Sayyid Qutb and the Muslim Brotherhood

The Imam and Shaikh, Hasan Ma’mun,[1] head of Al-Azhar, made the following query to a marja`:

What do we understand about Sayyid Qutb and his works, particularly Milestones (Ar. Ma`alam Fit-Tariq)?

The answer given by the marja`, Imam Muhammad `Abdul Latif as-Subki (d. 1388 AH), may Allah have mercy on him, is as follows below:

At first glance of the book, the reader immediately comes to understand that the subject matter is calling to Islam; but its’ means are false and the text seeks to deceive the reader using popular religious sentiment. This is especially the case for the youth and young professionals, the primary audience to which the book is addressed.

They are those who would be moved without consideration to the claim of someone making a petition or appeal to the Religion. They would possibly accept such novel affairs being suggested to them and think that it is the pure call to the Truth for the Sake of Allah and that taking hold of this path is the way to Salvation.

I fervently desired to directly[2] quote some of the author’s more explicit statements so that we might have them in front of us and understand his thinking. The first quote I will give is where he has mentioned,

“The presence of the Muslim Ummah has been largely missing for centuries. It is a necessity that this Ummah be brought back in order for Islam to play its’ expected role in the leadership of humanity once again.

It is necessary that this Ummah is raised up. This Ummah has been buried under the rubble of false ideas, concepts, statutes and customs and all regimes and systems which have no connection to Islam or the Islamic methodology although this Ummah still might call itself the ‘Islamic World.’[3]

So the author in these lines is negating the existence of the Muslim Ummah for many centuries. What this amounts to is that all the years of Islam and its’ flowering, the Imams, the Luminaries of Knowledge in the Religion who laid down Commentary on the Qur’an, fiqh, ijtihad and that spread this faith with hard work to the very horizons of different countries – all of that is for nothing – and they have been in the Age of Ignorance and not Islam. This state therefore continued up until the time of the coming of Sayyid Qutb.

Sayyid Qutb, the author of the text, Milestones, says at another point:

“The world as of today is living – in its’ totality – in a state of the Age of Ignorance.[4] This Age of Ignorance has been established in place by enmity to the rule of Allah in the Earth and in contradiction to the specific attribute of Divinity, the essence of which is Al-Hakimiyyah.

Al-Hakimiyyah has been given to men and in this way the Islamic way has been undermined. The Islamic Methodology stands alone in this respect. Humanity under any regime that is not from Islam will worship one another in some way, shape or form.”[5]

He explains at another point, “It is only in the Islamic Methodology that all of humanity can be freed from worshipping one another and submit themselves to the pure worship of Allah Alone with pure devotion and submission to Allah Alone. This is the new concept which we have and are to give to the human race.

This new concept must take on a concrete and workable form of action and it is necessary that an Ummah live by it and to do this we need to bring about an Islamic Renaissance. Only by doing this can the movement attain world leadership, whether it be from near or far.

Now going forward, how can we bring about this point of action? It is necessary that a vanguard be formed with this express purpose and that upon formation it goes marching along, staying separate from the waves of the Age of Ignorance but at the same time having some links to some portion of it.

This vanguard, which has come into existence for this purpose and has just this intent in mind, is from the signposts along the road or the Milestones!”[6]

Sayyid Qutb then ends this statement with, “I have written this book Milestones for this hoped for and awaited vanguard which shall be appearing shortly!”[7]

This is a very clear and open call to establishing a vanguard from the people with a new mission for the “Islamic Renaissance.” The author is the one that has made himself responsible for putting into place the milestones for this vanguard and the mission that awaits it.

Qutb states, “We are now in a state of Ignorance just like the Age of Ignorance in the time when the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon brought Islam. In fact, the time we are in is of greater darkness as all of what is around us is Ignorance.”[8]

Take a further look at when he says, “So our most important mission is to change the collective reality of this society. This also means that our mission is to change the reality of Ignorance from its’ foundations and overturn it.”[9]

The author then states, “The way of change is not that we purify the land from the power of the Roman or Persian tyrant and false god and then give that over to an Arab tyrant and false god.

No! All tyrants and false gods are the same. The Earth belongs to Allah! The Earth is not to be purified except for Allah! This purification cannot be done unless there is raised the banner of: there is no god but Allah!

The way forward is not that we seek to free the people of the Earth from one false god and move them from the power of the Roman tyrant or Persian tyrant and false god and then give that over to an Arab tyrant and false god.

