Saturday, May 30, 2009


Abu'l-Abbas Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Kathir al-Farghani, born in Farghana, Transoxiana (present-day Fergana, Uzbekistan), also known as Alfraganus in the West and died in Egypt. He was Muslim astronomer and one of the famous astronomers in 9th century who involved in the measurement of the diameter of the Earth together with a team of scientists under the patronage of Al-Mamun and his successors in Baghdad, His most important work, written between 833 and 857, he wrote "Elements of Astronomy" ( Kitab fi al-Harakat al-Samawiya wa Jawami Ilm al-Nujum i.e. the book on celestial motion and thorough science of the stars), written about 833, a thorough, readable, nonmathematical summary of Ptolemaic astronomy. This was the book, which circulated in several Latin editions, was widely studied in Europe from the 12th to the 17th century and exerted great influence upon European astronomy before Regiomontanus. He accepted Ptolemy's theory and value of the precession, but thought that it affected not only the stars but also the planets. He determined the diameter of the earth to be 6,500 miles, and found the greatest distances and also the diameters of the planets.

Later he moved to Cairo, where he composed a treatise on the astrolabe around 856. Al-Farghani's activities extended to engineering. According to Ibn Tughri Bridge, he supervised the construction of the Great Nilometer at al-Fustat (old Cairo). It was completed in 861, the year in which the Caliph al-Mutawakkil, who ordered the construction, died. But engineering was not al-Farghani's forte, as transpires from the following story narrated by Ibn Abi Usaybi'a.

The Jawami, or 'The Elements' as we shall call it, was Al- Farghani's best-known and most influential work. Abd al-Aziz al-Qabisi (d. 967) wrote a commentary on it, which is preserved in the Istanbul manuscript, Aya Sofya 4832, fols. 97v-114v. Two Latin translations followed in the 12th century. Jacob Anatoli produced a Hebrew translation of the book that served as a basis for a third Latin version, appearing in 1590, whereas in the seventeenth century the Dutch orientalist Jacob Golius published a new Latin text version together with the Arabic original text in 1669, on the basis of a manuscript he had acquired in the Near East, with a new Latin translation and extensive notes. The influence of 'The Elements' on mediaeval Europe is clearly vindicated by the presence of innumerable Latin manuscripts in European libraries.

References to it by medieval writers are many, and there is no doubt that it was greatly responsible for spreading knowledge of Ptolemaic astronomy, at least until this role was taken over by Sacrobosco's Sphere. But even then, 'The Elements' of Al-Farghani continued to be used, and Sacrobosco's Sphere was evidently indebted to it. It was from 'The Elements' (in Gherard's translation) that Dante derived the astronomical knowledge displayed in the 'Vita nuova' and in the 'Convivio'.

The Fihrist of Ibn al-Nadim, written in 987, ascribes only two works to Al-Farghani: (1) "The Book of Chapters, a summary of the Almagest" (Kitab al-Fusul, Ikhtiyar al-Majisti) and (2) "Book on the Construction of Sun-dials" (Kitab 'Amal al-Ruk hamat).

The crater Alfraganus on the Moon is named after him.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Albategnius (c. 858-929), Latin name of Abu Abdallah Muhammad Ibn Jabir Ibn Sinan al-Battani al-Harrani was born around 858 C.E. in Harran, and according to one account, in Battan, a State of Harran, near Urfa, which is now in Turkey. Battani was first educated by his father Jabir Ibn San'an al-Battani, who was also a well-known scientist. Battani was a famous astronomer, mathematician and astrologer. He has been held as one of the greatest astronomists of Islam. He is responsible for a number of important discoveries in astronomy, which was the result of a long career of 42 years of research beginning at Ar Raqqa, Syria, when he was young. His well-known discovery is the remarkably accurate determination of the solar year as being 365 days, 5 hours, 46 minutes and 24 seconds, which is very close to the latest estimates. He found that the longitude of the sun's apogee had increased by 16°, 47' since Ptolemy. This implied the important discovery of the motion of the solar apsides and of a slow variation in the equation of time. He did not believe in the trepidation of the equinoxes, although Copernicus held it.

He also made important contributions to pure mathematics; he was the first to replace the use of Greek chords by singes, with a clear understanding of their superiority in mathematical calculations, computed a table of cotangents and formulated certain propositions in spherical trigonometry. Battānī produced a number of trigonometrical relationships:

He also solved the equation sin x = a cos x discovering the formula:

He also used al-Marwazi's idea of tangents ("shadows") to develop equations for calculating tangents and cotangents, compiling tables of them. He also discovered the reciprocal functions of secant and cosecant, and produced the first table of cosecants, which he referred to as a "table of shadows" (in reference to the shadow of a gnomon), for each degree from 1° to 90°.

One of his best-known achievements in astronomy was the determination of the solar year as being 365 days, 5 hours, 46 minutes and 24 seconds.

