by Sayyid Qutb
Mankind today is on the brink of a destruction, not because of the danger of complete annihilation, which is hanging over its head - this being just a symptom and not the real disease - but because humanity is devoid of those vital values which are necessary not only for its healthy development but also for its real progress. Even the Western world realises that the Western civilization is unable to present any healthy values for the guidance of mankind. It knows that it does not possess anything which will satisfy its own conscience and justify its existence.
Democracy in the West has become infertile to such an extent that it is borrowing from the systems of the Eastern bloc, especially in the economic system, under the name of socialism. It is the same with the Eastern bloc. Its social theories, foremost among which is Marxism, in the beginning attracted not only a large number of people from the East but also from the West, as it was a way of life based on a creed. But now Marxism is defeated on the plane of thought, and if it is stated that not a single nation in the world is truly Marxist, it will not be an exaggeration. On the whole this theory conflicts with man's nature and its needs. This ideology prospers only in a degenerate society or in a society, which has become cowed as a result of some form of prolonged dictatorship. But now, even under these circumstances, its materialistic economic system is failing, although this was the only foundation on which its structure was based. Russia, which is the leader of the communist countries, is itself suffering from shortages of food whereas during the times of the Tsars Russia used to produce surplus food, it now has to import food from abroad and has to sell its reserves of gold for this purpose. The main reason for this is the failure of the system of collective farming, or, one can say, the failure of a system, which is against human nature.
It is essential for mankind to have new leadership. The leadership of mankind by Western men is now on the decline, not because Western culture has become poor materially or because its economic and military power has become weak. The period of the Western system has come to an end primarily because it is deprived of those life-giving values, which enabled it to be the leader of mankind.
It is necessary for the new leadership to preserve and develop the material fruits of the creative genius of Europe, and also to provide mankind with such high ideals and values as have so far remained undiscovered by mankind, and which will also acquaint humanity with a way of life which is...harmonious with human nature, which is positive and constructive, and which is practicable.
Islam is the only system, which possesses these values and this way of life. The period of the resurgence of science has also come to an end. This period, which began with the Renaissance in the sixteenth century after Christianity and reached its zenith in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, does not possess a reviving spirit. All nationalistic and. chauvinistic ideologies which have appeared in modern times, and all the movements and theories derived from them, have also lost their vitality. In short, all man-made individual or collective theories have proved to be failures and unsustainable.
At this crucial and bewildering juncture, the turn of Islam and the Muslim community has arrived - the turn of Islam, which does not prohibit material inventions. Indeed, it counts it as an obligation on man from the very beginning of time, when Allah Almighty granted him the Khalifah (vicegerent) on earth, and regards it under certain conditions as worship of Allah and one of the purposes of man's creation.
'And when Your Lord said to the angels, 'Indeed, I will make upon the earth a Khalifah (vicegerent) ,' (Surah al-Baqarah 2:30)
'And I have not created jinn and men except that they worship Me! ' (Surah az-Zariyat 51:56)
Thus the turn of the Muslim community has come to fulfill, the task for mankind which Allah has enjoined upon it.
'You are the best nation produced (as an example) for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah...' (Surah Ali-Imran 3:110)
'And thus We have made you a median (i.e. just) community that you will be witnesses over the people and the Messenger will be a witness over you....' (Surah al-Baqarah 2:143)
Islam cannot fulfill its role except by taking a concrete form in a society, rather, in a nation; for man does not listen, especially in this age, to an abstract theory which is not seen materialized in a living society. From this point of view, we can say that the Muslim community has been extinct for a few centuries, for this Muslim community does not denote the name of a land in which Islam resides, nor is it a people whose forefathers lived under the Islamic system at some earlier time. It is the name of a group of people whose manners, ideas and concepts, rules and regulations, values and criteria, are all derived from the Islamic source. The Muslim community with these characteristics vanished at the moment the laws of Allah became suspended on earth.
If Islam is again to play the role of the leader of mankind, then it is necessary that the Muslim community be restored to its original form. It is necessary, to revive that Muslim community which is buried under the debris of the man-made traditions of several generations, and which it 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 the 'world of Islam!
I am aware that between the attempt at 'revival' and the attainment of 'leadership' there is a great distance, as the Muslim community has long ago vanished from existence and from observation, and the leadership of mankind has long since passed to other ideologies and other nations, other concepts and other systems. This was the era during which Europe's genius created its marvellous works in science, culture, law and material production, due to which mankind has progressed to great heights of creativity and material comfort. It is not easy to find fault with the inventors of such marvelous things, especially since what we call the 'world of Islam' is completely devoid of all this beauty.
But in spite of all this, it is necessary to revive Islam, The distance between the revival of Islam and the attainment of world leadership may be vast, and there may be great difficulties on the way; but the first step must be taken for the revival of Islam.
If we are to perform our task with insight and wisdom, we must first know clearly the nature of those qualities on the basis of which the Muslim community can fulfil its obligation as the leader of the world. This is essential so that we may not commit any blunders at the very first stage of its reconstruction and revival.
