Can we learn from the many books of Sayyid Qutb despite the fact that some scholars have warned against them?
Ustaadh Sayyid Qutb is not a scholar and he is not known for any contribution in hadeeth, fiqh or tafseer. Rather he was a literary man who loved Islam, defended it and promoted it, and he died for its sake – as it appears to us – and we ask Allah to cause him to be among the martyrs.
He wrote various books, in which he got somethings right and made some mistakes. With regard to the scholars who fell into errors with regard to ‘aqeedah (belief), hadeeth or fiqh, we do not think that any of the scholars have said that it is haraam to learn from them altogether or to refrain from quoting them altogether. This is despite the fact that some of them promoted their beliefs and their fiqhi madhhabs. This is a an example of the fair-mindedness of Ahl as-Sunnah towards those who differ from them.
Ustaadh Sayyid Qutb is not excluded from this fair-mindedness of Ahl as-Sunnah. Hence we see the leaders of Ahl as-Sunnah in our own time quoting from those parts of his books that are in accordance with the beliefs and methodology of Ahl as-Sunnah. For example:
Shaykh Muhammad Naasir ad-Deen al-Albaani (may Allah have mercy on him) quoted nearly three pages from him in the introduction to his book Mukhtasar al-‘Aluw, starting with the words: “The great ustaadh Sayyid Qutb (may Allah have mercy on him)…” Merely quoting from him is not regarded as praising him; rather the praise comes in the words with which Shaykh al-Albaani (may Allah have mercy on him) spoke of him: “ustaadh”, “great”, “may Allah have mercy on him”.
Shaykh Saalih al-Fawzaan (may Allah preserve him) narrated four quotations from him in his book at-Tahqeeqaat al-Mardiyyah fi’l-Mabaahith al-Faradiyyah, pp. 21-24.
Our scholars learned fair-mindedness from the teachings of Islam and they taught that to others, preaching the importance of this attitude. It is only fair to say that we should not shun the writings of Sayyid Qutb altogether; however it is also a religious duty to highlight the mistakes that he made so that others who read his words will not be confused by those mistakes. But this is not limited only to Sayyid Qutb; rather it also applies to anyone who follows the path of Ahl as-Sunnah. Our scholars warned against following anyone in matters that he got wrong. The scholars of the Standing Committee have issued many fatwas warning against the mistakes of some who belong to Ahl as-Sunnah, stating that they made mistakes in the way they understood some Islamic beliefs.
But what is very strange is what we see on the part of some of those who belong to Ahl as-Sunnah, who widely quote the criticisms made by some leading scholars of the writings of Sayyid Qutb, whilst ignoring what those scholars and imams said about the mistakes of their own shaykhs! So they accept what the scholars say about some people but not others. Whoever wants to see an example of following whims and desires, this is a perfect example.
There follow some comments by the scholars about the writings of Sayyid Qutb; they all have one thing in common, which is that we may accept what is sound and correct and we should reject what is unsound and incorrect; this is not only applicable to the books of Sayyid Qutb.
Shaykh Muhammad Naasir ad-Deen al-Albaani (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
The man wrote a book called al-‘Adaalah al-Ijtimaa‘iyyah (Social Justice) which is worthless, but his book Ma‘aalim ‘ala at-Tareeq (Milestones) contains some very valuable ideas.
Tape no. 784, from Silsilat al-Huda wa’n-Noor.
On the same tape, Shaykh al-Albaani (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
I believe that the man is not a scholar, but he spoke words of truth – especially when he was in prison – that sound as if they were inspired. End quote.
He also said:
The man is not a scholar but he wrote some words that shine with guidance and reflect knowledge, such as the phrase “manhaj hayaat (a way of life)”. I believe this concept was adopted by many of our Salafi brothers, that “Laa ilaaha ill-Allah is a way of life”. This is what I have to say about him. End quote.
Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) was asked:
Sayyid Qutb is a man who produced some ideas that spread widely in the Muslim world, but people differed concerning him; some glorified him and some criticised him very harshly. We would like our shaykh to explain this matter to us and clarify it. What should the Muslim’s attitude be towards this man, because Sayyid Qutb has had an impact on the Muslim world and he has left a legacy of books and writings, and we would like you to give us some clarification.
I do not think that there should be any argument or dispute among the Muslim youth concerning any specific man, whether it is Sayyid Qutb or someone other than Sayyid Qutb. Rather the dispute should be about the Islamic ruling. For example, we should examine a statement made by Sayyid Qutb or by someone else, and say: is this opinion correct or incorrect? We should examine it and if it is correct we should accept it, and if it is incorrect we should reject it. But for the youth to argue and dispute about accepting or rejecting a specific person, this is wrong and it is a grave mistake.
Sayyid Qutb is not infallible; scholars who are superior to him are not infallible, and neither are scholars who are inferior to him. The opinions of any person may be accepted or rejected, except that of the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him and upon his family): his words must be accepted in all cases.
Hence I tell the youth that their arguments and disagreements should not be focused on a specific person, no matter who he is, because if their disputes are like that, they may end up rejecting something that is sound and correct that was said by this person, or they may end up supporting something that is unsound and incorrect that was said by this person. This is a very serious danger, because if a man blindly supports one person and blindly goes against another, he may attribute to the one whom he opposes words that he never said, or he may misinterpret what he said, and so on, or he may deny what he said or try to find a way to interpret his unsound statements in a way that makes them sound good.
So I say: we should not speak about people and we should not blindly follow people. Sayyid Qutb has passed on and Allah will judge him, and this is true of other scholars.
As for what is sound and correct, it must be accepted whether it comes from Sayyid Qutb or from anyone else. And what is unsound and incorrect must be rejected, whether it comes from Sayyid Qutb or anyone else. We must beware of any unsound and incorrect ideas that are written or heard, no matter who they come from.
This is my advice to my brothers. The discussion and dispute, and the matter of accepting or rejecting, should not revolve around any specific person.
With regard to Sayyid Qutb, my opinion concerning his legacy is that it is like the legacy of anyone else; it contains both sound and unsound elements, because no one is infallible. But his legacy is not like that of, for example, Shaykh Muhammad Naasir ad-Deen al-Albaani; the difference between them is like that between heaven and earth. The legacy of the former consists of general, educated, literary works; he did not have the deeper knowledge that Shaykh al-Albaani had.
Hence I think that what is sound should be accepted from anyone and what is unsound should be rejected from anyone. We should not – and indeed it is not permissible for us – to focus disputes and arguments on individuals, and to be divided or united on the basis of individuals.
And Allah knows best.