My friend Professor Sharon is one of Israel’s most distinguished historians and one of the very few Israelis who understood that the Arab wars against Israel were a jihad. Here is a most prescient chapter from his book so apposite today to what is happening in Europe. This is Chapter 6 of Moshe Sharon’s book Jihad: Islam Against Israel and the West, kindly translated for Outpost by Mrs. Sharon.) Published in February 2014
In 1683 the armies of Islam besieged Vienna for the second time. The first time was a century and a half earlier. The great Islamic Empire of the period, the Ottoman Empire under the long reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, was then at its zenith. It had extended its borders on the Danube far to the west of Budapest and was poised to capture Vienna, which stood between its armies and Western Europe. Suleiman regarded himself at that time as the ruler of the world, and treated the great kings of Europe as his subjects. The actual subjugation of the rest of Europe was, as far as he was concerned, only a matter of time.
Fortunately for the world of Christianity, when the Moslem armies attempted to besiege Vienna for the second time, some 117 years after Suleiman’s death, the Ottoman Empire was already on the decline, its expansion westwards had been checked, and the bastions of European Christianity could then begin threatening the Muslim Empire rather than being threatened by it.
Yet for the Ottomans, the Christian countries of Europe remained Dar al-Harb -– “the Land of War” – the term used by the Muslims for all territories not yet under Islamic rule. The term is both legal and political, and is charged with religious belief and emotional fervor.
Legally speaking, it defines the relations between the lands of Islam and the lands of the infidels. Infidels – in Arabic Kuffar (singular: kafir) – are all those who are not Muslims, mainly Jews and Christians. They are, therefore, regarded to be, both theoretically and effectively, in a state of war with the Muslims. This war does not have to be declared, since from the Muslim viewpoint, it is the only possible state of affairs between the two parties. Moreover, it is part of the divine plan. For after Allah sent Muhammad “with the guidance and the religion of truth” there was no other way but that “he may uplift it above every religion.” (Koran, surah 9 verse 33) In other words, Allah made it incumbent on the Muslims, the Community of the Faithful, to subjugate the whole world and bring it under the rule of Allah.
The fire of jihad, Holy War, must burn in the heart of every Muslim. It is a collective and personal duty; and every Muslim leader, particularly the head of the Muslim Empire, is obliged to pursue this duty ceaselessly. Legally therefore, the appellation of “The Land of War” to Europe is understandable. Every Christian coming from the Land of War – dar al harb – has the status of harbi. This is different from being a dhimmi, the status imposed on Christians and Jews tolerated to live under Islamic rule as a third-class subjects. The harbi is simply an alien, an enemy of Islam, even when no acts of war are in progress between the two sides. This legal outlook reflects the religious obligation to keep the Holy War alive. Since no one can abolish this duty that is enshrined in the words of God in the Koran, it remains an open-ended condition. Similarly the Land of War cannot change its status until it is conquered by the Muslims and becomes part of the Land of Islam.
The emotional aspect of this religious obligation is an integral part of the way by which the relations between the Muslims and the kuffar were defined. The Koran and Islamic tradition taught the Muslims that their Community of Faithful is “the best nation ever brought forth to men,” (Koran, surah 3 verse 110) and that the truth of their religion is the only perfect truth, and that they, as believers, are always on the right side, and the infidels are always wrong.
Europe, more than any other part of the world, personified the land of war. It was the natural place against which the Jihad was to be waged. It was, after all, the major enemy of Islam from its very inception. But Europe proved to be a difficult enemy. It was an enemy that fought back successfully. In the Middle Ages the Crusades brought the Europeans into the heart of the Islamic lands, but Islam somehow recovered from this success of the infidels, which placed the Muslims for the first time in a defensive position, and tormented them with doubts about Allah’s support.
But Islam did not recover from the loss of Spain (“the Jewel in the Islamic Crown”). Once Islam conquered Spain, it became an Islamic land. Its re-conquest by the infidels seemed to be a reversal of history for it negated the rule which says that once an Islamic land, always an Islamic land. To this very day, Spain, which the Arabs insist on calling Andalus, is regarded as a lost Islamic territory, the recovery of which is a religious and political objective and duty, more than a dream.