A review of M. A. Khan’s book, Islamic Jihad: A legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism, and Slavery..
It is He Who hath made you (His) agents, inheritors of the earth…. (Qur’an 6:165)
And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah… (Qur’an 8:39)
This is a review of M. A. Khan's (MAK) book “Islamic Jihad” (iUniverse, Inc., New York/ Bloomington, January 23, 2009). In my view, this book is one of the most important additions to research on the factual history of Islam. For the most part, studying the history of Islam has not been put under critical scrutiny except for very few instances. The fine work of Ibn Warraq is one of the few examples of truthfulness with regard to the actual history of Islam. So is the work of Anwar Shaikh.
M. A. Khan’s book can best be viewed as a continuation of the late Shaikh’s work on “Arab Imperialism”. This book covers the history of Islam from its very beginnings up to now. It covers all parts of the world where Islam had an influence. This was a massive project to undertake, and Khan did a superb job in presenting the evidence to his claims throughout the book.
Because of the “Macro” nature of the book about Islam and its history everywhere, I believe this book will be a “must have” for anyone doing serious research about Islam and its history.
In this review, I will attempt to introduce to the reader the main topics that the author talks about in his book. I will do that by going through it chapter by chapter.
Chapter I – Jihad: The Controversies
This chapter discusses the concept of Jihad in Islam, its relation to current events, the current discourse—apologetic, such as by moderate Muslims and Western academics as, well as extremist, such as by radical Islamic groups and Muslim clerics—and its place as a doctrine that came down from Allah. Khan concludes by emphasizing that there are three models of Jihadi actions that were established by the prophet of Islam: Use of violence to propagate Islam, Imperialism, and Slavery.
Chapter II – Basic Beliefs in Islam
This chapter is very useful for an uninitiated reader of Islam. It discusses how Muslims view Islam and other religions, the role of Allah and Sharia, the importance of emulating the prophet, the role of Qur’an and Hadith in Islam, and Jurisprudence and its Fiqh schools. In short, this chapter informs the reader about the importance of different elements in the formal structure of Islam.
Chapter III – Life of Prophet Muhammad and the Birth of Jihad
Here, the life of Muhammad and its stages is discussed: His birth and early life (570–610) is stage one; a second stage is his Meccan prophetic mission (610–622); his terror campaign against the Meccans (623–630) is the third stage. There are important questions that are discussed in this chapter like “Was Muhammad driven out of Mecca? Were the Meccans Cruel people? Were they Tolerant?” Those are important questions that Khan discusses with courage and honesty under the light of historical evidence. It is time for everyone to learn the factual history of Islam instead of what is being taught in the schools of Islamic countries everywhere. During my twelve formal years of schooling in the Middle East, my history education can be summed up by saying: “There was darkness, then Muhammad showed up, and so there was light.” What is needed are factual textbooks that go after the truth as to what really took place in early Islamic history. Khan’s book is a valued resource in this regard, not just this chapter but the whole book.
This chapter also discusses the early Islamic battles, the taking over of Mecca by the Muslims, Muhammad’s dealings with the Jews and the Christians, his condemnation of Christians even on his death-bed. Muhammad’s gruesome acts of killing and genocide of the Medina Jews are also discussed. The status of non-Muslims is analyzed here. In this chapter, Khan establishes, with overwhelming evidence, the paradigmatic Jihadi actions: 1) Forced conversion of non-Muslims, 2) Imperialism, and 3) Slavery.
Chapter IV – Propagation of Islam: By Force or Peacefully
During Muhammad’s stay in Medina (622–632), the Muslims waged 70–100 failed or successful raids. Muslims continued this tradition after Muhammad’s death and Khan gives a long list of major early Islamic battles for the spread of Islam. He then takes some of the writings of well-known Muslim leaders like Sheikh Qaradawi, designed to prove that Islam was spread peacefully, not by force. Khan ends up showing that, even in those very writings, these Muslim scholars do support violence and war to force Islam upon non-Muslims. Khan also discusses the intrusion of Islam into the Indian subcontinent and East Asia in general. When one reads this chapter, one will be amazed at the level of brutality that Muslim invaders perpetrated upon the people of other lands they conquered.