Al Battani worked in Damascus, Syria, at ar-Raqqah, where he died. He was able to correct some of Ptolemy's results and compiled new tables of the Sun and Moon, long accepted as authoritative, discovered the movement of the Sun's apogee, treats the division of the celestial sphere, and introduces, probably independently of the 5th century sub-continent’s astronomer Aryabhata, the use of signs in calculation, and partially that of tangents, forming the basis of modern trigonometry. He also calculated the values for the precession of the equinoxes (54.5" per year, or 1° in 66 years) and the inclination of Earth's axis (23° 35'). He used a uniform rate for precession in his tables, choosing not to adopt the theory of trepidation attributed to his colleague Thabit ibn Qurra.

His most important work is his
zij, or set of astronomical tables, known as al-Zīj al-Sābī with 57 chapters, which by way of Latin translation as De Motu Stellarum by Plato Tiburtinus (Plato of Tivoli) in 1116 (printed 1537 by Melanchthon, annotated by Regiomontanus), had great influence on European astronomy. The zij is based on Ptolemy's theory; a reprint appeared at Bologna in 1645. Plato's original manuscript is preserved at the Vatican; and the Escorial Library possesses in manuscript a treatise by Al Battani on astronomical chronology.

During his observations for his improved tables of the Sun and the Moon, he discovered that the direction of the Sun's eccentric was changing, which in modern astronomy equivalent to the Earth is moving in an elliptical orbit around the Sun. His times for the new moon, lengths for the solar year and sidereal year, prediction of eclipses, and work on the phenomenon of parallax, carried astronomers "to the verge of relativity and the space age.

Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Jabar Ibn Sinan Al-Battani wrote many books on Astronomy. His astronomical works, published as De Motu Stellarum (Concerning the Motion of the Stars, 1537), and corrected errors of the Alexandrian astronomer Ptolemy in regard to the inclination of the ecliptic and the length of the year. His most famous book was translated into Latin in the 12th Century and is known by the title 'De Scienta Stellarum – De Numeris Stellarum et Motibus'. It is an Astronomical article with tables. An old translation of De Scienta Stellarum – De Numeris Stellarum et Motibus can be found at the Vatican. Copernicus in his ever-famous book 'De Revelutionibus Orbium Celestium' expresses his gratitude to Al-Battani.

The crater Albategnius (Al-Battani) on the Moon is named after him.
In the fictional Star Trek universe, the Excelsior-class starship USS Al-Batani NCC-42995, mentioned on Star Trek: Voyager as Kathryn Janeway's first deep space assignment, was named for him.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Ali Bin Rabban's surname was Abu al-Hasan, the full name being Abu al-Hasan Ali Bin Sahl Rabban al-Tabari. Born in 838 C.E. his father Sahl hailed from a respectable Jew family. The nobility and sympathy inherent in his very nature soon endeared him to his countrymen so much so that they used to call him Rabban which implies "my leader". Ali received his education in the disciplines of Medical science and calligraphy from his able father Sahl and attained perfection in these fields. He had also mastered Syriac and Greek languages to a high degree of proficiency.

On the Quran he said: "When I was a Christian I used to say, as did an uncle of mine who was one of the learned and eloquent men, that eloquence is not one of the signs of prophet-hood because it is common to all the peoples; but when I discarded (blind) imitation and (old) customs and gave up adhering to (mere) habit and training and reflected upon the meanings of the Qur'an I came to know that what the followers of the Qur'an claimed for it was true. The fact is that I have not found any book, be it by an Arab or a Persian, an Asian or a Greek, right from the beginning of the world up to now, which contains at the same time praises of God, belief in the prophets and apostles, exhortations to good, everlasting deeds, command to do good and prohibition against doing evil, inspiration to the desire of paradise and to avoidance of hell-fire as this Qur'an does. So when a person brings to us a book of such qualities, which inspires such reverence and sweetness in the hearts and which has achieved such an everlasting success and he is (at the same time) an illiterate person who did never learnt the art of writing or rhetoric, that book is without any doubt one of the signs of his Prophethood.

In fact the main cause behind his exalta- tion lies in this world-renowned treatise Firdous al-Hikmat, it is the first ever Medical encyclopaedia which incorporates all the branches of medical science in its folds. Firdous al-Hikmat was divided into 7 sections and 30 parts, with 360 chapters in total. It deals with pediatrics and child development in Depth, as well as Psychology and Psychotherapy. In the fields of medicine and psychotherapy, the work was primarily influenced by Islamic thought and ancient Sub-continent’s physicians. In Sanskrit, the word Ayurveda comprises the words meaning 'life' and 'science'....such as Sushruta and Charaka.

