You must know it and its followers well
"Therefore I say: Know your enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril."
--Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Islam warriors Looking for Saladin
This article, superbly explains why the fight against Islamic terrorism without taking into account Islam itself is futile.
September 11 came as a shock to Americans. It was like a blow from someone in the shadows - someone that they don't know or understand. The Chinese Strategist Sun Wu who wrote the "Art of War" said: "Know thyself and know thy enemy. One hundred battles, one hundred victories."
Well-meaning people in the civilized world still argue what 911 was all about. Some argue that it is about poverty and lack of democracy in the Muslim world. Others say it is about Israel. These may be contributory factors. Yet the Chinese occupy Tibet for decades without provoking suicide bombers. The British occupied Gibraltar for centuries without triggering violence from Spaniards. There is poverty in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Yet these people don't turn to terrorism and suicide attacks.
There is more at work here than just poverty or US Middle East policies. Unfortunately, the politically correct crowd has not followed Sun Wu's advice to "Know thy enemy". They must be made to realize that September 11 was just another chapter of the history of jihad, which began nearly 14 centuries ago.
It was Prophet Mohammed himself who led the first jihad against the infidels. At the crucial battle of Badr, the flame of jihad was kindled. It is a spirit that inspires extraordinary courage that is terrifying to the enemies of Islam.
There are two kinds of jihad - the lower and the higher kind. The lower jihad is fought on the battlefield. The higher jihad is a struggle to improve oneself. But it is the lower jihad that one attains the prize of martyrdom. Militant Muslim scholars argue that it is the duty of Muslims to spread the religion by conversion if possible or by force of arms if military power comes to them.
Ayatollah Khomeini said: "Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not disabled and incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of (other) countries that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world.”
At the battle of Badr, the Muslims were outnumbered by the Meccans. The Prophet was worried and prayed fervently. Nine hundred well armed Meccans with seven hundred camels and a hundred horses faced three hundred Muslims.
The Prophet said: “If the Muslims were defeated that day, Allah would never be worshipped again.”
Then he fainted and when he opened his eyes, there was a smile on his lips. He had seen the angel Gabriel in a dream coming to help the Muslims. Then he told his men: “By God in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, no man will be slain this day fighting against them with steadfast courage, advancing not retreating, but God will cause him to enter Paradise.”
A soldier who heard these words flung away the dates he was eating and plunged into the enemy, fighting till he was killed. When the Prophet was asked what would make Allah joyous with his servant, he replied: “When he plunges into the midst of the enemy without mail.”
At a critical moment in the battle of Badr, a dust storm blew, blinding the Meccans. The angels led by Gabriel galloped in to aid the Muslims. The Meccans lost and fled. The lesson from Badr is that a Muslim’s thoughts should focus on martyrdom and leave it to Allah to secure victory. In the long run, Allah would assure them victory. In the short run, they might suffer defeat. But death even in defeat only hastens their entry into paradise. So, either way they win. Strategy is important but reliance in Allah must take precedence over man made strategies. This is the spirit of jihad. This is the spirit that inspires the members of Al-Qaeda.
This spirit is best summed up in a hadith from Sahih al Bukhari where the Prophet said: "Know that Paradise is under the shade of swords". It is really an invitation to die for Allah.
That is why Holy Warriors from the 7th century to the present day followers of Osama bin Laden are so dangerous. As I argued in my article, "Once were Warriors", Islam was designed to facilitate Arab imperialism. It is a warrior's religion and few ancient armies fighting with swords, bows and spears could defeat them as you will see when I continue my story.
The Prophet's jihad continued and the Muslims were defeated at the battle of Uhud. What happened was that a group of archers disobeyed orders to guard the rear, rushed forward to get their share of booty, thinking that victory was theirs. This allowed the Meccans to launch a cavalry charge into the opening and won the day.
