Ibrahim’s Historical Reconquista: New Book Reveals Christendom’s 1400-Year Struggle Against Jihad
Diplomatic historian Samuel Flagg Bemis’ 1949 John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign Policy extolled Adams’ seminal contribution as “a mighty achievement.” Bemis’ landmark 1949 review included a reference to Adams’ writings -- “Unsigned essays dealing with the Russo-Turkish War, and on Greece, written while JQA was in retirement, before his election to Congress in 1830” (Chapters 10-14, pp. 267-402 in The American Annual Register for 1827-28-29) -- as being consistent with his “defense of the interests, dignity, and equality of his country.”
Published in full during 1830, John Quincy Adams’ frank, timeless ruminations on the theologically based conflict between Muhammad’s Islam and the Christianity of Jesus should be mandatory reading for all contemporary U.S. diplomats and politicians:
[Jesus] declared, that the enjoyment of felicity in the world hereafter, would be reward of the practice of benevolence here. His whole law was resolvable into the precept of love; peace on earth -- good will toward man… THE ESSENCE OF THIS DOCTRINE IS, TO EXALT THE SPIRITUAL OVER THE BRUTAL PART OF HIS NATURE. (Adams’ emphasis)
In the seventh century of the Christian era, a wandering Arab of the lineage of Hagar [i.e., Muhammad], the Egyptian, with the preternatural energy of a fanatic … proclaimed himself as a messenger from Heaven, and spread desolation and delusion over an extensive portion of the earth … [H]e declared undistinguishing and exterminating war, as a part of his religion, against all the rest of mankind. THE ESSENCE OF HIS DOCTRINE WAS VIOLENCE AND LUST: TO EXALT THE BRUTAL OVER THE SPIRITUAL PART OF HUMAN NATURE (Adams’ emphasis)
The precept of the Koran is, perpetual war against all who deny, that Mahomet is the prophet of God.
The vanquished may purchase their lives, by the payment of tribute … Between these two religions, thus contrasted in their characters, a war of twelve hundred years has already raged. The war is yet flagrant… Mahomet with the sword in one hand and the Koran in the other had erected his throne on the ruins of Christianity…
While the merciless and dissolute dogmas of the false prophet shall furnish motives to human action, there can never be peace upon earth, and good will towards men … [Christian] Beneficence endures no dictation, and spurns at servitude: peace can only be maintained with the pacific; and the destiny of that doctrine (i.e., Islam) which for its truth appeals only to the sword, must eventually be, by the sword itself to perish.
Quincy Adams correctly believed (in 1829) that the “Ottoman [Muslim Caliphate’s] crescent had long been on the wane,” and argued that “even in the brutal and foul contest of arms, the man of Mahomet was no longer a match for the Christian man.” However, Quincy Adams also issued a warning:
[T]he victorious may be appeased by a false and delusive promise of peace; and the faithful follower of the prophet, may submit to the imperious necessities of defeat: but the command to propagate the Moslem creed by the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective.
Ignaz Goldziher (1860-1921), the eminent Hungarian scholar of Islam, has been widely and justifiably acclaimed as one of the most profound and original European scholars from an era that produced seminal investigators. With characteristic prescient insight, Goldziher’s 1882 essay “Muhammadan Public Opinion” chronicled the popular, “excited” Muslim masses’ revival of a “powerful idea,” which Goldhizer named:
[T]he idea of Pan-Islamism. The spiritual fusion of politically disarrayed Islam into a great unity. The external form of this unity is the institution of the indivisible Caliphate, which is the oldest political structure of Islam.
With regard to Islam, the unification of Muhammadan powers, and the awakening of the awareness of their unity and solidarity under a common authority is seen as the sole remedy against the dangers lurking in the womb of the future. And this unification is only conceived under the flag of the united Caliphate of Islam.
Goldziher concluded with an admonition about the widespread support among Muslims across the length and breadth of late-19th Century Islamdom for the “militant idea” of recreating a Caliphate -- a militancy which had in fact persisted since the advent of Islam:
[T]he idea of Pan-Islamism is a militant idea in their [Muslim] eyes, as it was a militant idea at the time of the birth of young Islam. This idea now reigns over Muhammadan public opinion, in some places with such power that the representatives of European governments now complain of it.
