LTC Stuart A. Green: Cognitive Warfare

Sayyid Qutb's Milestones

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sayyid Qutb's Milestones, But Couldn't Be Bothered to Find Out

Elmer Swenson
Last Updated: 6-27-2005

  1. Introduction
  2. Qutb and the Muslim Community
  3. Qutb and Shari'ah Law, the Islamic Vanguard and Slavery
  4. Qutb on Sex, Women and the Family
  5. Qutb on Politics: Progressive Islam, Nationalism, Democracy, Socialism
  6. Qutb on Politics: Racial Equality and Freedom
  7. Qutb and non-Muslims: The West
  8. Qutb and non-Muslims: Christians, Jews and Freedom of Religion
  9. Qutb and Peaceful Co-Existance with non-Muslims
  10. Qutb and the Future
  11. Addendum


Who is Sayyid Qutb, and what's so special about his book Milestones, aka Signposts?

Qutb (1906-1966) was an Egyptian government bureaucrat, author, literary critic and finally an Islamic political leader, but is most famous as an Islamist theoretician. He grew up in British-occupied Egypt and was imprisoned and executed in Nasser's independent Egypt. Though he came from a pious rural background, he studied Western literature extensively and wrote literary criticism as well as poetry, short stories and articles. Qutb spent two years in America (which he loathed) and came back a determined fundamentalist. He became one of the leading members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the first and largest mass Islamist group. After the Brotherhood fell out with the ruling Arab nationalists in Egypt and an attempt was made on the life of president Gamal Abdul Nasser, the nationalists' leader, Qutb was imprisoned. 10 years later, accused of another plot against the government, he was hanged. [1]

Qutb wrote many books, but his most famous and widely read by far is Milestones, generally considered one of, if not the most influential Islamist tract ever written. Milestones (Ma'alim 'ala Al-Tariq), was an immediate best seller and is said to have been published in close to 2,000 editions [2]

At the time of writing it was also available in full text on at least two websites:

Some accolades for Milestones and Qutb's influence:

... regarded as the father of modern fundamentalism and described by his (Arab) biographer as "the most famous personality of the Muslim world in the second half of the 20th century,".... Qutb was the most influential advocate in modern times of jihad, or Islamic holy war, and the chief developer of doctrines that legitimise violent Muslim resistance to regimes that claim to be Muslim, but whose implementation of Islamic precepts is judged to be imperfect....
"Is This the Man Who Inspired Bin Laden?" Robert Irwin, Guardian, November 1, 2001

The essential charter of the jihad movement -- its Mein Kampf -- is Sayyid Qutb's Milestones...
"Truly, madly, deeply devout," Jonathan Raban, Guardian, March 2, 2002

And lest anyone think such testimonials come only from non-Islamists, here's an Islamist British convert to Islam, Hamid Algar, writing before 9/11:

Sayyid Qutb ... some 28 years after his death is still the most influential ideologue of the Islamic movement in the contemporary Arab world ...Ma'alim fi 'l-Tariq [Milestones] must definitely count among the historic documents of the contemporary Islamic movement. [3]

What's this book like?

One of the most common English language editions of Milestones (and the one from which quotes and page numbers on this FAQ come from) was published by The Mother Mosque Foundation in 1981. It looks like an oversized pamphlet. It's full of typos and has no index, no notes, no introduction to tell you who the author is, or even when the book was first published. As for the content, non-Islamists (and in fact most everyone) will find Milestones badly in need of an editor, alternately repeating some points over and over while skipping over others that beg to be explained further. Marxist author Tariq Ali assessed it "repetitive, banal, uninspiring." No doubt this is in part because Milestones was written in prison and smuggled out, and also because it was written for the "vanguard" of the revival of Islam rather than average Muslims (never mind non-Muslims). Be that as it may, although only 160 pages, non-Islamist readers may find it the lonnnggggest 160 pages they've ever read.

Why was this FAQ created?

Influential and compact as it is, Milestones is in some ways the ideal place to begin learning about radical Islam. And if in fact it is "the Mein Kampf" of the al Qaeda, it may not only be interesting but rather important to understand. Just as Radical Islamists were able to plan and carry out terror attacks because of their familiarity with the West, so too the West may be able to turn the tables and defend itself better by understanding how their would-be murderers and destroyers think. On the other hand, if the portrayal above of Qutb (or more generally the Islamist revival) is slander, as some allege (see below), that also would be important to clear up. The problem is, Qutb's writing is so bad many non-Muslims and non-Islamists won't have the patience to make their way through the whole thing, or through the whole thing carefully. This FAQ, then is an attempt to make Milestones easier to understand by breaking it down point-by-point and clarifying it. Such points include the questions:

  • Was Qutb an anti-Western fanatic as some of the quotes in the first Answer indicate? Or has the West "chosen to dub" Qutb and the Islamic religious revival in general "as fundamentalist, as fanatic, as anti-Western, as anachronistic, as what not, when nothing could be farther from the truth"? [4] Are followers of Qutb in reality merely pious and proud Muslims who demand respect and sensitivity for their religion and people, but are willing to give the same to others in return?

  • When does Qutb think violence is necessary? Is he "careful to emphasize that [jihad] does not necessarily mean the use of violence..."? ("A Fresh look at Sayyid Qutb's Milestones" by Muqtedar Khan) Did he refrain from "invit[ing] people to any clandestine movement" or "instigat[ing] them to violence and destructive activities"? [5]

  • When Qutb talks about "complete freedom," "freedom of man from servitude to other men," and "a practical religion" (phrases he uses repeatedly), what does he really mean?

  • Can the enemies of Qutb's enemies (e.g. the foes of imperialism and global capitalism) make common cause with followers of Qutb?


    What does Qutb think of the contemporary Muslim community?

    That it doesn't exist. "The Muslim community has long ago vanished from existence." It's "been extinct for a few centuries." How can this be? Well, without the "laws of God," i.e. Shari'ah law, Islam does not exist, so today's Muslims, or people who call themselves Muslim, live in not in an Islamic world, but inJahiliyyah, pre-Islamic ignorance.

    ... the Muslim community has long ago vanished from existence ... we can say that the Muslim community has been extinct for a few centuries, for this Muslim community does not denote the name of a land in which Islam resides, nor is it a people whose forefathers lived under the Islamic system at some earlier time. It is the name of a group of people whose manners, ideas and concepts, rules and regulations, values and criteria, are all derived from the Islamic source. The Muslim community with these characteristics vanished at the moment the laws of God became suspended on earth. [p.9]

    Our whole environment, people's beliefs and ideas, habits and art, rules and laws -- is Jahiliyyah, even to the extent that what we consider to be Islamic culture, Islamic sources, Islamic philosophy and Islamic thought are also constructs of Jahiliyyah! [p.20]

    What exactly is wrong with "Jahiliyyah" society?


    Jahiliyyah is everywhere:

    The whole world is steeped in Jahiliyyah... [p.10-11]

    Jahiliyyah is evil and corrupt, whether it be of the ancient or modern variety. [p.132]

    We must ... free ourselves from the clutches of jahili society, jahili concepts, jahili traditions and jahilileadership.. [p.21]

    No compromise with it is tolerable:
    We will not change our own values and concepts either more or less to make a bargain with this jahili society. Never! [p.21]
    A live-and-let-live co-existence with it is unthinkable:
    Islam cannot accept or agree to a situation which is half-Islam and half-Jahiliyyah ... The mixing and co-existence of the truth and falsehood is impossible. [p.130]

    But if Muslims pray, fast, give alms, go on Hajj, proclaim that there is no God but God and Muhammad is his prophet, how can they be ignorant pagans (i.e. Jahili)?

