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Sayyid Qutb’s Concept of Jahiliyyah That Produced Islamist Extremists to Attack Mainstream Muslims

By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam

13 April 2019

Sayyid Qutb’s concept of Jahiliyyah is mired in a motley confusion of poorly understood concepts like Takfir, Tauheed al-Hakimiyyah, Shirk al-Hakmiyyah, I’tiqadiyat, Furu’i Ahkam, Aqaid-ul-Islam and 'amaliyat, etc. Driven by a variety of theological misconceptions, he freely invokes the concepts of Jahiliyya, and Takfir (branding as apostate) for all people of his age. These misperceptions have produced a large number of extremist organizations around the globe which believe that the current Muslim Ummah (global Muslim community) is living the life of Jahiliyya, entrenched into pre-Islamic Arabia, untouched by the Islam brought by Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him). It is for this reason they are seeking to eliminate the contemporary Muslim community and establish a newly established self-proclaimed ‘Islamic community’. To achieve this goal, they consider it indispensable to take to armed resistance and rebel against established ‘Jahili governments’ of Muslims.

Sayyid Qutb’s concept of Jahiliyya left a heavy impact on the extremist outfits and their Takfiri movement. He used the term Jahiliyya 1740 times in his book of Tafsir “Fi Zilal al-Quran” and did Takfir of the common Muslims who, according to him, were willfully living under the domain of Jahiliyya state. His way of dealing with the term ‘Jahiliyya’, and thereby doing Takfir of Muslims and seeking to eliminate ‘Jahiliyya Muslim states’ are the fundamental errors that he committed so as to defeat all-time mainstream doctrine and concept of Muslims.

Mainstream Muslims from the beginning till now have differentiated between Beliefs or doctrinal rulings (I’tiqadiyat) and practices or derivative rulings (Furu’i Ahkam). On the contrary to this concept, Sayyid Qutb does not differentiate between Beliefs and derivative rulings and this was the reason that he made a serious mistake while dealing with the concept of Jahiliyyah. The following are some excerpts from his book of Tafsir “Fi Zilal al-Quran” which consider that both Beliefs (Aqaid or fundamental issues) and practices (‘Aamaal or derivative issues) are just the same and do not differ from each other.

Sayyid Qutb’s Mixing Beliefs With Practices

Sayyid Qutb says,

"إن حدود العقيدة تتسع وتترامى حتى تناول كل جانب من جوانب الحياة وقضية الحاكمية بكل فروعها في الإسلام هي قضية عقيدة كما أن قضية الأخلاق بجملتها هي قضية عقيدة" (في ظلال القرآن 4/2114 ، دار الشروق ، القاهرة ، سنة 1434هـ 2013م)

Translation: “Undoubtedly Belief (‘Aqida) comprises all aspects of life. In Islamic perspective, Hakimiyyah (sovereignty or dominion), with its entire derivative issues (Furu’), is the issue of Belief. Similarly Morality (akhlaq) is the issue of Belief” (Sayyid Qutb, Fi Zilal al-Quran, Arabic version 4/2114)

Blending the Muslims’ belief ‘that God Almighty is the true Hakim’ with nature of implementing the juristic and derivative rulings, Sayyid Qutb invented a new version of Kharijite ideology that he termed “Tauheed al-Hakimiyyah vs. Shirk al-Hakmiyyah”. Sayyid Qutb says,   

"وقضية التشريع هي قضية الحاكمية وقضية الحاكمية هي قضية الإيمان" (في ظلال القرآن 3/1205)

Translation: “The question of legislation is a question of Hakimiyyah. And Hakmiyyah is the question of Faith” (Sayyid Qutb, Fi Zilal al-Quran, Arabic version 3/1205)

Sayyid Qutb further said,

وقال أيضا: "ذالك ليقرر أن قضية التشريع والحاكمية هي كذالك قضية الدين والعقيدة" (في ظلال القرآن 3/1235)

“In this way the surah (6/Al-An’am) makes it clear that the issues related to legislation (Tashri’i) and sovereignty (Hakimiyyah) are the same as those issues that are relevant to Belief”. (Sayyid Qutb, Fi Zilal al-Quran, Arabic version 3/1235)

"إن توحيد الألوهية وتوحيد الربوبية وتوحيد القوامة وتوحيد الحاكمية وتوحيد مصدر الشريعة وتوحيد منهج الحياة وتوحيد الجهة التي يدين لها الناس الدينونة الشاملة، إن هذا التوحيد هوالذي يستحق أن يرسل من أجله كل هؤلاء الرسل وأن تبذل في سبيله كل هذه الجهود وأن تحتمل لتحقيقه كل هذه العذابات والآلام على مدار الزمان لا لأن الله سبحانه وتعالى في حاجة إليه فالله سبحانه عني عن العالمين" (3/1902)

“The establishment of the oneness of God, the only God, oneness of Lordship and Sustainer in the universe, and the only source of legislation in all matters, and the establishment of the only way of life acceptable to God are all aims which merit the sending of God’s messengers. They also merit the exertion of great efforts by the messengers as well as the endurance of all the suffering the advocates of Islam have experienced throughout history. This is not because God needs to achieve these aims: He is in need of nothing and no one. They are worthy aims simply because human life cannot be put right, reformed, elevated and become worthy of man without the establishment of the faith based on God’s oneness”. (Sayyid Qutb, Fi Zilal al-Quran 3/1902)

