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Milestones: The Islamist Manifesto
by Rebecca Bynum
The mushrooming rise of political
Islam today has roots in a slender volume called Milestones,
written by an Egyptian member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sayyid Qutb,
which first appeared in 1964. The book was
immediately banned and all known copies were confiscated and burned by
military order of the
Clearly, in Islamic countries there
exists some sort of elusive line between what is viewed as religious
free speech and what is undeniably political agitation. For
Sayyid Qutb was not so much a philosopher
as an advocate and articulator of Islam. He was a man
who explained Islam in modern language and so made it relevant for young
Muslims. Milestones is a call for nothing more
nor less than the revival of Islam and for the faithful to imitate the
first generation of Muslims. That first generation,
for Qutb, portrays an idealized, indeed perfect, society which can only
be re-attained by the forceful and absolute rejection of western thought
and influence, or jahiliyyah, which, in the 1950s and 60s was
running rampant through Muslim lands. What the
west viewed placidly as “modernization,” spelled nothing less than
disastrous defeatism for Qutb and others like him. In
the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, these people were Muslim in name
only, for their societies were awash in corrupt, jahili culture.
Qutb explains that Islam considers these Muslim societies
“un-Islamic and illegal.”
That is why radical Muslims throughout the Islamic world are
seeking to overthrow their moderate Muslim governments even though the
general trend there has been toward conservative Islam. Muslims
worldwide feel they are under siege from decadent American culture.
Islam: The “System”
Qutb presents Islam as the clear alternative to a world divided between communism and capitalism. When he uses the term religion he often presents it in quotes, preferring to use the term “system” rather than religion. Islam is an entire system of life, or din. It cannot be divorced from its governmental and judicial functions and confined to a mere system of belief, in the manner we understand religion in the west.
“By its very nature, this concept is different from all other concepts known to man.” Islam is a religion that requires territorial sovereignty in order to fully function as intended by the Prophet and by God. One might go so far as to say, the religion and the state are one and the same under Islam. He even makes the case that obedience to the State is the equivalent of worshipping God.
For Qutb, another essential aspect of Islamic doctrine is that men are grouped on the basis of faith alone rather than being grouped on the basis of class, race or national identity, as is the case under western political and economic systems. All Muslims are equal because they are equally God’s subjects under God’s law. Muslims and non-Muslims are not equal, as we shall see later.
Islam is a system requiring sovereignty over all aspects of life in order that it may bring mankind into harmony with God’s universal law; and just as all the rest of creation naturally obeys God’s universal law, mankind must not deviate from “the truth imbedded in the depths of his innate nature.” Deviation from Islam accomplishes nothing but strife. According to Qutb, “all man-made theories, both individualistic and collectivist, have proved to be failures.” The west has failed because of its growing moral bankruptcy and the communist east because of its failure to provide materially. Islam, says he, is the only alternative.
Qutb’s concept of natural law is obviously derived from western, scientific thought. He argues that a Muslim may learn science from a non-Muslim without danger that this will “falsify his belief or return to jahiliyyah,” so long as the godless philosophy of science is avoided. He writes, “For example, Darwinist biology goes beyond the scope of its observations, without any rhyme or reason, and only for the sake of expressing an opinion, in making the assumption that to explain the beginning of life and its evolution, there is no need to assume a power outside the physical world.” So, Muslims may study the hard sciences like physics or engineering for the sake of human progress without endangering their souls.
The study of other religions, however,
seems to be quite universally avoided by Muslims for fear of jahili contamination
of the mind. The rejection of Christianity is
accomplished on two fronts. One concerns the Trinity
doctrine, the “One” functioning as “Three,” which violates the
Muslim insistence on “One God” unified and indissoluble. The other
concerns the person of Jesus portrayed as “God and man” combined in
one personality. To Muslims, this idea cannot include
the concept of God reaching down to man, but rather consists solely of
one man elevating himself to God’s level. Those who
worship anyone or anything other than God alone are idolaters.
