[A] comprehensive overview of Qutb's life and writings.
Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamismby John Calvert
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,… See more details below
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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.
Fascinating details emerge in this book.... Anyone interested in the evolution ofIslamism in the 20th century should read it.
The first truly comprehensive biography.
An exquisite intellectual biography.
[An] excellent intellectual biography.
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.
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.
[An] excellent intellectual biography.
Nathan J. Brown
What People are saying about this
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.
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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