Saturday, March 31, 2007

Sayyid Qutb on History

In Milestones, Sayyid Qutb makes some remarks about the history of human civilization. He made an interesting point: Islam brings out the humanity of human beings, and man-made systems bring out their animalistic characteristics. The whole of history, except for a few illumined exceptions in which people were guided by divinely inspired principles, can be seen as the drive for food, shelter, and sex.

This struck me because it is similar to the Darwinist theory of history: that human beings are just like animals, and their history is merely a more sophisticated version of survival of the fittest. So one can hardly blame the Darwinists for their twisted view of humankind–that’s the conclusion you might come to if you look at the history of civilization devoid of belief in God.

Islam, however, brings out the best in people. It even transforms the animalistic characteristics of human beings, the need for materialism and the physical drive, into worship and something beyond the self. Islam elevates the human being beyond the confines of physical existence, and emphasizes the humanity. Shaikh Sayyid Qutb doesn’t go much into what this humanity is. But I had some thoughts–

the mind, soul, intellect, thought, self-awareness, conscience, bonds with others, emotions. Everything that takes the human soul out of the body and into a greater awareness of Allah.

So, in a way, all that is human … is what is not.

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