I wanted to respond to Sobek’s post on the recent troubles in North Africa and elsewhere. But I didn’t want to post such a long screed at Michael’s place and abuse his hospitality, so I’ll do it here.
Sobek hit on some very important things for us to keep in mind, things we should watch. >
Muslims will be surprised to learn than conversion to Islam was not easy (or encouraged) in the beginning of Islam. To convert to Islam meant to become an Arab; it involved being adopted by an Arab tribe. This is one reason why people formed an opposition group to the Islamic rulers. These people would become Shi’at ‘Ali or the Party of Ali bin Abi Talib. Ali and his followers believed conversion rules for non-Arabs should be made easy. But some people wanted the original rules to stand – if everyone converted to Islam, where would the jizyah tax come from? (Eventually, the lenient conversion rules would become normative for Islam.)
Once conversion became something encouraged, missionary work began in earnest. While the Islamic polity was spread by the sword, the religion was spread by wandering missionaries. Many people converted to enjoy the fruits of being an equal of their new rulers (and to be full citizen, rather than second-class citizens, and to avoid the jizyah tax); others converted out of liking the new religion. Many missionaries did a good job rephrasing Islam in terms the non-Muslims would understand, which in many cases introduced non-Muslim elements into Islam. (This is most prevalent in South Asia.)
Today, conversion is highly encouraged. Efforts in da’wah (literally, “invitation,” now usually referring to missionary work) are encouraged by all Muslims. Indeed, some Muslims have said that Muslims living in non-Muslim lands are living there against Islamic law unless they engage in da’wah. Whether it’s educating people about what they want people to think about Islam, or leading people to conversation, ordinary Muslims lead many people to conversion. There are missionary organizations – Tablighi Jamaat and Jamaat-e Islami are two – but many focus on “converting” Muslims to true Islam or to train Muslims in missionary methods.
(It’s still Monday on the West Coast!)
Having recently attended two conversion ceremonies to Islam, I thought I might throw up some posts on conversion in the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), discussing the history of conversion, the theory behind conversion, and what actual conversion entails.
The history of conversion in Islam will come tomorrow (or today, depending on one’s timezone).
I see America as strong – perhaps stronger than most nations. But the people seem to be changing, and not for the good. We need to entrench within ourselves and our children and associates those values that helped us become great. We’re either going uphill or going downhill – there is no resting, no plateau, no station to rest. Our government didn’t bring us where we are today, we did. Our government won’t lead us to future success, we will.
One of most pernicious ideologies that hinders a nation’s progress and development is statism. The state is not the answer. That’s why we fought a war with the British. That’s why the establishment of a government was such a contentious affair in the beginning of our history. There were plenty of models to choose from, but few which didn’t include statism as its foundation. The Founding Fathers erected a system of government that not only didn’t enshrine statism but, in fact, tried to prevent it. By going against their mechanisms, we are now turning into a statist nation.
I had lived in Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates for so long that when I returned to The United States, I was a statist. I’d wonder why the government isn’t doing this thing or that thing, why it wasn’t solving such-and-such problem or issue. Or I posited that the government is the solution to our ails and woes. After all, in Pakistan, the first question that’s asked when an issue arises is: “What’s the government doing about it?” But I realized that this statism causes more problems than it solves. Rather than relying on the industry and ingeniousness of the people, we were relying on burdensome, cumbersome, inefficient bureaucracy. Each involvement of the government, furthermore, eroded the people’s freedoms, their area of movement and activity, and, indeed, even their will to work, solve, and prevail.
Mark my words – every statist nation is full of dullards, lazy people, unrealistic ideologues, and far from industrious.
I don’t care about communism or socialism. Russia, China, or Iran won’t do us in. If things don’t change, statism will be end of America as a world power.
Wherein lies the strength of a nation?
Not in its planes or tanks or missiles. Not in its economic prowess. Not in how low people bow to its diplomats and leaders. Quite often, though, these are taken as signs of the strength of a nation – it’s prestige.
