THE LONG MARCH OF ISLAM: CHAPTER 4
by R. K. Ohri
CHAPTER 4. IN SEARCH OF LOST GRANDEUR
“Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realising that life is made up of little things”
– Frank A. Clark
Islam is a powerful religion, deeply dogmatic and clash- and conquest-oriented. It is essentially a warrior’s religion and does not allow any separation of the spiritual from the temporal. Over the centuries it has evolved a system of “unique bonding” among its followers, assiduously nurtured and promoted by fundamentalist clerics through the concept of ‘ummah’ which imparts tremendous resilience to the pan-Islamic movement. The history of Islam shows that for almost 500 years, from the seventh to twelfth centuries, Muslim armies carried out a series of armed campaigns resulting in spectacular conquests across the continents of Asia, Africa and Europe. That was the golden era of Islam resplendant with grandeur when it swept across Asia and Africa and made inroads into Europe where it met fierce resistance from the Christian kings. Islam advanced rapidly through the medium of holy wars or jihads against the so-called infidels and the process of conquest of their lands and property was started by the Prophet himself.
The first blood in the cause of Islam was drawn by mujahideen (freedom fighters, terrorists) late in the year 623 A.D. when Prophet’s troops captured the settlement of Nakhla, inhabited by the infidel Koreish tribe, in which one Koreish was killed and two made captives and a meagre booty was obtained. According to Ibn Ishaq, one of the earliest biographers of Prophet Muhammad, this “was the first booty which the Muslims obtained, the first captives they seized and the first life they took”. The amount of ransom money charged was 40 ounces of silver for cash for each of the two captured Koreishites.(1)
During the initial years of Islam’s ascendancy, jihads could be waged only against immediate neighbours most of whom were idolaters and therefore dubbed kafirs or infidels. Among them was the powerful Koreish tribe of Mecca. The Koreish army was defeated in the famous battle of Badr in 624 A.D. resulting in the slaughter of a large body of Koreishites many of whom were taken captives. The leader of the Kureish army, Abu Hakim (i.e., the father of wisdom), nicknamed by the Prophet as Abu Jahl (the father of ignorance), was killed on the battlefield and his famous sword ‘Zulfiqar’ presented to the Prophet. The battle of Badr brought to the victors a huge booty including 70 Koreishite captives, 114 camels, 10 horses and a vast quantity of garments and leather goods. According to an estimate made by Sir William Muir, the amount of ransom extracted was approximately 100,000 dirhams.
It was a historic battle which turned the tide in favour of the Prophet and the faithful. The victory of Badr was followed up by a number of holy wars launched mostly against several Jewish tribes living in the immediate neighbourhood. A prominent Jewish tribe, the Banu Kainuka, was defeated in 624 A.D. and made to flee Medina. Then another jihad was waged against the second Jewish tribe, Banu Nadir, also called Banu Nazir, which was defeated and expelled from Medina in 625 A.D. That campaign was followed by the defeat and total destruction of another Jewish tribe, the third one,the Banu Kuraizah of Medina in 627 A.D. Although the leaders of Banu Kuraizah did not join the battle against the Prophet and his army, their motives were suspect. Therefore the entire clan of Banu Kuraizah was put to slaughter and their women and children sold as slaves for buying horses and arms for mujahideen, as explained in a previous chapter.
In the year 628 A.D. Prophet’s army made a surprise attack on another Jewish tribe, this time a non-Medinese group of Jews and seized their stronghold Khaibar after which the Jews of Khaibar were reduced to the status of kharajguzars of Islam and made to pay a poll tax, called jiziya, for being allowed to live humbly under the supremacy of Islam. That was the first instance of the Islamic impost called ‘jiziya’, a poll tax, being levied by the mujahideen on the infidels, i.e., non-Muslims. Jihads were also waged in the years 626-627 A.D. by the Prophet against Banu Mustalik, an Arab tribe, but not Jewish, which had refused to submit to Islam till they were defeated in 627 A.D.
The capture of Mecca in 630 A.D. from the powerful Kureish tribe brought the entire region effectively under the control of Islam, although two more important jihads were waged by the Prophet against the infidels namely the battle of Hunain in 630 A.D., after the conquest of Mecca, which was followed by the seige of Taif in 630 A.D. The battle of Taif was the last ghazwah (battle expanding Muslim territory) led by the Prophet.
Thus, Jewish tribes being some of the oldest inhabitants of Arab lands and immediate next door neighbours of the Muslims of Arabia, were the first to face the ferocious onslaught of jihads launched by the Prophet. According to an English version, authored by Abdul Hamid Saddiqi (a Pakistani scholar) of the famous Hadith, Sahih Muslim, the Jews of Banu Nadir and Banu Quraiza fought against the Prophet who expelled Banu Nadir but allowed the Quraiza to stay on and granted favour to them until they too fought against him. Then he killed their men and distributed their women, children and properties among the Muslims. The Prophet turned out all the Jews of Medina – Banu Qainuqa and the Jews of Banu Haritha and every other Jew who was in Medina.(2) Thus the roots of the present sixty years old conflict between the Israelis, i.e., the Jewish civilization and the Muslim Palestinians, who are Arabs, lie in the 1400 years old bloody history of clashes between the two sister Semetic faiths, both original natives of the same arid lands.
The Jews had been attacked and plundered earlier by the Romans. Later on they were persecuted by the Christians. With the rise of Islam, once again they came under pressure and lost their ancestral land to the Muslims and were forced to flee Arabia and other parts of the Middle East. That happened 1400 years ago and in the interregnum they continued to be harassed and persecuted both in Europe and Russia. They suffered heavily at the hands of the Nazis during Hitler’s reign when millions were killed mercilessly in gas chambers. After facing centuries of persecution in the Europe, Jews were able to regain their holy land when the state of Israel came into existence in the year 1948 as a late and recalcitrant follow up of the Balfour declaration made in 1919. Interestingly, the Sahih Muslim refers to another hadith according to which the Prophet is believed to have declared, “I will expel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula and will not leave any but Muslims”.(3) This proclamation of the Prophet constitutes the bedrock of the edict issued by Osama bin Laden and other militant Islamist groups in February 1998, calling upon the Muslims worldwide to wage jihad for the expulsion of Amercian troops and all Christians and other infidels from Arab lands, more specifically from Saudi Arabia.
The history of Islam’s growth is replete with instances of numerous clashes and incessant wars with the extant civilizations of the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and Indian sub-continent. After the death of prophet Muhammad in 632 A.D., within five years the Arabs over-ran the Zoroastrian Sassanid kingdom of Persia thereby destroying one of the most splendid and ancient civilizations of the Middle East. In the year 637 A.D. at the Battle of Al-Qadisiyyah a determined Arab army under Saad Ibn Waqqas, a cousin of prophet Muhammad, battled for three days with a numerically superior Sassanid army led by their Zoroastrian commander Rustam and finally emerged victorious on the fourth day when the Arabs succeeded in slaying Rustam, after a fierce battle. That defeat led to the total rout of the Sassanid army and the consequential annihilation of Zoroastrian faith in the land of its birth.
