Archive for December, 2014

ISIS (etc) a Medieval throwback?

December 28, 2014

For weeks I have been researching background information on the self-proclaimed Islamic State. I’ve learned that the leaders, at least, are Salafi, a fundamentalist branch of Islam and that their idea of Shari’a law is fairly narrow, considering that there are four main branches of the law, just among Sunni. Since they have been called “medieval” and “apocalyptic” I felt the need to find out if there is any truth in it.
Of course, the answer I came up with is “sort of”. According to ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, a Syrian from near Aleppo, the West is associated with the Crusaders. However, he doesn’t seem to know much about the period. There are parallels with the 11th -13th centuries, however. War then was generally fought for control of territory, just as now. The difference was that there were no real standing armies so that the ground fighters were paid in booty: loot and women. Groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram seem to have that idea down.
The other constant, according to Adnani, is that the real enemies are not Western powers, or even Israel, but Shi’a Muslims. He writes, quoting, “Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi to build his case against the Shi’a. “Even though the US is dangerous, Rafidha [another derogatory term for Shi’a] are more dangerous on {to] the Umma [the Islamic nation or Muslims around the world]. Rafidha are the most dangerous enemy that threatens Islam and Muslims. The Islamic State took it upon itself to fiercely fight Rafidha everywhere. We will completely destroy them even if it took the death of our last soldier. Our fight against them is a united fight in Iraq, Sham [Syria and Lebanon], Yemen, the rest of the peninsula, and Khurassan [Iran].” http://iswiraq.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-time-to-harvest-is-coming-isis.html
Thus the need is to destroy all Muslims who deviate from their beliefs, including other Sunni. This has been voiced by Muslim writers since the eighth century. Most of the Muslim chroniclers of the Crusade era are much more concerned with the conflict between Muslims than with the Christian invaders.
OK, this is as much as I could learn. There are medieval traits to ISIS but clearly they have about as much understanding of the Middle Ages as the average Westerner, which is none.
I think it might be more profitable to look at ISIS in comparison with Utopian movements. Because that is was it really is. What they are trying to do is much the same as Cromwell in England, Savonarola in Florence, Hong Xiuquan in Nanking and many others. In all of these, people flocked to them, hoping for a better life. The idea of a Utopia is to establish heaven on earth. But, as with the other attempts, the heaven for a few is hell for everyone else. This is what many of the young people who have rushed to join the jihad are discovering.
My conclusions? ISIS is not medieval but part of a constant struggle in human society. Is it apocalyptic? Not really, as far as I can tell. But I’m reserving judgment until I’ve studied the matter more. My own mental breakthrough came when I realized that the debate about Islamism is obscuring the real nature of this movement and the motivations of those who join.
I have more thoughts on that topic. But this is enough for now. My recent books, The Real History of the End of the World http://www.amazon.com/The-Real-History-End-World/dp/0425232530 and Defending the City of God http://www.amazon.com/Defending-City-God-Medieval-Jerusalem/dp/113727865X cover some of the topics mentioned here. While you can get them from Amazon, I’m sure that your local independent bookstore or your local library will get them for you.

Apocalypses and Other Thoughts

For weeks I have been researching background information on the self-proclaimed Islamic State. I’ve learned that the leaders, at least, are Salafi, a fundamentalist branch of Islam and that their idea of Shari’a law is fairly narrow, considering that there are four main branches of the law, just among Sunni. Since they have been called “medieval” and “apocalyptic” I felt the need to find out if there is any truth in it.

Of course, the answer I came up with is “sort of”. According to ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, a Syrian from near Aleppo, the West is associated with the Crusaders. However, he doesn’t seem to know much about the period. There are parallels with the 11th -13th centuries, however. War then was generally fought for control of territory, just as now. The difference was that there were no real standing armies so that the ground fighters…

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ISIS (etc) a Medieval throwback?

December 28, 2014

For weeks I have been researching background information on the self-proclaimed Islamic State. I’ve learned that the leaders, at least, are Salafi, a fundamentalist branch of Islam and that their idea of Shari’a law is fairly narrow, considering that there are four main branches of the law, just among Sunni. Since they have been called “medieval” and “apocalyptic” I felt the need to find out if there is any truth in it.

Of course, the answer I came up with is “sort of”. According to ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, a Syrian from near Aleppo, the West is associated with the Crusaders. However, he doesn’t seem to know much about the period. There are parallels with the 11th -13th centuries, however. War then was generally fought for control of territory, just as now. The difference was that there were no real standing armies so that the ground fighters were paid in booty: loot and women. Groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram seem to have that idea down.

The other constant, according to Adnani, is that the real enemies are not Western powers, or even Israel, but Shi’a Muslims. He writes, quoting, “Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi to build his case against the Shi’a. “Even though the US is dangerous, Rafidha [another derogatory term for Shi’a] are more dangerous on {to] the Umma [the Islamic nation or Muslims around the world]. Rafidha are the most dangerous enemy that threatens Islam and Muslims. The Islamic State took it upon itself to fiercely fight Rafidha everywhere. We will completely destroy them even if it took the death of our last soldier. Our fight against them is a united fight in Iraq, Sham [Syria and Lebanon], Yemen, the rest of the peninsula, and Khurassan [Iran]. http://iswiraq.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-time-to-harvest-is-coming-isis.html

Thus the need is to destroy all Muslims who deviate from their beliefs, including other Sunni. This has been voiced by Muslim writers since the eighth century. Most of the Muslim chroniclers of the Crusade era are much more concerned with the conflict between Muslims than with the Christian invaders.

OK, this is as much as I could learn. There are medieval traits to ISIS but clearly they have about as much understanding of the Middle Ages as the average Westerner, which is none.

I think it might be more profitable to look at ISIS in comparison with Utopian movements. Because that is was it really is. What they are trying to do is much the same as Cromwell in England, Savonarola in Florence, Hong Xiuquan in Nanking and many others. In all of these, people flocked to them, hoping for a better life. The idea of a Utopia is to establish heaven on earth. But, as with the other attempts, the heaven for a few is hell for everyone else. This is what many of the young people who have rushed to join the jihad are discovering.

My conclusions? ISIS is not medieval but part of a constant struggle in human society. Is it apocalyptic? Not really, as far as I can tell. But I’m reserving judgment until I’ve studied the matter more. My own mental breakthrough came when I realized that the debate about Islamism is obscuring the real nature of this movement and the motivations of those who join.

I have more thoughts on that topic. But this is enough for now. My recent books, The Real History of the End of the World http://www.amazon.com/The-Real-History-End-World/dp/0425232530 and Defending the City of God http://www.amazon.com/Defending-City-God-Medieval-Jerusalem/dp/113727865X cover some of the topics mentioned here. While you can get them from Amazon, I’m sure that your local independent bookstore or your local library will get them for you.