Once were warriors:
Why Islam failed Muslims
I got the idea for the title of this article
from a movie I watched – “Once were Warriors”. The movie
highlights the social problems of the Maoris. Most of you probably
have not seen the show because the movie was made in New Zealand.
Now lets turn our attention to something more serious. Islam was
immensely successful in the first few centuries of its birth. It
spread like wildfire from Spain to Pakistan. The success was due to
the fact that Islam is a warrior religion - the last of its kind
today. But the qualities and ethos that led to success are also some
of the reasons for its current failure. Today Muslims are among the
poorest and most backward people in the world.
Lets take a look at some Islamic beliefs that make no sense unless you
realise that Islam was designed to support a war machine. Firstly
there is the emphasis of heavenly rewards for its fallen warriors.
Just as the ferocious Vikings believed that brave fallen warriors go
to Valhalla, Muslims believe that those who are killed in a Holy War
(Jihad) go to heaven where they will be rewarded with 72 virgins.
For the conquerors who survived the war, they will get booty and again
girls. So either way they win. It is useful for a commander to have
brave warriors who do not fear death. Besides this, Muslims are also
discouraged from fraternizing with non-Muslims. The Koran tells
Muslims not to take Christians and Jews as friends and also says that
Idolaters are filthy. Contempt for non-Muslims lead to hate. Hate is a
useful emotion to cultivate in your warriors. Compassion and empathy
for the “other” do not make willing warriors.
Another martial value that Islam promotes is discipline. It does this
in many ways. Firstly, authority is centralized in one person -
Mohammed and later his successors. There is no separation of church
and state - or should I say mosque and state. This makes sure that
there is no opposition. The Roman emperors too made sure that they
were unchallenged by appointing themselves Pontifex Maximus (Chief
Priest). This is in sharp contrast to medieval European kings whose
ambitions were often opposed by the church.
Next, Islam is highly ritualistic and many rituals and practices
appear to a modern person to be pointless. For example, out of the
five pillars of Islam, four of them are ritualistic and in themselves
do not do any material good. Praying five times a day, declaring
Mohammed to be a prophet, going to Mecca to walk round and round the
Black Stone and fasting during Ramadan do not by themselves make this
a happier, kinder and more prosperous world. The only one of the five
pillars that does some good to mankind is the giving of the zakat -
alms for the poor. However, this alms giving must be only for Muslims
or it does not count. Therefore it benefits only a fifth of mankind.
Would it not be better for the Grand Designer of Islam (whoever that
might be) to declare the five pillars to contain prohibitions against
murder, theft, adultery and encouragements to perform kindness and
assistance to the unfortunate people of the world? Besides these five
pillars, Islam has countless other rituals and practices. These
include the growing of beards, which hand to use to wash your private
parts, which shoe to put on first, what types of body hair you are
allowed to remove and so on. Some of these practices and rituals
appear meaningless to me but on further examination there is a purpose
The trick is to stop thinking that Islam, like other religions, was
designed primarily to uplift humanity from barbarism by making us
kinder, more forgiving and so on. It was designed instead to support a
war machine. Islamic rituals and practices are designed at least
partly to induce discipline and to unite Islam’s early followers who
were drawn from many tribes. Lets take a look at the requirement to
pray five times a day, facing Mecca.
By praying five times a day, Muslims are reminded to submit to God 5
times a day. By facing Mecca, they are reminded of Arabia and to
subtly get Muslims to identify themselves with Arabia. That is also
why they insist that you cannot understand the Koran fully unless you
know Arabic. Prayers are to be made in Arabic. That is why there are
so many Arab wannabes among non-Arab Muslims. This is also why to this
day, Muslims are a potential fifth column in western countries. Their
loyalty is often to their Ummah and not to the state they live in.
Loyalty to their nation state is weak.
Rituals are important as brainwashing tools to instill discipline and
Islam's focus on rituals remind me of the rituals in the military.
Every morning you have a flag raising ceremony. You salute the
officers. You must all be clean shaven and wear the same clothes. You
sing patriotic songs. Soldiers perform all manner of rituals designed
to promote loyalty, bravery and obedience.
Performing Islam's seemingly meaningless rituals is an affirmation
that they do not question the will of God. In practice this meant that
they do not question Mohammed and his successors. This is really good
military discipline and is something all military leaders want.
Now, lets turn our attention to the issue of apostasy for this is an
important way in which Islam imposes discipline. As we all know, Islam
is the only religion that insists that apostates be put to death.
Muslims equate apostasy as treachery. For others, you are a true
Christian, Buddhist or Hindu, only if you truly believe. Threatening
people with death does not change what they believe in their hearts
and is thus pointless.
This Muslim punishment only makes sense if you imagine yourself as a
military commander of an army drawn from many tribes and religions
(before conversion). An apostate is seen as someone who wants to
defect to the enemy. Thus once again, Islamic teaching only make sense
if you view Islam not so much as a religion like others but as a tool
for Arab imperialism.
There is another thing that I should mention. According to the Koran
and Hadiths, Muslims are allowed to have up to four wives and an
unlimited number of slave girls. Having multiple wives actually gave a
society constantly warring with its neighbours a military advantage
over those that practice monogamy.
War widows can find new husbands and thereby produce children. Women
were valued chiefly for their procreation abilities to produce more
warriors. Of course in all ancient societies, women were lowly valued
but more so in a warlike one where the survival of the society
depended on male warriors. This accounts for the extra low status
Islam gave women.