No! All tyrants and false gods are the same. All the people are Slaves of Allah Alone! People are not Slaves of Allah Alone until they have raised the banner: there is no god but Allah. This testimony of faith means exactly what the Arab knows it to be in his language!

There is no Hakimiyyah except for Allah! There is no Shari`ah except from Allah! There is no authority for anyone over anyone else! This is because all authority belongs to Allah. This is because the nationhood or national consciousness that Islam intends for the people is that of the `aqeedah which makes every man equal.

Every man bearing this testimony, whether he be Arab, Greek, Persian or any other race, all are under the Standard and Banner of Allah! This is the way forward!”[10]

Let’s consider the statement, “The Hakimiyyah is for Allah” and there is no “Hakimiyyah except for Allah!”

This is the same thing that was said by the Khawarij of old[11] and this is the means they utilised to carry out the crimes they committed in the time of Imam `Ali ibn Abi Talib. This covers everything from the splitting of the collective of Islam, breaking the ranks of believers. Imam `Ali ibn Abi Talib said about this very word, “The statement is true but falsehood is being sought through its’ use.”[12]

The author at one moment calls to a new mission put forward for the “Islamic Renaissance.” Then in the next moment, he spreads out his call and makes it to the entire globe. This is a call and claim for the power of the vanguard that he himself sings for and that which he has written his book in expectation of and in order to guide them to his supposed way and call.

There is nothing more deceptive and destructive than this inclination; yes, this is an inclination to destruction, yet it has been named: the Path of Islam.

As we are on the topic, what exactly is the meaning of this “Al-Hakimiyyah” being for Allah Alone? Does the Religion go about with two feet among the people to stop, push and forbid them from the attempt at taking “Al-Hakimiyyah”?

Or is there some form of Allah that is being attributed in judgement in which He is reduced to a type of personality or principle that the author of Milestones envisages? This is the same author who has denied the existence of rulers, placed roadblocks in the road to rebel against every ruler in the Creation.

One can see in the very Qur’an we possess that there is an acceptance of the rulers of the Muslims and it is necessary for us to give them the right of obedience. It is likewise necessary for them to be just with regard to ourselves and to be responsible at all times and for there to be cooperation in the good with them.

Islam itself has never had proclaimed statement or doctrine that the rulers over the Muslims must be infallible messengers or preserved from error. Indeed it is the case that they will mistakes that are sometimes apparent and they are to be called so that they correct these mistakes and return to Allah and the Sunnah of the Messenger. In addition to this, they are to take consultation in the matter with the People of Judgement[13] from the Muslims.

It is then very strange that now we should see one individual or a small collective rise up and draw out some type of strange path way and then label this “the way of Islam,” in exclusion to all others.

In order to have the establishment and safeguarding of the lives of the people, the existence of rulers is necessary so that they might discharge the affairs of the people with the Religion, just and sound principles and canons of law.

One of the well-known maxims of Islam is, “Indeed Allah has restrained with the authority whatever He has not restrained with the Qur’an.”[14] So when one knows all of this, how can it possibly be established in the mind of a human being the idea that a supposed vanguard needs to be established to dislodge all of the rulers from their positions and posts?

Now among the rulers are many who travel on the main according to what has been ordained for them from the different means that have come about and are harsh and rugged. This is not all rulers in all standpoints as might occur to the mind of some people.

In writing his book, the author has taken it to the most severe levels of deviation from what were authentic ways of understanding history and valid concepts.[15]

“It is paramount that the Muslim society be established upon the affirmation of the `aqeedah of there is no god but Allah and that Al-Hakimiyyah is for no one but Allah. When such a society as this is established as a clear reality, it becomes the life blood and reality and it is only at that time that the Religion will begin to be reflected and implemented in the regime along with the finer details and laws.”[16]

This is an unprovoked attack from the author on the reality of things. He repudiated the existence of a “Muslim society” and denied the existence of an “Islamic regime” and called to the awaited time where Islam shall be legislated and the needed society appears. He intends by this: the society in which he and his vanguard exercise power and bring about according to their own will!

Upon examination, it appears to us that the author has brought about some new idealistic fantasy in which he claims for himself the highest rank in establishing this new world; but before this can be done there must first be: the destruction of the current order of things without any precedent, permission or backing.

Then immediately after that, the rulers must be toppled and a new society built in its’ place and there shall be a new legislation for this new society.

The author goes on to give us the third and fourth fantasies, where he says, “The callers to Islam, when they have called the people to spread this Religion, it then becomes compulsory for the following: They call them to the acceptance of the `aqeedah.

