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Jihad, Dhimmitude, and Muslim Spain

August 24th, 2010 · No Comments · Essays

The reverse orientation of the map above—the southern Mediterranean littoral of North Africa on top of the northern littoral of Southern Europe—corresponds to the Islamic supremacist world view of medieval Arab Muslim cartographers. This map symbolically (i.e., submissively) adorns the cover of an October, 2003 report published by a High Level Advisory Group of the European Commission entitled, “Dialogue Between Peoples and Cultures in the Euro-Mediterranean Area.”

Between 2002 and 2004 I was privileged to collaborate, under the overall direction of Bat Ye’or, on the two essays, reproduced below. Bat Ye’or is arguably our era’s most original and important scholar evaluating how nearly a millennium of jihad conquests imposed a Sharia-based Islamic order upon vanquished, indigenous non-Muslim populations across Asia, Africa, and Europe. These essays provide a succinct corrective to the mythical “ecumenism” of medieval Muslim Spain, so central to the disingenuous Cordoba Initiative of Imam Feisal Rauf.

Jihad and Dhimmitude: Victimless Islamic Institutions?
By: Bat Ye’or and Andrew G. Bostom
Tuesday, December 03, 2002

For well over a millennium, across three continents – Asia, Africa,and Europe – non-Muslims have experienced jihad war ideology, and its ugly corollary institution, dhimmitude. Today, the debate among Muslim scholars regarding the theological “correctness” of “lesser” versus “greater” jihad are meaningless to the millions of non-Muslim victims- Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Hindus, and Buddhists – of countless jihad wars. What is important is that after all this time, Muslims finally acknowledge the suffering of these millions of non-Muslim victims of jihad wars, as well as the oppressive governance imposed on non-Muslims by the laws of dhimmitude.

Thus far this brutal history has been completely denied, and even celebrated as “enlightened” conquest and rule. In this essay we will introduce, briefly, the rationale and historiography of these twin Islamic institutions, and provide evidence of their contemporary revival.

In the History of al-Tabari (Ta’rikh l-rusul wa’l-muluk), the renowned Muslim scholar’s monumental historiography of the Arab-Muslim conquests, we read the recommendation given by Caliph Umar b. al-Khattab to the commander of the troops he sent to al-Basrah, during the conquest of Iraq (636 C.E.)

“Summon the people to God; those who respond to your call, accept it from them, (This is to say, accept their conversion as genuine and refrain from fighting them) but those who refuse must pay the poll tax out of humiliation and lowliness. (Qur’an 9:29) If they refuse this, it is the sword without leniency. Fear God with regard to what you have been entrusted.”

Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406), ostensibly the pre-eminent Islamic scholar in history, summarized five centuries of prior Muslim jurisprudence with regard to the uniquely Islamic institution of jihad, as follows:

“In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the (Muslim) 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. ..Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations.”

By the time al-Tabari died in 923, the Muslim empire had already expanded from Portugal to India. After al-Tabari’s death, the Muslim conquests continued in Asia, as well as on Christian eastern European lands. The Christian kingdoms of Armenia, Byzantium, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, Albania and parts of Poland and Hungary were conquered. The Muslim armies were stopped at the gates of Vienna in 1683 (September 12). The jihad lasted over a millennium. Jihad was pursued century after century, because jihad, which means “to strive in the path of Allah,” embodied a sacred ideology linked to a series of detailed regulations. Both were conceived by Muslim jurists from the eighth to ninth centuries onward. Briefly presented, the ideology of jihad separates the world into two irreconcilable entities: dar al-Islam (the land of Islam) and dar al-Harb (the land of war), controlled by the infidels. The duty of the Muslims is to impose the Islamic (shari’a) law on the whole world, either by persuasion or by war, and those efforts which imply sacrifices represent the “fight in the path of Allah.”

A triumphal jihad literature emerged from a millennium of jihad war military successes. Countless descriptions by Muslim historians recorded in detail the number of slain infidels, the enslavement of the populations, the booty in captives, cattle and movable goods, the cities which were destroyed, razed or spared and taken by treaty and the countryside pillaged or set on fire. Battles and victories have been described from Portugal to India, from Budapest to Sudan. This information is not only available in Muslim sources, but also in Christian sources, which complement the Muslim perspective by giving the evidence of the victims of jihad wars. Those Christian sources are Coptic, Armenian, Jacobite, Greek, Slav, Spanish, Italian, etc. The jihad war conquests of infidel territories, which lasted for over a millennium across three continents, are richly documented. Thus, it is astonishing when this well-characterized historiography is largely ignored, or even denied, in scholarly writings.