Circa 2007 -- 125 years after Goldziher’s provident words were published while the moribund Ottoman Caliphate gasped its death rattle -- resurgent global jihad in our era remained animated by Islamdom’s vox populi Caliphate dreams. Polling data released April 24, 2007 from a rigorously conducted face-to-face University of Maryland/WorldPublicOpinion.org survey of 4384 Muslims completed between December 9, 2006 and February 15, 2007 (1000 Moroccans, 1000 Egyptians, 1243 Pakistanis, and 1141 Indonesians) revealed that 65.2% of those interviewed -- almost two-thirds, hardly a “fringe minority” -- desired this outcome: “To unify all Islamic countries into a single Islamic state or Caliphate.” The internal validity of these data about the present longing for a Caliphate was established by a concordant result from this representative global sample of Arab and non-Arab Muslims: 65.5% of them approved the following proposition: “To require a strict application of Sharia law in every Islamic country.”
This magisterial work is a lucid, remarkably compendious, yet still richly detailed study of the 1400-year ongoing ebb and flow of Islamic jihad conquests or preparatory attacks -- and the Christian West’s reconquests or reprisals. A skilled Arabic linguist and student of military history under the tutelage of Professor Victor Davis Hanson, perhaps the outstanding achievement of Ibrahim’s compelling narrative is how it shatters contemporary “academia’s” rigidly enforced, dogmatic Islamophilia.
[T]he anti-colonialist Left, whether Christian or not, often goes so far as to sanctify Islam and the contemporary ideologies of the Muslim world … Understanding has given way to apologetics pure and simple.
Sword and Scimitar is organized around eight momentous battles between Islam and Christendom: Four in which the Muslim armies were victorious, and four when they were defeated by the opposing Christian armies. Spanning a millennium, these eight campaigns are: The Muslim victories at Yarmuk (modern Syria) in 636, Manzikert (modern Turkey) in 1071, Hattin (near Tiberias, modern Israel) in 1187, and Constantinople (modern Istanbul) in 1453; and the Christian successes at Constantinople (718), Tours (modern France) in 732; Las Navas de Tolosa (a mountainous region between Santa Elena and Miranda del Rey, modern Spain) in 1211, and Vienna in 1683.
Given the corrosive Islamophilic apologetic which prevails in academia, even the schematic structure of the conflicts is revealing and historically irrefragable. Each battle was spurred when the Muslim armies invaded (or in the case of Hattin, re-invaded) Byzantine (originally), European Christian territories, or discrete cities.
Notwithstanding the “controversial” nature of this overarching approach, Ibrahim’s narrative also presents the fascinating, if at times unsettling, military history of these decisive battles: brilliant tactical maneuvers and equally foolish blunders; how valor, serendipity, confusion, internecine struggle, and duplicity influenced each side’s fortunes; and the sheer human carnage of these conflicts described in unexpurgated, gruesome detail.
Ibrahim also takes pains to further contextualize this history with concise but carefully elaborated discussions of the germane events occurring before and after the eight battles. Two particularly interesting discussions: Ibrahim’s descriptions of both the late 15th Century Spanish (under Isabella and Ferdinand) and Russian (under Ivan III) campaigns of liberation from Islamic jihad-imposed domination (by Arabo-Berber Muslims and Tatar/Islamized Mongol Muslims, respectively) occurring between the crushing Ottoman Muslim jihadist victory at Constantinople in 1453; and the successful Christian repulsion of the Ottoman jihad siege of Vienna in 1683.
But it is Ibrahim’s singularly informed, uncompromised analyses of the opposing Islamic and Christian motivations for this warfare which cement the book’s unique contribution.
Intrinsic to this frank, accurate presentation of the contrasting religious outlooks is the wanton destruction wrought upon Christian lands by all the major ethnic Muslim invaders (Arabo-Berbers, Turks, and Tatars). This repeated practice is consistent with Islam’s doctrinal jihad-hatred of Christianity -- and is not shared by Christian doctrine, or “reciprocal” actions, on anywhere near the same scale when the Christians triumphed.
From Yarmuk to Vienna (and well beyond -- to jihadist depredations in the British Isles, even Iceland!), Ibrahim meticulously provides numerous examples of these ideological frameworks which coexist in diametric opposition. Citing both Muslim and Christian sources -- which the author’s scholarly balanced analyses do for each of the eight battle case studies presented -- Ibrahim describes the atmospherics just before the armed conflict ensued at Yarmuk, a prototypical scenario duplicated across more than 1000 years:
On the eve of battle, the Arabs “spoke of the fire of hell and the joys of paradise, and quoted the example set by the Holy Prophet in his battles,” writes Pakistani general and military historian A. I. Akram. “The Muslims spent the night in prayer and recitation of the Quran, and reminded each other of the two blessings which awaited them: either victory and life or martyrdom and paradise.”
No such titillation awaited the Christians; they were fighting for life, family, and faith.
