Here is the second and final section of the much-anticipated concluding segment of Jihad Watch Advisory Board Vice President Hugh Fitzgerald's opus. Find Part One here and Part Two here, and the first segment of Part Three here.
In dealing with the phrases of Muslim “reformers” one has to realize what they realized. They had always to be speaking a language that, while appealing to the powerful non-Muslims, and even winning their approval, could also be used to win over Muslims – but at the same time, there would always be a verbal escape hatch. In this case, it is the phrase “without provocation.” Surely, some Muslim interlocutor would reply, Chirargh Ali could not have been suggested that Muhammad, that best of men, al-insan al-kamil, and a role model for all Believers for all time, uswa hasana, could not possibly have done something wrong or doubtful in his life. If he attacked those Jewish farmers of Khyabar, they must somehow have had it coming; provocation would somehow be found, even if it consisted only in their being related to others who had resisted Muhammad and Islam. It is simply too easy to interpret away as justifiable any action taken by Muslims. Are women and children killed by suicide-bombers? Well, the women give birth to children, and the children themselves grow up to be adults, and those adults become soldiers and resist the forces of Jihad, so cutting down those soldiers when they are still babies, and killing those who can produce other babies, can be justified. Chirargh Ali and other “reformers” had their brief moment; many of them became discouraged; none of them found a way to convince more than a handful that Islam needed to be reformed, and certainly none of them suggested a realistic method both of changing the canonical texts, or of persuading the Muslm masses that such changes should be accepted.
Much attention is paid today to would-be “reformers” of Islam. Irshad Manji, for example, a flamboyant figure who lives in Toronto and has never lived in a Muslim country, claims to represent a new kind of Muslim. She suggests that the “gates of ijtihad” (interpretation) which were famously closed a thousand years ago, can be swung open again, by --- Irshad Manji. A Turkish Muslim apologist, Muhammad Akyol, has written for conservative on-line magazines in the United States, and engaged in debates with those who are keen students and critics of Islam, and claims that Islam can be reformed through tossing out parts of the Sira, or perhaps retouching certain details, and further suggests, without explaining how this is to be accomplished, that some of the contents in the accepted (Sahih) collections of Hadith, that is Hadith deemed “strong” (or authentic), could be downgraded to “weak,” and “weak” hadith upgraded to “strong.” But what muhaddithin could do this today? Employing what methods? And on the authority of what institution, claiming to speak for most Muslims? And when they were finished, how would they command belief from the hundreds of millions of Believers, told by clerics not to believe this nonsense, all done, it would be claimed, “in order to curry favor with the Infidels”? The idea is as fantastic as that of Irshad Manji straining to open those enormous gates of ijtihad that have been closed for a thousand years. Those “reforming” Muslims who, such as Akyol, insist that, even if Hadith and Sira could be subject to re-examination, the Qur’an must remain completely untouched, fail to realize that as the Ur-source of Jihad, and of inculcated hostility, even hatred, of Infidels, is the Qur’an itself. Before the Sira had been fixed, before the Hadith had been written down, and collected, and winnowed, there were centuries of conquest – a conquest based only on what is contained in the Qur’an.
There is a reason why the “reformers” who had a brief run early in the twentieth century (Islamic reform floruit circa 1900-1920) insisted on promoting the idea of “jihad” as “a spiritual struggle.” By so doing, they accomplished two things. In the first place, the “reformers,” faced with the daunting or impossible task of ignoring the clear meaning of the words in Qur’an and Hadith, attempted to supply a new authority for their novel interpretations and analyses.. In the second place, at a time when Europe was overwhelmingly powerful, and the Arabs and Muslims weak, it was important to assuage any worries Infidels might have, and to gain their support. In 1900, there were many educated Orientalists, including a number among the Anglican clergy who lived in India, and who knew perfectly well what the doctrines of Islam were all about. William St. Clair Tisdall, for example, engaged in a fierce polemic with a Muslim apologist over Tisdall’s Original Sources of Islam. From Ignaz Goldziher, the Hungarian who was the first Westerner to subject the Hadith to rigorous study, to Emile Fagnan, a French scholar who lived, and published, in Algeria, to Samuel Zwemer, the American missionary, to Henri Lammens, a Jesuit and Professor of Arabic at St. Joseph’s University in Beirut, to the Dutchman C. Snouck Hurgronje, to the Italian Leone Caetani, the great Orientalist who also happened to be the Duke of Sermoneta, to the Englishman David Margoliouth, Laudian Professor of Arabic at Oxford, to Arthur Jeffery, who taught at Columbia University when that school’s Islamic scholars were a matter of pride, and whose studies on loan-words in the Qur’an appeared in a sumptuous edition, aux depens du Gaekwar of Baroda himself, the period 1900-1940 represented the highest point in the Western study of Islam – a point not reached since.
