Jihad diagnosed

Islamic jihad has always used war to compel the whole world to embrace Islam or live under its yoke.

In an extensive collection of primary documents and commentary, Andrew Bostom shows that Islamic jihad has always used war to compel the whole world to embrace Islam or live under its yoke The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims Edited by Andrew Bostom Prometheus 750pp., $28 In our moribund world, traumatized by the Islamic holy war (jihad) on the one hand and by political correctness on the other, we find ourselves helpless in the face of worldwide Muslim terror and dumbfounded by the conspiracy of silence and permissiveness that allows abominable acts to unfold, but forbids publicly naming them. Indeed, instead of calling horrendous acts what they are, more and more voices in the scholarly world, out of ill-advised squeamishness or avoidance, have elected either to ignore the Islamic import of the horrors or to "understand" and thus legitimize them. This is analogous to explaining the Mongol rampages or the Nazi massacres with sympathy for the perpetrators rather than to unequivocally condemn them. The dhimmi state of mind submits to the aggressor instead of asserting its rights against him. It refrains from publicly teaching the nature and history of jihad, avoids condemning it under any circumstances, skirts any discussion embarrassing to Muslims and hides incriminating facts concerning Muslim conduct. It is no wonder, therefore, that while numerous Muslim legal treatises and monographs on jihad describe (in native languages) the harsh realities of international relations as conceived in Muslim political theory, in Western languages it is hard to find all-encompassing anthologies on this essential aspect of Islamic law. This is the unique contribution of Andrew Bostom, a prominent professor of medicine, who has taken a keen interest in the recent outbreaks of Muslim terror. He faced this dearth of sources accessible to the Western intellectual and determined to attack the problem himself. In his search, he unearthed many unpublished sources and segments of published texts that were improperly contextualized from a wide array of readings and translations. He then had original essays translated into English, borrowed translations from Western scholars, excerpted texts from secondary and tertiary sources, and created, for the first time in a Western language, a documentary history of jihad and the fate of non-Muslims under Muslim rule. The task would have been daunting for any scholar. How much more so for a non-specialist, not versed in the languages, culture and religion of Islam, but sensitive and wise enough to tell the essential from the marginal, meticulous enough to reflect the spirit of the texts, thorough enough to understand the sub-texts, and diligent and conscientious enough to leave no stone unturned in his effort to transmit a complete message. And the message is intricate and composite: from an introductory survey of jihad and the imposition of the dhimma by jihad during the Arab conquest, to excerpts from the major Sunni and Shi'ite jurists, to modern Muslim theologians and their treatises on jihad. These are followed by three chapters of exhaustive excerpts from early Islam and varied parts of the Muslim world as well as from Western scholars - and by texts on the Islamic slavery that was a key consequence of jihad wars. The final part of the compilation is the most poignant and direct, since it includes testimonies from all parts of the Muslim world, including the Balkans and the Indian subcontinent, from the seventh to the 20th centuries. Eye-witnesses describe the mistreatment of the occupied populations during the merciless jihad wars that reduced much of humanity and the world to serfdom for a millennium. This maze of texts, documents and testimonies, the first of its kind in English, fills a yawning gap in the consciousness of educated westerners, inasmuch as it brings together enough samples from this vast literature of dhimmitude and jihad, spread over a wide enough area of the Muslim world, and over much of the millennium of Muslim conquest and expansion, to represent the Islamic Empire during most of its rule. It may be that due to its bluntness and pungency, no reader can take in more than a portion of this material before he discards the reading in repugnance and disbelief. To make the stuff more palatable and accessible, it would have been advisable to attach a richer analytical index recording not only names and places, but also the recurrent basic vocabulary of jihad and dhimmitude. Bostom labored well to put this important reference volume in our hands. Further research by qualified scholars would have been required to squeeze more significance from the texts and turn this monumental compilation into a definitive history of jihad. But Bostom deserves credit for this first huge step, to be followed by others. At any rate, this is one of those books with a long shelf-life, because whatever further investigation and interpretation is done, it will stand alone as the impressive accomplishment of an autodidact layman, which many specialists have reasons to envy. The writer is professor of Chinese History and Islamic Civilization, and Chairman of the Department of East Asian Studies at The Hebrew University.