During his pre-battle speech, as clergymen marched with crosses and pronounced the death prayer on the kneeling men, Vahan [an Armenian leader of the Christian allies] explained that “these Arabs who stand before you seek to ... enslave your children and women.” Another [Christian] general warned the men to fight hard, otherwise “they shall conquer your lands and ravish your women.” Such fears were not unwarranted.
Even as the Romans were praying, Abu Sufyan -- formerly one of Muhammad’s greatest enemies who, like Khalid, happily converted rather than lose his head -- was prancing on his war steed and waving his spear around the assembled Muslims, exhorting them to “jihad in the way of Allah,” so that they might “seize their [Christians’] lands and cities, and enslave their children and women.”
Marshalling considerable evidence, Ibrahim rejects the exclusively “material or economic explanations” for the Muslim success at Yarmuk, and the wave of Seventh through early Eighth Century lightning jihad conquests in its aftermath. Such explanations are now proffered by contemporary Western academics dismissive of Islamic religious zeal:
[T]raditional Muslim historiography concerning why Muslims won holds that their win-win bargain with Allah -- wherein the Muslim is rewarded with paradise either in the here [via booty, see entire Koran sura/chapter, “The Spoils of War,” 8: 1 ff, including sexual slaves, per 4:3; 23:6] or hereafter [via “martyrdom,” Koran 61: 10- 12; 4: 74; 9: 111, and the eternal prize of Islam’s cosmic brothel, 44: 51- 56; 52: 17- 29; 55: 46- 78] -- enthused the Arabs’ fighting spirit to no end.
“The Muslim preachers did not cease to encourage the combatants [at Yarmuk]: Prepare yourselves for the encounter with the houris [virgins of Islam’s cosmic brothel; see Koran 43:70; 36:56; 55:70; 37:48] of the big black eyes,” explains a later Persian scholar. “And to be sure, never has a day been seen when more heads fell than on the day of the Yarmuk.” Or to quote a companion of Muhammad speaking to a Byzantine official prior to the invasion of Egypt: “Do not deceive yourselves. We are not afraid of your numbers. Our greatest desire is to meet the Romans in battle. If we conquer them, it is well; if not, then we receive the good things of the world to come.”
The idea that Muslim fanaticism was responsible for the Arabs’ victories was also adopted by European writers. As late as 1963, Lieutenant-General Sir John Bagot Glubb maintained that “it was religious enthusiasm which provided the impetus for the Arab conquests.” He apparently knew what he spoke of: “I actually commanded, for thirty years, soldiers recruited from those very tribesmen who carried out the Great Arab conquests and who have remained unchanged for thirteen hundred years.”
Ibrahim succinctly encapsulates how such Islamic jihad fanaticism resulted in unparalleled conquests at Christendom’s expense, which have assumed a permanence. He also notes a foreboding and strikingly astute assessment by the 7th Century ecclesiastical writer Anastasius of Sinai on the significance of Yarmuk:
Just seventy-three years after Yarmuk, all ancient Christian lands between Greater Syria to the east and Mauritania (Morocco) to the west -- approximately 3,700 miles -- were forever conquered by Islam. Put differently, two-thirds (or 66 percent) of Christendom’s original territory -- including three of the five most important centers of Christianity -- Jerusalem (With the caveat that Jerusalem fell back to Christian hands during the Crusades and is today under Israeli authority), Antioch, and Alexandria -- were permanently swallowed up by Islam and thoroughly Arabized.
For unlike the Germanic barbarians who invaded and conquered Europe in the preceding centuries -- only to assimilate into Christian culture, civilization, and language (Latin and Greek) -- the Arabs further imposed their creed and language onto the conquered peoples so that, whereas the “Arabs” once only thrived in the Arabian Peninsula, today the “Arab world” consists of some twenty-two nations spread over the Middle East and North Africa ...
Even without the power of hindsight afforded to historians living more than a millennium after the fact, Anastasius of Sinai, who was a youth when Muslim forces overran his Egyptian homeland, testified to the decisiveness of the battle by referring to it as “the first terrible and incurable fall of the Roman army.
“I am speaking of the bloodshed at Yarmuk … after which occurred the capture and burning of the cities of Palestine, even Caesarea and Jerusalem. After the destruction of Egypt there followed the enslavement and incurable devastation of the Mediterranean lands and islands. But those ruling and dominating the Roman Empire did not understand these things.”
The arrival of Islam upon the stage of history was marked by a torrent of violence and destruction throughout the Mediterranean world. The great Roman and Byzantine cities, whose ruins still dot the landscapes of North Africa and the Middle East, were brought to a rapid end in the Seventh Century. Everywhere archeologists have found evidence of massive destruction; and this corresponds precisely with what we know of Islam as an ideology.
