The History Of Salafism II

May 24, 2020 Category: History

It is imperative to acknowledge the prevalence of Salafism in Islam’s history if a program for Reform is to be viable. In order to formulate what, exactly, Reform might entail, one must first have an accurate diagnosis of the current condition of that which it–ostensibly–to be reformed.  Solutions can’t be build on illusions. And one can’t solve a problem one refuses to admit exists.

So in order to inaugurate genuine Reformation in Dar al-Islam, it is incumbent upon Progressively-inclined Muslims to disabuse themselves of self-ingratiating myths about their religion’s past. More stringently adhering to the Sunnah will not enable the Ummah to MOVE BEYOND what has been holding them back in the first place.

In the previous survey (part one of this two-part essay), we saw how the history of Islamic thought is suffused with a certain kind of ideology–an ideology that translated to a long-standing precedent which, I showed, accounted for the Ummah’s many travails. While the record of Islam was rather mixed, there was clearly a prevailing trend over the centuries–from the Salaf in the 7th century to the Islamic State in the 21st century.

Since the earliest days of the Mohammedan movement, Salafism has been a common thread. Invariably, actions undertaken within Dar al-Islam occurred in a memetic ecosystem infused with hyper-dogmatism. That the Salafi creed has been a palpable strain of Islamic thought does not mean it has been the ONLY strain, mind you. Indeed, it has subsisted alongside various other creeds–some of which have been quite liberal; and even quite salubrious. But that is not our concern here. (When adumbrating a misfit’s roster of Tom-foolery in order to make the case for a pattern of misbehavior, all the occasions where he / she was well-behaved are not salient.)

We can now turn from THOUGHTS to DEEDS.  That is: Our focus will shift to how those theological underpinnings played themselves out (as actions) over time. We’ll do this by adumbrating the ways in which doctrinal fealty translated to events–especially as it pertained to militaristic / theocratic designs. Thus we will survey what was ACTUALLY DONE; and show how it was done in the name of the (reprobate) worldview that has dominated the Ummah for so long. {17}

Beliefs matter; which is why we reviewed them first. At the end of the day, what is the point of a strong conviction if it does not–in some consequential way–have a bearing on how one conducts oneself? A deep-seated belief only makes sense insofar as it informs one’s choices (that is: guides one’s actions in scenarios where meaning is ascribed to what one does). {31} Once we cultivate a thorough understanding of the legacy of Salafi thinking (explicated in the first part of this essay), the rational–nay, the impetus–for the things that were actually done BY SALAFIS over the course of history (adumbrated in this, the second part) is glaringly obvious.

Rosy caricatures of Islam’s history are based on the fiction that “jihad” used to primarily mean an inner “spiritual” struggle, not a military enterprise. This is a fiction–demonstrated BOTH by actual history AND by the prevailing themes of Islam’s scripture. One does not become a martyr on a battlefield–nor does one accumulate spoils–as a result of a spiritual endeavor. (Recall the Koran’s 8th Surah is entitled “The Spoils of War” [“Al-Anfal”]; not exactly the sort of thing one acquires by reading Thoreau.) Suffice to say, the discussion of divvying up booty would not be warranted were “jihad” simply an exercise in self-improvement.

I explore this matter at length in Appendix 1. (Spoiler alert: It is crystal clear that “jihad” has always been thought of as–above all–an exercise in geo-political hegemony, not personal enlightenment.) Throughout the course of Islam’s history, quiet contemplation is not what expositors OR leaders had in mind when they invoked the term. Nor would it have made any sense to them to say that–in baking cookies in the kitchen–one is engaging in a “jihad” to make a tasty snack.

On the contrary, the early Mohammedans were desert pirates–concerned with looting as much as with evangelizing. Max Weber aptly described early Islam as “the religion of the warrior class”. He noted that “military booty is important in the ordinances, in the promises, and above all in the expectations characterizing even the most ancient period of the religion.” He further observed that material acquisition was a prime motivating factor: “Even the ultimate elements of its economic ethic were purely feudal. The most pious adherents of the religion in its first generation became the wealthiest, or more correctly, enriched themselves with military boots–in the widest sense–more than did other members of the Faith” (“The Sociology of Religion; p. 162-63).

