About the Book
Egyptian Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966) published Ma’alim fi’l-Tariq (known, in English, as Milestones or Signposts on the Path) in 1964. Since that time, the book has become one of the 20th Century’s most influential Islamic texts, available in almost every language, with over 2000 editions in print.
Milestones has inspired both Islamist terrorist organizations (like al Qaeda and Egyptian Islamic Jihad) and supplied the ideological basis for the Muslim Brotherhood’s ultimate political goals as well as their tactics. The Muslim Brotherhood (a group to which Qutb belonged since 1951) has recently praised him, saying: “[Qutb] does for the Islamic world what John Locke did for western democracy and liberalism.”
Qutb and Maududi (see Jihad in Islam and Tafhim al-Qur’an, both jihad-endorsing texts found in American mosques) held similar views on jihad, warfare of conquest against non-Muslims, the importance of the Shari’a state, and influenced each other greatly. In addition to Islamic sources, both writers appropriated criticism of western democracy and the concept of a ‘revolutionary vanguard’ from the Marxist-Leninist doctrine and propaganda in circulation in their home countries.
In Milestones, Qutb operationalized, ‘progressive revelation’ or abrogation, a mainstream concept in Islamic law and Qur’anic interpretation. The traditional view, which Qutb held, explained inconsistencies in the Qur’an by claiming that, as Islam was revealed in “stages,” so goes the ideal progression to an openly jihadist Shari’a state.
Thus, wherever an Islamic community exists which is a concrete example of the divinely-ordained system of life, it has a God-given right to step forward and take control of the political authority so that it may establish the divine system on earth…. When God restrained Muslims from Jihad for a certain period, it was a question of strategy rather than of principle; this was a matter pertaining to the requirements of the movement and not to belief. Only in the light of this explanation can we understand those verses of the Holy Qur’an which are concerned with the various stages of this movement. In reading these verses, we should always keep in mind that one of their meanings is related to the particular stages of the development of Islam, while there is another general meaning which is related to the unchangeable and eternal message of Islam. Chapter 4
As can be seen from the quote above (as well as those below), Qutb’s Milestones is clearly a jihadist tract; it is a book brimming with political intention rather than a guide for personal religious observance. When applied to this country, Milestones— like the rest of Qutb’s work– is unambiguous in its desire to overturn the American (i.e., non-Shari’a) government and legal system.
Americans should be alarmed that, in addition to it’s popularity in the Middle East and among groups like Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood (which have openly declared jihad against the west) Qutb’s books are popular texts in American mosques. The Mapping Shari’a Project found that Milestones and/or Maududi’s very similar Jihad in Islam is recommended or distributed by an alarming 51% of American mosques. While this figure does not take into account the level of ‘radicalization’ within the US Muslim community at large, it corroborates testimony by Sufi Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani in 1999 that, 80% of US mosques have been taken over by an “extremist ideology.”
The American Muslim website commends Milestones to its readers in its “List of Recommended Books on Islam.” The website also recommends work by the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yusuf al-Qaradawi. It is no surprise that the website and its author, Sheila Musaji, have been highly critical of US anti-terror policy and any negative criticism of Islamism and the Muslim Brotherhood. The writing of The American Muslim and Musaji should be assessed in light of her promotion of a book advocating the violent overthrow of non-Shari’a-based governments like ours.
Sayyid Qutb’s Ma’alim fi’l-Tariq or Milestones is by far the most readily-available text assessed by the Mapping Shari’a Project. (Alongside Maududi’s Jihad in Islam, it is also the most political.) Amazon.com lists several versions in English, including a budget-prided ($6) edition published by the Islamic Book Service in 2006, Kazi Publications lists a Kindle e-book version for a similar price.
Milestones has been distributed on its own as a monograph by the International Islamic Federation Of Student Organizations. According to its website, the IIFSO’s mission is to “serve, develop, integrate, and represent the Islamic student organizations worldwide while building bridges with other cultures in order to participate in building a brighter future for Muslim youth.” On the same page, the IIFSO claims it:
specializes in ideologically oriented works by Abul Ala Maududi, Sayyid Qutb, Muhammad Qutb and Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, among others. The IIFSO’s books are printed in their original language (Urdu, Arabic) as well as in translations to English, French and Spanish.
The organization’s Facebook page, interestingly, lists its political views as, “moderate.”
