We have often asserted in this space that Islam is not a religion, but a totalitarian political ideology masquerading as a religion.
It is not, however, a political ideology in a vacuum: from its inception, Islam was a tactical and strategic blueprint for military victory. It was designed to motivate and instruct the tribes of the Arabian peninsula as they went forth in jihad against non-Muslims (and non-Arabs) in the name of Allah.
Our Flemish correspondent VH has compiled a report on the military nature of Islam. He includes this introduction:
The Eid al-Adha, the Islamic “Sacrifice Feast” — which this year will be on Friday, November 27 — has the character of a practice operation. Often the slaughtering is even done in the presence of children (boys), which adds to the hardening of these children.
These children are used to seeing throats cut. They are used to the idea that apostasy leads to execution, which also has a military aspect: it is similar to the punishment for desertion.
If you look further, a mass open prayer, like the recent one in Washington, is a symbolic siege by an army. A show of strength to raise fear in the enemy and cause him to surrender voluntarily, etc. I was therefore fascinated by this excellent short article by Mat Herben (pdf) when it appeared earlier this year.
VH begins his survey with excerpts from Mat Herben’s article, and supplements it with further material:
A Soldiers’ Religion
By Mat Herben
As a politician and military expert, I have always been surprised that Islam in general is looked upon as a universal religion and hardly ever as a state religion, which is what was needed for its founder to achieve his political ambitions on the Arabian Peninsula. Some parts of the Quran, rather than a holy book, seem derived from rules for the military discipline of an advancing army.
The Quran is the book of a typical soldiers’ religion that is about destroying enemies, the splitting up of booty, and rewards for warriors. The death penalty for apostasy is not a religious requirement, but is military criminal law on desertion in wartime. And Islam is always at war with the infidels; it is a sacred duty.
The Islamic civilization was able to flourish as a war economy, as long as the armies were advancing in victory and returning with booty and slaves. The military defeats in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries therefore announced the collapse of the economy. In the early twentieth century Islam had about 200 million adherents, from whom no danger was apprehended. Without the medical advances that the West has brought — which created a demographic explosion — and the stream of plentiful petrodollars [and the present migration conquest — translator], Islam would have become an insignificant religion.
Recently a number of studies have been published that finally do examine the true Islam from a political-military angle. The London professor Dr. Efraim Karsh describes the centuries-old struggle for power and the political game of shifting alliances with European powers [“Islamic Imperialism: A History”]. He concludes that it is not about a clash of civilizations, nor a battle between Christianity and Islam, but the aspiration of an imperial power for political domination.
Gilbert Taylor on Amazon:
Middle East scholar Karsh surveys for a general audience the region’s Islamic political past. Parallel to his narrative, Karsh frequently contrasts the universalistic proclamations of Islam with cycles of imperial consolidation and fragmentation. After recounting the Prophet Muhammad’s religio-political establishment of Islam, and the discord about his legacy that continues today, Karsh narrates the battles over Muhammad’s caliphate that eventuated in the Umayyad and Abbasid Empires. Karsh’s commentary often looks forward to contemporary ideologues of Islam who ransack history to justify grievances. In Karsh’s coverage, the irruption of the Crusaders into the Levant hardly provoked a jihad to eject them; that occurred, in his account, through politically ordinary processes of empire building, eventually by the celebrated Saladin. Islamic unity and zeal, however, had always to be affirmed by reestablishers of the caliphate, a theme Karsh incorporates into his chronicling of the rise and decline of the Ottoman Empire, the distribution of its territories after World War I, and varieties of pan-Arabism prevalent after World War II. An informative foundation for further exploration of Islamic history
Charles Moore in The Telegraph:
