The basis of civilization as we know it goes along with the pretense of justice. Justice allows us to live together in unity, interact with others and exist in a society. However, there are many different societies that spread across the earth. Each has their own standards and own perceptions of justice. I will be exploring justice through the eyes of two prominent and major thinkers of the Arab world, Imam Khomeini and Sayyid Qutb.
These two contemporary Islamic thinkers are influential figures throughout Islam and their respective cultures. Within the religion of Islam, there are two major sections. While there are many more derivatives, Sunni and Shi’I are dominant. Not only are these thinkers unique in some religious aspects, I am attempting to explore the factors of belief through their writing. Imam Khomeini is Shi’I while Sayyid Qutb is Sunni.
First, I will detail a history of the two, in order to set the stage for their beliefs. Then I will explore a “western” ideal of justice, before delving into the other views on justice (and the implementation into society). After a thorough analysis, I will compare and contrast the major ideas between Khomeini and Qutb.
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Finally, the greatest marvel of these figures is how their words have been put into action. Therefore, to conclude this essay, I will delve into the current day examples of the principles these two thinkers hold. I will first begin by detailing the significant points of Sayyid Qutb’s life that led him to prominence.
Sayyid Qutb was an Egyptian author and educator, an Islamic theorist, poet, and a leading member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s and 1960s. He was born into an age of great change. In 1966, he was convicted of plotting the assassination of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser and was executed by hanging (which was accurate but accompanied by other members of what was known as the Muslim Brotherhood).
Qutb was the author of 24 books, with about 30 books unpublished, mostly due to the state’s destruction of his controversial works. He is best throughout the Islamic world for his work on the “social and political role of Islam,” in his books Social Justice and Ma'alim fi al-Tariq (Milestones), and his magnum opus, Fi Zilal al-Quran.
Because of Qutb’s disapproving views on American society, he is seen as the inspiration for violent groups like Al Queda. However, he is also known as a martyr that stood for the truth and justice Islam should strive towards. The reason for Qutb’s controversy began in the political turmoil Egypt found itself in. Egypt's “pro-Western” government found itself overthrown by the Free Officers Movement, headed by a man named Gamal Abdel Nasser.
His platform was to restore the government to include Islamic ideals, an idea that Qutb and the Muslim Brotherhood welcomed. Qutb and Nasser became allies and friends. They would share ideas on the statehood and how to improve the government… that is, until it became clear that Nasser had played them. They soon realized that he stood against that which the Islamism of the Brotherhood believed in.
Once Qutb realized Nasser’s agenda, he promptly cut off all ties with Nasser. This was not received well. Qutb and the brotherhood then began to plot to assassinate Nasser. However, they did not succeed and Qutb was thrown in jail for the first time. He was tortured and eventually killed for his opposition. Yet, this is where he did most of his most influential writing.
Words that will forever be remembered in the hearts of Sunni Muslims to come. Imam Khomeini was also known as Sayyid Ruhollah Mūsavi Khomeini. He was a politician and Marja. Marja, literally meaning 'source to imitate/follow' or 'religious reference', is inherently Shi’I, as it is given to those who have the highest authority, specifically to make legal decisions within the rules of Islamic law.
His, is a story of great reformation, as Khomeini is best known for his transformation of Iran into the world’s first Islamic republic in 1979. Khomeini was the author of more than 40 books, but he is perhaps best known for his political activism. Khomeini called democracy the equivalent of prostitution, ideas which landed him in exile for fifteen years. Yet, he rose to power and began his reformations.
Khomeini was known for his support of the hostage takers during the Iran hostage crisis and for referring to the United States as the 'Great Satan' and Soviet Union as the 'Lesser Satan.'. Khomeini has been scrutinized by “westerners” for his beliefs and human rights violations. He was known for his execution of thousands of political prisoners, war criminals and prisoners of the Iran–Iraq War .
On the other hand, he has also been la champion of Islamic thought. He was especially popular in his attempts to unify the Sunni and Shi’I denominations. Khomeini died due to health concerns that left the country in shock. On the day of his death there were incredible numbers of mourners that paid him tribute. So many that ten were trampled to death and nearly four-hundred injured. These two figures held immense importance for the societies in which they lived.
