While suicide is forbidden by the Qur'an, martyrdom is glorified as a religious duty, at least as interpreted by the fundamentalist sects of Islam.
In modern times, it was in prison that Sayyid Qutb made his lasting mark on Islamic martyrdom. He created a philosophical vision where death, piety, wisdom, and immortality are one and the same. With help from his followers he smuggled five volumes, piece by piece, out of his prison. His "In the Shade of the Qur'an" has been called a gigantic study and one of the most remarkable works to be produced in prison.
Sayyid Qutb and his brother, Muhammed, were part of The Muslim Brotherhood during Nasser's time. When Nasser first cracked down on the brotherhood, Muhammed emigrated to Saudi Arabia where he became a distinguished professor of Islamic Studies. Sayyid was made of more stubborn stuff and wound up serving two terms in prison in Egypt. He was hanged by Nasser in 1966 a few months after his second release from prison.
Qutb published his famous book, Mallem Fittareek (Milestones) in 1965. For that he was hanged in spite of great protests from other Islamic nations.
From GREAT MUSLIMS OF THE 20TH CENTURY
"Sayyid Qutb will always be remembered for his legacy of clearly defining the basic ideas of the Oneness and sovereignty of Allah, the clear distinction between pure faith and the association of partners with Allah (Shirk) overt and hidden, and the only hope for salvation of humanity. Sayyid Qutb was smiling when he was executed, showing his conviction of the beautiful life to come in paradise a life he definitely and rightfully deserved."
Significantly, bin Laden studied under Muhammed Qutb in Saudi Arabia.
Qutb's playbook provides the philosophical basis for Islamic terrorism by martyrdom.
If your goal is to understand suicidal terror in the larger scope of terror, see Jessica Stern; "Terror in the Name of God." Ms Stern makes clear that there are motives beyond religion. She also makes clear that religion is too often a central component.
Posted by RoadToPeace on Sunday, August 21, 2005.