In assaying the developments that ensued from the theology outlined in the previous section, we might start with the precedent set by MoM himself. According to several Hadith, the self-proclaimed prophet declared: “Let there be no two religions in Arabia.” According to Muslim’s “sahih” Hadith (no. 4366), he announced: “I will expel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula and will not leave any but Muslims.”

Mission accomplished.

We also read in Bukhari’s Hadith: “The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews. And the stone behind which the Jew will be hiding will say, ‘Oh Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me; so kill him’”(4/52/176-177; alt. no. 2925-26). This exhortation is also found in Muslim’s Hadith (no. 2921). Suffice to say: A clarion-call for pluralism this was not.

Clearly, the original vision for Dar al-Islam was not a cosmopolitan utopia in which religious freedom rung throughout the land; and deliberative democracy was championed. It was a recipe for totalitarian theocracy, pure and simple.

As I show in Appendix 1, the attacks conducted by the Sahabah–and subsequent Salaf–were almost never in self-defense; they were about spreading Islamic dominion. In other words: They were impelled not merely by a hunger for territory and political power; they were impelled by religious fervor. The record is clear on this. In Muslim’s Hadith, MoM proclaimed: “If you come to a township [which has surrendered], and stay therein, you have a share in [the spoils seized from within it]. If a township does not recognize god and his messenger, one fifth of the booty seized therefrom is for god and his apostle, and the rest is for you” (no. 4346).

In Muslim’s Hadith, we also read that MoM said to Ali: “Proceed on; and do not look about until god grants you victory.” When Ali inquired, “On what issue should I fight with the people?” MoM replied in the third person: ”Fight with them until they bear testimony to the fact that there is no god but god and Muhammad is his Messenger” (no. 5917).

In discussing the massacre of the Jews at Khaybar, accounts are even more troubling: “We met the workers of Khaybar coming out in the morning with their spades and baskets. When they saw the apostle and the army, they cried: ‘Muhammad with his force!’ and turned and fled… The apostle seized the property piece by piece.” The people of Khaybar were not attacking the Muslims; they were simply farming their land.

That the motives involved in MoM’s aggression were primarily religious is made clear in the following passage: “When the apostle raided a people, he waited until the morning. If he heard the ‘adhan’ [call to prayer], he would hold back; if he did not hear it, he attacked. We came to Khaybar by night, and the apostle passed the night there. When morning came, he did not hear the ‘adhan’, so he rode and we rode with him.” To repeat: MoM proclaimed that “two religions shall not exist on the Arabian peninsula.” This explains why he massacred the Jews at Khaybar.

There is no mystery here. The protocol was loud and clear.

Even after MoM’s death, Abu Bakr undertook aggressive campaigns into Ghassanid, Sassanid, and Byzantine lands–raping and pillaging every step of the way. NONE of it was “defensive” in nature. (See Appendix 1.)

And what of slavery? Far from impeding slavery in the region, Islamic hegemony put it into overdrive. All Islam did was change the TERMS OF enslavement. To wit: It was no longer along racial lines or in terms of socio-economic status, as the new protocols erased such divisions. The salient distinction was henceforth Muslim vs. non-Muslim. (Note that enslavement on such terms was nothing new–as slavery amongst the Greeks, Romans, and Vikings was often not along racial lines.)

Accordingly, no Muslim male could be enslaved. Pursuant to pillaging sprees, only captured women and non-Muslims could be taken as slaves. And so by offering amnesty to men within Dar al-Islam, slavery was bolstered EVERYWHERE ELSE. It had the added bonus of creating extremely strong incentives for men to convert.

The proposition that the Mohammedan movement–and MoM personally–helped to end slavery is risible. The opposite was, in fact, the case.  (For more on this point, see my essay on “The Universality Of Morality”.)