It is only in the West, and by non-Muslims, that Islam has been subject to real study, and to the beginnings of the kind of Higher Criticism (philological, historical)that Christianity and Judaism were subjected to during the last two centuries. In a sense, what is now occurring is simply a picking-up where Orientalists left off a few decades ago. Much of this work is done by lone scholars, for the situation in academic departments in the Western world, and especially in Great Britain and the United States, has been grimly declining for some time. Muslims and non-Muslim apologists for Islam have taken over many of the major departments, and have been systematically hiring each other, and keeping out all those who might offer another view. At Columbia University’s Midde Eastern and Asian Languages program, there is not a chance that today, either Arthur Jeffery or Joseph Schacht would be hired by the likes of Rashid Khalidi, George Saliba, and Hamid Dabashi. Rather, these apologists for Islam or perhaps, more exactly, protectors of Islam, and promoters of the Arab and Muslim worldview, insist on offering every conceivable subject, real or imaginary, that they can connect to the Middle East, real or imaginary -- Arab nationalism, the “construction of Israeli identity” (bad), the “construction of Palestinian identity” (good), colonialism, the West’s need for “the Other,”postcolonial hegemonic discourse, studies in narrativising the construction of identity on the basis of the alterity inherent in postcolonial hegemonic discourse – in short, every modish kind of transparent (though hardly lucid) gobbledygook one can imagine -- but not a word about the canonical texts of Islam, Qur’an, hadith, sira, and nothing about the 1350-year history of Jihad-conquest, or about the nature, and history, of the subjugation of non-Muslims under Muslim rule. If Islam is taught at all at all, it is in courses on World Religions, where there may be a “unit” on Islam, taught by some enthusiast who insists that All Religions Want the Same Thing, and who is enamored of the “three abrahamic faiths” idea, and who mistakes the appropriation, and distortion, of Christian and Jewish figures and stories, by Islam, and Islam’s contempt for the original versions of the same, for a splendid “sharing” of a common monotheistic tradition. If the Qur’an is read at all, it will most likely be offered in carefully-selected excerpts, such as the “lyrical” suras collected by Michael Sells’s in his utterly misleading and treacly Approaching the Qur’an. The Haidth and sira are likely to be passed over in silence.
It is apparently still impossible for Believers to approach Islam with anything like the critical scrutiny and historical sense that informed the Higher Criticism. The search for the historical Jesus has been going on for quite some time; the quest for the historical Muhammad is something only Western non-Muslims, and ex-Muslims (Ibn Warraq’s splendid anthologies of scholarship of early Islam come to mind) of Christianity which led, among other things, to studies of the historical Jesus, and of the form, content, and chronology of the Gospels. Nothing like this has happened to Islam. Muslims treat all studies by non-Muslim scholars, unless apologetic or even hagiographic in nature, as either to be ignored, or belittled, or denounced. Not a single Muslim scholar, anywhere, has attempted to treat of the varied matters that Patricia Crone, or Christoph Luxenberg, or Bat Ye’or, have all raised. Was Mecca in existence in 630 A.D.? Does the Qur’an contain many passages that make sense only if given a “Syro-Aramaic reading”? And does not the evidence amassed by Bat Ye’or, about the heavy burden of “dhimmitude,” deserve a respectful hearing, rather than denunciation. Or, where there is not denunciation, there may be something akin to what a celebrated Shi’a Muslim from Iraq, who had been a brave opponent both of Saddam Hussein and of Edward Said, offered by way of review of one of Bat Ye’or’s books – a grimace of distaste, as he handed the clearly-unopened book back to the man who had urged him to read it, and with a gesture that suggested the book was an “unclean” thing, “najis,” hardly to be touched.
