Leaving Islam



Islam Without Camouflage`

A review of Robert Spencer’s, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades,  Regnery Publishing, Washington, D.C., 2005, 270 pp.

By Andrew G. Bostom
August 20th, 2005

Through the first six decades of the 20th century, a cadre of erudite Christian theologians and scholars wrote illuminating, unapologetic analyses of Islamic dogmas, practices, and history. These individuals, primarily Europeans, also included persons from the indigenous pre-Islamic communities, living with the major Muslim populations of Africa, the Levant, Asia Minor, the Indian subcontinent, and the Far East. Prominent among these distinguished scholars were Edward Sell, W. St. Clair Tisdall, W.H.T. Gairdner, D.S. Margoliouth, W.R. Gardner, Henri Lammens, Arthur Jeffery, Samuel Zwemer, Murray Titus, and Antoine Fattal. Their detailed, eloquent observations were refreshingly candid, and they often engaged in lively and illuminating debates with the Islamic apologists of their respective generations, both Muslim and non-Muslim alike.

Excerpts from insightful works by Gardner in 1912, (W.H.T.) Gairdner in 1919, and Fattal in 1958—addressing critical issues, such as jihad war, and dhimmitude, the plight of non-Muslims vanquished by jihad campaigns—illustrate this distinctive style of writing, which was devoid of the politically correct dithering typical of most contemporary analyses of these matters.

W.R. Gardner, who worked and studied in India, was a Christian theologian and scholar of the Koran and Sufism. He debunked at length apologetic “reinterpretations” of  jihad war written by Sheikh Muhammad Rida and Chiragh Ali, in particular, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Gardner assailed the disingenuous sophistry of the narrow “etymological” arguments propounded by these Muslim apologists, and then turned their tacit acknowledgements against them—acknowledgements which validate, ironically, a millennium of both orthodox Islamic jurisprudence, and the bellicose history of jihad:

For the question of what jihad is cannot be settled by reference alone to the etymology of the word jihad. The Koran plainly teaches in many passages, notwithstanding the claims-put forward by Maulavi Chirágh `Ali (cf. Sells “The Faith of Islam,” pp. 411 ff.), the duty of fighting for the Faith or  “in the way of God,” by using the word qátala, and El Zamakhshary [d.1144, the renowned Koranic commentator], commenting on ii. 186, 7, says, “Fighting in the way of God is jihad for the glorifying of his word and the strengthening of the Religion.” And whatever may be the etymological meaning of the word jihad, there can be no gainsaying the fact that it is sometimes used in the Koran in the sense of warlike actions, a warfare for the sake of the Faith. And when one asks what the teaching of Mohammedanism is concerning jihad, the word is employed in this latter sense. [1]

There is undoubtedly a feeling, if not a belief, among many Westerners that a Moslem regards it as a duty binding on him in accordance with the literal command of the Koran, to kill any and every unbeliever whom he may meet when once jihad has been proclaimed. Sheikh Ridá acknowledges that this conception of the duty of a Moslem during jihad may have been in the past, and may even now be that which is common among the ignorant or less educated Moslems… among the more recent Moslem apologists, jihad is regarded as war in defence [sic] of Islam, but we have been forced to the conclusion that any war in which a non-Moslem power is the aggressor must inevitably be regarded by Moslems as involving on their part jihad. The point we have now to consider is, what is the teaching of Mohammedanism as to wars of aggression.  Is a war for the extension of Islamic rule also jihad ? In considering this point, not much light is to be got from the writings of the more recent Moslem authors, such as those we have quoted. They simply deny that it is a principle of Islam that jihad may include wars of aggression. By denying this, however, they do not prove anything; and, in order to get light on this part of the question before us, we must look at the Koran itself through those explanations of it which up to the present time pass as authoritative. This does not, of course, mean that these explanations are necessarily correct. Maulavi Chirágh ‘Ali, for example, denies that they are correct. To quote his opinion as given in Sell’s “The of Faith of Islam,” p. 411, “All fighting injunctions in the Koran are, in the first place, only for self-defence, and none of them has any reference to making war offen¬sively. In the second place, they are transitory in their nature. The Mohammedan Common Law is wrong on this point where it allows unbelievers to be attacked without provocation.” We do not desire here to discuss this question as to whether the Common Law is right or wrong, that is, whether orthodox Mohammedanism is a fine representation of the spirit and teaching of the Koran, or whether a better and truer representation of the conception of Mohammed and of his teachings might not have been given in a system of doctrine, developed from the point of view of Maulavi Chirágh `Ali and such Moslems as he…Let us quote his words again: “The Mohammedan Common Law is wrong on this point when it allows unbelievers to be attacked without provocation.” We take then as proved, the statement that Mohammedan Common Law allows unbelievers to be attacked without provocation… (emphasis added) [2]

