Islamic Expansion

Majid Khadduri writes of the Arabian expansion following the coming of Islam:

The Islamic state, whose principal function was to put God’s law into practice, sought to establish Islam as the dominant reigning ideology over the entire world. It refused to recognize the co-existence of non-Muslim communities, except perhaps as subordinate entities, because by its very nature a universal state tolerates the existence of no other state than itself. Although it was not a consciously formulated policy, Muhammad’s early successors, after Islam became supreme in Arabia, were determined to embark on a ceaseless war of conquest in the name of Islam. The jihad was therefore employed as an instrument for both the universalization of religion and the establishment of an imperial world state.


The Reformers on Islam.

Note: I am reposting this in light of yesterday’s massacre in Paris.

At the time of the Reformation the Ottoman Empire was the leading Islamic power in the world. The Caliph or leader of Islam was the Turkish Emperor and to refer to the “Turks” was to refer to Muslims in general. It is interesting to read the opinions of Luther and Calvin on the Turks and what should be done about their threat. Luther observed that the Turks had no cause to invade the lands of others and saw them as God’s chastisement on a degenerate Christendom:

In the first place, the Turk certainly has no right or command to begin war and to attack lands that are not his. Therefore his war is nothing but an outrage and robbery with which God is punishing the world, as he often does through wicked scoundrels, and sometimes through godly people. The Turk does not fight from necessity or to protect his land in peace, as the right kind of ruler does; but, like a pirate or highwayman, he seeks to rob and ravage other lands which do and have done nothing to him. He is God’s rod and the devil’s servant [Isa. 10:5]; there is no doubt about that.

[Martin Luther: On War Against the Turk.]

Calvin agrees that the Turks are being used to punish a wicked and superstitious people:

Accordingly, when the Turk now rises up haughtily against us, because he has already vanquished so great a multitude of Christians, we need not be alarmed on that account, as if the power of God were diminished, and as if he had not strength to deliver us. But we ought to consider in how many ways the inhabitants of Greece and of Asia provoked his anger, by the prevalence of every kind of base and shocking licentiousness in those countries, and by the dreadful superstitions and wickedness which abounded. On this account very severe chastisement was needed for restraining the crimes of those who made a false profession of the name of God. Hence came the prosperity of the Turk, and hence was it followed by a shockingly ruinous condition throughout the whole of the east. Yet we see him insolently raising his crest, laughing at our religion, and applauding his own in a strange manner; but still more does he applaud himself, and “sacrifice to his net,” (Habakkuk 1:16,) as we have already said of other infidels.

We ought, therefore, to direct our minds towards the judgments of God, that we may not think that the Turk acquired such extensive dominion by his own strength. But the Lord allowed him greater freedom, for the purpose of punishing the ungodliness and wickedness of men, and will at length restrain his insolence at the proper time. Now, although prosperity is a token of the blessing of God, yet we must not begin with it if we wish to form right views of God himself, as Mahometans and Papists infer from the victories which they have gained, that God is in some respects subject to their control. But when we have known the true God, blessings are added in the proper order to testify his grace and power.

[Commentaries: Isaiah 36.20]

Calvin also decried the attitude of those who thought that the threat from the Turks would never reach them:

…the Jews thought that there was no danger nigh them from nations so remote, as though we were to speak of the Turks at this day, “Oh! they have to fight with other nations: let those who are near them contend with the Turks, for we may live three or four ages in quietness.” We see such indifference prevailing in the present day. Hence the Prophet, in order to deprive the Jews of this vain confidence, says that this nation was near at hand, though coming from remote quarters.

[Commentaries: Jeremiah 5:15]

Luther believed that the best weapon against Islamic expansionism was for Christians to repent and get right with God. He believed the gospel should be embraced more fervently. He taught that the Emperor should take up the war against the Turks and that if called upon by the Emperor, the Christian should join in the fight. Reading his On War Against the Turk can be instructive for how Christians should respond to the jihadi threat in our time.