Persia was a prosperous land and the people had a rich tradition of learning and architecture. Persians were a handsome and cultured people. Their nobles lived in beautiful homes and had luxuriant gardens. They were fond of stylish furnishings and furniture – tables plated or inlaid with silver or gold, couches spread with exotic coverlets, floors carpeted with rugs resilient in texture and rich in all the colours of earth and sky.(4) They drank wines from goblets of gold and silver and adorned their tables and shelves with vases moulded by foreign hands. Persians loved song and dance and were fond of musical instruments like the harp, the flute, the drum and the tambourine. Jewelry was plentiful, ranging from tiaras and ear-rings to golden anklets. Men too flaunted jewels on necks and ears and arms.(5)
After tasting victory, the Arabs raced ahead, capturing and plundering many rich and flourishing cities and towns. No quarter was given to Zoroastrians and thousands were put to sword, and their Aatish-Kadas (‘fire-temples’) were razed to ground. The process of converting the Zoroastrians to Islam and destruction of their fire-temples continued unabated for almost two hundred years. In the ninth and tenth centuries hundreds of Zoroastrian nobles and clergy sailed out through Persian Gulf and many of them, mainly the nobles and the clergy, landed on India’s west coast and took shelter in Sindh and Gujarat, under Hindu rulers. According to recorded history around 928 A.D. a large group of Zoroastrians landed on the Gujarat coast near Sanjan and sought shelter in the kingdom of Jadi Raja saying that they would live among the local people in a self-effacing manner and become like sugar in a pot of milk – a promise which they have always lived upto. The Zoroastrians, known as Parsis in India, have truly adopted India as their motherland and have contributed to the nation building in a significant manner through their talent and enterprise.
The Arabs turned their attention to Sind sometime between 634 and 644 A.D., during the reign of the second caliph or successor to the Prophet and in the next sixty or seventy years made ten attempts at conquest.(6) Towards the end of the seventh century Hajjaj became governor of Iraq. After taking permission of the Caliph, he sent an army to conquer Sind which was ruled by Raja Dahir. In one of the first campaigns, Hajjaj’s army was defeated by Dahir’s son and the Arab commander was killed and many Arabs taken prisoners. But that set back did not deter Hajjaj. Between 711 and 713 A.D. a number of campaigns were launched to capture the vast kingdom of Sindh which stretched across the north western coast of the sub-continent, far beyond the present province of Sindh in Pakistan. The country was called Sindhu, because of the great river that flows through that region, referred to as Indus by the Greeks and other Europeans.
Finally in the year 713 A.D. Hajjaj decided to take another chance. He selected 6,000 experienced soldiers from Syria, appointed his seventeen year old son-in-law Mohammed bin Qasim as commander and supervised every detail of the campaign. The army was sent by land, while the supplies, including naphtha arrows, coats of mail, battering rams and a special catapult which required hundreds of men to operate, were sent by sea. Hajjaj continued to send copious military instructions along with religious exhortations from his headquarters at Kufa to bin Qasim by letters delivered through runners. The attack was to be focussed at the port town of Debal where Mohammed bin Qasim arrived by land, as per schedule. The supplies came by sea. After detailed preparations the battle was joined on the eighth day under orders of Hajjaj.
According to a legend, at the end of the first day of the battle a Brahmin came out of the town who was apparently bribed. He confided in the Arabs that Raja Dahir’s army and the towns people had a strong belief that the fort of Debal was guarded by a magic charm the core of which were the four flags of green silk hanging from the flagstaff on the dome of the grand temple of Debal fort which protected the rulers and residents of Debal from the enemy. So long as the flags atop the temple remained in position, the army of Dahir and the people of Debal will continue to fight. But if the Arabs could bring down the charmed flags and the flagstaff of the temple, the army will accept defeat.
Eventually it was this betrayal which led to the defeat of Dahir. Next day bin Qasim ordered the catapult engineer, one Jaubat, to bring down the charmed temple flagstaff, while the Arab warriors mounted a fierce attack from four directions. As soon as the flagstaff was broken by the fuselades of stones shot through the catapult, Dahir’s army lost heart and opened the gate of the town. The people of Debal prayed for mercy. But as instructed by Hajjaj, the Arab army continued to slaughter the citizens for three days during which no quarter was given nor requests for mercy entertained. While the campaign in Sind was continuing, Hajjaj received the head of the vanquished king, 60,000 slaves and the mandatory royal one fifth of the plundered wealth. He offered special prayers of thanksgiving to Allah. A proclamation asked the people of Sind to embrace Islam to save themselves from slaughter.
The foregoing narrative of the Arab conquest of Sindh is largely based on a Persian translation of the Chachnama or Tarikh-i-Hind wa Sind by Muhammad ‘Ali bin Hamid (Kufi) written in early thirteenth century. As pointed out by V.S. Naipaul, the Chachnama is Arab or Muslim genre writing, ‘a pleasant story of conquest’ and it was written five hundred years after the conquest of Sindh.(7) Unfortunately the officially doled out versions of the history of Sindh by the present day Pakistani rulers routinely describe the Arab invasion and the conquest of Sindh by bin Qasim in 711-713 A.D. as an event which liberated the Sindhi masses from Hindu tyranny and oppressive Brahminical caste-rule thereby ushering in an era of unprecedented social equality, which is incorrect. Even the translated version of Chachnama reveals a pirate-like conquest that wreaked havoc on the local populations, transferring a considerable volume of plundered wealth such as gold, silver, and jewelry and also slaves, as a tribute to Hajjaj. Mohammad bin Qasim and his military commanders also greatly profited from the conquest, enriching themselves at the expense of the local population.
Another history of the period, the Futuh-i Bulda’n by Ahmad bin Yahya bin Jabir, (892-893 A.D.), which is relatively far less older than Chachnama describes how some of the victories in Sindh were achieved by the destruction (or salinization) of vital aquaducts that deprived the populations of drinking water, leading to their surrender.(8) Both these historical documents describe the slaying of able-bodied soldiers and other townsmen and the taking of women and children as slaves in large numbers. According to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Mohammed Bin Qassim’s first act of zeal was to forcibly circumcise the Brahmins of the city of Debul. But when Qassim found that Hindus objected to this mode of conversion, he put all men above the age of 17 to slaughter and ordered all others including women and children, to be enslaved. The temple of Hindus was looted and the rich booty was divided equally among the soldiers, after one-fifth, the legal portion meant for the Hajjaj, the ruler, had been set aside.(9) That is the true story of the defeat and ignominy suffered at the hands of Arab invaders by the forbears of the people of Sindh. No wonder, G.M. Syed and some other proud Sindhi Muslims, refused to eulogise the conquest of Sindh by the Arabs.
With the looting of its savings of gold and silver and other assets and the annual demands for tribute (estimated at a million dirhams annually) it is not surprising that Sindh was culturally and economically eclipsed by Gujarat and Rajasthan – its eastern neighbours which escaped such devastation.(10) What is remarkable about the contemporary records of history is the irrefutable evidence of forcible mass conversions. Conversion to Islam was offered as an option to escape death to the defeated populations. It was also presumed that conversion to Islam would be taken as a token of surrender and willingness to pay tribute to the new authorities and a sign that the political suzerainty of the victors would not be challenged. The same methodology of forcible conversion had been successfully used earlier by the Arab conquerors in Iran and several other parts of the Middle East.
After partition of the sub-continent, the fundamentalist Muslim historians and rulers of Pakistan have been putting forth a viewpoint that the conquest of Sindh by Mohammed Bin Qasim was a grand event and that the advent of Islam ushered in an era of great social equality and promoted education and learning on a grand scale. This claim has to be viewed against the backdrop of Pakistan’s origin as a theocratic Islamic State based on the philosophy of rabid hatred of the Hindus. Interestingly Raja Dahir belonged to the illustrious clan of Mohiyal Brahmins. According to a legend, a Mohiyal ruler of West Asia had rushed his army, under prince Rahab Datta, to help the beleagured Imam Hussain, grandson of prophet Muhammad in the year 680 A.D. (61 Hijri) in the famous battle of Karbala, located in today’s Iraq on the banks of river Euphrates. Imam Hussain who led a small force was son of Fatima and Ali bin Abu Talib and was a grandson of prophet Muhammad. At Karbala a large army mobilised by Yazid, a descendant of the Umayyad tribe, had beseiged a relatively smaller army of Arab Muslims led by Imam Hussain. Yazid had directed the latter to submit to his authority which Hussain refused to do and joined the battle against Yazid. Imam Hussain put up a brave fight but in the ensuing battle he was killed and his small army routed at Karbala and the head of Imam Hussain was sent to the Ummayad Caliph Yazid. It is said that in the battle of Karbala, fighting shoulder to shoulder with Imam Hussain, the Mohiyal Brahmin prince Rahab Datta (perhaps his correct name was Raghav Datta) and his soldiers too, had perished.
