Volume: 2 Issue: 1

Leadership and the Humanities

Sayyid Qutb's political and religious thought: the transformation of jahiliyyah and the implications for Egyptian democracy

Mark A. Menaldo * *

Keywords: Sayyid Qutb, political thought, Islamic ideology, Muslim Brotherhood


Sayyid Qutb is one the twentieth century's most influential Muslim thinkers and one of the ideological founders of the Muslim Brotherhood. This essay surveys the context which shaped his political and ideological ideas and activities and the history of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. In addition, it pays close attention to Qutb's critical reinterpretation of classical Islamic ideas jahiliyyah and hakimiyyah. Through these concepts Qutb articulates a radical division of the world into Muslim and non-Muslim societies, while posing an alternative to secular notions of sovereignty. This essay follows up on the influence of these ideas by discussing how Egypt's current political climate reveals the schism between the Muslim Brotherhood's vision of Islam and liberal democratic politics.

Author Notes

I thank Mohamed Ayoob for introducing me to the study of Islam and politics and for supporting me in my research of Sayyid Qutb. I would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their careful review of this manuscript and providing me with their comments and suggestions that have greatly improved its quality.

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