"The most excellent Jihad is that for the conquest of
"The ink of the scholar is more holy than the blood of
Karen Armstrong, Muhammad - A Biography Of
. . . there are also Christians there who feel it their
duty to live alongside the oppressed and the destitute and engage in a dedicated struggle
for a just and decent society. It is in this light that we should consider the Islamic
jihad, which Westerners usually translate as 'holy war.' -- p. 165
Huston Smith, The Illustrated World's
Muslims report that the most inflexible image of Islam
that they encounter in the West is that of a militant religion that has spread primarily
by the sword. They see this as a prejudice, born of the thirteen hundred years in which
Islam and Europe have shared common borders and much of the time fought over them. It is a
stereotype forged by people who have seen Islam as their enemy.
Grant, Muslims say, that the Koran does not counsel
turning the other cheek, or pacifism. It teaches forgiveness and the return of good for
evil when circumstances warrant, but these do not add up to not resisting evil. The Quran
allows punishment of wanton wrongdoers to the full extent of the injury done. Extend this
principle to collective life and you have the principle of a just or holy war, which the
Koran also endorses. But these do not warrant the charge of militancy.
As an outstanding general, Muhammad left many
traditions regarding the decent conduct of war. Agreements are to be honored and treachery
avoided; the wounded are not to be mutilated, nor the dead disfigured. Women, children,
and the old are to be spared, as are orchards, crops, and sacred objects. The towering
question, though, is when war is justified. The Koran's definition of a Holy War is
virtually identical with that of a Just War in the Canon Law of Catholicism. It must
either be defensive or to right an horrendous wrong.
Moving from theory to practice, Muslims claim that
in one instance the two coincided. Muhammad adhered meticulously to the charter he forged
for Medina, which -- grounded as it was in the Koranic injunction, "Let there be no
compulsion in religion (2:257) -- is arguably the first mandate for religious tolerance in
human history. Muslims admit that this exemplary beginning was not sustained, but as no
histories are exemplary, the question reduces to whether Islam's has been more militant
than that of other religions. As the charge that it has been has come primarily form
Christianity, its history will serve here as the point of reference.
In favor of Islam are the long centuries during
which in India, Spain, and the Near East, Christians, Jews, and Hindus lived quietly and
in freedom under Muslim rule. Even under the worst rulers, Christians and Jews held
positions of influence and in general retained their religious freedom. It was Christians,
not Muslims (we are reminded) who in the fifteenth century expelled the Jews from Spain
where under Islamic rule they had enjoyed one of their golden ages. To press this example:
Spain and Anatolia changed hands at about the same time -- Christians expelled the Moors
from Spain while Muslims conquered what is now Turkey. Every Muslim was driven from Spain,
or put to the sword, or forced to convert, whereas the seat of the Eastern Orthodox Church
remains in Istanbul to this day. Indeed, if comparisons are the issue, Muslims consider
Christianity's record to be the darker of the two. Who was it, they ask, who preached the
Crusades in the name of the Prince of Peace? Who instituted the inquisition, invented the
rack and the stake as instruments of religion, and plunged Europe into its devastating
wars of religion?
The safest generalization on which this discussion
can end comes from the historians. Islam's record on the use of force is no darker than
that of Christianity. -- p. 168-169
Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, The
Discovery of India
. . . North Africa was torn with internecine conflicts
between rival Christian factions, leading often to bloody struggles for mastery. The
Christianity that was practiced there at the time was narrow and intolerant and the
contrast between this and the general toleration of the Moslem Arabs, with their message
of human brotherhood, was marked. It was this that brought whole peoples, weary of
Christian strife, to their side. . .
This frequent intercourse [trade and cultural
relations] led to Indians getting to know the religion, Islam. Missionaries also came to
spread the new faith and they were welcomed. Mosques were built. There was no objection
raised either by the state or the people, nor were there any religious conflicts. . .
. . . The old Alexandrian schools had been closed by
Christian bishops and their scholars had been driven out. Many of these exiles had drifted
to Persia and elsewhere. They now found a welcome and a safe haven in Baghdad and they
brought Greek philosophy and science and mathematics with them -- Plato and Aristotle,
Ptolemy and Euclid. There were Nestorian and Jewish scholars and Indian physicians;
philosophers and mathematicians. . .