Over a millennium after the Muslim victory at Yarmuk, the same unchanged Muslim-Christian dynamics were apparent in distant Western Europe, circa 1683. A desperate and urgently assembled coalition of Christian forces -- spearheaded by the Polish King Jan Sobieski (or John III of Poland) -- broke the Ottoman jihad siege of Vienna, Austria.
Ibrahim sets the stage for this epic Western Christian victory over Islam, emphasizing the historical and doctrinal continuities:
Like Constantinople before it, symbolic and practical reasons made Vienna especially enticing to Ottoman eyes: it was the Austrian capital of the Holy Roman Empire, the Turks’ Christian archenemy for a century and a half; and it was a strategic gateway into the heart of Europe; from it, Italy (and Rome) to the south and the disunited German kingdoms to the north could easily be invaded. Furthermore, as the cultural center of Europe and opulent seat of empire, Vienna was a cornucopia of animate and inanimate delights of the kind to entice even the most sated Muslim lord.
Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa, second in command to the Ottoman Sultan Muhammad IV, fit the bill for such an enticeable Muslim lord. “Fanatically anti-Christian” and possessed of equal parts military ambition and avarice:
… he owned three thousand female slaves and concubines, seven hundred black eunuchs … [and] in 1674 captured a Polish town, flayed his prisoners alive, and sent their stuffed hides to the sultan.
Not surprisingly, Kara Mustafa “burned to achieve what even the Magnificent Ghazi [Suleiman the Magnificent, r. 1520-1566] could not: the conquest of Vienna.” Ibrahim describes the mutually reinforcing sentiments of Kara Mustafa, and the Sultan he served, which precipitated the Ottoman jihad campaign against Vienna.
Citing that “they ought to take advantage of the disorders of the Christians by the siege of the place [Vienna], the conquest of which would assure that of all Hungary, and open up a passage to the greatest victories,” Mustafa spent the early months of 1683 marshalling what would arguably be the largest Muslim army ever to invade Christian territory. During an elaborate pre-jihad ceremony, Sultan Muhammad IV, “desiring him [Mustafa] to fight generously for the Mahometan faith,” placed “the standard of the Prophet … into his hands for the extirpation of infidels, and the increase of Musselmen.”
The vainglorious vizier responded by making that old Muslim boast: not only would he take Vienna, but soon thereafter he would stable his horses at St. Peter’s in Rome … “the Grand Vizier, animated by so good a beginning, and by the accounts he had received of the weakness of the Christians, his principal design being the conquest of Vienna,” explains [French historian] de La Croix, “pushed directly to Vienna” at the head of a vast multitude said to consist of three hundred thousand people: nearly two hundred thousand combatants, the rest artisans, tradesmen, concubines, prostitutes, and camp stragglers of all kinds. The fighting men consisted mostly of Turks and Tatars …
Arriving at Vienna on July 14, 1683, Mustafa’s vast Muslim jihadist legions were swelled by “an infinite number of unfortunate [Christian] slaves that had been forcibly carried away out of Austria.” Ibrahim recounts the unchanging Islamic “protocol” Kara Mustafa followed -- which included delivering a message directly to the Austrian military commander Count Ernst von Starhemberg, who “deigned not to respond” -- before unleashing a hellish assault on Vienna:
Over one thousand years earlier, his prophet Muhammad had sent an ultimatum to Emperor Heraclius: aslam taslam, “submit [to Islam] and have peace.” Much had changed in the millennium since: the Arabs had long ceased to lead Islam; the art of war and technology had advanced; nations and kingdoms had risen and fallen; even the appearance of Europeans (now wig-wearing and powdered) and Turks (colorfully and ostentatiously attired) had changed. But Islam’s pre-battle ultimatum remained the same. A message was delivered to Starhemberg that July 14: “We have come … with the intention of conquering this citadel and preaching the True Religion.” “Accept Islam, and live in peace under the sultan! Or deliver the city and live in peace as Christians under the sultan. If any man prefer, let him depart peaceably, taking his goods with him.”
Starhemberg ignored the summons and continued with preparations. He knew that Mustafa had earlier passed through the neighboring city of Perchtoldsdorf and offered it identical terms -- only to renege once the besieged Austrians opened their gates by massacring and enslaving them.