Thus the dismissal of Christianity by Islam is total and Muslims
may assert their superiority without the painful process of trying to
understand what it is they are superior to. Indeed,
the superiority of Islam as a religion is one of the essential aspects
of Islamic doctrine, a doctrine in which simple assertions are routinely
accepted as fact without question. The fact that
Muslims as a whole have very little knowledge of Christianity should be
taken into consideration when trying to fathom the dim view Muslims have
of the western world.
Democracy = Idolatry
Perhaps Qutb’s most startling
assertion is: “Legislation is a divine attribute. Any
person who concedes this right to any human claimant, whether he
considers him Divine or not, in reality accepts him as Divine”
and thereby becomes an idolater. No law should be
followed, but God’s law as it has been revealed in the Qur’an and
gleaned from the Traditions emanating from the life of the Prophet
Muhammad. Human beings who set up systems of
governance for themselves are committing a grave sin by usurping Divine
authority and causing men to obey other men. This is
not simply a point of theory for radical Muslims. In
As Qutb explains Islam, “no one is allowed to devise a law on his own and then claim that it accords with the Shari’ah unless Allah is accepted as the sole legislator and source of authority, rather than a nation, a party or an individual.” Man should obey none but God alone, for He alone is sovereign. All other systems are doomed to failure at the outset. Islam alone will prevail. “Allah does not forgive any association with His person, and likewise He does not accept any association with His revealed way of life.” To elevate any human being to God’s sovereign status cannot be viewed as anything but sin. Democracy is only idolatry disguised.
“Complete submission to Allah comes by submitting to Him through belief, practice and observance of the law. No Muslim can believe that any other being can be a god, or that one can ‘worship’ a creature of Allah or that it can be given a position of ‘sovereignty.’” Worship, under Islam, is expressed as submission to Islamic principles covering “belief, principles of administration and justice, principles of morality and human relationships, and principles of knowledge.” Or, put another way, the citizen of Islam worships God by obeying the state. “There is only one way to reach Allah; no other ways lead to Him.”
According to Qutb’s logic, when men
obey the laws of men they are the slaves of men. When
men obey the laws of God, they are free. Eventually
there would be “no need to enforce the limits and punishments that
Allah has prescribed, because now conscience is the law-enforcer and the
pleasure of Allah, the hope of Divine reward, and the fear of Allah’s
anger takes the place of police and law enforcement agencies.”
The Divine law that must now be enforced externally will become
such a natural part of human thought and action, mankind will be in
complete harmony with the universe, and thus heaven and earth will
become one and the same.
What is Freedom?
At the heart of this conflict between Islam and the western world are two vastly different conceptions of freedom. In western thought, political organization is seen as a necessary evil brought into existence in order to protect individual rights to life and property. The extent to which government may intrude on an individual’s liberty in order to protect liberty for all is strictly limited. Thus, the power of the state and the power of the individual balance one another, each having its own limits.
Like communism, Islam focuses purely on the collective. The power of the Islamic state is unlimited, for the state represents the will of God for the collective good. The concept of individual rights, or that individuals even have the right to do wrong, does not exist. The Islamic “system” covers all aspects of life from cradle to grave and the state has total authority to impose its will upon the individual. When westerners speak of the “will of God,” they are often talking about God’s personal involvement in the life of an individual, but a personal relationship with God is not found in Islamic thought. In Islam, God deals with the community as a whole and only dealt with one individual personally, Muhammad. So, “whoever obeys the Prophet, obeys Allah.” According to Islamic doctrine, it is man’s duty to fear and obey God; it is not necessary to love Him. Men are servants and subjects of God; they are not His sons.
On this point, Qutb and the west would agree. “This secret of man’s identity and his relationship with the creator and with creation, is the great question upon which man’s existence depends and will continue to depend until the end of time.” It is in answer to this question, where Islam and the West come to totally opposite conclusions. The notion that government should facilitate mankind’s pursuit of happiness, is alien to Islam. In its place, Islam offers the individual guaranteed Divine guidance. Individual desires, opinions and aspirations are all vanity and caprice, leading only to destruction. To rebel against the Islamic system is to rebel against God. Freedom is only found by losing oneself in the harmony of the collective; a community in which the designing of ones own destiny cannot be tolerated.