In “The Laws of Islamic Governance.” al- Mawardi (d. 1058), a renowned Baghdadian jurist, examined the regulations pertaining to the lands and infidel (i.e., non-Muslim) populations subjugated by jihad. This is the origin of the system of dhimmitude. The native infidel population had to recognize Islamic ownership on their land, submit to Islamic (i.e., shari’a) law, and accept payment of the poll tax (jizya). In return they were granted the effective protection of Islamic law, which gave them security, limited religious rights, and self-administration in religious and civil law. Some of the more salient features of dhimmitude include: the prohibition of arms for the vanquished non-Muslims (dhimmis), and of church bells; the restrictions concerning the building and restoration of churches and synagogues; the inequality between Muslims and non-Muslims with regard to taxes and penal law; the refusal of dhimmi testimony by Muslim courts; the obligation for Jews and Christians to wear special clothes; and their overall humiliation and abasement. Furthermore, dhimmis, including those living under “enlightened” Turkish domination, suffered, at periods, from slavery (i.e., harem slavery for women, and the devshirme child levy for Balkan Christian males), abductions, and deportations.

Dhimmitude was abolished during the 19th and 20th centuries under European military pressure, or by direct European colonization. However we see now the return of the spirit of jihad, and its corollary institution, dhimmitude, in the wars in Sudan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Algeria, and, Israel and in global terrorism, including the 9/11 attacks directed at the United States. Non-Muslim minorities suffer from grave discrimination in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan and in countries, which apply the shari’a law or whose constitutions recognize that the shari’a is the main source of the law. The principles of “protection” and “toleration” integral to the system of dhimmitude are opposed to the values expressed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which stress the equality of all human beings and the inalienability of their rights. In stark contrast, the principles of “protection” and “tolerations” embodied in dhimmitude and shari’a law, emerge from a war of conquest. Only conditional, limited rights are conceded to the vanquished, and these rights can be revoked by the dominant group.

At present, unfortunately, the simple reference to the written rules of jihad and dhimmitude- which impose killings, slavery, deportation and “protection”/subjugation — according to specific contingencies — can provoke a violent reaction from those in the Muslim intelligentsia. Recently, for example, direct quotations from these Medieval laws — considered as obligatory for infidels — from highly respected Muslim writers, such as al-Mawardi, caused an uproar at Georgetown University, as well as slanderous accusations. There is a dire need for some courageous, meaningful movement in Islam to emerge that completely renounces the active Islamic institutions of jihad against the infidels, and dhimmitude, openly acknowledging the horrific devastation they have wrought on non-Muslims for well over a millennium, through the present. Nothing short of an Islamic Reformation and Enlightenment may be required, which completely secularizes Islam, and acknowledges non-Muslims as fully equal human beings, not “infidels”, or “dhimmis”.

Andalusian Myth, Eurabian Reality

Bat Ye’or and Andrew G. Bostom

April 21, 2004

On Sunday, April 18, 2004, this revealing exchange took place between outgoing Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, and interviewer Chris Wallace of FoxNews:

Chris Wallace: “In the apartment that was blown up, police found a videotape in which the bombers referred to Spain as Andalusia, what it was called by the Muslim Moors before they were driven out in 1492.”

Jose Maria Aznar (through the translator): “So this means that Iraq, for them, was just a pretext. In the eyes of Islamic terrorism, it looks at the West, and Spain is a very special part of this parcel, because they feel that to recover Spain is to get back some of their territory.”

Islamic scholar Mordechai Nisan recently discussed the contention by the founder of the Institute of Islamic Education, M. Amir Ali, that Medieval Spain had actually been “liberated” by Muslim forces, who “deposed its tyrants.” Nisan extrapolated this ahistorical narrative line, and pondered:

“Reflecting on March 11, as Muslim terrorism killed 200 and wounded 1,400 in Madrid, one wonders whether one day this event will also not be commemorated as a liberating moment. “

Events surrounding the completion of the new Granada Mosque, which was marked by celebratory announcements July 10, 2003 of a “…return of Islam to Spain”, were also consistent with Nisan’s dark musings. At a conference entitled “Islam in Europe” that accompanied the opening of the mosque, disconcerting statements were made by European Muslim leaders. Specifically, the keynote speaker at this conference, Umar Ibrahim Vadillo, a Spanish Muslim leader, encouraged Muslims to cause an economic collapse of Western economies (by ceasing to use Western currencies, and switching to gold dinars), while the German Muslim leader Abu Bakr Rieger told Muslim attendees to avoid adapting their Islamic religious practices to accommodate European (i.e., Western Enlightenment?) values.

