Onward Muslim Soldiers was Robert Spencer's first major book on Islam and jihad, and so it's a tad strange that it's the last one I read, but it is without doubt one of his best. This book is absolutely packed with information and meticulous scholarship regarding the concept of jihad within Islam, traced back from the Qur'an, through Islamic history, to the modern day. As far as I am concerned there is no better source out there for this apart from the Islamic texts themselves.
This is Spencer's longest book and is crammed with details, many of which HAVEN'T subsequently been repeated in his more recent books. One of the things that most impressed me about it is that a clear and logical line is drawn throughout the book which directly, through a chain of Islamic tradition, connects the words of Muhammad and seventh-century Islamic jurists, through medieval scholars and theorists into the 20th century and right through to modern day jihadists. There is ample proof collected here that today's Islamic terrorists are not "hijacking" their religion, but acting on tenets which were established in the time of Muhammad and have been maintained ever since. The section which outlines the writings of jihad theorist Sayyid Qutb is particularly fascinating.
Overall, Spencer's work is not to be missed if anyone wants to learn the truth about Islam, rather than the carefully-cultivated falsehoods we are constantly fed by the mainstream media. It is heavy on the details, though, so I would suggest that beginners read "The Politically Incorrect Guide To Islam (And The Crusades)" first, which is a bit easier to swallow. Then, if you have any further questions about jihad, read this book and they will likely be answered.Read more ›
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194 of 203 people found the following review helpful
Shattering Taboos on Jihad and Dhimmitude16 Sept. 2003
Andrew G. Bostom
- Published on Amazon.com
Robert Spencer's meticulous research and documentation, complemented by a lucid writing style, has yielded a remarkably informative work that transitions seamlessly between classical Islamic theology, jurisprudence, and sociopolitical history, and contemporary events, especially modern manifestations of jihad war ideology. Moreover, Spencer's analyses are devoid of politically correct, ahistorical dithering. This is apparent from the opening chapter (in the first of the books three main sections), and the illustrative example of the infamous grenade and small arms attack by American sergeant Hasan Akbar, an African-American convert to Islam, which killed two of his senior officers and wounded 15 others, in northern Kuwait on March 22, 2003. After reviewing statements by designated spokespersons (an Army chaplain and a Pentagon official) dismissing (reflexively) Islamic ideology as a potential motivating factor, and the predictable defense counsel and family attempts to portray religious and/or racial discrimination against Akbar as precipitating the arrest, Spencer cites sacred texts from the Qur'an and hadith (putative deeds and utterances of Muhammad as recorded by his pious followers) prohibiting Muslims from fighting their co-religionists.
The author's provocative analysis is supported by a succinct introduction to the unique Islamic institution of jihad (including jihad war), its central obligation to pious Muslims, and how jihad is linked inextricably to the corollary institution of "dhimmitude." He then makes further disquieting observations germane to contemporary jihad "campaigns" and the basic human rights of all non-Muslims living in societies whose legal codes are inspired either in full or part by the Shari'a (Islamic Holy Law). Subsequently, Spencer returns to the Akbar case, specifically, to review evidence of the funding and related ideological orientation of the mosque attended by Sergeant Akbar. Jihad was pursued century after century, because jihad, which means "to strive in the path of Allah," embodied an ideology and a jurisdiction. Both were formally conceived by Muslim jurisconsults and theologians from the 8th and 9th centuries onward, based on their interpretation of Qur'an verses and long chapters in the hadith. As Spenser notes, appropriately, the consensus on the nature of jihad from all four schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence (i.e., Maliki, Hanbali, Hanafi, and Shafi'i) is clear. Spencer then reviews the historical implications of the Qur'an's injunction in verse 9:29:
"Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of The Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, feel themselves subdued."