But the true strength of a nation lies with its people – their willingness to move the nation forward, their willingness to work together, their courage and determination, their cherishing of their past and their optimistiz gaze to the future, their industriousness and valuing of honest, hard work. With such a people, no government or military can frustrate them. Without such a people, no government or military can lead the nation forward.
So, look to a nation’s people to judge its true strength.
The issues raised have been answered.
Let us expand a bit. Comparisons are what many people do. Comparing Islam’s past to today’s values isn’t necessarily valid. It’s a form of presentism, and ignores the milieu (local or global) of people back then, which explains, to some degree, what they did and why. But justifying Islam’s present based on past attitudes doesn’t cut it either. And it’s plain wrong, frankly, to assert that Islam is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. One of the ironies is that the Salafis want to bring Islam back to its pristine state, back to the Islam of the earliest generation of Muslims. The irony is that the Islam they preach, envision, and enforced never existed. How Islam is envisioned and how it existed are very different. This makes it very dangerous to establish Islam based on past attitudes and practices because those attitudes or practices may never have existed. The corollary to this is that Islam has always been changing. And it always will. To staunch this, to stop this is idiocy. The very act of restoring pure Islam is in itself a major change. Thus, the changing nature of Islam should be recognized, embraced, and dealt with responsibly.
And so it is perfectly fine to analyze Islam today based on modern values and perspectives and practices. But we should never forget that doing so will reveal the cause of all this suffering in the Islamic world: the Islamic world’s confrontation with modernity. (People blame illiteracy and poverty, but I would submit that these two become issues due to the Islamic world’s confrontation with modernity. This confrontation is the fuel that keeps burning a conflagration of immense proportions, but which people don’t talk enough about. The solution, then, isn’t education or employment or money – it’s helping the Islamic world confront and deal with modernity.)
We see this in the transition from the Caliphate to republics. It was assumed for centuries that the Islamic polity would be organized under the caliphate, a united people (ummah, as in Arabic) with distinct minorities (milletler, as in Turkish). All Muslims owed their allegiance to the legitimate Muslim ruler – whether the Ottoman sultan, the Persian shah, or the Mughal emperor. They were united by religion, not ethnicity or nationality or language or whatnot. Then came the revolution that overthrew the caliphate and instituted in its place a large number of nation states which never existed before. (Some were, in fact, artificial constructs by European powers to mollify Arab leaders, if not win their allegiance. Why else would Hashemites rule Jordan and Iraq, away from the Hijaz?) The whole mindset, expectations, and vision of Muslims changed almost overnight (with the abolition of the caliphate by Mustafa Kemal Atatuk, literally overnight).
It is this confrontation, and Islam’s apparent failure, and attempts to help Islam deal with moderniy, that cause the turmoil we see. Unfortunately, this internal turmoil takes an external character, what with terrorism and international interdependence and interrelation. Hence, the importance to understand this issue.
I will take one week to discuss something from the Qur’an, then I will do a series of posts to address the issue mentioned above, to provide some background to answers or solutions to Bernard Lewis’s question, which is also the title of a book that seeks to answer this question: What Went Wrong?
And in the end, when all is said and done, does Islam have to be eradicated from the hearts and minds of one billion Muslims for them to live peacably? Or can Muslims modernize by critical reevaluation of texts and a mass movement to reject Islamic literalism?
To answer your question: it is the latter. One cannot solve a problem posed by a people by wiping them out. It never works. Christianity is almost 2,010 years old; Judaism is far older. Islam is just 1,430 years old. When Christianity was 1,430 years old, it was also crude and violent and uncouth, compared to today’s standards. Indeed, one may say Islam is further at 1,430 years than Christianity was at 1,430 years. So, on the one hand, one may say that we need to give Islam time to mature and thus become as open to change and reform as Christianity and Judaism have become (and in both, this openness came after a long time of existence). On the other hand, one can argue that internal forces in Islam will prevent any such openness.