Shortly after this event, a Wall Street Journal editorialist in a grossly distorted encomium to Muslim Spain, mentioned the “pan-confessional humanism” of Andalusian Islam, and even asserted: “one could argue that the oft-bewailed missing ‘reformation’ of Islam was under way there until it was aborted by the Inquisition.”

Maria Rosa Menocal, Yale Professor of Spanish and Portuguese, in her 2002 hagiography of Muslim Spain, The Ornament of the World, has further maintained that “the new Islamic polity not only allowed Jews and Christians to survive, but following Qur’anic mandate, by and large protected them.”

We believe that reiterating these ahistorical, roseate claims about Muslim Spain abets the contemporary Islamist agenda, and retards the evolution of a liberal, reformed “Euro-Islam” fully compatible with post-Enlightenment Western values.

Iberia (Spain) was conquered in 710-716 AD by Arab tribes originating from northern, central and southern Arabia. Massive Berber and Arab immigration, and the colonization of the Iberian peninsula, followed the conquest. Most churches were converted into mosques. Although the conquest had been planned and conducted jointly with a strong faction of royal Iberian Christian dissidents, including a bishop, it proceeded as a classical jihad with massive pillages, enslavement, deportations and killings.

Toledo, which had first submitted to the Arabs in 711 or 712, revolted in 713. The town was punished by pillage and all the notables had their throats cut. In 730, the Cerdagne (in Septimania, near Barcelona) was ravaged and a bishop burned alive. In the regions under stable Islamic control, Jews and Christians were tolerated as dhimmis – like elsewhere in other Islamic lands – and could not build new churches or synagogues nor restore the old ones. Segregated in special quarters, they had to wear discriminatory clothing. Subjected to heavy taxes, the Christian peasantry formed a servile class attached to the Arab domains; many abandoned their land and fled to the towns. Harsh reprisals with mutilations and crucifixions* would sanction the Mozarab (Christian dhimmis) calls for help from the Christian kings. Moreover, if one dhimmi harmed a Muslim, the whole community would lose its status of protection, leaving it open to pillage, enslavement and arbitrary killing.

By the end of the eighth century, the rulers of North Africa and of Andalusia had introduced Malikism, one of the most rigorous schools of Islamic jurisprudence, and subsequently repressed the other Muslim schools of law. Three quarters of a century ago, at a time when political correctness was not dominating historical publication and discourse, Evariste Levi-Provencal, the pre-eminent scholar of Andalusia, wrote: “The Muslim Andalusian state thus appears from its earliest origins as the defender and champion of a jealous orthodoxy, more and more ossified in a blind respect for a rigid doctrine, suspecting and condemning in advance the least effort of rational speculation.”

The humiliating status imposed on the dhimmis and the confiscation of their land provoked many revolts, punished by massacres, as in Toledo (761, 784-86, 797). After another Toledan revolt in 806, seven hundred inhabitants were executed. Insurrections erupted in Saragossa from 781 to 881, Cordova (805), Merida (805-813, 828 and the following year, and later in 868), and yet again in Toledo (811-819); the insurgents were crucified, as prescribed in Qur’an 5:33.*

The revolt in Cordova of 818 was crushed by three days of massacres and pillage, with 300 notables crucified and 20 000 families expelled. Feuding was endemic in the Andalusian cities between the different sectors of the population: Arab and Berber colonizers, Iberian Muslim converts (Muwalladun) and Christian dhimmis (Mozarabs). There were rarely periods of peace in the Amirate of Cordova (756-912), nor later.

Al-Andalus represented the land of jihad par excellence. Every year, sometimes twice a year, raiding expeditions were sent to ravage the Christian Spanish kingdoms to the north, the Basque regions, or France and the Rhone valley, bringing back booty and slaves. Andalusian corsairs attacked and invaded along the Sicilian and Italian coasts, even as far as the Aegean Islands, looting and burning as they went. Thousands of people were deported to slavery in Andalusia, where the caliph kept a militia of tens of thousand of Christian slaves brought from all parts of Christian Europe (the Saqaliba), and a harem filled with captured Christian women. Society was sharply divided along ethnic and religious lines, with the Arab tribes at the top of the hierarchy, followed by the Berbers who were never recognized as equals, despite their Islamization; lower in the scale came the mullawadun converts and, at the very bottom, the dhimmi Christians and Jews.

The Andalusian Maliki jurist Ibn Abdun (d. 1134) offered these telling legal opinions regarding Jews and Christians in Seville around 1100 C.E.: “No…Jew or Christian may be allowed to wear the dress of an aristocrat, nor of a jurist, nor of a wealthy individual; on the contrary they must be detested and avoided. It is forbidden to [greet] them with the [expression], ‘Peace be upon you’. In effect, ‘Satan has gained possession of them, and caused them to forget God’s warning. They are the confederates of Satan’s party; Satan’s confederates will surely be the losers!’ (Qur’an 58:19 [modern Dawood translation]). A distinctive sign must be imposed upon them in order that they may be recognized and this will be for them a form of disgrace.”