But Muslims found victory in defeat. The Muslims lost because of the sin of greed for gold. The Muslims learned the lesson that sin leads to defeat. Defeat on the battlefield thus led them to victory in the higher jihad - the inner struggle to purify oneself of sin. The Koran said in 3:139: "Lose not heart, nor fall into despair: for ye must gain mastery if ye are true in faith."
This spiritual renewal will pave their way to eventual victory. Verse 3:166 says: " What ye suffered on the day the two armies met, was with the leave of Allah, in order that He might test the believers."
Thus with the example of Uhud before them, members of Al-Qaeda will not be deterred by defeat in Afghanistan. Instead, they will see it as a test of faith and a lesson from Allah to purify themselves from sin and to rededicate themselves to Allah's cause.
It was this faith that enabled the Muslims to conquer Arabia in the 7th century. At this point they were about to explode into history. In about 628, the Roman Emperor, Heraclius was in Jerusalem. It was there that he received a letter from Mohammed, asking him to become a Muslim. This was in fact an invitation to surrender to Allah and his Prophet. Failure to do so meant war. Mohammed also sent letters to the rulers of Persia, Abysinnia, Bahrain and Oman.
Some things have not changed in 14 centuries. In a letter to America, purportedly written by Osama bin Laden published in the Observer on November 24th, the terrorist leader (or holy warrior depending on which side you are on) said:
"As for the second question that you want an answer: What are we calling you to, and what do we want from you?
(1) The first thing that we are calling you to is Islam."
His confidence in eventual victory is shown from this verse from the Koran (61:9) that he quoted in the letter:
"It is He who has sent his Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth (Islam), to make it victorious over all other religions even though the Polytheists hate it."
Towards the end of the letter, Osama said:
"If the Americans refuse to listen to our advice and the goodness, guidance and righteousness that we call them to, then be aware that you will lose this crusade Bush began, just like the other Crusades in which you were humiliated by the hands of the Mujahideen, fleeing to your home in great silence and disgrace."
Now, let us get back to the 7th century. Mohammed died in 632 and Abu Bakr became the first Caliph (successor). He told the assembled Muslims:
"Obey me as long as I obey God and His apostle, and if I disobey them you owe me no obedience."
These idealistic words opened the door to rebellion for future rulers of Muslim lands right up to this present day - making Muslims a prickly bunch of people for any ruler to handle. The need for compromise from unbending orthodoxy makes Muslim states vulnerable to charges of disobedience to God.
The Economist (October 13, 2001) reported that an 80 year old cleric, Sheik Hamoud bin Ogla an-Shuaibi issued a fatwa against the ruling Saudi family. When summoned by the authorities to explain himself, he said:
"Whoever backs the infidel against Muslims is considered an infidel."
This sentiment is common in Saudi Arabia and that is why Osama bin Laden is such a hero there. When the King invited the Americans to deal with Saddam Hussein after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, bin Laden was furious.
This is because the last injunction that the Prophet gave was: "Let not two religions be left on the Arabian Peninsula."
The Koran (5:51) also says: "Believers, take neither the Jews nor the Christians for your friends. They are friends with one another. Whoever of you seeks their friendship shall become one of their number."
Clearly, it is against scripture to allow the infidel Americans to put their boots on sacred Arabian soil. Trying to explain that they need the military strength of the infidel United States to protect Saudi Arabia from the powerful Iraqi army do not impress men of faith.
Did not Allah grant the impoverished mujahideen victory against the Soviet Union? What is Saddam Hussein compared to a superpower? It was clear to Osama and Sheik Hamoud that the House of Saud preferred to rely on the infidels rather than on Allah. Therefore, can they really be true believers? Osama got angrier when the Americans did not go home after Saddam was defeated.
Jihad, according to moderate Muslims, is permissible only for self-defense. But what is considered as self-defense? To Muslims like Osama, having infidel troops on sacred Arabian soil is an offense to Islam and merits a jihad. The clause of self-defense opens a wide loop-hole for creative interpretation.
