O faithless and perverse generation

From The Evolution of God by Robert Wright:

In the mid-twentieth century, many American and European parents worried about the younger generation — the loud music, the raucous parties, the disrespect for authority. Meanwhile, in Egypt, a middle-aged man named Sayyid Qutb was complaining not about the younger generation but about his own. And the problem wasn’t rambunctiousness but reserve.

In a book called Milestones, written in the 1950s and early 1960s, he complained about “the sorry state of the present Muslim generation” and cited, as exhibit A, the prevailing interpretation of the doctrine of jihad. Most Muslim jurists insisted that holy war was justified only when a Muslim nation had been attacked. Such thinkers, said Qutb, misunderstood the Koran. They had “laid down their spiritual and rational arms in defeat. They say, ‘Islam has prescribed only defensive war!’ and think that they have done some good for their religion by depriving it of its method, which is to abolish all injustice from the earth, to bring people to the worship of God alone, and to bring them out of servitude to others into the servants of the Lord.”

Among the unjust things that should be abolished, Qutb believed, were insufficiently fundamentalist regimes in Muslim countries. One example, the Egyptian government, had Qutb executed in 1966. But his ideas lived on and influenced, among others, Osama bin Laden.


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