Dr. Richard Jansen, who contributed a guest-post about the Balkans here last weekend, returns with this overview of the history of Islam.
1400 Year Jihad Against the West
by Richard Jansen
July 28, 2008
After a few of the comments on my post on the Balkans, a few words on my formal and informal education may be in order. My doctoral degree was in biochemistry. After spending a thirty year career in both industry and the university as a research scientist in the field of nutritional biochemistry, since retirement and especially since the Bosnian war and the attack on our country by Islamic militants on September11, 2001, I have become a student of history. I take seriously that Santayana reminded us that those that who ignore history will pay for that ignorance. For those who already know what I write below, I apologize. For those who don’t know this history, or who need to be reminded, I hope the following will be helpful.
The United States together with what used to be called the Christian West, Christendom, is under attack from Islamic forces with a worldwide reach. There is dispute as to whether this Islamic movement represents Islam per se, or a radical version of Islam. There is no doubt that these forces get their inspiration, motivation, and indeed instructions from the Koran and the life of Mohammed. This world-wide movement is known as Militant Islam. Other names being used are Radical Islam, Islamic Jihad, Global Jihad, Islamism and Islamo-fascism.
Our enemy sees this struggle as a religious war and refers to the United States with the word “Crusaders”, bringing back into our consciousness a religious war between Islam and Christianity that occurred nearly a millennium ago. The West, for understandable reasons, is slow to acknowledge that we are indeed in a religious war declared against Western Civilization by an Islamic movement based on the Koran and Islamic law. In contrast, Western Civilization is based on Judeo-Christian morality, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment combined with the inheritance from classical Rome and Athens.
This is a continuation of a 1400 year jihad against the Dar al Harb, the world of the infidels, by the Dar al Islam, the world of Islam. From 633 until 1683 Islam conquered Lebanon except for Mount Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, North Africa, Mesopotamia, Persia, most of Eastern Christianity, and most of Spain. At the time of the Reformation Islamic armies had just conquered Hungary and were threatening Germany. In his book On War Against the Turk written in 1529 Martin Luther demonstrated that he had a good understanding of Islam and the threat it posed for all Christians and Christian lands. He understood that in Islamic lands Christians were not allowed to preach or confess Christ.
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Luther in 1529 had a better understanding of the threat to the Christian West posed by Islam than many do today. Unfortunately today many in the West either fail to understand or refuse to understand that we are now involved in a continuation of a 1400 year jihad or holy war against the West that was for the most part in abeyance from 1683 when the Ottoman Empire failed to take Vienna, until the resurgence of Islamic jihad in the 20th century following the upheavals of the First World War. This blog commemorates 1683.
In order to understand the religious wars that Militant Islam has declared on the West we first must go back to the time of Mohammed and his companions in the 7th century. The suras or chapters in the Koran were transcribed first in Mecca and then in Medina. In Mecca Mohammed courted the Jews but in Medina, after they failed to accept Mohammed as their last Prophet, he turned on them. Ibn Ishaq, in the first biography about Mohammed, wrote as follows about the surrender of the Jews at B. Qurayza; “Then they surrendered, and the apostle confined them in Medina in the quarter of d. al-Harith, a woman of B. al-Najjar. Then the apostle went out to the market of Medina (which is still a market today) and dug trenches in it. Then he sent for them and struck off their heads in these trenches as they were brought to him in batches. Among them was the enemy of Allah Huyayy b. Akhtab and Ka’b b Assad their chief. There were 600 or 700 in all although some put the figure as high as 800”. This biography of Mohammed was written by a Muslim about one hundred years after Mohammed’s death.
When Mohammed died in 632 a dispute arose as to who should be the first Caliph, The Prophet had made no provision for his successor. One side favored keeping the leadership in Mohammed’s family by naming Ali, the husband of his daughter Fatima, as Caliph. The other side favored naming Abu Bakr, Mohammed’s loyal assistant, as Caliph. In the end Abu Bakr was named Caliph. Ali later became the 4th Caliph, and was killed in battle.
In a subsequent power struggle Ali’s son Husayn was killed in the Battle of Karbala. The followers of Ali and his son Husayn are known today as the Shi’a, i.e. The Party of Ali. The death of Husayn is commemorated in Karbala as the Shi’a holy day of Ashura.
