You are on page 1of 19

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to shed light on the reasons for the strong antiwestern point of view in radical Islamism by
comparing its political ideology to the western totalitarian ideologies, Marxism and National Socialism. The comparison is
based on a reconstruction of the political theory of three major founders of these ideologies: Sayyid Qutb, Karl Marx and
Adolf Hitler. Despite all differences, their arguments follow the same basic structure: the history of mankind is perceived as
a life and death struggle between good and evil, in which those who are evil threaten the existence of mankind. Those who
personify good have the mission to save humankind by ridding it from evil and by realising the utopia of the classless
society, the natural race struggle or the purified society of followers of the true faith. The article concludes that radical
Islamism is not a rejection of modernity from a premodern or Islamic standpoint, but is rather an ideology which seduces
its followers by criticising liberal societies for failing to fulfil their own promise of freedom.

The numerous Islamic terrorist attacks in recent years have lead to a broad discussion of how to face this new threat. In
the long term, the fight against Islamic terrorism can be successful only if it aims at both the symptoms which are the
terrorist attacks themselves and the cause of this threat, which is the appeal of their underlying ideology, radical
Islamism, to many young Muslims in the Arab world. Therefore, any successful fight against Islamic terrorism will require a
deep understanding of the appeal of radical Islamism.

Most politicians and scholars share the idea that Islamic terrorism is caused by an exclusion of the majority of the people in
Arab countries from political, social and economic progress. The Bush Administration links the phenomenon of Islamic
terrorism to a lack of democracy in the Arab world, and therefore considers the spread of democracy as a priority in the so
called War against Terror. The Administration's rhetoric concerning current operations in Iraq is a case in point. Liberal
economists, on the other hand, emphasise the need to open the economy of these countries in order to overcome poverty
and unemployment. As Frey 2argues, when young Muslims have the opportunity to create wealth, the opportunity costs of
terrorism (and therefore the disincentive to join terrorist groups) will become too high. Marxists or structuralists also
explain Islamic terrorism by the exclusion of Muslim communities from freedom and wealth; they differ from the
forenamed positions only in that they see the exclusion of the Arab countries as caused by the western countries and the
will of the core to dominate the periphery for the purpose of exploitation. 3
These three perspectives share a common
element. Each assumes the primary appeal of Islamic terrorism is the widespread exclusion of Arabs from the benefits of
modernity. The perspectives differ in what they consider these benefits primarily to be: democratic selfdetermination,
economic freedom as source of individual wealth or the promotion of social equality.

This paper acknowledges that the lack of political, social and economic development in Arab countries, as evidenced by the
Arab Human Development Report published by the United Nations in 2002, is a major reason for deep discontent in Arab
countries. 4However, addressing poverty and the lack of democracy in Arab countries can be only part of the solution. The
focus on economic and political progress alone does not address the fundamental critique of materialism and political
equality made by radical Islamists. Their ideology does not attack the lack of modernity in Arab countries, but the very
ideas of modernity: the concept of freedom and democracy. As demonstrated by Paul Berman, 5
radical Islamism has, in
this respect, a number of striking similarities with western totalitarian ideologies, namely Marxism and National Socialism.
These two ideologies are not premodern (traditionalistic) rebellions against modernity, but rebellions carried out to fulfil
the major promises of modernity: radical freedom through radical equality (abolition of the class difference) in the case of
Marxism, radical freedom through radical inequality (of races) in the case of National Socialism.

This paper analyses the similarities between the political philosophies of radical Islamism, Marxism and National Socialism
and shows why the promotion of democratic equality and the acquisition of wealth are insufficient answers to the challenge
posed by radical Islamism. It first describes the structure of political thought of radical Islamism based on the writings of
Sayyid Qutb. Second, it outlines the main political ideas of Marxism and National Socialism and compares them with Qutb.
Third, it analyses the relation of all three ideologies to the key concepts of modern political thought, freedom and equality;
finally it draws some conclusions for the current fight against Islamic terrorism.

Sayyid Qutb and Radical Islamism


Jump to section
Sayyid Qutb and Radical Islamism
Comparison to Marxism and National Socialism
Totalitarian ideology and liberal societies

Conclusion
The term Islamism describes the wide range of attempts to revive Islam's political legacy after the end of the Caliphate of
Constantinople in 1924. The end of the Caliphate also brought an end to the traditionally close union between religion and
politics in Islam, and is considered by many Muslims as a highly disturbing loss. The movements which aim at a revival of
the union of Islamic belief and politics range from those who have adopted a gradualist strategy of Islamisation from
below, which may involve the formation of a political party and the participation in elections (like the Party of Justice and
Development, AKP, of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey), to those who follow a dominantly violent strategy. The
violent movements can be divided again into two groups: those which are operating on a national or regional level (seeking
to overthrow an existing secular regime, like the Algerian GIA, or fighting against Israel, like Hamas and Hizbollah) and
those which have a global agenda and are sworn to carry out a worldwide fight against the West and all unbelievers per
se (like alQaeda and its network of numerous suborganisations).

This paper focuses on those movements which start off with a radical critique of liberal western political thought and, by
means of a lifeordeath battle against the West, are determined to build a radical Islamic society obedient to the laws of
the Qur'an. Using Shepard's typology 6
this sort of Islamism will be referred to as radical Islamism, with alQaeda being
the dominant and most important organisation. However, an analysis of public statements of alQaeda especially of its
most prominent spokesmen Usama bin Ladin and Ayman alZawahiri is not very fruitful when the purpose is to
understand the rationale underlying their actions. These statements are usually limited to a call for global jihad against the
United States and the West, while failing to reveal a deeper justification for this jihad. It is therefore difficult for analysts to
reconstruct the political theory of radical Islamism on the basis of these texts 7
and more fruitful to delve for such a theory
into the work of Sayyid Qutb (19061966), who is generally considered to be the spiritual father of alQaeda 8
.

Qutb was in the 1950s one of the leaders of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood a broad political movement in Egypt which
was created in 1928 by the founding father of modern Islamism, Hasan alBanna and had major influence on numerous
radical Islamic groups. 9
For example Ayman alZawahiri who founded the infamous terror organisation Tanzim alJihad
(better known under the name Egyptian Islamic Jihad, an organisation which fought against Nasir's secular panArabism),
before he fled to Pakistan in 1985 probably studied Qutb's writings intensively. 10
Bin Ladin studied at the University of
Jedda in Saudi Arabia, where as a student of Sayyid Qutb's brother Muhammad Qutb, he was introduced to the political
thought of the Muslim Brotherhood. 11
The exact amount of direct influence that Qutb has exercised on alQaeda cannot be
measured, yet it will become clear by analysing his political theory that it reveals the theoretical foundations of the
organisation's terrorism.

An interpretation of Qutb's writings needs to pay heed to the radicalisation of his political thought during the last years of
his life.12 Before becoming politically active, he spent two years of study in the USA (Colorado State College of Education,
194850), an experience which shaped his contempt for western society. After his return to Egypt, he became involved
with the Muslim Brotherhood in the early 1950s, and quickly rose to a top position within the organisation. Allegedly, he
was directly involved in the toppling of the monarchy in 1952 and was in close contact with Nasir, although no definite
evidence for his participation seems to exist. 13
After Nasir's rise to power, the differences between his panArabism and the
radical Islamic vision of the Muslim Brotherhood quickly became obvious and led to a breakup in their partnership.
Following an attempt at Nasir's life in 1954, the Muslim Brotherhood was held responsible, the organisation was dissolved
and its members were arrested. Qutb was sentenced to 15 years in prison. In 1964 he was released early, but was re
arrested shortly afterwards and charged with treason, primarily because of the revolutionary content of his
book Milestones. Subsequently, he was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. On 29 August 1966 Qutb was
executed. As a result of Qutb's trial, Milestones became his most famous publication.