This is so that if they are calling themselves Muslims and testifying since they were young that they were Muslims and teaching them the testimony that there is no god but Allah and learning it in truth, they need to live by it and know its’ meaning.

The truth of this statement is that it is returning Al-Hakimiyyah to Allah and rebelling against the transgressors of the Authority of Allah!”[17]

And his words carry on from that point in a similar fashion. This  jilted and frayed understanding of the author contradicts and negates Islam while he claims that he is the most jealous of the creation for teaching Islam.

Is this not a terrible tribulation waiting in ambush…this tribulation that is coming from a man that has imposed himself on the Religion and the wider society as well?

In summing up this ruling, I would like to say that upon completion of my reading of Milestones, I have noticed two things:

Firstly, the author is an overbearing and licentious man in his attitude. He looks at the world according to his dark fantasy and imagines it heading in the direction that he sees it or as evil as he imagines it.

Secondly, Sayyid Qutb has used the name of Islam to excite the youth to what he believes is “religiousness.” This “religious” behaviour includes rebellion against rulers and all of what comes with that, whether it be shedding blood, assassination plots against people, destroying buildings, spreading fear in the society, taking away public security and safety, fanning the flames of tribulation and all other forms of corruption in which no one knows how long it could last other than Allah the Exalted.

This is the meaning of the “Revolution of Al-Hakimiyyah” that the author keeps obsessing about in his writings.[18]



[1] trans note: 1311-1393 AH. He is Hasan Mustafa Ma’mun. The Egyptian Shafi`ii judge and former mufti over undivided Egypt, he was influential in building schools all over the country and making access to the scholars easier for the laity. He also started food and farming programmes to give greater access to the common people due to crop failures that came from the British period and the weakened monarchy.

[2] trans. note: This marja` actually read the first printing of the book Milestones or Signposts Along the Way (Ar. Ma`alam fit-Tariq) in the year 1964. The translator was unable to obtain this original copy but the next best was the 1973 edition, which had nearly the same pagination used by the marja.` Therefore, all citations from this work are based on the 1964 ed. which is closely followed in detail by the Dar ush-Shuruq, Cairo (1979, sixth ed.) under the patronage of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which the translator has had the opportunity to consult. The translations from the 1970s, particularly the Federation of Islamic Student Societies (FOSIS) have kept the original crackle of violence and fanaticism in this work. Later editions have sanitised the language or powder-puffed it in order to mask its’ more wide ranging deviation which the marja` astutely noticed immediately. It is for this reason that the translator has used both the 1964 and 1979 editions and not the sanitised, student friendly forms that currently circulate in the politically correct atmosphere at colleges, universities and the internet.

[3] Ma`alam fit-Tariq, Dar ush-Shuruq, Cairo (1979, sixth ed.), pp. 5-6

[4] Ar. Al-Jahiliyyah. Imam Taqi ud-Din Ibn Taymiyyah, may Allah have mercy on him, said the following in defining this word, “The word is coming from the root, Al-Juhl. This signifies the absence of knowledge and the absence of acting by knowledge that necessitates action. This is just as the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said, ‘When any one of you is fasting, let him neither behave wickedly nor use juhl. If a man curses him or disrespects him, let the fasting person say to him: I am fasting.’ The juhl mentioned here is false speech in place of the complex juhl which has been explained.” The Imam said in another place, “So due to this it has been named as Al-Jahiliyyah. So Jahiliyyah is principled and referred to due to it signifying an absence of knowledge or absence of acting by that knowledge. This is just like the word of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, when he said to Abu Dhar, ‘You are a man that still has some Jahiliyyah in you.’ This was said as he cursed a man and defamed his mother.” This is stated by Imam Ibn Taymiyyah in his Majmu`at ul-Fatawa, vol.7, pp. 329-330, Al-Baz edition. The Imam said in another place, “The people in the time in which the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was sent were in the Age of Ignorance; but as far as after the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was sent, there is no Age of Ignorance at all, for there will always be a group from this Ummah manifest until the establishment of the Hour. As far as aspects of the Age of Ignorance, then it is in some lands of the Muslims or in some individuals, as the words of his, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, “Four things in my Ummah are from the Age of Ignorance.” Please see Iqtida’ us-Sirat il-Mustaqim Li-Mukhalafati Ashab il-Jahim, vol.2, pp. 230-231. The hadith just mentioned was collected by Imam Muslim ibn Al-Hajjaj in the Book of Funerals, under the chapter of Dire Warnings about the Mourning Rituals and Wailing and classed by him as authentic. The full hadith runs as follows from the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him: “Four things in my Ummah will remain from the Age of Ignorance and they will not leave them: Bragging about descendents, defaming and cursing ancestors in argument, seeking rain by way of the stars and wailing over the dead.”