W.H.T. Gairdner (d. 1928, in Cairo), was a gifted Arabic linguist and scholar of (the Sufi) Al-Ghazali’s works, who lived for three decades in Cairo, where he also served as a Protestant Canon. In 1919, he wrote an essay responding to a mendacious “birthday tribute” panegyric of Muhammad written collaboratively by Muslims and non-Muslims. A particularly trenchant segment of Gairdner’s rebuttal discussed the slaughter of the vanquished Medinan Jewish tribe, the Banu Qurayza—a massacre which became an important motif in jihad war jurisprudence. [3] Relying exclusively upon Muslim sources, Gairdner highlighted without equivocation the pivotal role that Muhammad himself played in orchestrating the overall events:

The umpire who gave the fatal decision (Sa’ad) was extravagantly praised by Muhammad. Yet his action was wholly and admittedly due to his lust for personal vengeance on  a tribe which had occasioned him a painful wound. In the agony of its treatment he cried out- “O God, let not my soul go forth ere thou has cooled my eye from the Bani Quraiza” [Banu Qurayza]. This was the arbiter to whose word the fate of that tribe was given over. His sentiments were well-known to Muhammad, who appointed him. It is perfectly clear from that that their slaughter had been decreed. What makes it  clearer still is the assertion of another biographer that Muhammad had refused to treat with the Bani Quraiza at all until they had “come down to receive the judgment of the Apostle of God”. Accordingly “they came down”; in other words put themselves in his power. And only then was the arbitration of Sa’ad proposed and accepted- but not accepted until it had been forced on him by Muhammad; for Sa’ad first declined and tried to make Muhammad take the responsibility, but was told “qad amarak Allahu takhuma fihim” “Allah has commanded you to give sentence in their case”. From every point of view therefore the evidence is simply crushing that Muhammad was the ultimate author of this massacre. [4]

Four decades later (in 1958), Antoine Fattal, a Lebanese Maronite Professor of Law, whose  Le Statut Legal de Musulmans en Pays' d'Islam remains the benchmark analysis of non-Muslims (especially Christians and Jews) living under the Shari'a (i.e., Muslim Law), offered these perspectives on the living legacy of jihad and dhimmitude:

Dhimma or dhimmi status…is one of the results of the jihad or holy war.  Connected with the notion of jihad is the distinction between dar al-harb (territory or “house” of war) and dar al-islam (house of Islam).  The latter includes all territories subject to Moslem authority.  It is in a state of perpetual war with the dar al-harb.  The inhabitants of the dar al-harb are harbis, who are not answerable to the Islamic authority and whose persons and goods are mubah, that is, at the mercy of Believers.  However, when Moslems are in a subordinate state, they can negotiate a truce with the Harbis lasting no more than ten years, which they are obliged to revoke unilaterally as soon as they regain the upper hand, following the example of the Prophet after Hudaibiyya…[5]

…Even today, the study of the jihad is part of the curriculum of all the Islamic institutes. In the universities of Al-Azhar, Nagaf (Najaf), and Zaitoune, students are still taught that the holy war [jihad] is a binding prescriptive decree, pronounced against the Infidels, which will only be revoked with the end of the world... If he [the dhimmi] is tolerated, it is for reasons of a spiritual nature, since there is always the hope that he might be converted; or of a material nature, since he bears almost the whole tax burden. He has his place in society, but he is constantly reminded of his inferiority...In no way is the dhimmi the equal of the Muslim. He is marked out for social inequality and belongs to a despised caste; unequal in regard to individual rights; unequal in the Law Courts as his evidence is not admitted by any Muslim tribunal and for the same crime his punishment is greater than that imposed on  Muslims...No social relationship, no fellowship is possible between Muslims and dhimmis... [6]

Robert Spencer, a serious student of Islam for the past quarter century, and a devout Catholic, has revived this highly informative, unapologetic genre of writing in four recent books: Islam UnveiledInside Islam: A Guide for Catholics, Onward Muslim Soldiers, and The Myth of Islamic Tolerance  . His fifth, and latest effort, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) —true to the courageous spirit of the four earlier books—is a didactic, carefully referenced work, written in very accessible language. 

