Martyrs, Minorities, Faith and Fidelity:
Exploring ‘Loyalty’ in Christianity and Islam

Professor Mona Siddiqui

Lesson #1 — Loyalty and the Demands of Faith: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Sayyid Qutb

January 18, 2022

Summary: Discover the lives and ideas of two theological giants of the twentieth century: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Sayyid Qutb. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Christian theologian and pastor in Germany who was executed during World War II for resisting Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. Sayyid Qutb was a controversial Egyptian activist and author who viewed Islam as “the solution to the world’s injustices,” and was hanged for conspiring against the regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser. In this lesson, Professor Siddiqui explores the roles that loyalty and religious faith played in the lives – and deaths – of these two influential figures.    

Recommended readings:

Siddiqui, Mona. “Community and Divine Calling in Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Sayyid Qutb.” Chapter. In Human Struggle: Christian and Muslim Perspectives, 83–138. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021.
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Calvert, John. ‘The World is an Undutiful Boy!’: Sayyid Qutb’s American experience, Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations, 2000, 11:1, 87-103. Purchase this article OR enroll now to access this reading for free!

Reflection and Discussion Questions:

  1. Prof. Siddiqui suggests that “real loyalty is never simply sentiment, but action.” Is this understanding of loyalty consistent with the definition of loyalty that you wrote down previously? Why or why not?
  2. Sayyid Qutb and Dietrich Bonhoeffer described loyalty to God as the highest and most important form of loyalty for religious believers. What challenges does that type of loyalty pose for those who believe in God? How might this type of loyalty pose a challenge for pluralistic societies?
  3. Bonhoeffer and Qutb were both executed for opposing governments that they viewed as immoral and unjust. Do you think it is ever okay for members of your society or community to oppose the government with acts of violence? Why or why not?