Mahmud's raids are a big event in Indian history, .
. . Above all they brought Islam, for the first time, to the accompaniment of ruthless
military conquest. So far, for over 300 years, Islam had come peacefully as a religion and
taken its place among the many religions of India without trouble or conflict. . . Yet
when he [Mahmud] had established himself as a ruler . . . Hindus were appointed to high
office in the army and the administration.
It is thus wrong and misleading to think of a Moslem
invasion of India or of the Moslem period in India, just as it would be wrong to refer to
the coming of the British to India as a Christian invasion, or to call the British period
in India a Christian period. Islam did not invade India; it had come to India some
centuries earlier. . .
As a warrior he [Akbar] conquered large parts of India,
but his eyes were set on another and more enduring conquest, the conquest of the minds and
hearts of the people. . . throughout his long reign of nearly fifty years from 1556
onwards he labored to that end. -- p. 227 - 259
Indian Ambassador M. N. Masud, Understanding
Why did they [the people of the largest Muslim country,
Indonesia, an archipelago of some 3000 islands] embrace Islam? It could not have been
force or the threat of it because, as far as I knew, not one Muslim soldier from abroad
ever landed with a sword in his hand to conquer the heathen land. -- p. 2
Akbar S. Ahmed, Living Islam
Foreigners who are aggressive, ignorant, barbaric and
unwelcome. Foreigners who are forever advocating their way of life and prepared to
advocate it by brawling and fighting; foreigners with embarrassing and uncouth manners.
Are we talking of Muslim immigrants as seen by Europeans in the late twentieth century?
No. These are Europeans almost a thousand years ago in the Muslim lands of the Middle
East. They came as individuals and as armies and as soldiers of fortune.
Muslims were not their only target; local Christians
and Jews were also among their victims. In one instance their behavior plumbed new depths.
It was in the St. Sophia church in Istanbul. They violated women, drank, and stripped the
church bare. An eyewitness of the fourth Crusade was horrified: 'I Geoffrey de Ville
Hardouin, Martial of the court of Champagne, am sure that since the creation of the
universe, a plundering worse than this has not been witnessed' (Efe 1987: 18). Compare
this to Mehmet the conqueror's entry when, with humility and awe, he fell to his knees,
taking the dust from the floor and wiping it on his turban as an act of devotion (Efe
1987). Christians here have a saying: 'Better the turban of a Turk than the tiara of the
As for the unfortunate Jews, they would be massacred
by the Christians on their way to the Crusades and massacred by them on their way back
from the Crusades. Not surprisingly Muslims thought that here was a civilization doomed to
barbarism and backwardness for ever. -- p. 64
Phillipe Delmas, The Rosy Future of War
The same Europe that we are now trumpeting as a model of
pacifism has been built by wars, down to the last stone. In the sixteenth century Europe
knew only ten years of peace, in the seventeenth century only four, and in the eighteenth
century sixteen. From 1500 to 1800, Europe was at war 270 years out of 300, with a new war
every three years. Austria and Sweden - models of pacifism - were at war every three years
during these three centuries, Spain every four years, Poland and Russia every five. But
maybe we are going too far back in time. The two World Wars - only recently fought -
caused 100,000,000 deaths including 60,000,000 civilians. The Russian and Chinese
Revolutions caused at least 50,000,000 more deaths; actually, historians have recently
revised this upward to 100,000,000. As for the 146 little wars since 1945, they have
discreetly exterminated close to 30,000,000 people, three-quarters of them civilians, and
most of them in the name of the world powers. The most distant of these places had
histories no different from ours [France]: over the course of its first six centuries of
existence, China knew only seventeen years without war. In the course of its last century,
China has endured Western colonialism, invasion by the Japanese, liberation, and
successive Maoist revolution: all told, china has suffered an estimated 30,000,000 to
60,000,000 deaths. -- p. 148
Roger Garaudy, The Founding Myths of Israeli
50 million people died during World War Il, of which 17
million were Russians and 9 million Germans. Poland too paid a heavy tribute, as did the
other occupied countries of Europe, the millions of soldiers from Africa or Asia who had
been mobilized for this war as they had been for the first, though they once more had
nothing to do with the European rivalries that precipitated the conflict.
