Review: The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims, edited by Dr. Andrew G. Bostom, Prometheus, 759 pp.
It is only fitting that Andrew G. Bostom’s massive collection, The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims, appears in time for the fourth anniversary September 11, 2001, for no other collection since then has so well explained the theology and philosophy behind those Islamic attacks on America.
The leaders of the free world have taken pains since late 2001 to explain that Islam is a religion of peace. But in this far-ranging, 759-page collection of Muslim and non-Muslim eyewitness accounts, scholarly Muslim theological treatises and superb historical surveys, it appears that Islam has actually practiced a grisly jihad campaign against non-Muslims from its earliest days, in the hope of satisfying the Prophet Mohammed’s end goal: forcing the â€œone true faith” upon the entire world.
The somber tone of this monumental work — graced in its midsection by a chronological summary of the first 500 years of Muslim conquests, including color-coded maps and Islamic art — is set by the cover, a 19th century-Islamic painting entitled â€œThe Prophet, Ali and the Companions at the massacre of the prisoners of the Jewish tribe of Beni Kuraizah.” As its name suggests, the art depicts the slaughter of 600 to 900 Jewish men, who were led on Mohammed’s orders to the market of Medina, where they were beheaded and their corpses buried in trenches dug for that purpose. Their wives and children were then enslaved.
After viewing these accounts, histories and art works, it is hard to continue to believe that radical Islamists are in fact all that radical. Rather, in the most logical way, this collection shows that September 11 was not an aberration, but that Islam at its core seems a faith bent upon the conquest and subjugation of non-Muslims.
Indeed, as many commentators here suggest, when one group of Muslims assumes responsibility for jihad warfare — the only righteous kind of war, in the Islamic view — the rest of the umma (Muslim community) is relieved of this fard, or religious duty. Thus, if radical Muslims believe they act on behalf of all Islamdom, Islamic traditions also confirm that they do.
Bostom opens with a 124-page survey of jihad conquests and the imposition of dhimmitude — the sociopolitical subjugation of indigenous non-Muslim peoples vanquished by jihad campaigns. The essay is the book’s longest section and serves as an excellent guidepost for readers to determine which parts might most interest them.
Beginning in the time of Mohammed himself, Bostom refers readers to the early 20th century work of the late Columbia University professor Arthur Jeffrey, who belittled as â€œthe sheerest sophistry” attempts in some modern circles â€œto 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….”
But it is not just on the say-so of Western scholars that Bostom concludes, in the words of Mordechai Nisan, that the â€œpraxis” of Islam was by the 1990s to â€œextend the Muslim presence and role into the heart of Western civilization, after having constituted within the Muslim lands themselves a formidable strategic world position.”
His arguments rest on the words, works and deeds of Muslims themselves. America would benefit if our leaders would pay close attention to Bostom’s conclusions and the works on which they are based.
According to Maliki jurist Ibn Abi Zayd al Qayrawani (d. 996), â€œJihad is a Divine institution. Its performance by certain individuals may dispense others from it. We Malikis maintain that it is preferable not to begin hostilities with the enemy before having invited the latter to embrace the religion of Allah except where the enemy attacks first. They have either the alternative of converting to Islam or paying the poll tax (jizya), short of which war is declared against them.”
Hanbali jurist Ibn Tamiyyah (d. 1328) also supports the jihad: â€œSince lawful warfare is essentially jihad and since its aim is that the religion is God’s entirely and God’s word is uppermost, therefore according to all Muslims, those who stand in the way of this aim must be fought.”
The Hidayah of Hanafi Shaikh Burdanuddin Ali of Marghinan (d. 1196) intones,
It is not lawful to make war upon any people who have never before been called to the faith, without previously requiring them to embrace it, because the Prophet so instructed his commanders, directing them to call infidels to the faith, and also because the people will hence perceive that they are attacked for the sake of religion, and not for the sake of taking their property, or making slaves of their children, and on this consideration it is possible that they may be induced to agree to the call, in order to save themselves from the trouble of war….
The Shaafi jurist al-Mawardi (d. 1058) writes in the Laws of Islamic Governance,
The mushrikun [infidels] of Dar al-Harb (the arena of battle) are of two types: First, those whom the call of Islam has reached, but they have refused it and taken up arms. The amir of the army has the option of fighting them… in accordance with what he judges to be in the best interest of the Muslims and the most harmful to the mushrikun…. Second, those whom the invitation to Islam has not reached, although such persons are few nowadays since Allah has made manifest the call of his Messenger…it is forbidden to begin an attack before explaining the invitation to Islam to them, informing them of the miracles of the Prophet and making plain the proofs so as to encourage acceptance on their part; if they still refuse to accept after this, war is waged against them and they are treated as those whom the call has reached.