"ولم يكن الناس فيما عدا أفرادا معدودة في فترات قصيرة ، ينكرون مبدأ الألوهية ويجحدون وجود الله ألبتة ، إنما هو كانوا يخطؤن معرفة حقيقة ربهم الحق ، أو يشركون مع الله آلهة أخرى: إما في صورة الاعتقاد والعبادة وإما في صورة الحاكمية والاتباع وكلاهما شرك كالآخر يخرج به الناس من دين الله" (3/1555)

“All claims to lordship by human beings are null and void. Except for a few individuals here and there in history, mankind as a whole has never denied the existence of God or His sovereignty over the universe. It has rather erred in its understanding of His real attributes, or associated partners with Him, either in belief and worship or in assigning sovereignty. Both of these are forms of polytheism which take people out of the faith altogether” (Sayyid Qutb, Fi Zilal al-Quran, 3/1555) 

وقال أيضا: "والقاعدة النظرية التي يقوم عليها الإسلام على مدار التاريخ البشري هي قاعدة "شهادة أن لا إله إلا الله" أي إفراد الله سبحانه ، بالألوهية والربوبية والقوامة والسلطان والحاكمية ، إفراده بها اعتقادا في الضمير ، وعبادة في الشعائر ، وشريعة في واقع الحياة ، فشهادة أن لا إله إلا الله ، لا توجد فعلا ولا تعتبر موجودة شرعا إلا في هذه الصورة المتكاملة التي تعطيها وجودا جديا حقيقيا يقوم عليه اعتبار قائلها مسلما أو غير مسلم" (3/1556)

“The theoretical foundation of Islam, in every period of history, has been the declaration by which a human being bears witness that “there is no deity other than God”. This means that God is the sustainer, the ruler and the real sovereign. This must take the form of a firm belief that is deeply rooted in one’s heart and manifested in both addressing all worship to God alone and putting His laws into practice. This declaration cannot be deemed to have been truly made with such complete acceptance of its meaning. It is only when a person accepts its significance fully that he is deemed to be a true Muslim” Sayyid Qutb, Fi Zilal al-Quran 3/1556)

"إن المجتمعات البشرية اليوم- بجملتها- مجتمعات جاهلية‏.‏ وهي من ثم مجتمعات «متخلفة» أو «رجعية»‏!‏ بمعنى أنها «رجعت» إلى الجاهلية، بعد أَن أخذ الإسلام بيدها فاستنقذها منها‏.‏ والإسلام اليوم مدعو لاستنقاذها من التخلف والرجعية الجاهلية، وقيادتها في طريق التقدم و«الحضارة» بقيمها وموازينها الربانية‏"

“Human communities today are, generally speaking, overwhelmed by Jahiliyyah and as such, they are backward or reactionary in the sense that they have reverted to a state of ignorance after Islam had saved them from it” (Sayyid Qutb, Fi Zilal al-Quran)

Sayyid Qutb erred in understanding the concept of Jahiliyya as a result of not differentiating between the beliefs or fundamental issues (I’tiqadi masail) and the derivative issues (furu’i masail) related to nature of practice. Thus the concept of Sayyid Qutb is antithetical to that of mainstream Muslims including the earliest and the contemporary ones.

Differentiating between Beliefs (‘Aqaid) and Practices (‘Aaamal), a mainstream classical Muslim scholar in his book “Sharh Aqaid al-Nasafi” wrties,

“You should know that of Al-Ahkam Al-Sharia’ [Sharia judgments] there are some which are related to nature of practice [kayfiyat al-‘amal] and are called derived (far’iya) and practical (‘amaliya); and there are others which are related to belief [I’tiqad] and are called fundamental [asliya] and doctrinal [I’tiqadiya].” (Taftazani, Sharh Aqaid)

Mainstream Muslim scholars unanimously agree with issues related to Beliefs while they seriously differ from one another on issues related with practical rulings or Furu’i Masail. As a result, we see that all four schools of Islamic Jurisprudence, Hanafi, Shafei, Maliki and Hanbali, unanimously agree with issues of Beliefs, while they differ from one another on numerous issues related to practices (‘aamaal). Despite differences on derivative rulings, they do not do takfir of one another, but instead they respect one another as Muslims, while sticking to their respective derivative practical rulings. As for Sayyid Qutb, he mixed Beliefs with Practices and put labels of Jahiliyyah and Kufr to Muslims who did not agree with him on issues of practical or derivative rulings. This is how Sayyid Qutb’s ideology manufactured neo-Kharijite extremists to eliminate “Jahiliyya Muslims” from the face of the earth.

A regular Columnist with, Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi Dehlvi is an Alim and Fazil (Classical Islamic scholar), with a Sufi-Sunni background and English-Arabic-Urdu Translator. He has also done B.A (Hons.) in Arabic, M.A. in Arabic and M.A in English from JMI, New Delhi. He is Interested in Islamic Sciences; Theology, Jurisprudence, Tafsir, Hadith and Islamic mysticism (Tasawwuf).


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