty by giving man power over other men, which Qutb defines as “any system in which the final decisions are referred to human beings, and in which the sources of all authority are human” (as quoted in Bergesen 37). This, he says, deifies man by making him lord over other men. This seems to be a statement promoting Islamic anarchy. And it again brings up the question, how can one organize a society without someone making decisions for it? Even if the question is referred to the Qur’an, who is to interpret it?

It is not clear how Qutb proposes to reestablish God’s sovereignty on earth and enforce His laws. He rejects priestly or theocratic rule but calls for God’s laws to be enforced and for final decisions to be left up to His laws. He does recognize, however, that taking God’s sovereignty back from the usurper cannot be achieved by preaching alone, as those who have usurped God’s authority and who are oppressing man will not easily give up that authority.

Qutb emphasizes the universal nature of Islam’s declaration of freedom by pointing out that it is not just for Arabs but for all of mankind. He explains that God is the sustainer of them all and that Islam wants to free them from servitude and bring them back to Him. Qutb defines servitude as “following laws devised by someone, and this is that servitude which in Islam is reserved for God alone.” He adds, “anyone who serves someone other than God in this sense is outside God’s religion, although he may claim to profess this religion” (as quoted in Bergesen 37). This appears to be a basic declaration that everyone, with the possible exception of himself and maybe a handful of those he identifies as the vanguard, is in a state of jahiliyyah.

Qutb describes “jihad bis saif (striving through fighting) (as quoted in Bergesen 37) as clearing the way for striving by preaching. Here, Qutb explains that Islam is not a defensive movement, unless by defense we mean defending man’s freedom against “beliefs, concepts, as well as political systems, based on economic, racial or class distinctions,” which filled the world before the advent of Islam and which abound in the “present-day jahiliyyah” (as quoted in Bergesen 38).

Qutb’s insistence that Islam “has no recourse but to remove [the above- mentioned obstacles and practical difficulties] by force so that when it is addressed to peoples’ hearts and minds they are free to accept or reject it with an open mind,” (as quoted in Bergesen 38) makes one wonder what kind of force will be used since he has already eliminated the use of military force. Also, who decides whom to remove by force, and when? Does this not call for men to make decisions for other men? Is this not sovereignty of man over man?

Qutb tells us that the Qur’anic verse that gives Muslims permission to fight also states that, according to God’s law, one people should be checked by another: “Permission to fight is given to those who do so because they have been wronged . . . who have been wrongfully evicted from their homes for no reason other than their testimony that Allah is their Lord…” (22:39-40). This sounds like defensive war. The verse continues, “Had God not checked one people by another, then surely synagogues and churches and mosques would have been pulled down, where the name of God is remembered often” (Quoted in Bergesen 39). Again, this seems defensive. Also, one people checking another seems inconsistent with Qutb’s insistence that God, not man, have sovereignty over man.

Qutb explains that “the usurpers of God’s authority” have struck out at Islam each time it has made its “universal declaration of God’s Lordship” and freedom of men from servitude to other men, making it necessary for Islam to strike back, in order to release man from their grip. Qutb seems to be declaring that it is the duty of Muslims to strike back in defense of God’s authority. Each time Islam has attempted to purge itself of jahiliyyah, it has been blocked. The question that remains unanswered, however, is how they are to strike.

Qutb interprets the above quoted verse as giving the following reasons for jihad: “to establish God’s authority in the earth; to arrange human affairs according to the true guidance provided by God; to abolish all the Satanic forces and Satanic systems of life; to end the lordship of one man over others” (as quoted in Bergesen 39). He then reminds us again that there is no compulsion in religion and that “once the people are free from the lordship of men, the law governing civil affairs will be purely that of God, while no one will be forced to change his beliefs and accept Islam” (as quoted in Bergesen 39). However, Qutb also insists that Islam has the “right to remove all those obstacles which are in its path so that it may address human reason and intuition with no interference and opposition from political systems” (as quoted in Bergesen 40). Qutb’s concept of an Islamic Utopian society in which only God governs civil affairs is replete with contradiction, especially the impossibility of its implementation.

Qutb concludes that all so-called “Muslim societies” in existence are also jahili societies. He classifies them as such not because they believe in or worship other deities other than God, but because their way of life is not based on submission to God alone. He says they believe in the unity of God, but “have relegated the legislative attribute of God to others and submit to this authority, and from this authority they derive their systems, their traditions and customs, their laws, their values and standards, and almost every practice of life” (as quoted in Bergesen 40). Who then would govern? How is government possible without a leader?

