"Milestones" by Sayyid Qutb - A thread.

This, if you'll excuse the metaphor, is the Bible of political Islam. Originally published in 1964 as Ma'alim fi al-Tariq, it is the enduring legacy to the world of Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966), an Egyptian educationalist and a bitter

enemy of the Nasser government, western democracy, secularism and female sexuality (not necessarily in that order). The late Osama bin Laden is said to have been influenced by him and apparently attended lectures given by his brother during his student days in Jeddah.

The founding fathers of modern Sunni Islamism were a quartet of men - three Arabs and one Indian - who were born shortly after the turn of the 20th century. The trail was blazed by Hassan al-Banna (1906-1949), the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Syed Abul A'la

Maududi (1903-1979), who founded Jamaat-e-Islami and lived on to become the grand old man of Pakistani Islamism. Our friend Qutb can be seen as the leading figure of the second, postwar wave of Islamist pioneers, together with Taqiuddin al-Nabhani (1909-1977), the Palestinian

judge who set up Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Qutb joined the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s and became a leading activist within it until he was sentenced to death by one of Nasser's special courts in 1966 for plotting against the government. He continues to serve as a guru for

activists across the spectrum of Islamist opinion, ranging from the relatively - relatively - moderate Brotherhood to violent anti-western jihadis. His own vision was of an "organised and active group" of Islamist pioneers that would separate itself from ungodly modern

society. It has been suggested that this idea of a pure Muslim revolutionary élite is simply an Islamist cover version of Lenin's theory of the vanguard party.

The book has been criticised as dull and repetitive, and indeed it is. It is not too long, but it is longer than

necessary. It is, however, written in an easy, non-technical manner, and there is a certain calmness about the prose that sits somewhat uneasily with its subject-matter.

Qutb's commitment to Islam was the foundation stone of his political outlook. It was this commitment

that fuelled his desire to change society and the world, to achieve "total harmony between human life and the law of the universe", the latter naturally being identified with the word of Allah as revealed in the Qur'an and the hadith. For Qutb, Islam brooked no competitors:

Jahiliyyah is the name given in Islamic thought to the state of spiritual and moral ignorance that prevailed before the coming of the prophet Muhammad. Qutb's central idea was that modern society, even in nominally Islamic countries, had declined into decadence from the

perfection of the early Muslim community, to the extent that it had fallen back into Jahiliyyah:

Qutb's solution was a revival of authentic Islam, with a view to waging jihad and taking over the leadership of the world. These ideas of a lost golden age and a coming violent deliverance from decadence are found in numerous religious and political movements, including

fascism, communism and Islam itself.

Qutb's vision is profoundly theocentric and theocratic. Islam prevails over the ties of family and nation. In the public sphere, nationalism, social reform and moralism are not enough unless they are backed by faith and by Allah. Qutb

accordingly denounced "the Western concept of 'religion', which is merely a name for 'belief' in the heart, having no relation to the practical affairs of life". Islam, by contrast, was a religion which reached into every corner of life:

The totalitarian nature of Qutb's outlook is clear. His ideal society would arguably look more like the totalitarian states of 20th century Europe than anything that would have been recognisable to Muhammad and the tribesmen of 7th century Arabia. Comparisons between Islamism
and European fascism have long been drawn. More broadly, Qutb and his followers stand squarely in the tradition of the European Counter-Enlightenment, denouncing Western-style liberal democracy in favour of a repressive, authoritarian social and political system drawing its

inspiration and legitimacy from a fundamentalist interpretation of religious faith. Qutb has the cheek to portray this deeply sinister programme as emancipatory in nature - it is, he insists, a means of liberating human beings from servitude to other human beings so that they
can live in equality under the rule of God alone.

The true hallmark of fundamentalism is not strength of belief, nor even simple extremism, but rather separatism - the conviction that heretics and infidels are not merely wrong, or even sinful, but that they are stained

with a kind of miasma and hence must be shunned. Qutb eagerly embraced Islamic separatism. There are only two types of society, he writes, Islamic and jahili.

It might also be noted here that Qutb didn't have much time for Jews ("world Jewry"), whom he regarded as conspiratorial usurers.

The book has been compared to Mein Kampf, but this is misleading. It is a less bloodthirsty book that one might expect, at least on the surface.

Qutb does indeed call for jihad, but he is surprisingly vague about it. It is left to the reader to tease out the meaning of rather euphemistic passages like this:

Even when he writes more or less openly about revolution, he sounds like a PR man:

Readers coming to the book in the expectation that it will prove to be a pornographically bloody incitement to terror will be disappointed.


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More from @Robin_C_Douglas

13 Sep
Braverman was hauled over the coals for this at the Bar Council meeting yesterday.

People who aren't lawyers might not immediately realise how badly this process has been corrupted, so let me try to explain.


If the Government wants to make use of external barristers, it has a system of "panels" (or lists) of people who are approved for this purpose.

Braverman will know this because she used to be on one, although of course she was only on one of the lower ones.

At the top of this system is Sir James Eadie QC, the First Treasury Counsel, who takes on the Government's most important cases. He is one of the leading lawyers in the country.

If you watched video footage of the Miller cases, you might recognise him.

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