What impact did Qutb’s writings and teachings have on Ayman al-Zawahiri?
Ayman al-Zawahiri is currently the head of the Islamist international terrorist organization Al Qaeda, having taken power after Osama bin Laden was killed by US troops in 2011.
Before that he was very important in Al Qaeda, and the source of much of its ideology and public image.
One of his central influences was the Egyptian literary critic, political philosopher, and public intellectual Sayyid Qutb, who advanced a modernized fundamentalist interpretation of Islam that called for direct---and, if necessary, violent---action by loyal Muslims against their oppressors, whom he perceived to be primarily led by the United States, which he saw as a secularized "spiritual wasteland" where people had lost religion and thereby lost their way. Qutb was further radicalized when he was tortured in an Egyptian prison, and became a kind of philosophical voice for radical Islamism.
Al-Zawahiri read many of Qutb's works, and often quoted him and spoke of him with great praise. Qutb appears to have been a major influence in Al-Zawahiri's goals of toppling Western governments and instituting Islamist governments around the world. Al-Zawahiri in turn was a major influence on Osama bin Laden, who you may recall orchestrated the most deadly terrorist attack in modern history.
Thus, a literary critic and political philosopher motivated an ideologue who directly influenced (and then became) the leader of a global terrorist organization.
It seems that Keynes was right when he wrote: "The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else."