The Hitlerian domination was thus far more than the huge
"pogrom", as Hannah Arendt described it, of which the Jews were the main if not
the sole victims, as a certain form of propaganda would have us believe. Hitlerism was a
human catastrophe which, unfortunately, had a precedent in the policy applied over five
centuries by the European colonialists to "colored people". What Hitler did to
white people, they did to the American Indians, of which they killed [75%] (also through
forced labor and epidemics, even more than through massacres); just as they did to the
Africans, of which they deported between 10 and 20 million, which means that Africa was
robbed of 100 to 200 million of its inhabitants since ten people had to be killed for one
to be taken alive during capture by the slave-dealers.
The myth suited everybody : to speak of the "greatest
genocide in history" was for the Western colonialists to have their own crimes
forgotten (the decimation of the American Indians and the African slave-trade), as it was
a way for Stalin to mask his own ferocious repressions.
For the Anglo-American leaders, after the Dresden massacre
of February 1945, which killed within a few hours some 200,000 civilians, burned alive by
phosphorus bombs, for no military purpose since the German army was being pushed back all
along the Eastern front before the lightning quick advance of the Soviet army, which had
reached the Oder by January.
For the United States even more, which had just dropped
atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, resulting in "over 200,000 people killed and
almost 150,000 injured, doomed within a given lapse of time."
Noam Chomsky, Year 501: The Conquest
Europeans "fought to kill," and they had the
means to satisfy their blood lust. In the American colonies, the natives were astonished
by the savagery of the Spanish and British. "Meanwhile, on the other side of the
world, the peoples of Indonesia were equally appalled by the all-destructive fury of
European warfare," Parker adds. Europeans had put far behind them the days described
by a 12th century Spanish pilgrim to Mecca, when "The warriors are engaged in their
wars, while the people are at ease." The Europeans may have come to trade, but they
stayed to conquer: "trade cannot be maintained without war, nor war without
trade," one of the Dutch conquerors of the East Indies wrote in 1614. Only China and
Japan were able to keep the West out at the time, because "they already knew the
rules of the game." European domination of the world "relied critically upon the
constant use of force," Parker writes: "It was thanks to their military
superiority, rather than to any social, moral or natural advantage, that the white peoples
of the world managed to create and control, however briefly, the first global hegemony in
Washington W. Irving, Tales Of The Alhambra
As conquerors [Muslims], their heroism was equaled only by
their moderation, and in both, for a time, they excelled the nations with whom they
contended. Severed from their native homes, they loved the land given them as they
supposed by Allah and strove to embellish it with everything that could administer to the
happiness of man. Laying the foundations of their power in a system of wise and equitable
laws, diligently cultivating the arts and sciences, and promoting agriculture,
manufactures and commerce, they gradually formed an empire unrivaled for its prosperity by
any of the empires of Christendom . . .
The cities of Arabian Spain became the resort of
Christian artisans, to instruct themselves in the useful art. The Universities of Toledo,
Cordova, Seville, Granada, were sought by the pale student from lands to acquaint himself
with the sciences of the Arabs and the treasure lore of antiquity. -- p. 52
HRH, The Prince of Wales, Islam And The West
. . . we have underestimated the importance of 800 years
of Islamic society and culture in Spain between the 8th and 15th centuries.
Many of the traits on which Europe prides itself came to
it from Muslim Spain. Diplomacy, free trade, open borders, the techniques of academic
research, of anthropology, etiquette, fashion, alternative medicine, hospitals, all came
from this great city of cities. Mediaeval Islam was a religion of remarkable tolerance for
its time, allowing Jews and Christians to practice their inherited beliefs, and setting an
example which was not, unfortunately, copied for many centuries in the West.
John Edwards, History Today
On the second day of January  I saw Your Highnesses'
royal banners placed by force of arms on the towers of the Alhambra . . . and in the same
month . . . Your Highness, as Catholic Christians and princes devoted to the holy
Christian faith and the furtherance of its cause, and enemies of the sect of Mohammed and
of all idolatry and heresy, resolved to send me, Christopher Columbus, to the . . .
regions of India. -- vol. 42
Acknowledgment: The source of this document is The Wisdom Fund: http://www.twf.org