Historical Origins of the Ideology of ISIS and other Militant Groups Who Commit Terrorism in the Name of Islam - Part 5:
Sayyid Qutb’s antithetical innovations into Islam - Marxist abolition as jihad; corrupting the words of great Islamic jurists
We established in the previous article that the foundation on which Qutb’s tract lies is doctrine of excommunication (takfir) of all Muslim societies from Islam by his self-conceptualization of jahiliyya which he formulated without the use of evidence from Islamic sources; the abstraction of jahiliyya that he invented was inspired by Social Darwinist thought from Western philosophers - whose philosophies at their core are wholly antithetical to Islam. All terrorist groups that have spawned in the post World War era in the Muslim world have followed Qutb’s thinking and been inspired by his writing in declaring jihad against governments with an ideological footing that is illegitimate itself under the guise of Islam. This article will examine how Qutb further exhorted the masses into a “jihad” that was really, and clearly, modeled after the Marxist/Leninist mode of revolution (as oppose to the Islamic criteria for jihad); something the western academics have easily pointed out when analyzing Qutb.
We will then show how Qutb attempted to give his jihadist claims legitimacy by citing the preeminent Islamic scholar Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya (d. 1350, generally known as Ibn al-Qayyim); while in reality a simple yet further look at the writings of Ibn al-Qayyim make it clear that he was strictly and in no unambiguous terms opposed to the type of rebellion that Qutb advocates for as jihad; a fact that the western academics have failed to bring to light.
“Abolishing” as “Jihad”
Ruthven’s book is an example of western analysis that links Qutb's theorizing to the strands of socialist thought in Europe that led to Marxism and Lenin.
It is important to note that there are currents of thought whose origins are not acknowledged in his text. The message of revolutionary anarachism implicit in (Qutb's) phrase that ‘every system that permits some people to rule over others be abolished’ owes more to radical European ideas going back to the Jacobins than to classical or traditional ideas about Islamic governance.”
Ruthven is spot on here. In his revolutionary tract What is To Be Done in the chapter entitled THE SPONTANEITY OF THE MASSES AND THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF THE 25 SOCIAL-DEMOCRATS Vladimir Lenin reprimands other socialists who do not wish to “abolish” the current condition of “bourgeois politics” and “clerical politics”; concepts which are elsewhere characterized by Lenin with the term “autocracy.” See the excerpt below:
“…the common striving of all workers to secure from the government measures for alleviating the distress to which their condition gives rise, but which do not abolish that condition i.e., which do not remove the subjection of labour to capital. That striving indeed is common to the English trade-unionists, who are hostile to socialism, to the Catholic workers, to the “Zubatov” workers, etc.”
Lenin here is castigating the English trade-unionists and Catholic workers for being hospitable towards the established political order as oppose to striving towards abolishing “the subjection of labour to capital.”
The language of Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto makes the use of “abolishing” even more stark. They first reference the Jacobins (French Revolution) that Ruthven is talking about:
The French Revolution, for example, abolished feudal property in favour of bourgeois property. The distinguishing feature of Communism is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of "bourgeois property." Because bourgeois property is “based on class antagonisms, on the exploitation of the many by the few.”
Qutb completely mirrors this language and formula of intolerance in calling people to arms by replacing subjugation of “labour to capital” and “exploitation of the many by the few” to “the servitude of one human being to another."
As we have pointed out, Islam is a declaration of the freedom of man from servitude to other men. Thus it strives from the beginning to abolish all those systems and governments which are based on the rule of man over men and the servitude of one human being to another.”
From “the vanguard of the proletariat” to “the vanguard of Islam”
As was mentioned before Qutb’s misconstruction of jihad and his utter ignorance (or willful ignorance) of it’s established precepts and conditions which is here being characterized as abolishing all systems and governments, in blatant contradiction of the Islamic precepts of obedience to rulers.
This is why Ruthven acknowledges this tacitly in the above quotation when he says Qutb's phrase does not go back to "traditional ideas of Islamic governance" and he is not the only academic to recognize and acknowledge this; we demonstrated John Esposito and Robert Worth saying the same thing in part 1 of this series.
Again, for the following point the words of Ruthven and other academics suffices as an introduction:
Similarly the revolutionary vanguard Qutb advocates does not have an Islamic pedigree...The vanguard is a concept imported from Europe, through a lineage that also stretches back to the Jacobins, through the Bolsheviks and latter-day Marxist guerrillas such as the Baader-Meinhof gang.”
The concept of a revolutionary vanguard that is compelled by what the respective authors deem to be righteous training and vision in order to emancipate the masses from espoused foes is a formula used directly by Lenin in What is To Be Done as well as Qutb in Milestones.
Lenin espouses this, where he refers to the theories of Friedrich Engels, in his chapter on the importance of “theoretical struggle” that a revolutionary vanguard must undertake- Qutb in turn takes this same formula but puts the title of “Islamic jihad” in the place of “theoretical struggle” all the while not acknowledging (or perhaps unbeknownst to himself) that the “jihad” he is espousing is “does not have an Islamic pedigree” to use the words of Ruthven.
We see Lenin write in chapter 1.4 from What is to be done, entitled ENGELS ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THE THEORETICAL STRUGGLE :
We shall have occasion further on to deal with the political and organisational duties which the task of emancipating the whole people from the yoke of autocracy imposes upon us. We wish to state only that the role of vanguard fighter can be fulfilled only by a party that is guided by the most advanced theory." (Bold/Italics mine)
Compare this to Qutb saying:
It is necessary that there should be a vanguard which sets out with this determination and then keeps walking on the path, marching through the vast ocean of Jahiliyyahh which has encompassed the entire world. It is necessary that this vanguard should know the landmarks and the milestones of the road toward this goal so that they may recognize the starting place, the nature, the responsibilities and the ultimate purpose of this long journey.“
What is the “yoke of autocracy” to Lenin is the “ocean of Jahiliyyah” to Qutb, (we elaborated on Qutb’s disfigurement of this Islamic concept in the previous part of this series) and what Lenin espouses as being “guided by the most advanced theory” Qutb espouses as knowing “the landmarks and milestones” and further elaborates on as encompassing a theory of dealing with “jahiliyyah” - Qutb’s jahiliyyah could be seen as more dangerous than Lenin’s “autocracy” because Qutb essentially characterizes jahiliyya as encompassing the entire earth whereas Lenin’s tract is limited to the politics of Russia at the point of its authorship. Qutb's theorizing that the vanguard must know the "landmarks" and "milestones" for their goal to recognize its "starting place" mirrors Lenin's theory almost exactly in his chapter on THE PLAN FOR AN ALL RUSSIAN NEWSPAPER:
Under these circumstances, it is possible to ”begin“ [the political struggle] only by inducing people to think about all these things, to summarise and generalise all the diverse signs of ferment and active struggle. In our time, when Social-Democratic tasks are being degraded, the only way ”live political work“ can be begun is with live political agitation, which is impossible unless we have an all-Russia newspaper, frequently issued and regularly distributed."