Imam Hussain is regarded as a great martyr in the cause of Islam and his sacrifice is commemorated every year by Muslims as a day of mourning, i.e., Moharram. That explains why Mohiyal Brahmins are sometime referred to as Hussaini Brahmins by Muslim historians. Apparently at that time there were some regions or principalities in the Middle East which were ruled by the Mohiyals. But subsequently in the great Islamic wave of rapid conquests the Mohiyal rulers were forced to flee to Afghanistan and India. In the history of medieval India there are references to a dynasty of Shahi or Shahiya Brahmins who ruled over several parts of Afghanistan and North Western India (now a part of Pakistan). The last Hindu Shahiya king of Kabul, Bhimapal, was killed in 1026 A.D., after the advent of Islam and the rise of Ghazanvi rulers.
The Shahiya rulers had offered stiff resistance from the fastness of Khyber Pass to Muslim invaders for decades. Finally in the eleventh century the Shahiya kingdom was overrun by the Muslim rulers of Ghazni. It may be recalled that just a hundred years prior to the reign of Dahir, Sind was ruled by Rajput Rajas who had embraced Buddhism. Attention may be drawn to the views of a Sindhi historian and political activist of Pakistan, G.M. Syed, who was jailed in 1964 for eulogising the great ancient civilisation of Sindh and praising Raja Dahir and earlier Rajput rulers of Sindh for their just and liberal secular views and tolerance.
According to G. M. Syed, during Dahir’s reign people of various faiths co-existed peacefully throughout Sindh. While the Hindus had their Mandirs, the Parsis (Zoroastrians) had their fire-temples, the Buddhists their Viharas and Stupas and the Arab Muslims, who had been given permission to settle down along the coast, had their mosques.
G.M. Syed came to the conclusion that the primary motivation for Arab invasion of Sind was the ire of the Umayyad Caliphs against local rulers for having given shelter to Zoroastrian nobles and generals after their defeat in Persia at the hands of Arabs. This possibility, howsoever remote, cannot be ruled out totally, because of the existence of several pockets of resistance led by stray groups of Sassanid warriors in Iran who continued to have support of the left-behind Zoroastrian population in rural areas. Perhaps Umayyad rulers, aware as they were of the military history of Persia and the prowess shown by Zoroastrian nobles in the battlefield while conquering Arab lands, wanted to forestall the possibility of a Persian-Sindhi alliance being forged for fighting the Arab armies. One conjecture is that the Umayyad caliphate decided to attack Sindh before any such alliance could take shape but that seems rather far fetched.
According to a more reliable version, given by Dr B. R. Ambedkar in his book, Pakistan or Partition of India, the expedition by Muhammad bin Qasim was of punitive character and had been undertaken to punish Raja Dahir of Sindh who had refused to make amends for the seizure of an Arab ship at Debal, an important seaport of Sindh.(11) But there might be another aim, too. That was to strike a blow at the idolatry and polytheism of Hindus and establishing Islam in India. After subjugating the Zoroastrians and securing their eastern flank by the annexation of Sindh, the Arabs mounted campaigns against other neighbouring civilizations and carried out a whirlwind conquest of the Persian-ruled Mesapotamia (Iraq), the Roman-ruled Syria and enslaved the entire Northern Africa, right from Egypt, which was predominantly populated by the Christians, to Morocco.
Thus within one hundred years of the death of prophet Muhammad, the Arabs had seized the southern and eastern shores of Mediterranean, including most of the Iberian peninsula,the modern Spain,and destroyed almost all old civilizations of the region. After converting the Moors and the Berbers of Africa to Islam and rallying them to their ranks, the Arab armies started knocking at the doors of Italy and France. It must be admitted that the great Arab conquests from seventh to tenth centuries owed a great deal to the gutsy and inspirational leadership of Prophet Muhammad who had guided them to the path of “holy wars” which they continued to wage relentlessly, even though Prophet Muhammad was no longer alive to personally lead them in campaigns.
The Syrian capital of Damascus became the seat of the vast Umayyad Caliphate and the Arab empire stretched from Sindh in Hindustan (India) in the east, through Iran, Mesapotamia, Egypt, Maghreb and Morocco to the eastern shores of Atlantic of which the Iberian peninsula (modern Spain) was an important outpost. Soon the rapidly advancing armies of the Arabs and Berbers posed a grave threat to the Christian civilizations of Europe. It is interesting to note that in the circumstances somewhat similar to those prevalent today, in the eighth century, too, the Christian Europe had lived under the shadow of [extreme] fear because of the repeated onslaughts of advancing Islamic armies the tales of whose exploits caused trepidation all over Europe. In the year 711 A.D. the Iberian peninsula, referred to by the Arabic name of Al Andalus by Muslim historians, witnessed a bloody battle in which the Visigothic army of Spanish Christians led by King Roderick, was routed by the Muslim troops, mostly Berbers and Arabs, which were commanded by the Umayyad Commander Tariq Ibn Ziyad, a manumitted slave.
This was followed by another invasion of Europe by a larger force led by the Umayyad Amir, Musa Ibn Nusayr and all those towns and cities of Iberia which resisted Arab occupation were systematically plundered and destroyed. Spurred by the Jihadi zeal of spreading the prophet’s message all over the world, the Arab armies had evolved the tradition of carrying fire and sword in their wake into the regions captured by them. Their Iberian campaigns were no exception. It may be recalled that during the dark middle ages the pre-Islamic tribal tradition of Bedouin brigandage, widely practised in the desert of Arabia, came to be woven into the concept of “jihad”. Consequently it was a standard norm for Muslim warriors to plunder the cities and carry away the riches of the defeated nations as booty. [and often their soldiers were allowed to carry away the womenfolk of the vanquished]
After consolidating their control over Iberian peninsula, in 732 A.D. the Arabs crossed the Pyrenees and mounted an armed expedition under Abd ar-Rahman to capture the land of Franks or Firangs, the modern France. According to both Latin and Arabic historical sources, Abd ar-Rahman’s aim was not merely to plunder the Dar-ul-Harb, the land of conflict, ruled by the infidels but to conquer and subjugate the entire Christian world. As recorded in the Futuh Misr by Ibn Abd al-Hakam, an Arab historian (c. 803-71), the Muslims defeated the Christian army of Eudo at Bordeaux, then ransacked the city and took a great deal of booty including gems and pearls, encrusted golden jewellery, etc. But soon thereafter when the Muslim army led by Abd er Rahman, Governor of Spain, moved further ahead into the land of Franks, i.e., France, they were intercepted and engaged by a large French army led by Austrasian Mayor, Charles, in a fierce battle on the road connecting Tours and Poitiers and were decisively defeated and put to flight. Abd er Rahman was killed.
