Ignorant or Deceitful Regarding the Koranic Doctrines of Jihad and Dhimmitude?
Mohammed Zuhdi Jasser has just released his first book with the understated title, A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s Fight to Save His Faith.
Dr. Jasser’s egomania aside, the striking disingenuousness which characterizes the book is epitomized by his summary comments on the Koran which glibly dismiss multiple verses that sanction the jihad conquest of non-Muslims, including their subjugation and justified humiliation for a myriad of so-called “offenses.”
The Qur’an…is not actually a text that was written with the idea of conquering those of other faiths. Throughout the Qur’an, the debt to Christians and Jews, for their teachings and prophets, is acknowledged over and over again in their common origin from the God of Abraham.
First, Koran 3:67 and its classical exegesis (interpretation) thoroughly debunks Jasser’s uninformed or mendacious claim about ecumenical Islamic “indebtedness” to the shared Judeo-Christian ancestry of the Biblical Abraham. The seminal Koranic commentary Tafsir Al-Jalalayn of Suyuti (and al-Mahalli), provides this definitive gloss on verse 3:67—notwithstanding Jasser’s ecumenical burbling—which affirms Islam’s triumphant supersessionism, vis a vis both Judaism and Christianity:
Ibrahim was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but a man of pure natural belief, a hanif who inclines from all other religions to the Straight Din; a Muslim and affirmer of the Divine Unity. He was no idolator.
With regard to Jasser’s spurious assertion that that Koranic text did not instill an eternal conquering impulse among its Muslim votaries, Richard Bell, in his authoritative1937 translation and exegesis of the Koran demonstrates that Sura (chapter) 9, “…is a chapter of war proclamations…”, and verses Q.9.29 to Q.9-35, specifically,
…form in effect a proclamation of war against Jews and Christians, and probably belong to the year IX [9-years after the Hijra] when an expedition was designed for the North which would involve war with Christians and possibly also with Jews.
Al-Muntakhab fii Tafsiir al-Qur’aan al-Kariim, (the Culled [correct selection from] Qur’an Commentary, issued by the Vatican of Sunni Islam, Al-Azhar University’s Committee for the Qur’an and Sunna [traditions of Islam’s prophet Muhammad, and his early followers], 11th edition, Cairo 1985, re-affirms Bell’s scholarship, stating, with regard to Koran 9:29 and 9:30:
(9.29) O you believers, fight the unbelievers, namely the People of the Book who do not believe True Faith and do not accept the Resurrection and the Recompense [heaven, hell] in the true way, and do not require stopping what God and his Emissary ordered stopped; they do not embrace the True Religion , i.e. Islam. Fight until they believe, or force them to pay the jizya (* the deliberately humiliating poll-tax) humbly and obediently, not grudgingly, so that they contribute to the Islamic budget.
(9.30)…may God curse these unbelievers and their families, out of amazement at how far they have strayed from the Truth, which is clear; but they inclined toward error
The essential pattern of the jihad war is captured in the great Muslim historian al-Tabari’s recording of the recommendation given by Umar b. al-Khattab to the commander of the troops he sent to al-Basrah (636 C.E.), during the conquest of Iraq. Umar (the second “Rightly Guided Caliph”) reportedly said:
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.
Jihad was pursued century after century, because jihad, which means “to strive in the path of Allah,” embodied an ideology and a jurisdiction. Both were formally conceived by Muslim jurisconsults and theologians from the 8th to 9th centuries onward, based on their interpretation of Qur’anic verses (for e.g., 9:5,6; 9:29; 4:76-79; 2: 214-15; 8:39-42), and long chapters in the Traditions (i.e., “hadith”, acts and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, especially those recorded by al-Bukhari [d. 869] and Muslim [d. 874]). The consensus on the nature of jihad from all four schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence (i.e., Maliki, Hanbali, Hanafi, and Shafi’i) is clear.
Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406), jurist (Maliki), renowned philosopher, historian, and sociologist, summarized these consensus opinions from five centuries of prior Sunni Muslim jurisprudence with regard to the uniquely Islamic institution of jihad:
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.
