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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

Abstract

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.

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