Decapitation in Islamic History
The world in recent days has been shocked to learn of the decapitation of two American journalists and one British aid worker, all of whom had been held captive by ISIL. Too many Western leaders, befuddled by multiculturalism and political correctness, when addressing their responses to these barbaric murders continued to insist that these horrific crimes had nothing to do with Islam!
In an attempt to alert Westerners and their leaders to the utter fatuousness of such an assertion, the Tunisian human rights activist, Dr. Salem Ben Ammar, addressed an open letter to Mr. David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Here, as I have translated from the French original, are the opening two paragraphs:
“Know Mr. David Cameron that I am the first to condemn this terrible act of Muslim barbarism and share with the British people who are weeping over the cruel loss of their son, David Haines. Nevertheless I am very shocked and indignant at your irresponsible, indecent pathetic speech as you tried to free Islam for its culpability and claim that Muslims are innocent of such acts.
“You have dared to declare that the decapitators were not Muslims, they were monsters. Certainly not all Muslims are decapitators, but all the decapitators are Muslims. They were brought up by Islam that makes of death a cult of life. Of all the monotheistic religions, it’s the only one that has made ultra-violence as the way to felicity.”
To read the entire article in its original French, please follow this URL.
This kind of barbaric execution is not new and had occurred throughout Islamic history.
When I was growing up in the Levant, I read history stories chronicling the lives and times of the Caliphs that ruled the vast Islamic Empire in its early years. Caliphs exercised unlimited power over their subjects. One of the ways this was manifested was when a caliph sat on his throne to carry out state affairs and pronounce judgments of one kind or another. Seated next to him was a person known as “Al-Jallad,” (the executioner by the sword)! Should any subject show any sign of treachery, the executioner’s sword was ready to sever his head immediately. This ancient practice of beheading criminals and enemies of the state, still takes place, in public, in Saudi Arabia, for instance. It’s is the modus operandi for carrying out “Shariah” justice!
Three particular historical events illustrate when even prominent Muslims were beheaded. The first took place in 680 when Hussein, the son of Ali, and grandson of Muhammad, was beheaded. As there were many Muslims who did not acquiesce to the Umayyads take-over of the Caliphate in 661, they continued their opposition to Mu’awiya and his son Yazid. Hussein, Ali’s second son became the leader of the opposition. The Shi’ites of Kufa in Iraq invited Hussein to come over and help them in their fight against the Umayyads. Unfortunately, Hussein’s followers could not prevail against Yazid’s forces. Hussein and his followers were killed on 10 October, 680 at Karbala, Iraq. Their bodies were mutilated and Hussein’s head was sent to a leading commander of Yazid’s army. This event became known as “Ashura” (the 10th of the month) and is remembered every year by the Shi’ites in Iraq, Iran, southern Lebanon, with a bloody commemoration of Hussein’s martyrdom: men flailing themselves with chains and touching the heads of young boys with swords, with blood flowing over their bodies, as a sign of complete sympathy with Imam Hussein, Ali’s heir and son.
Another famous Muslim lost his life by decapitation in the early years of the Abbasid Caliphate. He was Abu Muslim al-Khorasani, a military leader of Persian descent, who had played a major role in the fall of the Umayyads in 750. The second Abbasid Caliph al-Mansur was suspicious of al-Khorasani, due to his growing power and popularity among the people.
Al-Mansur summoned his general to meet him in 755 to discuss points of differences between them. The Caliph signaled to his guards hiding behind them to kill al-Khorasani; his mutilated body was thrown in the river Tigris.
A third infamous decapitation took place in Baghdad during the “Golden Age” of the Abbasid Caliphate. The famous caliph, Harun al-Rashid, had two wives, one was of Arab descent, and the other Persian. Harun designated al-Amin (the son of the Arab mother) as his successor, while the son of the Persian, al-Ma’mun would become the governor of the eastern province of Khorasan. Harun stipulated that upon al-Amin’s death, al-Ma’mun would become the Caliph.
Al-Amin (whose name signifies “the faithful”) changed the order of succession and designated one of his sons as the next caliph.
Hostilities broke out between the two half-brothers in March 811; al-Amin’s forces were defeated; al-Ma’mun’s army besieged Baghdad throughout 812 and 813. Al-Amin’s life ended when he was captured and executed by beheading. His head was then placed on the Anbar Gate in Baghdad!
Al-Ma’mun went on to preside over an important period in Baghdad’s cultural history, when the Four Schools for the Interpretation of Shariah were finally codified. Throughout this period heated theological discussion took place over the nature of the Qur’an, whether it was eternal, or whether it was a temporal revelation to Muhammad at the time he began receiving his “revelations” in 610 until his death in 632 A.D.
Meanwhile, life went on in Baghdad as if Caliph al-Amin had never existed! Al-Ma’mun acting as a Muslim “theologian” took the side of the “liberals” and maintained that the Qur’an was a historical revelation. He ordered the imprisonment of Imam Hanbal, a leader of the strictest school for the “Interpretation of Shariah” who defended the theory that the Qur’an had existed from all eternity. That event is known as “Mihnat al-Qur’an” (the Ordeal of the Qur’an).
Al-Ma’mun held a famous theological discussion with a Christian theologian, Al-Kindy, author of “The Apology of Al Kindy,” WRITTEN AT THE COURT OF AL MÂMÛN (Circa A.H. 215; A.D. 830) IN DEFENCE OF CHRISTIANITY AGAINST ISLAM. An English translation of this document is available here.