Consider the following, “Some enemies of Islam may consider it expedient not to take any action against Islam, if Islam leaves them alone in their geographical boundaries with some men lords over others and does not propagate its message of universal freedom within their domain. But Islam cannot agree to this unless they submit to its authority by paying the jizyah,” [the poll tax placed on non-Muslims within an Islamic government] “which will be a guarantee that they have opened their doors for Islam and will not put any obstacles in its propagation through the power of the state. . . . Indeed, Islam has the right to take the initiative. Islam is not a heritage of any particular race or country. This is Allah’s din and it is for the whole world. It has the right to destroy all obstacles in the form of institutions and traditions that restrict man’s freedom of choice. It does not attack individuals nor does it force them to accept its beliefs. It attacks institutions and traditions in order to release human beings from their pernicious influence, which distorts human nature and curtails human freedom.”
Qutb goes to great pains to explain that Islam does not overtly force conversion; however, since one is not “free” to live as a Muslim outside the Islamic system, Islam must seize the levers of power in order to provide men the freedom to choose Islam. Furthermore, he rails against those apologists for Islam who describe Islamic holy war as a purely defensive reaction to outside aggression. “If we insist on calling Islamic jihad a defensive movement, then we must change the meaning of the word ‘defense’ and mean by it ‘the defense of man’ against all those forces that limit his freedom. These forces may take the form of beliefs and concepts, as well as political systems based on economic, racial, or class distinctions.”
Qutb quotes at length from the works of Ibn Qayyim (1292-1350) who speaks of jihad as having been revealed to the first Muslims in stages. “For thirteen years after the beginning of his [Muhammad’s] Messengership, he called people to Allah through preaching, without fighting or jizyah, and was commanded to restrain himself and to practice patience and forbearance. Then he was commanded to migrate, and later permission was given to fight. Then he was commanded to fight those who fought him, and to restrain himself from those who did not make war against him. Later he was commanded to fight the polytheists until Allah’s din was fully established.” Muhammad issued his own “manifesto” as follows:
“Different prophets,” said he, “have been sent by God to illustrate his different attributes: Moses his clemency and providence; Solomon his wisdom, majesty, and glory; Jesus Christ his righteousness, omniscience, and power -- his righteousness by purity of conduct; his omniscience by the knowledge he displayed of the secrets of all hearts; his power by the miracles he wrought. None of these attributes, however, have been sufficient to enforce conviction, and even the miracles of Moses and Jesus have been treated with unbelief. I, therefore, the last of the prophets, am sent with the sword! Let those who promulgate my faith enter into no argument nor discussion, but slay all who refuse obedience to the law. Whoever fights for the true faith, whether he fall or conquer, will assuredly receive a glorious reward.” “The sword,” added he, “is the key of heaven and hell; all who draw it in the cause of the faith will be rewarded with temporal advantages; every drop shed of their blood, every peril and hardship endured by them, will be registered on high as more meritorious than even fasting or praying. If they fall in battle their sins will at once be blotted out, and they will be transported to paradise, them to revel in eternal pleasures in the arms of black-eyed houris.”
Most Islamic scholarship would agree that, “After the Prophet, peace be upon him, only the final stages of the movement of jihad are to be followed; the initial or middle stages are not applicable. They have ended[.]” Qutb further criticizes those who would modify these perfectly clear declarations. “When they speak about jihad, they may speak clumsily and mix up the various stages, distorting the whole concept of jihad in an effort to use the Qur’anic text to establish general principles and rules for which there exist no justification. This is because they regard every verse of the Qur’an as if it were the final principle of the din. This group of thinkers, which is a product of the sorry state of the present Muslim generation, has nothing but the label of Islam, and has laid down its spiritual and rational arms in defeat. They say, ‘Islam has prescribed only defensive war’ and think they have done some good for their faith by divesting it of its method[.]”