There is no impulse among Muslim scholars of Islam to have Islam examined, and studied, as Christianity and Judaism have been. Whether those studies of early Islam are philological (the line from Alphonse Mingana to Christoph Luxenberg), or historical (David Margoliouth, John Wansbrough, Michael Cook, Patricia Crone), they are a threat. The Higher Criticism of Christianity did not destroy the Christian faith. Albert Schweitzer, author of The Quest for the Historical Jesus, and latterly Jaroslav Pelikan, and many before, between, and after them, could weigh the evidence about Jesus the Man and yet remain Christians. The study of the chronology, and composition, of the Gospels did not cause other Christians to fall away from faith. But Islam exhibits a peculiar brittleness. Since the Qur’an is held to be the literal word of God, any attempt to point out, for example, that about 20% of the Qur’an does not make sense, and to explore why, is not welcome, not by Muslims, and not by islamisant scholars of Islam who, in fact, often turn out either to have Muslim spouses, or to have “reverted” to Islam – at least for a time.
The new attitude toward Islam by Western scholars unafraid to study it as they would Christianity or Judaism (or, for that matter, Hinduism or Buddhism) permitted Ignaz Goldziher to study the Hadith without the paralyzing reverence of Muslim scholars, and to show that they had no independent existence but were creations teased out, over the centuries, from the Qur’an. This did not change the view of Believers, but it certainly allowed for progress in the study of Islam by non-Believers.
Philological study also came into its own, once the mind-formed manacles of Islamic belief had been jettisoned. Early in the twentieth century the lone scholar Alphone Mingana, and then Arthur Jeffery, began to identify the foreign loan-words in the Qur’an. Jeffery’s study, in fact, was so admired by a broad-minded non-Arab but Muslim admirer, the Gaekwar of Baroda, that he published Jeffery’s study in a sumptuous edition, with many and various fonts, But no one had been so systematic, and meticulous, as Christoph Luxenberg, whose recent his “Syro-Aramaic Reading” of the Qur’an. (“Die syro-Aramaische Lesart von der Koran”) can truly be described as a revolutionary study of the early Qur’an. And Luxenberg’s fearless philology has been extended to the study of other writings that have hitherto been too-easily accepted as purely Islamic in nature.
The historians of early Islam, who do not simply accept, but weigh the evidence for, the existence of Mecca in the early 7th century, or who examine the connection between the Hadith and the Qur’an itself (with the skepticism that non-Muslim scholars can allow themselves), or about the sira itself, are not welcomed by Muslims. There is no incipient sign, within Islam, of any attempt to seriously study the origins of the religion in a manner similar to what both Christianity and Judaism have undergone. Instead, the work of Western scholars is ignored, or denounced, or attacked. And some of them have changed their tone, out of palpable fear of giving offense, or even caused some of the books not to be reprinted.
Muslims, and not only on NPR, have preferred that Infidels take the word “Jihad” to mean what they want those Infidels to think it means: “a spiritual struggle.” But of course the evidence, textual and historical, is overwhelmingly the other way. We are told, in effect: Forget what people chant at rallies in Cairo (May, 1967), or Karachi, or Gaza, or what imams in Jiddah and Baghdad and Fallujah and Basra and Teheran preach. Forget what the boys in the madrassas learn, or what the Qur’anic commentators have written. Forget all of it. Just remember – What the World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love, and not a “clash” but a “dialogue” of “civilizations,” and if that means pretending that people do not mean what they mean, surely it is worth it.
It is prudent for Muslims in the West not to attack Infidels head on (though little can be done about hotheads such as Abu Hamza, late of the Finsbury Mosque) , but rather to treat Infidels in Europe as a bunch of frogs in pots full of water. The flame beneath is being turned up, slowly and steadily, but so slowly, and so steadily, that those amphibians go quietly, as if falling asleep in a warm bath. And many non-Muslims have begun to despair, as if their own culture of “tolerance” is some kind of permanent bar to their taking actions that, in order to preserve a modicum of that culture, they will have to reconsider. Lacking the wit and imagination to figure out what can be done about creeping islamization in Europe, and regarding as “unthinkable” the most obvious of measures of the kind that Benes and Masaryk, in tolerant Czechoslovakia, undertook to deal with the permanent security threat posed by the Sudeten Germans (i.e., mass expulsions), they have convinced themselves that there is no point in getting excited. Why alarm people unduly about “Jihad” if they are convinced that there is nothing to be done about it? An extraordinary defeatism needs to be identified and attacked, wherever it is. It is not “too late” or even close to being “too late”; Muslim strength, and islamization, depends entirely on the continued misperception, by Infidels, both of Islam, and of the measures that they are amptly justifried in taking.