Sayyid Qutb's principal theoretical work is his commentary on the Qur'an Fi Zilal alQur'an, of which eight volumes have so
far been translated into English (In the Shade of Qur'an). 14
In addition, he has also published numerous shorter writings,
of whichIslam. The Religion of the Future (first published in 1960), 15
Islam. The True Religion (first published in
1961) 16
and Milestones(first published in 1964) 17
are the main sources for this article. In Islam. The True Religion, Qutb
offers a characterisation of the Islamic faith and Islamic society and stresses the strength of Islam which led to
Muhammad's and his followers' successes and to the expansion of Islam in the centuries after Muhammad's death. Islam.
The Religion of the Future is a harsh critique of western history and civilisation; this text culminates in predicting the end
of white man's role 18
. While these two writings are works of propaganda with the object of winning the readers for the
cause of Islam, Milestones is a guide for people who have already become converts to Qutb's radical agenda.
In Milestones he issues instructions to the revolutionary vanguard 19
struggling for the renewal of Islam. He points out
where to find the enemy and that the fight against this enemy necessitates the use of physical force. He also defines the
final goal of the movement to be global domination of Islam.

Qutb's political ideology can be summarised in three steps: 20


The starting point is a fundamental critique of the present
conditions as a reversed world order, in which man is rejecting God's laws (jahiliyya); the struggle between good (Islam)
and evil (jahiliyya) is the driving force behind human history; the means to fight the currently prevailing jahiliyya is
the jihad. These three steps of Qutb's political thought diagnosis of present conditions, analysis of the historical
process, jihad as a way to salvation will be examined more closely subsequently.

Qutb's starting point is not political in the usual sense. He neither deals with problems at hand, such as the MiddleEast
Conflict, nor does he join in with other groups' complaints about the suppression of the Arab world by the West. His
approach is far more fundamental and religiously oriented. The basic problem is a general loss of the true faith, which
affects not only the western, but also the Muslim countries. Therefore a fundamental and complete reversal in the God
given order has occurred, which is explicitly spelled out by the materialistic civilisation of the West, characterised by vices
and corruption nervous and mental diseases and sensual disorders. 21
However, the transvaluation of values to
borrow an expression from Nietzsche 22
is also prominent in Islamic countries, which have either turned away from Islam
by erecting secular orders (as in Qutb's homeland Egypt) or are hypocritical in their obedience to religious rules and pay
respect to the religion only with their mouths. 23

Qutb calls this complete reversal of the moral order, which has brought mankind to the brink of a precipice, 24
by the name
ofjahiliyya. This term is taken from the Qur'anic tradition and is usually translated as the age of ignorance, 25
referring to
the preIslamic era on the Arabian peninsula. In the context of the Qur'an it signifies a specific kind of ignorance: the
polytheists' unawareness of God's commandments, which leads to barbarous acts and excesses of all sorts. 26
In the Qur'an
the term is used only in very few passages and therefore is not of great importance. 27
Qutb, however, uses the
expression jahiliyya as a key concept to refer on a first level to the corruption of secular and apostate Muslim societies
and on a more general level to the rise of evil itself, i.e. to man's rebellion against God's rule. 28
This revolt is
articulated by the refutation of God's uniqueness and the denial to follow his commandments. If God is not acknowledged
by man, he is prone to claim godly attributes for himself, replaces godly values with human ones and wrongly presumes to
have the power of creating his own laws, which is God's prerogative according to the Qur'an.

The negative effects of jahiliyya can be seen on the political as well as on the individual level. On the level of the political
communities with their manmade laws, 29
jahiliyya causes the loss of liberty: freedom can only be guaranteed if all
human beings submit to God's authority. Without submission to God, men will be ruled by men and the rulers will make
the laws according to their own interests, from which tyranny and oppression will ensue. On an individual
level, jahiliyya results in man's inability to achieve his goal in life, i.e. being a rightlyguided representative of God on
earth 30
and reaching a superior standard of humanity. 31
By missing this goal, little remains of man but his animal
nature, namely the desire for food, shelter and sex. 32
Scientific jahiliyya delivers the intellectual foundation of this
position. The natural sciences are trying to prove that human beings are nothing but animals and animals are nothing but a
special combination of inorganic matter, 33 while the social sciences explain the emergence and the sense of human
societies only on the basis of economical [sic] or social theories 34
and neglect faith in God as the true uniting force in
societies. This qualitative reduction of human life ultimately leads to a complete loss of sense and belonging, and to an
unlimited pursuit of materialistic prosperity 35
which Qutb claimed to witness during his two years of study in the USA.

Qutb emphasises that there is no middle way between Islam and jahiliyya, since the jahilisociety crushes all elements
which seem to be dangerous to its personality. 36
Therefore compromise is not an option. 37
Human actions are either
based on the inner willingness to submit to God and his commandments, or on the intention of putting oneself in God's
position:
Islam, then, is the only Divine way of life which brings out the noblest human characteristics, developing and using them
for the construction of human society. Those who deviate from this system and want some other system, whether it be
based on nationalism, color or race, class struggle or similar corrupt theories, are truly enemies of mankind. 38

This passage clearly demonstrates the rigorous dualism in Qutb's interpretation of the way of the world. Jahiliyya and
Islam are bound together in an inevitable struggle because they exclude each other truth and falsehood cannot coexist
on this earth. 39

In the contemporary world, this struggle between truth and falsehood becomes more pronounced, because jahiliyya has
found ever more efficient ways to dominate the remaining true believers and to mask itself. 40
Yet this development is not
unique to the present. Qutb interprets the whole human history as an eternal struggle between jahiliyya and Islam. Qutb
has recorded his interpretation of the historical process in different sections of his Qur'an commentary. Following this
interpretation, evil was born in ancient Israel. God had made a covenant with the leaders of the 12 tribes, which was
broken by the Jews. They refused to follow God's commandments and were too cowardly to fight the jihad. Furthermore,
they crucified the prophet who had been sent by God to renew the covenant. 41

It had been Jesus' mission to renew the initial covenant, but he failed to erect a community of true believers. Shortly after
Jesus' death, the Christian faith was led astray by his followers when he was declared God's son. The belief in the Holy
Trinity signified a return to polytheism. 42
Moreover, Christians made the mistake of mixing Biblical faith with Greek
philosophy, from which they took the idea of the separation of body and soul. The result of this illfated amalgamation was
the separation of faith from the physical world a division which was carried into the political sphere by the separation of
Church and state. 43
In this way, Christians turned away from God as the sole legitimate legislator and usurped this
prerogative. 44
This reversal of the natural order led directly to Christian efforts at global domination, expressed in the
crusades of the Middle Ages and the imperialistic colonialism of later times, which Qutb believes to be nothing but a
camouflaged form of the enduring crusading spirit. 45

It was only with the arrival of the prophet Muhammad that the initial covenant was renewed, when he assembled the ideal
community together with his followers. In several passages of his writings Qutb analyses the reasons why Muhammad was
successful, since this idealised community is supposed to be the role model for all future attempts at reviving the rightful
Islamic order. 46 In Milestones he lists the three main reasons for Muhammad's success: 47

The Qur'an was considered by Muhammad and his early followers the one and only legitimate guide to Islamic faith. Later
generations of Muslims opened up to foreign influences, such as Greek philosophy and Christian theology, and therefore caused a
distortion in the original doctrines.