I, personally, am of the opinion that no such mellowing will occur. I think it is a fallacy to believe that humanity will, of its own accord, evolve into peaceful beings. While this has happened to large degree in the West, outside the West the world hasn’t changed much. Consider the Hindus, for example: they have been around millennia more than Christianity, and yet their fundamentalists can be just as bad as Muslim fundamentalists. I don’t think it is realistic to expect that the world’s people will live in peace. War and violence and conflict are facts of life, and we should recognize this rather than anticipating some utopian vision of worldwide harmony. This isn’t to be negative but rather this should force us to focus on what matters: in a world full of evil and violence, we should embrace our differences and work on cooperating, respecting our differences.
That said, I do envision two forms of Islam. One influenced by the West, and one that is more extremist. The former will be far more compatible with the modern world, with a pluralistic society. The latter will not be. Both will exist side-by-side, with a tumultuous relationship. The more Muslims feel threatened by the modern world, the more they will cling to the fundamentalist interpretation. The more the fundamentalists disgust them and make like difficult for them, the more they will support the modernist interpretation.
People have been calling for a reform of Islam. Problem is that there is a reform in Islam: it’s the fundamentalist, Salafi movement (also known as the Wahhabi movement). What people need to call for is a modernizing of Islam. A reform works only if it makes Islam more extremist: a modernist reform will never catch on because it is viewed as perverting and rejecting Islam in favor of non-Islamic (if not anti-Islamic) ideas. What is needed is to reinterpret Islamic rules by Islamic experts on Islamic terms. There are some experts that are doing this, and doing a wonderful job of it.
I see it in my own family. Some relatives will speak in whispers about “real Islam” – simple, focused on good deeds, not ostentatious, independent of clerics, tolerant, rejecting fundamentalism and extremism. Other relatives will loudly denounce perversions in Islam, enemies of Islam, and call all Muslims to defend Islam by adhering to a more fundamentalist (if not extremist) interpretation. The argument can get very heated.
And this, I believe, is the future of Islam.
Another thing I suppose is, why do you think Muslims have been in the dark fo so long about Islamic textgs and Muhammad’s character. The fact that many Muslims don’t speak Arabic, and certainly not Classical Arabic, well enough to read the texts is one issue. What do you think caused it? It’s indeed interesting that out of the 1.2 billion Muslims-which we must face is a huge number, there are many very smart, upstanding people in this group who look at the Quran, Hadith and Sira and see genuine beauty, wisdom and tolerance in it. Do you think it’s due to mental defficiency, actual brainwashing or self denial? Sijmply a radically different interpretation that sadly not enough Muslims follow? Or simply being severely misguided by Imams who may not understand as much as they think about Islamic texts? The best case scenario is that the interpretations of the Quran, as outlined in the blogging the Quran series on the Islamocritical site Jihadwatch, are not the sole interpretation by Muslims
The issue of interpretations is contentious indeed. And I have a theory, which is has two parts:
One is that while Islam claims to not have a priestly class, there is a clerical class that acts, effectively, as priests. In Urdu, the term is chowdhrihat, and a comparable term can be “priestcraft” (especially as used by Latter-day Saints). The clerics establish themselves as experts, and they make themselves vital by emphasizing the difficulty of understanding, let alone correctly interpreting, the Sources of Islam (Qur’an, ahadeeth, sunnah). On the one hand, they have a point: interpreting each volume of the Sources of Islam is its own field of study, is an art. But this doesn’t mean that the common man cannot delve and master these arts, or that things can be organized (or reorganized, I suppose, at this point) such that the common man can study and apply Islam without the need for clerics. Muslims like to claim that Islam is a simple religion: why, then, all these rules? why, then, the need for clerics?
In any case, such it is, and people tend to ask about, read, and follow the pronouncements of the clerics. So, how people practice and interpret Islam depends on the clerics. It’s not so much that they are brainwashed as much as they don’t know better, and believe they can’t know better.
