Islamic Terrorism – Is it a New Threat?
24 Jul, 2006
- In recent times, overshadowing the relative calm of the past few decades, there has been a sudden surge in violence and terrorist activities by the Islamic fanatics. Hence, there is a debate as to why Muslims did not indulge in terror and violence during the past decades and centuries. There might be some consolation in the thought that Islamic violence was not so evident during the early 20th century. However, there is also a general impression amongst both Muslims and the non-Muslims that there was never any Islamic violence and terrorism until the last 2-3 decades. One respected moderate Muslim columnist, Tanveer Jaffri, in his recent column, Terror and Terrorism in the World: The Remedy, wrote:
- Obviously, in the life of Hazrat Mohammad, taking his relations with the Islam, there is no incident showing terror or terrorism. Even Hazrat Mohammad himself never fought against anyone, in his lifetime.
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Presuming Mr. Jafri a good-hearted and honest person, I believe that his verdict on Prophet Muhammad’s non-involvement in any kind of violence in his life-time is his honest opinion. Not only Mr. Jafri, but most of the moderate Muslims also bear such a thought about the Prophet of Islam. Yet, such thought, even if born out of honest opinion, is thoroughly erroneous and is the result of utter ignorance. Instead of being a nonviolent person, Muhammad's life is a testament of ceaseless raids and plundering expeditions of highway caravans and waging wars against the infidel (non-Muslims). He himself had orchestrated more than one hundred raids, plundering expeditions and wars. Even just before his death, he was in the planning of organizing an expedition, but he fell sick suddenly, from which he never recovered. By this time, he had already extirpated all the Jewish settlements around Medina by means of mass slaughter and enslavement (Banu Quraiza) and mass exile (Banu Nadir and Banu Qainuqa). He had also launched expeditions against the Jewish tribes in far-flung places, namely the prosperous Jewish settlement of Khaybar. In his death bed one of his last wishes was: “Let there be no other religion except Islam”. This wish was carried out to fruition by his immediate successors, notably Caliph Abu Bakar and Omar.
The fact is: the kind of terror and violence perpetrated by Prophet Muhammad have little or no parallel amongst the terrorism and violence of today’s Islamic terrorists. The extermination of the Jews from Medina requires another mention here. Consider the case of Muhammad’s raiding the Jewish enclave of Banu Quraiza, because they did not join the Muslim army when the Meccans attacked the Muslims in the famous battle of the Trench, which, the Quraiza tribe was allegedly obligated to do because of a covenant of mutual protection signed years earlier. The first reason of unwillingness of the Quraiza people to join the battle that Muhammad started was that the Jewish people were sick and tired of such violent activities and blood-baths, raiding and plundering expeditions and fighting wars one after another, which became the prominent feature of the Medina citizens' life once Muslims became powerful. Secondly, the Mecca army in this battle was too powerful to ensure a decisive victory, had it not been for the trenches Muhammad had dug – thanks to idea given to Muhammad by Salman the Persian from his Persian experience of war. After a 25-day seize of the Jewish enclave the Muslims, the Quraiza tribe surrendered unconditionally and pleaded with Muhammad to let them go into exile. Instead, Muhammad decided to slaughter all the males of weapon-bearing age, around 600 to 900 in numbers, captured their women and children as slaves and took possession of their homes, properties and farms as spoils of war and distributed them amongst the Muslims who had participated in this genocide. The world is yet to witness an example of similar barbaric atrocity perpetrated by today’s Islamic terrorists, though we can be absolutely certain that today’s Islamist jihadists ardently crave to match their Prophet’s examples.
Another incidence which requires mentioning again here is Muhammad’s victorious entry into the city of Mecca, his paternal hometown. Upon his entry into the city, he destroyed all the temples and deities which his ancestors had worshipped for centuries. Soon after his invasion of Mecca, the Prophet sent his general Khalid bin Walid to destroy all the pagan temples of the neighboring tribes of Mecca. Khalid reached the Jazima tribe and asked them to say, “We are Muslims”. But they said, “We are Sabians” – whereupon Khalid slaughtered the whole tribe. The Jazima tribe people had never given any troubles to the Muslims. Is there a parallel of such utter barbarity amongst terror acts of today's Muslim extremists? No, there isn’t. The truth is: by the end of his 22 years of religious campaign, Muhammad had depopulated the entire Southern Arabia of the infidel pagans, Jews, Christians and Sabians etc. through mass slaughter, enslavement and forced conversion and mass exile. These acts of violence, cruelty and barbarity of the Prophet have no parallel amongst violent acts of today’s Islamic terrorists. Of course, throughout the Islamic world, there are scattered incidences of violence and attacks on non-Muslims’ homes, churches and temples and incidences of raping the infidel women. But there is no incidence in which women of an entire community being captured as sex-slaves, all weapon-bearing males of a community put to summary execution or an entire village or community of the Kaffirs sent to exile.
The acts of violence and terrorism did not just disappear with the death of the Prophet but was redoubled by his immediate successors; namely, Abu Bakr, Omar and Othman et al. who were Muhammad’s closest friends. By the time of third Caliph Othman’s rule, all remaining Jews and Christians of the entire Arabian Peninsula were forcibly converted, expelled or slain, which fulfilled Prophet’s death-bed wish that no second religion remain in the holy land of Arabia.
Immediately after Muhammad’s death, many Muslims who were forced to accept Islam wanted to leave Islam. Prophet’s first biographer, ibn Ishak writes, “When the apostle was dead, most of the Muslims thought of withdrawing from Islam and had made up their mind to do”. Many tribes rose in rejection of Islam, turned to their tribal leaders and refused to pay taxes. The immediate task of the first Caliph, Abu Bakr, was to bring these fierce and intractable tribes into submission. Under the command of fierce Khalid ibn Walid, a bitter and sanguinary battle, termed the Wars of the Apostasy (Ridda) followed. The revolt was cruelly suppressed and the recalcitrant tribes were forced back to the fold of Islam.