The Qur'an was studied with the aim of finding guidance for practical life: a member of the first generation of the followers of
Muhammad approached the Qur'an to act on what he heard immediately, as a soldier on the battlefield reads Today's Bulletin so
that he may know what is to be done. 48 Later generations either engaged in academic discourse or the pleasure of studying the
Qur'an and thereby forgot its original intent. 49

By its exclusive concentration on the Qur'an, Muhammad's generation successfully detached itself from the surrounding jahiliyya and
took up the fight against it from the beginning. During the first period in Mecca, the believers carried on an internal struggle as a
means of spiritual cleansing and preparation for the external struggle. It was not until Medina that the time was ripe to start the
physical war against jahiliyya. 50

These three principles separation from foreign influences, strict use of the Qur'an as an anthology of quasimilitary
commands, struggle against anything not in accordance with one's own doctrines illustrate Qutb's antiintellectualism,
which is omnipresent in Milestones. Any reflection on the right understanding of Islam is considered worthless and
dangerous academic discussion leading away from the real objective which is of a practical, not intellectual, nature: the
war against jahiliyya. Attempting to find the right understanding of the Qur'an is obviously not central to Qutb's interest.
His political view of the world is rather constructed in a way in which he sees himself as the leader who instructs the
vanguard. The vanguard then controls and rules the human masses. Intellectual endeavour has no room in this system for
it would lead away from salvation and undermine Qutb's spiritual leadership.

The principles which led to the success of the first generation of Muhammad's followers laid the foundation for the
expansion of Islam and the blooming of Islamic civilisation and science in the time after Muhammad's death. Later,
however, a decline set in, caused by a weakness in the faith of the believers which Qutb does not specify any further.
During the Middle Ages, Europe adopted the technological and scientific accomplishments of Islam an argument allowing
Qutb to accept European science and technology in principle. 51
In Islam, however, technology and science were embedded
in a just society of true believers, while in Europe jahiliyya led to the abuse of both for the cause of Christian imperialism.
The beginning of modernity increased the conflict, when Enlightenment philosophy helped to justify jahiliyya by replacing
God with man. 52
In the nineteenth century Karl Marx, a Jew, developed the philosophy of materialism, 53
while in the
political area an unholy alliance between Christian imperialism and Zionism was forged. 54
The current situation shows
signs of the ultimate confrontation between good and evil: In our modern time, they [Zionism and Christian imperialism,
HH/PK] are trying to put an end to Islamic faith altogether, thinking that they are fighting their final decisive battle. 55
The
answer to this existential threat to the true faith can only be the emergence of a vanguard that takes over control and
determinedly fights the jihad against the unbelievers without fear of death.

The final aim of jihad is the global domination of Islam 56


after the annihilation of jahiliyya. Qutb describes this future
moment of Islam's victory in the most vivid way. The return to the rule of God's laws will bring about international peace,
while the abolition of the tyrannical manmade laws will finally enable the liberated individuals to realise their true
humanity within Islamic society. Following the tradition of the Qur'an, a small number of nonMuslims, socalled dhimmis,
can be tolerated within this society. As long as they accept the Shariah as primary law and pay a special monetary
tribute they are even allowed to practice their Jewish or Christian beliefs. 57
Although dhimmis can be accepted within
Muslim societies during the struggle for world domination,jahiliyya outside of the Islamic sphere cannot be endured, as the
unbelievers are never willing to live in peace with Islam. 58

Compromise between jahiliyya and Islam, as has been shown, is impossible because one necessarily excludes the other:
evil and good are not supposed to coexist. The necessity to physically destroy jahiliyya is thus the only solution. According
to Qutb, this destruction is ethically justifiable for three reasons. First, evil appears as a rebellion against God and
therefore as a fight against the good men. The true believers only take up the fight against jahiliyya, because it is trying to
destroy them. Therefore war against the unbelievers is essentially no more than selfdefence. 59
Second, the war against
the unbelievers is carried out against individuals who have not only not ascended to the level of true humanity, but are
naturally inclined to deny this true humanity. They are in a way subhuman, free to be killed without second thoughts.
Third, all moral scruples against the destruction of unbelievers result from the opinion that mortal life is to be valued
highly. Qutb would judge this opinion as jahili, because the true believer is willing to sacrifice his life in the name of God
and receives his reward in the afterlife anyway. Fear of death and respect for mortal life are expressions of materialism
and therefore of unbelief in sum, Qutb's interpretation of the world contains all elements necessary to justify any kind of
mass murder in the name of faith.

Jihad, however, is not simply a means of attaining the good life, but it is the good life. By fighting and destroying the
external enemy the faithful Muslim overcomes his own fear of death and consequently his own inclination towards
materialism:
Unless a fullfledged compaign [sic] is launched amongst the people, the sincerity of faith is not proved. This compaign
should end hatred and indignation from the people and bring them on the path of uprightness and Islam. The compaign
may be verbal, may take the form of propagation, or may manifest itself as the explanation and elucidation of Islam in
reply to the unfounded objections raised against it. In case the obstructions are made for the people to block the road to
the truth, physical strength may also be required to apply. A man cannot be exactly apprised of the reality of the faith
unless he strives fully for it among the people. For while he remains busy to strive against others, really he strives against
his own self also. 60

The passage exemplifies the double function of fighting the jihad: it rids society of evil, while at the same time it purifies
thejihadi. In the struggle against the external evil he overcomes the evil within himself. Once evil has been eradicated, the
good can be realised without effort, for the path of Islam is simple, easy as well as pleasant. 61
Qutb treats the subject of
how to organise the jihad in concrete terms only marginally. He points out the necessity of a vanguard beginning the fight.
This group of people has to be formed according to the original Islamic ideal society which might just happen to be close
to the vanguard ideal of Lenin. 62
The jihadis first have to realise true Islam within themselves, while organising the war in
secret. In this phase the vanguard has to try to distance itself from the surrounding jahiliyya as far as possible, but cannot
completely cut off all relations with it. The similarity of this phase to descriptions of procedures within alQaeda's cell led by
Muhammad Ata in the German city of Hamburg does not seem to be a coincidence. Qutb does not explain how and by
what means the vanguard is to seize political power in the end. He makes it very clear, however, that the fighters are to be
prepared for torture, injuries and death.

The final two chapters of Milestones (XI and XII) are meant to prepare the jihadi for the sacrifices to be made in the battle.
The sense of supremacy and superiority 63
of the believer in comparison to the unbeliever, as well as the promise of
paradise, are the two things supposed to ease the sufferings during the struggle. Qutb stresses the feeling of superiority
that lifts the jihadiabove his enemies. It stems from his perception that a man who fights evil embodies the good. It has
another source in the believer's willingness to sacrifice his life, which makes him essentially stronger than the cowardly
unbeliever who clings to his mortal life. Yet, a problem remains as to why this is supposed to be an example of strength.
The only answer that Qutb can give is the promise of reward in paradise.

Just how close Qutb's thought is to totalitarianism should already have become quite obvious. The aim of world
domination, the will to physically exterminate the archenemy, and the justification of this extermination as a form of self
defence are familiar elements of the two western forms of totalitarianism, Communism and National Socialism.
Interestingly enough, Qutb himself makes the connection to those ideologies by rejecting them. The ideologies of class
struggle and race struggle, in Qutb's opinion, are just jahiliways of leading away from the true battle, which is the struggle
of belief:
The enemies of the Believers may wish to change this struggle into an economic or political or racial struggle, so that the
Believers become confused concerning the true nature of the struggle and the flame of belief in their hearts becomes
extinguished. The Believers must not be deceived, and must understand that this is a trick. The enemy, by changing the
nature of the struggle, intends to deprive them of their weapon of true victory. 64

Qutb's only criticism of the western ideologies is that they name the wrong enemy and that they do it intentionally. The
reduction of human history to a struggle between good and evil and the necessity of the physical annihilation of evil,
however, is something that is very familiar to Qutb's thought. His political theory is a lot closer to the two western forms of
totalitarianism than to Islam, which does not support this kind of simplification, for the essence of Islam and of religion per
se is transcendence. This means that the three monotheistic religions are all based upon the conviction that God and man
are separated. The result of this conviction is man's mission to lead a life that will get him closer to God in Islam this can
be achieved by following God's commandments. Yet, a person living a devout life does not become God, but rather remains
an imperfect and flawed human being. This fundamental difference between man and God cannot be overcome. Therefore
man has to be very careful in his judgement of evil. He might be able to point out evil and he might even have to fight it at
times, but he does not become identical with God in the fight against what he regards as evil. Just by defeating evil outside
of himself, a person does not necessarily become good it is the inner struggle to root out evil within oneself that counts
and helps to bring a person closer to God. It is for a good reason that classical Islam does not consider jihad to be one of
the five main duties (five pillars of Islam) of a devout Muslim. Yet, Qutb identifies jihadas the supreme obligation of the
true believer. Every jihadi is essentially good because he fights evil; in this war against evil he becomes Allah's
representative on earth and thereby wipes out the dividing line between himself and Allah. However, in the moment when
a part of humankind is believed to embody the ultimate good, the essence of religion transcendence is done away with.
The spiritual struggle of the human mind trying to grasp Godis replaced by the worldly struggle between good and evil.
Religion turns into ideology.

