Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamism

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Overview

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-Nasser'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.

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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

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231701044
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 8/12/2010
  • Series: Columbia/Hurst Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 390,755
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 11.04 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Meet the Author

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.

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Table of Contents

A Note on Transliteration

Preface

Introduction 1

1 Son of the Country 23

2 The Making of an Egyptian Nationalist 53

3 Turn to Islamism 103

4 American Sojourn 139

5 In the Orbit of the Muslim Brothers 157

6 Radicalization 197

7 Martyrdom 229

8 Epilogue: The Trajectory of 'Qutbism' 273

Bibliography 347

Index 365

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