The other is that interpretations are always biased. (This goes for most traditions, religious and otherwise.) People have certain preconceived notions and expectations and interpretations, and they interpret things through these lenses.
An interesting example is the issue of jihaad. If one comes with the lens that jihaad is non-violent, then all references to jihaad is interpreted from the perspective of a spiritual battle and obviously violent dicta are explained away. If one comes with the lens that jihaad is violent, then all references to jihaad are interpreted accordingly.
Who is right? Who is wrong? From an academic perspective, there is no right or wrong: things are as they are. But from the perspective of a Muslim, it’s hard to say. It’s so common for two sides of an issue to successfully use the Sources of Islam to defend their points that one must conclude that either Muslims are experts at twisting the words of the Sources of Islam or that the Sources of Islam are contradictory. In either case, one cannot really depend on the Sources of Islam to establish what is right or not, and this is why there are so many seemingly contradictory interpretations from the same sources.
Critics of Muhammad today suggest he was in the same league as Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Nero or Attila the Hun in terms of how he forced his people backward and oppressed them, but it seems it can also be argued his actions were more good that bad when the situation of Arabs before and after him is analyzed.
Except for the massacre of Jews, I don’t think one can necessarily equate Muhammad bin Abdillah with the likes of Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Nero, or Attila the Hun. Muhammad’s reach was very local – except for missionary assignments, Muslims of Muhammad’s time stayed within the Arabian peninsula. Furthermore, while the sword of Islam brought many tribes into the Islamic polity, more tribes were integrated into the Islamic state through diplomatic means, mainly through marriage. While it is true that Muhammad had many, many wives, most of these marriages were for political, diplomatic purposes.
This is evidenced by what happened as soon as he died – many tribes that were allied with the Islamic state defected. They saw their inclusion in the Islamic state as a political not religious arrangement. They saw Muhammad not so much as the prophet of God but rather as super-chief of all tribes. Hence the Wars of Apostates under Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s successor as political leader: he fought these defecting tribes to keep them in the Islamic polity, enforcing the religious (rather than simply political) nature of the Islamic state. (Muslims often characterize the tribes as having converted to Islam where they really simply joined a political union.)
Now, did Muhammad create a better environment? If we believe what the Muslims (obviously biased) have written, then yes. But if we want to be absolutely sure, we need a better idea what pagan Arabia was really like (rather than what it was alleged to be). Very few descriptions exist of pagan Arabia, so we can’t really say.
That said, I do not think it can be said that Muhammad initiated a regress of the Arabic people. Critics may not want to swallow this bitter pill, but Muhammad (and Muslims) did a lot to advance the Arab peoples. In a short span of time, desert nomads had conquered ancient kingdoms and ruled vast swathes of land. One can hardly call this forcing the Arabs backwards. Were it not for Muhammad, the Arabs would be nobody today. Islam put the Arabs on the world stage.
The same goes for many issues with Muhammad and women. Critics attacked Muhammad for banditry, insulting pagan faiths and not being a convincing prophet, but never his relations to women. Marrying wifes of fallen enemies never drew objections, nor did having slave girls or polygamy. The only thing he did that Arabs found objectionable, atg least with regards to women, was marrying his son in law’s wife. The changes in women’s status in Arabia as a result of Muhammad seem overwhelmingly postive. Again, that’s not to justify the horrific oppression of women going on right now due to his example, but merely to discuss the issue of his environement.
Considering the issue from the perspective of the environment of paga Arabia, it may indeed seem that Islam – Muhammad’s new system – improved the lot of women. Indeed, Muslims will often say that women in Islam had a higher status in Islam than in Judaism, Christianity, pagan Arabia, or any other place.
There are a few issues, however, when considering the status of women in Islam.
1. We do not know, exactly, what the status of women was throughout pagan Arabia. Almost all descriptions of pagan Arabia we have are from Muslim sources, and thus negative. Back then, there was no obectivity in historical accounts, and so we can be sure that all Muslim accounts of pagan Arabia are biased and skewed. Was the status of women in the Hijaaz the same as elsewhere? We don’t know. It may possible that women in pagan Arabia had a status lower than in Islam; the opposite can also be true. We don’t.