Lenin's theorizing of a mass movement spawning was the direct influence for what Qutb would title his tract after (Milestones); and directives for revolutionaries to be on alert for bellwethers that capitalist economic systems and autocratic governments were ready to fall was a common part of communist revolutionary propaganda. In What is to be done Lenin actually exalts the Russian Social Democrats for "being guided" so well by the indications laid out in the agitprop Ob agitatsii (On Agitation) by Arkadi Kremer, Lenin's ideological forerunner. Starting a newspaper, as Lenin advocates here, is of course a tactic that Qutb had already done when he, as a part of the Muslim Brotherhood, spearheaded the Free Officers overthrow of the Egyptian government in 1952.
In the following excerpt we see Qutb describe the "organic" method by which the vanguard is to rise to supremacy; it perfectly mirrors the languae of Marx in the Communist Manifesto and how he envisioned the populist rising up of the working class.
“This creed immediately brought into action a viable and dynamic group of people who became independent and separate from the Jahili society, immediately challenging it; it never came as an abstract theory devoid of practical existence. And, in the future it can be brought about only in this manner. There is no other way for the revival of Islam in the shade of Jahiliyyahh, in whatever age or country it appears, except to follow its natural character and to develop it into a movement and an organic system.
Marx on page 25 of the Manifesto:
The Communists are further reproached with desiring to abolish countries and nationality. The working men have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got. Since the proletariat must first of all acquire political supremacy, must rise to be the leading class of the nation, must constitute itself the nation, it is so far, itself national, though not in the bourgeois sense of the word.”
On these pages , 59 in Milestones, and 25 in the Manifesto, beginning with this part of an ideologically conscious group rising up to political and legislative supremacy. Qutb's formulaic borrowing from Marx is clear in a very parrallel sense. Qutb's ideological vanguard must be "independent and separate" from Jahili society (and here Qutb is also asserting that the early Muslim community was 'separate' from society, and 'immediately challenged it' - these are themselves erroneous assertions that fail to understand the biography of the Prophet Muhammad during the Meccan period of his prophethood). Where Marx wants the proletarioat to become ipso facto "the nation" in its own ideological sense Qutb wants a "Muslim community" to form that is organically unified in it's "aim" and "basis" - so neither of these groups will need standard governments and authority structures to govern the relations between human beings (as those are suppose to be abolished). The next paragraphs of both speak to the effort being worked towards a utopian ideal wherein lower human demarcations would be washed away.
National differences and antagonism between peoples are daily more and more vanishing, owing to the development of the bourgeoisie, to freedom of commerce, to the world market, to uniformity in the mode of production and in the conditions of life corresponding thereto.
Marx focus is on national identities vs. communal material interest of working men, Qutb’s is “animal characteristics of jahiliyya” (again borrowing from Alexis Carrel) vs. Islamic harmony:
Some human characteristics are common with those of animals, even with those of inorganic matter. This has misled the exponents of 'scientific Jahiliyyahh' to consider man to be nothing more than an animal, or even than inorganic matter! But in spite of the characteristics which man shares with animals and inorganic matter, man possesses certain other characteristics which distinguish him and make him a unique creation. Even the exponents of 'scientific ignorance' were forced to admit this, the evidence of observational facts choking them; but even then, their admission of this fact is neither sincere nor unequivocal.
What Qutb says here about the Islamic society is not incorrect per se, but the point is rather that he is borrowing Marx’s tract formula practically step by step when he speaks of the washing away of "low animalistic traits" and not basing society on "low associations of race, language, country" etc. just as Marx speaks to the vanishing of "antagonisms between classes" which the "supremacy of the proletariat" will move further along. This illustrates clearly that Marx's formula is one Qutb strongly internalized during his many years of study of the European ideologies since he was able to reproduce it while writing in prison. On the other hand, the true legislative edicts of Islam regarding the issues he is railing about he was not able to reproduce or even make mention of.
Where Qutb does go into falsehood about Islam and contradicting its edicts is with his extortion that the Muslims form an “active group” and “awaken” and form an “organic system” - this totally implies an anarchic mode of development wherein individuals decide to take it upon themselves to enact the revolutionary tract. Communist ideology invoked this same type of populist development; but Qutb ascribes this type of action to jihad and in doing so again makes assertions about Islam that are actually antithetical to its edicts and rulings. Some have said that Qutb never explicitly advocated the use of violence, but his phrasing for the vanguard to "come into the battlefield" in the following excerpt makes such advocacy as explicit as it needs to be. Especially considering the anarchic and violent tactics Qutb and the Muslim Brotherhood used with the Free Officers previously in the 1952 overthrow of the Egyptian government (see part 2 of this series); a personal history of Qutb with which initial readers of his tracts would certainly be familiar.