Molla Khosrew (d. 1480) was a celebrated writer and Hanafi jurist, who was appointed the Ottoman Shaykh-al-Islam by Sultan Mehmed II in 1469. One of Molla Khosrew’s authoritative, widely cited legal works, reiterated these classical views on jihad:
…jihad is a fard al-kifaya, that is, that one must begin the fight against the enemy, even when he [the enemy] may not have taken the initiative to fight, because the Prophet…early on…allowed believers to defend themselves, later, however, he ordered them to take the initiative at certain times of the year, that is, at the end of the haram months, saying, “Kill the idolaters wherever you find them…” (Q9:5). He finally ordered fighting without limitations, at all times and in all places, saying, “Fight those who do not believe in God, and in the Last Day…”(Q9:29); there are also other [similar] verses on the subject. This shows that it is a fard al-kifaya
Finally, Shi’ite jurisprudence was in agreement with the Sunni consensus on the basic nature of jihad war, as reflected in this excerpt from the Jami-i-Abbasi [the popular Persian manual of Shi’a Law] written by al-Amili (d.1622), a distinguished theologian under Shah Abbas I:
Islamic Holy war [jihad] against followers of other religions, such as Jews, is required unless they convert to Islam or pay the poll tax.
By the time of al-Tabari’s death in 923, jihad wars had expanded the Muslim empire from Portugal to the Indian subcontinent. Subsequent Muslim conquests continued in Asia, as well as Eastern Europe. Under the banner of jihad, the Christian kingdoms of Armenia, Byzantium, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, and Albania, in addition to parts of Poland and Hungary, were also conquered and Islamized by waves of Seljuk, or later Ottoman Turks, as well as Tatars. Arab Muslim invaders engaged, additionally, in continuous jihad raids that ravaged and enslaved Sub-Saharan African animist populations, extending to the 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 slaughtered, or enslaved and deported, the cities, villages, and infidel religious sites which were sacked and pillaged, and the lands, treasure, and movable goods seized.
And what was the nature of the system of governance imposed upon those indigenous non-Muslims conquered by jihad? In his seminal The Laws of Islamic Governance al-Mawardi (d. 1058), a renowned jurist of Baghdad, examined the regulations pertaining to the lands and infidel populations subjugated by jihad. This is the origin of the system of dhimmitude. The native infidel “dhimmi” (which derives from both the word for “pact”, and also “guilt”—guilty of religious errors) population had to recognize Islamic ownership of their land, submit to Islamic law, and accept payment of the Koranic poll tax (jizya), based on Koran 9:29. Al- Mawardi notes that “The enemy makes a payment in return for peace and reconciliation.” He then distinguishes two cases: (I) Payment is made immediately and is treated like booty, “it does, not however, prevent a jihad being carried out against them in the future.” (II). Payment is made yearly and will “constitute an ongoing tribute by which their security is established”. Reconciliation and security last as long as the pavment is made. If the pavment ceases, then the jihad resumes. A treaty of reconciliation may be renewable, but must not exceed 10 years. This same basic formulation was reiterated during a January 8, 1998 interview by Yusuf al-Qaradawi confirming how jihad continues to regulate the relations between Muslims and non-Muslims to this day.
The “contract of the jizya”, or “dhimma” encompassed other obligatory and recommended obligations for the conquered non-Muslim “dhimmi” peoples. Collectively, these “obligations” formed the discriminatory system of dhimmitude imposed upon non-Muslims—Jews, Christians, [as well as Zoroastrians, Hindus, and Buddhists]-subjugated by jihad. Some of the more salient features of dhimmitude include: the prohibition of arms for the vanquished dhimmis, and of church bells; restrictions concerning the building and restoration of churches, synagogues, and temples; inequality between Muslims and non-Muslims with regard to taxes and penal law; the refusal of dhimmi testimony by Muslim courts; a requirement that Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims, including Zoroastrians and Hindus, wear special clothes; and the overall humiliation and abasement of non-Muslims. It is important to note that these regulations and attitudes were institutionalized as permanent features of the sacred Islamic law, or Shari’a. The writings of the much lionized Sufi theologian and jurist al-Ghazali (d. 1111) highlight how the institution of dhimmitude was simply a normative, and prominent feature of the Shari’a:
…the dhimmi is obliged not to mention Allah or His Apostle.. .Jews, Christians, and Majians must pay the jizya [poll tax on non-Muslims]…on offering up the jizya, the dhimmi must hang his head while the official takes hold of his beard and hits [the dhimmi] on the protruberant bone beneath his ear [i.e., the mandible]… They are not permitted to ostentatiously display their wine or church bells…their houses may not be higher than the Muslim’s, no matter how low that is. The dhimmi may not ride an elegant horse or mule; he may ride a donkey only if the saddler-work] is of wood. He may not walk on the good part of the road. They [the dhimmis] have to wear [an identifying] patch [on their clothing], even women, and even in the [public] baths…[dhimmis] must hold their tongue.