2. If Islam did elevate the status of women, then it cannot be condemned. However, we do not live in the past. We live now. The irony may just be that while women in Islam had a status higher than in any other religious body, today they have a status lower than in any other religious body. Going back to a problem in the previous issue: there is no change. What was acceptable (and even laudable) in the past do not remain the same today.
3. Islam established certain laws and policies with regard to women. While Christians, Jews, Hindus, and many others have modernized and changed their laws and policies, the same cannot be said about Islam. While Islam’s dicta may have helped women in the past, today the very same dicta hinder women.
4. We can look at the status of women in Islam in that age, in that environment, and in those circumstances, but we cannot forget how those elements impact the world today. While Muhammad’s example and dicta were not reprehensible for his time, age, and environment, the lamentable fact is that they remain in force despite the world changing and evolving.
Someone named Maxwell1313 asked me a few questions about Islam/Muhammad. For two weeks, I’m going to answer his questions.
But the question arises, to what extent did the people of Arabia really object to Muhammad’s actions and to what extent were they merely the result of his environment? The ubituitous example is Aisha. From what I’ve read, it seems the evidence that anyone in Arabia, pagans, Jews or Christians, objected to his marraige with Aisha due to her age simply due to her age is not there. One could argue he used revelations to gain support and intimitaded would be objectors, but even his multitude of critics never found Aisha’s age objectionable. Hence, it seems that either Arabs, including Jews and Christians, had condoned sexual relations with little girls and that only modern post-Enlightment Christians have come to find it objectionable, or that ultimately it didn’t really happen and the hadiths that suggest this are false. Obviously, you both reject the latter, but that would create a problematic situation for Arabs, even Christian and Catholic ones, who would have to come to terms with the fact that their culture has condoned mistreatment of women for centuries and only post Enlightment values have changed this. And although their defense of Muhmmad as a role model for all times would still fall flat, Muslim can argue that early Jews and Christians clearly did not see Muhammad’s marriages objectioanble and objectioning to it today is cultural elitism. Now, I would say sex with a nine year old girl is grotesque regardless of the age but unfortunately it can be argued this results from unreasonable cultural standards.
The issue you are referring to is called “child marriage.” This was, indeed, permissible in Judaism. The Talmud has regulations on it. It is, furthermore, relatively recently that normative Judaism stopped practicing child marriages.
There is also a phenomenon called “presentism” wherein one applies standards and expectations and ways of thinking of the present to past eras. This is not always good because people in the past did not believe or think the way we do. Thus, in the past, child marriages were acceptable. If we find Muhammad’s marriage to Aishah bint Abi Bakr objectionable, we should realize that we are offended because our current standards finds such a thing objectionable, not necessarily because it was in and of itself objectionable.
The problem with Muhammad’s marriage to Aishah bin Abi Bakr is its impact today: because Muhammad did it, Muslims find it acceptable even today. Thus, while we cannot condemn Muhammad’s marriage (because that was acceptable even by Christians and Jews of that period), we can condemn the perpetuation of child marriage among Muslims in today’s world that rejects such a thing. If we wish to declare that what Muhammad did was intrinsically evil, we must likewise condemn similar practices by Christians, Jews, and other peoples through history.
Your answer is somewhat misleading, but that is not surprising.
While in Judaism it was ok for young girl to be married off at a relatively young age, as was the custom in the ancient world, it is not ok now, and it is well grounded in Jewish religious jurisprudence. That is – the religious scholars and leaders (The Rabbis) have the authority to pass rulings that amend laws in order to adapt them to the present day social environment.
In Islam, however, this is not permissible. If Muhammad did it, then it was right then and it is right now and it will be right in the future.
Muslims find it acceptable even today not just because Muhammad did it, but because they are obliged to follow his example, as he is the perfect role model (al Insan al Kamil).