From its beginnings, he argues, Islam was a creed that made no separation between temporal and religious power. Mohammed never thought of ruling solely in men’s hearts: he ruled in Medina. He set out to conquer the Arab world, and he laid down a justification for all conquest everywhere. Whereas Jesus, in his “great commission”, commanded his apostles only to go out into the world “and preach the Gospel to every creature”, Mohammed, in his farewell address, explicitly justified the sword, telling his followers to “fight all men until they say, ‘There is no god but Allah.’ “ Shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden quoted these words as validation for his actions. Karsh, professor of Mediterranean studies at King’s College, London, agrees that a great many Christians have been imperialists too, but because the history of Christianity as a political power only began nearly 300 years after the death of its founder, its roots were not in any imperium, and its message is therefore not, at heart, political. It is interesting that the most important split within Islam — that between Sunni and Shia — is about who is the rightful earthly ruler (the caliph). […]
Having established the outlines of the argument, Karsh then races the reader rather too breathlessly through the whole history of Muslim power, from the seventh century to the present. He relates tales of great glory and success, even of great civilisation, but more of cruelty, waste, corruption, and, for the past 1,000 years or so, failure. The author believes Islam provides Muslim leaders not only with a justification for violence, but also with a permanent excuse. They can always blame things on the infidels, and at the same time conceal their real aims under the mantle (such a garment was sometimes literally used) of the Prophet. He demonstrates, for example, how Arab nations have again and again avoided helping the Palestinians or coming to terms with Israel, because the settlement of that cause would turn the focus on to their own failings. To understand what is happening in the Muslim world, it seems, we in the West must not imagine that we can have a decisive effect for good or ill. We must recognise the “supremacy of indigenous dynamics”: what really matters is not the clash of civilisations but the clashes within Muslim civilisation. Even in the Crusades, the great Saladin (whom bin Laden takes as his explicit model) was much more concerned to bash up fellow Muslims, thus securing his own power, than to advance his religion, though he naturally thought his own faith superior and didn’t mind killing infidels one little bit. Muslims suffer the rule either of cynics or fanatics.
Efraim Karsh in a review of a book by Karen Armstrong:
That these acts of violence make a mockery of protestations of Islam’s tolerant spirit has been totally lost on the pope’s critics. And why shouldn’t it? Not only did the Vatican issue a prompt apology in a desperate bid to defuse the unfolding crisis, but in the years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a vast cohort of Western apologists has consistently painted a surrealistic picture of Islam’s political agenda. Depicting jihad as an inner quest for personal self-improvement, rather than the “holy war” claimed by countless Muslim dynasties and leaders throughout history, they dismissed the worldwide wave of Islamic terrorism as an excessive reaction by misguided fringe groups to America’s arrogant and self-serving foreign policy. “Muslims have never nurtured dreams of world conquest,” wrote Karen Armstrong, a prominent representative of this view, shortly after September 11. “They had no designs on Europe, for example, even though Europeans imagined that they did. Once Muslim rule had been established in Spain, it was recognized that the empire could not expand indefinitely.”
This assertion couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only was the conquest of Spain, some 2,000 miles from the Arabian homeland, a straightforward act of imperial expansion, it hardly satisfied Islam’s territorial ambitions. No sooner had the Muslims established themselves in that country than they invaded France in strength. Had they not been contained in 732 AD at the famous battle of Poitiers in west central France, they might well have swept deep into northern Europe.
A review of the book by Efraim Karsh by Yale University Press:
From the first Arab-Islamic Empire of the mid-seventh century to the Ottomans, the last great Muslim empire, the story of the Middle East has been the story of the rise and fall of universal empires and, no less important, of imperialist dreams. So argues Efraim Karsh in this highly provocative book. Rejecting the conventional Western interpretation of Middle Eastern history as an offshoot of global power politics, Karsh contends that the region’s experience is the culmination of long-existing indigenous trends, passions, and patterns of behaviour, and that foremost among these is Islam’s millenarian imperial tradition. The author explores the history of Islam’s imperialism and the persistence of the Ottoman imperialist dream that outlasted World War I to haunt Islamic and Middle Eastern politics to the present day. September 11 can be seen as simply the latest expression of this dream, and such attacks have little to do with U.S. international behaviour or policy in the Middle East, says Karsh. The House of Islam’s war for world mastery is traditional, indeed venerable, and it is a quest that is far from over.
