Saturday, October 8, 2011

Under The Shade of The Quran.......Sayyid Qutb

Many things were said about Sayyid Qutb. Unsavory, unpleasant things both from his enemies and from Muslims.

The West, post 9/11, regards him as 'an intellectual ammunition and high octane stuff' for the radicalization of Islam. The absolutist/ so-called Salafis/Wahabis who think they and only they have the absolute understanding of the Quran and hadiths stop short of saying that he was 'heretical'. Huwallahhualam.

I always hold the view , does not matter whether you are a grand Shaykh of Haram or Medinah or Al Azhar, that no one and I repeat NO ONE has a total monopoly of TRUTH.
It is Allah's mercy that HE allows differences of opinions and ijtihad amongst the learned. HE is the Absolute.

It is not our role to scrutinize word by word what previous scholars of Islam wrote and 'hammer' them. It is not fair because they are not here to defend themselves. I just take what I think is good from my reading of various scholars and do not presume that they are 100 % correct 100 % of the time. The Prophet aside, all the rest are not 'maksum'. With all due respect to them, they are human and they lived and think within their time frame and age, within the 'sciences' and wisdom of their time.

With this approach in mind, I do find Sayyid Qutb's 'Fii Zilalil Quran' very readable and illuminating. His cadence of language is beautiful. His reading and understanding of The Quran, subliminal. His writing can move mountains and change hearts !

I always keep Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad's [ Prof TJ Winter of Cambridge ]advice to heart when I read religious text:

The Qu’ran speaks of the God that’s utterly unlike ourselves, but also says God is closer to us than the jugular vein. He is with you wherever you may turn, wherever you turn, the Qu’ran says, there is the face of God. And whatever we see in terms of beauty in the world, in people’s faces, in humans, mutual compassion and love, there we discern that basic thirst that human beings have for the source of nourishment and richness and fullness that is in God. So it’s a kind of nostalgia. Religion is about awakening a nostalgia that we have for the place where we were before we were born, and the place that we hope we’ll return to after our death.

The ummah of Muhammad is like a supertanker. It's huge and does not change direction easily. There are no doubt voice of dissent and discontent here and there but by the grace of Allah we are still on the ship while the rest of the ahlul kitab have abandoned their ships, and out there somewhere in their life boats and for some even in the sea !

It is to these lost souls and lost sheep that we have a duty to help out.
And we cannot help other people when our hearts also are in need of a proper 'brasso'.
We have 2 choices. Either we go back to the desert of 620 AD and be stuck there with the camels or live in the 21st century with Steve Job's wonderful IPOD's, and all the paraphrenalias of this age, guided by the spirituality and imprinting that was branded by Mohammad [pbuh], the final messenger of God.

Sayyid Qutb is contemporary but even with Sayyid Qutb, whenever I have problem I would return back to the Quran, counter-check with other views. That is the beauty of Islam. Nonetheless it is ridiculous for us to walk around with blinkers like some people do, who when they see Muslims visiting graves, say ' these clowns are grave worshippers !'. This kind of mentality is detrimental to the unity of the Ummah. We have to get real and move on !

I hope you will enjoy 'Fi ZILALIL QURAN'. I find it a great read. If through your reading of him your hearts can change, alhamdullillah. A wee bit today and a wee bit tomorrow, is better than not changing at all. click here

Has bunallah wani' mal Wakeel
Unto Allah we put our trust. HE is al Wakeel [ Disposer of all things ]

Related article on the blog :
Redza by Abdal Hakim Murad, click here


letter from Dato' H to Nik Howk:

Doc Nik,

I am puzzled and repelled by all the unspeakable things that have happened in the past, all in the name of religion. And they continue until today...

How do you explain the horrendous pain that men have wrought upon one another in the name of the religions of the Book. We can go back to the days of the Jewish King David (when Yahweh spoke directly to destroy the other tribes - men, women, children, their cattle, sheep, goats and crops), to the years of the crusades (three waves of Christians gone mad with faith and bloodlust), to the terrible Inquisitions by Christians upon Christians (Catholics torturing and killing fellow Christians and Jews). I can list and describe the forms of tortures used at that time, all in the name of religion and God, from the "Rack" that pulls you apart, to the "Catharine Wheel" where they broke your bones, tie you spread eagled to the wheel, and then spin the wheel, to the delight and entertainment of the onlookers, until you die from the excruciating pain.

(As a matter of interest, Catharine was charged with having doubts about her faith and God. She was tortured and died on the horrible wheel. She was later made a saint, and a Cambridge college was named after her. Our Tunku attended the College. The College crest has the wheel on it. If some humor is allowed in this context, Oscar Wilde, when complaining about reports in the newspapers, wrote "In the old days, they had the Rack, now we have the Press.")