    Anyone who does not obey traditional Shari'ah, or "God's rule on earth," is by (Qutb's) definition not a Muslim. The problem with these "jahili" Muslims is

    not that they believe in other deities besides God or because they worship anyone other than God, but [that] their way of life is not based on submission to God alone. Although they believe in the Unity of God, still they have relegated the legislative attribute of God to others and submit to this authority. [p.82]

    And "accepting the sovereignty of others besides God," (the others in question being human beings), is shirk, (polytheism). [p.45] You may not think you are worshiping priests or presidents when you obey the regulations or laws legislated by their governance, but you are.

    The Prophet - peace be on him - clearly stated that, according to the Shari'ah, 'to obey' is 'to worship'. ... Anyone who serves someone other than God in this sense is outside God's religion, although he may claim to profess this religion. [p.60]
    "Obedience to the Shari'ah, of God, is" not just as important as the five pillars; it is "even more necessary than the establishment of the Islamic belief" (p.89) in making a Muslim a Muslim. Thus (as noted above),
    ... the Muslim community ... vanished ... the moment the laws of God became suspended on earth... [p.9]

    Where does Qutb think the Umma (Muslim community) went wrong?

    In deviating from the model for Muslims -- the original "Companions of the Prophet."

    If Islam is again to play the role of the leader of mankind, then it is necessary that the Muslim community be restored to its original form. [p.9]

    Unlike Muslims of today, the companions isolated themselves from the Jahiliyyah learning and culture of non-Muslims and looked to the Qur'an for orders to obey, not as information or solutions to problems. Specifically, the Companions ...

  • Avoided any contamination from non-Islamic culture or learning -- Greek, Roman, Persian, Christian or Jewish logic, art, poetry, etc., -- i.e. anything other than the Qur'an. "The spring from which the Companions of the Prophet (p) drank was the Quran, only the Quran... (p.16)
  • Read the Qur'an as orders to be followed ("what the Almighty Creator had prescribed for him"), as a source of "instruction for obedience and action" (p.21), and not "for the sake of discussion, learning and information" or "to solve some scientific or legal problem." (p.17-18)
  • "Cut [themselves] off from Jahiliyyah," i.e. the rest of the world, and "separating [them]selves completely from [their] past life," a life of "ignorance of the Divine Law." They renounced "the Jahili environment, its customs and traditions, its ideas and concepts." (p.19-20)

    Qutb later contradicts this first prescription, declaring it OK to study some Western knowledge ...

    chemistry, physics, biology, astronomy, medicine, industry, agriculture, administration (limited to its technical aspects), technology, military arts... [p.109]

    although not others:

    principles of economics and political affairs and interpretation of historical processes ... origin of the universe, the origin of the life of man ... philosophy, comparative religion ... sociology (excluding statistics and observations) ... Darwinist biology ([which] goes beyond the scope of its observations, without any rhyme or reason and only for the sake of expressing an opinion ...). [p.108-110]


    What is so special about the Shari'ah, or "God's rule on earth," that it is indispensable to Islam?

    Because the Shari'ah is God's law, it brings "total harmony between human life and the law of the universe." It "is the only guarantee against any kind of discord in life" -- whether mental or physical. It brings both "peace of mind" and "peace and cooperation among individuals". (p.90)

    Shari'ah is also a part of that universal law which governs the entire universe, including the physical and biological aspects of man. Each word of God, whether it is an injunction or a prohibition, a promise or an admonition, a rule or guidance, is a part of the universal law and is as accurate and true as any of the laws known as the `laws of nature`... [p.88]
    and thus can no more be denied than the laws of gravity or nuclear physics.

    Shari'ah is so wonderful it achieves the "results" of heaven (though not absolutely perfectly) right here on earth.

    ... when harmony between human life and the universe ensues, its results are not postponed for the next life but are operative even in this world. However, they will reach their perfection in the Hereafter. [p.91]

    The Shari'ah is not just a legal code but everything legislated by God, from "belief" to "administration and justice" to "principles of art and science." (p.107)

    So if lack of Shari'ah is the cause of the demise of true Islam and the Muslim community, how does Qutb propose to reestablish Shari'ah?

    Well, of course, through preaching to persuade people of the Shari'ah's necessity, but

    the abolition of man-made laws cannot be achieved only through preaching. Those who have usurped the authority of God and are oppressing God's creatures are not going to give up their power merely through preaching. [p.59]
    So in addition "the movement" is needed.
    If through `preaching` beliefs and ideas are confronted, through `the movement` material obstacles are tackled. Foremost among these [material obstacles] is that political power which rests on a complex yet interrelated ideological, racial, class, social and economic support ... For the achievement of the freedom of man on earth -- of all mankind throughout the earth -- it is necessary that these two methods should work side by side. This is a very important point and cannot be overemphasized. [p.59]

    Material obstacles is also described as "the political system of the state, the socio-economic system based on races and classes, and behind all these, the military power of the government." (p.63) Later on he expands the list of the "many practical obstacles in establishing God's rule on earth" to include not just "the power of the state, the social system and traditions" but "in general, the whole human environment." (p.72)

    So how will these "material obstacles" in the way of Shari'ah be removed?

    Through force.

    This movement uses ... physical power and Jihaad for abolishing the organizations and authorities of the jahilisystem which prevents people from reforming their ideas and beliefs but forces them to obey their erroneous ways [i.e. what they want to do] and make them serve human lords instead of the Almighty Lord. [p.55]

    `There is no compulsion in religion;` but when the above mentioned obstacles and practical difficulties

    i.e. the political system of the state, the socio-economic system and behind all these, the military power of the government (not to mention "the whole human environment")
    are put in [Islam's] way, it has no recourse but to remove them by force so that when it is addressed to peoples' hearts and minds they are free to accept or reject it with an open mind. [p.63, 72]

    Who will do this forceful removing of the "organizations and authorities of the Jahili system ... the whole human environment"?

    The Islamic vanguard for whom Milestones is written.

    How is it possible to start the task of reviving Islam? It is necessary that there should be a vanguard which sets out ... and keeps walking on the path, marching through the vast ocean of Jahiliyyah which has encompassed the entire world. [p.12]
    The Islamic society is born out of a [vanguard] movement ... the origin of this movement [is the faith of] a single individual ... As soon as this single individual believes in this faith, the Islamic community comes into existence (potentially). When the number of Believers reaches three, then this faith tells them, `Now you are a community, a distinct Islamic community, distinct from that Jahili society ... 
    These three individuals increase to ten, the ten to a hundred, the hundred to a thousand, and the thousand increase to twelve thousand[p.101-3]


    Jahiliyyah is all around him, and its residual influences in his mind and in the minds of those around him, ... every individual of this society must move!

    To separate themselves from insidious Jahiliyyah against which

    ... the struggle goes on and the Jihaad continues until the Day of Resurrection. [p.101-3]

    Will the vanguard force others to accept the Shari'ah?

    Qutb is ambiguous on this point. On the one hand Qutb calls for waiting and delaying the legislation of the Shari'ah until people are "ready" and have accepted Islam.