Spencer explodes numerous apologetic canards about Islam—both its dogmas, and history—with a witty irreverence that is never mean-spirited, and always well-documented. Recurrent teaching tools the author employs effectively (and humorously) are the “Guess what?” bullets that open each chapter, four variants of text boxes (“Just Like Today”; seminal thinkers on Islam [for eg., John Quincy Adams; see below]; “Muhammad vs. Jesus”; and “A Book You’re Not Supposed to Read”), and the chapter subheading(s), “PC myth(s)”. Spencer’s utilizes these six motifs deftly to educate readers about disturbing, but quintessential truths regarding Islam. Illustrative examples include:

• Guess what? (from, ch.2, “The Qur’an: Book of War”, p. 19): -“The Qur’an commands Muslims to make war on Jews and Christians; -Oft-quoted tolerant, peaceful Qur’anic verses have actually been cancelled [see directly below], according to Islamic theology; -There is nothing in the Bible that rivals the Qur’an’s exhortations to violence.”

• Just Like Today (from, ch.2, “The Qur’an: Book of War”, p.27): “The doctrine of abrogation [cancelling Qur’anic verses] is not the province of long-dead muftis whose works no longer carry any weight in the Islamic world. The Saudi Sheikh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajid (b. 1962), whose lectures and Islamic rulings (fatawa) circulate widely throughout the Islamic world, demonstrates this in a discussion of whether Muslims should force others to accept Islam. In considering Qur’an 2:256 (“There is no compulsion in religion,”) the sheikh quotes Qur’an 9:29, 8:39, “And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and polytheism, i.e., worshipping others besides Allah), and the religion (worship) will be for Allah Alone [in the whole of the world]”, and the Verse of the Sword. Of the latter, Sheikh Muhammad says simply: “This verse is known as Ayat al-Sayf (the Verse of the Sword). These and similar verses abrogate those saying that there is no compulsion to become a Muslim.”

• John Quincy Adams on Islam (originally here, quoted in ch. 6, “Islamic Law”, p. 83):  “In the seventh century of the Christian era, a wandering Arab of the lineage of  Hagar [i.e., Muhammad],  the Egyptian, combining the powers of transcendent genius, with the preternatural energy of a fanatic, and the fraudulent spirit of an impostor, proclaimed himself as a messenger from Heaven, and spread desolation and delusion over an extensive portion of the earth.  Adopting from the sublime conception of the Mosaic law, the doctrine of one omnipotent God; he connected indissolubly with it, the audacious falsehood, that he was himself his prophet and apostle.  Adopting from the new Revelation of Jesus, the faith and hope of immortal life, and of future retribution, he humbled it to the dust by adapting all the rewards and sanctions of his religion to the gratification of the sexual passion.  He poisoned the sources of human felicity at the fountain, by degrading the condition of the female sex, and the allowance of polygamy; and he declared undistinguishing and exterminating war, as a part of his religion, against all the rest of mankind.  THE ESSENCE OF HIS DOCTRINE WAS VIOLENCE AND LUST:  TO EXALT THE BRUTAL OVER THE SPIRITUAL PART OF HUMAN NATURE (Adams's capital letters)….Between these two religions, thus contrasted in their characters, a war of twelve hundred years has already raged.  The war is yet flagrant…While the merciless and dissolute dogmas of the false prophet shall furnish motives to human action, there can never be peace upon earth, and good will towards men.”

