Saturday, September 21, 2013

A fine point

Robert Spencer, a very unPC expert on Islam, makes the point that Islam was not spread by the sword but that Islamic law was so spread.

A fine point, but one which illustrates the unique Muslim strategy for conversion of a territory which they control. Certainly the conquered peoples --as long as they are monotheists-- are "invited" to Islam. But, in principle, no one is forced to become Muslim.

The process is one of gradual attrition. "Muslim privilege" is enshrined in Muslim law and so is non-Muslim restriction, the sacred mandate of second-class citizenship --Muslim "Jim Crow", if you will. The easy way out is, of course, to convert.

Which is what happened, by and large.

Conquest by the sword creates the Muslim state and the imposition of Muslim law, sharia. Over time, the burden of sharia is what spreads Islam.



Anonymous said...

Conversion to Islam did not help dhimmis much, actually. Other parts of sharia made sure that converts had little if any access to economic, political, and military power. The main incentive was to escape the payment of the jizya tax, which varied in severity from nation to nation, but was often severe, and other unpleasantries, like the conscription of Christian children for service as janissaries or court officials. Read accounts of Christian parents in the Ottoman Empire who crippled their strongest sons to save them from being made janissaries, or disfigured their most beautiful daughters to save them from being made courtesans. Harrowing.

But that was about all as far as the perks of conversion went. Even once you converted, sharia made sure that born Muslims had power over converted Muslims, and that everybody knew the difference.


OreamnosAmericanus said...

True, and I commend you for your knowledge of history. Some languages even has specific terms for post-conquest converts to Islam, and in some places they were still made to pay the jizya.

But as with many kinds of immigration and assimilation, over time the distinctions are less powerful and fade away.

Fathers likely did it not only for themselves but for their sons' and grandsons' futures.

Anonymous said...

Good point, Ex. I had forgotten that element. One can never underestimate what a parent will do to ensure the safety or even livelihood of their children. The thought that their descendants could be granted even a partial reprieve from the pains of dhimmitude was probably a motivator for the apostasy of many "people of the book" from their original faiths and their subsequent conversion to Islam.


Unknown said...

An interesting legal phenomenon that can happen under Sharia rule: A member of the dhimmi community dies. Their descendants have squabbles over who should inherit what.

One publicly declares himself to have converted ( or as they say 'reverted') to Islam. He also says that the deceased was a secret convert. It matters, as non-Muslims may not inherit from Muslims. Also, the court must consider his testimony about the deceased's faith as weightier than anything a non-Muslim has to say about anything. So he gets the goods and the Muslim ummah grows +1.

jpbenney said...


nobody else I have heard ever says born Muslims really have power over converted Muslims – can you tell me where this idea come from as I have assumed that if adequately learned a converted Muslim could exercise full authority.

I’ve wondered if the near-complete attrition of indigenous religions, mainly Orthodox Christianity and various sects of Buddhism, under Marxist rule is in any way similar to what happened under sharia many centuries earlier. Although Marxism lacks the legal framework of sharia, it views religion as the opiate of the masses (though in reality religion in most of Eurasia and the Americas had before the Bolshevik Revolution become primarily the belief system of the old ruling classes) and consequently Lenin wanted to stop the practice of religion in Russia with decrees that effectively eliminated citizenship for religious leaders and monastics.

Whilst in practice indigenous religions were not unable to be practiced as before Marxism took over, they could not gain the material benefits of the resultant Stalinist states due to heavy taxation and the fact that religious practitioners could not gain any power over the state – and of course under Marxism the state owned everything.

The inability of religious practitioners to hold power under Marxism was I feel very similar to the status of dhimmis under sharia – and no doubt had the same effect, though economic declines in the viability of agriculture in Eurasia had just as large an effect.

OreamnosAmericanus said...

jpbenny, this is an old blog of mine that i stopped at the end of 2015. i have informed sean of your post if he wants to respond.

As for your first point, I can't recall the sources, but I am also aware that in Egypt and Iran, and possibly in Spain, local Christian converts to Islam, being ethnically distinct from the Arab conquerors, had a special name and still had to carry some of the legal disabilities of dhimmis during certain historical periods. Perhaps Sean can direct you to the sources. The distinction between the Arab Muslim conquerors and the non-Arab Muslim converts centers on the words mu'min vs mawla, I believe. It was a racial marker.

Anonymous said...

Jpbenny, my original comments were based on statements that had been made and discussed in a class I took back in college. Everything below is from Wikipedia, so may not be 100% accurate.

Mu'min and Muslim are related, but not equivalent terms. Islam distinguishes between three levels of faith. Islam, "submission," refers to the observation of the five pillars of Islam, regardless of whether or not somebody comprehends the theology of; "Muslim" technically refers to one who "observes" or "submits to" Islam, and is not a statement of belief. "Mu'min" refers to one who has true faith, or "Iman." All Mu'mina are Muslima, but not all Muslima are Mu'mina. The Arabs of the desert say, "We believe." Say thou: Ye believe not; but rather say, "We profess Islam," for the faith hath not yet found its way into your hearts. Al-Hujurat 49:14

Mawla was used to refer to recent converts of Islam who were brought into Arab Muslim society, who were granted a patron (a "mawla") to teach them Arab customs; eventually this term came to be used as a term for any non-Arab Muslim. In the Umayyad Caliphate, mawali were regarded as being inferior to Arab Muslims, and were required to pay a tax similar to the jizya, and were barred from government positions or military service. The term technically did not refer to Christians who converted to Islam, but since many Christians who converted to Islam were not Arab, they would be seen as non-Arab, and thus inferior to Arabs, who perceived themselves as "true" Muslims. The concept of mawali ended with the Umayyad Caliphate, which was overthrown by the Abbasid Dynasty, who were primarily backed by Persian Muslims upset over second-class citizenship. The Umayyad Caliphate was probably what my professor had been referring to.


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