The long and continuing history of Islamic jihad
In my continuing post-9/11 quest to learn more about Islam, I've been looking through Andrew G. Bostom's new, thick book, The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims. It is hair-raising and definitely eye-opening stuff, and includes, among much scholarly material and original sources, new first English translations of old Arabic texts concerning jihad and dhimmitude ("the sociopolitical status of those indigenous non-Muslim peoples vanquished by Islamic jihad campaigns").It is very interesting to learn that "the consensus on the nature of jihad from all four schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence (i.e. Maliki, Hanbali, Hanafi, and Shafi'i) is clear"--jihad is clearly accepted by these Muslims as a divinely inspired precept to wage war on unbelievers until they convert to Islam, submit to subjugation as dhimmis, or die by the sword or enslavement.
It is also very interesting to see the details of how dhimmis were treated throughout history. "Jewish, Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, and Serbian sources provide copious evidence that the jizya-kharaj [tax on conquered and subjugated unbelievers] was demanded from children, widows, orphans, and even the dead...punishment and torture were used by tax collectors...." Some who could not pay the heavy taxes were hanged, crushed, or drowned. Enslavement of the conquered as "booty" has also been an integral part of jihad, shockingly right up to the present day.
I appreciated the depth and breadth of this book, as it provides "juridical texts, historical accounts, scholarly analyses, and excerpts from eyewitness accounts" throughout history to "provide the rationale for jihad as forumlated by Muslim theologians and jurists, and highlight[s] the global consequences of more than thirteen centuries of jihad campaigns during ancient, premodern, and modern times."
It answered a lot of questions I had, in my ignorance, about how Islam has historically "spread" its way via jihad, across the Middle East, North Africa, Spain, Asia Minor, Persia (Iran), Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, Palestine, Armenia, Greece, France, Austria, Bulgaria, and India....and how it continues to "spread" today where there are conflicts raging in Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Middle East, and where attacks, riots and upheavals continue as cultures clash in France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Britain, and the U.S. To better understand and recognize jihad, its Islamic underpinnings, and its history around the globe is a sobering thing.
I thought these excerpts from the very beginning of his book [pages 24-26] were particularly worth sharing:
The late philosopher and theologian Jacques Ellul emphasized in his foreword to Les Chretientes d'Orient entre Jihad et Dhimmitude, VIIe-XXe siecle (1991), how contemporary historiography whitewashed the basic realities of jihad war:Bostom goes on to cite other examples of how contemporary scholarship on jihad tends to display an apologetic trend, including this:In a major encyclopedia, one reads phrases such as: "Islam expanded in the eighth or ninth centuries..."; "This or that country passed into Muslim hands..." But care is taken not to say how Islam expanded, how countries "passed into [Muslim] hands."... Indeed, it would seem as if events happened by themselves, through a miraculous or amicable operation...Regarding this expansion, little is said about jihad. And yet it all happened through war!
...the jihad is an institution, and not an event, that is to say it is a part of the normal functioning of the Muslim world...The conquered populations change status (they become dhimmis) and the shari'a tends to be put into effect integrally, overthrowing the former law of the country. The conquered territories do not simply change "owners."
Writing more than six decades ago, Arthur Jeffrey described the continuum from jihad to what has become known as dhimmitude...and belittled as "the sheerest sophistry" attemptsmade in some circles in modern days to explain away all the Prophet's warlike expeditions as defensive wars or to interpret the doctrine of Jihad as merely a bloodless striving in missionary zeal for the spread of Islam.... The early Arabic sources quite plainly and frankly describe the expeditions as military expeditions, and it would never have occurred to anyone at that day to interpret them as anything else... To the folk of his day there would thus be nothing strange in Muhammad, as the head of the community of those who served Allah, taking the sword to extend the kingdom of Allah, and taking measures to insure the subjection of all who lived within the borders of what he made the kingdom of Allah.
John Esposito's apologetic writings regarding expansionist military jihad simply ignore voluminous but inconvenient historical data. For example, he provides this ahistorical characterization of the entire period between the initial Islamic jihad conquests, in the fourth decade of the seventh century CE, and the first Crusade in 1099 CE: "Five centuries of peaceful coexistence elapsed before political events and an imperial-papal power play led to centuries-long series of so-called holy wars that pitted Christendom against Islam and left an enduring legacy of misunderstanding and distrust."
Recently Bat Ye'or analyzed Esposito's summary assessement of the first millennium of jihad conquests. Bat Ye'or notes how Esposito completely "ignores the concepts of jihad and dar al-harb," and she highlights the "thematic structure" of Esposito's selective overview, typical of the prevailing modern apologetic genre:[H]istorical negationism, consisting of suppressing or sketching in a page or a paragraph, one thousand years of jihad which is presented as a peaceful conquest, generally welcomed by the vanquished populations; the omission of Christian and, in particular, Muslim sources describing the actual methods of these conquests: pillage, enslavement, deportation, massacres, and so on; the mythical historical conversion of "centuries" of "peaceful coexistence," masking the processes which transformed majorities into minorities, constantly at risk of extinction; an obligatory self-incrimination for the Crusades."
In his foreword to this book, Ibn Warraq quotes Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis as having once said, "those who are unwilling to confront the past will be unable to understand the present and unfit to face the future." He also quotes Lewis as having said this:
We may, indeed, we must study the history of Atlantic slavery and expose this great shame in the history of the Western world and the Americas north and south, in all its horror. This is a task which falls upon us as Westerners and in which others may and should and do join us. In contrast, however, even to mention--let alone discuss or explore--the existence of slavery in non-Western societies is denounced as evidence of racism and of imperalistic designs. The same applies to other delicate topics as polygamy, autocracy, and the like. The range of taboos is very wide."
I would add that jihad and universal respect for human rights--and can they ever be reconciled? (otherwise sometimes termed the "clash of cultures" or the "clash of civilizations") is another "delicate topic" that we must discuss. Preferrably face to face and in a caring, thoughtful, respectful, and personal manner, including one conversation at a time, all over the world.
It is time for all of us, of all faiths and nations, to find out and face the real truth about the past, even if we have to break through natural or imposed restrictions of political correctness, anti-intellectualism, laziness, or religious dogma. Only by dealing with the truth can we find out how we are going to deal with each other as we go forward.
For further reading:
The wife of the Sheik of Qatar gives a shot at "Constructing Understanding Between Islam and the West."
Three blogs, Dhimmi Watch, Jihad Watch, and Gates of Vienna, keep track of the current "clash of civilizations."
Breath of the Beast blog breaks some taboos to move the discussion forward.