For example, al-Mawardi (d. 1058), a seminal Shafi'ite jurist during the Abbasid-Baghdadian Caliphate, elucidated the regulations pertaining to the lands and infidel (i.e., non-Muslim) populations subjugated by jihad. The vanquished non-Muslims were compelled to adhere to this pact ("dhimma"), which acknowledged their submission, or face the threat of having the jihad against them resumed. If the payment ceases, then the jihad resumes. This is the origin of the system of dhimmitude- a vast, uniquely Islamic institution of religious apartheid, implemented for over a millennium across three continents- Asia, Africa, and Europe- from the Indian subcontinent to Portugal, north through the Balkans, and south to The Sudan. The native infidel populations had to recognize Islamic ownership of their land, submit to Islamic law, and accept payment of the poll tax (jizya). Spencer provides this reasoned, sobering assessment of the modern predicament created by the living institutions of jihad and dhimmitude, which is consistently obfuscated by his timid or uninformed peers in modern Western intellectual circles:
"...the simple fact that jihad remains a vital part of Islamic theology is insufficiently appreciated in the West. In stark contrast to apologies for the Crusades issued by the Pope and various Protestant groups, no major Muslim group has ever repudiated the doctrines of jihad. The ideology of jihad, with all its assumptions about unbelievers' lack of human rights and dignity, is available today as a justification for anyone with the will and the means to bring it to life... The author segues from the Akbar case to a host of other chilling examples which illustrate the pervasive influence of jihad and dhimmitude in both the U.S. and European Muslim communities- primarily mosques expounding these institutions, but also intermediate school textbooks, and college student organizations (for e.g., chapters of the Muslim Student Association).
Spencer's carefully referenced, but concise, thoughtful discussions address a truly impressive array of issues critical to an informed understanding of international jihad conflicts and terrorism. Most importantly, he describes how seminal 20th century Muslim ideologues- the Shi'ite Ayatollah Khomeini, and four Sunnis - Hasan al Banna, Sayyid Qutb, Sayyid Abul A'la Maududi, and Abdullah Azzam - revitalized and implemented the classical Islamic institutions of jihad and dhimmitude. Since the 1930s, their teachings and actions have had a profound impact on every major jihad campaign across the globe (including, but not limited to Israel, India, Bangladesh, Iran, Sudan, Indonesia, former Yugoslavia, and Algeria). Osama bin Laden, who orchestrated the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, was influenced deeply and directly by Abdullah Azzam, with whom he studied and fought alongside, in Afghanistan.
Sadly, as Robert Spencer demonstrates, dhimmitude is still ignored or obfuscated, and most Muslim (and many Western) intellectuals continue to justify the jihad concept as an inoffensive spiritual engagement with one's own evil instincts, or purely "defensive" combat for "justice." Let us hope the author's elegant, uncompromising analyses prompt intellectual and media elites in general, and the Muslim intelligentsia and media, in particular, to begin the long overdue process of a (self-) critical reflection on the uniquely Islamic institutions of jihad and dhimmitude. Only then can meaningful interfaith dialogue begin to facilitate sincere efforts at reconciliation between Muslim and non-Muslim societies and peoples.