When Jahiliyyahh takes the form, not of a 'theory' but of an active movement in this fashion, then any attempt to abolish this Jahiliyyahh and to bring people back to Allah Almighty which presents Islam merely as a theory will be undesirable, rather useless. Jahiliyyahh controls the practical world, and for its support there is a living and active organization. In this situation, mere theoretical efforts to fight it cannot even be equal, much less superior, to it. When the purpose is to abolish the existing system and to replace it with a new system which in its character principles and all its general and particular aspects, is different from the controlling Jahili system, then it stands to reason that this new system should also come into the battlefield as an organized movement and a viable group. It should come into the battlefield with a determination that its strategy, its social organization, and the relationship between its individuals should be firmer and more powerful than the existing Jahili system.” (pg. 57)
Qutb’s Chapter on Jihad and the lack of knowledge of the eminent Islamic scholar Ibn al-Qayyim
;Having conditioned the reader into accepting his characterization of a Marxist movement as being validly “Islamic” Qutb then uses the words of the Islamic scholar Ibn al-Qayyim as, seemingly, a validation of his theorization. This is where Qutb’s work gets very dangerous for the young Muslim reader. Ibn al-Qayyim is a revered scholar in the Islamic world.
Despite having preeminence and seminal importance in the tradition of Islamic scholarship and being highly revered in the Muslim world analysis and translation of ibn al-Qayyim’s work has been to a large degree ignored in the field of western oriental scholarship . This is a significant point: that Qutb is able to create the illusion of his theories having validation in the classical works of ibn al-Qayyim is critical to the radicalizing effect his work can have on the Muslim youth; and exposing how Qutb’s mischaracterizations of ibn al-Qayyim and the false foundations upon which he pulls on al-Qayyim’s authority is a critical point to proving that the exhortations of Qutb do not have an authentic Islamic pedigree. However, the western analysis of Qutb’s work has proven wholly incapable, unwillingly, and negligible in taking on this task. What is repeatedly found in the analysis of Milestones by the Western and non-Islamic sources is Qutb’s referencing of ibn al-Qayyim being treated summarily without a further level of investigation into the actual works and writings of ibn al-Qayyim to asses the validity of Qutb’s assertion that his characterization of jihad is validated by the work of ibn al-Qayyim. In the post 9/11 world of western discourse this pattern is found recurringly.
We can start with Ruthven’s book from 2002, where ibn al-Qayyim is only mentioned once as such:
In his detailed exegesis of the jihad verses in the Qur’an, Qutb follows the classical commentators mentioned in Chapter 2 who interpreted the passages as a progressive license for war. In particular he relies on the Syrian theologian Ibn Qayyim (d.1350), a member of the Hanabali school, who stated that the Muslims were first restrained from fighting, then they were permitted to fight, then they were commanded to fight against the aggressors, and finally they were commanded to fight against all the polytheists. Qutb does not explicitly identify the jahiliya society with polytheism, but that implication is there. Nor does he explicitly advocate violence; but that implication is also there.” (pg. 91)
By saying that “Qutb follows the classical commenters…” implies orthodox legitimacy in what Qutb is advocating. In fairness, Ruthven does peck at the idea of that legitimacy by alluding to the incorrectness of Qutb’s jahiliya formulation (which was established in the previous article, and I believe it is fair to say that Qutb does more than imply that the Muslim polities he has dubbed jahiliyya should be treated the same as polytheists [i.e. rebelled and warred against] when he flatly states ‘they are not Muslims’) but Ruthven fails to undertake an analysis of the legitimacy of Qutb’s claiming the torch of ibn al-Qayyim. This in turn leaves wide open for the reader to infer that Qutb’s pulling of the authority of ibn al-Qayyim is legitimate. Again, Ruthven is not the only western writer to offer only this type of summarial description of Qutb’s use of ibn al-Qayyim and leave the implication open that Qutb’s use of Ibn al-Qayyim is legitimate.
Three years after Ruthven's book in 2005 in the book The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists by Khaled M. Abou El Fadl he writes:
Moreover, puritans [meaning Qutb] even read jurists like Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya in an abusively selective manner—they adopt whatever they find in the writings of these jurists that confirms their worldview and ideology, and conveniently ignore the rest”
Abou El Fadl goes a step further than others by making the very important point of selective reading and citation (which will be illustrated shortly). However, he does not elaborate on specifics by furhter citing these jurists himself. He does provide some purview as it pertains to the historical context in which Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn al- Qayyim wrote. But he does not offer any furhter words from their actual writings.
Also from 2005, in the very well done and valubale exposé of the development of Qutb's intellectual thought through his life time entiteld From Secularism to Jihad: Sayyid Qutb and the Foundations of Radical Islamism by Adnan Musallam we still find the following limited elaboration on ibn al-Qayyim and his connection to Qutb:
To support his views of jihad, Qutb draws on Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah's understanding of Quranic verses that are related to to jihad in Islam, including the evolution of the concept from the Meccan period to the Medinan period."
From 2009, in the Oxford University Press published biography of Qutb Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamism the author John Calvert makes some reference to the historical context (for which he cites Abou El-Fadl) of Ibn al-Qayyim but does not investigate or elaborate on Ibn al-Qayyim's jurisprudential matters beyond characterizing them the same as Qutb does (and in essence relying on Qutb for a characterization of Ibn al-Qayyim's rulings):
...according to the [medieval] jurists [such as ibn al-Qayyim] aggressive combat was the norm. Drawing on the jurists, Qutb explains the progression: “The Muslims were first restrained from fighting; then they were permitted to fight; later on they were permitted to fight against the aggressors; and finally they were commanded to fight against all polytheists.
Also in 2009 from the academic journal Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions in the article "Islamism and Modernity: The Political Thought of Sayyid Qutb" by Ana Belén´Soage of the University of Grenada in Spain we read:
Following medieval author Ibn al-Qayyim, Qutb divided men into three groups: Muslims; ‘protected minorities’ (ahl al-dhimma); and inhabitants of Dar al- Harb (the Abode of War), who must be subjugated.”