Again, the centuries of persecution of millions of poor old women in almost every town and village in Christian Europe on suspicion of being witches, who had short "trials through torture".
I can list for you the kinds and classification of the tortures that the poor, defenceless, old women had to endure before they were killed. Just because they were old, thin, toothless and ugly. They had no defence in the legal system at that time. Any lawyer or witness who dared to come forward would be roped in,, and similarly charged.

Such laws were in the books of several European countries for centuries, until the middle of the 19th century. As a matter of interest, such persecutions never happened in the centuries when the pagan Romans occupied Europe. Of course there were strict Roman laws that require everyone under Pax Romana to accept the gods of Rome. They were ruthless about it. Jesus was crucified because his teachings threatened the Roman system of beliefs. But the real fun really began after the collapse of the Roman Empire, when Christianity and Islam began to spread.

The torture and killing in the name of God and religion goes on today especially among Muslims, and between Jews and Muslims. In Palestine, the orthodox Jews believe that God wants them to reoccupy the Israel of the land of King David. In Iraq, the Shias electric drill the penises of Sunnis, and vice versa, before slowly beheading them with a long dagger. Women in Somalia continue being stoned to death because they were "tainted" - because a group of men had raped them. A woman in Afghanistan had her nose slashed off and left to die in the desert, just because she left her abusive husband and returned to her parents. All on the name of religion. And that is alright.

In any war or conflict, God is claimed to be on both sides. Even in civilized debates, every side of the Book, all three sides, and every Peeping Tom from JAIS, claims that God is on its side, and its side alone is right. All the others are wrong. Logically it makes no sense, unless all three share the Omnipotent God. But no, God forbid, that simply won't do!
So what does a simpleminded person like me do? Of course I am told the old, empty mantra, "Iman" and "ilm, ilm", "ilm". Scholars in books and videos, however, echo one another about faith and the sophistries of Sufism. The old, hoary, war cry that 'we are right, all the others are wrong' still permeate religious discussions, and that echo chamber puts me off. I do not accept that God behaves like prejudiced human beings, and takes sides in stupid human disputes.


You have serene outlook in your faith. You must have overcome the turmoil of anger over the centuries of war, death, pain, and misery, and the holding back of knowledge, and science, by religion, and the demands of beliefs. Personally, I think that if the religions had had their way in suppressing science, we would all still live in the hovels of the Dark Ages, hungry, sick, miserable, with a short life span of thirty years, and believing that diseases are caused by God's anger and retribution for our "sins". We would live and die superstitious and ignorant, knowing nothing about microbes and viruses, and that death is caused by them, and by forms of carcinoma, or high cholesterol, hypertension, high blood sugar, etc.

Science, despite being blocked many times by religion, continues to expand our knowledge and our horizons. There is no Christian Science or Islamic Science. In our schools here, the talk is all about Islamic science. Students are not taught that there is just Science - a pursuit of knowledge based on facts, evidence, and rigorous methodology. There is no Christian Cardiology or Islamic Cardiology. There is just the science of cardiology, based on empirical facts, methodology, and procedures. The cardiology that you, yourself, practise. The healing profession must be based on science. Faith healing is humbug, and preys on the gullible. God knows the depth of the irony that the world is full of gullible people!!!

Dato' H



Well said Dato'. Your argument , though nothing new in its content, it does reflect erudite scholarship and a certain era long gone.
But you are over generalizing too much and myopic and I am not surprised since you are from Cambridge

You chose to forget that when Tariq Ziad, the Berber, crossed over the Strait of Jabal Tariq in the 7th century AD and freed Europe from barbarism,
the civilizing influence of Islam on Europe extended close to 10 centuries until it ended with the terrible Spanish inquisition. Barbarity and intolerance is not an Islamic virtue.[ click here, for science and Islam ]
I am not a student of history, I am a man of science. Thus I do not share your myopic view on history.

One, especially if schooled in the West, would easily tend to forget and disregard easily the civility of the Ottomans, who ruled some three quarters of the civilized world then,from the Adriatic Sea to China, until its later decadence and degeneration due to putting The Book aside.

Muslim lands were safe haven for European Jews for over 13 centuries. That piece of history, the West and Jews in particular would not like the world to know.
The Jews of today have much to thank the late sultans of the golden Seljuk era and even the Muslims of Cordaba and Seville era for their existence today. If you had left them to the Trinitarians , they would have long disappeared from the face of this earth ! So much for putting 'Jesus' on the cross !

Now the Palestinians and the Arabs are bearing the burden of guilt of the Europeans. But then only the victors write and dictate history, unfortunately.