The fanaticism and barbarity associated with these conquering expeditions need a sampling here. The kind of fierce intolerance and fanaticism being inspired by Prophet Muhammad amongst his followers have no parallel in the annals of any other religion. Under his command, his followers were ready to kill even their own fathers and brothers, if given approval by the Prophet. Prophet’s biographer Hisahm al-Kalbi notes that the son of the great hypocrite Abduallah ibn Obayi had begged for prophet’s permission to kill his own father and bring the head to the prophet. But Abdullah was an influential man and the prophet didn’t dare. According to Ibn-Ishak, in July 624, being increasingly exasperated with the Jews, the prophet ordered: “Kill any Jew whoever falls into your power.” Thereupon a Muslim convert named Muhaysa fell upon a rich Jewish merchant who happened to be on the same way and killed him, despite the fact that he belonged to his own tribe. When his elder brother, still a Jew, scolded him for killing someone of his own tribe, Muhaysa replied, “By Allah, if Muhammad commanded me to kill you also, I would have cut off your head”. So impressed was the Jewish man by his brother’s conviction to Islam that he immediately converted to Islam. The prophet’s fanatic inspiration to intolerance and violence compelled Voltaire to comment: Such conducts cannot be defended by any person, ‘unless superstition has choked all the light of reason from him.’
The violent fanaticism, inspired by the Prophet, was carried forward with ruthless zeal by his immediate followers. Khalid ibn Walid, who fought on the enemy side in the battle of Ohud but later embraced Islam, became one of the most blood-thirsty and brutal of conquerors, if judged even by the standard of his day. Yet his cruelty and rapacity were and still are greatly extolled by the Muslims, honoring him with the title of “the Sword of Allah” (Sayif Allah).
The utter barbarity of Khalid was displayed in May, 633, when he defeated the Zoroastrian Persians at the Battle of Olayis in Southern Iraq (between Hira and Basra). For two days, his soldiers rounded up the great multitude of prisoners and fugitives, who were then herded on to a dry river bed and were butchered until it became a crimson stream. The place thereafter proudly bore the title of ‘the River of Blood’. Abu Bakr, the caliph was overjoyed when the news of victory and massacre reached him.
On the barbarity of Khalid, Benjamin Walker writes:
A wine-lover and lustful debaucher, Khalid took sickly sadistic delight in beheading a defeated chieftain on the battle-field, selecting his wife (if young) or daughter and celebrating his nuptials with her on the spot soaked with the blood of the victim (father/husband of the bride). [Walker, Foundations of Islam, p. 316]
Before Muslims conquered Jerusalem, the scattered communities of Jews and pagans lived in relative peace along with Christians. When Caliph Omar conquered Jerusalem, much venerated in the Koran and a holy place in Islam, in 637—the Jewish temples and Christian churches were razed to the ground and widespread looting and pillaging was unleashed. The Patriarch Sophronius of Jerusalem (634-638), who witnessed spread of Islam in the Arabia and the fall of Jerusalem with his own eyes, described the Muslim invaders as “godless barbarians” who “burnt churches, destroyed monasteries, profaned the Crosses and blasphemed against Christ and the church.” The following year, thousands died of famine resulting from the destruction and pillage by the Muslim conquerors of Jerusalem. [Ibn Warraq, Why I am not a Muslim, p. 219]
Caliph Omar, aided by a renegade Jew, identified the exact site of the destroyed Jewish temple, the Solomon Temple, and laid, in its place, the foundation of the prestigious al-Aqsa Mosque with his own hands. He declared a decree that Jews and Christians could practice religion only in the confines of their churches and homes. No new churches would be built, no conversion should be made, crosses should not be exhibited in their churches and no public display of their faith should be made. These rather benevolent treatments were accorded to the Jews and Christians under the privileged term of the dhimmis (zimmis) as accorded to the people of the Book in the Koran. Yet, repression and discrimination, attacks on pilgrims, raid and ransacking of the monasteries and the destruction of the places of worship of the non-Muslims continued.
The barbaric tradition of atrocity set in motion by the Prophet in the form a command for incessant Jihad against the Kaffirs in the Koran, continued well into the late period of the Ottoman caliphate. Even the highly magnanimous caliphs, like Harun al-Rashid and his son al-Mamun were thoroughly brutal in dealing with the Jews, Christians and pagans. The great caliph al-Mamun of the golden age of Islam, who instituted the heretic rationalistic Mutazili doctrine and non-divine nature of the Koran as state policy, too, was extremely harsh when it comes to dealing with the non-Muslim subjects. Under his rule in the 9th century (813–833), the pagans of Harran had to choose between Islam and death. Such barbaric tools of forced conversion of the infidels continued well into the late Ottoman period. Tavernier, the 17th century French traveler, describes how in Anatolia “Everyday there are numerous Greeks forced to become Turks”.
Certain Western authors and historians believe that after an early onslaught of Islamic conquests lasting until about the mid-eighth century, violence subsided and relative calm and peace prevailed throughout the Islamic world for the subsequent centuries [Saunders, J.J. A History of Medieval Islam. London: Routledge, 1965; p79]. In truth, such claims of existence of centuries of peace fly in the face of it. In reality, no period of the Islamic domination did ensure a peaceful life to non-Muslim subjects—thanks to Muslims’ Jihadi campaigns in various forms, either by the state or by the Muslim mobs. Yet, some desperate minority of Muslim rulers were tolerant towards non-Muslim subjects in defiance of the Islamic injunctions. Islamic terror, as was unleashed by the Prophet, comprised of unprovoked attack on the unwarned and unprepared infidel territories, exiling or killing the adult male prisoners, taking the females and children as captives (beautiful and young women were used in the harem as sex-slaves, children for raising as Muslims and older females for sale), looting and plundering the infidels of their valuable properties and assets, imposing Jiziyah and of course, destroying the infidels’ religious institutions. Ibn Warraq, in “Why I am not a Muslims” [p. 219–240] has listed the Islamic atrocities and violence against the infidels of various sorts which I will summarized here.
After Prophet Muhammad’s emigration from Mecca to Medina in 622, the exiling and extermination of 3 major Jewish tribes of Medina by 628, has been described above. In 630, Muhammad marched into Mecca, mercilessly captured, destroyed the most sacred pagan temple of Ka’ba and established the Islamic rule there. The pagan inhabitants were given a choice between death and Islam. To save lives, the pagans had no choice but to accept Islam. On the same day, Khalid ibn Walid’s massacre of the entire Jezima tribe for not accepting Islam has already been discussed. Khalid ibn Walid, upon command of Caliph Abu Bakr, launched the blood-letting wars of the apostasy (Ridda) to submit those, who deserted Islam immediately after Muhammad’s death, back to the faith. The utter barbarity of Khalid Ibn Walid against the defeated the Zoroastrian Persians at the Battle of Olayis in Southern Iraq in May 633, whereby he created what is famously called the River of Death has been discussed before.