After Charles won the war against invading Muslims at Tours-Poitiers he earned the title ‘Martel’, i.e., the Hammer. Thus the battle of Tours-Poitiers, fought and won by the French Christian army on Saturday the 10th October 732 A.D., was the first turning point in the history of Europe as well as resurgent Islam – the former succeeded in saving Europe’s Christian civilization, while the mighty Muslim army tasted its first defeat at the hands of Christian Europe and was humbled by the Franks, called ‘firangs’ by Muslims. For Christians it was a very significant victory, especially when one considers it in the light of the record of successful armed campaigns of Muslims leading to their political and cultural dominance along the entire eastern and southern shores of the Mediterranean. The blitz of Islam’s conquests of Iran, Sindh, Syria, Mesapotamia and the north African coastline right upto Morocco, in the seventh and eighth centuries had led to imposition of Arab culture on the previously Christian and non-Muslim populace of these lands. With the defeat of the Visigothic army of Spanish Christians by the Muslims in the battle of Rio Barbate in 711 A.D., the former were doomed to live in servitude for seven long centuries before Spain could regain freedom. Interestingly in the matter of long record of slavery the Christian Spain comes second, just behind the Hindu civilization, which remained in the captivity of alien rulers for almost nine hundred years, seven hundred years under the Muslims and almost two hundred years under the British. [This ignominy of abject submission to alien raiders and crass pusillimanity of Hindu civilization for 900 years is often euphemstically referred to as “the great Hindu virtue of tolerance” by some voluble historians of post independence India! What price the great Hindu virtue of ‘tolerance’ and that too at the cost of freedom and self-respect?]
The “Reconquista” of their motherland by the Spaniards could be completed only after seven hundred years long fierce struggle when they drove out the Moors from Granada in the year 1492. That was just a few months before Columbus received official blessings for his voyage across the Atlantic. The Spanish warriors spearheading the ‘Reconquista’ were as ruthless as were the Muslim invaders 700 years ago. Churches remodelled into mosques were reconverted and many freshly built mosques were destroyed. The sole architectural exception was the beautiful Alhambra mosque. There were organised reconversions of European Muslims to Christianity. After being ruled by the Moors for almost 400 years, in 1147 Lissabona (i.e., Lisbon, the capital of modern Portugal) was overrun. The Christian army promised to spare the lives of the defending Moors if they surrendered but after the town fell the promise was violated and the Moors were killed in large numbers. Ultimately the Moors were systematically driven out across the Mediterranian; emigration, conversion or death were the only options given to them. In other words the Spaniards treated the Moors and Arabs in much the same manner in which the invading Muslim hordes had treated the Spanish people some 700 years ago.
Thus Europe escaped subjugation by the warriors of Islam largely due to the resounding victory of the French army in the battle of Tours-Poitiers, also known as the battle of Tours in October 732. Had Charles Martel suffered defeat at Tours-Poitiers and met the fate which befell the Visigothic King Roderick in the battle of Rio Barbate at the hands of the Muslims, the history of Europe and Christianity could have been different. In fact the entire world history would have taken a different turn! The significance of the Battle of Tours has been a topic of much debate. In 1776 Edward Gibbon wrote in his celebrated treatise, the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a famous, but colourful, passage about the event saying that “A victorious line of march had been prolonged above a thousand miles from the rock of Gibraltor to the banks of the Loire; the repetition of an equal space would have carried the Saracens to the confines of Poland and the Highlands of Scotland; the Rhine is no more impassable than the Nile or Euphrates and the Arabian fleet might have sailed without a naval combat into the mouth of the Thames. Perhaps the interpretation of the Qoran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Muhammed.” The noted historian, William E. Watson, expressed the view that the importance of the battle of Tours has been exaggerated, implying that even if Charles Martel had lost, the Europe might still have mustered the strength to repel the Muslim invaders. But historians like Edward Creasy held a different view. They felt that it was unlikely that a lesser man could have succeeded where his superior had failed. Similar views were expressed by the well known French historians, M.Guizot and Mme.Guizot de Witt, who wrote in 1869 about the battle of Tours that “it was a struggle between East and West, South and North, Asia and Europe, the Gospel and the Koran, and we now say, on a general consideration of events, peoples, ages, that the civilization of the world depended on it.”(12)
The crusades waged by the coalition of European kings from eleventh to thirteenth centuries were an attempt to retake from the Muslims the holy city of Jerusalem, most sacred to Christians, it being the site of the crucification of Jesus Christ. They did not succeed but were able to considerably thwart Islam’s design to conquer Europe. A few centuries later, Europe was able to carve out a number of Christian-ruled states in West Asia which led to the conquests of many Arab nations. Even after the massive defeat of the Serbs by Ottoman Turks in 1389 at Kosovo where thousands of Serb warriors laid down their lives, Europe refused to submit to the invading Muslim armies. In 1396 a large expedition mounted by king Sigismund of Hungary to save the Balkans from Turkish onslaught had received support of many Christian kings and knights of Europe. But they were defeated in the battle of Nicopolis (i.e., Nikopol) on the banks of Danube.
Islam continued to be entrenched in eastern Europe as a politico-religious force and Turks were able to consolidate their hold on the Balkans. But their ambition to capture the heartland of Europe was finally put paid in the seventeenth century. To defeat and plunder the rich and famous kingdom of Hapsburg rulers of Austria, a leading dynasty of Christian Europe, the Ottoman Turks started making preparations from March 1683 onwards to attack Vienna which they had covetously eyed all along but had failed to conquer in 1529. In June 1683 the Turkish army invaded Austria and King Leopald and his court were forced to flee to Passau. On July 14, 1683, the Turks reached the outskirts of Vienna and laid seige to that great capital of Hapsburgs.
The final battle was joined on September 12, 1683. This was one of the most important battles in the history of Europe and its outcome had a profound long-term effect on the history of the continent – perhaps on the history of the entire mankind. On one side was arraigned the formidable Turkish army along with fifteen thousand Tartars lined up on their side, led by Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa, an Ottoman commander. On the other side were a far less numerous combination of German, Austrian and Polish troops, gallantly led by King Jan Sobieski of Poland. The latter were greatly helped by a determined group of residents of Vienna who had erected fortified barricades to block several breaches made by the Turks in a bid to enter the city. Sobieski had marched with his troops from Krakow to Vienna with a vow to proceed “to wage a Holy War, and with God’s help to give back the old freedom to beseiged Vienna and thereby help wavering Christendom”. And he succeeded splendidly. Jan Sobieski came to be looked upon not only as the saviour of Vienna but the saviour of the entire Europe from the depredations of Turks.
The defeat of Ottoman army at Vienna in 1683 became the second turning point in the history of Europe; it ranked next only to the victory of Charles Martel in the battle of Tours in 732 A.D. After the defeat of Turks at Vienna in 1683 the history of militant Islam has been that of tremendous downswing in their fortunes. Thence onwards they met several successive reverses at the hands of the European civilization during the next two centuries, as is evident from the formidable count of the subjugation of several Muslim countries and territories in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These had been earlier overrun and annexed by the armies of Islam. This fact has always rankled in the minds of Islamic societies and on this score the Islamists continue to bear a massive grudge against the Christian civilization.
On a rational examination, however, the grievance of the Islamists against the Christian civilization is found to be rather shallow and specious. The Islamists conveniently forget that originally they and their forebears, too, had captured all these countries from the hapless peoples and indigenous rulers of those lands through the medium of wars – most of which were quite brutal and bloody. True, the re-conquering European armies also indulged in large scale violence and repression. But in sharp contrast to the oppressive rule of most Muslim kings, the acts of repression committed by the Christian Europe were far less severe.
The conflict between Islam and Christianity has a fairly long and chequered history of almost 1400 years. It is not a new phenomenon nor a discovery. But credit must be given to Samuel Huntington for bringing up the topical subject of the growing Islamist threat in an objective and analytical manner, supported by empirical studies and devoted research. He has drawn attention to a geo-political phenomenon of gigantic dimensions, the jihadi terror, which is already upon us. The battle-lines are already drawn. The present civilizational clash is bound to have wide repercussions on the future imperfect of the mankind, whichever way the wind might blow – irrespective of the fact whether the universal civilization wins or Islam emerges victorious in this historic clash.
