Sayyid Qutb (1906–1966) was an influential Egyptian ideologue credited with establishing 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 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.
Publisher: C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
'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.'—The Economist; 'In one of the first serious English-language biographices of Qutb, Calvert puts this often misunderstood figure into his historical context, situating Qutb within the turbulent intellectual and political flow of Egyptian and Arab history. . . . The Qutb which emerges from Calvert's even-handed history is far more complex and interesting than the caricature of him which dominates popular understanding. Anyone interested in the evolution of Islamism in the 20th century should read it.' —Atlantic Monthly; 'Given that Qutb is taught in a large (and increasing) number of campuses, and given that he has already been introduced to the general public in bestselling books such as Lawrence Wright's the Looming Tower, the very publication of a Qutb biography is likely to attract considerable interest. … The book not only constitutes what is likely to remain the definitive biography of Sayyid Qutb, it also offers crucial new insights on the post-1954 history of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, another gaping hole in the literature. We are dealing here with a rare book that is likely to become a classic in the field of political Islam. … An outstanding volume.' –– Thomas Hegghammer, Harvard University; 'John Calvert's biography of the man now regarded as the father of radical Islam reveals an ideology forged in the fires of post-colonial Egypt.'—The National (Abu Dhabi)