Islam needs to be reformed to remove this element, so that it can be adapted to changes.
Thank you. You are correct, and part of what you said was the point I was trying to make.
I am reading the Talmud Bavli and currently reading Maseches Avodas Zara, and am going through daf after daf on yayin nesech (wine contaminated by contact with idolators – Maseches Avodas Zara is about idolatry). But a vast majority of those rules are no longer followed. This is a significant issue – many Jews know the Talmud better than the Bible, and yet they are free to set aside Talmudic dicta.
This is why for the modern world it is not a problem that the Talmud permits child marriages. Jews today do not perform child marriages, despite Talmudic permission for it.
Of course, underlying this – which I should have discussed and which th3cow mentioned – is the role of injunctions. For Jews, they are halakha or law: this what you do, this is what you don’t do, and often wherefore. There is no person whose example pervades Talmud. There is no this is how Moses bathed, or this is how Abraham cleaned his nose, or this is how Isaac ate. On the other hand, as th3cow mentioned, Muhammad is seen as al-insaan al-kaamil or the perfection of humanity. Everything he did is not only good to follow but practically incumbent on those Muslims who claim to love God and to love Muhammad. Thus, if he performed a child marriage, so can the rest of the Muslim world, and no one can say it is reprehensible.
Also, as th3cow said: rabbinic authorities can, in effect, overrule Talmud. It’s interesting to read Kitzur Shulchan Arukh (a list of halakhos) and see notations that say, essentially: the Talmud says X, but halakha is the opposite. In other words, rabbis can modify Talmudic injunctions and can even overrule them. (This is why to study halakha, studying the Talmud is important, but it is most vital to study not only prominent historical compendia of halakhos (like Shulchan Arukh and Kitzur Shulchan Arukh) but also modern, prevailing responsa and compendia on halakha.) Such an idea is anathema in Islam. No one can overrule sunnah (the way Muhammad lived) or ahadeeth (what Muhammad said). They are eternal. This is why child marriages still are done, and cannot be overruled, and why slavery can still exist in Muslim lands.
Something to keep you busy until 12:30 am CST, Tuesday, December 30, 2008.
H/T to The Hostages, I believe.
People may begin to think: what rebellious people those Texans are, trashing international law!
In one sense, there is no such thing as international law. I say this because states that are signatories to international law bodies apply the law (or ignore it) according to their whims, wishes, and interests. Rather than viewing international law bodies as neutral international regimes, they are viewed as bodies through which to further their own agendas against states they don’t like. If State A doesn’t like State B, it State A will do everything to get an international law body to issue a ruling against State B. However, if the ruling goes against State B’s opinions or whims, it will simply ignore or refute such rulings. So, in effect, there is no international law body that has actual power. Consider the fervent efforts of Pakistan and India against each other through international regimes, and the result of both countries essentially ignoring these international regimes.
What makes American law a little more complicated is the sovereignty of states. Each individual state has great leeway in establishing its own laws and policies. This remains in place despite the fact that federal law has been expanding exponentially recently. States, and their people, don’t want to concede sovereignty, especially to foreign parties.
Americans are notorious for being open about their repudiation of international regimes. We simply ignore things we don’t like. Of course, we’re also very resilient to sign onto any international regime. While the President can attend a summit and think America should join a treaty or body or policy or law, he has to think, more importantly, whether the American people, through the Senate, will accept his opinion. As Woodrow Wilson demonstrated, it is a grave mistake the ignore this. Despite the fact he was instrumental in the founding of the League of Nations, and wanted America in it, the American people rejected his opinion and, to his great embarrassment, refused to ratify America’s joining the organization.
Now, from one viewpoint, this was a major embarrassment. Americans rejected such a good idea. But then, as now for the most part, we don’t care what the world thinks about us. At the very least, we don’t use international opinion to form our policies and laws. We do what is in our best interests, and other states and international regimes can protest all they want.
Now, treaty-wise, one can argue back and forth whether America is bound to the World Court. But in practice, we have ignored the World Court. Of course, this is nothing new or different as many states ignore the World Court and other international regimes.