From the very beginning Islam has been a militarily expansionist and war-oriented religion. For centuries, say for almost one thousand years, it remained involved in a number of wars with every other civilization in Asia, Africa and Europe. Apart from the destruction and unsung exit of the Jewish civilization from Arabian lands, the other important civilizations attacked by Islam were those of Mesapotamia, Byzantine and Egypt which were totally annihilated and wiped out, while the three non-Semitic but culturally sublimated and “tolerant” religions, namely the Zoroastrian, the Buddhist and the Hinduism, all highly advanced in terms of education, science, culture and arts, were roundly defeated by Islam in successive wars and driven to the margin of history. In the aftermath of one thousand years of relentless civilizational clashes in Asia the Zoroastrians stood virtually decimated, Hindus barely managed to survive, albeit badly battered, bruised and mauled, while Buddhism totally disappeared from the Middle East, Afghanistan, Central Asia and a number of south Asian countries.
The Christian Europe was the only civilization which withstood the successive mighty onslaughts of Islam. It speaks volumes for the qualities of unity, grit and perseverance displayed by the Christian Europe – found woefully lacking among the contemporary Zoroastrian rulers of Persia or the Hindu rulers of the Indian sub-continent. It was a formidable combination of these qualities which enabled the Christians to successfully push back the advancing Islamic armies. Finally through crusades they carried forward the battle right into the Arab camp by coalescing the formerly divided legions of Europe’s Christian kings into a tough coalition. They not only repulsed the repetitive attacks of Islamic campaigners, both of Arabs as well as Turks, but defeated them steadily and surely, in a convincing manner in a series of battles from the twelfth century onwards.
The crusades, as many as eight, waged between 1095 and 1270 A.D. by the coalition of European kings finally managed to turn the tables on the expansionist designs of Muslim armies to overrun the Europe. Although the third crusade led by King Richard, the Lion-hearted, ended in a fiasco in July 1192 with his defeat at the hands of Saladin outside Jaffa, very close to Jerusalem, the Christian Europe did not throw in the towel. They continued to strive for reaching Jerusalem by mounting more crusades. The real importance of crusades lay in bringing about a unity of purpose between the Christian kings of Europe which enabled the Spaniards to throw out the Moors in the thirteenth century and subsequently led to the total rout of the Ottoman army at Vienna in 1683.
Unlike the Zoroastrians and the Hindus, the European civilization emerged a winner largely because of their far-sighted strategy of forming a ‘coalition’ of the Christian rulers of Europe to fight the onslaught of militant Islam. The Zoroastrians, the Hindus and the Buddhists failed to realize that Islam was a powerful union of scores of countries, all bound by one single faith, which was committed single-mindedly to destroying all neighbouring civilisations. But Christian Europe had a better perception; they knew that Islam was a powerful union of all Muslim countries which could destroy Christianity just as they had decimated many other civilizations, in case the former chose to fight the menace separately, as independent nations. So they banded together and fought back – despite their multifarious internal feuds and endless squabbles!
The contrast in attitudes has been aptly described by Naipaul in his book, Among The Believers: An Islamic Journey. He compares the conquest of the Hindu kingdom of Sind by Arabs with the conquest of Mexico and other Latin American countries by the Spanish conquistadores and points out that the theme of both campaigns was the same: the destruction by an imperialist power, with a strong sense of mission and a wide knowledge about the world, of a remote unintelligent and uninformed culture that knows only itself and doesn’t understand with whom it is fighting.(13) The world-conquerors have a wider view and objective. Their men are bound together by a larger idea. The people to be conquered live in isolation; they see less, know less and have fragmented societies which are ready to be taken over. Interestingly, both in Mexico in 1519 and Sindh in 710 A.D. the will of the losing people had been weakened by the prophecies of the impending conquest.(14)
The Hindu and the Buddhist rulers had neither any sound knowledge of the great unity of Islam, the fact that ‘Ummah’ was a global union nor could they make any strategic assessment of the aggressor’s resolve to ruthlessly over-run all civilizations of neighbouring countries. That spelt their doom. The Christian kings of Europe knew better. It looks as though even today, in the twenty-first century, the Christian West represented by the Geroge Bush and Tony Blair duo, is more wide awake and better attuned than most oriental countries to meet the threat of international Islamist terrorism. No great wisdom is needed to know that the Islamic concept of ‘ummah’ is a sort of permanently bonded union, a transnational corporation much more vigorous and powerful than a mere ‘coalition’ in as much as the Islamists have a ready all-time union of their co-religionist all over the world for achieving their common objective, namely waging a holy war. In almost every respect and on every count, a militant transnational corporation based on religious affinity and flush with funds could be a formidable expansionist mechanism, much more powerful than a coalition. The strategy of George Bush to form a ‘world coalition’ to fight Islamist ‘union’ is not something new. It is a copy of the coalition of the Christian Europe formed in the tenth and eleventh centuries. But one must eschew the temptation of labelling it ‘old hat’. The coalition of George Bush is a refined, sophisticated and enlarged version of the coalition of the European rulers constituted in the medieval times to stave off the Islamic threat. It is a coalition of the entire democratic civil society believing in equality and modernity.
Finally, much to the chagrin of the Islamic world, between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries the European powers managed to establish their supremacy by capturing a number of Muslim countries in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa and put paid to the jihadi fervour of Islam – at least temporarily for a few hundred years. Beginning from 1798 when the Dutch seized direct control of the East Indies, most of which now constitute Indonesia, and right upto 1941-1946 when the U.K. and the Soviet Russia gobbled up between themselves Iran, the West had waged a number of successful wars against Muslim countries and annexed nearly thirty territories enumerated below, all ruled by the Muslims, causing a massive setback and heart-burn to the Muslims.(15)
Chronology of Islamic Countries/Territories Annexed by European Powers.
1. 1798 Dutch occupation of East Indies.
2. 1820 Qatar and Trucial Oman became British protectorates.
3. 1830-57 Algeria was conquered by the French.
4. 1834-59 Caucasus was annexed by Russia.
5. 1839 Aden was annexed by Britain
6. 1846-64 Valley of Syr Darya was annexed by Russia.
7. 1853-65 Russia captured Tashkent.
8. 1856. Oudh (ruled by a Muslim Nawab) was annexed to British India.
9. 1857. Demise of Mughal empire of India – India taken over by the British.
10. 1866-72 Conquest of Bukhara and Samarkand by Russia
11. 1873-87 Uzbekistan was seized by Russia.
12. 1875-76 Kohkand annexed by Russia
13. 1881-83 Tunisia was conquered by the French.
14. 1873-87 Occupation of Egypt by the British
15. 1885-90 Conquest of Eritrea by Italy
16. 1890 Conquest of Senegal by France
17. 1891-99 Conquest of Upper Niger and Ivory Coast by France
18. 1891 Muscat became a British Protectorate.
19. 1895 Annexation of Pamir Plateau area by Russia
20. 1898 Conquest of Sudan by the British
21. 1900 Conquest of Chhad by France
22. 1906 Sultanates of northern Nigeria became British Protectorates
23. 1912-30 Italy conquered Tripolitana and Cyrenaica
24. 1912 Morocco was conquered by France and Spain.
25. 1914 Kuwait became British Protectorate
26. 1919-21 Greece seized Smyrna province of Turkey
27. 1919-21 Turkish territory of Anatolaya was seized by Italy
28. 1919-21 Cilician Province of Turkey was occupied by France
29. 1920 Syria and Lebanon came under French mandate
30. 1941-46 Britain and Russia occupied Iran
The Russo-Turkish war of 1877 and the Greco-Turkish war of 1897 were major set backs for Islam. The turbulence in the Muslim world further increased with the Italian invasion of Tripoli in October 1911 and the Balkans wars of 1912 and 1913. After the defeat of the Ottoman Caliphate of Turkey in 1918, it became sunset time for Islam when the Turkish government asked for an armistice which was signed at Mudros on October 30, 1918, and Constantinople was occupied by the British in December the same year. As a follow up of the treaties made during the war, the Italian troops landed at Adalia on April 29, 1919, and the Greeks also joined on May 15, 1919. After vanquishing the Ottomans and seizing their capital Constantinople, the British and the French partitioned a large part of the Turkish empire between themselves. Three new states were formed under three new names. Two of these, Iraq and Palestine, came under British rule, while the third state, called Syria, went under the French rule.
