News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: On Sayid Qutb and Kierkegaard

Monday, October 10, 2005

On Sayid Qutb and Kierkegaard

I reject Qutb's understanding of Judaism, which might be boiled down to the negative comments contained in the Koran that associate Jews with inveterate soies. It is interesting to note, though, that Qutb gives the Jews a back-handed compliment in the form of saying that if they had continued to put into practice the laws and prohibitions contained in the Torah they would have remained in God's good graces. Yet, he also understood that any sense of "chosen people" is more a human construct than God's.

I doubt that Kierkegaard would have advocated mass slaughter of innocents the way G. Bush has and Qutb's erstwhile followers like bin-Laden and Zawahiri do. Kierkegaard presupposes love in the enemy. What or how that might be done in the present war against terrorism is the question. I have suggested that this has to be done by "understanding" where the enemy is "coming from." This literally means taking on the worst fears one has about them as enemies and confronting them on their own ground. The love here means taking their beliefs and thoughts seriously--not closing yourself to the possibility that what they are right, in some respect. This is what Kierkegaard called presupposing love. The point is to find how one's enemy actually does love but has mutilated that love through some type of self-delusion.

Until one understands that, then one can kill, sure, but in doing so don't associate Kierkegaard's name with it--it is simply your own unwillingness to face the reality of the other--to express that love that one is commanded to exhibit towards even one's enemies, as Jesus says.

I hoped that our leaders would grasp this, given their professed Christian leanings. Instead they advocate the ruthless, heartless, and desperate annihilation of a group of people they seem not to even pretend to try to understand. If you believe that George Bush understands the enemy in any way other than "white hat/black hat" cliches, then I think you should look at your preconceptions.

In lieu of a real Kierkegaardian analysis of the present situation, I suggest that you take another gander at his work, _Sickness Unto Death_. There's several great translations out there. If one wants to understand Qutb and those extremists who follow his later teachings, I think starting there is the right place. Given his personal sufering, I think Qutb's thought attempts to rise above that in a form of ethico-religious belief that is too rigidly ethically didactic. This is understandable, given the moral desolation he saw around him, but the attempt to assert a systematic resolution to all of humanity's problems is at best aesthetic, at worst anti-ethical.

What Qutb failed to realize is that any assertion of authority in the present age is what is in question. The effects of scientism and rationalism undermine all attempts at asserting anything authoritatively. His attempt to return to the Koran to ascertain truths above and beyond any human doubt is praiseworthy, but it does not adequately address the issue of human sinfulness nor the commandement to love one another and one's enemies.

While there is fear and tembling in his writings--and this is the positive aspect of his work--that fear and trembling is not sustained in continuing openness to God's demands nor the reality of human finitude and inability to grasp adequately the infinite demands of the eternal reality but is shut off in the belief that the Koran is to be followed on a social level. This does not adequately address the subjective fear and trembling that must accompany every human undertaking--the fear and trembling, that is, given the spiritual inability of humans to transparently understand God's will.

For a Kierkegaardian/Girardian understanding of the 911 bombers, consider an article written by Charles K Bellinger

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