Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamism

Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamism

by John Calvert
     
 

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Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966) was an influential Egyptian ideologue credited with establishing the theoretical basis for radical Islamism in the post colonial 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 bin Laden and al-Qaeda. He is often portrayed as a terrorist,… See more details below

Overview

Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966) was an influential Egyptian ideologue credited with establishing the theoretical basis for radical Islamism in the post colonial 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 bin Laden and al-Qaeda. He is often portrayed as a terrorist, Islamo-Fascist, and advocate of murder. This book rescues Qutb from misrepresentation, tracing the evolution of his thought within the context of his time. An expert on social protest and political resistance in the modern Middle East, as well as Egyptian nationalism, John Calvert recounts Qutb's life from the small village in which he was raised to his execution at the behest of Abd al-Nasser's regime. His study remains sensitive to the cultural, political, social, and economic circumstances that shaped Qutb's thought-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 pose a challenge to authority, including those who claimed (falsely, he believed) to be Muslim.

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Editorial Reviews

Washington Times - Joshua Sinai

[A] comprehensive overview of Qutb's life and writings.

The Atlantic - Marc Lynch

Fascinating details emerge in this book.... Anyone interested in the evolution ofIslamism in the 20th century should read it.

Jewish Review of Books - Samuel Helfront

The first truly comprehensive biography.

Small Wars Journal - Youssef Aboul-Enein

An exquisite intellectual biography.

Bustan: The Middle East Book Review - Bruce Maddy-Weitzman

[An] excellent intellectual biography.

Review of Middle East Studies - Nathan J. Brown

John Calvert greatly increases our knowledge about Qutb, situating him in intellectual context -- and does so without losing his balance. While the book is quite detailed, it should still be welcomed by a very broad audience indeed.

The Economist

This rich and carefully researched biography sets Qutb for the first time in his Egyptian context, rescuing him from caricature without whitewashing his radicalism. It is no small achievement.

Washington Times
[A] comprehensive overview of Qutb's life and writings.

— Joshua Sinai

The Atlantic
Fascinating details emerge in this book.... Anyone interested in the evolution ofIslamism in the 20th century should read it.

— Marc Lynch

Jewish Review of Books
The first truly comprehensive biography.

— Samuel Helfront

Small Wars Journal
An exquisite intellectual biography.

— Youssef Aboul-Enein

Bustan: The Middle East Book Review

[An] excellent intellectual biography.

— Bruce Maddy-Weitzman

Review of Middle East Studies
John Calvert greatly increases our knowledge about Qutb, situating him in intellectual context — and does so without losing his balance. While the book is quite detailed, it should still be welcomed by a very broad audience indeed.

— Nathan J. Brown

Bustan: The Middle East Book Review
[An] excellent intellectual biography.

— Bruce Maddy-Weitzman

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199365265
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
11/22/2009
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
1,107,936
File size:
2 MB

What People are saying about this

Joel Gordon

Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamism 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 exposé, Qutb gets his due.

Thomas Hegghammer

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.

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