    The course prescribed by God for this religion is ... first, belief ought to be imprinted on hearts and rule over consciences -- that belief which demands that people should not bow before anyone except God or derive laws from any other source. Then, when such a group of people is ready and also gains practical control of society, various laws will be legislated according to the practical needs of that society. [p.35]

    On the other hand Qutb also indicates that some things can't wait for belief to be imprinted. Islam gives people

    complete freedom to accept or not to accept its beliefs ... However this freedom does not mean that they can make their desires their gods, or that they can choose to remain in the servitude of other human beings, making some men lords over others. [p.61]
    ("Making some men lords over others," he explains, is the practice of Jews and Christians of "obeying laws which were made by ... priests and rabbis" and is "not permitted by God." (p.82))

    How, specifically, does divine law or Shari'ah differ from current man-made law? Aren't the punishments of the Shari'ahrather severe - thieves hands cut off, drinkers lashed, and adulterers stoned?

    Curiously for someone describing Shari'ah as the solution to all problems of humanity, social or individual, Qutb never gives any examples of how particular pieces of "divine" legislation are superior to equivalent kinds of "man-made" law. Laws against fornication and drinking liquor, the wrongness of charging interest on loans and "free mixing of the sexes" are mentioned only in passing. Presumably he thought his other works explained it well enough or that his audience already knew enough about it.

    Qutb does make it clear Shari'ah does not give a lot of leeway in what people can do...

    Its system extends into all aspects of life; it discusses all minor or major affairs of mankind; it orders man's life ... people should devote their entire lives in submission to God, should not decide any affair on their own, but must refer to God's injunctions concerning it and follow them. [p.32, 47]

    As for the severity of Shari'ah, Qutb claims that (almost all) people will just naturally want to obey God's laws, so there will be very little "occasion" to punish wrongdoers. Qutb's goal is to restore the "Muslim community ... to its original form." (p.9) Back then ...

    ... justice was God's justice ... Morals were elevated, hearts and souls were purified, and with the exception of a very few cases, there was no occasion even to enforce the limits and punishments which God has prescribed; for now conscience was the law-enforcer, and the pleasure of God, the hope of Divine reward, and the fear of God's anger took the place of police and punishments. [p.9, 30]

    But isn't it true that Qutb emphasized the "practical" nature of Islam and the importance of the Shari'ah serving the needs of the Muslim community?

    According to one of Qutb's defenders...

    ... The most remarkable aspect of Qutb's book is his insistence on an approach in 'stages' and the repeated assertion that the need for implementing Islamic law would not arise until every member of the community had completely submitted to the sovereignty of Allah and by that agreed to live under Allah's laws. Laws would then be framed merely to serve the needs of this 'living community of Islam'. A far cry from the perception that a handful of Islamists are out to impose an essentialized Shari'ah on all Muslims and non-Muslims living in Muslim lands...) "A Fresh look at Sayyid Qutb's Milestones" by Muqtedar Khan

    Qutb describe the Shari'ah in what seems like two contradictory ways:

    1) As a "practical religion" with "general laws" or "a method for legislation," patiently waiting to find a "viable society" of true Muslims, whose social needs, theShari'ah then pliantly "satisf[ies]" by shaping itself "according to the practical needs" and "actual conditions" of the society. (p.34-35) 
    2) "Uniform law" of utter perfection beyond human comprehension. "As accurate and true as any of the laws known as the `laws of nature,`" and from which a human being "cannot deviate by a hair's breath," let alone mold or shape. (p.89)

    Here's the first: Islam

    first looks at the prevailing conditions, and if it finds a viable society which, according to its form, conditions or temperament, is a Muslim society, which has submitted itself to the law of God and is weary of laws emanating from other sources, then indeed this religion provides a method for the legislation of laws according to the needs of such a society.[p.34]

    After everyone has become a good Muslim

    then, when such a group of people is ready and also gains practical control of society, various laws will be legislated according to the practical needs of that society. [p.35]
    Here's the second:
    Man cannot understand all the laws of the universe, nor can he comprehend the unity of this system; he cannot even understand the laws which govern his own person, from which he cannot deviate by a hair's breath. Thus he is incapable of making laws for a system of life which can be in complete harmony with the universe or which can even harmonize his physical need with his external behavior. This capability belongs solely to the Creator of the universe and of men, Who not only controls the universe but also human affairs, and Who implements a uniform law according to His will [p.89]
    ... that uniform law being the Shari'ah.

    How can people legislate "according" to their "needs" and at the same time be "incapable of making laws for a [harmonious] system of life"?

    The confusion may stem from what "practical" means. Most Westerners will assume it means pragmatic as opposed to doctrinaire -- using what works and throwing out what doesn't. But when Qutb says: "This is a practical religion; it has come to order the practical affairs of life," (p.33) he's contrasting it not with inflexible doctrine, but with "abstractions and theories" (p.34) that aren't enforced in real life. Since God's laws are harmonious, perfect, quasi-heavenly, questioning whether or not they will serve "the practical needs" of society isn't being practical it's being blasphemous. How could they not? God would never allow it!

    So while saying that "various laws will be legislated according to the practical needs of that society" sounds to Westerners as though people will be legislating the laws, writing (and rewriting) them to get it right, it may be Qutb's use of the future tense is misleading. Islamic Legislation has already been done -- by God. As he says elsewhere, "Legislation is a Divine attribute; any person who concedes this right to such a claimant [like a national parliament, state legislature, city council], whether he considers [the claimant] Divine or not, has accepted [the claimant] as Divine." (p.75)

    If Qutb didn't make clear the specifics of divine law or Shari'ah, what have his followers said or done about institutingShari'ah?

    In the last few decades following Qutb's death, the "vanguard" Islamic societies that he talked about have sprouted up in his home country Egypt and provided a number of examples of their own Shari'ah `rule.` At Cairo University, for example an Islamist Jama'at Islamiyya group created a Shari'ah Muslim community and shut down theater, poetry readings, cinema, and music programs on the grounds that they brought men and women together and distracted people from religious activities...

    ... couples were physically attacked for violations of upright Islamic morals; films could not be shown; concerts and evening dance could not be held ... All artistic and cinematic exhibitions were considered `provocations against the jama'at`
    ... which were shut down by Islamists wielding iron bars. [6]

    So when Islamists in Cairo had to chose between Qutb's contradictory admonishments -- "remove" the "obstacles" of jahili society "by force," or wait until "society" was "ready" for true Islam -- they chose the former.

    Slavery existed in the early Muslim society Qutb so admired, though it was more humanely regulated than in other societies. Qutb didn't plan to bring that back, did he?

    Ironically, at the same time Qutb attacks Jahiliyyah as perpetuating "the slavery of one man over another," he enthuses about the use of African slaves in the early Islamic world as a sort of benevolent raising up of the poor Africans.

    When Islam entered the central part of Africa, it clothed naked human beings, socialized them, brought them out of the deep recesses of isolation, and taught them the joy of work for exploring (sic) material resources. [p.105]

    He doesn't use the word slaves, but the Africans who explored for "material resources" were zanj slaves working in mines.

    What's worse is the form of slavery Qutb picks out for praise was not in any way benevolent or enlightened like domestic or military slavery in Islamic lands. For example, reports of conditions in the Saharan salt mines are that no slave survived working in the mines for more than five years.