And what of theocracy-by-force? Recall that it was not Islamic FAITH that was spread by the sword (as there was no compulsory conversion). Rather, Islamic LAW was spread by the sword (which entailed compulsory submission to sharia). During its first centuries, the majority of those within the dominion of Islamic rule were not Muslims, making them fair game (read: eligible for enslavement).

The slave-trade would persist through the Ottoman era…and even remains to the present day in thoroughly Islamicized countries like Western Sahara, Mauritania, Mali, and Somalia. In fact, the largest slave-trade in world history was within Dar al-Islam: the Barbary corsairs enjoyed a booming business that endured through the Middle Ages and into the 19th century.

Since the religion’s inception, hegemony was the primary feature of Islamic dominion: from the earliest conquests through Arabia…across the Maghreb, onto the Iberian Peninsula, all the way to Algeciras (at Gibraltar)…and eventually to the gates of Vienna.  Having read part 1 of this essay, nothing you are about to read in part 2 should come as much of a surprise.


Before proceeding, let’s be reminded that the following events did not occur in an ideological vacuum. There was an indubitable link between the “takfiri” fervor outlined in part 1 of this essay and the actions adumbrated here, in part 2. Put another way: The zealotry undergirding such activities didn’t emerge from the aether.  Rather, it was the result of a clearly-articulated worldview that can be traced back to the Salaf.

Under General Khalid ibn al-Walid, Abu Bakr’s forces slaughtered untold numbers of people in the years following MoM’s death.  Note, for instance, the atrocities perpetrated in the Battles of Chains, of the River, of Walaja, of Ullais, of Hira, of Ein-ul-Tamr, of Firaz, of al-Qadisiyyah, as well as the Siege of Al-Anbar, and myriad other militant offensives that are recorded in Islamic sources.   (Under General Abu Ubaid, there were the Battles of Namaraq and of Kaskar–before he was killed in the failed “Battle of the Bridge”.)  Not one of these clashes could possibly be caricatured as some kind of defensive measure. They were, one and all, examples of a rapacious offensive on “Dar al-Kufr” (domain of the non-Muslims), alternately dubbed “Dar al-Harb” (domain of War).

We might take note of the overriding modus operandi of the early Mohammedan movement. There was a primary enterprise–characterized by the relentless waging of war, relentless pillaging sprees, and the systematic enslavement of captives. Bringing aid to the impoverished, helping the sick and weak, providing education to the masses, and anything that could be even remotely characterized as humanitarian outreach: such things had nothing whatsoever to do with it. (For an in-depth exploration of “jihad”, see Appendix 1.)

Shortly after MoM’s passing, Umayyad “amir” [military general], Uqba ibn Nafi (a.k.a. “Akbah”) is supposed to have declared: “Great God! If my course were not stopped by this sea, I would still go on, to the unknown kingdoms of the West, preaching the one-ness of god, and putting to the sword the rebellious nations who worship any gods other than the one true god.” This is a statement that could just as well have been made by the leaders of Daesh (the Islamic State; a.k.a. “ISIS”). Bear in mind that “Akbah” was a Salaf. Such ideological parity is precisely what makes Daesh SALAFI.

As it turns out, “Akbah” was merely following precedent–namely the one established by (Rashidun caliph) Umar ibn al-Khattab. An anecdote about Umar’s rampage is worth mentioning. When ordering the great Library at Alexandria (in Egypt) to be burned to the ground, he declared: “If the books agree with the Koran, then they are superfluous. If they disagree with the Koran, then they are heretical.” Either way, they ALL had to be destroyed. {1} Boko Haram could not have put it any better themselves. {2} The same goes for–well–virtually any of the other fundamentalist Islamic organizations / regimes that exist today. {28}

There’s more. Another of the Sahabah set a precedent that would endure for fourteen centuries. Military leader [“amir”], Khalid ibn al-Walid of the Banu Makhzum (who’s sobriquet was “Drawn Sword of God”; “Saif-ullah al-Maslul”) did what he did on behalf of the self-proclaimed “Seal of the Prophets”. MoM himself gushingly referred to the general as “The Sword Among the Swords of God”. This was not an allusion to his spiritual prowess.