Jihad is arguably the secret of Islam’s “glory” and the key to its past success; thus, its laws must remain permanently in place until Islam has destroyed all obstacles in its quest for universal sovereignty and domination. “Since the objective of Islam is a decisive declaration of man’s freedom, not merely on the philosophical plane but also in the actual life, it must employ jihad. It is immaterial whether the homeland of Islam – in the true Islamic sense, dar al Islam – is in a condition of peace or whether it is threatened by its neighbors. When Islam calls for peace, its objective is not a superficial peace requiring only that the part of the earth where the followers of Islam are residing remain secure. The peace of Islam means that din (i.e., the law of society) be purified for Allah, that all people should obey Allah alone, and every system that permits some people to rule over others be abolished.”
The laws of jihad cover the entire
relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims and it admits only two such
relationships, non-Muslims must either accept Islamic domination, or
they must fight, since Muslims cannot accept peace on any other terms.
Islamic thought divides the world into only two great camps, the dar
al Islam, the
The people who have surrendered to Muslim conquest, but retain their native religion (so long as they are not “idol worshippers or those who do not have a Sacred Book or something that could have been a Book” are referred to as dhimmis. They live under the “protection” of Islamic law and must be obedient to it, though they may retain their own religious laws and practices. Dhimmis must pay the jizya or poll tax to the Muslim state, “must be distinguished from Muslims in dress; may not build higher or as high as Muslim buildings; are forbidden to openly display wine or pork, to ring Church bells or display crosses, recite the Torah or Evangel aloud, or make public display of funerals and feastdays; and are forbidden to build new churches.”
The contract of protection is also violated if a dhimmi “commits adultery with a Muslim woman or marries her; conceals spies of hostile forces; leads a Muslim away from Islam; kills a Muslim; or mentions something impermissible about Allah, the Prophet, or Islam.” In that case, the dhimmi’s status reverts to that of prisoner of war and he may be killed, sold into slavery, ransomed or released at the pleasure of the caliph, who traditionally ruled as king and “Pope” at once.
Rendering the non-Muslim well nigh helpless under the Islamic system is the law stating that no dhimmi may bear testimony in an Islamic court against a Muslim. Dhimmis in general may not hold any position of authority over Muslims. Furthermore, dhimmis may not arm themselves, nor appeal to any outside power for aid. The Turkish Armenian Christians made the mistake of appealing to the British in the years before they were liquidated following World War I.
The draconian nature of Islamic law toward non-Muslims goes a long way in explaining how a small minority of Muslim conquerors could, over the centuries, become a ruling majority in lands once occupied by thriving populations of Christians, Jews and Hindus. The pressure on these populations to either convert or emigrate was enormous.
Qutb lived during a
time when communist influence in
A Muslim must have no
loyalty except his loyalty to fellow Muslims, nor has he a homeland
except where Islamic law dominates. Muslim loyalty to the
nation-state must be secondary and even subordinate to Muslim loyalty to
other Muslims and to Islam. Thus, when American Sergeant Hasan
Akbar cried, “You guys are coming into our countries, and you’re
going to rape our women and kill our children,” before lobbing a
grenade into an army tent, killing two officers and wounding fifteen
servicemen in Kuwait on March 22, 2003,
he was talking about his fellow Muslims. “Our countries,” did
not refer to
Qutb quotes the Qur’an in which the notion of brotherhood is defined in the negative:
You will not find the people who believe in Allah and the Hereafter taking as allies the enemies of Allah and His Prophet, whether they be their fathers or sons or brothers or fellow tribesmen.
“Grouping according to family and tribe and nation, or race and color and country, are residues of the primitive state of man.” Under Islam, the “blood and soil” concepts of nationalism are swept away. “Nationalism here is belief, homeland here is dar-al-Islam, the ruler here is Allah, and the constitution here is the Qur’an.” The correct Islamic attitude toward the “outside world” is one of unremitting hostility in which no compromise is possible. Islam demands total world-revolution. It cannot be circumscribed within certain territorial boundaries and remain at peace with “outsiders.” Nor can this revolution be brought about gradually, through only “a little change in the established order. . . . The truth is, that Islam not only changes concepts and attitudes, but also the system, modes, laws, and customs since this change is so fundamental that no relationship can remain with the jahili way of life, the life mankind is now living. . . . If someone loves to deceive himself or to deceive others by believing that Islam can be brought in line with this jahiliyyah, it is up to him. But whether this deception misleads others [into thinking they can live at peace with Islam outside the Islamic system] or not, it cannot change anything of actual reality. This is not Islam, and the deceived are not Muslims. Today a prime task of the Call to Islam is bringing these ignorant people back to Islam and make them into Muslims all over again.” He goes on, “the chasm between Islam and jahiliyyah is great, and a bridge is not to be built across it so that the people on the two sides may mix with each other, but only so that the people of jahiliyyah may come over to Islam.”