130 of 137 people found the following review helpful
Militant Islam Exposed10 Mar. 2004
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In this book Robert Spencer argues that violence and terrorism are not necessarily out of place for a Muslim. The Koran, Islamic law (Sharia), the example of Muhammad and Islamic history all provide support for these sorts of activities. With a wealth of documentation, the author shows that the concept of jihad (holy war) and dhimmitude (the subjugation of non-Muslim minorities), continues to strongly influence many Muslims today. Consider the doctrine of jihad. Just what does it mean and involve? Because there is no ultimate central authority in Islam, argues Spencer, disagreement exists as to interpreting the Koran, the weight of tradition (Hadith), and the example of Muhammad. But the Koran (Sura 9:29), Islamic history and jurisprudence all hold that there are three choices for the non-Muslim in a Muslim land: conversion to Islam, dhimmitude, or death. "The goal of jihad is thus the incorporation of non-Muslims into Muslim society, either by conversion or submission." Koranic injunctions to fight are numerous, as they are in the various collections of Hadith. And Muhammad himself set the example of violent conquest. The idea of complete submission to Islam, even to the point of death, argues Spencer, "remains a vital part of Islamic theology". Thus jihad is very much concerned with the concept of holy war, and even terrorism. Hand in hand with jihad is the notion of dhimmitude. Non-Muslims in Muslim countries are considered dhimmis, or protected peoples. Such protection however often results in second-class citizenship (and worse) for the minority groups. Various social, political and religious restrictions, along with the mandatory payment of a poll-tax (jizya) effectively spells the gradual liquidation of the minority groups. Apologists for Islam often claim that these practices may have been true in the past, but are no longer so prevalent. But Spencer amply documents how both jihad and dhimmitude are alive and well in most Muslim nations today. September 11 was, to a great degree, a logical outcome of the concept of jihad. Some however argue that as the ultimate suicide bombing, Sept. 11 cannot be reconciled with Islam, since suicide is sinful in Islam. But many Muslims defend suicide bombing, arguing that it is not really suicide but martyrdom for Allah, something much praised in the Koran. They insist that the bombers simply use their bodies to kill others, not themselves. And those who are killed while fighting for Allah are promised a one-way ticket to Paradise. Interestingly, in Islam, no other action guarantees one's eternal destiny in Paradise. A good part of this book documents how radical Islam is at war against not only the West, but moderate Muslims as well. He offers detailed, referenced accounts of how militant Muslims are at work in the West, and how many Western sympathisers have been duped by their words of peace and tolerance. Yes, the Koran does speak of these ideas, but it also contains many verses devoted to violent intolerance. He documents how Western leftists have been silent on Muslim atrocities, presumably because only America is capable of evil. He details how leftist apologists for radical Islam in the West have distorted the evidence and closed their ears to the facts of history. This attempt to blame America first and justify Muslim jihad are having serious repercussions in the West, says Spencer. And the truth is, he argues, for the radical Muslim, Islam is at war with the world, and until all the earth is brought under Dar al-Islam (the house, or rule, of Islam), terror, fighting and suicide bombings will continue. That is why the West needs to be ever vigilant, and needs to continue to encourage moderate Islam to gets its own house in order, and disassociate itself entirely from the extremist elements. While we must do all we can to encourage Muslim moderation, we dare not ignore Muslim extremism. This books helps us to do both, and deserves a wide reading.
75 of 80 people found the following review helpful
Islamic Law is a human rights issue10 Sept. 2003
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This follow-up to Islam Unveiled focuses on jihad, a concept embedded deeply in Islam which makes peaceful coexistence with the West difficult. Spencer outlines the lives and thought of the twentieth century theologians who elaborated the theories of radical Islam. His wide ranging perspective shows that the war on terror is much more than a Wahabbi problem. Shiites, Egyptian Sunnis and even Sufis are part of the mix. Some of this includes very entertaining stories of a radical Muslim theologian who spent some time in American suburbia - as you can guess the radical hated it! Spencer reports how the increasing Muslim population has already changed Europe. He explores the truly weird alliance between the libertine American left and religiously strict Islamic radicals. He shows how history has been utterly distorted for political ends. He reports how Islamic extremists have embedded themselves among Islamic leaders right here in America and around the world. Most importantly, Spencer implores us to realize that we are fighting a jihad whether we like it or not, because that is what our enemies have thrust upon us. They are motivated by a desire to brutally make the world conform to their vision of truth. Onward Muslim Soldiers is important to anyone trying to make sense of history's latest turn. It is well written and quite well documented; it is both a great read and a great source book on radical islam.
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Brings up an issue we all need to face26 Jan. 2005
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The author says that some areas in the world are undergoing demographic changes. For example, the Netherlands may have a Muslim majority by the year 2040 (then again, it may not). Should that worry those of us who are Christians, Muslims, Jews, or Pagans? As well as those of us who are not?