And Maliki jurist and philosopher Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406), so often quoted as a peaceful, likewise adopts a warlike tone: â€œ In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the [Muslim] mission and [the obligation to] convert everybody to Islam by persuasion or by force…. The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defense….Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations.”
In addition to this far-reaching opening summary, the book provides the juridicial texts, historical accounts, scholarly analyses and eyewitness excerpts elucidating the jihad rationale as formulated by Muslim sources and highlighting the global consequences of that philosophy for more than 13 centuries.
In part two, for example, Bostom collects many jihadist teachings in the Qur’an, such as Qur’an chapter 9, verse 29: â€œFight those who believe not in Allah nor the last day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and his apostle, nor acknowledge the religion of truth even if they are the people of the book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and fell themselves subdued.” These Qur’anic teachings fill two pages of text.
But Bostom does not stop there. He devotes his third chapter to the classical and modern teachings of Qur’anic commentators on Chapter 9, verse 29, some such as Al-Suyuti (d. 1505 CE), appearing in English here for the first time. Al-Suyuti writes:
Fight those who don’t believe in God nor in the Last Day [Unless they believe in the Prophet God bless him and grant him peace] nor hold what is forbidden that which God and His emissary have forbidden [e.g. Wine] nor embrace the true faith [which is firm and abrogates other faiths, i.e., the Islamic religion] from among [for distinguishing] those who were given the Book [i.e., the Jews and Christians] until they give the head-tax [i.e., the annual taxes imposed on them] (l’an yadinl) humbly submissive, and obedient to Islam’s rule.
Also commenting on the Qur’anic chapter 9, verse 29 are al-Zamakshari (d. 1144), al Tabari (d. 923), al-Beidawi (d. 1286), Ibn Kathir (d. 1373), Sayyid Qutb (d. 1966) and al-Azhar, al-Muntakhab Fii Tafsir al-Qur’aan al-Kariim, 1985. Let no one say that Bostom has taken these teachings out of context, for the classical and contemporary commentators interpret this passage of the Qur’an in precisely the same way as it appears.
In chapter four, the last in section two, Bostom focuses on jihad in the Hadith, with commentary from Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, as translated by the Muslim Students’ Association of the University of Southern California.
In Bostom’s third, 110-page section, classical Muslim theologians and jurists opine on jihad. These writings span the entire history of Islam, beginning with 8th century commentators and continuing to 20th century contemporaries. Bostom has gleaned writings of Malik B. Anas (d. 795) from the Muwata, for example, Averroes (d. 1198) from the Bidayat al-Mudjtahid, Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406) from The Muqaddimah, as well as a 1915 Ottoman Fatwa.
Here, too, Bostom includes several works translated into English for the first time. For example, the renowned Sufi master al-Ghazali (d. 1111) writes, â€œOne must go on jihad (i.e. Warlike razzias or raids) at least once a year… one may use a catapult against them [non-Muslims] when they are in a fortress, even if among them are women and children. One may set fire to them and drown them.” The marriages of slaves, al-Ghazali continues, are automatically â€œrevoked. One may cut down their trees…. One must destroy their useless books.” This belies the all-too-common notion that Sufism is peaceful.
Similarly, Ibn Qudama (d. 1223), writes, â€œLegal war (jihad) is an obligatory social duty (fard-kifaya); when one group of Muslims guarantees that it is being carried out in a satisfactory manner, the others are exempted.” Almost everywhere, the author is belligerent. â€œIt is permitted to surprise the infidels under cover of night, to bombard them with mangonels [an engine that hurls missiles] and to attack them without declaring battle (du’a).”
Al-Hilli (d. 1277), likewise, writes on the traditions concerning the tax on certain infidels, who have not been enslaved or murdered. The Persian scholar Muhammad al-Amili (d. 1621) has been translated from Farsi concerning Jihad holy war: â€œIslamic holy war against followers of other religions, such as Jews, is required unless they convert to Islam or pay the poll tax.”
Concerning the jihad warfare in India, Ziauddin Barani (d. 1357) writes in the Fatawa-i Janandari,
The Muslim king will not be able to establish the honour of theism (tauhid) and the supremacy of the Islam unless he strives with all his courage to overthrown infidelity and to slaughter its leaders (imams), who in India are the Brahmans. He should make a firm resolve to overpower, capture, enslave and degrade the infidels. All the strength and power of the king and holy warriors of Islam should be concentrated in holy campaigns and holy wars; and they should risk themselves in the enterprise so that the true Faith may uproot false creeds and then it will look as if these false creeds had never existed because they have been deprived of their glamour.
Bostom turns next, in his 117-page Part 4, to ten Jihad overviews by important 20th century scholars. Clement Huart writes on the law of war, Nicolas P. Agnides on the classification of persons under Islamic law (which appeared in Mohammeden Theories of Finance from Columbia University Press in 1916) and John Ralph Willis on the jihad ideology of enslavement. Several of these works appear for the first time in English.