Jan Sobieski was widely acknowledged for his established military prowess against the Muslim Turks and Tatars. Agreeing to organize a contingent to break the Muslim siege of Vienna, Sobieski stopped en route in Krakow, Poland, resting and gathering more men. Ibrahim writes:
During a church ceremony on August 10, “the nuncio published the Pope’s indulgence for all men going out to battle in this Holy War. After hearing a powerful sermon on this same theme, the King moved down from his throne to the altar steps for the benediction, and was blessed by the nuncio,” who “writing afterwards to Innocent, recalled the singing, his sense of the King’s intense devotion, and the weeping of the Queen,” Hitting so close to home, this latest grand jihad had “stirred up his [Sobieski’s] military ambition and his Christian fervor.” As he himself put it, “It is not a city alone that we have to save, but the whole of Christianity, of which the city of Vienna is the bulwark. The war is a holy one.”
Before the final battle commenced on September 12, 1683, Kara Mustafa:
… ordered all adult males among the thirty thousand Christian slaves in the Ottoman camp massacred -- lest they somehow aid their coreligionists -- while the Muslim fighters “ravished the young maids and women, and cut off the heads of the old men and women.”
When Sobieski and his forces routed Kara Mustafa’s army of Muslims, breaking Vienna’s siege, Ibrahim notes:
[T]he joys of victory were tempered by a “lamentable spectacle,” and Sobieski “was pierced ... at the sight of an infinite number of slaves, whose throats the infidels had cut after their defeat, and whose bodies yet chained were extended confusedly amongst the dying and the wounded. The King was particularly touched with a child of about four years of age, who seemed to be admirably beautiful notwithstanding he was covered all over with blood from a wound he had received on his head.”
The victors did not tarry long in the camp, “it being impossible to remove in so short a time such a number of dead bodies, both Turks, Christians, and horses, whereof the stench was so great on the road, that it was enough to have caused an infection.”
Sobieski would subsequently write to Pope Innocent: “We came, we saw, God conquered!” In turn, a grateful Pontiff conferred upon the Polish King the title “Defender of the Faith.” Following the epochal victory of Christendom at Vienna, the jihadist Ottoman Empire, representing incarnations of Muslim invaders who had ravaged Europe for 1000 years, was at last forced to retreat:
The Holy League formed under Pope Innocent, spearheaded by Sobieski’s Poles and the Austro-German forces, remained intact and went on the offensive against the Turks. Two years later, Orthodox Russia joined the Catholic league. Between 1683 and 1697, fifteen major battles were fought between the Turks and Christians, twelve won by the latter.
By 1699, the Ottoman Empire -- “which had terrified Christendom for over three hundred years” -- was reduced to signing the humiliating Treaty of Karlowitz, which required it to cede large territories back to its infidel enemies and thus marked the beginning of the end of Islamic power.
[W]herever and whenever Islamic empires waned but Muslims remained -- recall pain’s morphing experiences with Islam after 1492 -- the jihad collapsed back to its more primordial, piratical form.
The great 18th Century British historian Edward Gibbon famously extolled Charles “Martel the Hammer’s” resounding defeat of Arab Muslim jihadist invaders at Tours, France in 732, which he insisted had spared Western Europe from Islamization. (Ibrahim’s related chapter dubs this Christian victory over invading Islam “The Jihad Reaches a Western Wall of Ice”.) Gibbon averred that Martel’s triumph assured that Britain, specifically, was “delivered” from what he termed the following “calamities”:
Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet.
With tragic irony, despite Martel’s hard won civilizational victory, Britain is now fulfilling Gibbon’s prophesy via a perverse cultural self-loathing process of auto-Islamization, manifest by a recent proliferation of new mosques (approximately 423), and 100 full-fledged Sharia courts in London.
Ibrahim’s post-script for Sword and Scimitar includes sobering reflections on this phenomenon of Christian self-abnegation which abets Western Islamization through both violent and non-violent jihad. Eight decades ago, as Ibrahim notes, Anglo-French writer and historian Hilaire Belloc warned about the West’s self-assured dismissal of predatory Islam. Belloc wrote:
Millions of modern people of the civilization of Europe and America … have forgotten all about Islam. They have never come in contact with it. They take for granted that it is decaying, and that, anyway, it is just a foreign religion which will not concern them.
It is, as a fact, the most formidable and persistent enemy which our civilization has had, and may at any moment become as large a menace in the future as it has been in the past.
And Ibrahim concludes his opus -- an historical Reconquista -- with a tocsin of looming, but still preventable calamity, we must heed:
As Muhammad’s civilization retreated into obscurity, the post-Christian West slowly came into being. Islam did not change, but the West did: Muslims still venerate their heritage and religion -- which commands jihad against infidels -- whereas the West has learned to despise its heritage and religion, causing it to become an unwitting ally of the jihad …
In short, if Islam is terrorizing the West today, that is not because it can, but because the West allows it to. For no matter how diminished, a still swinging Scimitar will always overcome a strong but sheathed Sword.