SAYYID QUTB (1906–1966) is widely regarded as the leading proponent of Islamic fundamentalism in the twentieth century. Born in a small village in rural Egypt, Qutb started out as a novelist and a poet before beginning to write critically of the government on both social and religious grounds. He later became a key member of the Muslim Brotherhood, editing their journal and producing fierce polemics against the diminishment of traditional Islamic virtues throughout the Muslim world. In 1954, after a failed assassination attempt on Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, Qutb and many other members of the Brotherhood were arrested. He spent most his last decade of life in prison, where he continued to write until his execution in 1966.
In this volume, Yvonne Haddad traces Qutb’s development from nationalist to Islamist to revolutionary. Examining the evolution of his thinking, she assesses whether the two years he spent in America inspired his beliefs or merely entrenched existing views. Considering his legacy, including his formative influence on core members of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, she explores how his works have been read and interpreted in different ways to produce a balanced picture of a highly controversial figure.