Osama is of course not the first to declare jihad against "Christendom". Under Umar, the second Caliph, Christendom lost Egypt, Palestine and Iraq. Byzantine armies weakened by years of warfare against the Persians were no match for the Arab warriors who could hide in the desert where the Romans could not go. The Christians were also weakened by division. The Emperor favored the Orthodox Church and the Nestorians, Monophysites and Copts resented this.
Under Umar, the ancient Persian Empire was also partially conquered. After Umar came Uthman and later Ali (Mohammed’s son-in-law), the last of the Rashidun Caliphs. Ali did not last long and was murdered by one of his followers, a Kharajite, for compromising with Muawiya. Of the four "rightly guided" Caliphs, only Abu Bakr died a natural death. Muawiya was the son of Abu Sufyan, Mohammed's old enemy before he converted to Islam (i.e. submitted to Allah and his Prophet).
Muawiya became a great Caliph. When he died, the Umayyad empire stretched from the Maghreb to the Sind in India. Civil war started soon after he died. In the internecine warfare, Prophet Mohammed's grandson, Husayn (Ali’s son) was killed by the forces of Yazid, the son of Muawiya at the battle of Karbala.
His head was cut off and presented to Yazid and kicked around like a football. Such irreverence to the Prophet's family make me wonder if Abu Sufyan and his family were true believers. More likely, Abu Sufyan (who lost two sons fighting Mohammed at Badr) converted to preserve his life. That is why the Koran and Hadiths recorded that there were many hypocrites who were constantly plotting against the Prophet.
I suspect that Abu Sufyan’s family had a blood feud against Mohammed’s family in which they finally won. Even today, Bedouin families still wage blood feuds. Abu Sufyan and his family may not be true believers but hijacked the Islamic movement for their own purposes. This topic could be the subject of a speculative article on Islam’s early days. But I digress too much. Let’s get back to the history of jihad.
Within fifty years of the death of the Prophet there were three rival Caliphs at each other's throats. Abdal Malik (a son of Abu Sufyan’s nephew) emerged the victor and became a great Caliph. The empire grew larger than before and lasted till 750.
During this time, another attempt was made to take Constantinople in 717. Muawiya had tried and failed because of lack of winter provisions. This new jihad against Christendom was led by Maslama, the brother of the Caliph, Suleyman. The Muslim force comprised of 180,000 Arabs and 1,800 ships. The Byzantines repulsed them with Greek fire and the energetic efforts of Emperor Leo. The Muslims retreated and Constantinople became the eastern gate that shut out the Muslim tide for another eight centuries till it fell to the Turks.
Elsewhere, Muslim forces were more successful. Spain fell and the tide of jihad entered France. Charles Martel stopped them there at the battle of Poitiers. This was the western gate and Christendom was saved. If the Franks had been defeated, Gibbons said:
"Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomed."
Decline set in eventually. The Umayyad Caliphs were irreligious and I suspect some of the Caliphs may not have been true believers. For example, Caliph Walid II stuck a Koran on his lance and shot arrows at it! He said to the Koran:
"You hurl threats against the stubborn opponent. Well then, I am a stubborn opponent myself. When you appear before God at the day of resurrection just say: My lord, al-Walid has torn me up."
His court was full of debauchery. He surrounded himself with poets, dancing girls and musicians. The Umayyads have always been considered “godless” by their opponents and failed to satisfy the pious.
According to noted Islamic historian, Rafiq Zakaria, "it was their betrayal of the concept of Islamic brotherhood, irrespective of race and language, that brought them down."
He is echoing a familiar theme among Muslim historians. Decline will always come when Muslims forget Allah's commandments as had happened in Uhud. Renewal lies in a return to the first principles as taught by the Prophet. This theme will play again and again throughout the centuries right up to the present day. For the Muslim, history is a cycle of rise and fall and then renewal.