Unlike earlier physicians, however, al-Tabari emphasized strong ties between psychology and medicine, and the need of psychotherapy and counseling in the therapeutic treatment of patients. He wrote that patients frequently feel sick due to delusions or imagination and that these can be treated through "wise counselling" by smart and witty physicians who could win the rapport and confidence of their patients, leading to a positive therapeutic outcome.
This work has been published in this century (20th century) only. Prior to this publication only five of his manuscripts were to be found scattered in libraries the world over. Dr. Mohammed Zubair Siddiqui compared and edited the manuscripts. In his preface he has provided extremely useful information regarding the book and the author and, wherever felt necessary, explanatory notes have been written to facilitate publication of this work on modern publishing standards. Later on this unique work was published with the cooperation of English and German institutions. Following are the details of its all seven parts:

His Firdous al-Hikmah ("Paradise of Wisdom"), which he wrote in Arabic called also Al-Kunnash was a system of medicine in seven parts. He also translated it into Syriac, to give it wider usefulness.
Part one: Kulliyat-e-Tibb . This part throws light on contempo- rary ideology of medical science. In that era these principles formed the basis of medical science.

Part two: Elucidation of the organs of the human body, rules for keeping good health and comprehensive account of certain muscular diseases.

Part three: Description of diet to be taken in conditions of health and disease.

Part four: All diseases right from head to toe. This part is of profound significance in the whole book and comprises twelve papers:
* General causes relating to eruption of diseases.
* Diseases of the head and the brain.
* Diseases relating to the eye,nose,ear,mouth and teeth.
* Muscular diseases (paralysis and spasm).
* Diseases of the regions of the chest, throat and lungs.
* Diseases of the abdomen.
* Diseases of the liver.
* Diseases of gallbladder and spleen.
* Intestinal diseases.
* Different kinds of fever.
* Miscellaneous diseases- explanation of body organs
* Examination of pulse and urine. This part is the detailed in the book and is almost
half the size of the whole book.

Part five: Description of flavour, taste and colour.

Part six: Drugs and poison.

Part seven: Deals with diverse topics. Discusses climate and astronomy. Also contains
a brief mention of sub-continent’s medicine.

Tuhfat al-Muluk ("The King's Present")

A work on the proper use of food, drink, and medicines.

Hafzh al-Sihhah ("The Proper Care of Health") follows Greek and Asian Authorities.

Kitab al-Ruqa ("Book of Magic or Amulets")

Kitab fi al-hijamah ("Treatise on Cupping")

Kitab fi Tartib al-'Ardhiyah ("Treatise on the Preparation of Food")

Monday, May 25, 2009


Thabit Ibn Qurra Ibn Marwan al-Sabi al-Harrani was born in the year 836 C.E. at Harran (present Turkey). As the name indicates he was basically a member of the Sabian sect, but the great Muslim mathematician Muhammad Ibn Musa Ibn Shakir, impressed by his knowledge of languages, and realising his potential for a scientific career, selected him to join the scientific group at Baghdad that was being patronised by the Abbasid Caliphs. There, he studied under the famous Banu Musa brothers. It was in this setting that Thabit contributed to several branches of science, notably mathematics, astronomy and mechanics, in addition to translating a large number of works from Greek to Arabic. Later, he was patronised by the Abbasid Caliph al-M'utadid. After a long career of scholarship, Thabit died at Baghdad in 901 C.E. Thabit's major contribution lies in mathematics and astronomy. He was instrumental in extending the concept of traditional geometry to geometrical algebra and proposed several theories that led to the development of non-Euclidean geometry, spherical trigonometry, integral calculus and real numbers. He criticized a number of theorems of Euclid's elements and proposed important improvements. He applied arithmetical terminology to geometrical quantities, and studied several aspects of conic sections, notably those of parabola and ellipse.

A number of his computations aimed at determining the surfaces and volumes of different types of bodies and constitute, in fact, the processes of integral calculus, as developed later. In astronomy he was one of the early reformers of Ptolemaic views. He analyzed several problems related to the movements of sun and moon and wrote treatises on sun-dials.

Only a few of Thabit's works are preserved in their original form.
The medieval astronomical theory of the trepidation of the equinoxes is often attributed to Thabit. But it had already been described by Theon of Alexandria in his comments of the Handy Tables of Ptolemaeus. According to Copernicus Thabit determined the length of the sidereal year as 365 days, 6 hours, 9 minutes and 12 seconds (an error of 2 seconds). Copernicus based his claim on the Latin text attributed to Thabit. Thabit published his observations of the Sun.

In mathematics, Thabit discovered an equation for determining the amicable numbers. He also wrote on the theory of numbers, and extended their use to describe the ratios between geometrical quantities, a step which the Greeks never took. Another important contribution Thabit made to geometry was his generalization of the Pythagorean theorem, which he extended from special right triangles to all triangles in general, along with a general proof.
In physics, Thabit rejected the Peripatetic and Aristotelian notions of a "natural place" for each element. He instead proposed a theory of motion in which both the upward and downward motions are caused by weight, and that the order of the universe is a result of two competing attractions : one of these being "between the sublunar and celestial elements", and the other being "between all parts of each element separately".

