Research Paper: Sayyid Qutb's Transformation From Pro-Western to Pro-Islamist

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Sayyid Qutb's Transformation from Pro-Western to Pro-Islamist

When most people hear the words Sayyid Qutb, they will often associate his views with radical Islam. This is because, his ideas are famously known for their criticisms of the West and its way of life. Yet, a little further beneath the surface, it is clear that this was a part of a transformation that occurred during his lifetime. As many of his views and beliefs; were designed to serve as way of criticizing modern Islam. Then, after studying and spending significant amounts of time in the United States, is when his ideas changed once again. This is illustrating the kind of impact Qutb had on: the Middle East and different interpretations of Islamic principles. To fully understand these ideas requires: focusing on why these changes occurred and the lasting impact of his writings. Together, these elements will highlight the challenges that he endured and how specific events influenced his opinions.

The Early Life Sayyid Qutb

Sayyid Qutb was born on October 9, 1906 in Musha, Egypt. His father was a land owner and his mother was a local administrator. Early on, he was taught the basic principles of the Koran. This helped to establish a sense of creativity and desire for learning more about religious / historical ideas.

However, as Qutb studied new concepts, is when there was a transformation is his views. This is because he began to see people blindly following the instructions and words of the clerics (as if they were law). When in reality, he felt that these ideas were nothing more than one man's interpretation of the Koran and Islamic law. As a result, most of his education occurred in institutions away from religious doctrine.

Then, in the late 1920's is when he began to study under the British educational system at the University of Cairo. This exposed him to new ideas on personal freedom and self-determination. After completing his education, is when he became a professor at the university (who was openly questioning many Islamic beliefs). While at the same time, he had a sense of respect for Western ideas that he learned. During this time of his life, is when he would openly discuss the problems with Islam and how the West was superior because of these fundamental beliefs.

From 1948 to 1952, is when there would be a transformation in Qutb's views. This occurred when he was at the Woodrow Wilson Teacher College (in Washington DC), the University of Northern Colorado (in Greely, Colorado) and at Stanford University (in Palo Alto, California). What was happening is America had much more liberal attitudes when it came to: the way men and women were interacting with each other sexually. This sense of openness is different from many of the traditional roles and customs that Qutb experienced. Moreover, he felt that the open consumption of alcohol and cigarettes encouraged this kind of deviant behavior in everyone. This had an impact on the music and attitudes of society. Over the course of time, these views led to a transformation in the values of individuals and the way they practiced social customs.

From an Islamic point-of-view, these practices are banned based on the fact that they encourage men and women to become involved in behavior that is questionable. This is accomplished with women showing off their bodies to men. At the same time, the use of: alcohol, cigarettes, drugs and listening to Jazz music all encouraged this kind of attitude in everyone. These views changed Qutb's opinion of America from: one of respect to an attitude of contempt.

Evidence of this can be seen with Qutb saying, "America is primitive in its artistic taste, both in what it enjoys as art and in its own artistic works. Jazz is its music of choice. This is the music that the Negroes invented to satisfy their primitive inclinations, as well as their desire to be noisy on the one hand and to excite bestial tendencies on the other. The American's intoxication in jazz music does not reach its full completion until the music is accompanied by singing that is just as course and obnoxious as the music itself. Meanwhile, the noise of the instruments and the voices mounts, and it rings in the ears to an unbearable degree. The agitation of the multitude increases, and the voices of approval mount, and their palms ring out in vehement, continuous applause that all but deafens the ears. Furthermore, the American girl is well acquainted with her body's seductive capacity as: it is in the face, the expressive eyes, and thirsty lips. She knows seductiveness lies in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs -- and she shows all this and does not hide it."

This passage is showing how Qutb began to reject American ideas. The reason why is based on the fact that they fundamentally clashed with Islamic principles by allowing women and men to openly flaunt their sexuality. This encouraged these activities in: the music and the consumption of alcohol / cigarettes. The combination of these factors is designed, to provide everyone with a sense of openness that is corrupting the moral foundation of society. Once this takes place, is the point that they will begin embracing these attitudes (as they see nothing wrong with what is happening). According to Qutb, this has been occurring for many generations and makes America a morally weak society in comparison with other nations.

Why did he transform from a secularist to an Islamist?

The biggest transformations occurred when Qutb was in America. During this time, he continued his personal study and reflection of Islamic law in comparison with Western traditions. What he discovered, is that Western ideals were actually moving people and society away from religious beliefs. Instead, the consumer orientated culture was encouraging everyone to engage in activities that are against the will of God. Anyone who stood in the way of this system was subject to: arrest, torture and murder. Moreover, most of these nations often used colonialism as a disguise for hiding these views.

After Egypt was able to gain its independence, is when these ideas were made more concrete. In the wake of the European powers leaving, they left behind governments that were pro-Western. Yet, they lacked any kind of legitimate support of the people. According the Qutb, these were nothing more than puppet governments designed to serve the interests of the West. In the case of Egypt, this was maintained through: the control of the Suez Canal and having access to different natural resources. Although the British did not directly control the country, the government that they left in their place gave them same kind of access to these areas. The only difference is that there were more indirect amounts of control exercised from behind the scenes.

At the same time, the government practiced similar traditions as the Europeans. This meant that although these individuals were considered to be Egyptian, they were not practicing the fundamentals of Islamic law. Instead, they were involved in the same kind of corrupt practices of many Western nations. If left unchecked, this will continue to further corrupt society away from strict fundamentalist values that are outlined in the Koran.

Evidence of this can be seen with observations from Cook (2001) who wrote, "Qutb is not an apologist. His formative experiences in developing the major themes of radical Islam were his persecution by the Egyptian government. and, the knowledge that large numbers of fellow Muslims had been imprisoned tortured and sometimes executed or murdered by the authorities. Therefore, Qutb had an absolute view of the problems facing the Muslim world, arguing that these problems stemmed from the fact that Muslim societies were no longer ruled by Muslim norms and laws. Since true Muslims were in the minority, they must focus on reshaping Muslim society."

As a result, Qutb felt that rejecting Western traditions and ideas were the only way to achieve these objectives. This is illustrating how his views on: colonialism, capitalism, consumerism and Western society changed. As he saw how these areas are interconnected into one system that has completely corrupted Muslims around the globe.

The main reason why Qutb's views changed, were from the excesses that he had seen in America. This was shocking to him, as he was used to more traditional beliefs and roles in society. Moreover, the consumer culture of the West, created situations where they dominated large regions for control of strategic assets. The combination of these factors meant that their culture was moving Muslims away from the fundamentals of Islamic law. Therefore, it is everyone's duty to reject these ideas and fight against any kind of attempts to dominate the Muslim world.

After comparing the two societies, Qutb determined that there must be role between: Islam, the government and the people. This means that more fundamental laws must be imposed. This system will produce better results by directly controlling human excesses… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Sayyid Qutb's Transformation From Pro-Western to Pro-Islamist.  (2012, May 23).  Retrieved June 18, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/sayyid-qutb-transformation-pro-western/8831312

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"Sayyid Qutb's Transformation From Pro-Western to Pro-Islamist."  Essaytown.com.  May 23, 2012.  Accessed June 18, 2019.
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