Sayyid Qutb (1904 - 1966) was one of the main founders of the modern Islamic Jihad movement. He was born in 1906 in a small village, in Egypt. He received his education at a secular college and became a writer and educator. At some period during the later 1930s he began worked as a supervisor in the Egyptian Ministry of Education.
His popular writings criticizing Egypt's political leadership however forced him to leave the country for the United States in November 1948. In December 1948 he arrived in New York City. A few months later, Qutb moved to Washington D.C. so he could attend Wilson Teachers College to study English. At this time he became interested in the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian political/terrorist group, and entered the organization. In 1949 he moved to Denver, Colorado to study at University of Northern Colorado. He returned to Egypt in August 1950 and began working once again at the Egyptian Ministry of Education.
Around this time Egyptian King Farouk was overthrown by a military junta headed by Gamal Abdul Nasser. Nasser invited Qutb to be part of his new government as an advisor to the Revolutionary Command Council. After some disputes over what role he should play as part of the government coalition, Qutb quit his job after a few months of haggling. In 1955, he was thrown in prison for three months. After he was released, he became the editor of the Muslim Brotherhoods magazine. In less than a year after his release the government shut the magazine down as they began their crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and Qutb was once again arrested. He was sentenced to life in prison but the sentence was later reduced to fifteen years due to his poor health.
While in prison, he wrote a book titled Milestones which pictured the West as evil and immoral and called for the revival of jihad to achieve eventual Islamic world domination. He also called in the book for the overthrow of un-Islamic regimes in the Middle East. The book was smuggled out of the prison by friends and family of Qutb and published in 1964. Milestones was almost immediately banned by the Egyptian government but that did not stop the spread of the already printed copy's of the book. Meanwhile, from prison, Qutb began to organize an overthrow of the government. He was released from prison in late 1964 but less than six months later was put on trial for plotting to form a coup against dictator Gamal Abdul Nasser. After a three-month trial, he was sentenced to death. He was hanged to death by the Egyptian government on August 29, 1966.
- The Looming Tower, al-Qaeda and the road to 9/11 (book), by Lawrence Wright