In 750, a general, Abul Abbas invited 80 Umayyad nobles to his home for dinner and slaughtered them. This ended the Umayyad dynasty with the exception of Spain. Abbas established the Abbasid caliphate, which reached its peak at the time of Harun al Rashid. Then it too declined and the Caliph was reduced to being a figurehead. The empire was in reality divided up by rival groups.
Now lets fast-forward to the Crusades. By the 11th century, Christendom was strong enough to mount a counterattack. In 1061, Count Roger invaded Muslim Sicily and Sicily returned to Christendom in 1091. In 1085, Frankish knights fought alongside Spaniards to recover Toledo. The re-conquest of Spain had begun. But Muslim power was still potent and made inroads against the tottering Byzantine Empire. The Byzantine Empire was defeated at Manzikert and never recovered.
In 1095, Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus I asked the Pope for help. In the same year, Pope Urban II launched the first Crusade to help the ailing empire and to recover the Holy Land, which was originally part of the Byzantine Empire.
By 1099, the Crusaders captured Jerusalem and massacred Jews and Muslims. The loss of Sicily and the Holy Land was a humiliation for Muslims. The third most sacred city, Jerusalem with its Dome on the Rock was under infidel rule and Crusader states were established.
But in 1187, Saladin declared jihad and recaptured Jerusalem after defeating the Christian army at Hattin. The defenders threatened to destroy Al Aqsa and the Dome on the Rock. A deal was struck. In exchange for ransom, the Christians could leave. Saladin kept his word and not a Christian was killed.
To many modern Muslims, the Crusades are still fresh in their memories. The presence of Israel is a humiliation for them. To people like Osama bin Laden, Israel is a modern Crusader State supported by the USA. Muslims are waiting for a modern day Saladin to restore the Ummah to power and glory.
They cannot understand why Allah seems to have deserted them. Muslims are amongst the poorest and least educated people in the world ruled mostly by tyrants who appear to be doing the bidding of the infidel Americans. To them, it should not be this way. Many Muslims still dream of their golden past when their green pennants fluttered proudly from Spain to India.
What makes the humiliation worse is that the infidel west is corrupting the minds of Muslims with their ubiquitous alien culture. Many Muslim women are envious of the freedom that their occidental sisters enjoy, which brings shudders to the conservative. Western ideas about democracy are seductive and are a challenge to the Muslim model of the Islamic state where all laws are made not by man but by God as revealed through the Prophet.
This lament for their low estate can be seen in a poem, called Shikwa, written by Iqbal, an ideologue of the Pakistan movement. The poem asks why Allah is unfaithful to Muslims when Muslims remain faithful to Him. A part of the poem says:
“Your blessings are showered on homes of unbelievers, strangers all.
Only on the poor Muslim, Your wrath like lightning falls.”
To other Muslims, it must be because they have not been faithful enough to Allah. The solution is greater piety and sacrifices. To the members of Al-Qaeda, keeping faith with Allah means martyrdom. Greater devotion will lead to renewal of the Ummah as happened many times in Islamic history. That is why some see Osama bin Laden as the new Saladin coming to restore Muslims to their rightful place in the world. The sad truth is, as I argued in “How Islam failed Muslims”, that Islam retarded their progress.
However, I would like to add that the Islamic world is by no means monolithic. No religion is. Not all Muslims will see things the way I described in this article. But many do. The danger is that political correctness may have blinded many westerners to the dangers. Such people like to insist that Islam means peace. And that Osama’s ideas do not represent the “real Islam”.
The truth is a lot more complex. It does not matter what real Islam is. There is a militant component in Islam and there are many Muslims whose worldview is as I described. For those afflicted with political correctness, let me leave you will a quote for Ayatollah Khomeini:
“But those who study Islamic Holy War will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world. Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those (who say this) are witless. “
If you are one of the politically correct, I think he was referring to you.