Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Let's begin at the beginning. It is well written and very persuasive. However, it uses a lot of underhanded rhetorical devices to disguise the unsupported statements and solopsistic thinking. Emphases mine.
The callers to Islam in every country and in every period should give thought to one particular aspect of the history of Islam, and they should ponder over it deeply. This is related to the method of inviting people to Islam and its ways of training. [This paragraph prepares the mind of the reader to open up and accept what comes as truth, uncritically.]The thrust of this whole section is that Muslims who live now (in 1966, when Qutb wrote it, and even now, in 2005, when I read it) can become of the same caliber as Mohammed's companions. The next section describes the principles, "the secret," that those who want to become like Mohammed and his companions must follow.
At one time this Message created a generation - the generation of the Companions of the Prophet, may God be pleased with them - without comparison in the history of Islam, even in the entire history of man. After this, no other generation of this caliber was ever gain [sic] to be found. It is true that we do find some individuals of this caliber here and there in history, but never again did a great number of such people exist in one region as was the case during the first period of Islam. [A greater and more numerous generation than King Arthur and the Round Table, Jesus and the Apostles, Charlemagne, Turpin and Roland, the Fathers of the American Revolution, the generation that fought the Trojan War, and the Doughboys of WWII. That's quite a generation!]
This is an obvious and open truth of history, and we ought to ponder over it deeply so that we may reach its secrets. [Wait a minute! It's not so obvious to me. Now I should ponder it and believe it without thinking about it?]
The Qur'an of this Message is still in our hands, and the Hadith of the Messenger of God - peace be on him, i.e. his guidance in practical affairs, and the history of his sacred life are also in our hands, as they were in the hands of the first Muslim community whose equal history could not produce again. The only difference is the person of the Messenger of God - peace be on him; but is this the secret? [The other difference is that we live 1400 years after Mohammed in a world very different from the medieval Arab environment. There are technologies, possibilities, never dreamed of by Mohammed.]
Had the person of the Prophet - peace be on him - been absolutely essential for the establishment and fruition of this message, God would not have made Islam a universal message, ordained it as the religion for the whole of mankind, given it the status of the last Divine Message for humanity, and made it to be a guide for all the inhabitants of this planet in all their affairs until the end of time. [Preaching to the Choir. Obviously non-Muslims will not believe this paragraph. And just as obviously, because it appeals to their pride, it has great appeal to Muslim believers.]
The spring from which the Companions of the Prophet - peace be on him-drank was the Qur'an; only the Qur'an as the Hadith of the Prophet and his teachings were offspring of this fountainhead. When someone asked the Mother of the Faithful, Aisha-may God be please- [sic] with her,-about the character of the Prophet-peace be on him,-she answered, "His character was the Qur'an" [Al-Nisaa] [The secret is focus on the Quran.]This sets the stage pretty well. Ideological purity is required. Qutb prescribes memorizing the Quran and rejecting all other knowledge and culture.
The Holy Qur'an was the only source from which they quenched their thirst, and this was the only mold in which they formed their lives. This was the only guidance for them, not because there was no civilization or culture or science or books or schools. Indeed, there was Roman culture, its civilization, its books and its laws, which even today are considered to be the foundation of European culture. There was the heritage of Greek culture- its logic, its philosophy and its arts, which are still a source of inspiration for Western thought. There was the Persian civilization, its art, its poetry and its legends, and its religion and system of government. There were many other civilizations, near or far, such as the Indian and Chinese cultures, and so on. The Roman and Persian cultures were established to the north and to the south of the Arabian peninsula, while the Jews and Christians were settled in the heart of Arabia. Thus we believe that this generation did not place sole reliance on the Book of God for the understanding of their religion because of any ignorance of civilization and culture, but it was all according to a well thought out plan and method. An example of this purpose is found in the displeasure expressed by the Messenger of God - peace be on him -when 'Umar-may God be pleased with him-brought some pages from the Torah. The Messenger of God-peace be on him-said, "By God, if even Moses had been alive among you today, he would have no recourse except to follow me" [Reported by al-Hafidh Abu Yala from Himad, from al-Shubi, from Jabir.] [Mohammed claimed that even Moses, who spoke directly with God, in the burning bush and when he received the Commandments, would follow Mohammed if he had the choice! In other words, Moses would have abandoned his own people for a prophet of the sons of Ishmael. The absurdity of this claim is mind-boggling.]
It is clear from this incident that the Messenger of God [Mohammed] - peace be on him - deliberately limited the first generation of Muslims, which was undergoing the initial stages of training, to only one source of guidance, and that was the Book of God [The Quran]. His intention was that this group should dedicate itself purely to the Book of God and arrange its lives solely according to its teachings. That is why the Messenger of God -peace be on him-was displeased when 'Umar-may God be pleased with him-turned to a source different from the Qur'an [And the rest of the secret is ONLY the Quran. Those who want to be like Mohammed must learn the Quran well, and block everything else out.]