After completing extermination/exiling the Jews of Medina in 628, Muhammad launched a campaign against the wealthy and prosperous Jewish community of Khaybar. He ordered his charges to destroy all the Jewish temples as they came across. Having defeated the community, he tortured the chief of tribe Kinana by setting fire on his chest to find out the whereabouts of his treasures. After extracting the location of the ensconced treasure, Kinana was beheaded, the treasures were looted, and Kinana’s wife Safiyah was rendered as his share of the booty. He married and took her to bed on the same night her husband’s dead body awaited burial on the next day. Incidentally, Safiyah’s father belonged to the Banu Quraiza tribe of Medina whom Muhammad had beheaded earlier.
In the Muslim campaign of 634, the entire region between Gaza and Caesarea was devastated and four thousand peasants, comprising of Christians, Jews and Samaritans, who were simply defending their lands, were massacred. In 637, the Victorian Muslim army’s march into Jerusalem, with Caliph Omar at the lead, and the accompanying destruction of the synagogues and burning of the churches, desecration of the Crosses and setting in the Dhimmi laws of submission to the Jews and Christians of the Holy Land have already been mentioned. In the expeditions against Mesopotamia between 635 and 643, monasteries were sacked, the monks slaughtered and Monophysite Arabs executed or forced to convert. In Elam, all the people were put to the sword and at Susa all the dignitaries suffered the same fate.
Details of conquest of Egypt starting with the capture of Alexandria by Amr Ibn Al-As in 641 comes from the “Chronicle of John” – the Bishop of Nikiu, written between 693 and 700 CE. As Amr advanced into Egypt, he captured the city of Behnesa near Fayum, and exterminated the inhabitants. Nobody was spared, irrespective of surrendered or captured, Old or Young or Women. Fayum and Aboit suffered the same fate. At Nikiu, the entire population was put to the sword. The Arabs took the inhabitants to captivity. In Armenia, the entire population of Euchaita was wiped out. Seventh century Armenian chronicles recount how the Arabs decimated the population of Assyria and forced a number of inhabitants to accept Islam and then wrought havoc in the districts of Daron, southwest of Lake Van. In 642, it was the turn of the town of Dvin to suffer. In 643, the Arabs came back with “extermination, ruin and slavery”.
It was the same ghastly spectacle in North Africa, Tripoli was pillaged in 643; Carthrage was razed to the ground and most of its inhabitants were slaughtered. Michael the Syrian describes how the first Omayyad Caliph Muawiya, who took power in 661, sacked and pillaged Cyprus and then established his domination by a “great massacre”. In the capture of Istakhar (Persia), 40,000 Iranians were slaughtered. Indeed, Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Syria, Iraq, Iran and wherever Muslims have marched, were presented with the same spectacle.
In 712, Governor of Iraq, Hajjaj, ordered the conquest of Sind under the commandership of his nephew, Muhammad bin Kasim. He was instructed to “bring destruction on the unbelievers… [and] to invite and induce the infidels to accept the true creed, and belief in the unity of God… and whoever does not submit to Islam, treat him harshly, and cause injury to him till he submits.” According to Al-Biladuri, after the capturing the port of Debal, the Muslim army slaughtered the inhabitants over three days and the priests of the temples were massacred.
After the initial surge of cruelty, Kasim became more tolerant and allowed the infidels to continue their profession and religious practice. Learning about this sympathetic treatment, a furious Hajjaj sent letter condemning Kasim’s method of pardoning the infidels. It read, “… The great god says in the Koran [47:7]: “O True believers, when you encounter the unbelievers, strike off their heads.” The above command of the Great God is a great command and must be respected…. Henceforth, grant pardon to no one of the enemy and spare none of them..” Kasim quickly obliged to the divinely ordained command and on his capture of Brahmanabad, he invited the infidel idol-worshipers to accept Islam. On latter’s refusal, he ordered all adult males be beheaded with swords and their women and the children were captured as slaves. Eight thousands, some say 26,000, men were put to the sword. One-fifth of the captured slaves (women and children), which amounted to 20,000, amongst whom, were the daughters of Sind Chiefs along with King Dahir’s severed head, were sent to Hajjaj as the share of the states and the remainder were distributed amongst the soldiers. [Chachanama, Muhammad al-Kufi, trs Kalichbeg, I, 155; Shashi R Sharma, Caliphs and Sultans, p. 95]. The stream of captured slaves continued to flow from India to Baghdad ever since Kassim captured Sind and Hajjaj alone is said to have forwarded 60,000 slaves from India (~1/5 of total) to the caliph Walid I (705-715 CE). [Chachnama, I, 154]
In 704-705, Caliph Walid I gathered together the nobles of Armenia in the Church of St. Gregory and in the Church of Xram on the Araxis and burned them alive. The rest were crucified and their women and children were captured as slaves. The worse happened to the Armenians between 852 and 855. Over in Egypt, in 722, the surveyor Usama b. Zaid, attacked convents and churches but Caliph Hisham later asked him to leave the Christians alone. Caliph Marwan (ruled 744-750) looted and destroyed many monasteries in Egypt while fleeing the Abbasid army. In the sacking of Euphesus in 781, 7,000 Greeks were taken captives and were deported en masse.
In 853, Abbassid Caliph Mutawakil ordered all new churches to be destroyed. In 884, the convent of Kalilshu in Baghdad was destroyed. Caliph al-Mutasim, known as the Islamic hero, was a great wager of holy wars against the Christians and heretics. After the capture and pillage of Amorium in 838, there were so many captive slaves that Caliph al-Mutasim ordered them to be auctioned in batches of five and ten. During the rule of caliph al-Mamun – considered the most just Muslim ruler and harbinger of the so-called “golden age of Islam” – the pagans of Harran had to choose between Islam and death.
Ruined by the burden of imposition of Jizyah tax, the Coptic Christians of Lower Egypt revolted in 832. This revolt was ruthlessly suppressed by the Muslim rulers in which Christian villages, vineyards, gardens and Churches were burned. There were mass slaughter and those spared were deported.