Both Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Hisham relay accounts of MoM sending Al-Walid to the Banu al-Harith with the message: “If you accept Islam, you will be safe.” If they declined, they would be attacked. It’s not for nothing that Al-Walid is famous for proclaiming: “I bring the men who desire death as ardently as you desire life,” a declaration ostensibly addressed to the non-Muslims of the world. Suffice to say: His “jihad” was not an inner “spiritual” struggle (“jihad al-daf’a” in Islamic parlance). In making this proclamation, he was not enjoining edification; he was proclaiming a desire for conquest.

Clearly HEGEMONY, not self-defense, was the prime directive. For the Salaf, “jihad” was nothing short of all-out holy war against anyone in the world that was not yet within the ambit of Dar al-Islam. The Seal of the Prophets was not handing out awards for, say, alleviating the most suffering or emancipating the most slaves or making the most scientific discoveries. Violent conquest was at the top of his priority list. {3}

So we might ask: What did Al-Walid do to earn such notoriety? Did he help the highest number of impoverished people? No. Did he end misogyny? No. Did he seek to liberate oppressed people? No. His accomplishment was singular: He spread Mohammedan dominion by the sword more than did anyone else.

The Salaf’s legacy had no hiatus.

The battles enumerated above were just the beginning of a long pattern that would endure to the present day.  Soon came the sacking of Alexandria in 646.  The Egyptian Copt, John of Nikiou, chronicled the ferocious invasion by the Arab armies–recounting that “the Ishmaelites came and slew without mercy the commander of the army and all his companions.  They then compelled the city to open its gates, and put to the sword all who surrendered.  They spared none–whether old men, infants, or women.”  Of the Battle of Nikiou (the sacking of his home town), we wrote that “the Ishmaelites entered Nikiou and took possession.  Finding no soldiers, they proceeded to put to the sword all whom they found in the streets and in the churches–men, women, and infants.  They showed mercy to none.”  So much for self-defense.

In 652, when Umayyad commander, Abd al-Rahman ibn Rabiah, pushed northward past the Caucuses Mountains into [k]Hazaria, and tried to sack Balanjar, we might ask: Was he “defending” Dar al-Islam?  The [k]Hazars were not threatening anything below the mountain range.  Clearly, this was a hegemonic campaign–the sine qua non of which was the subjugation of Dar al-Kafr (qua Dar al-Harb).  Liberation had nothing to do with it.

For a sense of the mentality at the time, we might look to Ziyad of Ta’if–who was the governor of Basra from 665 to 670, then governor of all Mesopotamia until his passing in 673.  He decried: “You [heretics] allow fellowship to prevail, putting religion second.  You excuse and hide your [fellow heretics], and tear down the orders which Islam has sanctified for you.  Take care to not creep about in the night; for I will kill every man found on the streets after dark.  Take care not to appeal to your kin; for I will cut off the tongue of every man who makes such an appeal.  I rule with the omnipotence of god, and maintain you with god’s wealth.  I demand obedience from you; and you can expect piety [“ibadah”] from me…  Do not get carried away by your hatred against me; as it will go badly for you.  I foresee many heads rolling.  Let each man see to it that his own head stays upon his shoulders.” {32}

The point is worth emphasizing: Islamic FAITH was not spread / enforced by the sword.  It was Islamic RULE that was spread / enforced by the sword.  In other words: There was no forced CONVERSION, just forced SUBMISSION.  As long as you kept your head down and did as you were told, it was left between you and god what you happened to believe.  (For obvious reasons, Islamic rulers did not want to encourage false displays of fidelity.)

In 698, on behalf of Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik, “amir” Hasan ibn al-Nu’uman of Ghasan razed the great Mediterranean port-city of Carthage. This included the destruction of all infrastructure (water supplies, harbors, etc.) AFTER the city had been defeated. Why did he do this? Clearly, more than mere military strategy was at play. Indeed, such gratuitous decimation was a strange way to bolster the commonweal.