Ibn Abdun also forbade the selling of scientific books to dhimmis, under the pretext that they translated them and attributed them to their co-religionists and bishops. In fact, plagiarism is difficult to prove since whole Jewish and Christian libraries were looted and destroyed. Another prominent Andalusian jurist, Ibn Hazm of Cordoba (d. 1064), wrote that Allah has established the infidels’ ownership of their property merely to provide booty for Muslims.

In Granada, the Jewish viziers Samuel Ibn Naghrela and his son Joseph, who protected the Jewish community, were both assassinated between 1056 to 1066, followed by the annihilation of the Jewish population by the local Muslims. It is estimated that up to five thousand Jews perished in the pogrom by Muslims that accompanied the 1066 assassination. This figure equals or exceeds the number of Jews reportedly killed by the Crusaders during their pillage of the Rhineland, some thirty years later, at the outset of the First Crusade.

The Granada pogrom was likely to have been incited, in part, by the bitter anti-Jewish ode of Abu Ishaq, a well known Muslim jurist and poet of the times, who wrote: “Put them back where they belong and reduce them to the lowest of the low…turn your eyes to other [Muslim] countries and you will find the Jews there are outcast dogs…Do not consider it a breach of faith to kill them…They have violated our covenant with them so how can you be held guilty against the violators?”

The Muslim Berber Almohads in Spain and North Africa (1130-1232) wreaked enormous destruction on both the Jewish and Christian populations. This devastation- massacre, captivity, and forced conversion- was described by the Jewish chronicler Abraham Ibn Daud, and the poet Abraham Ibn Ezra. Suspicious of the sincerity of the Jewish converts to Islam, Muslim “inquisitors” (i.e., antedating their Christian Spanish counterparts by three centuries) removed the children from such families, placing them in the care of Muslim educators. Maimonides, the renowned philosopher and physician, experienced the Almohad persecutions, and had to flee Cordoba with his entire family in 1148, temporarily residing in Fez — disguised as a Muslim — before finding asylum in Fatimid Egypt.

Indeed, although Maimonides is frequently referred to as a paragon of Jewish achievement facilitated by the enlightened rule of Andalusia, his own words debunk this utopian view of the Islamic treatment of Jews: “..the Arabs have persecuted us severely, and passed baneful and discriminatory legislation against us…Never did a nation molest, degrade, debase, and hate us as much as they..”

A valid summary assessment of interfaith relationships in Muslim Spain, and the contemporary currents responsible for obfuscating that history, can be found in Richard Fletcher’s engaging Moorish Spain. Mr. Fletcher offers these sobering, unassailable observations:

“The witness of those who lived through the horrors of the Berber conquest, of the Andalusian fitnah in the early eleventh century, of the Almoravid invasion- to mention only a few disruptive episodes- must give it [i.e., the roseate view of Muslim Spain] the lie. The simple and verifiable historical truth is that Moorish Spain was more often a land of turmoil than it was of tranquility…Tolerance? Ask the Jews of Granada who were massacred in 1066, or the Christians who were deported by the Almoravids to Morocco in 1126 (like the Moriscos five centuries later)…In the second half of the twentieth century a new agent of obfuscation makes its appearance: the guilt of the liberal conscience, which sees the evils of colonialism- assumed rather than demonstrated-foreshadowed in the Christian conquest of al-Andalus and the persecution of the Moriscos (but not, oddly, in the Moorish conquest and colonization). Stir the mix well together and issue it free to credulous academics and media persons throughout the western world. Then pour it generously over the truth…in the cultural conditions that prevail in the west today the past has to be marketed, and to be successfully marketed it has to be attractively packaged. Medieval Spain in a state of nature lacks wide appeal. Self-indulgent fantasies of glamour…do wonders for sharpening up its image. But Moorish Spain was not a tolerant and enlightened society even in its most cultivated epoch.”

The socio-political history of Andalusia was characterized by a particularly oppressive dhimmitude that is completely incompatible with modern notions of equality between individuals, regardless of religious faith. At the dawn of the 21st century, we must insist that Muslims in the West adopt post-Enlightenment societal standards of equality, not “tolerance,” abandoning forever their hagiography of the brutal, discriminatory standards practiced by the classical Maliki jurists of “enlightened” Andalusia.

*The Noble Qur’an- Three esteemed translations, online:
Sura 005, Verse 033
YUSUF ALI: “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter;”
PICKTHAL: “The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom;”
SHAKIR: “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement.”


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