R.I.P. Patricia Crone

Patricia Crone, the co-author of the famous book “Hagarism” about the origins of Islam, passed away. I wrote Professor Crone in 2010 because I read that she had more or less refuted the premise of Hagarism.  She responded, “As regards the central thesis in part I, yes.”

I asked her what were the best modern works that advance her line of thinking from Hagarism and also if there are works that interact with Hagarism in an attempt to refute it? She replied:

I don’t think there is any of either type. The closest you get is Hawting’s book on Idolatry and the Quran. 1)Link.

I pass this along in her memory.

References   [ + ]

1. Link.

Islamic History

Tom Holland writes: 1)From the book: In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire.

The voices of the Arab warriors who dismembered the ancient empires of Persia and Rome, and of their sons, and of their sons in turn—let alone of their daughters and grand-daughters—have all been silenced, utterly and for ever. Neither letters, nor speeches, nor journals, if they were ever so much as written, have survived; no hint as to what those who actually lived through the establishment of the Caliphate thought, or felt, or believed. It is as though we had no eye-witness accounts of the Protestant Reformation, or the French Revolution, or the two World Wars.

The historical critical tools that were earlier turned on the Bible are now being trained on early Islamic history. The paucity of witnesses is fascinating.

References   [ + ]

1. From the book: In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire.

One Way

I am reading  God’s Forever Family, a history of the Jesus People movement in America. Something you come across again and again in that time period (1968-early 70’s) is the “One Way” pose that Jesus People would strike in pictures. It consists of pointing to the sky and meant, “one way of salvation, the Jesus way.” This famous picture of Keith Green is a good example:

Keith Green
Keith Green

The odd thing to me is that you see this all the time today – from Muslim jihadis! In their case it means that Allah is one and the only true god, and that they are acknowledging him. See the pictures below.

Chechen Muslims
Chechen Muslims
Australian Jihadis
Australian Jihadis

How did this come to be? Where and when did Muslims start doing this in their pictures? Was it after the Jesus People movement? Was it in any way related?


Buddhist Violence

Although Islam has the biggest reputation for violent suppression of differing religions in the world today, Buddhism has its own strain of violent practitioners. Read this article about Burma for example:

Last month simmering animosity burst into the open once again. A brawl between Buddhists and Muslims in a gold shop in the central Burmese town of Meiktila triggered two days of violence, during which more than 800 homes in the town, mostly Muslim, were razed. Witnesses say that the Buddhist mobs who perpetrated the violence were well-organized, and that the police stood by and watched as killings were carried out in broad daylight. Such reports have led to accusations of official complicity in the violence. Suspicion is prompted by belief that elements within the government or military view communal unrest as a cue for the reinvigoration of a military whose overarching power in Burma is threatened by reforms. A Human Rights Watch report released today directly implicates “political and religious leaders in Arakan State” in the planning, organization, and incitement of attacks against the Rohingya and other Muslims last October. (The report, which focuses on last year’s bloodshed in Arakan, notes that the violence there has resulted in the forcible displacement of some 125,000 Rohingya Muslims from their homes.)


Most narratives of the violence have painted the 969 movement as a cohesive anti-Muslim front that seeks to purge Burma of what it considers a pernicious Islamic presence. Anti-violence protests have used 969 as a symbol to rally against (as shown above). Yet the diverging opinions of those who distribute and carry the symbol shows that this is not so clear-cut. At one end of the spectrum are those who see it more as an identifier of Buddhist solidarity, as Christians display crucifixes. Many say the adoption of 969 as the movement’s symbol was done to counter 786, a numerologically important symbol to Muslims that is also seen on some shop fronts. “Now our Buddhist people are trying to give life to this 969 concept, and it saddens me,” says U Gambira, a former monk who spent four years in jail for his lead role in the 2007 Saffron Revolution. “They are basically copying something they hate.”

