The Palestinian Authority has yet again made perfectly clear why achieving peace between Palestinians and Israelis is so difficult.
In a speech laden with historical and theological allusions that few in the West — but many in the Muslim world — understand, Mahmoud al-Habbash, the Palestinian Authority’s leading Islamic cleric, supreme Sharia judge, and personal advisor to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, said:
Jerusalem’s [Al-Aqsa] Mosque apparently is the heading for the eruption of the conflict and the Battle of History between Islam and the enemies of Islam … This mosque is decreed to be the arena of the battle between good and evil.
That Jerusalem is “the Battle of History” — the crowning point of 1400 years of violent jihad — is a dramatic assertion for anyone who understands the existential role of warfare in Islam’s history. As documented in my new book Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, Islam was born on and spread through offensive warfare — centuries of jihad. The overwhelming majority of the “Muslim world” — including its heartlands of the Middle East, Turkey, Iran, and North Africa — was violently wrested from much older, non-Islamic civilizations.
That al-Habbash is saying the future battle for Jerusalem will be the battle — the crowning achievement of centuries of bloody, world-altering jihads — is further obvious when he describes it as follows:
[B]etween Islam and the enemies of Islam; between the Muslims and the enemies of Muslims; between the Islamic culture in all its splendor and human glory and the culture of Satan attempting to establish oppression and aggression at the expense of the culture of truth and goodness …
Western listeners will likely assume that appellations like “enemies of Islam,” “enemies of Muslims,” etc., are indicators that al-Habbash is referring to a defensive jihad in the name of “justice” against those who presumably oppress Muslims — in this case, Israel. In fact, from a strictly Islamic, Sharia point of view, “enemies of Islam” and “enemies of Muslims” apply to all non-Muslims who, in any way, oppose Islam’s spread into and takeover of non-Muslim nations, including their own.
All the peoples of land historically conquered by Islam — Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Zoroastrians — were by definition “enemies of Islam” and “enemies of Muslims.” They were to be slaughtered or enslaved, precisely because they refused to capitulate — to submit — to Islam when it came knocking.
This is why the historic Islamic conquests are never in Arabic and other Muslim languages referred to as “conquests”; rather, they are the futuhat, “openings” for the light of Islam to enter (or fatah in the singular, as the Palestinian group tellingly calls itself). In this context, every land ever invaded or seized by Muslims was done “altruistically” to bring Islam to wayward infidels, who are seen as the unjust aggressors getting what they deserved — death or slavery — for resisting Islam. This is “the culture of truth and goodness” that al-Habbash is eager to impose on Jerusalem.
The hypocrisy of such thinking was once exposed by secular Arab researcher and political activist Dr. Ahmed ‘Abdu Maher. Back when Donald Trump was talking of banning immigration from seven Muslim nations — prompting many Muslims to accuse him of “racism” and “Islamophobia” — Maher made a video wherein he asked the leaders of Islam, such as al-Habbash, a hypothetical. What if, instead of banning immigration, Trump were to follow a page from the Islamic handbook and offer American Muslims three choices: either convert to Christianity, pay jizya and live as second class citizens, or die?
Would he be a racist or not? Would he be a terrorist or not? How then [when one considers] that we have in our Islamic jurisprudence, which you teach us, and tell us that all the imams have agreed that the Islamic openings [i.e., conquests] are the way to disseminate Islam? This word “openings” [ futuhat] — we must be sensitive to it! The Islamic openings mean swords and killing.
The Islamic openings, through which homes, castles, and territories were devastated, the … [are part of] an Islam which you try to make us follow. So I wonder O sheikh, O leader of this or that Islamic center in New York, would you like to see this done to your wife and daughter?
Would you — this or that sheikh — accept that this be done to your children? That your daughter goes to this fighter [as a slave], your son to this fighter, a fifth [of booty] goes to the caliph, and so forth? I mean, isn’t this what you refer to as the Sharia of Allah?
In short, Islam’s entire claim to Jerusalem rests atop violent conquest: In the year 637 — months after defeating the Byzantine Empire at the highly decisive Battle of Yarmuk — thousands of Arabs were laying siege to the Holy City. The musings of its holed-up patriarch, Sophronius, are a reminder on how these “openings” went:
Why are the troops of the Saracens [Arabs] attacking us? Why has there been so much destruction and plunder? Why are there incessant outpourings of human blood? Why are the birds of the sky devouring human bodies?
Why have churches been pulled down? Why is the cross mocked? Why is Christ … blasphemed by pagan mouths? … [T]he vengeful and God-hating Saracens … overrun the places which are not allowed to them, plunder cities, devastate fields, burn down villages, set on fire the holy churches, overturn the sacred monasteries, oppose the Byzantine armies arrayed against them, and in fighting raise up the trophies [of war] and add victory to victory.
It should be noted that the writings of all other peoples conquered by Islam describe these “openings” much the same way.
Of the Islamic conquest of Egypt, one Copt’s eyewitness chronicle is so riddled with bloodshed that he often ends entries with passages like this:
But let us now say no more, for it is impossible to describe the horrors the Muslims committed ( Sword and Scimitar, p. 33).
After recounting numerous atrocities committed during the Islamic conquest of Spain, one contemporary monk wrote:
Who can enumerate such grievous disasters? Even if every limb were transformed into a tongue, it would be beyond human nature to express the ruin of Spain and its many and great evils ( Sword and Scimitar, p. 165).
After recounting numerous atrocities committed during the Islamic invasions of Armenia in the mid eleventh century, another contemporary wrote in resignation:
Who is able to relate the happenings and ruinous events which befell the Armenians, for everything was covered with blood …
Because of the great number of corpses, the land stank, and all of Persia was filled with innumerable captives; thus this whole nation of beasts became drunk with blood. All human beings of Christian faith were in tears and in sorrowful affliction (Sword and Scimitar, p. 106).
It was the same for Jerusalem.
After several months of being holed up and reduced to starvation and plague, Jerusalem capitulated; thus the original fatah, the first first Islamic “opening” of the Holy City, was accomplished in the spring of 637. And until such time that it is “opened” again — until the fatah triumphs over and humiliates the unjust resisters — not only can there never be peace, but the greatest of all jihads must be waged.
As the Palestinian Authority’s premiere scholar of Islam ominously added:
Jerusalem is the heading of this battle, this conflict, and this round, which I and many others see as the key, as the first step, as the spark of the battle of the final promise.