    Zanj slaves used to drain the salt flats of southern Iraq, and the blacks employed in the salt mines of the Sahara and the gold mines of Nubia. These were herded in large settlements and worked in gangs. Large landowners, or crown lands, often employed thousands of such slaves. While domestic and commercial slaves were relatively well-off, these lived and died in wretchedness. Of the Saharan salt mines it is said that no slave lived there for more than five years ... [7]

    Nor were plantation slaves in the Tigris and Euphrates river valley treated tenderly. Zanj there were discontented enough to revolt in 868-69 AD (255 Hijra) The revolt lasted over 10 years. 300,000 died when the rebels sacked and burnt Basra. [8]

    It's fair to say most Muslims think slavery was acceptable at that time, but no longer. For Qutb, though, the education of Africans in "the joy of work" by early Muslim slave masters is an example of why the Muslim community should be "restored to its original form"! (p.9)

    I'm starting to have doubts! Qutb talks about the "total harmony" and "peace and cooperation among individuals" and how there were almost no lawbreakers to punish when the Muslim community was in its "original form," but do we really know what it was like back then 1400 years ago? One thing we do know is that three of the four original caliphs - the "rightfully guided caliphs" -- died by assassination! And even if the original Shari'ah was wonderful, a lot has changed in the millennium or so since God's law was applied on earth. Perhaps there isn't just one system of Shari'ah bestowed by God on humanity. Wouldn't it be better to use a broader approach and consider adding other principles -- like the good of humanity -- as the basis of law? Surely God wouldn't disapprove of that!

    Qutb has already given your question some thought!

    The question may be asked, `Is not the good of mankind the criterion for solving actual problems?` But again we will raise the question which Islam raises itself, and which it answers: that is, `Do you know better, or God?` and, `God knows and you do not know.`
    The good of mankind is inherent in the Divine Laws sent down by God to the Prophet ... If at any time men think that their good is in going against what God has legislated, then first of all, they are deluded in their thinking ... Second, they are unbelievers. It is not possible for a person to declare that in his opinion good lies in going against that which God has legislated, and simultaneously be a follower of this religion ... [p.86]
    The punishment levied by the traditional Shari'ah against murtad (an apostate) like you is death. Better watch your mouth!


    What does Qutb think of extramarital sex and gay rights?

    He considers tolerance towards homosexuality as gross example of the lack of morality in Jahili society.

    In all modern jahili societies, the meaning of `morality` is limited to such an extent that all those aspects which distinguish man from animal are considered beyond its sphere. In these societies, illegitimate sexual relationships, even homosexuality, are not considered immoral. [p.98]

    Qutb mentions the sex and spy scandals in Great Britain of the 1960s (involving Christine Keeler, et. al.), exclaiming that "these affairs are not considered immoral because of sexual deviations, but because of the danger to state secrets!" (p.98)

    What does Qutb think of Women's Liberation?

    Qutb vehemently opposes the idea of a woman being "freed from her basic responsibility of bringing up children" to take a job as "a hostess or a stewardess in a hotel or ship or air company" (common jobs for women back then). This violates the "division of work" between the sexes "based on family responsibility and natural gifts." (p.98)

    If ... free sexual relationships and illegitimate children become the basis of a society, and if the relationship between man and woman is based on lust, passion and impulse, and the division of work is not based on family responsibility and natural gifts; if woman's role is merely to be attractive, sexy and flirtatious, and if woman is freed from her basic responsibility of bringing up children; and if, on her own or under social demand, she prefers to become a hostess or a stewardess in a hotel or ship or air company, thus spending her ability for material productivity rather than in the training of human beings, because material production is considered to be more important, more valuable and more honorable than the development of human character, then such a civilization is `backward` from the human point of view, or `Jahili` in the Islamic terminology. [p.98]

    Does Qutb Espouses "Family Values"?

    At first it might appear so. He certainly thinks childrearing duties and traditional sex roles leave no room for sexual equality or women's individual fulfillment in careers or sex.

    If the family is the basis of the society, and the basis of the family is the division of labor between husband and wife, and the upbringing of children is the most important function of the family, then such a society is indeed civilized .... [p.98]

    But pre-eminent over the family (like everything else in society) is Islam. Family preservation cannot interfere with the God-given right of divorce, as it does in the West where ...

    unfair and cumbersome laws of marriage and divorce ... are contrary to the demands of practical life. [p.139]

    Islam even replaces the family unit, blood relations.

    Islam freed all humanity ... from the chains of blood relationships -- the biological chains -- so that they might rise above the angels. [p.124]

    ... a Muslim has no relatives except those who share the belief in God ... 
    A Muslim has no relationship with his mother, father, brother, wife and other family members except through their relationship with the Creator, and then they are also joined through blood. [p.118-119]

    Qutb relates as exemplary the story of Abdullah bin Abdullah bin Ubayy, who offered to behead his (anti-Islamic) father, saying
    `if it is the pleasure of God and His Prophet that I cut off his head, then I shall do so.` (p.119)

    Qutb's contradiction: If "the family is the basis of the society" then "society is indeed civilized." But "blood relationships" are "chains" from which "Islam freed all humanity."


    What does Qutb think of progressive Islam?

    Not much. Those who subscribe to what they call "progressive Islam" are not real Muslims.

    Islamic society is not one in which people call themselves `Muslims` but in which law has no status; even though prayer, fasting and Hajj are regularly observed; and the Islamic society is not one in which people invent their own version of Islam, other than what God and His Messenger -- peace be on him -- have prescribed and explained, and call it, for example `progressive Islam.` [p.93]

    What does Qutb think of nationalism, e.g. Arab nationalism?

    He thinks it an error and a failure.

    All nationalistic and chauvinistic ideologies which have appeared in modern times, all the movements and theories derived from them have also lost their vitality. In short, all man-made individual or collective theories have proved to be failures. [p.8]

    Qutb offers as proof of the falsity of nationalism the fact that it would have been much easier for the Prophet Muhammad to unite Arabs under a message of Arab nationalism ...

    instead of bearing tortures for thirteen years due to the opposition of the people in authority in the peninsula ... But the All-Knowing and All-Wise God did not lead His Prophet -- peace be on him -- on this course .... 
    The way is not to free the earth from Roman and Persian tyranny in order to replace it with Arab tyranny. All tyranny is wicked! The earth belongs to God and should be purified for God and it cannot be purified for Him unless the banner, `No deity except God,` is unfurled across the earth... [p.26]

    What does Qutb think of Democracy?

    Very little.

    Democracy in the West has become infertile to such an extent that it is borrowing from the systems of the Eastern bloc, especially in the economic system, under the name of socialism. [p.7]

    An opinion that has not withstood the test of time! [9]

    He also presents as evidence that Christian and Jewish societies are lost to Jahiliyyah pagan ignorance the fact that they "have established assemblies of men which have absolute power to legislate laws." (p.82) As Qutb, his Muslim Brethren and their kindred publications all suffered from suppression at the hands of Nasser's dictatorship, you might logically expect Qutb to put in a good word for freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, or self-determination if not free elections. But he makes not mention of any of the principles commonly held to be necessary for some kind of democracy. Qutb does say that

    any system, in which the final decisions are referred to human beings, and in which the source of all authority are human,

    is doomed to failure because it

    deifies human beings by designating others than God as lords over men. This declaration means that the usurped authority of God be returned to Him and the usurpers be thrown out -- those who by themselves devise laws for other to follow, thus elevating themselves to the status of lords and reducing others to the status of slaves. [p.58]

    The possibility that regular, open and honest elections might keep human lawmakers servants, rather than lords, of the voters is never mentioned, let alone explored.