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Abu Yousuf Yaqub Ibn Ishaq al-Kindi was born at Kufa around 800 C.E. His father was an official of Haroon al-Rashid. Al-Kindi was a contemporary of al-Mamun, al-Mu'tasim and al-Mutawakkil and flourished largely at Baghdad. He vas formally employed by Mutawakkil as a calligrapher. On account of his philosophical views, Mutawakkil was annoyed with him and confiscated all his books. These were, however, returned later on. He died in 873 C.E. during the reign of al-M'utamid.

Al-Kindi was a philosopher, mathematician, physicist, astronomer, physician, geographer and even an expert in music. It is surprising that he made original contributions to all of these fields. On account of his work he became known as the philosopher of the Arabs. In mathematics, he wrote four books on the number system and laid the foundation of a large part of modern arithmetic. No doubt the Arabic system of numerals was largely developed by al- Khawarizmi , but al-Kindi also made rich contributions to it. He also contributed to spherical geometry to assist him in astronomical studies. In chemistry, he opposed the idea that base metals can be converted to precious metals. In contrast to prevailing alchemical views, he was emphatic that chemical reactions cannot bring about the transformation of elements. In physics, he made rich contributions to geometrical optics and wrote a book on it. This book later on provided guidance and inspiration to such eminent scientists as Roger Bacon.

He was a prolific writer, the total number of books written by him was 241, the prominent among which were divided as follows : Astronomy 16, Arithmetic 11, Geometry 32, Medicine 22, Physics 12, Philosophy 22, Logic 9, Psychology 5 and Music 7.

Al-Kindi's influence on development of science and philosophy was significant in the revival of sciences in that period. In the Middle Ages, Cardano considered him as one of the twelve greatest minds. His works, in fact, lead to further development of various subjects for centuries, notably physics, mathematics, medicine and music.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Hassan al-Banna

Early life
Banna was born in 1906 in Mahmudiyya, Egypt (north-west of Cairo). His father, Shaykh Ahmad al-Banna, was a respected local imam (prayer leader) and mosque teacher of the Hanbali rite. He was not educated at
Al-Azhar University (Lia 24, 1998). He wrote and collaborated on books on Muslim traditions, and also had a shop where he repaired watches and sold gramophones. Though Shaykh Ahmad al Banna and his wife owned some property, they were not wealthy and struggled to make ends meet, particularly after they moved to Cairo in 1924. Like many others, they found that Islamic learning and piety were no longer as highly valued in the capital, and that craftsmanship could not compete with large-scale industry.

When Hassan al-Banna was twelve years old, he became involved in a
Sufi order, and became a fully initiated member in 1922. At the age of thirteen, he participated in demonstrations during the revolution of 1919 against British rule.

The Dar al-Ulum Years
In 1923, at the age of 16, Al-Banna moved to Cairo to enter the Dar al-Ulum college. Life in the capital offered him a greater range of activities than the village and the opportunity to meet prominent Islamic scholars (in large measure thanks to his father's acquaintances), but he was deeply disturbed by effects of Westernization he saw there, particularly the rise of secularism and the breakdown of traditional morals. The four years that Al-Banna spent in Cairo exposed him to the political ferment of the Egyptian capital in the early 1920s, and enhanced his awareness of the extent to which secular and Western ways had penetrated the very fabric of society. It was then that Al-Banna became particularly preoccupied with what he saw as the young generation's drift away from Islam. He believed that the battle for the hearts and minds of the youth would prove critical to the survival of a religion besieged by a Western onslaught. While studying in Cairo, he immersed himself in the writings of the founders of Islamic reformism, including the Egyptian
Muhammad 'Abduh, under whom his father had studied while at Al-Azhar. But it was 'Abduh's disciple, the Syrian Rashid Rida, who most influenced Al-Banna. Al-Banna was a dedicated reader of Al-Manar, the magazine that Rida published in Cairo from 1898 until his death in 1935. He shared Rida's central concern with the decline of Islamic civilization relative to the West. He too believed that this trend could be reversed only by returning to an unadulterated form of Islam, free from all the accretions that had diluted the strength of its original message. Like Rida at the end of his life — but unlike 'Abduh and other Islamic modernists — Al-Banna felt that the main danger to Islam's survival in the modern age stemmed less from the conservatism of Al-Azhar and the Ulema (which he nevertheless criticized) than from the ascendancy of Western secular ideas.

He was equally disappointed with what he saw as the failure of the Islamic scholars of al-Azhar University to voice their opposition to the rise of atheism and to the influence of Christian missionaries.

In his last year at Dar al-Ulum, he wrote that he had decided to dedicate himself to becoming "a counselor and a teacher" of adults and children, in order to teach them "the objectives of religion and the sources of their well-being and happiness in life". He graduated in 1927 and was given a position as an Arabic language teacher in a state primary school in Ismaïlia, a provincial town located in the Suez Canal Zone.