In 924, the Church and convent of Mary in Damascus was plundered and burned and other churches destroyed. Further destruction occurred in Ramleh, Ascalon, Tinnis, and Egypt during the invasion of Asad ud Din Shirkuh. In the capture and sacking of Thessalonica in 903 CE, 22,000 Christian captives were divided amongst the Arab chieftains or sold into slavery.
There were massacres of the Spanish Christians in and around Seville. Al-Hakim biamr Illah gave orders that the Churches of his dominions should be destroyed. A Muslim historian records that over 30,000 churches built by the Greeks in Egypt, Syria and elsewhere were destroyed, their contents seized and sold in the markets and lands confiscated. [Tritton AS, The Caliphs and their non-Muslim Subjects. London, 1970, p. 54].
In Iran, the Zoroastrians faced frequent forced conversion, pressure to do so and persecution which lead to riots in Shiraz in 979. To escape persecution, they immigrated to India and live there even today as a respected community.
Six thousand Jews were massacred in Fez of Morocco in 1033. Hundreds of Jews were killed between 1010 and 1013 near Cordoba and other parts of Muslim Spain and an entire Jewish community of 4000 in Grenada was annihilated in 1066. Fatimid caliph Hakim’s jealous persecution of non-Muslims and Church demolition resulted in the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in 1009. He also banned the pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Both events acted as the major causes that ignited the Crusades.
In Kairoun (Tunisia), the Jews were persecuted and sent to exile in 1016, who later returned, only to be expelled again. In Tunis, they were forced to convert or leave. During subsequent decades, there were fierce anti-Jewish persecutions throughout Tunisia.
In 1064, the Seljuk Sultan, Alp Arslan, devastated Georgia and Armenia. Those, whom he did not take captive, were executed. [Ibn Warraq, pp. 218-238]
Eleventh century also saw the barbaric assault of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni on Hindustan starting in 1000 CE. He launched 17 plundering, looting and slave-taking expeditions to India. Abu Nasr Muhammad Utbi, Sultan Mahmud’s secretary, gloats in his official chronicle that after attacking Waihind in November 1001 CE, Mahmud’s army slaughtered 15,000 fighting men in “splendid action” before capturing 500,000 men and women as slaves. In Mahmud’s attack of Ninduna and Panjab in 1014, “slaves were so plentiful that they became very cheap and the men of respectability in their native land were degraded by becoming slaves of ordinary shop-keepers (in Ghazni)”. The extent of barbarity of Sultan Mahmud was vividly described by contemporary Muslim historians. In the attack on Thanesar, “the blood of the infidels flowed so copiously that the stream was discolored and the people were unable to drink it”. Similarly in the slaughter of Sirsawa near Saharanpur, “the Musalmans paid no regard to the booty till they had satiated themselves with the slaughter of infidels.” [Utbi, Tehrik-i-Yamini, ED, Vol II, pp 41-42, 49-50]. When Mahmud learned that the famous Hindu temple at Somnath housed a monolith brought from the temple of Ka’ba, which was destroyed by the Prophet of Islam in 630 CE, out of jealous piety, he rushed to destroy the Somnath temple. Hindus in great numbered assembled to protect their sacred temple and offered Mahmud great booty, which he ignored and according to Ibn Asir [Kamil-ut-Tawarikh], he massacred 50,000 Hindus guarding temple and destroyed it.
In the 12th century, the Almohads of North Africa spread terror wherever they went. The Jews in Yemen were given choice of death or conversion to Islam in 1165. Similar choice was given to the Jews of Aden in 1198. According to Stillman [The Jews of Arab Lands], there were forced conversions of Jews under the Almohad caliphs, al-Mumin (d 1165), Abu Yakub (d 1184) and al-Mansur (d 1199). The Christians of Grenada were deported to Morocco by the Almoravids rulers in 1126.
In the Indian front, after the scourge of Mahmud Ghazni, there was a relative calm until Turk Ghaurid Sultan Muhammad Ghauri started his attacks beginning in 1175. When he became successful in 1192 to defeat Prithviraj Chauhan, he launched a scourge of conquest of Sirsuti, Samana, Khuhram and Hansi with ruthless slaughter and a general destruction of temples and their replacement with mosques. Similar events followed in Ajmer and Delhi later on [KS Lal, Theory and Practice of Muslim State in India, p. 21].
Muhammad Ghauri’s lieutenant Qutbuddin Aibak, succeeded him to become the first Muslim Sultan in India. He dispatched Ikhtiyaruddin Bakhtiyar Khalji to the East and himself concentrated in Hindustan proper. He captured Kol (modern Aligarh) in 1194. There “those of the garrison who were wise and cute were converted to Islam, but those who stood by their ancient faith were slain with the sword.” [Hasan Nizami, Taj-ul-Maasir, E.D., H, 222]
In 1195 when Raja Bhim was attacked by Aibak, he captured 20,000 slaves.
In Aibak’s attack of Kalinjar in 1202, 50,000 slaves were captured. “The temples were converted into mosques,” writes Hasan Nizami, “and the voices of the summoners to prayer ascended to the highest heavens, and the very name of idolatry was annihilated.” Muhammad Farishtah specifically mentions that during the capture of Kalinjar “fifty thousand kaniz va ghulam, having suffered slavery, were rewarded with the honor of Islam” – which meant that enslaved captives were forced into conversion to Islam and conversion accelerated the growth of Muslim population in India.
During Aibak’s rule of 20 Lunar years, he captured Hansi, Meerut, Delhi, Ranthambhor and Kol, which accompanied similar massacres, destruction and slave-taking. When Sultan Muizzuddin personally mounted a campaign against Hindustan, Aibak proceeded as far as Peshawar to meet him, and the two together attacked the Khokhar (Hindu) stronghold in the Koh-i-Jud or the Salt Range. The Hindus (Khokhars) fled to the highest in the mountains. They were pursued. Those that escaped the sword fled to the dense depth of the jungle; others were massacred or taken captive. The result was a great plunder and many captives sold as slaves. According to Farishtah 300 to 400 hundred thousand Khokhars were converted to Islam by Muizzuddin.
