Jihads-From Muhammad To Atta




Andrew Bostom is an associate professor of medicine and the author of “The

Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims,” just published

by Prometheus Books.



   We Americans, with our singular heritage of religious freedom, endeavor to

think the best of all faiths. But the past four years since Sept. 11 have

challenged our accustomed ecumenism.


   The questions arise: How much do we actually understand about Islam, and is it compatible with liberal democratic ideals that evolved, uniquely, in the West?


   Elected leaders tell us that Islam is a religion of peace and that the Muslim

terrorists who destroyed New York’s World Trade Center, slaughtering 3,000

noncombatants, adhered to a perverted form of their own faith. Muslim leaders in

America now routinely condemn terrorist acts against innocent civilians.


   Islam considers the use of terrorism to be unacceptable for any purpose,

declared the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) after the recent bombings in

London, also perpetrated by Muslims. MPAC condemns the exploitation of people

and issues, regardless of the perpetrators and their justifications.


   Although Muslim spokesmen may condemn the killing of innocents neglecting

to make explicit who qualifies as innocent few have spoken up to condemn and

disown the Islamic doctrine of jihad. The reason may be that jihad, which means

to strive in the path of Allah, is so much a part of Islamic faith and history, it represents a permanent Muslim institution.


   The foundations of the institution are found in the Quran. Sura (chapter) 9

is devoted in its entirety to war proclamations. There we read that the Muslim

faithful are to “slay the idolaters wherever you find them. . . . Fight against

such as those who have been given the scripture as believe not in Allah. . . .

Go forth, light-armed and heavyarmed, and strive with your wealth and your lives

in the way of Allah. That is best for you, if ye but knew.”


   From such verses in the Quran and in the “hadith” (i.e., words and deeds of

Muhammad, recorded by pious transmitters), Muslim jurists and theologians

formulated the Islamic institution of permanent jihad war against non-Muslims to bring the world under Islamic rule (Sharia law).


   The consensus on the nature of jihad from major schools of Islamic

jurisprudence is clear. Summarizing this consensus of centuries of Islamic

thought, Muslim scholar Ibn Khaldun, who died in 1406, wrote:


   “In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty because of the

universalism of the mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam

either 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.”


   Only Islam, Ibn Khaldun added, “is under obligation to gain power over other nations.”


   Muhammad himself started things off with a series of proto-jihad campaigns to subdue the Jews, Christians and pagans of Arabia.


Within a century of his death in 632, the jihad wars of his successors had expanded the Muslim empire from Portugal to Pakistan.


Later Muslim conquests continued in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe.


The Christian kingdoms of Armenia, Byzantium, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia,

Herzegovina, Croatia and Albania, in addition to parts of Poland, Hungary and Romania, were conquered and Islamized.


Arab Muslim invaders also engaged in continuous jihad raids that ravaged and enslaved sub-Saharan African animist populations, extending to southern Sudan.


   When the Ottoman Muslim armies were stopped at the gates of Vienna in 1683,

over a millennium of jihad had transpired.


   These tremendous military successes spawned a triumphalist jihad literature.

Muslim historians recorded in detail the number of infidels slain, or enslaved

and deported, the cities and villages pillaged, and the lands, treasure and

movable goods seized.


   Christian and Hebrew sources, and even the scant Hindu and Buddhist writings

that survived the ravages of the Muslim conquests, independently validate this

narrative and complement the Muslim perspective by providing testimonies of the

suffering of the non-Muslim victims of jihad wars.


A prominent 14th-century Muslim treatise on jihad written by Ibn Hudayl

revealed the violent methods employed during the conquest of the Iberian



    “It is permissible to set fire to the lands of the enemy, his stores of

grain, his beasts of burden if it is not possible for the Muslims to take

possession of them as well as to cut down his trees, to raze his cities, in a

word to do everything that might ruin and discourage him.”


   Terrorism was often a prelude to conquest. The Muslim historian al-Maqqari,

commenting in the 17th century on the brutal tactics of Arab raiders, wrote,

“Allah 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.”


   Later centuries saw Muslim fortunes decline. Many conquered lands liberated

themselves from Muslim rule. But the ideology of jihad was handed down unchanged to all future Muslim generations.


   “Even today, the study of the jihad is part of the curriculum of all the

Islamic institutes,” wrote Lebanese law professor Antoine Fattal in 1958. “In the universities of Al-Azhar, Najaf and Zaitoune, students are still taught that the holy war (jihad war) is a binding prescriptive decree, pronounced against the Infidels, which will only be revoked with the end of the world.”


   Sadly, almost 50 years since Fattal made his observations, learning the

Manichean theory of jihad war remains an integral part of the formal education

of many Muslim youth.


   The historical record demonstrates that this jihad war theory has been put

into practice by Muslims across the globe for well over a millennium through

present times.


   This fourth anniversary of the carnage of 9-11 “caused by a major act of

jihad terrorism” would be an appropriate occasion for contemporary Muslim

clerical and ruling elites to formally acknowledge, renounce and begin

dismantling the devastating Islamic institution of jihad war.

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