In 2007 the U.S. veteran and military historian Dr. Richard A. Gabriel published the first military biography of the Prophet [“Muhammad: Islam’s First Great General (Campaigns and Commanders)”]. His conclusion is that Muhammad could only succeed as Prophet because he was a strategic genius. A man who in his struggle for power did not shrink from unconventional means, such as guerrilla tactics, robbery, bribery, and political murders. A sobering conclusion for the gullible and the pacifists who place Muhammad in line with Jesus and Buddha, but it is a fact that Muslims are proud of Muhammad’s military “merits”:
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Muhammad was unique in his leadership style in Arabia in that he put his followers under his unified command. The tribes of Arabia usually did not have a unified commander. They were very clannish, fighting only for their clan or family honor or for their own personal advancement, whereas Muhammad’s formed his followers into a community called “ummah”. The community was made up of many tribes, but all individuals were personally loyal to Muhammad instead of to their clan or family.
Richard Gabriel presents the battles Muhammad was personally involved in, as well as those that were commanded by his subordinates. Muhammad’s way of warfare was implemented by his successors in the expansion of the Islamic Empire, which grew by the sword, persuasion, and other means. Richard Gabriel mainly studies the expansion by the sword in his book, since this is a military history and religion was a motivation for men to sacrifice their lives whenever Muhammad ordered an attack on his enemies or to defend the community. This was considered martyrdom, and its influence is seen today with terrorists like al-Qaeda and other groups.
Christians, on the other hand, are embarrassed by the violence that has been committed in the name of their religion. It is this history of militant Islam that justifies the title of the book Eindstrijd [“The Final Battle”]. The influential British Muslim cleric Yusuf Qaradawi predicted in 2002 that Islam will return to Europe as a conqueror and victor, after the religion had been expelled twice: in 732 at the Battle of Poitiers, and in 1683 at the relief of Vienna. The objective does not necessarily have to be achieved with the sword, he writes, but can also be achieved through demographic growth. A new round — some speak of the second, others the third — of an age-old conflict.
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The above is an excerpt in the preface by Mat Herben to the [Dutch language] book “The Final Battle [Eindstrijd], the final clash between the liberal West and a traditional Islam”, edited by Hans Jansen and Bert Snel. A bundle with contributions from such critical-Islam authors as Paul Cliteur, Robert Spencer, Andrew Bostom, Lars Hedegaard, Ibn Warraq, Bat Ye’or Daniel Pipes, Barry Oostheim, Mat Herben and others. [Uitgeverij Van Praag, ISBN 978-90-490-2404-8] A pdf of the preface and chapter written by Hans Jansen, can be downloaded here.
 Mat Herben is Secretary of the Prof. Dr. W.S.P. [Pim] Fortuyn Foundation and a former spokesman for Pim Fortuyn. He has been the fraction leader in the Dutch Parliament for the LPF [List Pim Fortuyn].  An overview of writings by Dr. Efraim Karsh on Middle East Forum is here.  An overview of publications by Dr. Richard A. Gabriel is here. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Muslim Ummah is a Military Machine
The teeming tomes on orthodox Islamic theology devote plenty of space to non-warlike subjects, such as faith, purification, prayers, alms, fasting, pilgrimage, marriage, divorce, business transactions, inheritance, gifts, bequests, vows, oaths, crime, punishment, government, hunting, food, drink, dress, decoration, greetings, magic, poetry, visions, dreams, virtue, last day, repentance, etc. But the rules laid down for every Muslim, everywhere and at all times, are the same. In the final analysis this uniform pattern of belief and behaviour erases the individual in man and turns him into a member of a close-knit collective, the Ummah.