Qutb cites the Qur’an in defining Islam: “No, by your Sustainer, they have not believed until they make you the arbiter of their disputes, and then do not find any grievance against your decision but submit with full submission” (4:65). For Qutb, only this is Islam, or Dar al-Islam (the abode of Islam). It isn’t a place, a race, a lineage, a tribe, or a family. Qutb adds that the homeland of a Muslim is not a physical place, his nationality is not determined by a government, his flag is not the flag of a country, and his victory is not a military one.

Striving, according to Qutb, is not for spoils or fame, honor or country, but “for the sake of God, for the success of His religion and His law, for the protection of Dar-ul-Islam . . . and for no other purpose” (as quoted in Bergesen 41). He adds that the honor of martyrdom belongs only to those who are killed fighting in the cause of God.

Qutb argues that the only sense of fatherland worthy of man is a place dominated by Islamic faith, an Islamic way of life, and the sharia of God. He adds that “grouping according to family and tribe and nation, and race and color and country, are residues of the primitive state of man” (as quoted in Bergesen 41), jahili groupings against which man’s spirit should revolt, according to the Prophet.

Qutb states that the struggle between the believers and their enemies is a struggle of belief, not a political, economic, or racial struggle, “a struggle between beliefs – either unbelief or faith, either jahiliyyah or Islam” (as quoted in Bergesen 41). Qutb insists that couching the struggle in terms of economics, politics, or race is a tactic used by the enemies of the believers to confuse them “so that the Believers become confused concerning the true nature of the struggle and the flame of belief in their hearts becomes extinguished” (as quoted in Bergesen 41). He argues that this is a trick intended “to deprive them of their weapon of true victory . . . which can take any form . . . – as a consequence of the freedom of spirit – as happened in the case of the first generation of Muslims” (as quoted in Bergesen 41). He cites as an example of this deception the attempt by Christendom to turn the Crusades into imperialism. But, according to Qutb, “latter-day imperialism is but a mask for the crusading spirit, since it is not possible for it to appear in its true form, as it was possible in the Middle Ages” (as quoted in Bergesen 42).

After 9/11 Western writers began to identify Sayyid Qutb as the father of the militant fundamentalist movement and Milestones as the manifesto that inspired Osama Bin Laden. Qutb’s work is also thought to have inspired the Taliban in Afghanistan and other militant movements across the Arab world. Qutb believes that most individuals would accept Islam if they were free from the political systems that prevent them from learning about the one true God in an unpolluted atmosphere, one that does not force them to acknowledge the sovereignty of other men, rather than God alone. The revolution that he calls for to rid the world of jahiliyyah is to proceed in stages. He advocates “preaching and persuasion” as one of the stages, along with “physical power and jihad” to destroy the authorities of the jahili system as another. But, he also cautions “Islamic jihad has no relationship to modern warfare.” Did Osama Bin Laden get it right when he organized the attacks of 9/11? He seems to be following at least some of Qutb’s plan. He and his cadre have separated themselves from the reach of jahili governments living in the mountains or small villages in out-of-the-way places. The attacks targeted the West’s financial institutions, a military complex, and the home of the leader of the Western world. But was this the vision of Qutb? Their actions also killed thousands of innocent people. How are we to define the term “fight” used by Qutb. Does it include violent, aggressive attacks such as the 9/11 attacks? He advocates fighting, but not by military methods. He repeatedly stresses that no man can rule over another and yet advocates Muslim leadership. All decisions are to be made by reference to the sharia, but who is interpret it? Qutb’s philosophical system is obviously inconsistent and, as envisioned in Milestones, impossible to implement. His dream of a Utopian Islamic World rests on so many contradictions and is subject to so many interpretations that it is easy to see how the implementation of his vision could result in such organizations as the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Works Cited

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Qutb, Sayyid. Ma’alim fi al-Tariq. 9th. Beirut: Shorok, 1982.
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Christopher Hurtado

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Christopher Hurtado is President and CEO of Linguistic Solutions and Adjunct Instructor of Philosophy and Political Science at Utah Valley University. He holds a BA in Middle East Studies/Arabic and Philosophy and an MA in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies. He coauthored Vacation Spanish: A Survival Guide for Mexico, the Caribbean, Central & South America. He is married to children's book author and homeschool mom, Alysia Gonzalez. Together they have nine children. They are active in their church and in their community.