The “West and Islam have been mortal enemies since the latter’s birth some fourteen centuries ago,” warns Islam scholar Raymond Ibrahim in his recent book Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West. His extensive analysis bears out the apt title of this volume, whose documented history is equally ill remembered and yet vital for modern Westerners.
Ibrahim begins by elucidating the disturbing conceptual core of Islam and its seventh-century Arab prophet, Muhammad. “The appeal of Muhammad’s message lay in its compatibility with the tribal mores of his society,” Ibrahim notes.
For seventh-century Arabs – and later tribal peoples, chiefly Turks and Tatars, who also found natural appeal in Islam – the tribe was what humanity is to modern people: to be part of it was to be treated humanely; to be outside of it was to be treated inhumanely.
Accordingly, Islam “deified tribalism, causing it to outlive its setting and spill into the modern era.” Islamic doctrines like al-wala’ wa al-bara’ (“loyalty and enmity”) created an umma faith community or “‘Super Tribe’ that transcends racial, national, and linguistic barriers.” Not surprisingly, the Arabic umma “is etymologically related to ‘mother’ (umm) – to one’s closest kin.”
Ibrahim “records a variety of Muslims across time and space behaving exactly like the Islamic State and for the same reasons” – namely, Islam’s promotion of warfare against non-Muslims. Islam’s deity “incites his followers to war on the promise of booty, both animate and inanimate – so much so that an entire sura, or chapter of the Koran, ‘al-Anfal,’ is named after and dedicated to the spoils of war.” Jihadists following Islamic canons thus “‘use’ or ‘loan’ their lives as part of a ‘bargain’ or ‘transaction’ – whereby Allah forgives all sins and showers them with celestial delights.”
Ibrahim examines how Islamic afterlife doctrines beckon the faith’s battlefield martyrs. Islam’s celestial pleasures include houris or “supernatural, celestial women … created by Allah for the express purpose of gratifying his favorites in perpetuity.” “That Islamic scriptures portray paradise in decidedly carnal terms” reflects the “primitivism of Muhammad’s society.”
As Ibrahim notes, being on jihad’s receiving end was hardly divine. Khalid bin al-Walid, the “Sword of Allah” from Islam’s founding seventh-century epoch, “looms large in the Arab histories of the early Muslim conquests and is still seen today as the jihadi par excellence.” Yet Islamic histories record that jihadists like him “were little more than mass-killing psychotics and rapists.”
Similarly, Ibrahim observes that Ottoman sultan Bayezid I (reigned 1389-1402), “like many other Muslim leaders before and after him, was at once pious and depraved, with no apparent conflict between the twain.” This devout depravity includes the various forms of slavery that have existed throughout Islamic history like the Ottoman devshirme. Ibrahim quotes one modern historian to the effect that “jihad looks uncomfortably like a giant slave trade.'”
Non-Muslims will find baffling Ibrahim’s observation that Islamic doctrines claimed to sanctify imperialistic horror as holy:
In Arabic and other Muslim languages, the historic Islamic conquests are never referred to as ‘conquests’ but rather as futuh – ‘openings’ for the light of Islam to enter[.] … [E]very land ever invaded and/or seized by Muslims was done ‘altruistically’ to bring Islam to wayward infidels.
Such “altruism” devastated historic Christendom, Ibrahim notes. What people today call the “West” in Europe “is actually the westernmost remnant of what was a much more extensive civilizational block that Islam permanently severed.” Due to Islamic conquests spreading out from the Arabian Peninsula following Muhammad’s death in 632, by 700:
… all ancient Christian lands between Greater Syria to the east and Mauretania (Morocco) to the west – approximately 3,700 miles – were forever conquered by Islam. Put differently, two-thirds (or 65 percent) of Christendom’s original territory – including three of the five most important centers of Christianity – Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria – were permanently swallowed up by Islam and thoroughly Arabized.
Ibrahim highlights Islamic depredation of the Mediterranean, which “for centuries had been the world’s greatest economic highway uniting East and West, first in the classical civilization of Rome, and then in Christendom.” Subsequently this “Muslim Lake” became the “hunting ground for pirates and slavers.” Particularly “[a]fter the “conquest of Egypt, the importation of papyrus into Europe terminated almost overnight, causing literacy rates to drop back to their levels in pre-Roman times.”
Contrary to “widespread and entrenched myths concerning the purported tolerance and enlightenment” in places like Islamic Spain, Ibrahim documents longstanding Christian resistance to Islamic aggression. He dispenses with the “distorted and demonized version of” the Crusades, which responded to Islamic conquest of, and oppression in, the Holy Land. “Despite popular depictions of crusaders as prototypical European imperialists cynically exploiting faith, recent scholarship has proven the opposite,” he notes.
“Great lords of vast estates,” Ibrahim observes, “parted with their wealth and possessions upon taking the cross” as Crusaders. This sacrifice reflects an inconvenient truth for politically correct pieties:
Shocking as it may seem, love – not of the modern, sentimental variety, but a medieval, muscular one, characterized by Christian altruism, agape – was the primary driving force behind the crusades.
Ibrahim is not shy about sacrificing progressive sacred cows about Islam. He particularly notes that violent and vice-filled Islamic biographies of Muhammad have “especially scandalized Christians” historically. “Indeed, for people who find any criticism of Islam ‘Islamophobic,’ the sheer amount and vitriolic content of more than a millennium of Western writings on Muhammad may beggar belief.”
Ibrahim warns that his research presents no mere academic discussion or ancient history. Modern Muslim men assaulting Western women in Europe and elsewhere often “are drawing on a long tradition of seeing pale infidels as the epitome of promiscuity.” In sum:
Muslims still venerate their heritage and religion – which commands jihad against infidels – whereas the West has learned to despise its heritage and religion, causing it to become an unwitting ally of the jihad.
Against such induced historical amnesia Ibrahim performs a valuable service. Contrary to postmodern trends in Western society, Muslim behavior shows that not all believe that God is dead, history has ended, and everything is relative. Christians, with their long histories of fighting against, and suffering under, Islam should be at the forefront of offering critical, loving truths about this faith.
See also: How War with Islam Shaped and Defined Us