Comparison to Marxism and National Socialism


Jump to section
Sayyid Qutb and Radical Islamism
Comparison to Marxism and National Socialism
Totalitarian ideology and liberal societies

Conclusion
Even before the attacks of 11 September 2001, several authors pointed out some of the similarities between radical
Islamism and the western ideologies of Communism and National Socialism. 65
The similarity in content of the three
ideologies was first spelled out by Paul Berman 66
after 11 September 2001. According to his observations, all three of
them are fighting the same enemy, which is liberal society. Further, they share the conviction that a group of people,
embodying the good, is thwarted in its mission of realising the ideal life by a devilish and evil power. This situation can only
be overcome by an apocalyptic battle in which evil is to be annihilated. 67

This parallel in the three ideologies can be particularly illustrated with a comparison of the writings of the three founders of
these ideologies: Karl Marx, Adolf Hitler and Sayyid Qutb. The political conceptions of Marx and Hitler essentially follow the
structure which has been shown in Qutb. All three start off with the diagnosis that the contemporary world is filled with
evil. The reason for this situation is to be found in the eternal struggle between good and evil. At the end of this process,
there will be salvation in the achievement of a utopian society which will become a reality after evil has been rooted out
and physically annihilated. 68
Here, a comparison of the similarities between the three positions can only be given in an
abbreviated way. The main characteristics are summarised in Table 1.

Table 1.Structural comparison of


Marxism, National Socialism and
radical Islamism

The direct comparison of Marx's and Hitler's writings might be considered debatable as they are texts of different types.
While Marx's writing is of a theoreticalanalytical nature, Hitler's Mein Kampf contains a program and intends to justify his
past and future acts. However, the difference between the two authors is smaller than it appears at first sight. The
influence of Marx's theory on the Communist praxis in the twentieth century is largely neglected. This is true in part
because many scholars focus on isolated elements of Marx's theory, like the theory of alienation in the earlier works, or the
criticism of capitalism in the later works. An emphasis on the critique of capitalism causes analysts to neglect the
normative implications of Marx's political theory,69 whereas the focus on the theory of alienation leads to an overemphasis
of the humanism within these normative implications70 . If one examines his complete oeuvre and its inner unity, which
Marx sketched out in his Economic and Philosophic Manuscriptsof 1844, his responsibility for the political reality of
Communism in the twentieth century becomes more pronounced. 71
While Marx's influence on reality is generally
underestimated, the theoretical core of Hitler's Mein Kampf is also often neglected. It was not until Zehnpfennig's
commentary that any scholar tried to reconstruct Hitler's political theory. Zehnpfennig showed that the crimes of National
Socialism were based on a perverse rationale. On the basis of this reconstruction it is possible to compare Hitler to Marx as
well as to Qutb.

Marx's diagnosis of the ills of society is as disillusioning as Qutb's: society is torn apart by the antagonistic struggle
between capitalist and worker. 72
From an outside position it seems to be a struggle for wages, yet it really is a fight for
existence. 73
Compromise between workers and capitalists is impossible, because human thinking and acting is completely
controlled by the conditions of production. Even phases of prosperity, when the worker is paid a higher salary than the
minimal living wage, do not ease his sufferings, for it only excites in the worker the capitalist's mania to get rich, which
he, however, can only satisfy by the sacrifice of his mind and body. 74
Therefore, Marx strictly rejects the idea of a reform
of capitalism, because it would only delay the inevitable revolution.

Since the struggle is existential, there is no room for ethical reconsiderations. The idea of moral second thoughts is absurd
anyway, for Marx's theory is deterministic. People do not act as individual persons, but as members of their social classes.
Their decisions are not expressions of their free wills, but are simply dictated by economic laws. Even if moral
reconsiderations were possible, however, they would endanger the cause of building the ideal classless society. Every moral
scruple the proletarians succumb to would be a loss for their cause and a victory for the capitalists, who are devoid of such
scruples. The proletarians face a situation of selfdefence similar to that of Qutb's followers of the true faith. Both groups
are considered the standardbearers of hope for human history: if they lose the battle the final goal of a humane society
will be lost forever. Humanism in a situation like this is expressed in the readiness to do anything needed to reach that
goal. Human sacrifice in the process is irrelevant, for people are only mentally and physically dehumanised being[s]
anyway. 75

Marx explains the emergence of the unbearable situation with a wellknown historical process. There used to be an original
classless society, in which human beings were capable of selfactualisation, although on a comparatively low level. Self
actualisation was achieved through labour that was not yet alienated; labour in which the worker duplicates himself not
only, as in consciousness, intellectually, but also actively, in reality, and therefore he sees himself in a world that he has
created. 76
This original state was lost the moment he started to produce with the aim of ownership. This is the instant in
which he was alienated from himself and the productive activity. Alienation then caused private property, and with private
property came about the difference between owners and nonowners and therefore the class struggle. 77

Private property and the conditions of production lead to a dynamic process in history which gradually increases the
intensity of the class struggle. In his later works Marx analyses in detail the economic laws that will lead to revolution. The
essential idea is that just as in Qutb's writings there is a decline in history caused by the workings of evil and that the
present is steering towards a final decisive battle between good and evil. In the revolution private property will be
abolished and thereby the foundations for the classless society will be laid. This final goal cannot, however, be reached
immediately, because people are still infested with the inhumanity of capitalism. So, after the revolution, a phase of
completely crude and thoughtless communism 78
will ensue, which will create a radical equality in property. This outer
equality is then to be internalised by all people. During this phase, any kind of inequality is seen as a remnant of the
capitalist system of rule. Therefore crude Communism wants to disregard talent, etc., in an arbitrary manner, it wants to
destroy everything which is not capable of being possessed by all asprivate property: the entire world of culture and
civilisation. This first phase of Communism after the revolution negates thepersonality of man in every sphere. Its main
purpose is to erase everything which could create an inequality between people. 79

The key mechanism helping to bring about equality is envy:


The thought of every piece of private property as such is at least turned against wealthier private property in the form of
envy and the urge to reduce things to a common level, so that this envy and urge even constitute the essence of
competition. Crude communism is only the culmination of this envy and of this levellingdown proceeding from
thepreconceived minimum. 80

This extreme form of envy is used to wipe out all inequalities in the phase of crude Communism. Only after this cathartic
process has been completed will human beings be able to realise their potential to be good. True humanity will pursue in
the final phase of fully developed Communism when everyone will experience real equality in the absence of rule or
government. 81

Hitler's argumentation is similar to the ones already discussed. In comparison to Marx the difference is that his
interpretation of history is not materialistic but in his understanding of the term idealistic. The driving force in the
historic process is not to be found in the conditions of production but rather in the will to fight, which is either aimed at evil
(Jews) or at the good (Aryans). Here, the purpose of the struggle is not radical equality in perfect Communism, but radical
inequality experienced in the natural struggle of races. Whereas for Marx the struggle is meant eventually to stop by
leading to total peace, for Hitler the struggle is good in itself. Despite these differences, the fundamental structure of the
analysis of history is the same. Like Qutb and Marx, Hitler starts off with a devastating interpretation of the present
conditions. During the time he spent in Vienna, as he explains inMein Kampf (Chapter 2), he was confronted with the social
question and its effects on the coherence of the national unity. The huge discrepancies between poor and rich lead to a
decay in the foundational values of society. Hitler especially points out a deterioration in the love for the fatherland and the
willingness to accept authority. 82
Marxism, however, only seemingly offers a solution to the problem of deteriorating
values. In fact it increases the problem, because it is just an extreme form of the foundation of capitalism, which is
materialism. According to Hitler, the common cause of capitalism and Marxism and therefore of materialism in fact is
Jewry. 83