I do not wish to get into another prolong pointless polemic with you over Islam versus Humanism Dato'. I say Islam here Dato and not religions as a whole because I do not wish to fall into the modernist's trap that 'all religions are the same'. This is the age of political correctness but we Muslims must extra careful. This touch the very basis of our AQIDAH.

No ! Islam is not the same. We are still intact. Our Book is still there despite all the noise here and there within, we are still on the 'ship'. If the others of the ahlil kitab have by now 'abandoned their ships and floating in the sea, we are still very much on board. We Muslim must now stop apologizing, like you do, and instead realize our good fate.

If at this late age in your life you must still insist we are still the same as others , I must wish the best of luck to you Dato.

Nik Howk

postscript :
Yes admittedly we are now quite down and out but if we give ourselves time, we will again be a civilizing influence on this present mad mad world. We just need to know our position in the realm of things. We have to feel proud to be Muslims !
We need to feel deep pain and anguish when scholars like Anwar Awlaki [ click here ]got 'droned' by clowns like Obama et al. We have to think Islam.

We have to separate the foliage and the trees and branches, and see the forest.
If Leopold Weiss aka Muhammad Asad can think for us why can't we do the same ??!!
Lo and behold, we are back to ilm, ilm , ilm and ilm.


Reply from Dato' H :

Dear Dr. Nik,

It is always a delight to hear from you.

First of all, I did not go to Cambridge; you mistook me for my baby sister, Zuraina. She is the smart one. She went to Cambridge, and then won a doctoral scholarship to Yale. She later became professor of archeology at USM. She is now prof emeritus, and advisor on Heritage to Dato Rais Yatim. She has written several technical books on archeology, is discoverer of the Perak Man (that pushed Malaysian history back by 30,000 years). She is highly regarded by the people at the Smithsonian and at UNESCO. We meet from time to time over dinner, in fact we had dinner just last week. I am proud of her, but I do not have her credentials, I am afraid.

However, if university education has done anything for me at all, it has made me forever curious, and not easily taken in by claims without evidence. As a diplomat, and a civil servant, I had always been driven by the need to have fact and/reason-based policies. (Perhaps this is something today's civil servants may need to think about.)

I agree with your comment that I am not learned in the history and philosophy of Islam. True. Shallow? Hmm, in a way, perhaps. But myopic? I don't think so. I can see the contours of history clearly, of course without the details that academic historians and theologians have. I see them in clear outlines - from the formation of the planet out of a cloud of cosmic dust, its hot birth and the billion years of cooling period to create its surface crust, and releasing the gases to make water, nitrogen and oxygen; another billion years for unicellular life to form in the primordial soup, rich life forms in the sea before they gradually came up to the land, and the early plant and animal life on the planet.

These evolve very, very, gradually, over a billion years, until the dinosaurs (of thousands of species) ruled the earth for nearly half a billion years. After they were wiped fairly recently by a cataclysmic event, just 65 million years ago, the mammals and birds (the birds being the descendants of dinosaurs) had a chance to survive, evolve, and branch out into various species. Very recently, one such species developed into apes and, only six million years ago, this species branched out again, and one branch went on circa 200,000 years ago to develop gradually into modern man. The history of man, over the last 200,000 years, was marked by periods of near extinction, from hunger, diseases, and the ice ages. At one point, our population dwindled down to less than 10,000 individuals. We only knew a settled community and understood its structure, and the psychological demands of that structure, circa five thousand years ago. Very, very recently, in terms of actual history on the planet.

Well, the above is a very brief paraphrasing of evolution and history - a veritable red flag to you. Now you are really, really angry, and ready to gore me to death. But, dear Dr. Nik, hold on. The above line of reasoning is backed by various lines of evidence, from fossil and archeological to genetic. The evidence is overpowering. The fossil evidence is there. And the genetic evidence, showing the gene similarities with other creatures and birds and trees and plants are all there. Modern biology, as all universities now teach, is evolutionary biology. Can all universities be wrong?

How can anybody argue against such evidence? As a doctor (certainly trained in the methodology of science when you were in London) you cannot deny evidence. We must go where the evidence takes us. But, having said that, I also agree that absence of evidence is no evidence of absence. True. This is where Tariq Ramadan (a St. Anthony's College guy) slips his argument in, placing faith in the mechanism of logic, using the very rigour of logic. I anticipate this is where you, too, will come in. Cutting to the chase, this is the very nexus of the intellectual debate on science and religion.

As KD described it, you are more inclined to the "cut and thrust", well that is how I would put it in its most concise way. Doctor jantung, this is the cut and thrust you like. The rest are details and byways. I was once taught that an academic will look at a piece of jewellery, choose a stone in it, and polish that individual stone till it shines. In short, they specialise, and many scholars contribute to add our overall knowledge, until the whole piece of jewellery shines brightly. Few individual scholars are inclined to take the larger view, like Acton, Toynbee, AJP Taylor, Robert Fisk, etc. and offer us a full narrative.