Shi’a believe that Ali was the first legitimate Caliph. Those that believe that Abu Bakr and the Caliphs that immediately followed him are the first Caliphs are known as the Sunni, or the Tradition of Islam. The family line of Mohammed through Ali and Husayn became extinct in 873 when the last Shi’a Imam Mohammed al-Mahdi disappeared. The Shi’a are waiting for this twelfth Shi’a Imam to re-appear after having been hidden for over a millennium. Today 90% of Muslims in the World are Sunni and 10% are Shi’a.
The Shi’a are found mostly in Iran and Iraq. Theological differences are not large. They relate mostly to the legitimacy of the early Caliphs, the importance of the martyrdom of Ali and his son Husayn, and the concept of the “hidden Imam.” However, the rivalry between these two branches of Islam that has been waxing and waning for fourteen hundred years is becoming increasingly important in these days of asymmetric warfare and nuclear weapons.
By the time World War I began, Serbia and the rest of the Balkans had become free of Ottoman rule. When the war between Serbia and Austria started, Germany allied itself with Austria while Britain, France and Russia allied themselves with Serbia. The Ottoman Empire made a very bad choice by siding with Germany and Austria. When the war was over the victorious powers proceeded to carve up the Ottoman Empire, which already was known as “The Sick Man of Europe.”
Britain was granted Mandates over a newly created Iraq and Palestine, while France was granted Mandates over Lebanon and Syria. Britain through T.E. Lawrence apparently had promised Sharif Husayn of Mecca an Arab homeland in exchange for his help in fighting against the Ottoman Empire. However, Britain with the Balfour Declaration of 1917 had also promised the Jews a National Homeland in Palestine.
In 1919 the Emir Feisal, Sharif Husayn’s son signed an agreement with Chaim Weitzman, the head of the Zionist organization in which he agreed to recognize a Jewish state in Palestine if an Arab state under his authority as Caliph also was formed. This did not come to pass. The fact is none of the Arab states wanted this to happen. The British made Feisal King of Iraq and his brother Abdullah the Emir of Trans-Jordan, which was 80% of the Palestine Mandate, thus pretty much nullifying the 1917 Balfour promise to the Jews. Feisal and Abdullah were both eventually assassinated.
In Iran a military coup in 1921 established a military dictatorship under Reza Khan. In 1926 the Pahlavi dynasty was established with Reza Shah Pahlavi as a hereditary Shah. Egypt became independent from the British in 1922 and Fuad I became King. In 1936 he was succeeded by his son King Farouk. In Arabia Ibn Saud and his forces defeated Sharif Husayn of Mecca. In 1932 the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was formed. The stage was now set for the religious wars of the 20th century to begin. Two interlocking lines of Islamic thought, Salafism and Wahhabism, added fuel to the smoldering fire.
Salafism and Wahhabism
After World War I there was much unhappiness and frustration within the Muslim world in the Middle East. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Britain established hegemony over Egypt, France over Algeria and Morocco, and Italy over Libya. Arabs became aware of their own weaknesses as the Ottoman Empire was defeated in the “great war” of 1914-1918 and carved up by the Western Powers.
Iraq and Palestine became British mandates, and Lebanon and Syria became French mandates. Attaturk saved Anatolia from dissection and established the Republic of Turkey as a secular state. He abolished the Sultanate and the Caliphate thus ending 1400 years of a Caliphate, i.e. an Islamic ruler in a direct line from the political and spiritual rule of Mohammed himself. Jews at this time were moving into Palestine, and it is a core article of belief in Islam that any land that had once been Islamic must remain so.
Western Imperialism became the scapegoat for all the problems in the Muslim world.
There came a renewed longing for the “olden days”, the time of the Prophet and his companions. Salafism provided a theological and historical grounding for this longing. Salafism is a line of thought within Islam which hails the “righteous ancestors” as those who serve as examples of how Islam should be practiced. The term “righteous ancestors” refers to Mohammed, his companions and the first three generations of Muslims. The modern version of Salafism developed in Egypt in the late 19th century. Wahhabism is another closely related movement that is named after Mohammed ibn al Wahhab who lived in the 18th century. The movement claims inspiration and theological descent from ibn Tymiyya, 1263-1328, and is the state religion of Saudi Arabia.
Both Salafism and Wahhabism claim that Islam has gone wrong and strayed from the true path over the centuries. Both advocate emulating the Islam of Mohammed and his companions. This was a confident and aggressive Islam that within one hundred years after Mohammed’s death ruled all of the Arabian peninsula, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, much of Mesopotamia and Persia. Both Salafism and Wahhabism advocate that war should be waged on all unbelievers, i.e. all non-Muslims until they have become Muslim, submitted totally and unconditionally to Islam or have been killed. Islam requires jihad, fighting on behalf of Islam, as a religious duty. Salafism and Wahhabism also discouraged many religious practices that had developed over the centuries such as praying over tombs, invoking anyone in prayer other than Allah and making drawings of human beings.