The character of Jewry is to revolt against the natural order and to try to end the race struggle. This eternal struggle,
however, is the foundation of life itself. It makes a ruthless selection according to strength and soundness, 84
which is
necessary for the preservation of races and people:
[T]his preservation is dependent on the ironclad law that it is necessary and just for the best and strongest man to be
victor. He who would live, then, must fight, and he who will not do battle in this world of eternal struggle does not deserve
to live. 85

Among humans this natural principle is realised in its ideal form by the Aryans who are the true founders of
civilisation. 86
Therefore the Aryans are the strongest race:
This will to sacrifice, to devote personal labor and, if necessary, life itself to others, is most highly developed in the Aryan.
The Aryan is greatest not in his mental qualities as such, but in the extent of his readiness to devote all his abilities to the
service of the community. In him the instinct of selfpreservation can reach its noblest form because he willingly
subordinates his own ego to the life of the community, and even sacrifices it if occasion demands. 87

In this quotation, Hitler points out that the strength of the Aryan is not of an intellectual nature: Intellectuality helps only
to promote the individual opinion, the ego, and is therefore destructive. This will to selfsacrifice, which Hitler calls
idealism 88
is contrasted to the selfishness of the Jew. The Jew is not willing to sacrifice himself unless it be in a situation
in which there is need for collective action to fight off a clear and present danger. 89
This, however, means that he is not
able to establish his own territorial state. The deeper reasons for this inability to selfsacrifice are the Jew's materialism
and orientation towards worldly life: His life is of this world alone. 90
Two principles which are at war with each other and
represent either good or evil are personified in the Aryan and the Jew. Again as in Qutb and Marx the strict dualism
between good and evil is a characteristic feature of the ideology.

Like Marx and Qutb, Hitler gives an historic explanation for the gradual escalation of the struggle. 91
In his interpretation of
history, the original natural order used to be determined by a power struggle among all races. At some point in history, the
Jewish race appeared and, in the form of the merchant, started to infiltrate the other races' national states. 92
Slowly it
subverted the Aryan race, gradually sucking out the lifeforce of their host nation. 93
The steps in the process are
surprisingly similar to Marx's analysis of history (feudalism, development of capitalism, intensification of the class struggle,
etc.) with one decisive difference: While Marx unmasks liberalism and capitalism as class ideologies supposed to cement
the domination of the capitalists, Hitler equally unmasks Marxism as a race ideology. Marxism is for Hitler the extreme
form of Jewish materialism. 94

Accordingly, the path to salvation begins one step later. The National Socialist revolution is not aimed primarily against
capitalism, but against the materialism of the Marxist revolution. The process of revolution, again, is the final battle
between the standardbearers of hope and the representatives of evil. The inner logic is different, however. Marx, on the
one hand, sees the end of capitalism as an inevitable result of its own contradictions; fighting is an expression of the
striving for inequality, and therefore it is evil. Hitler, on the other hand, sees the need for an active role in the destruction
of evil. The Aryans must show the stronger willpower in the struggle against the Jews, and prove that they are the race of
natural leaders. The Aryan struggle means the reestablishment of fighting as the natural principle. Nevertheless, in both
cases the struggle has the same function of purifying society and wiping out evil to allow for the establishment of the good
order.

Totalitarian ideology and liberal societies


Jump to section
Sayyid Qutb and Radical Islamism
Comparison to Marxism and National Socialism
Totalitarian ideology and liberal societies

Conclusion
This analysis of the three ideologies shows that they are all based on the same structure. History is always interpreted as a
process of decline, in which a fundamentally evil power has brought mankind to the verge of disaster and threatens its
very existence. A particular group of people is the standardbearer of hope and, as the personification of good, has the
mission of saving humankind from doom and ridding it of evil. This group will then realise the utopia of the classless
society, the natural race struggle, or the purified society of followers of the true faith.

Two basic models of totalitarian thought can be identified. First, there is the materialistic model (Marxism), which
interprets history as a class struggle and promises a utopia of radical equality. Second, there is the idealistic model
(National Socialism, radical Islamism) that opposes materialism and sees it as a humiliation for humanity and a threat for
its existence. For Hitler and Qutb, equality and materialism level the natural differences which establish structure and order
in the world: the hierarchy of strong and weak races as outcome of the race struggle (Hitler), and the opposition of
believers and unbelievers as result of the beliefstruggle (Qutb). Hitler claims to have first identified materialism as cause
of all evil and only then discovered the cause of materialism to be Jewry (Chapter 2 in Mein Kampf). Qutb first attacked
the secular panArabic visions of Nasir until he identifiedjahiliyya as the original cause of evil. For both the struggle against
the cause of materialism (Jewry, disbelief) is necessary to ensure the survival of human mankind and to allow the self
actualisation of man through the race or beliefstruggle.

The materialistic and the idealistic models of totalitarian thought are therefore linked in the way that the latter is reacting
against the former. Yet, after a closer examination the idealism of Hitler and Qutb can be proven to be empty and of a
basically materialistic nature, too.

In Hitler's interpretation, the natural order can only be realised by man in the open struggle against the other races.
Through the willingness to selfsacrifice, man overcomes and transcends himself, which enables him to create superior
civilisations. But whenever Hitler tries to give a qualitative definition of the central characteristic of a superior civilisation,
he identifies it as its ability to enforce its will. This, however, is just a quantitative superiority in strength or power. By
defining the ability to enforce one's will as the final criterion of supremacy, Hitler becomes entangled in contradictions. By
Hitler's logic, there is no reason the covert struggle of the Jews should be considered treacherous, as long as it enables
them to enforce their will. Therefore Hitler's socalled idealism falls back to the level of materialism. 95

It has already been argued earlier that, owing to his simplified partition of the world into good and evil, Qutb's idea of
transcendence can only be thought to remain within the boundaries of human experience: by opposing his will to evil,
the jihadihimself becomes purely good. The only weakness which threatens him is a lack of willingness to fight (external)
evil this has little in common with Islam, but much with National Socialism. The main logical issue is therefore the same
as in Hitler's thought. The quality of the believer consists solely in the strength of his will to fight those who represent evil
(the people of jahiliyya). The spiritual preparation for this fight is just a strengthening of the will by exterminating all
questioning and all reasoning in the soul of the jihadi before turning this totalitarian will against the outside enemy. The
flaws of Qutb's idealism can also be shown on a different basis, when Qutb talks about the sense of superiority of
the jihadi, founded on the knowledge that he is good while his enemies are evil. This goodness can only be recognised if
the jihadi is rewarded in paradise. 96
The reward, however, is depicted in the Qur'an in quite earthly terms. Since Qutb is
supporting a literal understanding of the Qur'an, he has little interpretative means to develop a spiritual understanding of
this depiction. If, then, the driving motivation behind the jihad is the promise of 72 virgins, Qutb is positioned very badly
for his criticism of materialism.

Qutb therefore contrasts with the western materialism a concept of religion which reveals itself to be as empty as Hitler's
idealism. Reducing Islam to a struggle of believers' selfassertion against external evil is basically reducing the spiritual
struggle of man with his faith in God (and therefore with his own evil) to an earthly struggle between good and evil men
(believers and unbelievers). The focus on this earthly struggle implies a rejection of transcendence. Like Hitler, Qutb falls
back on the position which he was so desperately fighting against: materialism.