In the 2011 book Militant Islamist Ideology: Understanding the Global Threat by Youssef H. Aboul Enein and published by the Naval Institute Press we read:
Qutb’s main source was Ibn Qayim (1292– 1350), a disciple of Ibn Taymiyyah (1263– 1328). Qutb quoted from Ibn Qayyim’s book Zad al-Ma’ad, focusing narrowly on the chapter entitled “The Prophet’s Treatment of the Unbelievers and Hypocrites from the Beginning of Messengership until his Death,” which reduces the Prophet to a warlord. Ibn Qayyim provided Qutb an opinion and model that broke apart the Prophet’s life and picked those aspects that fit his militant worldview and that justified violent direct action. In the case of Ibn Qayyim it was the Crusaders, Shiites, and Sufis; for Qutb it was the West, Arab regimes, and the Muslims who enable both. This is the pattern of Militant Islamist theory, a distillation that does not take a holistic view of Muhammad’s life. Suppressed by Militant Islamists is Ibn Qayyim’s work as an astronomer and alchemist; he postulated that the Milky Way comprised tightly packed stars and theorized that distant stars are larger than the visible planets. Again, Militant Islamists narrowly focus on aspects of the disciples they quote from; their theory is pseudo-intellectual and selective.” (128-129)
Here we see some reference to the selectivity that Abou El Fadl mentioned in 2005. But the elaboration on it is minimal and displaced (what exactly does Ibn al-Qayyim's work as an astronomer and alchemist have to do with his rulings on jihad?).
In 2013, from the biography Sayyid Qutb: The Life and Legacy of a Radical Islamic Intellectual by James Toth and again published by Oxford University Press we read:
To these (types of jihad), however, Qutb added a fourth type, a jihad bi al-sayf, or struggle by the sword, that explicitly promotes militancy and holy combat, following the conservative interpretation of Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (1292–1350).
In all these sources the elaboration of Qutb's use of Ibn al-Qayyim is limited to what has been quoted here. Let us take a moment to examine just the verbage being used here to characerize Qutb's use of Ibn al-Qayyiim and contemplate the impression it gives the reader.
- In 2002 we read that Qutb "follows" and "relies on" Ibn al-Qayyim (Ruthven).
- In 2005 we read that Qutb "reads" and "draws on" Ibn al-Qayyim (El Fadl & Musallam).
- In 2009 we read that Qutb was "drawing on" Ibn al-Qayyim and that he also "honoured" him and was "particularly impressed" by him; and by the way "according to" ibn Al-Qayyim "aggressive combat [is] the norm" (Calvert - who does not actually cite any works by Ibn al-Qayyim or the other medieval scholars he mentions to justify this. But rather, he cites QUTB! As his source on Ibn al-Qayyim's rulings on jihad!)
- In 2009 we also read that Qutb was "following" Ibn al-Qayyim (Soage).
- In 2011 we read that Qutb was "provided" a model from Ibn al-Qayyim (Aboul Enein).
- In 2013 we read that Qutb "went to great lengths to demonstrate" when he "cited" Ibn al-Qayyim "to support" his views (Toth).
Well! One would certainly take away the impression that the academic analysis must be in agreement that Qutb "follows" " "draws on" "relies on" and "cites" Ibn al-Qayyim at "great length" for his "justifications" of his MARXIST formulation of jihad.
Similarly, all of these works and academics also confirm that Qutb followed the methods and formulations of Marx/Lenin and other Western ideologues.*
Therefore, the implication is not only left wide open, but seemingly made crystal clear that the Marxist formulation of revolution, rebellious and anarchic as it is, must logically follow the same lines of the thinking and rulings of the great Islamic scholar from the medieval period Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya. What goes unattended to is the fact that all of these writings make this assertion in succession with one another without anyone undertaking an actual further analysis of the writings of Ibn al-Qayyim so as to ascertain whether or not the assertions of Qutb have legitimacy under the guise of Ibn al-Qayyim's work which is a much larger body than is being represented here. Frequently we see that the academics simply rely on the works of Qutb himself for their own characterizations of Ibn al-Qayyim.
This is a drastic and crucial shortcoming of the western scholarship that needs to be addressed. It has been recently acknowledged that through the vast amount of orientalist work and analysis of the Medieval period of Islam, the works of Ibn al-Qayyim have gone largely unanalyzed and have not been translated into the European languages (see the book On Taqlid:Ibn Al Qayyim's Critique of Authority in Islamic Law by Abdul-Rahman Mustafa, page 2 of the introduction). Despite the fact that Qutb's use of Ibn al-Qayyim is crucial to him passing a veneer of Islamic justification to his Marxist formulation of jihad the western academics have been unable to assess the legitimacy of Qutb's tactic here.
This is where we need to refer to the Islamic scholars who have studied the work of Ibn al-Qayyim in depth, and rely on their students from the west who can translate his works into the European languages. Qutb's citing of Ibn al-Qayyim is a summary of the progression of the Prophet's life. It is providing a quick purview and is not intended to dispense on matters of the rules and conditions for jihad and does not dispose on the matter of rebelling against the ruler. Within the summary Ibn al-Qayyim writes:
Thus for thirteen years after the beginning of his Messengership, he called people to Allah through preaching,without fighting or Jizyah ,and was commanded to restrain himself and to practice patience and forbearance. Then he was commanded to migrate, and later permission was given to fight.”
What goes unmentioned in the summary here (because it is a summary only and not an explication on the rules and conditions of jihad) is that when the Prophet was given permission to fight, after he was commanded to migrate from Mecca to Medina, was also when he became the ruler of a politiy! In the final years of the first 13 years of his Prophethood in Mecca the Prophet and his followers were exiled to the outskirts of the city and did not rebel despite being afflicted with starvation, torture, and banishment while their adversaries committed idolatry and sin. They left for Medina at the request of the Medinan tribes for the Prophet to come and rule and arbitrate over them as the various factions in Medina were on the verge of war.
The issue of jihad needing to be orderd by a ruler is not addressed by Qutb. Either he is not aware this condition exists or he is choosing to ignore it. He is also choosing to ignore that rebelling against the ruler (even the unjust rulers) is forbidden in Islam by the Prophetic sayings which he also does not address; all the while vigilanty-style rebellion against the rulership of Muslim socities is the precise action for which he is advocating and took part in before, which led to his imprisonment in the first place.