Under Aibak most of Hindustan from Delhi to Gujarat, Lakhnauti to Lahore and Bihar to Bengal were brought under the sway of the Turks. In every attack great many people were killed and large number of women and children were captured as slaves. In 1202 CE, Ikhtiyaruddin Bakhtiyar Khalji marched into Bihar and attacked the University centers at Nalanda, Vikramshila and Uddandpur. The Buddhist monks and Brahmans, identified by shaved head, taken as idolaters, were massacred and the common people were captured and enslaved. Ibn Asir says that Qutbuddin Aibak made ‘war against the provinces of Hind. He killed many, and returned with prisoners and booty.” In Banaras, according to the same author, “the slaughter of the Hindus was immense; none was spared except women and children”. Fakhr-i-Mudabbir informs us that as a result of the Turkish achievements under Muizzuddin and Aibak, even poor (Muslim) householder became owner of numerous slaves.”
After Aibak, Sultan Iltutmish (rule 1210-1236) continued with his war against the infidels and revolting territories including Ranthambhor (1226), Mandor (near Jodhpur), Gwalior and Ujjan (1234-35). According to contemporary chroniclers Minhaj Shiraj and Muhammad Farishtah, every campaign lead to general massacres of those who resisted and the women and children were taken captives and assets of the infidels were looted.
Minhaj Siraj writes that Ulugh Khan Balban’s “taking of captives and his capture of the dependents of the great Ranas cannot be recounted”. Talking of his war in Avadh against Trailokyavarman of the Chandela dynasty (Dalaki va Malaki of Minhaj), the chronicler says that “All the infidels’ wives, sons and dependents… and children… fell into the hands of the victors.” In 1253, in his campaign against Ranthambhor also, Balban enslaved many people. In 1259, in an attack on Haryana, many women and children were enslaved. Twice Balban led expeditions against Kampil, Patiali, and Bhojpur, and in the process enslaved a large number of women and children. In Katehar, he ordered a general massacre of the male population of over eight years of age and carried away women and children. In 1260 CE, Ulugh Khan Balban marched with a large force on a campaign in the region of Ranthambhor, Mewat and Siwalik. He made a proclamation that a soldier who brought a live captive would be rewarded with two silver tankahs and one who brought the head of a dead one would get one silver tankah. Soon 300-400 living and dead were brought to his presence everyday.
Like Balban, other commanders of Iltutmish, or the “Shamsia Maliks of Hind” were marching up and down the Hindustan, raiding towns and villages and enslaving people. This was the situation prevailing from Lakhnauti to Lahore and from Ajmer to Ujjain. The Hindus used to reclaim their lands after the Muslim invaders had passed through them with fire and sword, and Turkish armies used to repeat their attacks to regain control of the cities so lost. But the captives once taken became slaves and then Musalmans for ever. The exact figures of such slaves have not been mentioned and therefore cannot be computed. All that is known is that they were captured in droves.
After the Iltutmish Sultans, war against the Hindu infidels and slave-taking received further momentum under the Khaljis. Sultan Jalaluddin Khalji (1290-1296) launched ruthless attacks against Hindus in Katehar, Ranthambhor, Malwa, and Gwalior. According to Amir Khasrau [Miftah-ul-Fatuh], he sacked temples, took booty and captured slaves making a “Hell of Paradise”.
Next Sultan Alauddin Khalji, a great war maker, sent a large army to Gujarat in 1299 in which all the major towns were sacked, temples destroyed, wealth looted and large number of slaves of both sexes captured [Khwaja AM Isami, Futu-us-Salatin, p. 243 ; Ziauddin Barani, Tarikh-i-Firoz Shahi, pp. 251-52].
Away from the Indian front, the Christians of Damascus were killed or sold into slavery and their Churches were burned down. Sir Steven Runciman records that Sultan Baibars had promised the safety of the garrison of Safed if they surrendered to the Muslims. When they surrendered, the Muslims fell upon the population and massacred them. At the capture of Antioch by the Muslims, “Even the Muslim Chroniclers were shocked by the carnage that followed”, says Runciman. The Jews of Marrakesh were massacred in 1232. Following this, the Jews of Morocco were persecuted, forced to convert or leave. The Jews of Tabriz were obliged to convert in 1291 CE [Ibn Warraq; p. 227]
The riots of 1321 in Cairo, in which several churches were destroyed, which in turn, set on destruction of churches throughout Egypt resulting in desecration of more than 50 churches. The Jews of Tabriz were again made to convert to Islam in 1318 CE and those of Baghdad in 1333 and 1344.
Late 14th and the early 15th centuries witnessed the horrible barbarity of Amir Tamur (aka, Tamurlane). Information about Timur comes mainly from “Zafer Nama” written during early 15th century and his own diary, Mulfuzat-i-Timuri, which are full of Koranic references in justification of his invasions, wars and mass murders and destructions. He set out on his campaign in 1399 against India solely because the Muslim rulers were, to him, too lenient towards the idolater Hindu subjects. By the time, he reached Delhi; he had gathered around 100,000 pagan captives. A few thousands artisans and clever mechanics, including builders and stone masons, were taken back to Samarkhand while the rest were massacred in a single day [Mulfuzat-i-Timuri, trs ED, III, 447]. He built victory pillars with the severed heads of the infidels. On his way out of India, he pillaged Miraj, pulled down the monuments and flayed the Hindu inhabitants alive. [Why I am Not a Muslim, ibn Warraq, p. 234-235].
In the Indian front, Sultan Allauddin Khaliji (1296-1316) continued his terrorizing massacre, slave-taking and looting mission in the early 14th century, which made him the greatest rulers of the so-called Sultanate period (c 1200-1500 CE). In the sack of reconstituted Somnath temple for a second time, Wassaf recounts that the Muslim army captured 20,000 women and children as salves. [Wassaf, Bk IV, p. 448]. In 1301 Ranthambhor was attacked and in 1303, Chittor. In the Chittor attack 30,000 people were massacred in cold blood [Khazain, Habib trs p 49], and women and children were taken captives. Similar things happened in the attack of Malwa, Sevana and Jalor (1305-1311). According to Shams Shiraj Afif in the days of the Khaljis, “the Turks, whenever they please, can seize, buy or sell any Hindu.” [Nuh Sephr, trs, in ED III, 561]. No wonder that 50,000 slave boys were engaged in his personal services and 70,000 slaves worked continuously in his buildings. Ziauddin Barani describes the continuous arrival of batches of slaves in the markets of Delhi and elsewhere.
