On the day after Christmas, the Iranian Islamic regime’s Ahlul Bayt News Agency published a collection of the sayings from Shia Islam’s Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, about Christianity and related matters. Khamenei denounced the claim that “Islam is hostile to other nations and to other religions” and insisted: “This is not true. Islam is not antagonistic toward other religions.” Digging even deeper, he added: “When Islam dominated non-Muslim regions, the followers of other religions were grateful to Muslims for their Islamic mercy.” Khamenei and his regime are known for their deceptive practices, but this one may be the biggest lie the ruthless 81-year-old autocrat has ever told.
In The History of Jihad there is superabundant detail about how Islamic conquest led to the humiliation and abasement of non-Muslims. This was not a bug, but a feature, codified in Islamic law: one influential Islamic scholar, Salah as-Sawi, specifies that the payment of the jizya, the Qur’anic tax that non-Muslims must pay to Muslims as a sign of their submission (Qur’an 9:29), signifies that the non-Muslims are “humble and obedient to the judgements of Islam.”
And speaking of Iran, the Bedouin commander al-Mughira bin Sa’d, who when he met his Persian counterpart Rustam in battle before Khamenei’s nation was conquered for Islam, said: “I call you to Islam or else you must pay the jizya while you are in a state of abasement….You pay it while you are standing and I am sitting and the whip hanging is over your head.”
Similarly, the revered Qur’an commentator Ibn Kathir says that the dhimmis must be “disgraced, humiliated and belittled. Therefore, Muslims are not allowed to honor the people of Dhimmah or elevate them above Muslims, for they are miserable, disgraced and humiliated.” The seventh-century jurist Sa’id ibn al-Musayyab stated: “I prefer that the people of the dhimma become tired by paying the jizya since He says, “‘until they pay the jizya with their own hands in a state of complete abasement.’”
This was true the world over. In famously tolerant Muslim Spain, it was miserable to live as a Christian. Christians could never be sure that they would not be harassed. One contemporary account tells of priests being “pelted with rocks and dung” by Muslims while on the way to a cemetery. The dhimmis suffered severe economic hardship: Paul Alvarus, a ninth-century Christian in Córdoba, complained about the “unbearable tax” that Muslims levied on Christians. Nor could Christians say anything about their lot, because it was proscribed by Islamic law, and criticizing Islam, Muhammad, or the Qur’an in any manner was a death-penalty offense.
In 850, Perfectus, a Christian priest, engaged a group of Muslims in conversation about Islam; his opinion of the conquerors’ religion was not positive. For this, Perfectus was arrested and put to death. Not long thereafter, Joannes, a Christian merchant, was said to have invoked Muhammad’s name in his sales pitch. He was lashed and given a lengthy prison sentence. Christian and Muslim sources contain numerous records of similar incidents in the early part of the tenth century. Around 910, in one of many such episodes, a woman was executed for proclaiming that “Jesus was God and that Muhammad had lied to his followers.”
In a vastly different context, seventeenth-century Mughal India, the situation was much the same. The emperor Aurangzeb in 1670 issued this decree: “Every idol-house built during the last 10 or 12 years, whether with brick or clay, should be demolished without delay. Also, do not allow the crushed Hindus and despicable infidels to repair their old temples.”
A Muslim historian, Saqa Mustad Khan, writing just after Aurangzeb died in 1707, reported that in January 1680, Aurangzeb “went to view lake Udaisagar, constructed by the Rana, and ordered all the three temples on its banks to be demolished.” The following day, “Hasan Ali Khan brought to the Emperor twenty camel-loads of tents and other things captured from the Rana’s palace and reported that one hundred and seventy-two other temples in the environs of Udaipur had been destroyed.” Later that year, “Abu Turab, who had been sent to demolish the temples of Amber, returned to Court…and reported that he had pulled down sixty-six temples.”
Bakhtawar Khan, a nobleman during Aurangzeb’s reign, was also pleased, noting that “Hindu writers have been entirely excluded from holding public offices, and all the worshipping places of the infidels and great temples of these infamous people have been thrown down and destroyed in a manner which excites astonishment at the successful completion of so difficult a task.”
Imagine how grateful these Hindus, and all non-Muslims who have suffered under Sharia oppression for 1,400 years, must have been. But Khamenei is relying on the historical ignorance of his audience, which includes both the people of Iran and leftists in the West. And when it comes to relying on the ignorance of leftists, he has nothing to worry about.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 21 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.