One thing Americans complain about, and legitimately so, is the burden placed on America to comply with every dinky body’s rulings while other players and states get away with brazen noncompliance. A recent example, which troubled me, was Hezbollah. Israel mandated that a condition for it to agree to an end to the recent Israel-Lebanon war was that Hezbollah would have to disarm below a certain point. The Lebanese government had to guarantee it. In order to end the war, Hezbollah and the Lebanese government conceded. The ink had not dried on the agreement when Hezbollah announced it would not disarm, and the Lebanese government announced it had no intention to make Hezbollah disarm. And yet no one said anything.
And so those that charge America for intransigence should really drop their arguments unless they will just as actively protest other intransigent parties.
However, what this demonstrates, more than anything, is the true standing of these international regimes. They don’t exist to usher in a better world: they exist for states to use them as tools in their foreign policy to further their own national interests. It is naive to suppose otherwise.
One of the dangers of A Certain Past Republican Contender for the Nomination of Presidential Candidate, which to me was the worst of his offenses, was isolationism.
“Isolationism” means that a state refrains from involving itself in the affairs of other states. The opposite is called “interventionism”, which means that a state gets involved in the affairs of other states. Often, isolationism involves a foreign policy which distances the state from other states, while an interventionist foreign policy means coming close to other states (which means interacting with them, not necessarily making them do our will or controlling them or invading them). Read the rest of this entry »
Some of the men who played an instrumental rôle in Europe’s long struggle against Islamic imperialism were:
Otho de Lagery, Pope Urban II
Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles Martel, Mayor of the Palace and Duke of the Franks
Vladislav III Dracula Ţepeş, Prince of Wallachia
Jan III Sobieski, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania
And so it seems strange that whereas the reaction of Europeans back then was to form alliances and enter into oaths to protect Christian Europe from the Turks, and to fight wars to drive out (if not stop) the Turks, the reaction of today’s Europeans is to shrug and continue to chastise America.
But this would be to simplify things perhaps too much. What is interesting is Vladislav (often shortened to “Vlad”) III Dracula. His father was inducted into the Order of the Dragon created by Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund to protect Europe from the Islamic imperialists. In recognition of this, Vlad obtained the surname of “Dracul” (“dragon” in Romanian). His son, Vlad III, would be surnamed “Dracula” which means “(son) of the Dragon”. Vlad III was not officially a part of the Order of the Dragon, but Vlad III did much more against the Turks and for Europe than his father did. His father backed out of his oath to fight the Turks when they threatened Europe. But Vlad III Dracula did fight the Turks. So European ambivalence seems to run far back.
But then the war back then was quite clear and obvious: the Islamic empires soldiers were galloping across the fields with their horses, scimitars, and banners. There is no such activity now. Rather than obtaining influence over the West through political annexation, many Muslims are attempting to annex the West through sophistry and demographics.
But on that end, I do not entirely buy the notion that the West is inevitably doomed. Europe, maybe. They seem to have lost the will to perpetuate their own cultures, which would doom them to extinction with or without foreigners in their midst. But Americans cling to their culture and peculiar notions, regardless how much they cheer on the exotic foreigners. As long as it doesn’t change the way Americans do things the American way, they can’t be bothered. Furthermore, although more and more people are choosing to have fewer children, there are still a number of groups that continue to have many children (Hispanics, Catholics, Latter-day Saints, and Orthodox Jews come to mind).
Of course, the difference between Vlad Dracul, who paid tribute to the Ottoman sultan and gave over to the sultan two of his sons as hostages, and Vlad III Dracula, Vlad Dracul’s son, was that Vlad III Dracula know first hand what the enemy was like, having been held hostage by them. He was filled with zeal to escape the Turks, oust the Turks from his lands, and kick the Turks out of Europe. He had many successes but in the end was betrayed by his own people…who capitulated to the Turks.