• Muhammad vs. Jesus (quoted in ch. 6, “Islamic Law”, p. 85): “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’, shall be liable to the hell of fire.” Jesus (Matthew 5:21-22) ; “Therefore, when ye meet the unbelievers in fight, smite at their necks: at length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly on them; thereafter is the time for either generosity or ransom, until the war lays down its burdens….But those who are slain in the Way of Allah, He will never let their deeds be lost.” Qur’an 47:4

• A Book You’re Not Supposed to Read (from ch.3, “Islam Religion of War”, p. 44). Spencer provides a very accurate overview of Joseph Schacht’s seminal, An Introduction to Islamic Law, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982.:  This is a weighty book, as eye-opening as it is scholarly: Schacht [d. 1969] is a serious scholar who is refreshingly free of the bias that dominates studies of Islam in universities today. A sampling: ‘The basis of the Islamic attitude towards unbelievers is the law of war; they must either be converted, or subjugated, or killed’.”

• PC Myth: Islam is a religion of peace that has been hijacked by a tiny minority of extremists. (from ch.3, “Islam: Religion of War”, pp. 41-42): Aptly termed by Spencer, “…the mother of all PC [politically correct] myths about Islam”, the author explains that the persistence of this canard transcends even the prevailing multicultural ethos, or cynical mendacity about Islam’s unsavory aspects. Citing the brilliant 20th century Muslim scholar and ideologue, Sayyid Qutb (d. 1966), Spencer observes that this unabashed proponent of aggressive jihad war, “…taught (without a trace of irony) that Islam is a religion of peace. However, he [Qutb] had a very specific kind of peace in mind: [citing Qutb] ‘When Islam strives for peace, its objective is not that superficial peace which requires only that part of the earth where the followers of Islam are residing remain secure. The peace which Islam desires is that the religion (i.e., the law of the society) be  purified for God, that the obedience of all people be for God alone, and that some people should not be lords over others. After the period of the Prophet—peace be upon him—only the final stages of the movement of Jihaad [Jihad] are to be followed; the initial or middle stages are not applicable’. And Spencer elucidates the meaning of Qutb’s words: “Islam is a religion of peace that will come when everyone is a Muslim or at least subject to the Islamic state. And to establish that peace, Muslims must wage war.”

The late K.S. Lal (d. 2002), a preeminent 20th century scholar of jihad on the Indian subcontinent, explained the stubborn persistence of slavery in Islamic societies, through the present era, as follows:

Muhammad could not change the revelation; he could only explain and interpret it. There are liberal Muslims and conservative Muslims; there are Muslims learned in theology and Muslims devoid of learning. They discuss, they interpret, they rationalize—but all by going round and round within the closed circle of Islam. There is no possibility of getting out of the fundamentals of Islam; there is no provision of introducing any innovation. [7]

Robert Spencer’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) is a very readable, highly informed critique of living Islamic institutions and historical practices incompatible with modern constructs of human rights, and peaceful international relations. One hopes his trenchant observations will motivate the public to cajole media and policymaking elites into initiating a candid discussion of Islam—a discussion these elites have thus far scrupulously avoided. Such unapologetic analysis would  facilitate efforts by willing Muslims to force open the “closed circle of Islam”—K.S. Lal’s bleak, but accurate characterization—and engage in the self-criticism of Islam required to eliminate Islamic doctrines that threaten all of humanity—including Muslims themselves.

*Dr. Bostom is an Associate Professor of Medicine, and the author of the forthcoming The Legacy of Jihad, on Prometheus Books (2005).


[1] W.R. Gardner. “Jihad”, Moslem World, Vol. 2, 1912, cited in, A.G. Bostom. The Legacy of Jihad, Prometheus Books, Amherst, N.Y., 2005, p.295.
[2] Bostom. The Legacy of Jihad, pp.294, 297-299.
[3] Bostom. The Legacy of Jihad, p.18.
[4] W.H.T. Gairdner. “Muhammad Without Camouflage”, Moslem World, Vol. 9, 1919, cited in, A.G. Bostom. The Legacy of Jihad, Prometheus Books, Amherst, N.Y., 2005, pp. 18-19.
[5] Antoine Fattal, Le Statut Legal de Musulmans en Pays' d'Islam, Beirut, 1958, cited in, A.G. Bostom. The Legacy of Jihad, Prometheus Books, Amherst, N.Y., 2005, p.96.
[6] Bostom, The Legacy of Jihad, p.35.
[7] K.S. Lal. Muslim Slave System in India, Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi, 1994, p. 175.

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