    How about Capitalism?

    Hates it.

    the exploitation of individuals and nations due to greed for wealth and imperialism under the capitalist systems are but a corollary of rebellion against God's authority ... [p.11]
    Look at this capitalism with its monopolies, its usury and whatever else is unjust in it; at this individual freedom, devoid of human sympathy and responsibility for relatives except under the force of law... [p.139]

    ... Socialism then?

    Organizing the poor to rise up against the rich and redistribute wealth equitably is also an error, as is the Marxist way of looking at the world. "Declaring war against the class of nobles" who "monopolized all wealth and commerce" and "distributing it among the poor" would have been an effective way for Muhammad to gain authority.

    But the All-knowing, the All-Wise God ... knew that this was not the way. He knew that true social justice can come to a society only after all affairs have been submitted to the laws of God... [p.26-7]
    Human values and human morals are not something mysterious and undefinable, nor are they `progressive` and changeable, having no roots and stability, as is claimed by the exponent of the materialistic interpretation of history of `scientific socialism.` They are the values and the morals which develop those characteristics in a human being which distinguish him from the animals and which emphasize those aspects of his personality which raise him above the animals... [p.96]

    OK, Qutb is disdainful of Western-style socialism or pluralist liberal democracy, but how about some kind of non-Western Islamic Democracy or Islamic Socialism?

    `Islamic Socialism` and `Islamic Democracy` are to Qutb examples of unnecessary (and wrong) attempts by Muslims to meet non-Muslims halfway. Islamic socialism in particular is an intolerable deviation followed only by the "enemies of mankind." Muslims should not "propose s

  • Posted via email from bobmartin's posterous

    LTC Joseph C. Myers: Analysis of "The Quranic Concept of War"

    “The universalism of Islam, in its all-embracing creed, is imposed on the believers as a continuous process of warfare, psychological and political, if not strictly military. . . . The Jihad, accordingly, may be stated as a doctrine of a permanent state of war, not continuous fighting.”2
                                                               — Majid Khadduri

    Political and military leaders are notoriously averse to theory, but if there is a theorist about war who matters, it remains Carl von Clausewitz, whose Vom Kriege (On War) has shaped Western views about war since the middle of the nineteenth century.”3 Both points are likely true and problematic since we find ourselves engaged in war with people not solely imbued with western ideas and values or followers of western military theorists. The Hoover Institution’s Paul Sperry recently stated, “Four years into the war on terror, US intelligence officials tell me there are no baseline studies of the Muslim prophet Muhammad or his ideological or military doctrine found at either the CIA or Defense Intelligence Agency, or even the war colleges.”4

    Would this be surprising? When it comes to warfighting military audiences tend to focus on the military and power aspects of warfare; the tangibles of terrain, enemy, weather, leadership, and troops; quantifiables such as the number of tanks and artillery tubes—the correlation of forces. Analysts steer toward the familiar rather than the unfamiliar; people tend to think in their comfort zones. The study of ideology or philosophy is often brushed aside, it’s not the “stuff of muddy boots;” it is more cerebral than physical and not action oriented. Planners do not assess the “correlation of ideas.” The practitioners are too busy.

    Dr. Antulio Echevarria recently argued the US military does not have a doctrine for war as much as it has a doctrine for operations and battles.5 The military has a deficit of strategic, and, one could add, philosophic thinking. In the war against Islamist terrorism, how many have heard of the Muslim Brotherhood’s “Project”?6 Is the political philosophy of Ayatollah Khomeini, who was in fact well-grounded in western political theory and rigorously rejected it, studied in our military schools? Are there any implications to his statement in 1981 that “Iran . . . is determined to propagate Islam to the whole world”?7


    To understand war, one has to study its philosophy; the grammar and logic of your opponent. Only then are you approaching strategic comprehension. To understand the war against Islamist terrorism one must begin to understand the Islamic way of war, its philosophy and doctrine, the meanings of jihad in Islam—and one needs to understand that those meanings are highly varied and utilitarian depending on the source.

    With respect to the war against the global jihad and its associated terror groups, individual terrorists, and clandestine adherents, one should ask if there is a unique method or attitude to their approach to war. Is there a philosophy, or treatise such as Clausewitz’s On War that attempts to form their thinking about war? Is there a document that can be reviewed and understood in such a manner that we may begin to think strategically about our opponent. There is one work that stands out from the many.

    The Quranic Concept of War

    The Quranic Concept of War, by Brigadier General S. K. Malik of the Pakistani Army provides readers with unequalled insight. Originally published in Pakistan in 1979, most available copies are found in India, or in small non-descript Muslim bookstores.8 One major point to ponder, when thinking about The Quranic Concept of War, is the title itself. The Quran is presumed to be the revealed word of God as spoken through his chosen prophet, Mohammed. According to Malik, the Quran places warfighting doctrine and its theory in a much different category than western thinkers are accustomed to, because it is not a theory of war derived by man, but of God. This is God’s warfighting principles and commandments revealed. Malik’s attempts to distill God’s doctrine for war through the examples of the Prophet. By contrast, the closest that Clausewitz comes to divine presentation is in his discussion of the trinity: the people, the state, and the military. In the Islamic context, the discussion of war is at the level of revealed truth and example, well above theory—God has no need to theorize. Malik notes, “As a complete Code of Life, the Holy Quran gives us a philosophy of war as well. . . . This divine philosophy is an integral part of the total Quranic ideology.”9


    In The Quranic Concept of War, Malik seeks to instruct readers in the uniquely important doctrinal aspects of Quranic warfare. The Quranic approach to war is “infinitely supreme and effective . . . [and] points towards the realization of universal peace and justice . . . and makes maximum allowance to its adversaries to co-operate [with Islam] in a combined search for a just and peaceful order.”10 For purposes of this review, the term “doctrine” refers to both religious and broad strategic approaches, not methods and procedures. Malik’s work is a treatise with historical, political, legalistic, and moralistic ramifications on Islamic warfare. It seemingly is without parallel in the western sense of warfare since the “Quran is a source of eternal guidance for mankind.”11

    The approach is not new to Islamists and other jihad theorists fighting according to the “Method of Mohammed” or hadith. The lessons learned are recorded


    and form an important part of Quranic surah and jihadist’s scholarship.12 Islamic scholars both Muslim and non-Muslim will find much to debate in terms of Malik’s view of jihad doctrine and Quranic warfare. Malik’s work is essentially modern scholarship; although he does acknowledge the classical views of jihad in many respects.13

    Malik’s arguments are clearly parochial, often more editorial than scholarly, and his tone is decidedly confident and occasionally supremacist. The reach and influence of the author’s work is not clear although one might believe that given the idealism of his treatise, his approaches to warfare, and the role and ends of “terror” his text may resonate with extremist and radicals prone to use terroristic violence to accomplish their ends. For that reason alone, the book is worth studying.


    The preface by Allah Bukhsh K. Brohi, the former Pakistani ambassador to India, offers important insights into Malik’s exposition. In fact, Brohi’s 13-page preface lays the foundation for the books ten chapters. Malik places Quranic warfare in an academic context relative to that used by western theorists. He analyzes the causes and objects of war, as well as war’s nature and dimensions. He then turns attention to the ethics and strategy of warfare. Toward the end of the book he reviews the exercise of Quranic warfare based on the examples of the Prophet Mohammed’s military campaigns and concludes with summary observations. There are important jus en bellum and jus ad bellum implications in the author’s writings, as well as in his controversial ideas related to the means and objectives of war. It is these concepts that warrant the attention of planners and strategist.