Establishment of the Muslim Brothers
It was to spread this message that Al-Banna launched the Society of the
Muslim Brothers in March 1928. At first, the society was only one of the numerous small Islamic associations that existed at the time. Similar to those that Al-Banna himself had joined since he was 12, these associations aimed to promote personal piety and engaged in charitable activities. By the late 1930s, it had established branches in every Egyptian province. A decade later, it had 500,000 active members and as many sympathizers in Egypt alone, while its appeal was now felt in several other countries as well. The society's growth was particularly pronounced after Al-Banna relocated its headquarters to Cairo in 1932. The single most important factor that made this dramatic expansion possible was the organizational and ideological leadership provided by Al-Banna.

In Ismaïlia, in addition to his day classes, he carried out his intention of giving night classes to his pupils' parents. He also preached in the mosque, and even in coffee-houses, which were then a novelty and were generally viewed as morally suspect. At first, some of his views on relatively minor points of Islamic practice led to strong disagreements with the local religious élite, and he adopted the policy of avoiding religious controversies.

He was appalled by the many conspicuous signs of foreign military and economic domination in Isma'iliyya: the British military camps, the public utilities owned by foreign interests, and the luxurious residences of the foreign employees of the Suez Canal Company, next to the squalid dwellings of the Egyptian workers.

Political Activity
He endeavored to bring about the changes he hoped for through institution-building, relentless activism at the grassroots level, and a reliance on mass communication. He proceeded to build a complex mass movement that featured sophisticated governance structures; sections in charge of furthering the society's values among peasants, workers, and professionals; units entrusted with key functions, including propagation of the message, liaison with the Islamic world, and press and translation; and specialized committees for finances and legal affairs.

In anchoring this organization into Egyptian society, Al-Banna relied on pre-existing social networks; in particular those built around mosques, Islamic welfare associations, and neighborhood groups. This weaving of traditional ties into a distinctively modern structure was at the root of his success. Directly attached to the brotherhood, and feeding its expansion, were numerous businesses, clinics, and schools. In addition, members were affiliated to the movement through a series of cells, revealingly called usar (families. singular: usrah). The materials, social and psychological support thus provided were instrumental to the movement's ability to generate enormous loyalty among its members and to attract new recruits. The services and organizational structure around which the society was built were intended to enable individuals to reintegrate into a distinctly Islamic setting, shaped by the society's own principles. Rooted in Islam, Al-Banna's message tackled issues including colonialism, public health, educational policy, natural resources management, Marxism, social inequalities, Arab nationalism, the weakness of the Islamic world on the international scene, and the growing conflict in Palestine. By emphasizing concerns that appealed to a variety of constituencies, Al-Banna was able to recruit from among a cross-section of Egyptian society — though modern-educated civil servants, office employees, and professionals remained dominant among the organization's activists and decision makers.

Last Days and Assassination
Between 1948 and 1949, shortly after the society sent volunteers to fight in the war in Palestine, the conflict between the monarchy and the society reached its climax. Concerned with the increasing assertiveness and popularity of the brotherhood, as well as with rumors that it was plotting a coup, Prime Minister Mahmoud an-Nukrashi Pasha disbanded it in December 1948. The organization's assets were impounded and scores of its members sent to jail. Less than three weeks later, the prime minister was assassinated by a member of the brotherhood. This in turn prompted the assassination of Al-Banna, presumably by a Egyptian Secret Service, on February 12, 1949 in Cairo. Al-Banna was 43 years old and at the height of his career.

Hassan al-Banna is known to have great impact in the modern Islamic thought.
He is the grandfather of Tariq Ramadan and older brother of Jamal al-Banna.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sayyid Qutb

Sayyid Qutb (pronounced Syed, Seyyid, Sayid, or Sayed; Koteb, Qutub, Kotb, or Kutb) (Arabic: سيد قطب‎; October 9, 1906 – August 29,1966) was an Egyptian author, educator, Islamist, poet, and the leading intellectual of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s and '60s. He is best known in the Muslim world for his work on what he believed to be the social and political role of Islam, particularly in his books Social Justice and Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq (Milestones). His extensive Quranic commentary Fi Zilal al-Qur'an (In the shade of the Qur'an) has contributed significantly to modern perceptions of Islamic concepts such as jihad, jahiliyyah, and ummah. Many Muslims consider him to be a martyr (shahid) because of his execution by Nasser's government.

Qutb is also known for his intense disapproval of the culture, society and people of the United States, and has been described as "the man whose ideas would shape as “TEHREEK-E-ISLAMI” today, his supporters are often identified as Qutbists.

Life and Public Career
Qutb was raised in the Egyptian village of
Musha and educated from a young age in the Qur'an. He moved to Cairo, where he received a Western education between 1929 and 1933, before starting his career as a teacher in the Ministry of Public Instruction. During his early career, Qutb devoted himself to literature as an author and critic, writing such novels as Ashwak (Thorns) and even elevating Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz from obscurity. In 1939, he became a functionary in Egypt's Ministry of Education (wizarat al-ma'arif ). From 1948 to 1950, he went to the United States on a scholarship to study the educational system, studying for several months at Colorado State College of Education (now the University of Northern Colorado) in Greeley, Colorado. Qutb's first major theoretical work of religious social criticism, Al-'adala al-Ijtima'iyya fi-l-Islam (Social Justice in Islam), was published in 1949, during his time overseas.