Later on many of the 30 conquered countries either became protectorates of their European rulers or acquired semi-independent or independent status. But the humiliation of losing out to Christianity continues to torment Muslim scholars and clerics even today. Evidently the antagonism between the Islamic and Western civilizations has festered for several centuries. Iranian scholar and diplomat Fereydoun Hoveyda argues that Islamic civilization has been impeded since the twelfth century as a result of major crisis and confrontations with Christendom.(16) The Crusaders occupied the Levant and the Holy Land and established Christian states in the areas claimed by Islam, while in the Iberian Peninsula a Christian coalition slowly but decisively began the campaign to evict the Muslims from Spain and Portugal.(17)
According to Bodansky, mysticism, militancy and the quest for perpetual jihad have become the rallying cry of the latest generation of Islamist militants. Jihad which literally means “striving”, refers to a holy war undertaken to further the rule of Islam over contested lands, particularly Muslim lands occupied by non-Muslims who consider any land ever conquered by Islam as theirs forever and so also the territories having a significant Muslim population even if those are controlled by the non-Muslims.(18)
Therefore the disintegration of the Turkish empire in the twentieth century was a serious set back to the glory of Islam. Before the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Turkey had lost her provinces in the Europe during the two Balkan wars. Consequent upon the dismemberment of the Turkish empire, the Ottoman Caliphate came to be abolished. That was another major blow to the pride of Muslims. The fact that Islam has lost many countries and regions to the Christian west during the last 200 years and was repetitively humbled and deprived of its grandeur of middle ages by western civilization has always rankled in the minds of Muslim scholars, intellectuals and fundamentalists, as reflected in Iqbal’s highly readable poem “Shikwa”. To an average Indian Iqbal is better known as the author of “Saare Jahan Se Accha, Hindustan Hamara”, a magnificent poem which he had written when he was just 18 or 19 years old.
Excepting the educated classes not many Indians know that it was Iqbal who had sown the seeds of India’s partition on the ground that Muslims were a separate nation who could not live with the Hindus in the same country. The first clear expression of the idea is to be found in an address to the Muslim League in 1930 by Sir Mohammed Iqbal. He had mainly in mind what is now West Pakistan.(19) Iqbal conceptualised the Islamic state of Pakistan and for that important reason he is held in great esteem in Pakistan and universally revered by many terrorist groups of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). He was an intellectual and a poet par excellence. His poetry is full of wonderful imagery and superb diction. In his magnum opus, ‘Shikwa’, which means “the Lament”, Iqbal makes a passionate and soulful supplication to Allah for restoration of the old glory and grandeur of Islam and complained Islam was in the sunset mode.
While analysing the causes of the growth of radical Islam, it would be interesting to understand the import and impact of the forceful message contained in Iqbal’s ‘Shikwa’. His lament about the declining fortunes of Islam, and resonant references to the intrepid spirit and courage of Muslim warriors in waging wars against the infidels and idolaters created a new awakening among the Muslims of the sub-continent and in the Arab lands of West Asia and even in the far away Indonesia. The ‘Shikwa’ was considered as a clarion call to the faithful and widely acclaimed after it was translated into Arabic by Effendi. Iqbal recalled the old glory of Muslim warriors when they overran many continents and made “the rich and the powerful” bite the dust, while singing “shaan aankhon mein na jachti thi jahandaron ki, kalma padhate thei ham chhaon mein talwaron ki”. Translated into English it meant that the Muslims did not like the hegemony of the rich and the powerful and waged wars while saying their prayers, i.e. Kalma, in the battlefield. It looks as though Iqbal had a dream vision of Islam’s ongoing war against today’s prosperous and powerful, in galloping across the continents from one victory to another through deserts and oceans to spread the message of the Prophet and narrated how they had extinguished the fire of Zoroastrian temples, humbled and subjugated Khyber Pass and destroyed idols and vanquished the idol worshippers worldwide. But now they were down and out because they had foresaken the path shown by the Prophet.
The soul stirring inspiration provided by Iqbal’s Shikwa to radical Islamists across the globe was experienced by V.S. Naipaul in 1979-80, even prior to the Afghan jihad and Laden’s rise to fame, in the far away Bandung in Indonesia when he met Imaduddin, an engineer turned Islamist instructor at the mosque-cum-madarasa of the Institute of Technology, during a three days course in “Islamic mental training”. After recitation of some verses of Quran, Imaduddin was called upon to read a poem. Imaduddin told Naipaul that the poem he was going to read was by Iqbal and that during the last session of mental training he always closed the course by reading that poem by Iqbal. He had chosen it because it is very soul stirring. It was written in Urdu, as Naipaul knew, had been translated into Arabic by Effendi and from Arabic version translated into Indonesian by Mohammed Natsir. Iqbal was the idealogue of Pakistan, while Natsir was once the leader of the banned radical Muslim party of Indonesia.
Imaduddin explained the poem to Naipaul and then began to read and he was totally transformed. Giving a graphic account of the impact of the poem on Imaduddin’s personality, Naipaul points out that all his social graces and humour were submerged in this new personality, not of an actor or puppet-master but of a Mullah in the mosque, reciting the Qoran on some religious day. Imaduddin had said the poem was emotional; and as he read, his voice broke. At times he seemed about to sob as if in anguish, perhaps thinking of hell, heaven and redemption. The theme of Iqbal’s poem, as Naipaul understood, was, how without the Prophet and knowledge of his mission, the world could be endured.(20) Thus Iqbal was not only the idealogue of Pakistan; he fathered Pakistan – Jinnah was merely Qaid-e-Azam.
Iqbal also played a major inspirational role in propagating the pan-Islamic movement across the globe through his poems and writings. His exhortations to the faithful were making waves among orthodox Muslims, long before the beginning of Afghan jihad when Osama bin Laden appeared on the scene. Successive Pakistani governments have faithfully carried forward Iqbal’s mission, even when the going for them was tough. Of special interest to Islamic militants of Pakistan have been Iqbal’s famous lines from another poem captioned ‘Tarana’, which could be titled Tarana-e-Islam, in which he sang of the bonds of universal Islamic brotherhood and raised new visions of the victory of pan-Islamism by proclaiming “Muslim hain ham watan hai saara jahan hamara, Chin-o-Arab hamara, Hindustan hamara”. Again,”Teghon ke saye main ham pal kar jawan huey hain, Khanjar halal ka hai qaumi nishan hamara”. Translated into English it means that “the entire world belongs to us, the Muslims; we have a claim on China and Arabia, and India too belongs to us. We, Muslims, have been brought up under the ‘shade of swords’ and for that reason the Halali dagger, or butcher’s knife, represents the Nation of Islam”.
These famous lines of Tarana are music to the ears of jihadis being trained in Pakistan and Pak Occupied Kashmir (POK). In these two poems, Shikwa and Tarana, there are references to the glorious history of Islam, its golden age when the valleys of Europe were overrun by the Muslim warriors and Christian churches had reverbrated with the echoes of ‘Azan’ – the Muezzin’s call to the faithful for prayer. And those were the glorious days when Muslim soldiers used to bivouac in the gardens of Al Andalus, that is Spain. In Tarana Iqbal asserts that Muslims were not the kind who would ever submit to the infidels and that their reckless courage had been tested hundreds of times, when he boasts: “Batil se dabne wale aiye aasman nahin ham, sau bar kar chuka hai tu imtihan hamara.”