    Zia-Ul-Haq (1924-88), the former President of Pakistan and Pakistani Army Chief of Staff, opens the book by focusing on the concept of jihad within Islam and explaining it is not simply the domain of the military:

    Jehad fi sabilallah is not the exclusive domain of the professional soldier, nor is it restricted to the application of military force alone.

    This book brings out with simplicity, clarity and precision the Quranic philosophy on the application of military force within the context of the totality that is JEHAD. The professional soldier in a Muslim army, pursuing the goals of a Muslim state, cannot become ‘professional’ if in all his activities he does not take the ‘colour of Allah,’ The nonmilitary citizen of a Muslin state must, likewise, be aware of the kind of soldier that his country must produce and the only pattern of war that his country’s armed forces may wage.14

    General Zia states that all Muslims play a role in jihad, a mainstream concept of the Quran, that jihad in terms of warfare is a collective responsibility of the Muslim ummah, and is not restricted to soldiers. General Zia emphasizes how the concept of Islamic military professionalism requires “godly character” in order to be fully achieved. Zia then endorses Malik’s thesis as the “only pattern of war,” or approach to war that an Islamic state may wage.


    Battling Counter-initiatory Forces

    In the preface Ambassador Brohi details what might be startling to many readers. He states that Malik has made “a valuable contribution to Islamic jurisprudence” or Islamic law, and an “analytic restatement of the Quranic wisdom on the subject of war and peace.” Brohi implies that Malik’s discussion, though a valuable new version, is an approach to a theme already well developed.15

    Brohi then defines jihad, “The most glorious word in the Vocabulary of Islam is Jehad, a word which is untranslatable in English but, broadly speaking, means ‘striving’, ‘struggling’, ‘trying’ to advance the Divine causes or purposes.” He introduces a somewhat cryptic concept when he explains man’s role in a “Quranic setting” as energetically combating forces of evil or what may be called, “counter-initiatory” forces which are at war with the harmony and the purpose of life on earth.16 For the true Muslin the harmony and purpose in life are only possible through man’s ultimate submission to God’s will, that all will come to know, recognize, and profess Mohammed as the Prophet of God. Man must recognize the last days and acknowledge tawhid, the oneness of God.17

    Brohi recounts the classic dualisms of Islamic theology; that the world is a place of struggle between good and evil, between right and wrong, between Haq and Na-Haq (truth and untruth), and between halaland haram (legitimate and forbidden). According to Brohi, it is the duty of man to opt for goodness and reject evil. Brohi appeals to the “greater jihad,” a post-classical jihad doctrine developed by the mystical Sufi order and other Shia scholars.18

    Brohi places jihad in the context of communal if not imperial obligation; both controversial formulations:

    When a believer sees that someone is trying to obstruct another believer from traveling the road that leads to God, spirit of Jehad requires that such a man who is imposing obstacles should be prevented from doing so and the obstacles placed by him should also be removed, so that mankind may be freely able to negotiate its own path that leads to Heaven.” To do otherwise, “by not striving to clear or straighten the path we [Muslims] become passive spectators of the counter-initiatory forces imposing a blockade in the way of those who mean to keep their faith with God.19

    This viewpoint appears to reflect the classic, collective duty within jihad doctrine, to defend the Islamic community from threats—the concept of defensive jihad. Brohi is saying much more than that; however, he is attempting to delineate the duty—the proactive duty—to clear the path for Islam. It is necessary not only to defend the individual believer if he is being hindered in his faith, but also to remove the obstacles of those counter-initiatory forces hindering his Islamic development. This begs the question of what is actually meant by the initiatory forces. The answer is clear to Brohi; the force of initiative is Islam and its Muslim members. “It is the duty of a believer to carry forward the Message of God and to bring it to notice of his fellow-men in handsome ways. But if someone attempts to obstruct him from doing so he is entitled as a matter of defense, to retaliate.”20


    This formulation would appear to turn the concept of defense on its head. To the extent that a Muslim may proclaim Islam and proselytize, or Islam, as a faith, seeks to extend its invitation and reach—initiate its advance—but is unable to do so, then that represents an overt threat justifying—a defensive jihad. According to Brohi, this does not result in the “ordinary wars which mankind has been fighting for the sake of either revenge or for securing . . . more land or more booty . . . [this] striving must be [is] for the sake of God. Wars in the theory of Islam are . . . to advance God’s purposes on earth, and invariably they are defensive in character.” In other words, everywhere the message of God and Islam is or can be hindered from expansion, resisted or opposed by some “obstruction” (a term not clearly defined) Islam is intrinsically entitled to defend its manifest destiny.21

    While his logic is controversial, Brohi is not unique in his extrapolation. His theory in fact reflects the argument of Rashid Rida, a conservative disciple of the Egyptian Muhammad Abduh. In 1913 Abduh published an article evaluating Islam’s early military campaigns and determined that Islam’s early neighbors “prevented the proclamation of truth” engendering the defense of Islam. “Our religion is not like others that defend themselves . . . but our defense of our religion is the proclamation of truth and the removal of distortion and misrepresentation of it.”22

    No Nation is Sovereign

    The exegesis of the term jihad is often debated. Some apologists make clear that nowhere in the Quran does the term “Holy War” exist; that is true, but it is also irrelevant. War in Islam is either just or unjust and that justness depends on the ends of war. Brohi, and later Malik, make clear that the ends of war in Islam or jihad are to fulfill God’s divine purpose. Not only should that be a holy purpose, it must be a just war in order to be “Holy War.”23

    The next dualism Brohi presents is that of Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb, the house of submission and the house of war. He describes the latter, as “perpetuating defiance of the Lord.” While explaining that conditions for war in Islam are limited (a constrained set of circumstances) he notes that “in Islam war is waged to establish supremacy of the Lord only when every other argument has failed to convince those who reject His will and work against the very purpose of the creation of mankind.”24 Brohi quotes the Quranic manuscript Surah, al-Tawba:

    Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.25

    Acknowledging western critics who believe that Islam is in a state of perpetual struggle with the non-Islamic world, Brohi counters in a clearly dismissive tone by explaining that man is the slave to God, and defying God is treason under Islamic law. Those who defy God should be removed from humanity like a cancerous growth. Islam requires believers “to invite non-believers to the fold of Islam” by using “persuasion” and “beautiful methods.” He continues, “the first duty” of a Muslim


    is dawa, a proclamation to conversion by “handsome ways.” It is only after refusing dawa and the invitation to Islam that “believers have no option but in self-defense to wage a war against those threatening aggression.”

