Seyyid Qutb, Milestones, Dr al-Ilm (Damascus, Syria). (I have heard it pronounced “Koot-buh,” with the last syllable pronounced very quickly).
This is a book Dr. Mark Coppenger describes as “bed-time reading for Osama bin Laden.” This book was referenced by both Huckabee and Romney in the Republican presidential debates. At any rate, this book is recognized as a handbook for Islamic resurgence. For the complaint that it is “radical” and represents only a small minority, see Mark Steyn’s America Alone.
The book begins with the concept of La ilaha illa Allah, There is no deity except for Allah alone.
Qutb says, Indeed, the Spirit of submission is the first requirement of the faith.  Thus it is first necessary that ‘There is no deity except God’ which commits itself to obey none but God, denying all other authority, and which challenges the legality of any law which is not based on this belief, (p. 32).
The world itself is steeped in Jahiliyyah, that is, in ignorance and rebellion against Allah. The only way out of Jahiliyyah is to submit to Islam and the teachings of Mohammed. In one sense, this sounds a bit like the doctrine of original sin and the Christian claim that the only escape is to flee to Christ. However, the way Qutb proceeds from this point is anything but Christian.
Qutb argues that the way forward for Islam is “to change the practices of this society.” He asserts that there can be no compromise with a non-Muslim society (Page 21). Islam challenges the legality of any law which is not based on the belief, La ilaha illa Allah (p. 33). Indeed, Qutb says, “The basis of the message is that one should accept the Shari’ah [Islamic Divine Law] without any question and reject all other laws in any shape or form. This is Islam. There is no other meaning of Islam” (p. 36).
In its effort to change the practices of society, Islam utilizes two methods: preaching and Jihad. Qutb is clear about the role of these two methods: “To proclaim the authority and sovereignty of God means to eliminate all human kingship and to announce the rule of the Sustainer of the universe over the entire earth.” Notice the aim of the preaching is both to announce the rule of Allah and eliminate all human authorities.
It is this latter aim which leads to Jihad. Qutb states that preaching is not enough to accomplish the overturn of man-made laws (here Christianity clearly parts ways with Islam, cf. 1 Cor 1:21). Qutb says, “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. 58-59).
The method of Jihad is much more effective at breaking down the power structures of man-made laws. Qutb believes it is incumbent upon Islam “to enter the field with preaching as well as the movement, and to strike hard at all those political powers which force people to bow before them and which rule over them…” (p. 61). After annihilating the tyrannical force, Islam establishes a new social, economic, and political system. Islam is justified in this use of force not because it is justified in forcing its beliefs on other people; Islam does not believe that it forces its beliefs on other people. Rather, “Islam is a declaration of the freedom of man from servitude to other men. Thus it strives from the beginning to abolish all those systems and governments which are based on the rule of man over men and the servitude of one human being to another” (p. 61). In other words, the use of force to bring cultures and governments into the submission Islam requires is not an unjust imposition; it is, rather, an exercise in freedom. [I prefer our kind of freedom].
The manner of bringing this freedom about in Islam is through Jihaad bis saif, a phrase which means “striving through fighting.” Qutb chafes a bit at those in the modern world who are squeamish about Jihaad, referring to it as merely a defensive methodology. Qutb does not understand Jihaad as a defensive method at all. Indeed, he says, “If we insist on calling Islamic Jihaad a defensive movement, then we must change the meaning of the word defense and mean by it the defense of man against all those elements which limit his freedom” (p. 62).
The world of Jahiliyyah outside of Islam is divided by Qutb into 3 groups: those at peace, those at war, and Dhimmies. As it turns out, those at peace means those who accept Islam and become Muslims. That leaves, then, only two kinds of non-Muslims: those at war and Dhimmies. For those deemed at war, the Muslims are charged to fight: “Fight in the cause of God against those who fight you,” (p. 64). Now, it is interesting that those at war are those of other religions, particularly mentioned are Jews and Christians, of course.
But the following command is instructive for its wide-sweeping effect: “Fight against those among the People of the Book who do not believe in God and the Last Day, who do not forbid what God and His Messenger have forbidden, and who do not consider the true religion as their religion, until they are subdued and pay Jizyah” (forced tax for non-Muslims, p. 64). It seems to me that those who do not consider the true religion as their religion would be everyone who is not a Muslim, thus dividing the world into two parts: those at war and Dhimmies (those who have been subdued and pay the forced tax). For my part (as a non-Muslim), I would like to appeal for a third or fourth option.
Qutb is clear about the role of Islam in changing the world. His book spells out the ethical imperative of Muslims to fight against the world powers and bring them into submission to the divine law of God, Shari’ah. Islam, then, is the only freedom from enslavement to man; thus Muslims must fight to free men from their bondage.
“Islam has the right to take the initiative, Qutb explains, because “Islam is not a heritage of any particular race or country; this is God’s religion, and it is for the whole world. It has the right to destroy all obstacles in the form of institutions and traditions which limit man’s freedom of choice… According to the Islamic concept and in actuality, God’s rule on earth can be established only through the Islamic system… It is the duty of Islam to annihilate all [other] systems, as they are obstacles in the way of universal freedom,” (p. 75).