The Corner

There is No God But Politics

Theodore Dalrymple makes a similar argument to my own but with great philosophical depth. An excerpt from a really worthwhile essay:

The violent imposition of a socialist and Islamic society is justified in the same way in Marx and Qutb: if people were really free, that is to say suffering from neither false consciousness not jahilliyah (ignorance of divine guidance), they would accept the socialist or Islamic state not merely without demur, but joyously, as being for their own good freely chosen. True freedom in both Marx and Qutb is the recognition of necessity. Everything that prevents people from seeing the truth of their messages is an enemy of real, as against merely apparent, freedom.

There is very little that is specifically spiritual in Qutb’s book: it is a political rather than a religious manifesto. And like Marx, he insists that Islam is not so much a body of doctrine or theory or facts, but a method. His notion is uncommonly like the Marxist one of praxis, of a dialectical relationship between theory and practice. Here is what he says about the Islamic society to come:

Only when such a society comes into being, faces various

practical problems, and needs a system of law, the Islam initiates

the constitution of law and injunctions, rules and regulations.

Over and over again he insists, just like Marx, that Islam is not doctrine, but a unified theory and practice.

Qutb insists that the triumph of Islam is the only way that what he calls the lordship of man over man will be abolished, just as Marx and Marxists insist that the triumph of Marxism is the only way that the exploitation of man by man will cease.

Marx believed that man once lived in a state of primitive communism which ended with the division of labour. Qutb believes (much less excusably or plausibly) that the first generations after Mohammed lived in a perfectly functioning Islamic society. He doesn’t ask himself, at least not in this book, why it was, then, that three of the four supposedly rightly-guided caliphs were brutally murdered. This is a very odd kind of perfection, to say the least. But, just as the division of labour came and spoiled primitive communism, so did Greek philosophy and other innovations come and spoil the perfect Islamic society. Why perfection should fall apart because of outside influences – could perfection be as imperfect as that? – is a question Qutb does not ask himself.

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