Or perhaps another analogy is more fitting. Remember Abbott and Costello? Thin Abbott and fat Costello were always getting into verbal misunderstandings (as in “Who’s On First”). In one skit, they are in the jungle, accompanied by a native interpreter. Suddenly they are surrounded by menacing men with bones in their noses, wearing grass skirts. The sound of tom-toms can be heard. The chief head-hunter approaches. He looks at Costello, points to his head, then licks his lips. And Costello, sweating and stuttering with fright, asks the interpreter what was just said, and the interpreter explains: “Oh, he was just admiring the way you look. And he asked me ‘Who does his hair?’” Costello is greatly relieved.
But we Infidels are not so many Lou Costellos. And when Asina Mehdi, or John Esposito, or Karen Armstrong, or Richard Bulliet, a professor of history at Columbia and author of The Case for IslamoChristian Civilization, all tell us, in the same misleading spirit as that native-interpreter, that “Jihad” does not mean “Jihad” or, still worse, that the word should not be used by Infidels because they might get the wrong idea, we are entitled to our doubts.
Suppose we were all to pledge to use the word “Jihad” only with the clear understanding that it be taken to mean “a spiritual struggle,” a way to establish internal mental harmony and well-being “in the path of Allah,” fi sabih Allah. Then, to be consistent, we should endow every well-known fixed phrase in which the word “Jihad” occurs with new meaning. Take, for example, the group “Tawhid and Jihad” (Monotheism and Jihad). The word “monotheism” is in constant use in all those Interfaith Outreach Programs, and assorted Dialogues of Civilization: “We have so much in common, we are the three abrahamic faiths, we are the three monotheisms.” Any phrase in which “Tawhid” or “monotheism” occurs demands the vigilance of Defenders of the Faith. So let us translate “Tawhid & Jihad” differently than “Monotheism and Jihad.” As is well-known, the mild-mannered Dr. A. M. Al- Zarqawi has taken a leadership role in “Tawhid & Jihad,” that samaritan organization of psychiatric social workers dedicated to meeting the psychic needs of the troubled Sunni community of Iraq, and to address their feelings of inadequacy and loss of status. Perhaps the title “Mental Health Through Monotheism” would help to win friends and influence Infidels. There may be other benefits as well, for a group whose name shows it to be a faith-based, not to say fate-based, initiative.
American tax dollars, along with those of many other hapless Infidels, have long supported the PLO. American taxpayers help maintain Hosni Mubarak and those who partake of his Family-and-Friends plan in their comfortable life-style. American aid to Pakistan over many decades helped to provide the discretionary income that made Dr. A. Q. Khan’s projects possible. Indeed, it sometimes seems as if American, and other Infidel aid, is lavished on every Muslim country and ruler that has not managed to find itself sitting on top of an OPEC oil bonanza.
And many more words and phrases will need to be carefully redefined to protect Islam from prying eyes and minds. Certain words that could prove too hot to mishandle may have to be eliminated altogether. One word that seems to be getting much disturbing attention lately, is “dhimmi.” If Infidels were to visit the website www.dhimmitude.org, or even read the books of Bat Ye’or, they might develop a negative view of Islam. And that would never do. Muslims are keenly aware of the problem – hence all the talk of “protected peoples” and the Compact of Omar.. No less a personage than Dr. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, a Turkish historian of Ottoman science, who is now the Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Countries, helpfully explained in a recent address to an audience of American Infidels, that the “privilege of becoming a protected minority via an act of dhimmiship was given only to the followers of a prophet to whom a sacred book was revealed.”
In defining “dhimmiship” as the “privilege of becoming a protected minority” Dr. Ihsanoglu did his best. But those who are so solicitious of the public image of Islam and of Muslims in mind realize that it should not be left up just to NPR, or the BBC, or Le Monde; we all have to pitch in, and do our bit. It might be better if “dhimmi” were to be jettisoned altogether. The word upsets Infidels, and it does nothing for Muslims, either.
Instead of “dhimmis” why not call them “Friends With Benefits”?