These were not mere words, nor mere poetry; this was an invocation to the revival of the long lost grandeur of Islam and the raw courage sought to be breathed into young Islamists. As mentioned in an article by Ardeshir Cowasjee, a renowned columnist of Pakistan, the singing of Tarana with verve by students upto 5th class is compulsory in all government schools of that country by a government fiat, perhaps to breathe into the young minds the medieval gutsy spirit of martyrdom.
It was essentially this resolve to wage jihad to rule the world which was responsible for the audicious terror attacks on WTC and Pentagon. This spirit of sacrifice and glorification of suicidal martyrdom has kept the Palestinian cauldron on the boil for the last fifty five years. The doctrinaire lessons in reckless courage being imparted to millions of Muslim children in Pakistan and several other countries during their initial years of schooling are responsible for the eruption of multiple jihads in a number of countries. The macro picture revealed by the geographic composition of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base shows that how the contagion of militant Islam has already spread to scores of Muslim countries. That is the ground reality of Islam’s long march. The ISI of Paksitan has lighted a praire fire which will continue to burn and glow across the continents of Asia, Africa and Europe, from the Philippines and Indonesia to the Balkans, France and U.K., for decades to come. It is of little consequence whether Bin Laden lives or dies. And let us not forget the U.S.A. too has a lurking Islamist problem in their backyard in the shape of the not-too-dormant Black Muslim movement led by that firebrand Black Muslim leader, Louis Farrakhan, who calls it “the Nation of Islam”, that nomenclature being fully in tune with the concept of ummah and the Islamic thesis of the world being divided into two nations, one of the faithful and another of the infidels. The very concept of a separate ‘Nation of Islam’ has a divisive connotation. In the decades to come the American scenario might also be overshadowed by the two nation theory inherent in the theology of Islam.
The creation of Pakistan in 1947 revived the dreams of a resurgent Islam straddling the globe as a geopolitical force, just like the days of the yore – a wish strongly nurtured by the protagonists of radical Islam since the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate. Steadily a subterranean current of Islamic militancy was built up which gathered momentum in early 1970s and rekindled the pan-Islamic dream of restoring the long lost glory of Islam. In due course of time Pakistan (to which, post 9/11, General Musharraf had alluded as the ‘fortress of Islam’ in his speech on September 19, 2001) started assuming the leadership of the Islamic world as was evident from the major role it played in establishing the Organization of Islamic Countries, i.e., the OIC, in 1971.
By virtue of the size of Pakistan’s population and its huge land-mass, it slowly but surely became the storm centre of the revival of radical Islam. Through sound diplomacy and by swearing total commitment to the revival of the puritanic Wahabi version of Islam, the Pakistani leadership was able to move very close to the Saudis. Ever since early 1960s, long before the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, the Pakistani establishment was busy building up an army of “holy warriors” to fight in the ongoing surreptitious war being waged in Kashmir. Later on they used the same strategy to consolidate their hold on Afghanistan when trouble started brewing in that country. In subsequent years for training hundreds of thousand jihadis the Pakistani Army and the ISI were able to enlist support of Saudi Arabia and the mighty CIA. Like most Muslims, Bin Laden’s world, too, was shattered during the last days of 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Since World War II for the first time a non-Muslim country, Russia, had occupied a Muslim country. Pakistan again took the lead when an extraordinary meeting of foreign ministers of thirty-five Islamic states was called in Islamabad on January 27, 1980.(21) Those assembled strongly condemned the Soviet military aggression against the Afghan people and called for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all Soviet troops from Afghanistan. They also urged that no Muslim country should recognize the Soviet- installed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA).
Osama bin Laden was one of the first Arabs to proceed post haste to Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion. At the instance of the ISI he made plans for launching a jihad against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. To that end he took help of the ISI to carry out considerable organizational spade work. The infrastructure for training of jihadis was already available in Pakistan. Within a short time he succeeded in recruiting hordes of Pakistani youth from the ISI-sponsored local madarasas, and brought a few thousand Arab fighters into Pakistan. Some time he covered the travel costs of these volunteers to Pakistan and Afghanistan from his personal funds. With the blessings of the ISI in early 1980 bin Laden established Ma’sadat Al-Ansar, as the main base for Arab mujahideen in Afghanistan. Soon bin Laden came into contact with Sheikh AbdAllah Yussef Azzam, “who was a key figure in establishing what is today the International Legion of Islam” a highly proficient and dedicated hard core outfit of Islamist terrorists. Osama Bin Laden, a qualified Engineer and son of one of the wealthiest Saudi Arabs, soon established himself as a patron of jihad and along with Sheikh AbdAllah Azzam, his mentor, founded the Maktab-al Khidmat (or MAK, i.e., “Office of Services”) at Peshawar in 1984 with active support of the Pakistani government. The MAK functioned as a recruiting centre for volunteers of the International Muslim Brigade to fight in Afghanistan. During the decade long conflict, the MAK reportedly recruited, trained, equipped and financed approximately 40,000 to 50,000 jihadi warriors hailing from more than 50 countries across the globe. The ISI recruited another two lakh jihadis by extensive use of the services of Tablighi Jamaat, a radical Islamist missionary group based in Raiwind, near Lahore. Most recruits were from Pakistan, while quite a few thousand came from a number of north African countries like Algeria and Tunisia for joining the jihad. After success in their campaign in Afghanistan, thousands of these Mujahideen indoctrinated by the ISI, are now waging holy wars in several parts of the world, of which India (Kashmir), Chechenya, Dagestan, Bosnia, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Palestine, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines, are the prominent ones.
Due to tireless efforts of the ISI, and initiative of bin Laden, in early 1980s some 3,000 to 3,500 Arabs were brought to Pakistan for waging jihad against the Russians. Another 16,000 and 20,000 Islamist militants from more than twenty countries arrived in Pakistan during the late 1980s. Most of them were Arab Islamists but many were from diverse countries and places like Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. There was also a trickle of Bosnian Muslims and Kosovo Albanians from the then Yugoslavia.(22) Virtually all of these were Islamists committed to waging jihad for the liberation of their own countries from non-Islamic rulers and establishing Islamic regimes. Unlike volunteers of the early 1980s to mid-1980s, the newcomers had no real interest in the liberation of Afghanistan. Most of them came to be trained and the ISI was happy to oblige.(23)
The successive rulers of Pakistan took full advantage of the impact of Afghan crisis, resulting from Russian occupation, on American policy makers. By playing upon the fears of Americans about consolidation of communist hold in the region they were successful in enlisting the financial and ideological support of the CIA and Saudi Arabia to contain the Russian advance in Central Asia and the Middle East.