This generation, then, drank solely from this spring and thus attained a unique distinction in history. In later times it happened that other sources mingled with it. Other sources used by later generations included Greek philosophy and logic, ancient Persian legends and their ideas, Jewish scriptures and traditions, Christian theology, and, in addition to these, fragments of other religions and civilizations. These mingled with the commentaries on the Qur'an and with scholastic theology, as they were mingled with jurisprudence and its principles. Later generations after this generation obtained their training from this mixed source, and hence the like of this generation never arose again. [The reason that the first generation was the "best" was that they were more pure in their devotion to the Quran than following generations. Conversely, the relative tolerance of later generations was to blame for their inferiority. So, intolerance is the superior principle.]Now for the second "secret."
Thus we can say without any reservations that the main reason for the difference between the first unique and distinguished group of Muslims and later Muslims is that the purity of the first source of Islamic guidance was mixed with various other sources, as we have indicated. [Qutb's words, in black and white.]
There is another basic cause which has operated in creating this difference. That difference is in the method of learning of this unique generation.The first generation heard the Quran from Mohammed's mouth, in the order in which it was narrated. This is not the order in which it is printed. It is certainly not the order in which it is available translated into English. And they learned it, and used what they learned, slowly. Over years. Memorizing it.
They of the first generation did not approach the Qur'an for the purpose of acquiring culture and information, nor for the purpose of taste or enjoyment. None of them came to the Qur'an to increase his sum total of knowledge for the sake of knowledge itself or to solve some scientific or legal problem, or to remove some defect in his understanding. He rather turned to the Qur'an to find out what the Almighty Creator had prescribed for him and for the group in which he lived, for his life and for the life of the group. He approached it to act on what he heard immediately, as a soldier on the battle- field reads "Today's Bulletin" so that he may know what is to be done. ...
"We have revealed this Qur'an little by little so that you may recite it to people at intervals, and We have revealed it gradually." (17:106)
And now for the third "secret."
A third cause is also operative in the history of Muslims; we ought to look at it also.And so Qutb defines the Muslim in opposition to jahili, or polytheists, in a way that lets him later equate polytheists with Christians and Jews. This equation would certainly surprise and alarm Christians and Jews.
When a person embraced Islam during the time of the Prophet-peace be on him-he would immediately cut himself off from Jahiliyyah. [The state of ignorance of the guidance from God.] When he stepped into the circle of Islam, he would start a new life, separating himself completely from his past life under ignorance of the Divine Law. [In other words, Islamic was an all-consuming cult that pitted people against their family and the society around them.] He would look upon the deeds during his life of ignorance with mistrust and fear, with a feeling that these were impure and could not be tolerated in Islam! With this feeling, he would turn toward Islam for new guidance; and if at any time temptations overpowered him, or the old habits attracted him, or if he became lax in carrying out the injunctions of Islam, he would become restless with a sense of guilt and would feel the need to purify himself of what had happened, and would turn to the Qur'an to mold himself according to its guidance. [And Catholics and Jews think the guilt their religions inculcate are severe. Imagine the guilt induced by a religion that tells converts their families are "impure," "ignorant," and "not tolerable."]
Thus, there would be a break between the Muslim's present Islam and his past Jahiliyyah, and this after a well thought out decision, as a result of which all his relationships with Jahiliyyah would be cut off and he would be joined completely to Islam, although there would be some give-and-take with the polytheists in commercial activity and daily business; yet relationships of understanding are one thing and daily business is something else.
This renunciation of the jahili environment, its customs and traditions, its ideas and concepts, proceeded from the replacement of polytheism by the concept of the Oneness of God, of the jahili view of life and the world by that of the Islamic view, and from absorption into the new Islamic community under a new leadership and dedication of all loyalties and commitments to this new society and new leadership.
This was the parting of the ways and the starting of a new journey, a journey free from the pressures of the values, concepts and traditions of the jahili society.
Now coming up is the paragraph at the heart of Qutb's argument. This is the belief that has launched the jihadist/hirabist movement that would hope to conquer the world and enslave it under an Islamic Caliphate.
We are also surrounded by Jahiliyyah today, which is of the same nature as it was during the first period of Islam, perhaps a little deeper. Our whole environment, people's beliefs and ideas, habits and art, rules and laws-is Jahiliyyah, even to the extent that what we consider to be Islamic culture, Islamic sources, Islamic philosophy and Islamic thought are also constructs of Jahiliyyah!There it is. When the gullible hear or read this and believe, then they have been launched like a weapon against the world. They become good for nothing. Violent, fundamentalist, closed-minded, intolerant, and mystical in inclination, rejecting mainstream religious traditions in favor of their personal interpretation of an ancient text written in an ancient language that is no longer spoken. That is the legacy of Qutb and the modern Salafist School.