So what could possibly have motivated such malicious deeds? Might they be characterized as a way of “defending” the Ummah?

Al-Nu’uman was notorious for his tyrannical rule. After conquering the Maghreb (a.k.a. “Ifriqiya”), he brooked no toleration of indigenous Berber traditions. He was not “protecting” the Berbers from anything; he was subjugating them.

Al-Nu’uman’s successor, Musa ibn Nusayr made incursions across the Mediterranean Sea into Andalusia (along with famed military commander, Tariq ibn Ziyad) on behalf of Umayyad caliph: Al-Walid ibn Abd al-Malik (not to be confused with the military general mentioned earlier: Khalid ibn al-Walid). At the time, the Iberian peninsula was held by the Visigoths, and was in somewhat of a state of disarray. Consequently, it was soon overwhelmed by the highly-disciplined Mohammedan armies.  Between 711 and 714, the “Saracens” seized territory from Gibraltar…up through Seville, Toledo, and Zaragoza (Aragon)…to Castile and Leon…and westward all the way to the coast of Lusitania.  Was this done to bring wisdom to the peoples of Iberia? Hardly. The primary concern was plunder. The aim was to collect spoils to bring back to Caliph Al-Walid in Damascus; and–of course–to increase Dar al-Islam’s inventory of slaves.

To reiterate: Such hegemony had nothing to do with humanitarian outreach; and was entirely offensive in nature.  (For more on mischaracterizing rapacious conquest as “defensive jihad” or rescuing Dar al-Kufr from “oppression”, see Appendix 1.)

In an odd twist, caliph Musa ended up dying in disgrace. Like so many other Muslim potentates, he perished during the Hajj. Why such ignominy after all his accomplishments? Because he refused to hand over ALL the booty that he had seized (to the subsequent caliph, Al-Walid’s younger brother, Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik…who was known for his draconian enforcement of daily prayers amongst the polity).

And so it went: The priorities of Islamic hegemony were quite clear: SPOILS. And dominion, and enslavement of non-Muslims, and more “jizya” [poll taxes on non-Muslims] to collect. The modus operandi was loud and clear: strict conformity by supplicants; and complete submission by the “dhimmi” who managed to survive.

It is interesting to note that the son of caliph Musa (Abd al-Aziz) ended up converting to Christianity. As a result, he was beheaded. His head was then sent to the presiding caliph–as tribute.

That was on the Western frontier of Dar al-Islam. But what about incursions into the Far East? The story is roughly the same.

The great medical academy at Gundishapur in Persia eventually fell into ruins–though some Sassanian knowledge would later be resurrected at the (Mu’tazili) “House of Wisdom” in Baghdad under the quasi-theocratic Caliph Al-Mamun (in the 9th century). Alas, even Al-Mamun became infamous for his draconian inquisitions (“Mihna”). {4}

In 711, “amir” Muhammed ibn Qasim Saqafi (nephew of the notorious governor of Iraq, Hajjaj ibn Yusuf; a.k.a. “Hajjaj the Cruel”) swept into the Sindh with his army. He too did so on behalf of caliph Al-Walid. Along the way, he demolished EVERY temple that he found; and engaged in the relentless plunder that had characterized the Mohammedan hegemony since the 630’s. The amir’s rampage included–per usual–the enslavement of all women (those who weren’t massacred, that is). Virtually everyone was slaughtered in the port city of Debal. Conquest of the cities of Sistan (in Sakastan) and then Multan (in Punjab) soon followed.

As it happened, the civilians of Multan eventually became Isma’ili…which would put its polity in a rather awkward position thereafter. As we shall see, they would have to contend with the so-called “the Sword of Islam” soon; as the Isma’ili denomination were considered heretics / apostates (“takfirs”) by the Salafists. {5}

This thinking continued into the Abbasid era. In keeping with MoM’s precedent for intolerance, the first Abbasid caliph, Abu al-Abbas “as-Saffah” stated that “tolerance is laudable except in matters dangerous to religious belief.” In other words, you are free to do / say whatever you wish…so long as it brooks nothing prohibited by religious law. Orwell’s (fictional) INGSOC would have been envious of such a proud declaration of strictly-circumscribed “tolerance”. (In this sense, there is all the freedom one could ever want in North Korean. After all , one is free to do whatever one wishes…so long as it doesn’t cross the powers-that-be.)