But in the heart of the Pakistan’s devout Islamist leadership the grand vision of Iqbal to restore the lost grandeur of Islam, nurtured since 1947, was always uppermost. That idea they never gave up, not even while dancing to the tune of the CIA. And the strategy worked fabulously well. It enabled the ISI to raise a huge army of Mujahideen, totally indoctrinated in the fundamentalist concept of jihad and committed to the cause of radical Islam. This jihadi movement launched in Pakistan for liberating Afghanistan was substantially funded by the flow of petro dollars from Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich Muslim countries but the biggest bucks for Afghan campaigns were provided by the ubiquitous CIA. The recruits for Afghan jihad came from a number of foreign lands and came to be known as’ Afghan Arabs’. Interestingly, as pointed out by Peter L Bergen none of them was an Afghan and while most were Arabs, they also came from all over the Muslim world. Some were high school students who came on trips to the Afghan-Pakistan border, something which was not more than the equivalent of jihadi summer camp. Some were involved in support operations along the border, working for charities and hospitals. There were some who spent years in fierce battles against Russia.(24) The total number of guerrillas that would be operating on any given day would therefore not be below 35,000 and not above 1,75,000.(25) While analysing the dimensions of the huge manpower recruited and trained for campaign in Afghanistan and the role of the CIA and the Saudis in funding the war, Peter L. Bergen estimated that the maximum combined strength of the various Afghan mujahideen factions averaged somewhere between 175,000 and 250,000 in any given year. These numbers clearly showed that the contribution of the Afghan Arabs’ to the war against the Soviets was insignificant from the military point of view. “The war was won primarily with the blood of Afghans and secondarily with the treasure of the United States and Saudi Arabia, who between them provided approximately $6 billion in support”.(26)
The radical Islam gained further ascendancy in politics under the dictatorship of General Zia, who utilized the American money and organizational skills of Musharraf, a Lt. General then, and Lt. General Mohammed Aziz, the then Director General of Inter Services Intelligence, for creating the Taliban to over run Afghanistan. Under Zia ul Haq, Musharraf and Aziz created the Army of radical Islam to fight the Soviet troops in Afghanistan and diverted it to Jammu & Kashmir in 1992, after the collapse of the Najibullah Government in Kabul.(27) Today the jihadi forces in Pakistan and the Pak-Occupied Kashmir are spread far and wide. Although there are dozens of active militant Islamic groups based in Pakistan, the main operational outfits, indulging in violence in Kashmir and many parts of India, consist of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Lashkar-e-Tayeba (LeT), the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM) and the Al Badr. The first two are members of Osama Bin Laden’s International Islamic Front for Jihad against the U.S. and Israel.(28)
Lately these outfits have been changing their names and locations but the objectives remain unchanged. All these organisations are supported by the ISI and their ultimate aim is not only to overrun Jammu & Kashmir, but to destablize the Indian state with the long term objective of converting the entire sub-continent into Dar-ul-Islam. That is the goal which Pakistan has set before itself for which it is waging a “war of a thousand cuts” against India. The Pakistani army has a pathological hostility against India and compulsive hatred for the Hindus. Their plan to wrest Kashmir is only the purported first milestone for moving forward on Indian territory as part of their agenda for establishing global supremacy of Islam, the ultimate objective of the pan-Islamic movement. We tend to forget that General Musharraf, who authored the Kargil misadventure, told a Karachi audience just a few weeks after Mr. Vajpayee’s Lahore bus ride that the Lahore Declaration was nothing but “hot air” and that “low intensity conflict with India would continue even if the Kashmir issue is resolved”.(29) One has only to recall the recent speech, by General Musharraf’s closest crony during the Kargil conflict, General Aziz. He asserted that because of the religious and social values prevailing in India, relations could not be normalised even if the Kashmir dispute was resolved.(30)
Similar views had been expressed by General Musharraf in the past, more than once. Despite its moral posturing, Pakistan continues to harbour the dream of carving out at least three states for Muslims in India – an indication to this effect is available from information revealed by terrorists apprehended in the Jammu and Kashmir region, according to a top officer of the Border Security Force.(31) There are unconfirmed reports that Pakistani military commanders and the ISI have been indulging in covert operations to separate Jammu and Kashmir in the North, create a Muslim majority state in the North East and then carve out another state on the same lines in the South. In order to fulfil its nefarious objective, the ISI has geared its commanders of various terrorist outfits to carry out frequent bombings all over the country. Activists of the Students of Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) members of Ahl-e-Hadis and the vast network of the underworld Don, Dawood Ibrahim, are being used for the purpose. Cadres of some of these organisations, especially SIMI, are being regularly trained for the purpose. They have been indoctrinated to such an extent that they often talk about balkanisation of India by carrying out large scale terrorist strikes. Similarly, Ahl-e Hadis, an organisation which once worked under the command of Abdul Karim Tunda, a Lashkar-e Tayyeba operator, has surfaced again.This terrorist group was involved in the bomb blasts in Delhi in 1997 and has cadres of highly indoctrinated youths capable of carrying out bombings. According to some intelligence inputs, “the International Islamic Army”, a newly formed terrorist group in neighbouring Sri Lanka has urged Muslims to take up arms. An offshoot of the Taliban and supporter of the fugitive Osama Bin Laden, this group has been trying to gang up with militant outfits active in the Kashmir valley.(32)
Thus, the Islamists, led by the jihadi warriors of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, have set their hearts on the goal of restoring the lost grandeur of Islam. For the loss of Islam’s erstwhile supremacy, they squarely blame the Christian west. Just now they have had a serious set back largely due to the America’s aggressive intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq. But they are determined to carry on the battle for many more years. They are trying to restore the past glory of their faith by waging multiple holy wars in several countries, not realising that the ancient and medieval glory of all religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, lies buried deep in the sands of time! It is well nigh impossible to resurrect and restore the old glory of any religion in today’s pluralstic world. But the problem really is with their warped mindset. Perhaps it is a Bedouin hangover of the medieval times which refuses to go. If the past resolves of Islamists could be taken as a guide, their foot soldiers will continue to wage no-holds-barred multiple jihads for decades to come. In this context the examples of the long drawn out jihads in Palestine, Cyprus, Kashmir, Chechenya and the Philippines are very relevant. For the civil society it is going to be a long haul.
1. Suhas Majumdar, Jihad, The Islamic Doctrine of Permanent War, ch. 8, p.46.
2. Suhas Majumdar, Jihad, The Islamic Doctrine of Permanent War, Appendix-I, p.76, Source: Hadith No.4364 of Sahih Muslim.
3. Ibid, Source: Hadith No. 4366.
4. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Part I, ch. XIII, p. 378, Source: Rawlinson, iii, p.235.
6. V.S. Naipaul, Among the Believers, part 2, ch. 4, p. 125.
7. Ibid, p.126.
8. Source:http://members.tripod.com/- INDIA RESOURCE/sindh.html
9. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or Partition of India, ch. IV, p. 39.
10. Source: http://members.tripod.com/ -INDIA RESOURCE/sindh.htm.
11. Dr B. R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or Partition of India, ch. IV p.37.
12. M. Guizot and Mme Guizot De Witt, A History of France (New York, 1869), 6:16.
13. V. S. Naipaul, Among the Believers, part 2, ch. IV, p. 126.
15. Source: Compiled from Militant Islam by Godfrey Jansen, Harper & Row, 1979.
16. Yossef Bodansky, Bin Laden – The Man who Declared War on America, Introduction: Inevitable Struggle, p. x.
19. Penderel Moon, Divide & Quit, ch. I, page 11.
20. V.S. Naipaul, Among the Believers, An Islamic Journey, p.344, part IV, ch.6.
21. Yossef Bodansky, Bin Laden – The Man who Declared War on America, p. 8, ch. I
22. Ibid, p.25, ch. 1.
24 Peter L. Bergen, Holy War Inc, ch. II, p. 59
25. Mark Urban, War in Afghanistan, (London: Macmillan 1988, p.244).
26. Peter Bergen, Holy War Inc, ch.2, p.602.
27. B. Raman, You Shall Reap What You Sow, Sunday, The Hindustan Times, Sept. 23, 2003.
29. G. Parthasarthy, Accident-prone road to peace, The Pioneer, New Delhi, June 19, 2003.
30. G. Parthasarthy, Pakistani Army: Loot at sight, The Pioneer, New Delhi, August 14, 2003.
31. Pramod Kumar Singh, Pak nurses three, not one designs on India, The Pioneer, New Delhi, August 28, 2003.
Ram K. Ohri is a retired senior police officer of the Indian Police Service (IPS) and author of “Long March Of Islam: Future Imperfect” and “The Bell Tolls: Tomorrow’s Truncated India.”