Muhammad Qutb

Anwar al-Awlaki
September 9, 2018

Muhammad Qutb was an Islamist author, scholar and teacher best known as the younger brother of the Egyptian Islamist thinker Sayyid Qutb. After his brother was executed by the Egyptian government, Muhammad moved to Saudi Arabia where he promoted his older brother’s ideas.

Muhammad Qutb was the second oldest of five children born in the Upper Egyptian village of Musha near Asyut, several years younger than his elder brother Sayyid. Little is known in English sources about his upbringing and education but it is known that he lived with his famous brother, their two sisters and mother in Helwan near Cairo for several years starting in 1926. He was arrested a few days before Sayyid (on July 29, 1965) for his alleged co-leadership along with his brother in a plot to kill leading political and cultural figures in Egypt and overthrow the government. His brother died on the gallows in 1966, but Muhammad’s life was spared and he, along with other members of the Muslim Brotherhood took refuge in Saudi Arabia.

There he edited and published Sayyid’s books and taught as a professor of Islamic Studies at (according to different sources) either Mecca’s Umm al-Qura University, and/or King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, and that either Osama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri (al Qaeda’s #2 and leading theorist), was a student. Osama bin Laden recommended “Sheikh Muhammad Qutb’s” book, “Concepts that Should be Corrected in a 2004 videotape. According to Lawrence Wright, who interviewed Muhammad Qutb and a close friend in college of bin Laden’s, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden “usually attended” Muhammad Qutb’s weekly public lectures at King Abdul-Aziz University.

In addition to making available his brother’s work, M. Qutb worked to advance his ideas by “smoothing away” differences between his brother’s radical supporters and more conservative Muslims, particularly other members of the Brethren. Muhammad took a less literal interpretation of his brother’s famous statement that the Muslim world and Muslim governments were jahiliyya (returned to pagan ignorance, and thus no longer Muslim). He denied that the country that had given him refuge (Saudi Arabia) was jahiliyya and in 1975 came out publicly against Takfir, or judging Muslims as unbelievers.

Muhammad was an author in his own right and his writings are widespread in the Arab world and nearly as prolific as his brother’s. Jahiliyya in the Twentieth Century is perhaps his best-known work and gained notoriety as an alleged terrorist handbook (along with his brother’s Milestones) when the government claimed to find the two in police searches of plotters’ homes and environs.

Another very popular work, Islam: The Misunderstood Religion, expands on his brother’s ideas, describing the ways in which fundamentalist Islam is superior to the “perverted … inhuman … crazy … savage and backward” Western world.

Muhammad Qutb died at a hospital in Mecca on 4 April 2014 at the age of 95.

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