The practical consequences of such a discriminatory system were summarized in A.S. Tritton’s 1930 The Caliphs and their Non-Muslim Subjects, a pioneering treatise on the status of the dhimmis:
…[C]aliphs destroyed churches to obtain materials for their buildings, and the mob was always ready to pillage churches and monasteries…dhimmis…always lived on sufferance, exposed to the caprices of the ruler and the passions of the mob…in later times..[t]hey were much more liable to suffer from the violence of the crowd, and the popular fanaticism was accompanied by an increasing strictness among the educated. The spiritual isolation of Islam was accomplished. The world was divided into two classes, Muslims and others, and only Islam counted…Indeed the general feeling was that the leavings of the Muslims were good enough for the dhimmis.
Forty years later, in 1970, S.D. Goitein, one of the greatest 20th century scholars of Muslim, non-Muslim relations (whom Jasser also cites as an authority in his book) wrote the following on the subject of dhimmis under Islamic governance:
…a great humanist and contemporary of the French Revolution, Wilhelm von Humboldt, defined as the best state one which is least felt and restricts itself to one task only: protection, protection against attack from outside and oppression from within…in general, taxation [by the Muslim government] was merciless, and a very large section of the population must have lived permanently at the starvation level. From many Geniza letters one gets the impression that the poor were concerned more with getting money for the payment of their taxes than for food and clothing, for failure of payment usually induced cruel punishment… the Muslim state was quite the opposite of the ideals propagated by Wilhelm von Humboldt or the principles embedded in the constitution of the United States. An Islamic state was part of or coincided with dar al-Islam, the House of Islam. Its treasury was mal al-muslumin, the money of the Muslims. Christians and Jews were not citizens of the state, not even second class citizens. They were outsiders under the protection of the Muslim state, a status characterized by the term dhimma, for which protection they had to pay a poll tax specific to them. They were also exposed to a great number of discriminatory and humiliating laws…As it lies in the very nature of such restrictions, soon additional humiliations were added, and before the second century of Islam was out, a complete body of legislation in this matter was in existence…In times and places in which they became too oppressive they lead to the dwindling or even complete extinction of the minorities.[emphasis added]
Very disturbing polling data released April 24, 2007 from a rigorous face-to-face University of Maryland/ WorldPublicOpinion.org interview survey confirm the magnitude of sentiments favorably inclined towards the ultimate goals of jihadism within the contemporary global Muslim umma, or community. Of the 4384 Muslims interviewed between December 9, 2006 and February 15, 2007—1000 Moroccans, 1000 Egyptians, 1243 Pakistanis, and 1141 Indonesians—65.2%, almost 2/3, hardly a “fringe minority”—desired this outcome: “To unify all Islamic countries into a single Islamic state or Caliphate,” including 49% of “moderate” Indonesian Muslims. The internal validity of these data about the present longing for a Caliphate is strongly suggested by a concordant result: 65.5% of this Muslim sample approved the proposition “To require a strict [strict emphasized in original] application of Shari’a law in every Islamic country.” Moreover, an earlier survey of British Muslims indicated that up to 40% of them wished to replace Britain’s current liberal democratic system with the Shari’a.
Notwithstanding ahistorical drivel from Western Muslim “advocacy” groups such as the Muslim Association of Britain, which lionizes both the Caliphate and the concomitant institution of Shari’a as promulgators of “a peaceful and just society”—despite their legacy of brutal, often genocidal aggression, and imposition of a blatantly discriminatory, totalitarian system of rule devoid of the most basic human rights—the findings from these polls of Muslims across the Islamic world, and within the United Kingdom, are ominous. Pursuit of these goals by Muslims augurs many more innocent, but “licit” non-Muslim victims of jihad.
Mohammed Zuhdi Jasser’s grossly inept understanding, or deliberately bowdlerized rendition of foundational, living Koranic doctrines disqualifies him as a serious discussant regarding the drastic reforms required of mainstream, institutional Islam.