The Muslim community today is neither capable of nor required to present before mankind great genius in material inventions, which would make the world bow its head before its supremacy, and thus re-establish once more its world leadership. Europe's creative mind is far ahead in this area and at least for a few centuries to come we cannot expect to compete with Europe and attain supremacy over it in these fields.
Hence we must have some other quality, that quality which modern civilization does not possess. But this does not mean that we should neglect material progress. We should also give our full attention and effort in this direction, not because at this stage it - is an essential requirement for attaining the leadership of mankind, but because it is an essential condition for our very existence and Islam itself, which elevates man to the position of Khalifah (vicegerent) of Allah on earth, and which, under certain conditions, considers the responsibilities of this vicegerency as the worship of Allah Almighty and the purpose of Man's creation, makes material progress obligatory for us.
To attain the leadership of mankind, we must have something to offer besides material progress, and this other quality can only be a faith and away of life which, on the one hand conserves the benefits of modern science and technology, and on the other fulfills the basic human needs on the same level of excellence as technology has fulfilled them in the sphere of material comfort. And then this faith and way of life must take concrete form in a human society - in other words, in a Muslim society.
If we look at the sources and foundations of modern ways of living, it becomes clear that the whole world is steeped in Jahiliyyahh, and all the marvelous material comforts and high-level inventions do not diminish this ignorance. This Jahilijyahh is based on rebellion against Allah's sovereignty on earth. It transfers to man one of the greatest attributes of Allah, namely sovereignty, and makes some men lords over others. It is now not in that-simple and primitive form of the ancient jahiliyyahh, but takes the form of claiming that the right to create values, to legislate rules of collective behaviour, and to choose any way of life rests with men, without regard to what Allah Almighty has prescribed. The result of this rebellion against the authority of Allah is the oppression of His creatures. Thus the humiliation of the common man under the communist systems and the exploitation of individuals and nations due to greed for wealth and imperialism under the capitakst, systems are but a corollary of rebellion against Allah's authority and the denial of the dignity of man given to him by Allah Almighty.
In this respect, Islam's way of life is unique, for in systems other that Islam, some people worship others in some form or another. Only in the Islamic way of Hfe do all men become free from the servitude of some men to others and devote themselves to the worship of Allah alone, deriving guidance from Him alone, and bowing before Him alone.
This is where the roads separate, and this is that new concept which we possess and can present to mankind - this and the way of Hfe which this concept organizes for all the practical aspects of man's Hfe. This is that vital message of which mankind does not know. It is not a product of Western invention or of European genius, whether eastern or western.
Without doubt, we possess this new thing which is perfect to the highest degree, a thing which mankind does not know about and is not capable of producing.
But as we have stated before, the beauty of this new system cannot be appreciated unless it takes a concrete form. Hence it is essential that a community arrange its affairs according to it and show it to the world. In order to bring this about, we need to initiate the movement of Islamic revival in some Muslim country. Only such a revivalist movement will eventually attain to the status of world leadership, whether the distance is near or far.
How is it possible to start the task of reviving Islam?
It is necessary that there should be a vanguard which sets out with this determination and then keeps walking on the path, marching through the vast ocean of Jahiliyyahh which has encompassed the entire world. During its course, it should keep itself somewhat aloof from this all-encompassing Jahiliyyahh and should also keep some ties with it.
It is necessary that this vanguard should know the landmarks and the milestones of the road toward this goal so that they may recognize the starting place, the nature, the responsibilities and the ultimate purpose of this long journey. Not only this, but they ought to be aware of their position vis-a-vis this Jahiliyyahh, which has struck its stakes throughout the earth: when to cooperate with others and when to separate from them: what characteristics and qualities they should cultivate, and with what characteristics and qualities the Jahiliyyahh immediately surrounding them is armed; how to address the people of Jahiliyyahh in the language of Islam, and what topics and problems ought to be discussed; and where and how to obtain guidance in all these matters.
The milestones will necessarily be determined by the light of the first source of this faith - the Holy Qur'an - and from its basic teachings, and from the concept which it created in the minds of the first group of Muslims, those whom Allah raised to fulfill His will, those who once changed the course of human history in the direction ordained by Allah.
I have written "Milestones" for this vanguard, which I consider to be a waiting reality about to be materialised. Four chapters are taken from my commentary, 'In the Shade of the Qur'an, ' which I have changed here and there slightly to suit the topic. This introduction and the other chapters I wrote at various times. In writing these chapters I have set down the deep truths which I grasped during my meditations over the way of life presented in the Holy Qur'an. These thoughts may appear random and disconnected, but one thing is common among them; that is, these thoughts are 'milestones on the road,' and it is the nature of signs along the road to be disconnected. Taken together, these writings are a first installment of a series, and with Allah's help, I hope to write some more collections on this topic.
And the guidance is from Allah Almighty.