For those who still think -- and, alas, there remain many -- that Islamic terrorism has emerged only in the last forty years or so, The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS, Robert Spencer’s carefully researched work on jihad from the beginning of Muhammad’s political and prophetical career to the acts of terrorism of September, 11, 2001, will be a salutary shock.
Robert Spencer has been telling, and warning, us of the activities of the jihadists at his website Jihad Watch since 2003. Every single day for fifteen years now, he has kept a vigilant eye on all the barbarisms of the Islamic terrorists, and is surely the best informed and almost the only truly qualified expert capable of analyzing the phenomenon of jihad throughout history. On so many sad occasions when he was not taken seriously enough, Spencer was forced to remind us, “I told you so.” It is time to listen to Robert Spencer.
It will not be at all easy to refute Spencer’s latest book, since he, for the first three Islamic centuries, relies almost entirely on the Arabic sources, that is Muslim historians and scholars, such as Ibn Ishaq, Al-Tabari, Ibn Sa’d, Bukhari, Tirmidhi, and Muslim, who paint a grim picture of the early Islamic conquests.
One of the chief merits of Spencer’s account of Muhammad’s career in this book’s first chapter is that he relies entirely on those earliest extant Arabic sources, and if the picture that emerges of the Prophet of Islam is far from flattering, Muslims, at least, cannot complain that it is a portrait painted by the enemy or infidels. Unfortunately, much of the subsequent bloody history of Islam that is recounted in this book can be seen to derive from the example set by its founder: his intolerance of non-Muslims, his anti-Jewish sentiments, his attitude to women, all are attested to in the Islamic sources.
Thanks to Spencer’s book, we can no longer pretend that Islamic fundamentalism is an aberrant form of Islam. The seeds of violence and intolerance are already there in seventh-century Arabia, and in the life of Muhammad.
For the later Middle Ages, Spencer has also diligently consulted the primary sources where possible, and has relied upon recognized modern scholars such as Ignaz Goldziher, Bernard Lewis, Bat Ye’or, and Steven Runciman, among others. Spanning centuries and continents, from the seventh to the twentieth century, from Spain to India, Spencer takes us on a tour of the global jihad that is Islamic history.
Along the way, he shatters many myths, such as the myth of the Golden Age of Spain, a putative period of ecumenical harmony, a kind of perpetual medieval Woodstock Summer of love. He also puts the Crusades into perspective, and reminds us that the Crusades were a belated response to years and years of jihad, and persecution of Christians. Spencer brings the story up to modern times, not forgetting the Armenian genocides perpetuated by the Turks between 1915 and 1923.
Robert Spencer’s work is essential reading for all of us, for all those who want to defend our values from the relentless jihad that has not ceased for fourteen centuries. We must heed Spencer’s final words if we are to succeed in saving Western Civilization:
“In the twenty-first century, the leaders of Europe, as well as many in North America, having brought almost certain doom on their countries no less unmistakable than that which befell Constantinople on May 29, 1453. Yet instead of taking responsibility for what they have done, they have stayed their course, and would have denounced the doomed Emperor Constantine XI, like his predecessor Manuel II, as “Islamophobic,” and his exhortation to defend Constantinople to the death as “militaristic” and “xenophobic.” In the twenty-first century, as the 1,400-year Islamic jihad against the free world continued to advance, the best allies the warriors of jihad had were the very people they had in their sights.”
Robert Spencer is indefatigable. He is keeping up the good fight long after many have already given up. I do not know what we would do without him. I appreciate all the intelligence and courage it takes to keep going despite the appeasement of the West.