Being basically materialistic, all three ideologies are in fact not a premodern revolt against the achievements of
modernity, but rather a radicalisation of the promise of freedom and selfactualisation of man made by classical liberalism.
The key idea in the political thought of authors like John Locke and Immanuel Kant is that man can pursue his individual
happiness when society is held together by laws which ensure that freedom is the same for everybody. 97
This concept of
freedom is based on the distinction between the purpose and the form of an action. Every individual should be free in the
choice of the individual purpose of life, as long as his actions respect the same rights of other persons (that is, the form of
the action). Laws are not made to judge or guide individual purposes (as they do, for example, in traditional Aristotelian
ethics), but to protect the equal rights of everybody by defining the boundaries of individual actions. This formal
understanding of political community allows the individual to be free from the necessity to submit itself to a common
understanding of a good life (as in a teleological understanding of society).

However, the promise of freedom through a society ruled by laws leads to a tension between freedom and its boundaries.
In fact, the major debates among classical liberals centre on the question of how to define the boundaries of freedom in a
way which allows a maximum of freedom for each individual. The tension between freedom and its boundaries arises from
the fact that laws are perceived in classical liberalism not as means to fulfil the very purpose of life (as in the Platonic or
Aristotelian ethics), but as a restriction on individual selfactualisation. This tension is the major weakness in liberalism on
which all three ideologies focus their attacks. They unmask the laws of liberal societies as means of oppression used by
capitalists or Jews or unbelievers in their life and death struggle against their opponents. These laws are, therefore, the
result of the selfassertion of egoism at the expense of what the authors perceive as the selfactualisation of humanity:

For Marx the laws of a liberal society serve the interests of the ruling class only. Since the laws protect private property and freedom,
they are useful only to those who possess private property and who can enjoy freedom. Moreover, freedom as the right to do
everything that harms no one else 98 implies for Marx a purely individualistic and therefore egoistic understanding of
society. 99 The only purpose of the right to liberty is the protection of private property and therefore the protection of the interests of
the ruling class. 100

For Hitler freedom and equal rights are ideas promoted by the Jew. Equality of rights helps the Jews infiltrate the Aryans.
Egalitarianism, which leads first to the victory of democracy and then to Marxism, aims at doing away with personality and at
putting in its place the majority of stupidity, incompetence, and not least of cowardice 101 (Mein Kampf, 307). The ideas of individual
freedom and equal rights are therefore seen as products of (Jewish) egoism and as being opposed to Aryan idealism and the principle
of personality, which describes the willingness to follow a leader in the natural struggle of races and to sacrifice work and life for the
best of the (racial) community. 102 In Hitler's view, individual freedom (as opposed to the freedom of the race to fight the race
struggle) serves the interests only of the Jews.

In a similar way, Qutb sees the concept of freedom and equal rights as a weapon of his archenemies, the unbelievers. By
making laws himself, man takes a position which solely belongs to God. The result is man's tyrannical ruling over other
men. The manmade laws of liberal societies are the most radical expression of the revolt against God, since they
undermine the true faith by equalising the difference between believers and unbelievers. The basic logic of this unmasking
of individual freedom is the same in all three ideologies. Laws in a liberal society are not as they presume to do
establishing an equal right to selfactualisation for everybody, but are used by those who represent evil to assert their
egoism. This, in consequence, threatens the existence of humanity. 103
The promise of (equal) freedom in a liberal society
is, therefore, basically unmasked as a lie. This freedom is perceived as oppression. The purpose of all three ideologies
consists in giving its followers a perspective of true and radical freedom which at the same time will save humanity.

Marx sees true freedom in the fulfilment of the promise of selfactualisation, which is the enjoyment of the collective self in
Communism. Hitler and Qutb see the same fulfilment in the struggle which leads to the creation of values. For all three,
the ideal state is perceived as a true liberation, since it consists in realising the Godlike nature of man. Selfactualisation
does not consist of forcing oneself or others to submit to rules and values, but in creating values. Needless to say that this
concept of selfactualisation and freedom is leading to its direct opposite.

This approach can hardly be called traditionalistic in the sense of worrying about the decline of traditional values. It is
rather a radicalisation of the modern promise of selfactualisation of man in radical freedom, since all three are striving for
an understanding of freedom which is no longer limited by laws. With respect to Qutb, this has been pointed out by
Shepard, who shows that radical Islamism is systematically filling the categories of classical Islam with a new totalitarian
meaning. 104
According to Shepard, Qutb's fight is for liberty, human selfactualisation, and the progress of humanity; like
Hitler, Qutb rejects a materialistic and levelling conception of equality, but constantly points out that his objective is the
liberation of mankind.
This promise freeing man from oppression to allow the development of his Godlike nature generates the seductive
power of all three ideologies. It tends to attract especially those people who see themselves as losers in the status quo.
Since radical Islamism is not simply an aggressive variant of Islamic belief, but an interpretation of the Qur'an in modern
categories, it is an illusion to think that the people attracted by this ideology can simply be turned around by information
and education. Rather, it is necessary to react to the ideology's strategy of unmasking the promises of modernity which
have not been kept. To be able to do this, however, one needs to realise that radical Islamism is part of the inside struggle
for the right understanding of modernity, a dark side of modernity as Eisenstadt calls it. 105
As long as western societies
are unwilling to recognise the modern character of radical Islamism, they will continually underestimate its power over
people and its attractiveness.

Conclusion
Jump to section
Sayyid Qutb and Radical Islamism
Comparison to Marxism and National Socialism
Totalitarian ideology and liberal societies

Conclusion
What conclusions can be drawn from these observations with regard to radical Islamic terrorism? First of all, the similarities
between the three ideologies show that the contemporary challenge of the West by radical Islamism can indeed be
compared to former challenges by National Socialism and Communism. However, it is problematic to focus this comparison
on the military level, as has been done several times in the past by President Bush. 106
Islamic terrorism certainly acts
globally and requires a common effort of the world community, but it is questionable whether it is appropriate to label its
power as military. Rather, its true power derives from its ideology, which appeals to many people all over the Arab world
and allows the different terrorist groups to recruit not only high numbers of members willing to sacrifice their lives but also
complicit support, which helps these groups to organise. 107
At its core, the socalled War against Terror is a struggle of
ideas, and in this sense it is very comparable to the challenge of National Socialism and Communism.

Besides military, police and intelligence action against Islamic terrorism, the major effort therefore has to be an intellectual
one, aiming at reducing the appeal and support of the ideology of radical Islamism. Like National Socialism and
Communism, radical Islamism addresses the oppressed, seducing them with a radical (and radically simple) explanation of
world history, in which their liberation becomes the final goal of the process of history. These oppressed are not only the
poor, but (in the case of radical Islamism) all those in the Islamic world who feel humiliated by the West and its influence
on Arab countries and the MiddleEast. In order to respond to this seduction, the intellectual struggle against radical
Islamism should follow a twofold strategy.

The first task should be to unmask the ideology of radical Islamism by showing that its true nature is not striving for a
renaissance of Islamic values, but that it is a distortion of these values, inspired by the western ideologies like National
Socialism and Communism. National Socialism disguised itself as a form of German patriotism; the Germans' experience
that Hitler cared about Germany only as long as it served his ideological interests might have been among the most
convincing arguments against National Socialism at the end of World War II. In a similar way, the experience of
Communism revealed that the leaders in Communist countries were in no way interested in freeing the workers. The task
is to show that Qutb and alQaeda have a similar approach. They abuse Islam for a fight which is, in fact, not for the cause
of Islam. This exposure of radical Islamism will mainly be a task for Muslim religious leaders, since they have the
knowledge of Islamic belief and the moral authority among their people. The main challenges for these leaders will be to
clarify the understanding and role of the jihad, and to explain the relationship between Islam and violence. If there is a
difference between radical Islamism and traditional Islam, it has to be pointed out by the Islamic religious leaders. The
dialogue with these leaders is of an importance which can hardly be overestimated.