The black flags that came to be emblematic of Salafi militancy were first adopted by the followers of “Abu al-Abbas” in the 740’s: namesake of the Abbasid dynasty.  (This appellation was adopted because he identified with the Hashim-ite bloodline, affiliated with MoM.)  After establishing his caliphate, Abu al-Abbas came to be known by the sobriquet “Al-Saffah”.  In other words, the founder of the Abbasid dynasty was primarily known for being “the Slaughterer”.  (Clearly, massacring civilians was his claim to fame.)  To contend that this was about liberating people from persecution is absurd.

In 783, the third Abbasid caliph (known as “Al-Mahdi”) instituted an Inquisition: imperial henchmen charged with punishing / executing any “zindiq” (heretic). Every last one. This was a precursor to more recent incarnations–as with the Saudi “Mutawa” in Arabia, the Khomeinist “Basij” (alt. “Quds force”) in Iran, and the “JAWI” in Malaysia. The overall concept of State-enforced compliance with religious rules (i.e. a religious police) is known as “hisbah” in the Arab tradition; and harkens back to the “Haras” of the Umayyad-Abbasid era.

Al-Mahdi was ruthless in his demand for compliance (read: religious orthodoxy); and adopted the approach of the hard-line “Shi’i” (not to be confused with the Ali’d branch of the Faith, later referred to as “Shia”). The “Shi’i” were purists who pushed for draconian punishments for heresy. In other words, they championed the “takfiri” tradition. They also mandated the outright extermination of all freethinkers. Al-Mahdi aggressively carried out this policy…until he was poisoned by one of his concubines in 785. His successor (“Al-Hadi”) continued the pogroms with augmented intensity.

In 833, Abbasid caliph, Al-Ma’mun instituted the “Mihnah” policy of imprisoning / executing anyone who did not adhere to the appropriate (Mu’tazila) interpretation of the Koran. It was the 9th century, and the “takfiri” precedent was alive and well in Dar al-Islam.

In the 10th century, the Mamluk proselyte, Ibn Nubata earned renown for preaching the duty of of all Muslims to wage “jihad” against Dar al-Kufr. Later in the 10th century, Egyptian “wazir” [vizier], Ridwan al-Walakhshi, persecuted non-Muslims–notably Coptic and Armenian Christians.  Meanwhile, (Nizari / Shia) Fatimid caliph, Abu Ali Mansur (a.k.a. “Al-Hakim bi-Amir Allah”) was notorious for persecuting “dhimmis” within his realm.

During the late 10th and early 11th centuries, Ghaznavid (Turkic) military leader (“emir”, then “sultan”), Mahmud ibn Sebukteg[in] of Ghazna (that is “Mahmud Ghazni”; a.k.a. “the Sword of Islam”) earned renown for destroying Hindu temples across the Punjab, Kashmir, and Gujarat. Each year, he renewed his pledge for “jihad” against the non-Muslims of the region. (As you might have guessed, no concern for an inner “spiritual” struggle was involved.) His most infamous massacre was of the Isma’ilis of Multan c. 1005. He then swept through Sistan, razed Hindu temples throughout Gujarat (notably, the great temple at Somnath) and throughout Uttar Pradesh (notably, the great temple at Mathura). In both Somnath and Mathura, he massacred ALL inhabitants (tens of thousands in each location). Needless to say, his “jihad” was not some person striving (for self-betterment); it was a holy war. (Again: See Appendix 1 for more on this topic.)

It’s also worth noting: When Mahmud Ghazi did all this, he was not doing so as a military strategy. He was destroying all that was deemed blasphemous. (In keeping with his worldview, he purportedly equated the Temple of Somnath with the Hijazi pagan goddess, Manat.) It is clear that the motivation in perpetrating these atrocities was entirely religious.