These writings are no easier to dismiss than the classical Islamic works themselves, for the modern historians also rely heavily on classical jurists and commentators, as indicated in a bevy of footnotes gracing the final pages of each essay. Fagnan’s â€œJihad or Holy War According to the Malikite School,” published in Algiers in 1908, rests for example on the work of Sidi Khalil (d. 1365-1366), as elucidated by several Muslim commentaries. Edmond Fagnan writes,
The holy war conducted each year on the most dangerous front, even if there is risk of an attack by bandits, constitutes, just like the visit of the Ka’ba…, a duty of showing solidarity, which is incumbent upon every free male who has attained the age of puberty and is of sound mind and body….
In the case of a sudden invasion, holy war becomes a personal duty, even for a woman or for the neighbors [of the believers who are being attacked] if they (i.e. The latter) are too weak, as well as for those who hold the title of imam.
According to Roger Arnaldez, whose essay â€œHoly War According to Ibn Hazm of Cordova” was published in a French collection in 1962, what interests this Andalusian classicist about the past â€œis a privileged moment of history at which the law eternally intended by God was revealed in universal and definitive formulations. Despite the most obvious evidence, the commandments given to the Prophet are not, in his view, relative to the Prophet’s time…. These commandments, rather, are valid as such for all times.”
W.R. W. Gardner’s essay, â€œJihad” appeared in the 1912 edition of the acclaimed scholarly journal, Moslem World. He observes,
The question of what jihad is cannot be settled by reference alone to the etymology of the word jihad….The Koran plainly teaches in many passages,..the duty of fighting for the Faith or ‘in the way of God,’ by using the world qatala, and El Zamakhshary, commenting on 2.186,7, says, ‘Fighting in the way of God is jihad for the glorifying of his word and the strengthening of the Religion.’ And whatever may be the etymological meaning of the word jihad, there can be no gainsaying the fact that it is sometimes used in the Koran in the sense of warlike actions, a warfare for the sake of the Faith. And when one asks what the teaching of Mohammedanism is concerning jihad, the word is employed in this latter sense.
After presenting a 500-year chronology and maps, Bostom moves on to his final three sections — on jihad campaigns in the Near East, Europe, Asia Minor and on the Indian subcontinent; jihad slavery and Muslim and non-Muslim chronicles and eyewitness accounts of jihad campaigns. These in many ways outshine everything that the editor presented earlier, for here, he clearly elucidates the ravages of jihad campaigns as experienced by their victims.
The sixth section, on Jihad campaigns, begins with an essay by Demetrios Constantelos, which collects eyewitness accounts of Greek Christian and other early observers of jihad. Damascus fell in 635, Jerusalem in 638, the same year as Antioch, and in 646 Alexandria became an Arab possession. The coastal areas of Palestine, Cyprus, Egypt and Syria swiftly followed. Sophronios of Jerusalem describes â€œthe sword of the Saracens” as â€œbeastly and barbarous…filled with every diabolic savagery.”
Clearly, the Arab conquest was very violent as well as decisive. Constantelos reports on Sophronios: advancing Saracens left behind them â€œa train of destruction and havoc, with bloodshed everywhere and abandoned human bodies devoured by the wild beasts of Palestine’s deserts. He writes of the ‘villainous and God-hating Saracens,’ who run through places and capture cities, who reap or destroy the crops of the fields, who burn down towns and set churches on fire, who attack monasteries and defeat Byzantine armies, winning one victory after another.” John of Nikiu in about 700 C.E., likewise described the terrors of the Arabic Muslims. The Islamic conquest â€œput to the sword all that surrendered, and they spared none, whether old men, babes or women.”
But that was only in the beginning. Bloodletting continued on every continent the Muslims touched. Aram Ter-Ghevondian describes the Armenian rebellion of 703, as related by such sources as Ibn-al-Athir and a 10th century Arab author named Muhammad ibn-Abdullah-ibn-Aasam-al-Kufi as well as Byzantine historian Theophanes. In one instance in about 705, the Muslim leader Muhammad â€œmassacred, enslaved and wrote a letter to the nobility (Ashraf) who are called freemen (ahrar), gave guarantees and promised to give honors. Hence they gathered in their churches…and he ordered to encircle the churches with fire-wood, closed the doors on them and burnt all of them.”
C.E. Dufourcq describes â€œThe Days of Razzia and invasion” in a 1978 chapter that first appeared in a French collection on daily life in medieval Europe under Arab domination (another, now in English for the first time). After dominating Iberia, the Arabs transversed the Pyrenees and ravaged lands north of the foothills. In Aragon’s Segre Valley, squadrons explored the Ariege River. Before 720 they attacked Narbonne, from which they carried off church riches and many slaves. They were driven back from Toulouse in 721 but in 725 attacked Carcassone. Other targets included the Rhone Valley, Nimes, and Viviers (a place still called Les Sarasins), Macon and Chalon, and Autun (which â€œhas never been able to return to its former state since that destruction”), Dijon and Langres. By 731, the Arabs were 100 kilometers from Paris. They burned all the Bordeaux churches in 732. Fortunately, Charles Martel stopped them not far from Poitiers.
