There has been quite a lot of interest in this article recently, so I have republished it for any new “Defining the Narrative” readers, or those who may have missed it or would like a refresher. One of my first articles, it has continued to grow popularity.
Milestones was written from an Egyptian prison in 1964. Qutb had spent 2 years in America several years prior, and reported that his prejudices had been confirmed concerning American depravity. America was ripe for the picking.
Qutb’s book wasn’t his first, or his longest work, but perhaps Milestones has had the most impact on the modern world. Although some attribute the modern “Islamic Revolution” to this book, that was not exactly the outcome that Qutb desired.
Actually, Islamic Revival was his desire and purpose. Milestones was to be the “vanguard” publication to accomplish this. By initiating a revival of Islam among those who profess it, the natural outcome would then be an alteration of the course of human history. Revolution would not be necessary, but world conquest would be at hand. Revival of the fundamentals of Islam within the culture itself would make Islam irresistible in both principle and on the battlefield. A revived and truly Muslim population in the cause of Allah would be invincible.
Islam had, according to Qutb, become compromised by moderates and liberals (Muslim) who, for various reasons, embraced Western Culture and prosperity. Obviously the development of Middle Eastern oil fields was responsible for most of this merging of the two worlds, and the petro-dollar brought an ancient culture roaring forward into the industrialized 20th century with so much speed, there was no time for gradual adaptation. Yet today, there is a stark contrast within these countries, and without the petro-dollar they would shrivel back into the desert survivalist culture of a mere century ago.
Seyyid was disturbed by the fact that Muslims, during the first half of the 20th Century, were with a few exceptions, content to “live and let live”, professing Islam while immersed in ‘Jahili’ (the state of ignorance of guidance of Allah) culture. A Muslim should withdraw from all Jahilayyah relationships and become joined completely to Islam just as Muhammad and the Companions had disavowed all ties to polytheism and its adherents. A Muslim cannot be true Muslim, submitted to Allah, and retain any ties to non-Islamic influences. Qutb laments, “This is why the true Islamic values never enter our hearts, why our minds are never illuminated by Islamic concepts, and why no group of people arises among us who are of the caliber of the first generation of Islam.” He then adjures, “We must return to that pure source from which those people derived their guidance…[their]concepts of…the universe, the nature of human existence…Our aim is first to change ourselves so that we may later change the society…this system which is fundamentally at variance with Islam…”
Qutb’s call to all Islam was a return to Fundamentalism, that being the founding principles of Islam. This “revival” within Islam would then lead to political reformation in Islamic countries, bringing to bear those governments which had established within their own constitutions; that Islam is the official state religion and Islamic jurisprudence (Shari’a) is the law of the land. This move to “right” Egypt’s secularized government along with his fellow members of “Muslim Brotherhood” is the reason he was imprisoned and consequently executed by “The Arab Republic of Egypt” in 1966.
Egypt was but one of the Islamic Republics which had not implemented Shari’a as enumerated in its own constitution. Turkey is the most widely known which has managed, even today, to maintain a modicum of separation (though currently very tenuous) between religion and state; for practical purposes a secularized government. The United States has, in fact, assisted in the establishment of two of the latest Islamic Republics of the world; Iraq and Afghanistan, complete with constitutions which name Islam as the official religion.
Seyyid Qutb goes on in Milestones to express disdain for Muslim apologists who insist that “Jihad” is simply defensive war. He refers to them as “defeatists”, and explains thatJihad is the means by which to establish the Divine Law (Shari’a). Jihad, according to Qutb as well as Koran, is offensive action that “tries to annihilate all those political and material powers which stand between people and Islam…It is not the intention of Islam to force its beliefs on people, but Islam is not merely ‘belief’.” Then he clarifies, “…in an Islamic system there is room for all kinds of people to follow their own beliefs, while obeying the laws of the country which are themselves based on the Divine authority (Shari’a).”
In other words, you can believe whatever you want, but you will live according to Shari’a Law. This is the mission of Islam defined: Not to convert the entire world to Islamic belief; but to bring the entire world under submission to Shari’a, or Islamic Law.
Muslims are not to commit allegiance to a nation or state or geographic area. Neither is a Muslim bound by any commitment or loyalty or oath to non-Muslims. Only to Allah does one claim or pledge allegiance. Only through Islam is any relationship, contractual or filial valid. “A Muslim has no country except that part of the earth where the Shari’a of [Allah] is established and human relationships are based on the foundation of relationship with [Allah]; a Muslim has no nationality except his belief, which makes him a member of the Muslim community in Dar ul Islam; a Muslim has no relatives except those who share the belief in [Allah]…”
Dar ul Islam is the “house of Islam” which “is that place where the Islamic state is established and the Shari’a is the authority…” The rest of the world is the “house of war” or Dar ul Harb. “A Muslim can have only two possible relations with Dar ul Harb: peace with a contractual agreement [hudna or truce], or war.”
Seyyid further explains, “But any place where the Islamic Shari’a is not enforced and where Islam is not dominant becomes [Dar ul Harb]”.
In the closing paragraphs of Milestones, Qutb conjures macabre images referring to his title, “This intricate point requires deep thought…to whatever country or period of time they belong; for this guarantees that they will be able to see the milestones of the road clearly and without ambiguity, and establishes the path for those who wish to traverse it to the end…Then they will not be anxious, while traversing this road ever paved with skulls and limbs and blood and sweat, to find help and victory…”
This book, the “vanguard” of modern Islamic Fundamentalism, written in 1964 has inspired Jihadists, Mujahidin and Shahada (“martyrs” aka suicide bombers) for 45 years. Seyyid Qutb is considered Shahid by fundamentalist Muslims around the world. I have read several books from and on Islam and would recommend Milestones as essential reading for one who desires to understand the purpose and designs of modern Islam and the resolve of Islamic fundamentalists.