The second task is to acknowledge the kernel of truth in the ideological allegations of Qutb and his followers against the
West and to respond by a rethinking and strengthening of western values. Hitler's success was in a good part made
possible by the humiliation of Germany through the treaty of Versailles after World War I. To avoid a renaissance of
National Socialism after 1945, it was necessary that the western allies resisted the temptation of a new humiliation. The
success of Communism was only possible due to the injustice of a form of capitalism which is not tamed by a welfare
system such as Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal or the German Social Market Economy. In order to fight the Communist
temptation, it was necessary to reconcile the classes in the western countries and to avoid the clash of a poor proletariat
and rich capitalists by strengthening the middle class. In the same way, the struggle against radical Islamism requires the
flaws in the understanding of freedom in Europe and the United States to be faced. Indeed, freedom is all too often a
mere carte blanche for egoistic selfassertion. This is the case on the level of international relations: western foreign policy
often applies double standards. For example, on one hand, it judges other countries by standards of respect for democracy
and international laws, and on the other hand, ignores these same standards when it seems expedient in terms of security
or trade interests. 108
On the domestic level, some of Qutb's reproaches are not essentially unfounded. For example, Qutb
notes the loss of belonging and sense in western societies, the expansion of the economic principle to all areas of life, and
overwhelming materialism. Those who consider the main challenge in Arab countries to be a lack of democracy and wealth
(cf. the positions quoted in the introduction) often overestimate the appeal of western life. A commentator of the Asia
Times Online put it quite bluntly right after 11 September 2001: Except for a few fundamentalist recalcitrants,
Washington believes, everyone in those parts of the world wants what the US wants: suburban tract housing
developments, video on demand, fast food, egalitarianism and economic opportunity. 109
The examples chosen by the
commentator may seem unfair but they are no more onesided than the Wearethegoodguys! perspective. Respect for
and proliferation of western values can be earned only if western societies are able to reconcile the striving for freedom
with a commitment to morality.

Notes
1. The authors are most grateful to Lisa Ferrari, Associate Professor of Politics and Government at the University of Puget
Sound (Tacoma, WA, USA), for her helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. We also wish to thank one of our
anonymous referees for his most helpful comments.

2. Bruno S. Frey, Dealing with Terrorism Stick or Carrot? (Cheltenham,: Edward Elgar, 2004).

3. See Gabriel Kolko, Another Century of War? (New York: The New Press, 2002).

4. See United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Arab Human Development Report 2002 (New York: UNDP,
Regional Bureau for Arab States, 2002); www.undp.org

5. See Paul Berman, Terror and Liberalism, in The American Prospect, 22 October 2001, pp.1823 and Paul
Berman, Terror and Liberalism (New York: Norton, 2003).

6. William Shepard, Islam and Ideology: Towards a Typology, International Journal of Middle East Studies 19 (1987),
pp.31417. See also Michael Whine, Islamism and Totalitarianism: Similarities and Differences, Totalitarian Movements
and Political Religions 2/2 (2001), p.57.

7. Rohan Gunaratna, Inside Al Quaeda (New York: Berkley Books, 2003), pp.11226. Gilles Kepel (ed.), AlQaida dans le
texte. crits d'Oussama ben Laden, Abdallah Azzam, Ayman alZawahiri et Abou Moussab alZarqawi (Paris: Presses
universitaires de France, 2005).

8. Paul Berman, The Philosopher of Islamic Terror, The New York Times Magazine, 23 March 2003, pp.2429, 5759, 65
67.

9. Nazih N. Ayubi, Muslim Brotherhood. An Overview, in John L. Esposito (ed.), The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern
Islamic World, Vol. 3 (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), p.185.

10. Gunaratna, Inside Al Quaeda, p.33.

11. Ibid. p.22.

12. For Qutb's biography see: Shahrough Akhavi, Qutb, Sayyid, in Esposito (note 9) and Gilles Kepel, Jihad. The Trail of
Political Islam (London: Tauris Publishers, 2002), pp.2332.

13. Akhavi, Qutb, Sayyid, p.401.

14. Subsequently referred to as Commentary. The first volume was published in 1953. Some parts of it were later
rewritten by Qutb and the second version obtained a pronouncedly radical thrust (see William Shepard, Sayyid Qutb's
Doctrine of Jhiliyya, inInternational Journal of Middle East Studies 35 (2003), pp.521545 and Berman, The Philosopher
of Islamic Terror). A detailed analysis of the commentary has been contributed by Olivier Carr, Mysticism and Politics. A
Critical Reading of F Zill alQur'n by Sayyid Qutb (19061966) (Leiden: Brill, 2003).

15. Sayyid Qutb, Islam. The Religion of the Future (Delhi: Markazi Maktaba Islami, 1974).

16. Sayyid Qutb, Islam. The True Religion, transl. Rafi Ahmad Fidai (New Delhi: Kitab Bhavan, 1996).

17. Sayyid Qutb, Milestones (Damascus: Dar alIlm, no publishing date; first published 1964). In subsequent references
toMilestones, the authors will provide the page numbers of the printed English volume, as well as the chapter numbers in
Roman numerals. Milestones is also available at different pages on the World Wide Web
(e.g.http://www.youngmuslims.ca/online_library/books/milestones/ accessed 04.05.2006).

18. Qutb (note 15), p.37.

19. Qutb, Milestones, Introduction, p.12.

20. For an analysis of Qutb's political ideology cf. two recent books by Sayed Khatab (both London: Routledge, 2006): The
Political Thought of Sayyid Qutb: The Theory of jahiliyyah and The Power of Sovereignty: The Political and Ideological
Philosophy of Sayyid Qutb.

21. Qutb (note 16), p.96.

22. See Friedrich Nietzsche, A Genealogy of Morals, in Friedrich Nietzsche, The Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Vol. 10, ed.
A. Tille (New York: Macmillan, 1924); e.g. First Essay, 8.

23. Qutb, Milestones, V, p.83.

24. Ibid., Introduction, p.7.

25. Eleanor Abdella Doumato, Jhilya, in John L. Esposito (ed.), The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World,
Vol. 2 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), p.352.

26. Shepard (note 14), p.522.

27. Ibid.; Doumato, Jhilya, p.353.

28. Qutb, Milestones, Introduction, p.11. and Sayyid Qutb, In the Shade of the Qur'an, Vol. IV: Sura 5, transl. and ed. Adil
Salahi and Ashur Shamis (Leicester: The Islamic Foundation, 2001), p.133.

29. Qutb, Milestones, II, p.34.

30. Ibid., XI, p.143.

31. Qutb (note 16), p.41.

32. Qutb, Milestones, III, p.51. In this passage Qutb is writing about Communism, which he considers to be only an
extreme form of jahiliyya.

33. Ibid., III, p.49.

34. Qutb (note 16), p.88.

35. Ibid., pp. 25f.

36. Qutb, Milestones, III, p.46.

37. Ibid., I, p.21.

38. Ibid., III, p.51.

39. Ibid., IV, p.65.

40. The most dangerous form of jahiliyya is the one disguised as an Islamic society (see Shepard Jhilya, p.527).

41. Qutb, Commentary IV, pp.56f., 59f., 73f.


42. Ibid., pp.59f., 647.

43. See Berman (note 8), p.28. Qutb neglects the fact that the idea of the separation of Church and state can be traced
directly to Jesus: Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's (Matthew
22.21).

44. Sayyid Qutb, In the Shade of the Qur'an, Vol. VI: Sura 7, transl. and ed. Adil Salahi and Ashur Shamis (Leicester: The
Islamic Foundation, 2002), p.25.

45. Qutb, Milestones, XII, p.160.

46. E.g. Qutb, Commentary, IV, pp.6063.

47. Qutb, Milestones,, I, pp.1620.

48. Ibid., I, p.18.

49. Ibid., I, p.21.

50. Ibid., IV, pp.658.

51. This is also expressed in alQaeda's strategy of using western technology in its fight against the West.

52. Qutb, Commentary, VI, p.55.

53. Qutb, Commentary, IV, p.220.

54. Qutb especially hates Judaism. Jews are constantly depicted as cowardly, treacherous and materialistic; e.g.
Qutb,Commentary, VI, p.69.

