Thursday, May 23, 2013

Islam's 'Purpose Driven' Jihad, Parts 2 & 3

Continued from Part 1

II. The First Jihad: Islam’s Purpose Expands

Key to our consideration is how even in this early period, the Islamic treatment of Christians was already well established. By 640 A.D. the caliph Umar was already applying to the conquered areas the dhimma contract used by Muhammad when he subdued the Jews of the Khaybar oasis. Under the terms of the dhimma, Christians and Jews who do not convert to Islam but submit to Muslim rule, retain possession of their land, but actual ownership of the land passed to the Muslims, to whom the subdued peoples paid a heavy tribute (the jizya). Refusal to submit to Muslim rule and pay the jizya was grounds for resumption of hostilities (jihad). Contemporary historical accounts by both Christian and (significantly) Muslim writers describe the devastation of whole towns, desecration of churches, slaughter of civilians, and taking of slaves and booty. [1]

The initial Muslim takeover of Jerusalem in 637-638 was a catastrophe to the Christians. The Life of St Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, offers this synopsis:

Toward the end of his life, St Sophronius and his flock lived through a two year siege of Jerusalem by the Moslems. Worn down by hunger, the Christians finally agreed to open the city gates, on the condition that the enemy spare the holy places. But this condition was not fulfilled, and St Sophronius died in grief over the desecration of the Christian holy places.
Sophronius’ own writings reveal just how brutal was the early Islamic jihad: [2]

We, however, because of our innumerable sins and serious misdemeanours, are unable to see these things, and are prevented from entering Bethlehem by way of the road. Unwillingly, indeed, contrary to our wishes, we are required to stay at home, not bound closely by bodily bonds, but bound by fear of the Saracens. (Christmas Sermon, 634 A.D.) 

At once that of the Philistines, so now the army of the godless Saracens has captured the divine Bethlehem and bars our passage there, threatening slaughter and destruction if we leave this holy city and dare to approach our beloved and sacred Bethlehem. (Christmas Sermon 634 A.D.) 

[This dates to the 6th of December in 636 or 637.]: 
But the present circumstances are forcing me to think differently about our way of life, for why are [so many] wars being fought among us? Why do barbarian raids abound? Why are the troops of the Saracens [Muslims] attacking us? Why has there been so much destruction and plunder? Why are there incessant outpourings of human blood? Why are the birds of the sky devouring human bodies? Why have churches been pulled down? Why is the cross mocked? Why is Christ, who is the dispenser of all good things and the provider of this joyousness of ours, blasphemed by pagan mouths (ethnikois tois stomasi) so that he justly cries out to us: "Because of you my name is blasphemed among the pagans," and this is the worst of all the terrible things that are happening to us. That is why the vengeful and God-hating Saracens, the abomination of desolation clearly foretold to us by the prophets, overrun the places which are not allowed to them, plunder cities, devastate fields, burn down villages, set on fire the holy churches, overturn the sacred monasteries, oppose the Byzantine armies arrayed against them, and in fighting raise up the trophies [of war] and add victory to victory. Moreover, they are raised up more and more against us and increase their blasphemy of Christ and the church, and utter wicked blasphemies against God. Those God-fighters boast of prevailing over all, assiduously and unrestrainably imitating their leader, who is the devil, and emulating his vanity because of which he has been expelled from heaven and been assigned to the gloomy shades. Yet these vile ones would not have accomplished this nor seized such a degree of power as to do and utter lawlessly all these things, unless we had first insulted the gift [of baptism] and first defiled the purification, and in this way grieved Christ, the giver of gifts, and prompted him to be angry with us, good though he is and though he takes no pleasure in evil, being the fount of kindness and not wishing to behold the ruin and destruction of men. We are ourselves, in truth, responsible for all these things and no word will be found for our defence. What word or place will be given us for our defence when we have taken all these gifts from him, befouled them and defiled everything with our vile actions? (Holy Baptism, 166-167) 

[In a work originally composed by John Moschus (d. 619), but expanded by Sophronius (d. ca. 639), actually found only in an addition of the Georgian translation, the following entry appears, concerning a construction dated by tradition at 638, i.e., soon after the capture of Jerusalem ca. 637. It appears in a portion concerning Sophronius as recounted on the authority of his contemporary, the archdeacon Theodore, and may have been written down ca. 670.]: 
The godless Saracens entered the holy city of Christ our Lord, Jerusalem, with the permission of God and in punishment for our negligence, which is considerable, and immediately proceeded in haste to the place which is called the Capitol. They took with them men, some by force, others by their own will, in order to clean that place and to build that cursed thing, intended for their prayer and which they call a mosque (midzgitha). (Pratum spirituale, 100-102)

The pattern of violent jihad continued as the Muslim invaders extended their dominion over north Africa, eventually crossing to the Iberian peninsula (modern day Spain), and heading north into Gaul (modern day France), being stopped just south of Paris in 732 A.D. at the Battle of Poitiers. Cilicia, Armenia, the island of Cyprus, and Cappodocia (southern Turkey) were conquered by 650 A.D., and Constantinople itself was attacked and under siege from 674 to 678 A.D., the Byzantines finally winning by land and sea to turn back the Arab Muslims under caliph Muawiyah I. A second siege of Constantinople in 717-718 was also decisively defeated, securing the Byzantine Empire for a time, and taken together with the Frank’s victory over the Muslims at the Battle of Tours (732 A.D.) stopped Islam’s two-front push into Europe.   By 750 A.D. the Arab wave of jihad had passed its apogee.

Islam’s early assault against the Christian world, and especially its two sieges of Constantinople, the eastern capitol of Christendom, are a direct result of the Islamic purpose.

III.  Byzantine Resurgence, the Crusades, and the Ottoman Jihad

Though the Arab Jihad had effectively ceased by 750 A.D., Muslim raids into Christian lands did not. Nor did persecution of Christians in Muslim occupied lands, especially in the Holy Land. In the Christian mind, both Eastern and Western, the Muslim occupation was just that. The Byzantine Emperors Nicephorus II and John I reconquered significant areas of Palestine and Syria in the tenth century, including Aleppo and Antioch, as well as retaking Crete and Cyprus, and even drew near Jerusalem, but these victories were short lived.  

In 1009 A.D. the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other Christian holy sites were destroyed by the Muslims, ushering in a wave of persecution, and the Seljuk Turks began their forays into Byzantine territory (Armenia) in 1065 and 1067 A.D.  The surprise defeat of the Byzantines at Manzikert in 1071 left Anatolia open to Turkish incursions; within ten years the Turks had taken the entire Anatolian plain, setting up their capitol, Nicaea, less than sixty miles from Constantinople. The Crusades delayed the Turkish jihad against Constantinople for nearly three hundred years (although the tragic Fourth Crusade sack of Constantinople in 1204 further weakened the Byzantine structures), until the fourteenth century. Finally, the Ottomans under Mehmet II captured Constantinople in May 1453, bringing the Byzantine Empire to an end, and ushering in a new era for the Church, in captivity and subjugation to an alien, anti-Christian power and religion.

To be continued . . .

[1] Bat Ye’or, The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam (Madison: Faireigh Dickinson University Press, 1996), 44, 46-47. 
[2] External References to Islam, Peter Kirby,; accessed May 20, 2013.