But in 734 or 735 in the Mediterranean, Dufourcq continues, they attacked Arles and Avignon. From Provence and Italy, sailors attacked Ostia on the Tiber, and pillaged the basilicas of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Marseilles was devastated in 838 and again in 848 and 920. From 857 on, the Roman seaboard was attacked annually. In Syracuse in 878, the Church of the Holy Savior was filled with women, children, the elderly, the sick, the clerics — all of them massacred. In 934 or 935, Arabs slaughtered all the men in Genoa and loaded the city’s treasures onto their ships.
Terrorizing inhabitants was a tool of their trade: As the 17th century Algerian historian al-Maqqari noted, â€œAllah thus instilled such fear among the infidels that they did not dare to go and fight the conquerors; they only approached them as suppliants to beg for peace.”
The Muslim invasion of India was similarly cruel, according to K.S. Lal. Throughout more than 500 years in the Indian subcontinent, Muslim invaders killed an estimated 70 million, slaughtering as many as 500,000 to 600,000 at a time. They also took countless millions of slaves, who were transported to Iran, Afghanistan and later to Europe.
In the Balkans, the people suffered equal savagery, according to a 1956 essay by Dimitar Angelov, also in English for the first time. The campaigns of Mourad II (1421-1451) and his successor Mahomet II (1451-1481) in Serbia, Bosnia, Albania, and the Byzantine princedom of the Peloponnisos, were particularly devastating. In 1459, invaders destroyed the entire harvest and leveled the fortified towns. In 1466, the Albanians were forced to retreat and fight from inaccessible regions; whole cities were again ruined. Plundering, arson and repeated attacks reduced the rich agricultural region to wilderness. Famines and epidemics ensued.
All this is to say nothing of the incessant slave-taking and the brutal devshirme tribute; Balkan families were forced to pay a tax in the form of their eldest or most able sons. Bostom devotes 60 pages to slavery alone.
Then we come to the eyewitness accounts, which fill five chapters and nearly eighty pages. According to an 1148 account by Solomon Cohen, for example, the Almohads swept through Tlemcen in the Maghren, killing all those in it. All the cities in North Africa were taken: â€œOne hundred thousand persons were killed in Fez on that occasion and 120,000 in Marakesh…..Large areas between Seville and Tortosa [in Spain] had likewise fallen into Almohad hands.”
Likewise, a 13th century Hindu account called the Kahandade Prabandha tells of the invasion of extensive regions, including Malwa, Gujarat, Ranthamnhor, Siwana, Jalor, Devagiri, Warangal, Ma’bar and Ramesvaram. In Bhinmal,
Orders were issued clear and terrible: ‘The soldiers shall march into the town spreading terror everywhere! Cut down the Brahmanas, wherever they may be–performing homa or milking cows! Kill the cowsâ€”even those which are pregnant or with newly born calves!’ The Turks ransacked Bhinmal and captured everybody in the sleepy town. Thereafter, Fori Malik gleefully set fire to the town in a wanton display of force and meanness.
As Ibn Warraq notes in the forward, Dr. Bostom is the first scholar to have had translated from Arabic into English the works of al-Bayadawi, al-Suyuti, al-Zamakhshari and al-Tabari, as well as works by Sufi master al-Ghazali, Shiites al-Hilli and al-Amili. He also includes representatives from the four schools of Sunni jurisprudence: Averroes and Ibn Khaldun (Maliki), Ibn Taymiya and Ibn Qudama (Hanbali), Shaybani (Hanafi), and al-Mawardi (Shaafi).
Warraq wonders, â€œWhy did it take a non-specialist such as Dr. Bostom, a scholar from another discipline — clinical epidemiology and randomized clinical trials in medicine — to discover and have translated for the first time this primary and secondary source material?”
Ibn Warraq continues: As Bernard Lewis points out in his important essay, â€œPro-Islamic Jews,” â€œThe golden age of equal rights [in Spain] was a myth…. The myth was invented by Jews in nineteenth century Europe as a reproach to Christians.” There are those, he says, who contend that while Dr. Bostom may be right to expose history hitherto simply denied, this was not the right historical moment to express it. But, as Isaiah Berlin once wrote, an ideologue is someone prepared to suppress what he suspects to be true. This disposition to suppress the truth has engendered much evil.
ostom’s work attempts to set straight the historical record. Let us hope that Bostom’s monumental survey is read in every corner of U.S. and European government, as well as by the masses who wish to learn the truth on Islamic doctrines.
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