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The Legacy of Jihad

By Alyssa A. Lappen

It is only fitting that Andrew G. Bostom’s massive collection, The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims, appears in time for the fourth anniversary September 11, 2001, for no other collection since then has so well explained the theology and philosophy behind those Islamic attacks on America.

The leaders of the free world have taken pains since late 2001 to explain that Islam is a religion of peace. But in this far-ranging, 759-page collection of Muslim and non-Muslim eyewitness accounts, scholarly Muslim theological treatises and superb historical surveys, it appears that Islam has actually practiced a grisly jihad campaign against non-Muslims from its earliest days, in the hope of satisfying the Prophet Mohammed’s end goal: forcing the “one true faith” upon the entire world.

The somber tone of this monumental work — graced in its midsection by a chronological summary of the first 500 years of Muslim conquests, including color-coded maps and Islamic art — is set by the cover, a 19th century-Islamic painting entitled “The Prophet, Ali and the Companions at the massacre of the prisoners of the Jewish tribe of Beni Kuraizah.” As its name suggests, the art depicts the slaughter of 600 to 900 Jewish men, who were led on Mohammed’s orders to the market of Medina , where they were beheaded and their corpses buried in trenches dug for that purpose. Their wives and children were then enslaved.

After viewing these accounts, histories and art works, it is hard to continue to believe that radical Islamists are in fact all that radical. Rather, in the most logical way, this collection shows that September 11 was not an aberration, but that Islam at its core seems a faith bent upon the conquest and subjugation of non-Muslims.

Bostom opens with a 124-page survey of jihad conquests and the imposition of dhimmitude — the sociopolitical subjugation of indigenous non-Muslim peoples vanquished by jihad campaigns. The essay is the book’s longest section and serves as an excellent guidepost for readers to determine which parts might most interest them.

Beginning in the time of Mohammed himself, Bostom refers readers to the early 20th century work of the late Columbia University professor Arthur Jeffrey, who belittled as “the sheerest sophistry” attempts in some modern circles “to explain away all the Prophet’s warlike expeditions as defensive wars or to interpret the doctrine of Jihad as merely a bloodless striving in missionary zeal for the spread of Islam…. The early Arabic sources quite plainly and frankly describe the expeditions as military expeditions, and it would never have occurred to anyone at that day to interpret them as anything else….”

As Ibn Warraq notes in the forward, Dr. Bostom is the first scholar to have had translated from Arabic into English the works of al-Bayadawi, al-Suyuti, al-Zamakhshari and al-Tabari, as well as works by Sufi master al-Ghazali, Shiites al-Hilli and al-Amili. He also includes representatives from the four schools of Sunni jurisprudence: Averroes and Ibn Khaldun (Maliki), Ibn Taymiya and Ibn Qudama (Hanbali), Shaybani (Hanafi), and al-Mawardi (Shaafi).

Warraq wonders, “Why did it take a non-specialist such as Dr. Bostom, a scholar from another discipline — clinical epidemiology and randomized clinical trials in medicine — to discover and have translated for the first time this primary and secondary source material?”

Ibn Warraq continues: As Bernard Lewis points out in his important essay, “Pro-Islamic Jews,” “The golden age of equal rights [in Spain ] was a myth…. The myth was invented by Jews in nineteenth century Europe as a reproach to Christians.” There are those, he says, who contend that while Dr. Bostom may be right to expose history hitherto simply denied, this was not the right historical moment to express it. But, as Isaiah Berlin once wrote, an ideologue is someone prepared to suppress what he suspects to be true. This disposition to suppress the truth has engendered much evil.

Bostom’s work attempts to set straight the historical record. Let us hope that Bostom’s monumental survey is read in every corner of U.S. and European government, as well as by the masses who wish to learn the truth on Islamic doctrines