Though Islam gave him much peace and contentment, he suffered from respiratory and other health problems throughout his life and was known for "his introvertedness, isolation, depression and concern." In appearance, he was "pale with sleepy eyes." Qutb never married, in part because of his steadfast religious convictions. While the urban Egyptian society he lived in was becoming more Westernized, Qutb believed the Quran taught women that `Men are the managers of women's affairs. Qutb lamented to his readers that he was never able to find a woman of sufficient "moral purity and discretion" and had to reconcile himself to bachelorhood.

Qutb was extremely critical of many things in the United States: its
materialism, individual freedom, economic system, racism, brutal boxing matches, "poor" haircuts, triviality, restrictions on divorce, enthusiasm for sports, "animal-like" mixing of the sexes (which went on even in churches), and lack of support for the Palestinian struggle. In an article published in Egypt after his travels, he noted with disapproval the sexuality of Americans. Qutb's impression of America and Americans was drawn from his short stay in Washington DC, and a much longer one while doing graduate work at the Colorado State College of Education (now the University of Northern Colorado) in the small city of Greeley, CO. In1 950.

Return to Egypt
Qutb concluded that major aspects of American life were primitive and "shocking", a people who were "numb to faith in religion, faith in art, and faith in spiritual values altogether". His experience in the U.S. is believed to have formed in part the impetus for his rejection of Western values and his move towards
radicalism upon returning to Egypt. Resigning from the civil service, he joined the Muslim Brotherhood in the early 1950, and became editor-in-chief of the Brothers' weekly Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin, and later head of the propaganda section, as well as an appointed member of the Working Committee and of the Guidance Council, the highest branch in the Brotherhood.
In June 1952, Egypt's pro-Western government was overthrown by the nationalist
Free Officers Movement headed by Jamal Abdel Nasser. Both Qutb and the Muslim Brotherhood welcomed the coup against the monarchist government — which they saw as un-Islamic and subservient to British imperialism — and enjoyed a close relationship with the movement prior to and immediately following the coup. Many members of the Brotherhood expected Nasser to establish an Islamic government. However, the cooperation between the Brotherhood and Free Officers which marked the revolution's success soon soured as it became clear the secular nationalist ideology of Nasserism was incompatible with the Islamism of the Brotherhood. Nasser's regime refused to ban alcohol, or to implement other aspects of Islamic law.

After the attempted assassination of Nasser in 1954, the Egyptian government used the incident to justify a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, imprisoning Qutb and many others for their vocal opposition to various government policies. During his first three years in prison conditions were bad and Qutb was tortured. In later years he was allowed more mobility, including the opportunity to write.

This period saw the composition of his two most important works: a commentary of the
Qur'an Fi Zilal al-Qur'an (In the Shade of the Qur'an), and a manifesto of political Islam called Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq (Milestones). These works represent the final form of Qutb's thought, encompassing his radically anti-secular and anti-Western claims based on his interpretations of the Qur'an, Islamic history, and the social and political problems of Egypt. The school of thought he inspired has become known as Qutbism.

Qutb was let out of prison at the end of 1964 at the behest of the then Prime Minister of
Iraq, Abdul Salam Arif, for only 8 months before being rearrested in August 1965. He was accused of plotting to overthrow the state and subjected to what some consider a show trial. Many of the charges placed against Qutb in court were taken directly from Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq and he adamantly supported his written statements. The trial culminated in a death sentence for Qutb and six other members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Qutb was sentenced to death as the leader of a group planning to assassinate the President and other Egyptian officials and personalities, though he was not the instigator or leader of the actual plot. On 29 August 1966, Sayyid Qutb was executed by hanging.

Evolution of thought
Different theories have been advanced as to why Qutb, turned from secular reformism in the 1930s to radical Islamism in the 1950s and 1960s (the latter clearly evidenced in
Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq). One common explanation is that the conditions he witnessed in prison from 1954-1964, including the torture and murder of Muslim Brothers, convinced him that only a government bound by Islamic law could prevent such abuses. Another is that Qutb's experiences in America as a darker skinned person and the insufficiently anti-Western policies of Nasser demonstrated to him the powerful and dangerous allure of jahiliyyah — a threat unimaginable, in Qutb's estimation, to the secular mind. However there are indications his feelings about the West had developed about America. On his boat trip to America in 1948 he wrote:
“Should I travel to America, and become flimsy, and ordinary, ... Is there other than Islam that I should be steadfast to in its character and hold on to its instructions, in this life amidst deviant chaos, and the endless means of satisfying animalistic desires, pleasures, and awful sins? “
Finally, Qutb offered his own explanation in Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq, arguing that anything non-Islamic was evil and corrupt, while following
Sharia as a complete system extending into all aspects of life, would bring every kind of benefit to humanity, from personal and social peace, to the "treasures" of the universe.