[5] Ma`alam fit-Tariq, Dar ush-Shuruq, Cairo (1979, sixth ed.), pp. 6-8 (for the full context of the statement that occurs on p.8).

[6] ibid

[7] ibid

[8] ibid, pp. 16-17

[9] ibid, pp. 18-19.

[10] ibid, pp. 23-25

[11] Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, may Allah be pleased with him, says of them, “They have exited from the religion, opposed the religion, pulled away from Islam, isolated themselves from the Collective, gone astray from the Path and the Guidance, rebelled against the authority, unsheathed the sword against the Ummah, made their blood and wealth permissible for spilling and seizure, showed enmity to whoever opposed except the one who believed as they do and upheld their beliefs and opinions, and established their astray ideas. They are insulters of the companion of Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and his close relatives, they oppose them and disavow themselves of them, level charges of kufr and high treason against them. The Khawarij believe their opposition to the laws of the Revealed Law to be Islam, they do not believe in Punishment in the Grave, the Hawd, the Intercession or anyone exiting the Fire from the believers who had entered it for a period of time. They say that whoever came with a lie or sin, major or minor, and did not repent of it before death, is in the Fire for all eternity. They have the same beliefs as the Bakriyyah regarding measured wealth, as well as having among them the Qadariyyah, the Jahmiyyah, the Murji’ah and the Rafidah. They do not accept the Collective, but actually oppose them and their Imam, delay the prayer from its time, fast before sighting the crescent moon, break fast for `Eid before sighting the crescent moon, contract marriage without a guardian or ruler to give permission for the girl, contract temporary marriage, commit some forms of riba regarding the dirhem. They do not accept prayer in khuffs or wiping over them, the authority of the ruler over them, the khilafah being seated in Quraish, along with many other things with which they are in opposition to Islam and its people. It is sufficient that the people of astrayness be described that their opinion, madhhab and religion are not from Islam at all.” The Imam clarified further, “The Khawarij have many names. They are called Hururiyyah from the people of Harura, while the Azariqah are from the people of Nafi` ibn al-Azraq. They have some of the most filthy beliefs, positions far from Islam and the Sunnah. The Najdiyyah started with their leader, Najdah ibn `Amir al-Haruri. The Ibadiyyah started with their leader, `Abdullah ibn Ibad. The Suffriyyah started with their leader, Dawud ibn An-Nu`man, while the Khawarij also have the Muhallabiyyah, Harithiyyah and Kharramiyyah. All these are Khawarij, rebellious sinners who oppose the Sunnah and have exited the religion. They speak of the Arabs and free men as having the same ruling, and they do not believe that the Arabs have neither right nor rank, and they do not love them but hate them. They show deep hatred, envy and enmity towards them in their hearts. This is an evil statement innovated by a man from the people of Iraq. He was followed by a small group of people and the curse was upon him.” Tabaqat ul-Hanabilah, vol.1, pp. 35-36

[12] All these events were discussed in detail by Imam Ibn Kathir in his work entitled, Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, vol.7, pp.278-324.

[13] trans. note: This is a reference to the marja` people when there is either a layman ruler or in the case of a marja` ruling and being regulated by other marja` people of the same class and category.

[14] trans. note: This is a mawquf statement quoted from `Umar ibn Al-Khattab but more likely and authentically quoted from `Uthman ibn `Affan, may Allah be pleased with both of them, as cited by Imams Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi in his Tarikh Baghdad, vol.4, pp. 106-107; Yusuf ibn `Abdul Barr in his At-Tamhid, vol.1, pp. 115-117; Taqi ud-Din ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728 AH) in his Majmu`a Fatawa, vol. 11, pp. 393-395, Dar ul-Ifta’, Riyadh (Ibn Qasim ed.).

[15] Trans. note: This means that although it is correct that there have been and are tyrannical rulers, this does not mean that the Ummah has vanished or that all rulers have been that way.

[16] ibid, pp. 32-33

[17] ibid, pp. 34-35

[18] This official ruling from the marja` is taken from Al-`Unf ud-Dini Fi Masr: `Abdun-Nasir wal-Ikhwan ul-Muslimin, pp. 189-196, in which the context and the ruling is given in detail.

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