The Ummah, however, acquires an altogether new colour when juxtaposed with jihad, on which subject also the tomes wax no less eloquent. It looks too much like a military machine to pass as a peaceful society. The rules laid down by the Shariat read like a manual compiled for use in military barracks — waking up every morning to the call of a bugle, rolling up the bed, sweeping the floor, pressing the uniform, polishing the shoes, rushing for a bath, moving the body in different ways in mass drills, sharing meals in the mess-hall, drinking from a common canteen and, finally, facing the court martial for mistakes made in any part. One is amazed as well as amused when this mechanical conformity to a set pattern of external exercises is presented by the spokesmen of Islam as the very essence of universal spirituality and morality.
Prayers of Military Parade?
David Samuel Margoliouth [Laudian Professor of Arabic at the University of Oxford from 1889 to 1937] cites several early Muslim sources regarding what the Muslim ranks looked like, on the eve of the Battle of Badr: “Of the battle that followed we have no clear or detailed account: but we know at least some of the factors which brought about the result. The discipline of the salat or ‘prayer’, in which the Moslems were arranged in rows, and had to perform after a leader certain bodily exercises, and falling out of line was threatened with divine punishment, had served as a rough sort of drill, and Mohammed before the battle discharged the duty of making the troops fall into line. The Meccan general Utbah, son of Rabiah, was struck with their appearance; they were keeling on their knees, silent as though they were dumb, and stretching out their tongues like snakes. They were all subject to the single will of their Prophet, who was aware that the general should not risk his life; for him therefore in the rear of the army a hut was built, where attended by his most trusted counsellors, he could issue orders; and to which camels were tied ready to be used by the leaders for flight in case of disaster.” [Mohammed and the Rise of Islam, pp. 258-59]
Observations of Count Keyserling
This militarization of everyday Muslim life was noticed with keen interest by Graf Hermann Alexander von Keyserling (1880-1946) during his travels in Islamic countries. He summed up his over-all impression in his “The Travel Diary of a Philosopher” [London, 1927]. “Islam is a religion,” he wrote, “of absolute surrender and submissiveness to God — but to a God of a certain character — a War-Lord who is entitled to do with us as he will and who bids us stand ever in line of battle against the foe. The ritual of this belief embodies the idea of discipline. When the true believers every day at fixed hours perform their prayers in serried ranks in the mosque, all going through the same gestures at the same moment, this is not, as in Hinduism, done as a method of self-realization, but in the spirit in which the Prussian soldier defiled before his Kaiser. This military basis of Islam explains all the essential virtues of the Musalman. It also explains his fundamental defects — his unprogressiveness, his incapacity to adapt himself, his lack of invention. The soldier has simply to obey orders. All the rest is the affair of Allah.” [History of Aurangzib, Volume III, Calcutta, 1928. p. 171]
Congregational or Friday Prayers
“In the early days of Islam,” writes Professor Kishori Saran Lal (1920-2002), “the main features of the Friday service were prayers in congregation with worshippers standing in straight linear rows. Attendance was compulsory and military discipline was maintained. The sermon was like the order of the day; it comprised advice, reprimand and directions on religious and political obligations of the faithful. A sense of awe pervaded — raising the number of worshippers.” [Theory and Practice of Muslim State in India, op. cit., pp.83-84]. Small wonder that great importance is attached to congregational or Friday prayers in Islam. “The ahadis [sayings of the prophet] declare that namaz [praying according to a method, described in great detail, like: “stand so that there is a gap of four fingers between your feet.”, and is different for woman] said in congregation is twenty-five times superior to namaz said alone at home. Muhammad was very strict about attendance in congregational prayer.” [Ibid., p.82] The Prophet is reported to have said that he felt like burning down the houses of those who did not attend the Friday prayers. In the history of Islam in India, Friday sermons “result in working up the feelings of the namazis, and sabre-rattling and street riots generally take place on Friday after the afternoon prayers” [Ibid., p.93].