The early years of an Islamist thinker First published in Arabic in 1946, this autobiography tells of the early years of a person who, in later life, would become one of Egypt’s most influential radical Islamist thinkers. This memoir—a document of substantial historical value—tells of Sayyid Qutb’s childhood in the village of Musha in Upper Egypt.
The book documents the era between 1912 and 1918 and offers a clear picture of Egyptian village life in the early twentieth century, its customs and lore, educational system, religious festivals, relations with the central government, and the struggle to modernize and retain its identity. Translators John Calvert and William Shepard have captured the beauty and intensity of Qutb’s prose in their rendering of the work into English, and their introduction situates the book in its cultural environment and Sayyid Qutb in his historical context.
Sayyid Qutb is well known throughout the Islamic World as the foundational thinker for a significant portion of the contemporary Muslim intelligentsia. In 1965 he published his famous book Ma’alim fi-l-tariq (Milestones), after which he was accused of conspiring against President Gamal Abdel Nasser and arrested. He was tried and sentenced to death.
A Child from the Village was written just prior to Qutb’s conversion to the Islamist cause and reflects his concern for social justice that would eventually express itself in Islamist terms.
Sayyid Qutb (1906–1966) was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and prominent Islamist revivalist figure.
John Calvert is assistant professor of history at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.
William Shepard is professor emeritus of religious studies at the University Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand.