A Poet and an Islamist? The Life of Sayyid Qutb Reconsidered
A seminar with Dr. Giedrė Šabasevičiūtė.
Perhaps no Arab historical figure is more demonized than the Egyptian literati-turned-Islamist Sayyid Qutb. A poet and literary critic in his youth, Qutb is known to have abandoned literature in the 1950s in favor of Islamism, becoming its most prominent ideologist to this day. Little is known about Qutb’s literary past. In the dominant narratives, this formative period of his life is usually dismissed as characterized by Qutb’s failure to become famous literati. Departing from this common narrative, this talk invites to reconsider Qutb’s biography by taking seriously his literary past. Instead of understanding literature as opposed to Islamism, it argues that Qutb’s aesthetics fed his Islamist project. The talks shows how our understanding of Islamism can be advanced by considering it as part of social and intellectual life.
Giedrė Šabasevičiūtė is research fellow at Oriental Institute, Czech Academy of Sciences and external lecturer in Charles University in Prague. She’s the author of Sayyid Qutb: An Intellectual Biography (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2021).