Hasan’ al Hudaybi’s assessment of Sayyid Qutub – An insider’s take on alleged radicalism
It is interesting to note that some ideas of Qutb were critically evaluated and examined from within the Muslim Brotherhood. The most noteworthy contribution in this regard was done by Hassan al-Hudaybi, the second supreme guide (Murshid e Aam) of Muslim Brotherhood in the form of his book “Preachers, Not Judges” (Du’at la Qudat).
In western academia, Sayyid Qutb has been portrayed as a key figure in the chain of proponents of “extremism” and “radicalism”. There is a vast literature that refers to Sayyid Qutb as the father of modern militancy; it is a general perception in the west and more so in the modern literalist Muslim scholarship in the Middle East. Researchers, academicians, and western media embraced this perception blindly. For instance, when we look at the version of history promoted by Gilles Kepel, in his widely read Jihad: The Trial of Political Islam, he holds that Qutb’s writings on modern jahiliyyah and legitimacy of rebelling against apostate Kings and Presidents were responsible for growing the seeds of radicalization among Muslim brothers. These biased and superficial accounts helped in popularizing the opinion in the world that Qutb is the master architect of radicalism, extremism, terrorism, and so on.
In my opinion, this view is not so insightful and a majority of academicians and media as well, under the influence of the oriental style of thought, are not honest in the presentation pertaining to Islamic movements around the world. And one should not rely, blindly, on their research and findings rather go through the literature of Muslim Brotherhood directly. Given that most of its literature has been translated into different languages, it’s even easier to have direct access to the original books.
It is interesting to note that some ideas of Qutb were critically evaluated and examined from within the Muslim Brotherhood. The most noteworthy contribution in this regard was done by Hassan al-Hudaybi, the second supreme guide (Murshid e Aam) of Muslim Brotherhood in the form of his book “Preachers, Not Judges” (Du’at la Qudat). It would not be out of place to look into the iron fist policy of Gamal Abdul Nasir towards the Muslim brothers. After all, the socio-political factors go a long way in shaping the ideas and the outlook of people. Due to the state repression of the Nasar regime including torture, abduction, and execution of Brotherhood members, many theological questions arose in the minds of young members. They could not reconcile with the fact that a Muslim ruler could be so despotic and brutal towards his subjects. So, it led them to the conclusion that these people are ignorant of the basic tenets of Islam. One such example of ignorance is presented by the fourth supreme guide Muhammad Hamid Abu al-Nasr; he writes that while in prison when they would leave for performing ablution, the prison guard (a Muslim) would want them to wash the rest of the body parts before going to the toilet (as the later would be occupied). It would come as a shocker to us that a supposedly Muslim guard does not understand that reversing this process would render the ‘Wadu’ invalid. Such was the state of Muslims and here we leave it for the readers as to what would a young Muslim make out of this situation? How would he interpret this ignorance? This made them conclude that these people were essentially infidels notwithstanding, the basis of these conclusions were some flawed assumptions of creed, that whosoever lacked knowledge of God’s laws is equivalent to an infidel. The profound knowledge of shariah became a prerequisite for faith in their eyes. This, flawed understanding of Deen, was refuted by Hasan-al Hudaybi in his above-mentioned book.
It would not be out of place to look into the iron fist policy of Gamal Abdul Nasir towards the Muslim brothers. After all, the socio-political factors go a long way in shaping the ideas and the outlook of people.
The tragedy with Qutb is that while he was preparing a blueprint for the revolution in prison, he addressed this issue of mass ignorance regarding the very fundamentals of religion, in his magnum opus “Milestones” (Ma’alim fi al-Tariq) theologically. Qutb differentiated between the unbeliever (Kafir), a person who does not believe in God, and the Jahili, a person who considers himself a believer but disregards Islam’s prerogative to govern all aspects of life. Qutb understood Islam as a comprehensive ideological system (nidham) contrary to the modern Western worldview that considers religion as a private affair. However, the young members who were already disillusioned by the condition of the Nassar regime and having preconceived notions about them found it a well-timed book. They drew inspiration from this book for their flawed understanding and conclusions. This scenario necessitated a further explanation of Syed Qutb’s thoughts to prevent them from being misinterpreted. And who other than Hudaybi would have been better suited for this job.
There is a misconception regarding Hudaybi’s book that he wrote it to refute Qutb and that the duo was not ‘ideological identicals’ which is factually incorrect. When Qutb was released from prison in 1964, he presented the draft of ‘milestones’ to Hudaybi and intended to include it in the curriculum of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hudaybi suggested that the book be published for general readership and Milestones was finally published in 1964, two years before the execution of its author in 1966. This alludes to the fact that Hudaybi and Qutb had no ideological differences and it was only a compulsion that made him write the book “Preachers, Not Judges”. It was in no way a rejoinder of Syed Qutub. It rather offered an in-depth analysis and emphasized upon Daw’ah to steer away the young fanatic Muslims from extremism. It is his contribution that eventually fostered the development of non-violent political ideas and methods. At the same time, the young fanatics who were carried away by their enthusiasm had to finally leave the organisation and started the struggle in their own ways against the regime which in no way can be attributed to Muslim brotherhood or Syed Qutb for that matter.
Author Murad Alvi is an independent researcher and a student of Political science.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are authors’ own and do not reflect the stand or policy of Oracle Opinions