The Shade of Swords: Jihad and the Conflict between Islam and Christianity

By M. J. Akbar | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

The shade of swords is not an invitation to kill; it is an invitation to die. When Muslims take the name of their Prophet, Muhammad, they always add a prayer: Peace be upon Him. Peace is the avowed aim of Islam, a word that means surrender; as-Salam, or the Peaceful, is one of the names of Allah. But the Islamic faith also demands, from time to time, in a holy war defined by specific circumstances, the blood of the faithful in the defence of their faith. This is jihad.

The profession of faith is the shahada: Lailaha il-Allah, Muhammad ur Rasul Allah. There is but one Allah and Muhammad is His Prophet. Those who become martyrs for Allah are the shaheed. The martyr smiles his way to death and death opens the door to paradise. Believers do not surrender to anyone except Allah. They may occasionally have to submit, but defeat is only a pause in the process of renewal. They are not defeated by defeat. They wait, they keep the faith, and renew their jihad until they achieve the victory that Allah promised in His bargain with the believer, specified so clearly in the Quran. Islam has always recognized the reality of war in human affairs, and set its moral and political compass.

Such definition is as open to abuse as it is to use. This book is an effort to sift the difference by a search through text and history. The temptation to reinterpret both text and history to suit contemporary ‘politically correct’ requirements is the first trap to be avoided. There are Muslims today, for instance, who will convert jihad into a holy bath rather than a holy war, as if it is nothing more than an injunction to cleanse yourself from within.

It is true that the Prophet insisted that a greater jihad was the struggle to cleanse impurity within, but that does not take away from the fact that

-xv-

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The Shade of Swords: Jihad and the Conflict between Islam and Christianity
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Introduction xv
  • 1 - Chapter and Verse 1
  • 2 - The Joys of Death: a Bargain with Allah 12
  • 3 - Rebellions in the Dark of the Night 26
  • 4 - A Map of Islam 40
  • 5 - Circle of Hell 52
  • 6 - Allah! Muhammad! Saladin! 67
  • 7 - The Doors of Europe 83
  • 8 - Jihad in the East: a Crescent Over Delhi 99
  • 9 - The Holy Sea: Pepper and Power 113
  • 10 - The Bargain Goes Sour 131
  • 11 - The Wedge and the Gate 145
  • 12 - History as Anger, Jihad as Non-Violence 160
  • 13 - Islam in Danger Zone 177
  • 14 - Jinnah Redux and the Age of Osama 189
  • Glossary 214
  • A Suggested Reading List 218
  • Thumbnail Sketches 228
  • Index 251
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