The sultan was hardly worried about liberating “oppressed” people. For thirty years (997 to 1027), he devoted his time to annual plundering expeditions into Rajput territory. A special target of his were the aforementioned Isma’ilis of Multan. The pillaging was not born of logistical necessity; it was sheer, unadulterated religious zealotry that drove him. {6}

The destruction wrought by Mahmud Ghazi was extensive. But the Isma’ilis of Multan were resilient; and somehow managed to subsist…until, that is, Ghurid sultan Mu’izz ad-Din Muhammad of Ghor (ironically, anti-Ghaznavid) undertook a ransacking of Multan in 1175, thus eliminating the city’s Isma’ilis once and for all. He then proceeded with a rampage through Gujarat (against the indigenous Hindus)…before being defeated by Indian warrior-queen, Naiki-devi. We might note that Mu’izz’s brother (Ghurid sultan Ghiyath ad-Din Muhammad) was also a major player in the conquest of the region.)

And so it went: Long after the Salaf were gone, their legacy continued.  At no point did it occur to anyone to mention that any of these odious acts betrayed the teachings of MoM.  In every account available, such incidents are seen as perfectly in keeping with the Mohammedan vision.

To sum up: These events were anything but anomalies.  In fact, throughout the Islamic record, they are portrayed as PAR FOR THE COURSE.  Not once was any disapproval expressed.

Let’s continue our survey.  Early in the 12th century, Seljuk ruler, Abu al-Fadl of the Banu al-Khash-shab (a.k.a. “Ibn al-Khasshab”) preached militant jihad during his rule in Aleppo. Inner “spiritual” struggle had nothing to do with it. His animus was not just directed at the despised Christian Crusaders; for he massacred most of Aleppo’s Ishma’ilis (that is: the wrong kind of Muslims) during his tenure. So far as he was concerned, if one was not a died-in-the-wool Salafi, one was an apostate (per “takfiri” doctrine).

Meanwhile, the founder of the eponymous Zengid / Seljuk Dynasty (Abu al-Qasim Mahmud ibn Imad al-Din Zengi) fashioned himself a “mu-jahid”. Aptly known as “Nur al-Din” [“Light of the Religion”], he was a tyrannical theocrat. Was he some anomaly? Alas, no. Over the course of the 12th century, there was an alluvion of texts extolling “jihad”. Note the Hadith compiled by Ibn Asakir, who was the chief advisor to Nur al-Din…who then mandated that Ibn Akakir’s agit-prop be read in all public squares. Aspiring jihadis rallied to the call–galvanized by the incursion of the despised Frankish Crusaders.

Within the volatile environs of Crusader-era Al-Sham (Syria), Nur al-Din restricted the freedom of Aleppo’s Shiites to practice their religion–violently suppressing a Shiite rebellion there in 1157. Subsequently, a large part of the community was massacred…in keeping with the “takfiri” mania / hysteria drummed up by Salafi proselytism.

It was soon thereafter (in the late 12th century) that the Salafi theologian, Al-Ghazali proclaimed that–unless they repented–Isma’ilis were to be regarded as “takfirs”; and that therefore they deserved whatever punishment they had coming to them. His vituperative perorations had predictable consequences: Isma’ilis were systematically massacred…with the endorsement of the presiding “ulema”. As discussed in the previous piece (part 1 of this essay), Al-Ghazali’s invidious preachments have reverberations to the present day.

It was also in the late 12th century that Mamluk “amir”, Ikhtiyar ad-Din Muhammad ibn Bakhtiyar of the Khilji (who proudly fashioned himself a “ghazi”) destroyed the world’s two greatest educational institutions: the “maha-viharas” at Nalanda and at Vikram[a]-shila…along with the renown “maha-vihara” at Odanta-puri, where all the monks were gratuitously massacred. (Hint: The monks were not combatants; there only crime was not being Muslim.) All of that occurred in Bihar, India. He ALSO razed the great “Navya Navya” school at Nadadwip in Bengal.

