history and old prophetic traditions, allowed both coping with the past and projecting a markedly different future.
When sayyid Qutb, at the beginning of his seminal islamist manifesto Milestones (1964), wrote that “mankind today is on the brink of a precipice,” he invited a radical revival of the original muslim community that had to be the nucleus of God’s reign on earth, because this community alone would be able to lead a muslim world and global humankind devoid of spiritual val- ues. “it is necessary to revive that muslim community which is buried under the debris of the man-made traditions of several generations, and which is crushed under the weight of those false laws and customs which are not even remotely related to the islamic teachings, and which, in spite of all this, calls itself ‘world of islam.’”22 as for american missionaries before him, revival was a key term for Qutb, but linked to “salutary violence.” Qutb had to compete with and demarcate himself from the strong transnational appeal of revolutionary socialism. Frantz Fanon propagated at that time social-rev- olutionary violence and its salutary community-founding impact among op- pressed people.23 refusal of socialist atheism; disillusion over contemporary egypt, where Qutb had grown up and experienced years of imprisonment; and embarrassment at the way of life in the United states, where he had lived for two years, led to his resolute turn to a “muslim authenticity” beyond the existing muslim world and culture. he seminally called for an islamic revo- lution to overcome a present that he judged unbearable and unacceptable. But there was not much of a positive future, no modern islamic or peacefully apocalyptic perspective, beyond the violent breaks that he asked for. his militant apocalypticism is reminiscent of that of the anti-roman Zealots.24
revival generally contains criticism of established religion, compared to an earlier Golden age. in Qutb’s case, the criticism is similar to that which american missionaries addressed to a Christianity they wanted to restore in the near east to its “primitive purity,” thus preparing for parousia. (This was the explicit aBCFm strategy after 1830.) in contrast to Qutb, whose influential writing began to combine elements of Qu’ranic anti-Judaism and european anti-semitism, the american missionaries first used, not opposed, the existing global dynamics; and they gave the Jews a privileged, peculiarly “restored” place. The declared goal of both Qutb and the american mission- aries was eschatological: “the establishing of the dominion of God on earth” (Qutb). But they would not have agreed on the simultaneous necessity, as Qutb claimed, of pervasive war as “a movement to wipe out tyranny and to introduce true freedom to mankind,” since the early church, which too had experienced jail, torture, and execution, had refused to call for it, opting for faith in God’s agency.25