Well, if we're going to live together in peace, I think it all sounds really good. The newcomers probably will contribute greatly to Holland. And those Dutch who convert will make their society more diverse. But what if the Muslims are led mostly by extremists? What if we get a society led by something more like the Mafia, or the Ku Klux Klan, or the Stalinists, or the National Socialists, or the Maoists, or simply the Taliban? Then I think we have less reason to be optimistic. And the author of this book agrees.
In the first part of this book, Spencer discusses Jihad now. He explains that dhimmitude is a direct challenge to the proposition that all people are created equal with unalienable rights. He points out that the Wahhabis, the majority in Saudi Arabia, are one of the most extreme of the Islamic sects, and that they routinely identify their enemies as "Jews and Christians." He gives examples of hatred taught to schoolchildren from Wahhabi texts, not just in Saudi Arabia, but right here in Muslim schools in the United States. Typical of the preaching is the claim that Wahhabi dead go to Paradise while Jewish dead go to Hell. Given the company each would have there, I suspect that if this is true, the Jews are getting the better deal.
I think a very revealing comment is a quote from two eleven-year old Arab girls. They were asked which they would prefer, to have peace and full rights for all Arab people or for the two of them to die as martyrs. Interestingly, they immediately chose martyrdom: peace and justice were not important to them, even on their terms.
The second part of the book deals with the history of Muslim Jihad. Here, Spencer exposes the myth that non-Muslims were treated well in Islamic lands. Some non-Muslims did indeed do well, but none had the rights of Muslims. And he also points out a very interesting statistic. Fifty years ago, Christians were 15% of the total population of the Middle East. They are now 2% of that population. And it is pressure from radical Islam that has caused this.
As Spencer says, "the problem of radical Islam is not a liberal or conservative issue. It is a human rights issue." But many people on the political Left seem to apologize for radical Islam. Why? The author gives the answer: it is because radical Islam is anti-American.
I think it is a big mistake for anyone who has any sympathy for liberalism to support reactionary terrorism, but it seems that many people strongly disagree with me about this. As for the author, he regards those who ally themselves with America's enemies as having chosen sides in a war we're in. I agree with him about this.
Well, what is to be done about the threat of radical Islam? Spencer comes up with three main suggestions: monitor mosques, control immigration, and encourage moderate Islam at home and abroad.
As a liberal, I'm nervous about monitoring mosques. But I do think that we need to have some way to give law-abiding and loyal Muslims a way to demonstrate that they are not the problem. Otherwise, I fear that all Muslims will be treated with suspicion here.
The author thinks that Muslim organizations in this country need to renounce a theology of jihad and dhimmitude. Once again, I think we need to find out which organizations are openly and explicitly willing to do this. And finally, Spencer warns us that we do not encourage moderate Islam by being "politically correct" and pretending that extremists are in fact moderate. The author concludes that those of us who love freedom need to oppose jihad.
I highly recommend this book to everyone.
74 of 84 people found the following review helpful
Finally - The Unvarnished Truth About Jihad!16 Sept. 2003
- Published on Amazon.com
This incredibly insightful book dares to speak the truth about Jihad. A work of caution: this book is not for the faint of heart, or for those happily living in a world of political correctness. This is a courageous book and is meant for those courageous enough to want to know the unvarnished truth about the threat of Jihad. Robert Spencer's research is thorough, his conclusions are reasoned, and his work is brilliant, if sobering. I am not a Muslim, but like many, after 9/11, I was eager to learn more about Islam and Jihad. I am grateful to Robert Spencer for his work. He supports his position by relying almost exclusively on Muslim sources which are generally unknown in the West but are fundamental to the Islamic faith. Further, he has meticulously referenced his sources so that anyone that takes issue with his writing can check the truth of the book for themselves. This is a story that needs to be told. Kudos to Robert Spencer for spelling it out for us!