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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims edited
by Andrew G Bostom (Prometheus Books) Writing in 1991, the late French theologian and philosopher Jacques Ellul observed: "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 …. Regarding this expansion, little is said about jihad. And yet it all happened through war!"

The Legacy of Jihad provides a comprehensive, meticulously documented corrective to the genre of ahistorical assessments decried by Ellul. This unique, extensive compilation includes Muslim theological and juridical texts, eyewitness historical accounts by both Muslim and non-Muslim chroniclers, and essays by preeminent scholars analyzing jihad war and the ruling conditions imposed upon the non-Muslim peoples conquered by jihad campaigns. The Legacy of Jihad reveals how, for well over a millennium, across three continents—Asia, Africa, and Europe—non-Muslims who were vanquished by jihad wars, became forced tributaries (called dhimmi in Arabic), in lieu of being slain. Under the dhimmi religious caste system, non-Muslims were subjected to legal and financial oppression, as well as social isolation. Extensive primary and secondary source materials, many translated here for the first time into English, are presented, making clear that jihad conquests were brutal, imperialist advances, which spurred waves of Muslims to expropriate a vast expanse of lands and subdue millions of indigenous peoples. Finally, the book examines how jihad war, as a permanent and uniquely Islamic institution, ultimately regulates the relations of Muslims with non-Muslims to this day. Scholars, educators, and interested lay readers will find this collection an invaluable resource.

The politically correct would have it that Islam is a religion of peace, but in this far-ranging collection of Muslim and non-Muslim eyewitness accounts, theological treatises by great Muslim scholars and jurists throughout history and historical surveys of superb historians, Islam has in fact 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 "one true faith" upon the entire world.

In 759 pages, divided into eight parts, Dr. Andrew Bostom has provided a fantastic compendium of historical surveys; jihad literature; classical Muslim scholarly treatises; historical overviews from important 20th century historians; foldout, color-coded maps; eyewitness accounts of jihad campaigns from the Near East, Asia Minor, Europe and the Indian subcontinent; historical and contemporary accounts of jihad slavery; and Muslim and non-Muslim chronicles and eyewitness accounts of jihad campaigns.

It is hard, after viewing these compelling accounts and histories, to continue to believe that radical Islamists are in fact all that radical. For Islam, at its core, seems to be a faith bent upon the conquest and subjugation of non-Muslims.

In part two, Bostom collects many jihadist teachings in the Qur'an, for example, Qur'an chapter 9, verse 29, "Fight 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 teachings fill all of two pages in the text.

But Bostom does not stop there. The third chapter is devoted to classical and modern teachings of Qur'anic commentators on Chapter 9, verse 29. Al-Suyuti (d. 1505 CE), for example, 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 the passage in precisely the same way as it appears.

Chapter 4 is then devoted to jihad in the Hadith, with commentary from Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim.

Part 3 presents the classical writings of Muslim theologians and jurists on jihad. This 110-page section spans the entire history of Islam, beginning with commentators from the 8th century and continuing through the 20th century. Bostom has gleaned writings of Malik B. Anas (d. 795) from the Muwata, as well as a 1915 Ottoman Fatwa.

He also includes several works translated into English for the first time. For example, Ibn Qudama (d. 1223), writes, "Legal 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 in this text, the author is belligerent. "It 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)."

Similarly, the renowned Sufi master al-Ghazali (d. 1111) writes (now in English for the first time), "One 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 "revoked. One may cut down their trees.... One must destroy their useless books." This belies the notion that Sufism is peaceful.

Al-Hilli (d. 1277) appears for the first time in English on the traditions concerning the tax on certain infidels, who have not been enslaved or murdered. And the Persian scholar Muhammad al-Amili (d. 1621) has been translated from Farsi concerning Jihad holy war: "Islamic holy war against followers of other religions, such as Jews, is required unless they convert to Islam or pay the poll tax."

The 117-page Part 4 includes overviews of Jihad by important 20th century scholars, including Edmond Fagnan, on jihad according to the Malikite school, Roger Arnaldez on the holy war according to Ibn Hazm of Cordova, Clement Huart on the law of war, Nicolas P. Agnides, on the classification of persons under Islamic law and John Ralph Willis on the jihad ideology of enslavement.

As Ibn Warraq notes in the forward to this monumental study of Islamic jurisprudence and prosecution of war, Dr. Bostom (a non-specialist from the field of clinical medicine) 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).

Ibn Warraq continues: Some contend that Dr. Bostom is right to expose history hitherto denied, but this was not the right historical moment to do so. But, as Isaiah Berlin once noted, from the ideologue's willingness to suppress what he suspects to be true has flowed much evil.

Special Contents

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