Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamism

Front Cover
Columbia University Press, 2010 - History - 377 pages
1 Review
"Given that Sayyid Qutb is taught on a large (and increasing) number of campuses, and given that he has already been introduced to the public in best-selling books, such as Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower, the very publication of a Qutb biography should attract considerable interest. This book not only constitutes what is likely to remain the figure's definitive biography but also offers crucial new insights on the post-1954 history of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. We are dealing with a rare book that is likely to become a classic in the field of political Islam. Outstanding."-Thomas Hegghammer, associate, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

"Sayyid Oath and the Orcaho of Radical Islam will become the standard intellectual biography of the most influential Muslim thinker of the twentieth century. Demonstrating a deep engagement with contemporary history, religious thought, and social theory, John Calvert eschews the sensationalism that too often posits Qutb as the ideological 'godfather' of global jihad. An erudite and engaging writer, Calvert situates Qutb in time and place, tracing his political evolution and exploring the power of his words, personality, and divergent legacies. Neither hagiography nor expose, Qutb gets his due."-Joel Gordon, author of Nadder: Hero al the Arab Nation

Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966) was an influential Egyptian ideologue who established the theoretical basis for radical Islamism in the postcolonial Sunni Muslim world. Lacking a pure understanding of the leader's life and work, the popular media has conflated Qutb's moral purpose with the aims of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. He is often portrayed as a terrorist, Islamo-Fascist, and advocate of murder. An expert on social protest and political resistance, John Calvert rescues Qutb from misrepresentation and follows the evolution of his thought within the context of his time.

Calvert recounts Qutb's life from the small village in which he was raised to his execution at the behest of Abd al-Nassar's regime. His study remains sensitive to the cultural, political, social, and economic circumstances that shaped Qutb's thought, including major developments that composed one of the most eventful periods in Egyptian history. These years witnessed the full flush of Britain's tutelary regime, the advent of Egyptian nationalism, and the political hegemony of the Free Officers. Qutb rubbed shoulders with Taha Husayn, Naguib Mahfouz, and Abd al-Nasser himself, though his Islamism originally had little to do with religion. Only in response to his harrowing experience in prison did Qutb come to regard Islam and kufr (infidelity) as oppositional, antithetical, and therefore mutually exclusive. Calvert shows how Qutb repackaged and reformulated the Islamic heritage to challenge authority, including those who claimed (falsely, Qutb believed) to be Muslim.

What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - AmourFou - LibraryThing

The subject matter is 4-star; the writing and the author's absence of objectivity and clarity is 2-star. Read between the lines and see how deeply entrenched the hatred of the West is in Islamic society. Read full review

About the author (2010)

John Calvert is associate professor of history at Creighton University, Nebraska. He is the author of Islamism: A Documentary and Reference Guide and coeditor and translator of Sayyid Qutb's A Child from the Village. His research focuses on social protest and political resistance movements in the modern Middle East, as well as Egyptian nationalism and the ideological origins of al-Qaeda.

Bibliographic information