Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamism

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9780231701044: Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamism

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.

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About the Author:

John Calvert is associate professor of history at Creighton University, Nebraska. He is the author of Islamism: A Documentary and Reference Guide and coeditor and translator of Sayyid Qutb's A Child from the Village. His research focuses on social protest and political resistance movements in the modern Middle East, as well as Egyptian nationalism and the ideological origins of al-Qaeda.

Review:

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)

[A] comprehensive overview of Qutb's life and writings.

(Joshua Sinai Washington Times)

Fascinating details emerge in this book.... Anyone interested in the evolution ofIslamism in the 20th century should read it.

(Marc Lynch The Atlantic)

The first truly comprehensive biography.

(Samuel Helfront Jewish Review of Books)

An exquisite intellectual biography.

(Youssef Aboul-Enein Small Wars Journal)

[An] excellent intellectual biography.

(Bruce Maddy-Weitzman Bustan: The Middle East Book Review 1900-01-00)

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.

(Nathan J. Brown Review of Middle East Studies 1900-01-00)

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John Calvert
Editore: Columbia University Press (2010)
ISBN 10: 0231701047 ISBN 13: 9780231701044
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