The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt as a reform movement by Hassan al Banna in 1928. Although a Sufi himself, his views were heavily influenced by Salafism and Wahhabism. His movement strongly opposed the ascendancy of secular, primarily Western ideas in the Arab and Muslim world. Al Banna wanted to see a strong move back to the supremacy of Allah in human affairs. The credo of the Muslim Brotherhood is : “Allah is our objective, the Koran is our law, the Prophet is our leader, Jihad is our way, and dying for the sake of Allah is our highest hope.” The Muslim Brotherhood is worldwide, with branches in essentially all Arab countries and in the United States as well.
Members of the Brotherhood assassinated the Egyptian Prime Minister Mahmud Fahm Nokrashi in 1948. Shortly after Al Banna himself was murdered, presumably by a government agent. In 1954 a member of the Brotherhood attempted to assassinate President Nasser. Nasser’s successor Anwar as-Sadat released from prison members of the Brotherhood and said he would implement Shariah law in Egypt. He failed to do so and, in addition, signed a peace treaty with Israel. The Brotherhood murdered Sadat in 1981.
In many ways Sayyid Qutb is the father of the modern jihad movement against infidels and all unbelievers, in keeping with Mohammed and the Koran. He strongly opposed Western imperialism and materialism. The immorality and corruption of the Christian West appalled him. He believed in the righteousness of God and the sinfulness of mankind. In his mind the only hope for mankind was the universal adoption of the Shariah law in all countries. Qutb opposed most Western ideas, including both capitalism and socialism, as being materialistic in nature. In his view only Muslims who followed the Koran and Islamic law were truly Muslims. All others were unbelievers and should be dealt with accordingly. For him the Shariah law was a universal law, applicable to all, and an Islamic society was the only civilized society.
The following paragraph from his book Milestones, written while he was in prison, pretty well sums up his beliefs: “It is not the intention of Islam to force its beliefs on people, but Islam is not merely beliefs. As we have pointed out, Islam is a declaration of the freedom of man from servitude to other men. Thus it strives from the beginning to abolish all those systems and governments which are based on the rule of man over men and the servitude of one human being to another. When Islam releases people from this political pressure and presents to them its spiritual message, appealing to their reason, it gives them complete freedom to accept or not to accept its beliefs. However, this freedom does not mean that they can make their desires their gods, or that they can choose to remain in the servitude of other human beings, making some men lords over others. Whatever system is to be established in the world ought to be on the authority of Allah, deriving its laws from him alone. Thus every individual is free, under the protection of this universal system to adopt any belief he wishes to adopt. This is the only way ‘the religion’ can be purified for Allah alone. The word ‘religion’ includes more than belief; ‘religion’ actually means a way of life, and in Islam this is based on belief. But in an Islamic system there is room for all kinds of people to follow their own beliefs, while obeying the laws of the country which are themselves based on the divine authority.”
Sayyid Qutb was executed by hanging August 29, 1966.
Al Qaeda, meaning in Arabic “the base”, began as a response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden, a wealthy Saudi businessman, was a prime financial supporter of the fledgling organization. He became radicalized after Iraqi invasion of Kuwait when American forces located in the Islamic holy ground of Saudi Arabia. The government of Saudi Arabia expelled bin Laden in 1991 and he relocated in the Sudan.
Osama bin Laden issued a fatwa, or declaration of war, first published in Al Quds Al Arabi, a London-based newspaper, in August, 1996. The fatwa was entitled “Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places.” On February 23, 1998 the World Islamic Front issued a statement entitled “Jihad against Jews and Crusaders.” This group consisted of : Shaykh Usamah Bin-Mohammed Bin-Ladin, Ayman al-Zawahiri, amir of the Jihad Group in Egypt, Abu-Yasir Rifa’i Ahmad Taha, Egyptian Islamic Group, Shaykh Mir Hamzah, secretary of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Pakistan and Fazlul Rahman, amir of the Jihad Movement in Bangladesh. This was and is a declaration of war against the West and Israel. Unfortunately the West did not start to understand until September 11, 2001. Unfortunately too many people still do not understand.
For a fuller discussion, see this website.