    Obviously, much turns on how threats and aggression are characterized. It is difficult to understand, however, based on the structure of his argument, that Brohi views non-believers and their states as requiring conversion over time by peaceful means; and when that fails, by force. He is echoing the doctrine of Abd al-Salam Faraj, author of Al-Farida al-Ghaibah, better known as The Neglected Duty, a work that is widely read throughout the Muslim world.26

    Finally, Brohi examines the concept of the ummah and the international system. “The idea of Ummah of Mohammad, the Prophet of Islam, is incapable of being realized within the framework of territorial states.” This is a consistent view that underpins many works on the concept of the Islamic state.27 For Muslims, the ummah is a transcendent religious and cultural society united and reflecting the unity (tawhid) of Islam; the idea of one God, indivisible, one community, one belief, and one duty to live and become godly. According to the Prophet, “Ummah participates in this heritage by a set pattern of thought, belief and practice . . . and supplies the spiritual principle of integration of mankind—a principle which is supra-national, supra-racial, supra-linguistic and supra-territorial.”28

    With respect to the “law of war and peace in Islam” Brohi writes it “is as old as the Quran itself. . . . ” In his analysis of the law of nations and their international dealings, he emphasizes that in “Islamic international law this conduct [war and peace] is, strictly speaking, regulated between Muslims and non-Muslims, there being, from Islamic perspective, no other nation. . . . ” In other words, war is between Muslims and non-Muslims and not in actuality between states. It is transnational. He adds, “In Islam, of course, no nation is sovereign since Allah alone is the only sovereign in Whom all authority vests.”29Here Brohi is echoing what Islamic scholars such as Majid Khadduri have described as the “dualism of the universal religion and universal state that is Islam.”30

    The Divine Philosophy on War

    General Malik begins by categorizing human beings into three archetypes: those who fear Allah and profess the Faith; those who reject the Faith; and those who profess, but are treacherous in their hearts. Examples of the Prophet and the instructions to him by God in his early campaigns should be studied to fully understand these three examples in practice. The author highlights the fact that the “divine philosophy on war” was revealed gradually over a 12 year period, its earliest guidance dealing with the causes and objects of war, while later guidance focused on Quranic strategy, the conduct of war, and the ethical dimensions of warfare.31

    In Chapter Three, Malik reviews several key thoughts espoused by western scholars related to the causes of war. He examines the ideologies of Lenin, Geoffery Blainey, Quincy Wright, and Frederick H. Hartman each of whom spoke about war in a historical or material context with respect to the nature of the state system. Malik finds these explanations wanting and turns to the Quran for explanation, “war could only be


    waged for the sake of justice, truth, law, and preservation of human society. . . . The central theme behind the causes of war . . . [in] the Holy Quran, was the cause of Allah.”32

    The author recounts the progression of revelations by God to the Prophet that “granted the Muslims the permission to fight . . . .” Ultimately, God would compel and command Muslims to fight: “Fight in the cause of Allah.” In his analysis of this surah Malik highlights the fact that “new elements” were added to the causes of war: that in order to fight, Muslims must be “fought first;” Muslims are not to “transgress God’s limits” in the conduct of war; and everyone should understand that God views “tumult and oppression” of Muslims as “worse than slaughter.”33 This oppression was exemplified by the denial of Muslim’s right to worship at the Sacred Mosque by the early Arab Koraish, people of Mecca. Malik describes the situation in detail, “. . . the tiny Muslim community in Mecca was the object of the Koraish tyranny and oppression since the proclamation of Islam. . . . The enemy repression reached its zenith when the Koraish denied the Muslims access to the Sacred Mosque (the Ka’aba) to fulfill their religious obligations. This sacrilegious act amounted to an open declaration of war upon Islam. These actions eventually compelling the Muslims to migrate to Medina twelve years later, in 622 AD. . . .”34

    Malik argues that the pagan Koraish tribe had no reason to prohibit Muslim worship, since the Muslims did not impede their form of worship. This historical example helps to further define the concept that “tumult and oppression is worse than slaughter” and as the Quran repeats, “graver is it in the sight of Allah to prevent access to the path of Allah, to deny Him, to prevent access to the Sacred Mosque, and drive out its members.” Malik also notes the Quran distinguishes those who fight “in the cause of Allah and those who reject Faith and fight in the cause of evil.”35 In terms of Quranic just war theory, war must be waged “only to fight the forces of tyranny and oppression.”36

    Challenging Clausewitz’s notion that “policy” provides the context and boundary of war; Malik says it is the reverse, “‘war’ forced policy to define and determine its own parameters” and since that discussion focuses on parochial issues such as national interests, and the vagaries of state to state relations it is a lesser perspective. In the divine context of the Quran war orients on the spread of “justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere.” According to the author war is to be fought aggressively, slaughter is not the worst evil. In the course of war every opportunity for peace should be pursued and reciprocated. That is every remonstrance of peace by the enemies of Islam, but only as prescribed by the Quran’s “clear-cut philosophy and methodology” for preserving peace.37

    Understanding the context in which the Quran describes and defines “justice and peace” is important. Malik refers the reader to the battle of Badr to elucidate these principles. There is peace with those pagans who cease hostilities, and war continues with those who refuse. He cites the following surah, “as long as these stand true to you, stand ye true to them, for Allah doth love the righteous.”38 Referring to the precedent setting Hodaibayya treaty in the ninth year of the hijra, or pilgrimages to Mecca, Malik outlines how Allah and the Prophet abrogated those treaties with the pagan Meccans.


    Pagans who accepted terms voluntarily without a treaty were respected. Those who refused, the Quran directed, were to be slain wherever found. This precedent and “revelations commanded the Muslims to fulfill their treaty commitments for the contracted period but put them under no obligations to renew them.”39 It also established the precedent that Muslims may conclude treaties with non-believers, but only for a temporary period.40 Commenting on western approaches to peace, Malik views such approaches as not standing the “test of time” with no worthwhile role to play even in the future.41 The author’s point is that peace between states has only secular, not divine ends; and peace in an Islamic context is achieved only for the promotion of Islam.

    As the Prophet gained control of Mecca he decreed that non-believers could assemble or watch over the Sacred Mosque. He later consolidated power over Arabia and many who had not yet accepted Islam, “including Christians and Jew, [they] were given the option to choose between war and submission.” These non-believers were required to pay a poll-tax or jizya and accept the status of dhimmitude[servitude to Islam] in order to continue practicing their faith. According to Malik the taxes were merely symbolic and insignificant. In summarizing this relationship the author states, “the object of war is to obtain conditions of peace, justice, and faith. To do so it is essential to destroy the forces of oppression and persecution.”42 This view is in keeping with that outlined by Khadduri, “The jihad, it will be recalled, regarded war as Islam’s instrument to transform the dar al-harb into dar al-Islam . . . in Islamic legal theory, the ultimate objective of Islam is not war per se, but the ultimate establishment of peace.”43

    The Nature of War

    Malik argues that the “nature and dimension of war” is the greatest single characteristic of Quranic warfare and distinguishes it from all other doctrines. He acknowledges Clausewitz’s contribution to the understanding of warfare in its moral and spiritual context. The moral forces of war, as Clausewitz declared, are perhaps the most important aspects in war. Reiterating that Muslims are required to wage war “with the spirit of religious duty and obligation,” the author makes it clear that in return for fighting in the way of Allah, divine, angelic assistance will be rendered to jihad warriors and armies. At this point The Quranic Concept of War moves beyond the metaphysical to the supernatural element, unlike anything found in western doctrine. Malik highlights the fact that divine assistance requires “divine standards” on the part of the warrior mujahideen for the promise of Allah’s aid to be met.44

    The author then builds upon the jihad warrior’s role in the realms of divine cause, purpose, and support, to argue that in order for the Muslim warrior to be unmatched, to be the bravest and the most fearless; he can only do so through the correct spiritual preparation, beginning with total submission to God’s will. The Quran reveals that the moral forces are the “real issues involved in the planning and conduct of war.”45 Malik quotes the Quran: “Fighting is prescribed for you . . . and ye dislike a thing which is good for you and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not.”

