For all its austerity and fundamentalism Saudi Arabia did not give birth to the ideology of modern Islamism, rather its modern origins are to be found in Egypt, within the Muslim Brotherhood whose most able son Sayid Qutb, would transcend his teachers and conceive the ideology that gave birth to al-Qaeda.
Today the Muslim Brotherhood is denounced as an apostate organization by ISIS and other hardline Islamist movements, yet a careful study of Islamist history, will prove that their ideological father is the Muslim Brotherhood. Lawrence Wright in his book; ―The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda And The Road To 911, gave a comprehensive view into Qutb‘s influences, his American sojourn, his imprisonment, torture and eventual execution at the hands of the Egyptian authorities at the time. Wright described Qutb and the Egyptian reality at the time in the following: ―Like many of his compatriots he was radicalized by the British occupation and was contemptuous of the jaded king Farouk‘s complicity. Egypt was racked by anti-British protests and seditous political factions bent on running the forign troops out of the country-and perhaps the king as well. What made this unimposing midlevel government clerk particularly dangerous was his blunt and potent commentary. He was western in so many ways –his dress, his love of classical music and Hollywood movies. He had read, in translation, the works of Darwin and Einstein, Byron and Shelley, and had immersed himself in French literature, especially Victor Hugo. Qutb like many Arabs, felt shocked and betrayed by the support that the US government had given to the Zionist cause after the war. Qutb wrote: I hate those westerners and despise them . All of them without any exception: the English, the French, the Dutch, and finally the Americans, who have been trusted by many.
Luke Lobada a recipient of the 2004 Charles E. Parton award, wrote in an Ashbrook Statesmanship Thesis the following concerning Qutb, I think it would be highly constructive to include the portion on Qutb‘s, earlier background and his academic standing and achivements at that time.
―Sayyid Qutb was born in 1906 in the province of Asyut, which is located in southern Egypt. His parents were both deeply religious people who were wellknown in the area. From his years as a young child until the age of 27, he experienced a rigorous education. Qutb‘s evident desire for knowledge continued throughout his life. He began his elementary education in a religious school located in his hometown village. By the age of 10, he had already committed the entire text of the Qur‘an to memory. After transferring to a more modern government-sponsored school, Qutb graduated primary school in 1918. Due to his interests in education and teaching, Qutb enrolled into a teacher‘s college and graduated in 1928. Next, he was admitted into Dar al-Ulum, a Western-style university which was also attended by Hasan al-Banna, an Aab-Islamic leader who Qutb would later join in the Muslim Brotherhood. After his graduation from Dar al- Ulum in 1933, Qutb began his teaching career and eventually became involved in Egypt‘s Ministry of Education. The Ministry sent rhim abroad to the United States to research Western methods of teaching. He spent a total of two years in the United States from 1948 to 1950. During that time, Qutb studied at Wilson‘s Teachers‘College on the east coast before moving west and earning a M.A. in education at the University of Northern Colorado. Qutb‘s strong conviction that Islam was superior to all other systems was made clear in his work Social Justice in Islam, which was written prior to his trip. Nevertheless, many scholars believe that it was during his trip to the United States that Qutb became convinced of the West‘s spiritual and moral bankruptcy.
Qutb left America and returned to Cairo on a TWA flight, the date was August 20, 1950. While Qutb‘s beloved Egypt wallowed in record levels of corruption, assassination, poverty, illiteracy and disease, the Turkish holdout from the Ottoman empire king Farouk , Egypt‘s Britain backed king jetted around in private jet‘s, drove around Cairo in one of many of his cars, or went gambling on the Rivera. This was Qutb‘s Egypt. When Gamal Abdul Nasser then a young army colonel, seized power in Egypt, the old Ottoman tyrant fell replaced by an Egyptian one, Qutb would prove to be his staunchest enemy and would usher in the ―New Vangaurd. The army officers who were principals in the successful takeover of the government, closely coordinated with the Muslim Brotherhood, several of the officers even Anwar Saddat, Nasser‘s successor, were closely allied to the Muslim Brotherhood. Qutb returned to his job at the Ministry of Education, returning to his home in the suburbs of Helmand. Qutb published an open letter, to the revolutions leaders,, stressing that the only way to curb moral corruption was to impose a ―just dictatorship‖, that would grant political legitimacy to only ―the virtuous‖. Nasser‘s government and the Brotherhood were mismatched from the beginning, The Islamist‘s wanted a society ruled by Sharia, Nasser wanted to expand the role of his authoritarian, secular, nationalist government. Qutb was imprisoned by Nasser in 1954, three months later he was released. Upon his release he became the editor of the Muslim Brotherhood‘s magazine of the same name. On October 26, 1954. An Egyptian Brotherhood acolyte attempted an assassination on Nasser, he fired eight shot‘s wounding one of Nasser‘s bodyguards and missing Nasser entirely. Nasser reacted swiftly and brutally, six Muslim Brotherhood members were arrested then hanged, while thousands of others were placed in concentration camps. Qutb‘s turn soon came, suffering from a high fever he was arrested; he was handcuffed and frog marched to prison. Several times he fainted along the way. He was held in a cell with vicious dogs and mercilessly beaten. In court Qutb said: ―The principles of the revolution have indeed been applied to us ―, as he raised his shirt to reveal the marks of torture. Some of the imprisoned Muslim Brothers staged a strike refusing to leave their cells; they were summarily shot to death.
Twenty three of them died in the assault, and forty six injured. Qutb saw the wounded being brought in since he was in the prison‘s hospital.
Qutb reasoned that true Muislims could never treat fellow Muslims in such a manner, resultantly they were not Muslims, the concept of takfir (excommunication), was revived by Qutb . He wrote his manifesto ―Milestones‖ (Ma‘alim fi al-Tariq), while in prison. Through the aid of family and friends, his book circulated for many years underground, in the form of letters to his brothers and sisters, who were also active Islamist‘s. The book saw its first printing in 1964 and was promptly banned, anyone caught with a copy could be charged with sedition. Qutb wrote: ―Mankind today is on the brink of a precipice. Humanity is threatened not only by nuclear annihilation but also by the absence of values. The West has lost its vitality and Marxism has failed. At this crucial and bewildering juncture the turn of Islam and the Muslim community has arrived‖. Qutb wrote that the Muslim community was: ―crushed under the weight of those false laws and teachings which are not even remotely related to the Islamic teachings. We need to initiate the revival of the Islamic movement in some Muslim country‖. Qutb‘s writings posited that some Islamic country needed to serve as a visible example, of Islam‘s forward march to world domination. ―There should be a vanguard which sets out with this determination and keeps walking the path. I have written Milestones for this vangaurd, which I consider to be a waiting reality about to be materialized‖. Sayyid Qutb was hanged on August 29, 1966.