Vlad III Dracula – as well as Emperor Sigismund, Pope Urban II, Charles Martel, and King Jan III Sobieski – all knew that we have to put in effort to remain free. Rather than joining alliances and riding off on horses, we can put in effort by teaching our own people about our civilization and instill in them a love and pride for it.
Section Three: Eternal Relevance
In other words, the irrelevance of the above two sections.
Some modernist thinkers believe that because jihad originally was promulgated under certain circumstances and conditions, current circumstances and conditions need to be analyzed so as to determine whether jihad may be promulgated for the present as it was in the past. In other words, the mandates for acts and practices must be put in their historical context, and must be made relevant to today’s historical context. Most such thinkers believe that jihad by force is no longer justified based on the original model but that other reasons for jihad (legitimate self-defence) may exist and that, more significantly, the entire issue of jihad fi sabeeli-llah (“struggle in the path or cause of Allah”) must needs take on a social and spiritual nature, meaning that rather than fighting infidels, Muslims should be fighting poverty, illiteracy, extremism, injustice, and so on. Read the rest of this entry »
Section Two: Comparison with Other Religions
An issue often brought up by Muslims (and the odd non-Muslim) seeking to legitimize jihad by force (hereinafter simply “jihad”) or to deflect criticism thereof, is the issue of holy war in Judaism and Christinity. The issue of holy war and violence in the Scriptures of Jews and Christians will be dealt with in a few days. Today we will discuss war in Judaism and the Crusades. (Scriptural issues will be dealt with in a later post.)
(This is the fourth version of this post: the last three were quite long. There is much to discuss when it comes to war in Judaism and Christianity, but simply not enough space to discuss them in detail here and then compare them to jihad. But as war in Judaism and Christianity are issues that are worth our attention and scrutiny, especially what with people revising history to demonize Jews and/or Christians or otherwise inaccurately protray war in Judaism and Christinity, it is a series I am thinking about doing later. Nevertheless, I apologize if the issues here are not more fully described.) Read the rest of this entry »
Section One: Historical Contextualization
One modern interpretation of the entire issue of jihad deals with historical contextualization: in other words, jihad in its times, places, circumstances, conditions, and other elements of its context in history. Such efforts attempt to study why jihad was waged when it was waged, why what was done was done, what changes from time to time and why and how, and so on.
One may thus divide jihad by force into four distinct periods:
1. Jihad under Muhammad
2. Wars of conquest
3. Rise of modern politics
4. Modern terrorist jihad Read the rest of this entry »
Section Four: The Types of Engagement in Jihad
Most people seem to believe that Muslims divide jihad into two main types: jihad against the self (jihad bi-n-nafs: literally, “jihad against/by the self”) and jihad by force (jihad bi-s-sayf: literally, “jihad by the sword”). While this may be true for some, and especially for the more technical and academic types (whom the common Muslim knows nothing about), in the general Muslim world, there are different types of involvement of jihad but all to the same end. That is, those who actually fight jihad with sword or gun or missile or IED are at an equal level of those who support or supply their needs in doing this. That is, one need not be on the battleground to fight jihad: facilitating jihad is just as good. Examples of facilitating jihad are donating money, acquiring arms for the fighters, encouraging the fighters, promoting jihad and the causes thereof, spreading awareness of jihad, and encouraging others to support or fight in jihad. As such, some characterize this support as “jihad bi-l-a’maal” (jihad by acts), “jihad bi-l-maal” (jihad with property), and “jihad bi-n-nafs” (jihad with one’s self, meaning dedicating one’s self to fighting jihad, meaning doing the actual fighting on the battlefield). Interestingly, only the people of the last category may claim the title (or have the title applied to them) of “mujahid” or one who fights/conducts/does jihad. See how one term is used by some to refer to a spiritual activity while many others integrate it in describing types of jihad by force?
Section Three: Jihad in Popular Islam
There are three distinct trends with regard to jihad as perceived by the average Muslim: that among Shiites, that among Sufis, and that among Sunnis. Read the rest of this entry »