    The Quran instructs the jihad warrior “to fight . . . with total devotion and never contemplate a flight from the battlefield for fear of death.” The jihad warrior,


    who dies in the way of Allah, does not really die but lives on in heaven. Malik emphasizes this in several Quranic verses. “Think not of those who are slain in Allah’s way as dead. . . . Nay, they live finding their sustenance in the Presence of the Lord.” Malik also notes that “Not equal are those Believers . . . Allah has granted a higher grade to those who strive and fight . . . .”46

    The Quranic dimensions of war are “revolutionary,” conferring on the jihad warrior a “personality so strong and overbearing as to prove themselves equal to, indeed dominate, every contingency in war.”47This theme of spiritual preparation and pure belief has appeared in the prolific jihad writings of Usaman Dan Fodio in the early 1800s and repeated by the Saudi writer Abdallah al-Qadiri in 1992, both emphasizing the role of the “greater jihad.” Becoming a purer and more disciplined Muslim serves the cause of Islam better in peace and war.48

    Malik, like Brohi, acknowledges critics who say that Islam has been “spread by the sword,” but he responds that Islam is spread through restraint in war and in “the use of force [that] have no parallel.” He then argues that restraint in warfare is a “two-sided affair.” Where the enemy (not defined) fails to exercise restraints and commits “excesses” (not defined) then “the very injunction of preserving and promoting peace and justice demands the use of limited force . . . . Islam permits the use of the sword for such purpose.”49 Since Malik is speaking in the context of active war and response to the “excesses of war” it is unclear what he means by “limited force” or response.

    The author expands on the earlier ideas that moral and spiritual forces are predominate in war. He contrasts Islamic strategic approaches with western theories of warfare oriented toward the application of force, primarily in the military domain, as opposed to Islam where the focus is on a broader application of power. Power in Malik’s context is the power of jihad, which is total, both in the conduct of total war and in its supporting strategy; referred to as “total or grand strategy.” Malik provides the following definition, “Jehad is a continuous and never-ending struggle waged on all fronts including political, economic, social, psychological, domestic, moral and spiritual to attain the objectives of policy.”50 The power of jihad brings with it the power of God.

    The Quranic concept of strategy is therefore divine theory. The examples and lessons to be derived from it may be found in the study of the classics, inspired by such events as the battles of the Prophet, e.g., Badr, Khandaq, Tabuk, and Hudaibiyya. Malik again references the divine assistance of Allah and the aid of angelic hosts. He refers to the battles of Hunain and Ohad as instances where seeming defeat was reversed and Allah “sent down Tranquility into the hearts of believers, that they may add Faith to their Faith.” Malik argues that divine providence steels the jihadi in war, “strengthens the hearts of Believers.” Calmness of faith, “assurance, hope, and tranquility” in the face of danger is the divine standard.51

    Strike Terror into their Hearts

    Malik uses examples to demonstrate that Allah will strike “terror into the hearts of Unbelievers.”52 At this point he begins to develop his most controversial and conjectural Quranic theory related to warfare—the role of terror. Readers need to understand that the author is thinking and writing in strategic terms, not in the vernacular


    of battles or engagements. Malik continues, “when God wishes to impose His will on his enemies, He chooses to do so by casting terror into their hearts.”53 He cites another verse, “against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts) of the enemies of Allah . . . .” Malik’s strategic synthesis is specific: “the Quranic military strategy thus enjoins us to prepare ourselves for war to the utmost in order to strike terror into the hearts of the enemies, known or hidden, while guarding ourselves from being terror-stricken by the enemy.”54 Terror is an effect; the end-state.

    Malik identifies the center of gravity in war as the “human heart, [man’s] soul, spirit, and Faith.” Note that Faith is capitalized, meaning more than simple moral courage or fortitude. Faith in this sense is in the domain of religious and spiritual faith; this is the center of gravity in war. The main weapon against this Islamic concept of center of gravity is “the strength of our own souls . . . [keeping] terror away from our own hearts.” In terms of achieving decisive and direct decisions preparing for this type of battlefield first requires “creating a wholesome respect for our Cause”—the cause of Islam. This “respect” must be seeded in advance of war and conflict in the minds of the enemies. Malik then introduces the informational, psychological, or perception management concepts of warfare. Echoing Sun Tzu, he states, that if properly prepared, the “war of muscle,” the physical war, will already be won by “the war of will.”55 “Respect” therefore is achieved psychologically by, as Brohi suggested earlier, “beautiful” and “handsome ways” or by the strategic application of terror.

    When examining the theme of the preparatory stage of war, Malik talks of the “war of preparation being waged . . . in peace,” meaning that peacetime preparatory activities are in fact part of any war and “vastly more important than the active war.” This statement should not be taken lightly, it essentially means that Islam is in a perpetual state of war while peace can only be defined as the absence of active war. Malik argues that peace-time training efforts should be oriented on the active war(s) to come, in order to develop the Quranic and divine “Will” in the mujahid. When armies and soldiers find limited physical resources they should continue and emphasize the development of the “spiritual resources” as these are complimentary factors and create synergy for future military action.

    Malik’s most controversial dictum is summarized in the following manner: in war, “the point where the means and the end meet” is in terror. He formulates terror as an objective principal of war; once terror is achieved the enemy reaches his culminating point. “Terror is not a means of imposing decision upon the enemy; it is the decision we wish to impose . . . .” Malik’s divine principal of Islamic warfare may be restated as “strike terror; never feel terror.” The ultimate objective of this form of warfare “revolves around the human heart, [the enemies] soul, spirit, and Faith.”56 Terror “can be instilled only if the opponent’s Faith is destroyed . . . . It is essential in the ultimate analysis, to dislocate [the enemies] Faith.” Those who are firm in their religious conviction are immune to terror, “a weak Faith offers inroads to terror.” Therefore, as part of preparations for jihad, actions will be oriented on weakening the non-Islamic’s “Faith,” while strengthening the Islamic’s. What that weakening or “dislocation” entails in practice remains ambiguous. Malik concludes, “Psychological dislocation is temporary; spiritual dislocation is permanent.” The soul of man can only be touched by terror.57


    Malik then moves to a more academic discussion of ten general categories inherent in the conduct of Islamic warfare. These categories are easily translatable and recognizable to most western theorists; planning, organization, and conduct of military operations. In this regard, the author offers no unique insight. His last chapter is used to restate his major conclusions, stressing that “The Holy Quran lays the highest emphasis on the preparation for war. It wants us to prepare ourselves for war to the utmost. The test . . . lies in our capability to instill terror into the hearts of our enemies.”58

    Evaluation of The Quranic Concept of War

    While the extent and reach of Malik’s thesis cannot be confirmed in the Islamic world neither can it be discounted. Though controversial, his citations are accurately drawn from Islamic sources and consistent with classical Islamic jurisprudence.59 As Malik notes, “Quranic military thought is an integral and inseparable part of the total Quranic message.”60 Policy planners and strategists striving to understand the nature of the “Long War” should consider Malik’s writings in that light.

    Malik makes clear that the Quran provides the doctrine, guidance, and examples for the conduct of Quranic or Islamic warfare. “

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    MG J.F.C. Fuller: Soviet Revolutionary Warfare (1968)