The brutal amir did not need to do ANY of this in order to seize control of the territory. He did so because he deemed the institutions to be sacrilegious. (Only religious fanatics feel threatened by books.) Bakhtiyar Khilji thus has the distinction of being the man who virtually wiped out all Buddhist culture in India. (Note that this is attested in ISLAMIC sources–notably: the “Tabaqat-i Nasiri” [chronicles of sultan Nasir ud-Din] by the Mamluk / Ghurid historian, Abu Osman Minhaj “ud-Din” al-Siraj Juzjani of Firuz-kuh, Ghor.)

It is worth unpacking this particular string of travesties. Pace the school of ancient Athens in Classical Antiquity and the school at Alexandria in Late Antiquity, the “maha-vihara” at Nalanda was arguably the greatest university the world had ever seen. Established around the time that MoM was born (c. 570) by the Buddhists of the Pala Kingdom, it had been a major center of learning for over six centuries. Pupils and scholars from all over the world had come to study there. Consequently, it was renown for its thriving cosmopolitanism. Nalanda was widely hailed for the spirit of free inquiry it encouraged. With the library of Alexandria having been destroyed, it housed the largest library in the world. And its residents boasted major advances in logic, mathematics, medicine, astronomy, and even metallurgy.

When he stumbled across the site in 1193, Bakhtiyar Khilji inquired as to whether the Koran was being used on the premises. Upon being notified that it was not, he promptly destroyed the entire complex of structures, including its innumerable manuscripts…all while ensuring that everyone inside–students and teachers alike–was slaughtered. (!)

As it turned out, Bakhtiyar Khilji was unable to eradicate ALL knowledge in India, though. Fortuitously, many of the advances in algebra, medical treatments, and iron-smelting made by the Indians were co-opted by some of the (more discerning) Muslim colonialists. This was a blessing for mankind; as some of the medical writing dated back to the “Charaka Samhita” in India during Classical Antiquity. (Charaka of Gandhara was known as the Father of Medicine.) Such knowledge would serve as a basis for much of the headway that would later be made by Muslim luminaries. (I address this topic in my essay on the so-called “Golden Age” of Islam.)

We might note that Bakhtiyar Khilji did not limit his purges to Buddhists. The Hindus of Nabadwip (Bengal) were also exterminated. And remember, NOBODY liked those pesky (liberal) Isma’ilis. The Seljuks were slaughtering them in the Middle East. The Arabians (Banu Hilal) were slaughtering them in Egypt. And by the time the Magna Carta was being drafted in 1215 (granting rights to all citizens of England), Ghurid sultan Ala ad-Din Ali was slaughtering the (Nizari) Isma’ilis of Koh-i-stan (alt. “Ghohestan” / “Quhistan”)–a major cultural center in Khorasan renown for its Persian science and literature.

In 1303, 30,000 Hindus were killed at Chittor by forces led by Ala ad-Din Khilji.

Pursuant to all this violent Islamic conquest, education in the major centers of learning of the Orient CEASED–notably the great philosophical institutions at Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh and at Takshashila [a.k.a. “Taxila”] in the Punjab (which had been in operation for well over a thousand years). Why were all these places destroyed? The primary reason: They did not teach the Sunnah; so did nothing to abet “dawah”. And they obviously did nothing to serve the Abrahamic deity.

In other words: These world-renown institutions of higher learning were useless insofar as promulgating Islam was concerned; so they were deemed useless. Lord knows what would have happened to Oxford and Cambridge had the aforesaid generals pushed into Britannia instead of into India. (Hint: The two locations would not NOW be known for education.)

It was finally the (Tengri-ist) Mongols–who respected other cultures and ALL intellectual traditions–who put a stop to Mohammedan hegemony.

That brings us to the Turkic-Mongol cynosure of the Barlas clan: Timur of Kesh, the ruler (often inaccurately associated with “the Mongols”) who OVERTHREW the traditional Mongolian (Chagatai and Kipchak) Khanates. He proudly referred to himself as–you guessed it–“The Sword of Islam”.

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