Following the Khaljis, the Tughlaqs ascended to the Sultanate and they outstripped the notorious Khaljis in making wars against the Hindus and enslaving them. Shihabuddin Ahmed Abbas writes of Muhammad Tughlaq, “The Sultan never ceases to show the greatest zeal in making war upon the infidels… Everyday, thousands of slaves are sold at a very slow price, so great is the number of prisoners”. [Masalik-ul-Absar, E.D. III, 580]. He subjugated as far as Dwarsamudra, Malabar, Kampil, Warangal, Lakhnauti, Satgaon, Sonargaon, Nagarkat and Sambhal amongst the prominent places. [Qaraunab Turks, 96, 126, 129-30, 173]. He also ruthlessly put down 16 major rebellions. In each campaign, after defeat and massacre of the opponent, slaves were captured with gusto. The famous Muslim traveler Ibn Battutah testifies that in the defeat of Halajun rebellion (of Lahore), the capture of the women of the rebels were sent to the far-off Gwalior fort whom Battutah had seen there. [Battutah, p. 123]. The Tughlaqs would capture the Hindu slaves round the years, convert them to Muslims and on the two Eid-days, he will marry them off according to the Islamic tradition. [Battutah, p. 63].
Firoz Tughlaq, who ascended to the throne in 1351, outstripped his father and grandfather in slave-taking by all kind of methods and means, so much so that he acquired 180,000 of them. Contemporary Shams Shiraj Afif further testifies that during Firoz Tughlaq “Slaves became too numerous” and that the institution took root in every centre of the country. [Afif, pp. 267-273]. Firoz Tughloq was known to be relatively kind-hearted of the Sultans and yet according to Afif he killed 180,000 Bengalis in his expedition in Bengal and had erected a Tower of skulls [Lal, p. 73].
Amir Timur’s barbarism continued in the 15th century. In 1400, Timur devastated the country in and around Tifflis. In 1403, he returned to Tifflis to devastate the country again and destroyed the 700 large villages and minor towns, massacred the inhabitant and razed the Churches to the ground. Amir Timur thoroughly and systematically destroyed the Christians and as a result, the Nestorians and Jacobites of Mesopotamia have never recovered. At Sivas, 4,000 Christians were buried alive; at Tus, there were 10,000 victims. Historians estimate the number of dead at Saray to be 100,000; at Baghdad 90,000 and at Isfahan 70,000 [Why I am Not a Muslim, Ibn Warraq, pp. 234-235].
Over in Constantinople, Sultan Mehemet unleashed utter barbarism. When Constantinople fell to the Muslim army, the Sultan allowed his soldiers to massacre the population for three days. They poured into the city and slew every men, women and children they met in the streets [Ruchimen, The Fall of Constantinople, 1453, p. 145].
The Muslim Sultanate of India became divided into a few largely independent territories under different Muslim rulers during much of the 15th century, although the condition of the Hindus never changed. War against the Hindu community continued along with capture of slaves for selling. Then came Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur, a descendent of the barbaric Amir Timur, who defeated the fanatic Sikandar Lodi in 1526 and instituted the Mogul rule (1525 – 1707) in India. Babur, an orthodox Muslim, continued the Jihadi wars against the Hindu dominated regions of India. He continued with the destruction of the Hindu temples, the prominent example is the much controversial Babri Mosque in Ayodhya. Babur’s determination to exterminate the vestiges of Hindu idolatry was explicitly narrated in his own diary before battle against Rana Sanga. Babur wrote in Jihadi zeal, “I made public the resolution to abstain from wine. My servants… dashed upon the earth, the flagons and the cups. They dashed them into pieces as God willing, soon will be dashed, the Gods of the idolaters” [Babur Nama, Vol II, p. 554-5]. Babur and his soldiers destroyed Hindu temples in many parts of the country. [Babur Nama, Vol II, p. 340]. After winning the War against Rana Sangha, Babur ordered the set-up of a Tower of slaughtered pagan heads as a trophy for the victory. Similar tower of dead pagan heads was created after the victory at Chanderi against Medini Rai [Baburnama, pp. 483-84, 596]
However, the misery and persecution of Hindu and other non-Muslims eased up a little bit after emperor Akbar came to the throne in 1656, who abolished discrimination, including Jizya, against the Hindus despite severe displeasure and protests from the Ulema and Muslims in general. However, persecution against the Hindus continued in various forms, especially his extreme eagerness and success in capturing the lands under the non-Muslim control. In the attack of Rana Pratap Singh in Rajastan; when the news of defeat of the Rajputs reached the palace, a few hundred noble women set fire on themselves to commit Jauher, in order to avoid being captured at the hands of Akbar’s lustful soldiers. Akbar accumulated a mind-boggling 5,000 women in his harem through various means.
The Jews of Yemen were forced to choose between death and conversion in 1678. In 1617 and 1622, the Jews of Persia were declared apostates and suffered a wave of forced conversion and persecution. During the reign of Shah Abbas II (1642-1666), all the Jews of Persia were forced to convert, between 1653 and 1666. Taverniar, the 17th century French traveler, records as to how in Anatolia, “Everyday there were numerous Greeks who are forced to become Turks”.
Over in Persia, the persecution of the Zoroastrians got worse in the 17th century. Persecutions included levying extra hefty taxes, frequent looting of their homes and properties, forcing them to wear distinctive clothing, prohibiting building new houses or repairing old ones.
In the Indian front, following Akbar’s death, the semblance of equality that was instituted, started a reversal by his own son Jahanghir, which further worsened under Shahjahan. Jahangir writes that 500-600 thousand people were killed during the rule of Akbar and Jahangir. However, it was all undone when Akbar’s great grandson Aurangzeb ascended throne in 1658. He instituted Islamic Sharia as the ruling principle, reintroduced Jizya and launched a Jihadi campaign of forced conversion of the non-Muslims and destruction of non-Muslim religious institutions. When the Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur Singh went to Aurangzeb’s palace to inquire about forced conversion of the Hindus of Kashmir, he was tortured and executed in 1675. Aurangzeb’s rule saw destruction of nearly 10,000 Hindu, Jain and Buddhist temples. In the campaign of 1679-1680, 123 temples were destroyed in Udaipur, 63 in Chittor, 66 in Jaipur [Ibn Warraq, p. 224]. After defeating and taking Maratha king Sambhuraj and his minister Kavikalash prisoner, their eyes were extracted, tongue were cut off and after a fortnight’s torture, their limbs were hacked one by one and thrown to the dogs (1689). [Lal, p. 75]
Persecution of the Zoroastrians continued in the 18th century so much so that their numbers “declined disastrously due to combined effects of massacres, forced conversions, and emigration” [Encyclopedia of Islam, Ed II].
The Jews of Jedda were expelled between 1770 and 1786, who flew to Yemen. In 1790, Jews were massacred in Tetuan (Morocco).
Aurangzeb’s policy of persecution and destruction of temples continued in the early 18th century until he died in 1707.
In Persia, there was forced conversion of Jews in 1839. According the Bernard Lewis, there was also forced conversion of Persian Jews in the 1840s.
In 1828, Jews of Baghdad were massacred. In 1834, a cycle of violence and pillage began against the Jews and their properties in Safed. In 1839, massacre of Jews occurred in Meshed (Iran). The survivors had to suffer forced conversion. A massacre of the Jews took place in Barfurush in 1867. In 1840, the Jews of Damascus suffered first in a series of blood libels, which spread to many cities. Other outbreaks of violence, murder and pillage of the Jews and their properties occurred in Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and the Arab countries.
Starting in the 7th century, the Armenian Christians suffered terribly in the 19th century. The Turks massacred about 250,000 Armenian Christians in 1894-1896 in a planned and methodical design. General pillage was unleashed. Villages were burned and hundreds of Churches were plundered.
The Zoroastrians faced increased persecution too, such that they were living in complete insecurity and poverty in the 19th century.
Massacre of the Armenians continued in the early 20th century. In 1904 and in 1909 CE, about 30,000 Armenians were slaughtered in Adana. The most horrible mass murder of Armenians occurred in 1915, which can be rightly described as the first genocide of the 20th century. More than 1,000,000 (one million) Armenians were systematically massacred – thousands were shot to death, drowned (included Children), thrown over the cliffs and the survivors were deported or reduced to slavery – which served as the model for Hitler’s massacre of the Jews in the WW-II.
There is clear evidence of slavery persisting in Saudi Arabia and the Yemen even in the 1950s. A report in a French Magazine in the 1990s gave an estimate of 45,000 Blacks are being kidnapped by the Muslims to be sold in slavery in the Gulf states and the middle east [L Vie, no.2562, Oct 6, 1994].
Islam a legacy of incessant Jihad since it inception
To this long list of Islamic violence, we have to add another major incidence, termed ‘Dewshirme’ which was instituted by the Ottoman Sultan Orkhan in 1330. Following the Prophet’s tradition of one-fifth of the booty captured from the infidels belonging to the State, Dewshrime consisted of periodic collection of one-fifth of the Christian children over 7 years of age as the property of the state. The Christian parents, belonging to Greek aristocracy, the Serbs, Bulgarians, Armenians, and Albanians, were obligated to surrender 1/5th of their children to the state every four years. They were converted to Islam and trained as soldiers so that they can wage war against their own blood-brothers in their adulthood. Some scholars say 12,000 while other claim 8,000 children were collected every year under this scheme.
The Jihadi campaign Muhammad had initiated in the 620s until his death in 632, there was not a single period of let-up ever since until this day as accounted in the above chronology. The account of violence, persecution and massacre listed above are only a tip of the iceberg that has occurred to the non-Muslim subjects under the Muslim conquest and rule. Only the prominent events were recorded by the contemporary historians and chroniclers and royal secretaries. While there are numerous other violent incidences which the chroniclers have cited with few details and are hard to make a grasp of the extent of death, destruction and enslavement in those cases.
The Silent Persecution
Another serious form of persecution of the non-Muslims in Muslim countries has received little attention that requires mention. I will discuss it in the context of moderate Muslim countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan which will apply to minorities of all Muslim countries across the globe. The post-separation Hindu population in 1947 stood at 15% in Pakistan and 30% in Bangladesh (East Bengal until 1971). However, the current Hindu population stands at ~1% in Pakistan and ~10% in Bangladesh. On the other hand, the proportion of the Muslim population in Hindu-dominated India has increased instead.
This massive exodus of Hindu population from Pakistan and Bangladesh (East Bengal) represent a very grave and yet unnoticed and uncared for persecution of the minorities in Muslim countries. In recent time, multiple reports in news media have given accounts of how the Hindus and other minorities are being forced to convert to Islam in Pakistan. Living in the subcontinent Muslim country, I have witnessed how a Hindu person, having lands and properties next to an influential Muslim village leader, would be harassed by the latter such that the latter would be forced to sell the land to the village leader and leave the country in humiliation. He would not be allowed to sell his lands to a third party and finally have to surrender the land to the Muslim leader at highly reduced price than that on the market.
The second form of persecution that leads to exodus of Hindus is the rape of the Hindu girls and women by the Muslims in the locality. Indeed, there is a massive rape of Hindu women which is hardly reported to the media and the law agencies. Of the nearly a dozen good-looking Hindu women I have known personally from nearby quarters, about 75% of them were raped by the Muslims – which came to my knowledge from various confidential sources. Surprisingly, as I was told of these stories when I was a believing Muslim, such horrible incidences would not strike our conscience with sadness and guilt but instead would make raunchy and enjoyable pieces of gossips. The general attitude is that it is OK to rape Hindu girls or they deserve to be humiliated by Muslims.
In a conservative society of the subcontinent, the rape of a woman is seen as a great dishonor and humiliation to the victim’s party, not to the rapist. It invariably brings life-long suffering to the victim. This social constraint compels most of such rape cases being kept secret by the victims and their families and relatives if possible. In cases, where the victims seeks to report them to the law agency, there are threat of violence and death on the victim and her family members which further lead to under reporting of the rapes of the Hindu women in these countries. More importantly, a respectable father would never like to see his daughter gets raped and would like to escape the chances at any cost so long there is a means. Indeed, having been blessed with a beautiful daughter is the greatest headache of the Hindu parents in these countries, especially in the countryside. I have seen how the Hindu parents rush to marry off their daughter at an early age, when the girl is a beautiful one. In many cases, parents send their beautiful daughters to India at an early age for studies. The main purpose is to keep them out of the reach of the Muslims, where they normally get married and never return to the home country.