This chapter was very informative to me personally. As a Middle Eastern person, who had his formal twelve years of education there, I had more knowledge about the spread of Islam in the Middle East and North Africa and parts of Europe. Khan’s book filled in the gap for me as to the history of Islam in Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
Chapter V – The Arab-Islamic Imperialism
The quoted verses at the beginning of this article show the universality of fighting the infidels until Muslims rule all over the earth. The Quran outlines a divine command for global imperialism—i.e. for conquering all people of the world through the arms of Jihad for establishing Islamic rule. In truth, Islamic expansion was meant for economic reasons that include slavery. Khan writes:
…Muslim conquests, from the time of Prophet Muhammad, were intended for plundering and looting the wealth and resources of the conquered people. The second purpose was to capture slaves, predominantly the women and children, who were converted to Islam and sold to Muslims owners… The third purpose of the Muslim conquest of foreign lands was to impose the grinding jizyah, Kharaj and other sundry taxes upon the vanquished people and a part of the revenue went to the central treasury. (p. 163-4)
In addition to the economics/slave factor involved in Islamic imperialism, this chapter discusses in detail the cultural imperialism of Islam. The chapter contains courageous discussion of this topic where Islam decimated the cultures of the natives wherever it went. The values of the underdeveloped Arabs of old replaced the value systems of great civilizations. Toward the end of the chapter, some important questions are discussed regarding Islam and its influence on intellectual pursuits and racism in Islam.
Chapter VI – Islamic Imperialism in India
The history of Islamic invasion of India is one of the bloodiest in human history that I have ever seen. A book review won’t give a fair treatment of the topic. One has to have the book. This chapter discusses Muhammad bin Qasim’s invasion, Sultan Mahmud’s campaign, and Ghaurivid invasions. Known names like Aibak, Muhammad Shah Tughlaq, and Aurangzeb (and many others) are mentioned, and their roles detailed.
One of the interesting parts in this chapter is Khan’s research on contrasting the religious/cultural heritage of the Indian subcontinent with that of Islam. The contrast is clear and well-detailed in the book.
Issues like the so-called Hindu-Muslim divide, popularly believed to be a “British” invention, is discussed and challenged. The India/Pakistan partition, twentieth century riots, cleansing of Hindus and Sikhs, and many other issues are discussed.
The last part of this chapter discusses Islam’s impact on the social, intellectual, and cultural life of India. Topics in this part include Islam’s influence on education, caste system, Jauhar, Sati, child-marriage, cultic thuggishness, and poverty level. This latter part includes also a section on the impact of Islam on the religious demographics in India.
Chapter VII – Islamic Slavery
The Quranic sanction of slavery provided in this chapter is damaging to Islam and its modern day apologetics. The prophetic model of slavery in this regard is Allah showing his beloved prophet how to enslave the infidels (p. 271). Quran (33:26-7) is pretty clear: “...Some (adult males) ye slew, and ye made captive some (women and children)...” This chapter discusses slavery, which was not an earlier practice throughout the early civilizations, and Islam assimilated it into its divine settings. After that a special emphasis is put into the history of slavery in the Indian subcontinent.
There are apologists, who claim that Islam did not promote slavery, but rather encouraged treating them humanely (Qur’an 4:36, 9:60, 24:33, 5:92, 18:3, 4:92). Khan notes that earlier cultures from Europe and India did teach and practice humane treatment of slaves and that Islam added nothing in that respect. However, in the case of Islam, slavery was divinely instituted and validated, and made to last for all eternity (p. 331). He also clearly proves—opposed to apologetic view—that Muhammad himself had aggravated slavery in Arabia. The author makes a strong case in this chapter to the claim that slavery is an integral part of Islam from a theological perspective as well as historical one. The rest of this chapter discusses the trends to abolish slavery in many parts of the world (North Africa, US, Europe...) and the Islamic resistance to it.
Chapter VIII – The Last Word
Khan has, in my view, presented a strong case for the claim that (and I quote him in this regard):
…Jihad as revealed by Allah in the Quran calls of forced conversion, particularly of idolaters, for establishing an imperial rule on a global scale with an integral purpose of economic exploitation of non-Muslim subjects and for engaging in slavery, including slave-trade and sex-slavery. (p. 353)
Finally, I end this review with a quote from this fine book. It is a quote from the Pakistani scholar, Dr. Israr Ahmed, who founded the Tanzeem-e-Islami party. The quote is regarding the status of non-Muslims in an Islamic country:
We said (to non-Muslims): either become Muslim and enjoy equal rights or they have to live as second grade citizens under our rule. Otherwise come to the open field and let the sword resolve the issue. (p. 356)
Is there any doubt left as to how much damage Islam can cause to the human thought processes and to the human psyche? Israr Ahmed is an example of a good Muslim emulating Muhammad to the nth degree. It is always the case that the degree of evil a Muslim possesses is the degree to which he is emulating Muhammad.
In conclusion, this is a great book, most comprehensive in its kind, and highly recommended for any honest researcher, interesting in finding the truth about Islam and its history throughout the Indian subcontinent and the world.