So it begs the question, what is Ibn al-Qayyim's ruling on rebellion against the ruler? Thankfully, despite the fact that the western academics have been thus far unable to bring it to light we have a translation of his ruling on this issue (thank you to this source and the author Abu Khadeeja Abdul-Wahid in Birmingham for translating it and providing it to the public). In his book Iʿlām al-Muwaqqiʿīn ʿan Rabb il-ʿĀlameem (Information for Those who Write on Behalf of the Lord of the Worlds) Ibn al-Qayyim expounds on rebelling against the ruler:
The Prophet (salallaahu ‘alaihi wassallam) legislated for this nation the obligation of rejecting the evil so that by its rejection, the goodness that Allāh and His Messenger love is obtained. And when rejecting evil leads to what is more evil and more hated by Allāh and His Messenger then it is not allowed to reject it – even if Allāh hates the evil and detests those who perform it. And this is like censuring [the transgressions] of the kings and the ones in authority by coming out to fight against them for verily that is the basis and foundation of every evil and every tribulation till the end of time." (bold mine)
There is more to quote here and we will provide it here shortly. But let us just take a moment to pause here and notice the blatant contradiction of Sayyid Qutb's tract. He tried to use Ibn al-Qayyim to justify rebellion against the rulers of the Muslim societies, meanwhile we see here that Ibn al-Qayyim states that rebelling against kings and the one in authority is, "the basis and foundation of every evil and every tribulation till the end of time." - Wow! Just what exactly is Sayyid Qutb calling the people to then according to Ibn al-Qayyim?
Ibn al-Qayyim continues:
And the Companions asked permission from Allāh’s Messenger to kill the leaders who delay the prayer from its correct time saying, ‘Shall we not kill them?’ He (the prophet) replied, ‘No, so long as they establish the prayer.’ And he also said, ‘Whoever sees something from his Ruler that he dislikes, then let him be patient and let him not remove his hand from the Ruler’s obedience.’
It is almost amazing to read these words of Ibn al-Qayyim and to see their relevance to the Muslim world in modern times and to see what a repudiation they are to the actions and ideologies of the those who commit terrorism in the name of Islam. Ibn al-Qayyim is a revered scholar of Islamic history. Youth in the Muslim world would know who is by hearing his name mentioned in sermons or history lessons. His authority as a jurist would be sensed strongly; however, a detailed understanding of his rulings and writings the lay Muslim would most likely not be familiar with, especially given the context of post-colonial times when formal Islamic education itself in the Muslim world had receded to a fair degree in favor of western modes. This is what makes Qutb’s misemployment of Ibn al-Qayyim’s words so dangerous. The youth would be able to recognize the name of an authoritative scholar, but not be able to assess the propriety of that use.
What is amazing is that there is apparently a similar phenomenon with the western scholarship and its assessment (or lack thereof) of Qutb’s use of Ibn al-Qayyim. In all of the above sources what is articulated about Qutb’s use of Ibn al-Qayyim is restricted to what I have quoted here. These works are completely void of any adjudicative measures towards establishing whether or not Qutb’s invocation of Ibn al-Qayyim had merit. Rather, they use verbiage that guides the reader towards an impression that Qutb’s use of Ibn al-Qayyim ought to be taken tacitly as a legitimate representation. Often times scholarly works will point towards further research that needs to be done or identify areas of shortcoming in the breadth of research that they have drawn out on their respective topics; this gives the reader an idea of where more pertinent information may lie beyond the text’s offerings. But we do not see that in these works and assessments of Qutb in regards to his using the words of Ibn al-Qayyim as a justification for his Marxist/Leninist conceptualization of jihad.
Since these same academics are precise and competent in tracing the currents of Marxist/Leninist rebellion and other Western-oriented fascist thought in Qutb’s work*, what results when a casual linkage is made between that and the words of Ibn al-Qayyim is that the inference is left wide open to be made that Ibn al-Qayyim and other Islamic scholars endorsed an anarchic mode of rebellion as jihad. Further beyond that, since it is also commonly referenced that these scholars would invoke following the salaf (the Prophet Muhammad and the first three generations of Muslims) and would adhere to jurisprudential principals that honored reference to orthodox textual evidence; the inference is left wide open to be made Islam itself endorses an anarchic mode of rebellion as jihad, when IT DOES NOT!
Dissemination of Milestones in the Muslim World and misuse of the words Ibn Tayymiyah
Qutb was executed by the Egyptian government in 1966 but his works would thereon disseminate throughout the Muslim world and especially the Arab world. A faction of the Muslim brotherhood formed in Syria and began an uprising against the Baathist regime in 1976. The Lebanese civil war would see the spawning of Hezbollah who was highly inspired by Qutb’s works (yes even though they were Shia’). Hamas in Palestine was formed by members of the Muslim Brotherhood in league with those in Egypt. These groups all have founding charters or tracts that emulate the same themes of takfir and abolition as jihad that Qutb elucidated in Milestones; only generally taking their conceptualization to an even further extreme.
One of Qutb’s compatriots in the Muslim Brotherhood was an attorney named Mahfouz Azzam. Mahfouz Azzam was the uncle of a young medical student who he would teach about Qutb’s writings named Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al Zawahiri would take on an even more radical outlook on Qutb’s writings as a young man and formed a group called Islamic Jihad in Egypt alongside an engineering student named Muhammad Abd-al-Salaam Faraj.
Faraj was executed in 1982 at the age of 28 for planning the assassination of president Anwar Sadat (which was carried out successfully). Before that Faraj had written a tract entitled The Neglected Duty (or The Absent Obligation as it can also be translated to) that was disseminated in Egypt that drew heavily on Qutb’s concepts only making them even more overt and explicit. The previous part of this series showed how Qutb made takfir upon all the Muslim rulers by distorting with concept of jahiliyya and not knowing (or not showing) the basic evidences of tafsir of certain verses of the Qur’an that deal with ruling by “other than what Allah has revealed.” Qutb is literary and artful enough in his writing that an observer like Ruthven took his excommunication to be more implicit than anything else (though we showed that Qutb did says ‘in reality this is not Islam and they are not Muslims’) but Faraj made his takfir of the Muslim rulers as unambiguous as possible.
