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Islamist Jihad in the 21st Century - Islamist Theoreticians
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Islamist Jihad in the 21st Century
Islamist Theoreticians
Islam: A Religion of Both Peace and War
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Islamist Theoreticians

However, it is not the unwashed masses who are the ideologues and leaders of Islamist movements. While the foot soldiers of Islamic radicalism come from the economically disadvantaged, by contrast Islamist leadership originates from money, power and advanced educational status.21 These are the leaders who so clearly articulate the hopelessness of the Muslim masses by identifying their powerful enemy in the Great Satan (dajjal) - the USA, and life‘s answers in fundamentalist Islam. Religious fundamentalism always flourishes in an environment where its adherents perceive its beliefs and way of life are under attack. The modernist assault on Islam, “westoxification,”22 is popularly seen not only as confirmation of Islamist ideology but substantiation of the need for Muslims to return to a purer practice of their religion.

Al-Qaeda brought together strands of Arab Nationalism and Islamist fundamentalism as interpreted by an Egyptian philosopher, Sayyid Qutb.23 Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden‘s organization, is representative of the current worldwide Islamist movement. The organization was created in the late 1980s by an affiliation of three armed factions—bin Laden's circle of ''Afghan'' Arabs, together with two factions from Egypt, the Islamic Group and Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the latter led by Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda's top theoretician.24

Qutb was a leading thinker of the Islamic Brotherhood founded in Egypt by Hasan al-Banna. The Brotherhood is a nationalist, social and political movement highly critical of the Egyptian and other Middle Eastern governments during the 1950‘s and 1960‘s.

In a famous book, al-‘Adala al-ijtima‘iyya fi‘l-islam (Social Justice in Islam), Sayyid Qutb put forward a powerful interpretation of the social teaching of Islam. For Muslims, as distinct from Christians, there was, he suggested, no gap between faith and life. All human acts could be seen as acts of worship, and the Qur‘an and Hadith provided the principles on which action should be based. Man was free only if he was released from subjection to all powers except that of God: from the power of priesthood, fear, and the domination of social values, human desires and appetites.25 314

Egyptian authorities used Qutb‘s book, Milestones, to condemn him at his sedition trial. His execution in 1966 (interpreted by Islamists as martyrdom) by the Egyptian authorities gave his works credibility, creating interest throughout the Middle East. Milestones became a “classic manifesto of the terrorist wing of Islamic fundamentalism.26

Qutb called “for a renewal of Islamic life, a life governed by the spirit and the law of Islam, which alone can produce that form of Islam that we need to day, and which is in conformity with the genuine Islamic tradition.”27 While this sounds innocuous enough to the Western ear, Qutb is calling for nothing less than a radical reorientation and reform of present day Islamic social order. For Qutb, Islam teaches that there is a unity between the spiritual and temporal.

For the center of its being and the field of its action is human life in its entirety, spiritual and material, religious and worldly. Such a religion cannot continue to exist in isolation from society, nor can its adherents be true Muslims unless they practice their faith in their social, legal, and economic relationships. And a society cannot be Islamic if it expels the civil and religious laws of Islam from its codes and customs, so that nothing of Islam is left except rites and ceremonials.28

Such a radical reformation necessitated the overthrow of the existing Islamic order as well as the need to militantly confront the remainder of the world through jihadist conquest. Qutb radically critiqued the settled orthodoxy that Islam had become. His was no less than a clarion call to overthrow what he perceived as pernicious Christian domination of the entire Islamic world.29

Qutb‘s purpose was to politically reunify all Muslims worldwide under a restored, rightly guided Islamic Caliphate. His is a complete rejection of the Christian West and a reactionary view toward the progressiveness of the Islamic schools. “Qutb and the Islamists…pictured the resurrected caliphate as a theocracy, strictly enforcing Sharia, the legal code of the Koran.”30 This required a total rejection of all things non-Muslim.31

Qutb held that every Muslim lived in direct relationship with Allah. There is no priesthood or other intermediary between “creature and the Creator”.32 This becomes the basis for his rejection of the religious hierarchy (the jurists of the orthodox schools). Qutb accused the orthodox legal schools (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafii and Hanbali) of syncretism - combining Christian and pagan philosophies with the teaching of Islam. He thought this syncretism was an affront, because Islam is perfect as received from Allah through the Prophet. “Islam has one universal and integrated theory which covers the universe and life and humanity; a theory in which are integrated all the different questions....”33 However, Qutb wrote that the “Islamic concept” was corrupted when, “Islamic philosophers borrowed certain concepts from Greek philosophy and terms from Aristotle, Plotinus and the Christian theologians, and merged them with the Islamic concept.34 This dilution of the pure faith had profound consequences for the Muslim community.

When the life of the Muslims became free of the concerns of jihad and they surrendered to comfort and affluence; and when at the same time different opinions and schools of thought came into existence, largely because of political problems going back to the well-known conflict between ‘Ali and Mu‘awiya, they began to concern themselves with Greek philosophy and theological discussions relating to Christianity, which were then translated into Arabic.35

Further, Qutb asserted that the reality of modern Muslim society is not Islamic in any sense. He proclaimed that as long as Muslims adhered to the purity of Islam, not only was there was no weakness in society but there would be no subordination to non-Muslim powers. He charged that when the Umma departed from true Islam, Muslim society lost its rightful place and authority in the world.36 This state of affairs starkly contrasted with the belief that Islam ought to be - “ever in the forefront.” “You are the best nation which has been brought forth for men; you enjoin the good, and you forbid the evil.” (3:10)37

Qutb was highly critical of domination of Muslim peoples by Europeans and their subsequent acceptance of Christian culture, values and mores. He interpreted European colonialization as a Christian desire to put an end to the entire Islamic culture. Qutb links the collapse of Islamic power with a Christian ascendancy that resulted in establishing cultural, economic and religious hegemony over Muslim lands.38

…he traced the ‘new jahiliyya’ to the disintegration of the first Umma and that the creation of the Umayyad and Abbasid empires, where the notion of Allah‘s universal sovereignty succumbed to the reality of human kingship and hereditary rule in their most decadent and un-Islamic forms. In the following millennium the House of Islam would fluctuate between various levels of attainment, from the low ebbs of the Mongol and crusader invasions to the apogee of the Ottoman expansion. Yet it would never manage to rid itself of the new jahiliyya, let alone come anywhere near the lofty heights of the first Umma.39

Qutb‘s remedy for this disastrous situation is to reinstitute a thoroughly Islamic society based upon Quranic teaching, and the strict observance of the Sharia. He wrote that three foundational principles are necessary for the establishment of justice – absolute freedom of conscience; the equality of all men; and the upholding of a mutual responsibility for society.40

Like most social movements, there have been many thinkers contributing to the Islamist idea. A Sunni Pakistani, Syed Abul A'ala Maududi, linked the ancient faith with the revolutionary fervor of the present. Maududi‘s experience was in the Indian conflict between Hinduism and Islam. He also developed a world-wide jihadistic vision for imposing a new Islamic order. Maududi, like many of his contemporaries, melded the political rhetoric of communism and fascism into a revolutionary Islamic ideology. The goal of such an insurrectionist religious vision is global hegemony.41

Last Updated on Monday, 25 March 2013 18:55