In general, Qutb's experiences as an Egyptian Muslim — his village childhood, professional career, and activism in the Muslim Brotherhood — left an unmistakable mark on his theoretical and religious works. Even Qutb's early, secular writing shows evidence of his later themes. For example, Qutb's autobiography of his childhood
Tifl min al-Qarya (A Child from the Village) makes little mention of Islam or political theory and is typically classified as a secular, literary work. However, it is replete with references to village mysticism, superstition, the Qur'an, and incidences of injustice. Qutb's later work developed along similar themes, dealing with Qur'anic exegesis, social justice, and political Islam.

Qutb's career as a writer also heavily influenced his philosophy. In
al-Taswiir al-Fanni fil-Quran (Artistic Representation in the Qur'an), Qutb developed a literary appreciation of the Qur'an and a complementary methodology for interpreting the text. His hermeneutics were applied in his extensive commentary on the Qur'an, Fi zilal al-Qur'an (In the Shade of the Quran), which served as the foundation for the radical declarations of Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq.

Late in his life, Qutb synthesized his personal experiences and intellectual development in the famous
Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq, a religious and political manifesto for what he believed was a true Islamic system. It was also in this text that Qutb condemned Muslim governments, such as Abdul Nasser's regime in Egypt, as secular with their legitimacy based on human (and thus corrupt), rather than divine authority. This work, more than any other, established Qutb as one of, if not the premier Islamists of the 20th century.

Political Philosophy
Whether he espoused dictatorship or later rule by
Sharia law with essentially no government at all, defensive jihad or later offensive jihad, Sayyid Qutb's mature political views always centered on Islam — Islam as a complete system of morality, justice and governance, whose Sharia laws and principles should be the sole basis of governance and everything else in life. In an earlier work, Qutb described military jihad as defensive, Islam's campaign to protect itself. On the issue of Islamic governance, Qutb differed with many modernist and reformist Muslims who claimed democracy was Islamic because the Quranic institution of Shura supported elections and democracy. Qutb pointed out that the Shura chapter of the Qur'an was revealed during the Mekkan period, and therefore, it does not deal with the problem of government. It makes no reference to elections and calls only for the ruler to consult some of the ruled, as a particular case of the general rule of Shura. Qutb argued (at that time) a 'just dictatorship' would be more Islamic. Qutb also opposed the then popular ideology of Arab nationalism, having become disillusioned with the 1952 Nasser Revolution and having been exposed to the regime's practices of arbitrary arrest, torture, and deadly violence during his imprisonment.

Jahiliyyah vs. Freedom
This exposure to abuse of power undoubtedly contributed to the ideas in his famous prison-written Islamic manifesto
Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq (Milestones), where he advocated a political system the opposite of dictatorship — i.e. on with no government. There Qutb argued:
The Muslim world had ceased to be and reverted to pre-Islamic ignorance known as
jahiliyyah, because of the lack of sharia law. Consequently all states of the Muslim world are not Islamic and thus illegitimate, including that of his native land Egypt.

Rather than support rule by a pious Muslim(s), (either a dictator(s) or democratically elected), Muslims should resist any system where men are in "servitude to other men" — i.e. obey other men — as un-Islamic and a violation of God's sovereignty (Hakamiyya) over all of creation. A truly Islamic polity would have no rulers — not even have theocratic ones - since Muslims would need neither judges nor police to obey divine law. It was what one observer has called "a kind of anarcho-Islam.

The way to bring about this freedom was for a revolutionary vanguard to fight
jahiliyyah with a twofold approach: preaching, and abolishing the organizations and authorities of the Jahili system by "physical power and Jihad." The vanguard movement would grow with preaching and jihad until it formed a truly Islamic community, then spread throughout the Islamic homeland and finally throughout the entire world, attaining leadership of humanity. While those who had been "defeated by the attacks of the treacherous Orientalists!" might define jihad "narrowly" as defensive, Islamically-correct Jihad (according to Qutb) was in fact offensive.

Qutb emphasized this struggle would be anything but easy. True Islam would transform every aspect of society, eliminating everything non-Muslim. True Muslims could look forward to lives of "poverty, difficulty, frustration, torment and sacrifice." Jahili erzatz-Muslims, Jews and Westerners would all fight and conspire against Islam and the elimination of jahiliyyah.
Main article:
Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq

Among these enemies Qutb was particularly enraged by Jews, whom he saw as a great menace to Islam despite their small numbers. Qutb repeatedly talked of "the wicked opposition of the Jews to Islam," their "conspiracies" and "scheming against Islam" over the centuries.

Although earlier Muslims (
Ibn Taymiyya, Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi and Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab) had used jahiliyyah to refer to contemporary Muslim societies, no one before Qutb had applied it so widely, nor had such popular response. While Islam had seen many religious revivals urging a return to religious fundamentals throughout its history, Qutb was the first thinker who paired them to a radical, sociopolitical ideology.