In The Neglected Duty there is a chapter entitled “Today’s Rulers Have Apostated from Islam.” In this chapter the takfir is of course clearly pronounced in the title and we see some other phenomena that the academics have referred to and that recurs in the propaganda of subsequent terrorist groups. First is comparing the Mongol (tartar) invasions of the Muslim lands in the 13th century to the 20th century political situation of the Muslim world. The second is using the words of the emanate Islamic scholar Ibn Tayymiyah (d.1328) to justify takfir of the Muslim rulers.
You could see mention in some of the quotations above from the western academics that the aforementioned Ibn al-Qayyim was a student and discipline of Ibn Tayymiyah, it is also a tagline of western academics to say that terrorist groups use the words of Ibn Tayymiyah much in the same vein that we showed it being described that Sayyid Qutb used the words of Ibn al-Qayyim. Again, in the Muslim and Sunni world Ibn Tayymiyah is a revered scholar and emanate figure of Islamic scholarship. His words carry weight and authority and the attempt to use his words to justify their misguided aims is a very intentional tactic of the terrorist groups to garner support from the masses. Unlike Ibn al-Qayyim, Ibn Tayymiyah has longer been a figure of interest to the orientalist scholarship in the West. As such his works have longer been translated and analyzed and it is more common to find the Western scholarship calling out misuse of his works to one degree or another; however, gaps still remain and some prescient words and rulings of Ibn Taymiyyah that wholly refute the characterizations and misuse of his work by Faraj and other terrorist groups, just like the case with Ibn al-Qayyim, have yet to be widely recognized and cited by the Western academics.
It was asserted earlier that understanding the Islamic dictums of obedience to the rulers and those in authority is an essential crux to showing how the orthodox sources of Islam make a refutation of the terrorist ideology evident. This same issue comes up again in analyzing Faraj’s work and his citing of Ibn Tayymiyah.
Firstly, it is important to note the ignorance of (willful or otherwise) the statements of the Prophet’s companion Ibn Abbas in regards to the Quranic verses that deal with ruling by other than what Allah has revealed is essential to terrorist groups putting forth their ideology. It is interesting because these statements are easily found in the tafsir of Ibn Katheer (amongst other places and evidence pertaining to these verses) but they are not acknowledged by the extremists. Faraj is an interesting example of this because he actually does quote what comes shortly after Ibn Katheer’s citing of the statements of Ibn Abbas and he then quotes Ibn Tayymiyah in an apparent justification that is really only selective citing and misses a grand point in the light of the statement of Ibn Abbas.
Faraj cites Ibn Katheer on page 22-23:
Ibn Katheer said: “Allaah rejects whoever rejects His wisdom which encompasses all that is good and repels all that is evil. Whoever places his opinions and desires, or the customs of his people beside the Shari’ah, is like those who came before Islaam and ruled according to custom, without guidance or knowledge and who followed their own fleeting desires and dreams. Thus the Tartars ruled the kingdom forged by their leader Jengiz Khan, by laws which he gave them, al-Yaasaq31 (Jasa), which was a book comprising laws taken from several laws, i. e. (Judaism, Christianity, Islaam and others including personal whims and desires). To this law they gave precedence before the book of Allaah and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allaah. Whoever does this is a kaafir. It is the obligation of Muslims to oppose such a ruler by all necessary means until he returns to the rule of Allaah and His Messenger. So that no other than Him should rule, neither in a minor or major way.”
Faraj then adds his own words:
The present rulers have left Islaam through several doors, so that the person who investigates their behaviour has become free of confusions about it, let alone the issue of ruling by what Allaah has revealed.”
The statement of Ibn Katheer comes from the tafsir of verse 5:50:
Do they then seek the judgement of (the days of) ignorance, and who is better in judgement that Allaah for a people who have firm faith"
What Faraj conveniently leaves out is shortly before that for the tafsir of 5:44 which is the verse that says (as Faraj cites it):
And whoever does not rule by what Allaah has revealed, such are the disbelievers"
Faraj, just the same as Qutb did, does not cite this whole verse; most likely because citing the whole verse hints at the contextual particularity of its revelation, which inevitably leads one to the statement of Ibn Abbas that we cited in the prior part of this series:
Whoever rejects what Allah has revealed, will have committed Kufr (disbelief), and whoever accepts what Allah has revealed, but did not rule by it, is a Zalim (unjust) and a Fasiq (rebellious) and a sinner.''
The elaboration of Ibn Abbas’s exegesis on these verses goes further beyond this to establish the point. The section cited by Ibn Katheer is to be viewed in light of this statement of Ibn Abbas that Ibn Katheer had cited shortly before. Therefore, when Ibn Katheer says “rejects” here it is under the meaning, that Ibn Abbas articulated, of rejecting Allah’s revelation as a revelation; or distorting what the holy book actually says as was done by the Jews in Medina in the particular context of the verse (again see the prior part of the series).
“Sheikh-ul-Islaam [Sheikh-ul-Islaam is an honorific for Ibn Tayymiyah] said: “And it is known from the religion (of Islaam) by necessity and by the consensus of all the Muslims that whoever legalises to follow other than the religion of Islaam or a Shari’ah other than the Shari’ah of Mohammad he is a disbeliever and his disbelief is similar to that of the one who believes in some part of the book (Quraan) and rejects some of it.”
The term “legalise” (سوغ) is an interesting translation here. The verb used "sawagh" means to "warrant" or "to make official." When Ibn Tayymiyah is saying “whoever legalises to follow other than the religion of Islam…” in light of the saying of Ibn Abbas it would mean to make a religion other than Islam official (as in officially ordained by God, or to claim as such) and this would be a type of rejection that Ibn Abbas is talking about in the first part of his statement that amounts to kufr (disbelief). But the “rulers of today” as Faraj dubs them have not done this, they have made laws that have made things forbidden in Islam permissible for people to do (such as drinking alcohol in Egypt) but this is different than doing so because they have decided that Islam permits that, or asserting the like thereof. There is no proof to the contrary and proof would need to be established in order to meet the conditions for making takfir upon these rulers. Further beyond that is the matter that without question the rulers of today in the Muslim lands have permitted people to pray, made accommodations to facilitate the congregational prayers, and even appointed jurisprudential religious councils and judges to advise and adjudicate on an array of religious affairs. Nothing that the rulers have done meets the Islamic requirements for disobedience established in the many sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.
