Continuing a study of Sayyid Qutb’s book, Milestones. Qutb is widely regarded as one of the foundational thinkers behind radical Islam.
Islam is, for Qutb, an imminently practical religion, providing not just a system of belief but a way of life, a way of ordering society according to God’s very clearly defined laws. The underlying presupposition is that God is supreme over all things and is to be supremely honored: “Every aspect of life should be under the sovereignty of God, and those who rebel against God’s sovereignty and usurp it for themselves should be opposed.” (35) Qutb characteristically restates the point later when he summarizes the message of the prophets as saying: “Human beings should recognize that their true Sustainer and Lord is One God, that they should submit to Him Alone, and that the lordship of man be eliminated.” (45) All people should live in submission to God, not only in theory but in the reality of their daily affairs, and submission to God means submitting to his law, Shari’ah. Submitting to any other law is, ultimately, rebellion against God; it is choosing to serve men rather than God, which is idolatry. For this reason, Qutb is adamant that the Muslim community cannot truly exist without Shari’ah. He defines Shari’ah as “everything legislated by God for ordering man’s life.” (107)
Of course, he believes that Shari’ah is part of the universal law of God written into the very nature of humanity and, for that matter, all of creation. Thus when a society lives under Shari’ah brings human beings into true life, such that “their lives may become harmonious and in tune with the rest of the universe.” (89) As a universal law in which all people are treated alike, Shari’ah also allows human beings to finally live in harmony with each other also. The establishment of God’s law thus brings immeasurable benefits to humanity, the blessings that result from submitting to God.
One of the great contrasts between the Islamic worldview and that of the West is this idea that church and state are separate spheres. The state is inherently a secular institution, and the church is relegated to spiritual concerns. To Muslims this makes no sense whatsoever, and is perceived as a great weakness of the West and of Christianity. Either God is honored, respected, and obeyed or he is not. It is an all or nothing affair and it happens at the societal level, not just the individual level.