Greatly admired by many though Qutb was and is, he also has a variety of critics. Criticism of Qutb's ideas comes from several, sometimes opposite, directions.
  • Following the publication of Milestones and the aborted plot against the Nasser government, mainstream Muslims took issue with Qutb's contention that "physical power" and jihad had to be used to overthrow governments, and attack societies, "institutions and traditions" of the Muslim — but according to Qutb jahili — world. The ulema of Al-Azhar University school took the unusual step following his death of putting Sayyid Qutb on their index of heresy, declaring him a "deviant" (munharif).
  • Reformist Muslims, on the other hand, questioned his understanding of Sharia, i.e. that it is not only perfect and complete, but completely accessible to mortals and thus the solution to any of their problems. Also criticized is his dismissal of not only all non-Muslim culture, but many centuries of Muslim learning, culture and beauty following the first four caliphs as un-Islamic and thus worthless?
  • Conservative/puritan criticism went further, condemning Qutb's Islamist/reformist ideas — such as social justice and redistributive economics, banning of slavery, — as "western" and bid'ah or innovative (innovations to Islam being forbidden ipso facto). They have accused Qutb of amateur scholarship, overuse of ijtihad, innovation in Ijma (which Qutb felt should not be limited to scholars, but should be conducted by all Muslims), declaring unlawful what Allah has made lawful, assorted mistakes in aqeedah (belief) and manhaj (methodology), and of lack of respect for Islamic traditions, for prophets and for early Muslims. Supporters have also defended him from at least some of these and other charges.

Alongside notable Islamists like
Maulana Mawdudi, Hasan al-Banna, and Ruhollah Khomeini, Qutb is considered one of the most influential Muslim thinkers or activists of the modern era, not only for his ideas but for what many consider his heroic martyr's death.

His written works are still widely available and have been translated into many Western languages. Qutb's best known work is Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq (Milestones), but the majority of Qutb's theory can be found in his Qur'anic commentary Fi zilal al-Qur'an (In the Shade of the Quran). This 30-volume work is noteworthy for its innovative method of interpretation, borrowing heavily from the literary analysis of Amin al-Khuli, while retaining some structural features of classical commentaries (for example, the practice of progressing from the first sura to the last).

The influence of his work extends to issues such as Westernization, modernization, and political reform and the theory of inevitable ideological conflict between "Islam and the West" (see Clash of civilizations), the notion of a transnational umma, and the comprehensive application of jihad.
Qutb's theoretical work on Islamic advocacy,
social justice and education, has left a significant mark on the Muslim Brotherhood (at least outside of Egypt).


  • Mahammat al-Sha'ir fi'l-Hayah wa Shi'r al-Jil al-Hadir (The Task of the Poet in Life and the Poetry of the Contemporary Generation), 1933
  • Al-Shati al-Majhul (The Unknown Beach), 1935
  • Naqd Kitab: Mustaqbal al-Thaqafa fi Misr (Critique of a Book by Taha Husain: the Future of Culture in Egypt), 1939
  • Al-Taswir al-Fanni fi'l-Qu'ran (Artistic Imagery in the Qur'an), 1945
  • Al-Atyaf al-Arba'a (The Four Apparitions), 1945
  • Tifl min al-Qarya (A Child from the Village), 1946
  • Al-Madina al-Mashura (The Enchanted City), 1946
  • Kutub wa Shakhsiyyat (Books and Personalities), 1946
  • Askwak (Thorns), 1947
  • Mashahid al-Qiyama fi'l-Qur'an (Aspects of Resurrection in the Qu'ran), 1946
  • Al-Naqd al-Adabi: Usuluhu wa Manahijuhu (Literary Criticism: It's Foundation and Methods'), 1948.


  • Al-Adala al-Ijtima'iyya fi'l-Islam (Social Justice in Islam), 1949
  • Ma'arakat al-Islam wa'l-Ra's Maliyya (The Battle Between Islam and Capitalism), 1951
  • Al-Salam al-'Alami wa'l-Islam (World Peace and Islam), 1951
  • Fi Zilal al-Qur'an (In the Shade of the Qur'an), first installment 1954
  • Dirasat Islamiyya (Islamic Studies), 1953
  • Hadha'l-Din (This Religion if Islam), (after 1954)
  • Al-Mustaqbal li-hadha'l-Din (The Future of This Religion), n.d. (after 1954)
  • Khasais al-Tasawwar al-Islami wa Muqawamatuhu (The Characteristics and Values of Islamic Conduct), 1960
  • Al-Islam wa Mushkilat al-Hadara (Islam and the Problems of Civilization), (after 1954)
  • Ma'alim fi'l-Tariq (Signposts on the Road, or Milestones), 1964)
  • Basic Principles of Islamic Worldview
  • The Islamic Concept and Its Characteristics
  • Islam and universal peace