Even further beyond this is the whole issue of yaslah in Islam - whereby the harm of one thing is weighed against another and the lesser harm is chosen (Ibn al-Qayyim refers to this in the quotation above). It is a whole other issue but there is actually a range of permissibility for the ruler to determine that the benefits of not following a certain ruling of Islam outweighs the potential harm in doing so. Even the Prophet himself at times took actions or deterred his companions from taking actions in accordance with established rulings because he deemed the potential harm in doing so to outweigh the benefit. His companions and generations that followed who acted as rulers in various times and places did the same thing.
Faraj cites these verses just before getting into the chapter entitled Today’s Rulers Have Apostated from Islam. At the beginning of that chapter he again attempts to use Ibn Tayymiyah as justification. Having thought that he already proved that the rulers are apostates who provides a quote from Ibn Tayymiyah that shows that being an apostate is worse than just being an unbeliever and derives a harsher punishment in Islamic sharia. Faraj then asks the reader:
So what attitude should Muslims have towards those rulers (who have left the laws of Islaam)?
And provides an answer quoting Ibn Tayymiyah:
Ibn Taymiyyah also said: “Every group which rebels against mutawaatir (clear-cut), law of the Islamic Shari’ah must be fought by the consensus of all the Imaams (leaders) of Muslims, even if they pronounce the Shahaadah (declaration of faith). So if they attest the Shahaadah and refuse to perform the five prayers, then they must be fought until they perform them (the prayers): and if they refuse to pay Zakaah, then they must be fought until they pay it, and so must they be (fought) if they refuse to fast in the month of Ramadhan or perform the Hajj. Likewise if they refuse to prohibit fawaahish (evil deeds), zina (adultery), maysar (gambling), khamr (wine), and the other things which Shari’ah forbids. Also they must be fought if they refuse to judge between themselves in the affairs of murder, money, honour, marriage and so on by the Quraan and the Sunnah, or if they abstain from al-amr bil ma’roof wan nahi ‘anil munkar (enjoining good and forbidding evil), fighting the disbelievers until they accept Islaam or pay the Jiziah in order to abase the disbelievers. Likewise if they manifest atheism in Allaah’s name, belying his verses, his attributes, decree and destiny and what the Jam’ah (group) of Muslims were upon during the time of the rightly guided khulafaa (plural of khaleef) or insulting the early Muhajireen (those who migrated to Madinah with the Prophet ρ and the Ansaar (the Helpers - from the city of Madinah) and those who followed them, or fighting Muslims until they obey them in a way that will cause the Muslims to rebel against the Islamic Shari’ah and the like of these things, Allaah says: ‘And fight then until there is no fitnah (disbelief and polytheism, worshipping others besides Allaah) and the religion (worship) will all be for Allaah (in the whole world)’
While this is seemingly going right along with Faraj it is undone when Ibn Tayymiyah provides the context for the revelation of this verse (which Faraj does include):
This verse was revealed about ahl at-Taif (the people of Taif) who embraced Islaam, prayed and fasted, but they were dealing with usury, which was the final prohibition in the Quraan and it is a money taken by the satisfaction of the dealers. So if the person who does not abstain from it is at war with Allaah and His Messenger , what about those who abandon several Islamic laws or most of them, such as the Tartars?”
The people of Taif here were a tribe outside of Mecca (where the city of Taif) who were as Ibn Tayymiyah describes here. They dealt with usury shortly after the time of the Prophet’s death. At this time, as a group, they were under the rulership of the first Islamic Caliphate Abu Bakr as-Saddique, and he went to war with them on the issue. When Ibn Tayymiyah made these rulings over the Tartars they were aggressing against the Muslims in Iraq and Syria where the Muslims existed in a state under rulership. Further, when Ibn Tayymiyah speaks of groups that rebel he says "طأفة خرجت" which means "sects who left" and the verb here is "kharajat" which is the same used to describe the "khawaraj" who made takfir on the Caliphate Ali and departed themselves from the main body of Muslims (we referred to this in the previous article). This is a distinct condemenation of groups who rebel against the rulership, but Faraj is attempting to use these rulings as justification for rebellion against the rulers when they are actually rulings made as edicts for rulers against smaller groups of whom they have the ability and authority to subjugate (in the case of Abu Bakr with the people of Taif) or to reasonably defend themselves against an combatant neighbor (in the case of the Governorate of Syria in confrontation with the Mongols at the time of Ibn Tayymiyah). A 2010 conference of Islamic scholars in Artuklu University in Turkey expounded on the historical context of the fatwa that Faraj cites above and the consensus that Islamic scholars have about Faraj's misapplication of it and his corruption of its wording. Read here for a detailed account of that conference.
There has been focus in both the Islamic and Western scholarship on the historical context of Ibn Tayymiyah's times and the fatwa cited above and its misapplication of Faraj and those who were inspired by Faraj (the book Reclaiming Jihad: A Qur'anic Critique of Terrorism by Amin ElSayed [The Islamic Foundation. Leicestershire. 2014.] has a decent dispensation on this in the fourth chapter 'Modern Debate on Offensive Jihad' under the subsection 'Qutb's Influence on Proponents of Offensive Jihad'). But a major point has still been missed in the Western scholarship's general failure to drive home and ask the question: What does Ibn Tayymiyah say explicitly about exercising takfir (which Faraj does) and rebelling against the rulers (which Faraj advocates)? Again, it is enlightening but left conveniently unaddressed in Faraj’s manifesto, and for as much as has been written on Ibn Tayymiyah in the Western academia you cannot find reference to his explicit words on these matters.