This is evident by the overwhelming support each possessed in their respective circles. There were both advocated for a change in their countries to a more “Islamic” line of thought. In psychology, there are six great tendencies:
- A sense of truth and curiosity;
- A sense of justice and patience;
- The sense of beauty;
- The sense of Godliness (tendency to worship);
- God is a knowledgeable aspect; if the tendency Worship is a practical aspect;
- Tendency to creativity and innovation.
Our lives revolve around justice, it is the cause of the unity, the sense of human community. Justice is an obstacle to the disagreement of society as well as the longest sought-and-most fundamental ideal of humankind.
It is human nature. However, the idea of justice shifts depending on the cultural lense you are viewing it through. For instance, throughout American history, the fight for liberty in the “land of the free,” has seemed to be our motto. As a democratic country, we cherish individual freedoms. This leads to the belief that laws should not be repressive except in the name of liberty and justice.
Throughout my life, justice has been presented through a legal system. Justice is when someone gets what they deserve, lives their best and fullest life (an idea that is subject to personal values of the quality of life). However, growing up in a non-religious home, I had never seen justice synonymous with holy belief. Justice is the bedrock of civilization. Though, it takes different forms. Now, I will be trying to switch my lens.
Seeing through the eyes of Khomeini and Qutb. These tow figures are fascinating to compare because of the denomination they associate with. Khomeini is a part of Irans prominent Shi’I population, while Qutb is apart of the Sunni majority. Justice has been a particular topic of interest in discussions of divine religions between political scholars.
Even more, the placement and 'implementation of justice' can be considered one of the greatest goals in the formation of the Islamic government. The affirmation and the establishment of religion through the prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), could have been considered to “bring happiness to humans through the fulfillment of justice and justice in their lives”.
Therefore, to understand the events seen rippling throughout the Islamic culture today (in the name of these figures), a comparison into the fundamental pieces of society could help with a broader comprehension of the actions taken. Sayyid Qutb believes that the pillar of justice is Islam.
Sayyid Qutb criticizes socialism and capitalism, which maintains justice solely because of external freedom and material needs, rather than the inward freedom of the man or woman themselves, through body and soul. This brings others closer and heading towards a similar goal of self-fulfillment. This, in turn, places no one above the other. Qutb believed all human beings should be created equal and therefore “no individual, group or class can restrict the balance of society by taking standards and dominate others”.
This leads into the importance of social cooperation. Islam arranges the individual freedom in the best way and realizes human equity in its most precise meanings, but it does not abandon the two, but gives the community his account and the humanity of his credibility and the goals of religion.
Therefore, the source of individual works is for individual freedom and besides it, it provides social effects that include individual and community assignments and so we call social cooperation. There are strong ties leading back to the words written in the Qur’an. His interpretations of justice and their implementation are synonymous with the Qur’an.
In his book Milestones, he advocates for a destruction of current day societies (even those that claim to be “Islamic”), as we have strayed too far from the original intentions of the Qur’an. (CITE) We do not live our lives justly in the eyes of Allah and his messengers. Imam Khomeini has some similar views to Sayyid Qutb. However, he views justice in as closely related to society as a whole.
Specifically, in his role as a governing official, he sought justice through the means of preventing the diversion of culture or deviance from the rules. It is a “cultivation of human beings and their refinement”. Through this line of thought, justice is then related to spirituality, ethics, and morality. Specifically, he believes that “justice without motivation and divine intention will not have meaning”.
He states on multiple occasions that justice is a middle ground to the polar opposites in society. Between two ends of extremes he finds ethical virtue. Justice is the cornerstone of other virtues and by doing so it establishes a balance and a scale to weigh societies adherence to.
However, most importantly, Khomeini views a life of justice can pave the way to a path that leads to forming the perfect man. This man would then believe in the true god, Allah, and his prosperity. Therefore, in the eyes of Khomeini, justice is a diverse subset in the many virtues of man.
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