Extremists are trying legitimize an objectionable philosophy by drawing on the spiritual “goodness” of what 969 represents: the nine attributes of Buddha, the six attributes of his teachings, and the nine attributes of the Sangha, the religious council that administers Buddhist institutions in Burma. This inevitably gives the movement an immediate appeal among Buddhists, and its leaders can then exploit underlying anti-Muslim sentiment to garner supporters, witting or unwitting. 

Conspiracy Theory

David Cook discusses Islamic Anti-Semitism which is assumed in most if not all of its apocalyptic writings. He summarizes the roots of this “Jewish conspiracy” from the Islamic point of view:

Functionally, so these writers would have us believe, all of history has been controlled by a group of Jews who, because they knew more than anybody else and had unlimited amounts of money and unassailable positions of power, together with satanic authority and the monomaniacal purpose of subverting all of humanity and driving it into hell, have directed all past historical events. While it is sometimes hard for the apocalyptists to pin down exactly when this conspiracy became operative, it clearly was organized at the latest shortly after Jesus’ time, since the apostle Paul was one of its most effective agents (Shiabi 1997, 13-14). It was he who successfully perverted Jesus’ teachings and corrupted the New Testament (Ayyub 1987, 28, 295; al-Bar 1998). Many of these Arab Muslim apocalyptists are fully convinced that this Jewish conspiracy led directly to the prophet Muhammad’s confrontation with the Jews of Medina (recorded in part in the Qur’an). 

Tracing the Jewish conspiracy back to Paul is breathtakingly absurd.
Source: Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature

Chechnya and Islam in Boston

I paid a lot of attention to the two Chechen wars. I subscribed to the Chechnya-sl list and checked out the Kavkaz Center site frequently. So it does not surprise me that a young American of Chechen descent like Tamerlan Tsarnaev would want to emulate men like Shamil Basayev, Ibn al-Khattab and  Doku Umarov.

The war has mostly petered out with the exception of suicide attacks on Russia and action in Dagestan, but I suspect that Saudi/Wahabbi money continues to keep the flame alive. 
What seems clear is that Tamerlan became more devout, and then spent six or seven months in Russia. It seems very likely to me that he could have contacted militants while there, however, he may not have. They seem to be disavowing him, knowing that his actions will only bring more wrath down on them and alienate any potential American help for their cause, which really vanished after 9/11 anyway. So my guess is that he simply met veterans of the war, or citizens who had suffered at the hands of the Russians, and this fed his hatred for “the Christian West.” Perhaps he met some Wahabbi types either there or in the USA.  Reports are that he grew a long beard and dressed in Islamic clothing, but not for long. To me this screams that he was going operational and did not want to draw any attention to himself, so resumed looking Western.
When he returned to America last July, he began preparing the guns, bombs and logistics of the attack on the marathon that he would launch eight months later. The conflict in Chechnya, like Kosovo, like Afghanistan, like Syria, is part of the global struggle to establish a Caliphate. Different interests motivate different people, but the struggle is at its roots an Islamic struggle, at least in the minds of the Salafi Sunni Muslims.

Leithart on Islam

Love this post from Peter Leithart, including:

Liberals didn’t see it coming because they “had come to believe that religion was nothing more than a pageant in political affairs.” Despite their expertise with Iran, the English were caught by surprise, Americans more so.
Consequential and calamitous. It was, Buchan says, “one of those events in which history changes direction. The destruction of the Iranian monarchy not only upset the political order in the Middle East and inaugurated thirty years of warfare, it also introduced a new way of looking at human affairs. Beside it, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was the tying up of historical loose ends” (1).
The train of human progress seemed to lurch suddenly into reverse: “The Iranian Revolution reminded the world that human beings are obstinate cattle and will not always accept what history says is good for them” (3). The French had tried to impose 1789 on Egypt in 1798, and the Egyptians were not interested. In 1979, Iran erupted with a long-simmering “No thanks” to Western Enlightenment values: “It was not that the Iranians of 1979 refused to be civilized. It was that they thought Mohammed Reza and his Western allies were destroying a civilisation they held dear” (3).