One of Qutb’s crucial “milestones along the road” to world Islam became a reality when the mujahideen of Afghanistan, including Osama bin Laden and other successors of the Muslim Brotherhood including the Islamic scholar Shaykh Abdullah Azzam and Ayman al-Zawahiri, created the government of the Taliban after their defeat of the Soviet army and its communist puppet state. This pure Islamic state was to be a model for the world that would then spread all across the globe. The actual reality of this extremely oppressive state has perhaps underlined for moderate Muslims the fact that this archaic system cannot possibly function in the modern world without destroying it, but for the radicals, the destruction of the modern world is the point.
Stateless now, these Islamic ideologues
are waging a war of annihilation against Americans in the same way
Hitler waged war against Bolshevism. Islamic radicals
view the very existence of
For Hitler, “jewishness” was a genetic plague that must be destroyed by mass murder. For Islamic radicals, “jewishness” and “christianness” both are conditions of the soul. God created these “enemies” for the express purpose of populating hell. The souls of Jews and Christians are seen as irredeemable and these corrupt souls are viewed as the fount of all the evil on earth. The wildest accusations against Israelis are routinely accepted in the Arab world without question. Put simply, Muslims worldwide believe Jews are evil sub-human creatures who are actively collaborating with the devil to destroy God’s plan. Islamists have eagerly adopted and revived the vilest anti-Semitism from the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” (a Medieval forgery), to Holocaust denial. Reading the modern Arab press is like being transported back in time to the Third Reich, where Hitler is still considered a hero.
In contrast, the western press, long
influenced by the liberal penchant for interpreting all conflict in
terms of material determinism, has persisted far too long in portraying
this struggle as having “root causes” in poverty, oppression,
nationalist aspirations or tribal conflicts. Islamists
are not above playing into these false notions, especially in the case
of the supposed Palestinian “nationalist” cause. As
we begin to fathom the laws of jihad and their imperatives for Islam’s
followers, conflicts involving Muslims from
“The enemies of the believers may wish to change this struggle into an economic or political or racial struggle, so that the believers become confused concerning its true nature and the flame of belief in their hearts goes out. This is not a political or economic or racial struggle. Had it been any of these, its settlement would have been easy, and the solution of its difficulties would have been simple. But essentially it [is] a struggle between beliefs, either unbelief or faith, either jahiliyyah or the eternal and universal din of Islam.”
We cannot afford to continue to buy into the notion that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the heart of this problem. The Arab-Israeli conflict is simply one aspect of the much broader ideological conflict between Islam and democracy.
Nasir Ahmad al Bahri, aka Abu
Jandal, a former Osama Bin Laden bodyguard, interviewed by Al Quds Al
Arabi, August 4, 2004 said, "Al-Qaida is no longer an entity
but an ideology against
The “number of Islamist extremists in the world, as estimated by moderate Muslim leaders, [is] about 12 million. Number of fundamentalist sympathizers: 120 million. That's one and 10 percent of the world's Muslim population of 1.2 billion. Then there's the number who trust Osama Bin Laden more than President Bush: a majority in Muslim countries whose populations total 450 million.”
This conflict is clearly shaping up
as the great ideological struggle of our generation and perhaps for
generations to come as well.
Americans and Israelis are targeted
for annihilation for what they believe as Jews and Christians.
This is not a problem that can be solved by changing
We must always remember that radical Islamists, to paraphrase bin Laden, “seek political goals for religious reasons.” It is now imperative we understand both.
Spencer, Robert “Money Can’t Buy My Mosque”
Front Page Magazine August 4, 2004
Qutb, Sayyid, Milestones (American Trust Publications,
Indianapolis, IN. 1990) pg. 70
ibid. pgs. 45-46