55. Ibid, p.238.

56. Cf. Milestones, I, p.15; II, p.26; IV, p.63 and p.70 and Islam. The True Religion, p.76.

57. Milestones, IV, pp.53, 63. Qutb talks about dhimmis only marginally and briefly, probably due to the Qur'an leaving
very little room for interpretation on this issue. Within Qutb's theory this tolerance can hardly be justified, as for him
everybody who does not happily want to become a Muslim is already infested with evil.

58. Ibid., V, p.80.

59. Qutb, Milestones, IV, p.59.

60. Qutb (note 16), pp.910.

61. Ibid, pp.28, 36. Qutb is only partially distorting traditional Islam. Traditional Islamic belief is based on a dualistic
worldview which divides the world into the dar alIslam (Abode of Islam) and the dar alharb (Abode of war). In the
traditional understanding it is the duty of every Muslim to fight for spreading faith throughout the world. However, this duty
has a subordinate position compared to the five pillars of Islam which are: profession of faith, pilgrimage, worship, fasting
and almsgiving.

62. Cf. Vladimir I. Lenin, What is to be Done? Burning Questions of Our Movement (Moscow: Progress Publishing,
1978).This is in fact a perfect example of how Qutb is combining Islam and western totalitarian ideology: he claims for this
phase of the jihad to take Muhammad's time at Medina as an example; but he interprets this time at Medina by using
Lenin's theory of the vanguard, therefore filling traditional Qur'anic categories with a completely new content.

63. Qutb, Milestones, XI, p.141.

64. Ibid., XI, p.159.

65. See e.g. Frdric Volpi, Understanding the Rationale of the Islamic Fundamentalists' Political Strategies: A Pragmatic
Reading of their Conceptual Schemes during the Modern Era, in Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions 1/3 (2000),
pp.7396; Whine, Islamism and Totalitarianism, or Bernard Lewis, The roots of Muslim rage, in Policy 17/4 (1990),
pp.20f.
66. Berman (note 15).

67. Ibid., p.19.

68. For a more detailed comparison of Hitler and Marx along these lines see Barbara Zehnpfennig, Hitlers Mein Kampf.
Eine Interpretation (Mnchen: Fink, 2000), pp.27779.

69. This can even be seen in the reading of Marx by rather conservative authors such as Robert Gilpin, The Political
Economy of International Relations (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987), pp.3441 and 5054.

70. See Erich Fromm, Marx's Concept of Man. With a Translation from Marx's Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts by
T. B. Bottomore (New York: F. Ungar, 1961).

71. Cf. Barbara Zehnpfennig, Einleitung (Introduction), in Karl Marx, konomischphilosophische Manuskripte, ed. B.
Zehnpfennig (Hamburg: Meiner, 2005); Hendrik Hansen, Karl Marx: Humanist oder Vordenker des GULag? (How far away
is Marx from the GULag?), in: Politisches Denken Jahrbuch 2002, pp.15274.

72. Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 3
(New York: International Publishers, 1975), p.235.

73. Cf. ibid., p.289.

74. Ibid., p.238.

75. Ibid., p.284.

76. Ibid., p.277.

77. Ibid., pp.279f.

78. Ibid, p.294.

79. Ibid., pp.294f.

80. Ibid, p.295.

81. Ibid., pp.296f.

82. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (New York: Stackpole Sons, 1939), pp.3846.

83. E.g. ibid., pp.6174.

84. Ibid., p.279.

85. Ibid., p.282.

86. Ibid. In opposition to the destroyers of civilisation (ibid., p.282), namely the Jews, and the sustainers of civilization
(ibid.), namely the Japanese (ibid., p.283).

87. Ibid., p.289.

88. Ibid., p.290.

89. Ibid., pp.293f.

90. Ibid., p.298.

91. Ibid., p.30020.

92. Ibid., p.300.

93. Ibid., p.296.

94. Yet, Marx, in his 1843 essay On the Jewish Question, claimed the cause of capitalism to be the materialistic spirit of
Jewry (Karl Marx, On the Jewish Question, in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 3 (New York:
International Publishers, 1975), p.172.)
95. For a more detailed elaboration of this argument see: Zehnpfennig, Hitlers Mein Kampf, p.148.

96. Qutb, Milestones, XII, p.152.

97. Cf. Immanuel Kant, On the Common Saying: That may be correct in theory, but is of no use in practice, in The
Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996),
p.291 resp. 8:291.

98. Marx (note 94), p.162.

99. Ibid., pp.162f.

100. Ibid., p.163.

101. Hitler (note 82), p.307.

102. The will to sacrifice as the major characteristic of the Aryans is described in Chapter 11 of Mein Kampf, ibid., pp.288
92.

103. Marx expresses the threat of the survival of humanity by the capitalists only indirectly when he says at the beginning
of theCommunist Manifesto that all class struggle ends either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the
common ruin of the contending classes (Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, in Karl Marx
and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 6 (New York: International Publishers, 1975), p.482).

104. Shepard (note 6), pp.315f.

105. S. N. Eisenstadt, The Resurgence of Religious Movements in Processes of Globalisation Beyond End of History or
Clash of Civilisations, in MOST Journal on Multicultural Societies 2/1 (2000)
at http://www.unesco.org/most/vl2n1eis.htm (accessed 4 May 2006).

106. Cf. the speech of President Bush to graduates at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs on 2 June 2004
athttp://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/06/20040602.html (accessed 4 May 2006).

107. Qutb's understanding of the conflict of beliefs incidentally helps to explain why Islamic terrorism appears to often
have no clear political purpose (with respect to terrorism in Iraq see: James Bennet, The Mystery of the Insurgency, The
New York Times(Sunday edition, Week in Review), 15 May 2005, pp.1, 4): for many of the terrorists the struggle itself is
the purpose.

108. In the public perception in countries all over the world Guantanamo Bay has become one of the most revolting
examples of double standards. Other examples related to Islamic countries are the support for the government of Saudi
Arabia and Central Asian autocratic regimes like those of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

109. Article Washington's racism and the Islamist trap, signed by Spengler in the Asia Times
Online athttp://atimes.com/front/CI22Aa02.html; 04.05.2006) (accessed 22 September 2001).

Table 1.Structural comparison of Marxism, National Socialism and radical Islamism

Marxism National Socialism Radical Islamism

gnosis of present

e original problem: Exploitation of workers Oppression of Germans in Oppression of true Islam by unbelie
ce consisting of the AustroHungarian
pression of the multiethnic state
Table 1.Structural comparison of Marxism, National Socialism and radical Islamism

Marxism National Socialism Radical Islamism

nsequence of this Proletarians (= absolute vanguard of Aryans (= relative Muslims cannot live in conformity
m: the chosen humankind) are dehumanised vanguard of humankind) laws of the Qur'an, because unbelie
e cannot realise (entmenscht) by capitalism are deprived of their hinder the establishment of a true Is
master morality society
(Herrenrecht)

hy simple reform is Inequality is inherent to capitalism and Jews undermine the Aryan Jahiliyya corrupts the Islamic belief
to every society based on private leadership claim
property

The natural order is fundamentally


perverted for reasons that must be
sought in history

Original sin = creation of private Original sin = mixture of Original sin = departure from
ption of the natural property higher and lower races Muhammad's example of faith

l consequence of Class struggle (Perverted) race struggle Belief struggle (jahiliyya

lvation through

establishment of Abolition of private property Enforcement of racial Reestablishment of the original Isl
purity community by fighting
thejihad against jahiliyya

ponents of the re Arch enemy = capitalist Arch enemy = Jew Arch enemy = unbeliever
ishment of the

The arch enemy thwarts the salvation


of humankind. Therefore, the struggle
against him is one both of selfdefence
and to the death (necessity to
exterminate the arch enemy)