A great danger facing the world is the proselytizing zeal among the three religions of the Book. You will disagree, of course, my dear Doctor. But one can see the irrational zeal and violence of the people involved in it. The recent assassination of a cabinet minister in Pakistan, the death sentence passed on his assassin, and the resulting irrational uproar of the Pakistanis is frightening. You know this case well, I am sure. It will tear Pakistan apart. Humanity and reason vaporize instantly in that atmosphere. Somehow, religion ignites a dangerous, irrational response in people.

Now, dear Nadzrul is doing some research and will fire all starboard cannons at me. I can see the grey puffs of smoke against the blue skies - the explosive shells are on the way!


Dato' H



I can see that you are still well stuck to your evolutionary zeal.Oh my God!
Who say I do not believe in 'evolution of the species' ?
Just because your scientists cannot really tie up 'evolution of the species' and complete the 'million mile' dots with the 'introduction' of the primordial man, Nabi Adam on this planet earth, does not necessarily negate evolution.

I am keeping some pieces of metals and wood in my garage.
Who knows in a couple of millions years we can get a Bentley Turbo out of it.........

Of course you and I would not be around to celebrate it and drive it then.
In my realms of things, you might say jokingly that I would be one of those struggling souls trying to figure out how to cross the 'Sirat'.

Nik Howk


From Dato' H :


I am puzzled how a few sticks and pieces of metal can ever become a Bentley! An attempt to scoff at Evolution? Are you alluding to the discredited argument by the clergyman William Paley who, while walking on a beach, found a watch in the sand. He thought it was an irrefutable argument that such a delicate, intricate piece of mechanism MUST have had an intelligent designer and maker, and ergo, we all must have had an "Intelligent Designer"! Of course, it was silly, and his argument was quickly proved false.

Dato H



Precisely. You got it on the dot !
This is a digression from our 'Fi Zilalil Quran' but not entirely out of order. Quran is after all about HIM and HIS creation and created beings !
Since this 'old man', a new lover of science, must insist, we will carry on.

I reckon you are an arts man. You are just a new lover of science, all your life being in the arts.
Science to you mean everything.....theories, hypotheses and conjectures become incontrovertible facts! Life for the new lover of science is easy. The dots connecting the 'facts and fancies' in science can be a million miles apart, as your highly talented archeologist sister would tell you, but since science is a toy to people like you , you can swallow them all, the facts, the craps and all.

Evolution for the species do happened. There are incontrovertible evidence for it. I accept that.

Cannot you accept that MAN was planted on earth after millions of years of evolution of species.
Why cant you accept that ?
That God ,that create the Big Bang and the evolution of species, with a 'Kun Fayakun', can plant the primordial man, Adam and his partner on planet earth.
What is so difficult about it. You mean your 'god' [ I mean knowledge ] does not allow God to be there !?

Let us visit the Quran and have a peep:

--sura 21, verse 30:
"Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together, then We clove them
asunder and We got every living thing out of the water. Will they not then believe?"

--sura 41 verse 11:
on the earth's creation:
"Moreover (God) turned to the Heaven when it was smoke and said to it and to the earth..."

The reference to a separation process (fatq) of an primary single mass whose elements were initially
fused together (ratq). It must be noted that in Arabic 'fatq' is the action of breaking, diffusing, separating,
and that 'ratq' is the action of fusing or binding together elements to make a homogenous whole.
This concept of the separation of a whole into several parts is noted in other passages of the Book
with reference to multiple worlds. The first verse of the first sura in the Qur'an proclaims, after the
opening invocation, the following: "In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful", "Praise be to God,
Lord of the Worlds."

Of course you will say, what the heck , Dr Nik ,'doctor jantung', a man of science, is just quoting from Maurice Buccaile, another man of science.

But this is getting a wee bit protracted and tedious and I promised my grown up daughter once not again to get into another prolonged debate with you regarding creation, so let me end with this surah :

Verily in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day - there are indeed signs for men of understanding; Men who remember Allah, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the creation of the heavens and the earth (with the thought) "Our Lord! Not for nothing have You created (all) this. Glory to You! Give us salvation from the suffering of the Fire."
ali imran, verse 190-191.

You, your belief, me, mine Dato'
Warmest Regards,

Nik Howk


Related Articles in The Blog :
Letter To An Agnostic Friend, click here
Letter To An Agnostic Friend : A Rebuttal by Dato' H, click here
Same Universe, Same Physics but a Dichotomy of Perspective, href="">click here
Of Stephen Hawking, The Big Bang, The Universe and The Arash, click here

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