So to provide it here: on takfir Ibn Tayymiyah said (again thank you to this source for the translations):
I am one of those most severe in forbidding that a person in particular should be declared as an unbeliever, an open sinner or a sinful transgressor until it is known that the proof of the Messenger is established upon him, the like of which, if it is opposed one becomes an unbeliever or a sinner or a transgressor. And I affirm that Allāh has forgiven the mistakes of this Ummah (the nation of Muslims) – and that is general for affairs of belief, sayings and actions.” [From his well known Fatwa collection Majmūʿ al-Fatāwā, 3/229]
Ibn Tayymiyah also stated that there are legitimate barriers to proving that one is an unbeliever. Barriers the terrorists fail to nor ever even attempt to meet when they make takfir upon the rulers.
It is possible that a man has not heard these revealed texts, or that he heard them but they are not established as being authentic with him, or as far as he sees they contradict other texts necessitating interpretation, even if it is incorrect.” [From his Fatwa collection Majmūʿ al-Fatāwā, 3/231]
And what are Ibn Taymiyyah’s explicit statements on rebelling against the ruler? We spoke in the first part of the series about the case of Ahamd ibn Hanbal, a great scholar form the second generation of Muslims to follow the Prophet Muhammad, who was imprisoned for refusing to validate the ruler’s statements that question the divine origins of the Qur’an but nevertheless implored his own followers to stay in obedience to the ruler despite the fact that the ruler wanted them to validate a creed regarding the Qur’an that does amount to negation of Islam’s first pillar and testimony of faith. In regards to the case of Ahmad Ibn Hanbal Ibn Tayymiyah said:
Ahmad [bin Hanbal] and his like did not declare these rulers to be disbelievers. Rather he believed them to have Imaan and believed in their leadership and he supplicated for them, and he was of the view that they were to be followed in the prayers and Hajj, and military expeditions were to be made with them. He prohibited rebellion against them – and it (i.e. rebellion) was never seen from the likes of him from amongst the scholars. Yet he still opposed whatever they innovated of false statements, since that was major disbelief, even if they did not know it. He would oppose it and strive to refute it with whatever was possible. So there must be a combination of obeying Allāh and His Messenger in manifesting the Sunnah and Religion and opposing the innovations of the heretical Jahmites and between protecting the rights of the believers, the rulers and the Ummah, even if they are ignorant innovators and transgressing sinners.” [From his Fatwa collection Majmūʿ al-Fatāwā, 7/507-508]
In a book by Ibn Tayymiyah that is well known, Minhāj as-Sunnah (Methodology of the Sunnah), he states about rebelling against the rulers:
And there is hardly anyone who revolted against a leader with authority except that what arose from his action of evil, was actually greater than whatever good came from it…And it is for this reason that it is firmly established with the People of the Sunnah to abandon fighting in times of tribulation due to the authentic narrations that are established from the Prophet ; and they (the Scholars) began to mention this matter in the course of [authoring their works] in Creed, and they would command with patience towards the oppression of the leaders, and the abandonment of fighting against them – even if a fair portion of the people of knowledge fought against them during the tribulation…
This ought to show clearly enough that the details of jurisprudential matters in Islam matter; and what has been shown here is what is meant when it is said that terrorists misuse or selectively use the words of great Islamic scholars (not to mention also the words of the Qur’an, the Prophet Muhammad, and his companions). It is interesting to note that Faraj was a young man when he wrote this tract, in his mid twenties, and he, like Sayyid Qutb, had not undergone an Islamic education; rather he was trained as an engineer. During his time he was refuted by the religious authorities in Egypt.
The book Awakening Islam by Stéphane Lacroix (2011, Harvard University Press) comments on how the movements of the Brotherhood in Egypt, the propagation of Faraj, and the networking of Al-Zawihiri was limited by its own lack of religious authority and theological justification; as it was movement made up of “technocrats” and “intellectuals” from secular-educational backgrounds:
The failure of the Islamist uprising that was to have taken place in Egypt following the assassination of President Anwar Sadat on October 6, 1981 as a counterexample [to the Iranian revolution of 1979 which did have theological backing from Shiite religious figures - Shiism differs greatly from Sunni and orthodox Islam in regards to rebellion]. Because it included a significant number of intellectuals and military officers, the al-Jihad group [a group formed by Al-Zawahiri] had sufficient militant resources to carry out the assassination of the president, but it included in its ranks only a single ‘alim [Islamic scholar] with a minimum of religious capital, the Azhari sheik Umar And al-Rahman, who, although he was willing to sanction the operation, could not by himself compensate for the group’s obvious lack go legitimating resources.” Bold mine."
Since the Muslim brotherhood had been banned in Egypt many of its members were expelled outside the country. Some ended up in Palestine, Syria, and Jordan; others ended up in Saudi Arabia. Through this the takfiri ideology took root in Saudi Arabia. It was mostly inculcated in the 1970’s amongst youth on college campuses as that was the Marxist/Communist methodology that the Brotherhood had adopted to recruiting youth into their ideology. One such youth was a young man named Osama Bin Laden who was from a very wealthy (but not very religious) family and was a business administration student and King Abdulaziz University in the city of Jeddah. Inspired by Qutb’s ideology Bin Laden would go to Afghanistan to fight the Soviet Union alongside the Taliban in 1979. There he would meet Ayman al-Zawahiri and the two of them together would form Al Qaeda. It is known that in 2005 Ayman al-Zawahiri corroborated with a man in Iraq named Musab al Zarqawi about the importance of disseminating propaganda in advocating for the takfiri ideology. At the time Musab al Zarqawi led a rebellion group known as Al Qaida in the Land of the Two Rivers. After al Zarqawi died his group rebranded itself as the Islamic State of Iraq with Omar al-Baghdadi has its leader. This is the same group that is today known as ISIS.
In the next article we will look closer at the development of suicide bombing and attacks. We examine its Islamic pedigree and show that it is wholly without justification in the religion of Islam. We will further show how both the tactic of suicide bombing, as well as the ideological train of thought that justifies it, are both phenomena that originates with Marxism and communism and was adopted by Osama Bin Laden and other militant groups who followed the takfiri ideology of Sayyid Qutb.
*The following is evidence from these sources that they recognize Marxist/Leninist/Western thought at play in Qutb's work (in chronological order from their publishing date)
- Ruthven’s connections between Qutb and Marxism have been articulated and quoted in the article already
- From El Fadl: