One of the most controversial issues these days related to Islam is that of war and violence, i.e. does Islam as a religion promote violence, are Muslims inherently or especially violent, and is it legitimate for Muslims to have waged war in the past to spread their religion (although more sophisticated critics these days have recognized that there weren’t forced conversions).
This debate has produced a lot of literature, and people have responded to the issues in various ways. The main focus has been on the why: for what reasons did Muslims wage war, what motivated them, and what role did wanting to spread or glorify Islam play – as opposed to responding to aggression, defending the oppressed, and so on.
But there’s been much less focus on the how. Clearly, the Prophet (SAW) and his Companions achieved tremendous military success. They took down the Persian Empire and much of the Byzantine Empire, the great powers of their age. It’s worth asking: what was their military strategy? How did they manage to march against enemies much stronger than them and still win? These people were not trained in fancy military academies and did not have experience fighting against great powers. Ultimately, even on the battlefield, they looked to their religion for guidance and inspiration.
In this post, I’ll look at 3 different primary sources that hold theological weight for Muslims: the Quran, the ahadith (sayings) of the Prophet, and the actions of the Companions, especially the rightly-guided Caliphs. From these, I’ll draw some broad principles for how Muslims should wage war. I’ll also give examples from history, both Islamic and general, of these principles being used or ignored and how it led to victory or defeat.
Continue reading “Muslim Doctrine of Warfare: Beyond Just War Theory”
My first thought after reading this book was to be mad at myself for not having read this earlier. As someone who follows world politics very closely, especially the regions whose history is covered in this book (which can broadly be described as “Asia”), knowing the history of this region is essential. There’s no way to understand what’s happening in the world today without understanding “how we got here” – and that’s this book’s #1 contribution and why I think it’s a must-read.
The book starts out with Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt, which is often given as the moment when modernity arrived to the Muslim world. It then talks about India & China, before pivoting to Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani and giving a detailed picture of his life and evolution. Continue reading “Review of “From the Ruins of Empire” by Pankaj Mishra”
The book starts its narrative when the British East India Company was founded around 1600 CE. It also talks about what India was like in this time, describing the later parts of Mughal rule. It then focuses on Bengal, talking about how the British established themselves there and slowly spread their influence. The battles of Plassey and Buxar are discussed in detail, as well as the social and political changes that followed them, such as the great famine.
Continue reading “Review of “The Anarchy” by William Dalrymple”
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم، وصلوات الله وسلامه على أشرف المرسلين
In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
This blog post is adapted from my notes taken from Dr. Jonathan A. C. Brown’s lecture on the topic of historical criticism and how it’s been applied to Islamic primary texts, especially the hadith collections. Watch the lecture here: part 1 – part 2 – part 3. Note that it’s about 3 hours long including the Q&A, so be warned. It’s definitely worth a watch though, from beginning to end.
The lecture was given around the time that the UK government-sponsored documentary Islam: The Untold Story by charlatan historian Tom Holland was in the news. Basically, the documentary tries to tell a speculative revisionist story of the origins of Islam. Dr. Brown’s lecture is not a direct response to the documentary, but it contextualizes some of the assumptions being made in this documentary and other revisionist pieces that are claiming to examine Islam from a “critical” lens. Anyway, I’ll end the introduction here and start the portion based on my notes. Note that the section “My Thoughts” at the end of this post is not based on the lecture; those opinions are strictly mine.
Continue reading “Dr. Jonathan Brown on Historical Criticism of Islamic Primary Texts”