Read It For Yourself
Author: Sayyid Qutb
Title: Ma’alim fi-l-Tariq (Milestones) (PDF, 86 pages, 373KB)
- The third kind [of non-Muslim] were those with whom there was neither a treaty nor were they fighting against the Prophet-peace be on him-, or those with whom no term of expiration was stated. Concerning these, it was commanded that they be given four months’ notice of expiration, at the end of which they should be considered open enemies and fought with. Chapter 4
- If someone does this [prevents others from accepting Islam], then it is the duty of Islam to fight him until either he is killed or until he declares his submission. Chapter 4
- 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 way of life, until they are subdued and pay Jiziyah. Chapter 4
- This group of thinkers, who are a product of the sorry state of the present Muslim generation, have nothing but the label of Islam and have laid down their spiritual and rational arms in defeat. They say, “Islam has prescribed only defensive war”!… Chapter 4
- When writers with defeatist and apologetic mentalities write about “Jihad in Islam,” trying to remove this ‘blot’ from Islam, then they are mixing up two things: first, that this f religion forbids the imposition of its belief by force, as is clear from the verse, “There is no compulsion in religion”(2:256), while on the other hand it tries to annihilate all those political and material powers which stand between people and Islam, which force one people to bow before another people and prevent them from accepting the sovereignty of God. These two principles have no relation to one another nor is there room to mix them. In spite of this, these defeatist-type people try to mix the two aspects and want to confine Jihad to what today is called ‘defensive war’. Chapter 4
- Anyone who understands this particular character of this religion will also understand the place of Jihad bi al-sayf (striving through fighting), which is to clear the way for striving through preaching in the application of the Islamic movement. He will understand that Islam is not a defensive movement in the narrow sense which today is technically called a defensive war. This narrow meaning is ascribed to it by those who are under the pressure of circumstances and are defeated by the wily attacks of the orientalists, who distort the concept of Islamic Jihad. It was a movement to wipe out tyranny and to introduce true freedom to mankind, using resources according to the actual human situation, and it had definite stages, for each of which it utilized new methods. Chapter 4
- If we insist on calling Islamic Jihad 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. These elements take the form of beliefs and concepts, as well as of political systems, based on economic, racial or class distinctions. When Islam first came into existence, the world was full of such systems, and the present-day Jahiliyyah also has various kinds of such systems. Chapter 4
- Since the objective of the message of Islam is a decisive declaration of man’s freedom, not merely on the philosophical plane but also in the actual conditions of life, it must employ Jihad. It is immaterial whether the homeland of Islam – in the true Islamic sense, Dar al-Islam – is in a condition of peace or whether it is threatened by its neighbors. Chapter 4
- With these verses from the Qur’an and with many Traditions of the Prophet -peace be on him – in praise of Jihad, and with the entire history of Islam, which is full of Jihad, the heart of every Muslim rejects that explanation of Jihad invented by those people whose minds have accepted defeat under unfavorable conditions and under the attacks on Islamic Jihad by the shrewd orientalists. Chapter 4
- What kind of a man is it who, after listening to the commandment of God and the Traditions of the Prophet – peace be on him-and after reading about the events which occurred during the Islamic Jihad, still thinks that it is a temporary injunction related to transient conditions and that it is concerned only with the defense of the borders? Chapter 4
- Thus, this struggle is not a temporary phase but an eternal state – an eternal state, as truth and falsehood cannot co-exist on this earth. Whenever Islam stood up with the universal declaration that God’s Lordship should be established over the entire earth and that men should become free from servitude to other men, the usurpers of God’s authority on earth have struck out against it fiercely and have never tolerated it. It became incumbent upon Islam to strike back and release man throughout the earth from the grip of these usurpers. The eternal struggle for the freedom of man will continue until the religion is purified for God. Chapter 4
- The Jihad of Islam is to secure complete freedom for every man throughout the world by releasing him from servitude to other human beings so that he may serve his God, Who IS One and Who has no associates. This is in itself a sufficient reason for Jihad. These were the only reasons in the hearts of Muslim warriors. If they had been asked the question “Why are you fighting?” none would have answered, “My country is in danger; I am fighting for its defense” or “The Persians and the Romans have come upon us”, or, “We want to extend our dominion and want more spoils. Chapter 4
- Those who say that Islamic Jihad was merely for the defense of the ‘homeland of Islam’ diminish the greatness of the Islamic way of life and consider it less important than their ‘homeland’. Chapter 4
- We ought not to be deceived or embarrassed by the attacks of the orientalists on the origin of Jihad, nor lose self- confidence under the pressure of present conditions and the weight of the great powers of the world to such an extent that we try to find reasons for Islamic Jihad outside the nature of this religion, and try to show that it was a defensive measure under temporary conditions. The need for Jihad remains, and will continue to remain, whether these conditions exist or not! Chapter 4
- Jihad in Islam is simply a name for striving to make this system of life [Islam] dominant in the world. Chapter 4
- But the movement which is a natural outgrowth of the Islamic belief and which is the essence of the Islamic society does not let any individual hide himself. Every individual of this society must move! There should be a movement in his belief, a movement in his blood, a movement in his community, and in the structure of this organic society, and as the Jahiliyyah is all around him, and its residual influences in his mind and in the minds of those around him, the struggle goes on and the Jihad continues until the Day of Resurrection. Chapter 7
- But any place where the Islamic Shari’ah is not enforced and where Islam is not dominant becomes the home of Hostility (Dar-ul-Harb) for both the Muslim and the Dhimmi. A Muslim will remain prepared to fight against it, whether it be his birthplace or a place where his relatives reside or where his property or any other material interests are located. Chapter 9
- It was also explained that war should be declared against those from among the People of the Book [16 Christians and Jews] who declare open enmity, until they agree to pay Jiziyah or accept Islam. Chapter 4
- Concerning the polytheists and the hypocrites, it was commanded in this chapter that Jihad be declared against them and that they be treated harshly. The Prophet-peace be on him-carried on Jihad against the polytheists by fighting and against the hypocrites by preaching and argument. Chapter 4
- Thus, after the revelation of the chapter Bara’ah, the unbelievers were of three kinds: adversaries in war, people with treaties, and Dhimmies [second-class citizens within the Islamic state]. The people with treaties eventually became Muslims, so there were only two kinds left: people at war and Dhimmies. Chapter 4
- There is only one place on earth which can be called the home of Islam (Dar-ul-Islam), and it is that place where the Islamic state is established and the Shari’ah is the authority and God’s limits are observed, and where all the Muslims administer the affairs of the state with mutual consultation. The rest of the world is the home of hostility (Dar-ul-Harb). A Muslim can have only two possible relations with Dar-ul- Harb: peace with a contractual agreement, or war. Chapter 9