But what worked well for a medieval war machine is disastrous for
Muslims in the modern world. For the early Muslims, they quickly
gained wealth and power after they burst out of their poverty stricken
Arabian Peninsula. The Arab war machine was supported by the blind
obedience, brotherhood, courage, hatred and high birth rates inspired
by Islam. But these same qualities have locked modern Muslims into
poverty and often violence.
Without separation of mosque and state, it is difficult to make
reforms. Islam is described by its followers as a complete way of
life. This means that the ancient detailed instructions have been
written down for Muslims to follow in all aspects of life for all
time. This reminds me of the specialists and generalists of nature.
Some species like the Koala bear are specialists. They have adapted
very well to a certain type of environment – the eucalyptus forests
of Australia. But they are vulnerable if there is a change in
environment. Generalists on the other hand do not evolve special
advantages to thrive in any one environment.
Man is a generalist and can be found living in deserts as well as the
frozen ice of the tundra. Had we specialized by growing blubber like
the whales, we might thrive very well in the tundra but we can never
live in deserts.
Islam is like the specialists. It prospered because its ethos makes it
very successful as a medieval war machine when men fought with swords,
bows and spears. But these same values make Muslims ill-equipped in an
industrial and now post industrial world.
The emphasis on jihad where stained soldiers of Allah are rewarded
with virgins in heaven may make great warriors but contribute to
suicide bombers and intractable wars against unbelievers.
Conflicts with Muslims seem so hard to resolve as there is a
never-ending stream of volunteers to fight in hopes of attaining their
places in heaven. There can be no moderates when it comes to going to
heaven. Inciting hatred for non-believers does not help the resolution
of conflicts. Such thinking is bound to get a reaction from the
non-believers they come into contact with.
The desire for war cannot be conducive for economic growth. This is
doubly disastrous for Muslims because as I shall later explain, their
religion retards economic progress in many ways. War coupled with
economic weakness spells disaster. One of the driving force for
economic growth is technology. While Islam can create disciplined
soldiers, it cannot create good scientists.
As explained earlier, Islam’s ritualistic practices inculcate blind
obedience among its followers and not questioning inquisitive minds.
The way the Koran is taught in traditional Madrassahs is by
memorization. This leaves no room for asking questions. The student is
not encouraged to ask questions but only receives wisdom and learning
from the teacher. Asking questions risks the student of being accused
of blasphemy or unbelief.
The learning process is receptive and not interactive. Great
scientists and philosophers do not come from such a passive
environment. Human society progresses only if you have people willing
to challenge orthodoxy. It should be noted that some of the greatest
thinkers, scientists, philosophers, physicians and poets in Islam’s
golden age were accused of blasphemy or apostasy. Bashshar Ibn Burd,
Avicenna, Averroes, Al-Razi and Al-Ma’arri were most likely
Next we take a look at Islam’s subordination of women. This keeps
them at home. Muslim women are not encouraged to work. It is a fact
that women who stay at home tend to produce more children than those
who go out to work. A high fertility rate may be a military advantage
in an era when men fought with primitive weapons, but this is a
handicap in the era of the internet.
Firstly, if women are regarded as second class citizens, there is less
incentive to educate them properly. Semi-educated or illiterate
mothers will find difficulty in educating their own children. Half the
population is women. Therefore half the potential labour force is also
women. You are not making full use of your human resources. This is
not a new problem.
By Averroes time (1126 – 1198), the problem had manifested itself.
Five hundred years after Mohammed, Muslim society already needed
reforms. The practices that turned warring Arab tribes into world
conquerors were already becoming outdated. This is what he said:
“Women are kept like domestic animals or house plants for purposes
of gratification, of a very questionable character besides, instead of
being allowed to take part in the production of material and
intellectual wealth, and in the preservation of the same.”
Furthermore, a high fertility rate means more mouths to feed. While
population pressures could be motivation for impoverished tribes to
participate in wars of conquest in the 7th century, this is not an
option today. You need industrial might to support a war machine today
where wars are complex and expensive.
Today, a high fertility rate leads to poverty in third world countries
and poverty stricken countries are advised by development experts to
curb their population growth. Related to this issue of high fertility
is the early age of some Muslim marriages. All agricultural societies
tend to have early marriages. But other societies can be more easily
persuaded to change with the times.
Muslim society, on the other hand, is more resistance to change. Thus
recently, an Indian Muslim group wants exemption from a law requiring
marriage partners to be at least 18 years old. This well-meaning law
is aimed at allowing time for people to get a proper education before
marriage and child-care.
The problem arises for the Muslim community because of Mohammed’s
marriage to 9 year old Aisha. To accept this law would in their eyes
be an insult to their holy Prophet. How can a Muslim accept a law,
which would have criminalized their Prophet? This case again
highlights how Islam is stuck in the 7th century.
Islam is a warrior’s creed that served its early followers well.
From impoverished desert tribes, they rose to forge an empire in a
short time that stretched from Spain to India. The ethos it engendered
– brotherhood for believers, contempt and hatred for non-believers,
belief in heavenly rewards for fallen warriors, a high fertility rate
(which requires the subordination of women), blind obedience –
created formidable warriors.
But these same qualities are handicaps for Muslims in the age of the
microchip. Today they lead to poverty, belligerency, war and defeat.
Many Muslims look back with fondness to their days of glory and try to
recover their former days by using the old methods. That is why there
is today a rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism across the Muslim
world. They are bewildered at their weakness and look for conspiracy
theories. Muslims think their failure is due to some Jewish or
American plot not realizing that failure comes from within themselves.
They are out of touch with reality.
Once were warriors, Muslims are now like Don Quixote tilting at
windmills in a world they no longer understand.