The other kind of the persecution is the kidnapping of the young Hindu girl by Muslim men who like them and rape, forcefully marry and convert them to Islam (http://www.hinduhumanrights.org/Pakistan/index.htm). As a growing-up Muslim, I have witnessed the general notion amongst the Muslims that if you can convert Hindu (or non-Muslim) to Islam through marriage or whatsoever means, Allah will grant paradise to you and your past seven generations in the afterlife. Hence, if there is a beautiful girl in the neighborhood, there is a general feeling amongst the young Muslim boys that it will be auspicious to somehow marry this girl and convert her to Islam to achieve a passport to paradise for your seven generations. There is no greater way to serve to your parent, grandparents and so on. This tendency often encourages Muslim youths to take recourse of kidnapping the Hindu girls they like with assistance from illegal gangs, marry them under coercion and convert them to Islam.
These constraints and difficulties keep minorities in a state of continuous mental persecution, which they can neither complain about, nor bear with. Those who have nominal means, make a journey across the border to the other side to India to secure the safer and honorable future to the subsequent generations. These kinds of silent or soft persecutions which result in such massive exodus and displacement of minority population from their ancestral home in silence to wherever they can to acquire better safety, constitutes a much graver form of persecution than the much publicized terrorism and suicide bombing.
If we consider that Hindu birthrate is similar as Muslims in Bangladesh/East Pakistan, a reduction of Hindus from 30% to 10% since 1947 means there have been an effectively displacement of massive 30 million Hindu people from Bangladesh, given current Bangladesh population stands at 150 millions. And this silent terrorizing and persecution has never received much attention nor termed terrorism, which indeed a tactical form of religious terrorism/persecution. And this kind of persecution continues in Pakistan and Bangladesh without respite and with increasing zeal.
This kind of soft terrorism occurs on the non-Muslim population in most Muslim-dominated countries. Given that Pakistan Bangladesh are considered rather moderate Muslim countries, in more fundamentalist Islamic countries, this soft-terrorism is likely to be worse. However, in every country, such persecution does not necessarily result in exodus of the non-Muslims, since there may not be countries that are willing to give shelter like India unofficially did to the Hindus of Pakistan Bangladesh.
It should be fathomed that this kind of grave and yet unnoticed and unreported soft-terrorism by Muslims continues on such massive scales even in today’s world of justice, massive media reporting, obligation for respecting human rights, equality of all citizens and pressures from a whole groups of international bodies, powerful democratic countries and rights groups. Hence, such soft-terrorism, persecution and other forms of smaller scale violence against the non-Muslim subjects have continued incessantly throughout the entire period of Islamic conquest, domination and rule. The chronological details of the Islamic violence, terrorism and persecution listed above would only form a fraction of the real total.
There should not be any doubt by now that since late 620s, the violence that was initiated by Prophet Muhammad had continued without respite ever since although there may have been some depressions along the way. There must have also been changes in the means of carrying out such terrorism and violence. However, there is one notable difference. The terrorism perpetrated by the Muslims since the early days of Islam to until the early 20th century was perpetrated by the Muslim states. Indeed, it is an obligation of the Islamic state to uphold and carry on the propagation of Islam through violence or whatsoever means as was unleashed by Prophet Muhammad as head of a nascent Islamic state. However, since those much more devastating terrorism and violence were perpetrated by the Muslims states, they are not being recognized as terrorism.
However, the state-terrorism of Islam was brought to an end mainly by the British which came to a virtual end when secular humanist Kemal Ataturk of Turkey dissolved Islamic caliphate in 1924 and introduced secularism. Although there has been a lull in the overt form of terrorism since then for several decades, the soft form of Islamic terrorism has continued as reflected in the steady decline of Hindu population in Pakistan and Bangladesh since 1947.
The development on the world stage especially after the WW-II, such as the formation of UN, various human rights bodies etc. have changed the ways, means and obligations of individual states. Thus although many Muslim countries got back their sovereignty after the WW-II from the former European colonialists, the Governments have been bounded up with all sorts of obligation and treaties that demands respectable treatment of the citizens of any states, irrespective of race, religion and color. Thus the Governments of the Muslim states are unable to re-launch the same type of overt terrorism and violence against the non-Muslims as used to be done in India in the days of bin Kasim, Sultan Mahmud, the Khaljies, the Tughlaqs and the Mughals. Hardly have the Muslim Governments failed to unleash overt terrorism to dominate and expand the Islamic religion, it has changed hands from the state-body to underground fringe groups at the gap of just 3-4 decades. The innovation and easy availability of guns, bombs, rockets, missiles and other modern weapons and Muslim terrorist groups’ ruthless usages of them have added further prominence to the present scourge of Islamic violence.
Although Islamic terrorism started a surge in the 1980s in India, there was little recognition of it as terrorism. But instead, a great part of the Eastern and Western world recognized it as independence movement by Kashmiri Muslims. It was a legitimate movement for self-determination. Then there started terrorism in Chechnya, which again much of the world recognized as legitimate independence movement by the Muslims of Chechnya.
Although there have been isolated terror attacks on Western (mainly US) targets and nationals over the last couple of decades, they have occurred mainly in overseas location, such as, in Lebanon, Yemen and Kenya etc. These terrorist acts, despite being of big impact, did not get its deserving label of Islamic terrorism until the attack of 9/11 in New York. Further uncovering of terrorist cells all across the Western world has further heightened concerns and media-hype of Islamic terrorism over the last few years.
The bottom-line is that Islamic terrorism that we see today is not a new phenomenon. It has occurred continuously since the 7th century institution of the Islamic faith. The only difference is that throughout the Islamic history, the onus of terrorizing the non-Muslims were undertaken by the Islamic states. The ferocity, destruction and violation have been of much greater scales in the Islamic rulers’ devastating attacks of innocent infidel territories and out-posts, slaughtering both military and civilian population (mainly men) in tens of thousands, enslaving their children and women in great multitude and destroying their religious institutions and forcing them to conversion. The present scourge of terrorist atrocity is virtually negligible as compared to those unleashed by the Islamic rulers on the infidels throughout the Islamic history. Just because the tentacles of Islamic terrorism have reached the Western world – it has become such a hype in the last few years post-9/11.
- Ibn Warraq, Why I am Not a Muslim
- KS Lal, Muslim Slave System in Medieval India
- KS Lal, Theory and Practice of Muslim State in India
- Shashi R Sharma, Caliphs & Sultans – Religious Ideology and Political Praxis
- Benjamin Walker, Foundations of Islam