Book Review: Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamism, by John Calvert

Ramazan Kilinc, University of Nebraska at Omaha


In August 2013, the Egyptian military, which deposed the elected president Mohammed Mursi a month earlier, harshly cracked down on the protestors. The protestors, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, aimed to restore the Mursi government through their sit-ins. The military crackdown left hundreds, if not thousands, died and several thousand arrests behind. While scholars are trying to account for what is happening in Egypt and states are searching for relevant policies to respond to these developments, only a few books can offer as nuanced insights as John Calvert’s Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of radical Islamism offers. Based on diligent research, Calvert writes on the life and thinking of one of the most influential Islamist thinkers, Sayyid Qutb, with a special attention to the social, cultural, economic and political context within which Qutb lived. Throughout the book, Calvert sophisticatedly shows the interaction between the formation of Qutb’s thoughts and the Egyptian socio-political context. This academically rigorous but still accessible study shows the transformation of a literary critic to a romantic nationalist, to a mainstream Islamist, and to a religious revolutionary as social, cultural and political turbulences unfolded in Egypt over the years.