Muhammad: The Warrior Prophet

By Richard A. Gabriel

Richard A. Gabriel, a military historian and adjunct professor at the Royal Military College of Canada, has authored forty-one books. His latest is Muhammad: Islam’s First Great General (Oklahoma University Press, 2007).

Originally published by MHQ magazine.


The long shadow of Muhammad stretches across centuries of strife to the present. Today an estimated 1.4 billion Muslims around the globe follow his teachings—the word of God as revealed to Muhammad and set down in the Koran—making Islam the world’s second-largest religion behind Christianity. But despite Muhammad’s remarkable accomplishments, there is no modern account of his life that examines his role as Islam’s first great general and the leader of a successful insurgency. Had Muhammad not succeeded as a commander, however, Islam might have been relegated to a geographic backwater—and the conquest of the Byzantine and Persian empires by Arab armies might never have occurred.

The idea of Muhammad as a military man will be new to many. Yet he was a truly great general. In the space of a single decade he fought eight major battles, led eighteen raids, and planned another thirty-eight military operations where others were in command but operating under his orders and strategic direction. Wounded twice, he also twice experienced having his positions overrun by superior forces before he managed to turn the tables on his enemies and rally his men to victory. More than a great field general and tactician, he was also a military theorist, organizational reformer, strategic thinker, operational-level combat commander, political-military leader, heroic soldier, and revolutionary. The inventor of insurgency warfare and history’s first successful practitioner, Muhammad had no military training before he commanded an army in the field.

Muhammad’s intelligence service eventually rivaled that of Byzantium and Persia, especially when it came to political information. He reportedly spent hours devising tactical and political stratagems, and once remarked that “all war is cunning,” reminding modern analysts of Sun Tzu’s dictum, “all war is deception.” In his thinking and application of force Muhammad was a combination of Karl von Clause­witz and Niccolo Machiavelli, for he always employed force in the service of political goals. An astute grand strategist, he used non­mili­tary methods (alliance building, politi­cal assassination, bribery, religious appeals, mercy, and calculated butchery) to strengthen his long-term position, sometimes even at the expense of short-term military considerations.

Muhammad’s belief in Islam and his own role as the “Messenger of God” revolutionized Arabian warfare and resulted in the creation of the ancient world’s first army motivated by a coherent system of ideological belief. The ideology of holy war (jihad) and martyrdom (shahada) for the faith was transmitted to the West during the wars between Muslims and Christians in Spain and France, where it changed traditional Christian pacifistic thinking on war, brought into being a coterie of Christian warrior saints, and provided the Catho­lic Church with its ideological justification for the Crusades. Ideology—whether religious or secular—has remained a primary component of military ventures ever since.

Muhammad forged the military instrument of the Arab conquests that began within two years of his death by bringing into being a completely new kind of army not seen before in Arabia. He introduced no fewer than eight major military reforms that transformed the armies and conduct of war in Arabia. Just as Philip of Macedon transformed the armies of Greece so his successor, Alexander, could employ them as instruments of conquest and empire, Muhammad transformed the armies of Arabia so his successors could use them to defeat the armies of Persia and Byzantium and establish the heartland of the empire of Islam.

Muhammad was first and foremost a revolutionary, a fiery religious guerrilla leader who created and led the first genuine national insurgency in antiquity that is comprehensible in modern terms, a fact not lost on the jihadis of the present day, who often cite the Koran and Muhammad’s use of violence as justification for their own insurgencies. Unlike conventional generals, Muhammad did not seek the defeat of a foreign enemy or invader; rather, he sought to replace the existing Arabian social order with a new one based upon a radically different ideological worldview. To achieve his revolutionary goals Muhammad utilized all the means recognized by modern analysts as characteristic of a successful insurgency in today’s world.

Although Muhammad began his struggle for a new order with a small guerrilla cadre capable of undertaking only limited hit-and-run raids, by the time he was ready to attack Mecca a decade later that small guerrilla force had grown into a large conventional army with integrated cavalry and infantry units capable of conducting large-scale combat operations. It was the first truly national military force in Arab history, and it was this conventional military instrument that Muhammad’s successors used to forge a great empire.

Muhammad’s rise to power was a textbook example of a successful insurgency, in all likelihood the first such example in antiquity. The West has been accustomed to thinking of the Arab conquests that followed Muhammad in purely conventional military terms. But the armies that achieved those conquests did not exist in Arabia before Muhammad. It was Muhammad’s successful unconventional guerrilla operations, his successful insurgency, that brought those armies into existence. The later Arab conquests, as regards both strategic concept and the new armies as in­struments of military method, were the consequences of Muhammad’s prior military success as the leader of an insurgency.

This aspect of Muhammad’s military life as a guerrilla insurgent is likely to strike the reader as curious. But if the means and methods used by modern military analysts to characterize insurgency warfare are employed as categories of analysis, it is clear that Muhammad’s campaign to spread Islam throughout Arabia fulfilled all of the criteria. One requirement for an insurgency is a determined leader whose followers regard him as special in some way and worthy of their following him. In Muhammad’s case his own charismatic personality was enhanced by his deeply held belief that he was God’s Messenger, and that to follow Muhammad was to obey the dictates of God himself.

Insurgencies also require a messianic ideology, one that espouses a coherent creed or plan to replace the existing social, political, and economic order with a new order that is better, more just, or ordained by history or even by God himself. Mu­hammad used the new religious creed of Islam to challenge basic traditional Arab social institutions and values as oppressive and unholy and worthy of replacement. To this end he created the ummah, or community of believers, God’s community on earth, to serve as a messianic replacement for the clans and tribes that were the basis of traditional Arab society. One of Mu­hammad’s most important achievements was the establishment of new social institutions that greatly altered and in some cases completely replaced those of the old Arab social order.

Successful insurgencies also require a disciplined cadre of true believers to do the work of organizing and recruiting new members. Muhammad’s revolutionary cadre consisted of the small group of original converts he attracted in Mecca and took with him to Medina. These were the muhajirun, or emigrants. The first converts among the clans of Medina, the ansar, or helpers, also filled the ranks of the cadre. Within this revolutionary cadre was an inner circle of talented men, some of them later converts. Some, like Abdullah Ibn Ubay and Khalid al-Walid, were experienced field commanders and provided a much-needed source of military expertise. Muhammad’s inner circle advised him and saw to it that his directives were carried out. These advisers held key positions during the Prophet’s lifetime and fought among themselves for power after his death.

Once Muhammad had created his cadre of revolutionaries, he established a base from which to conduct military operations against his adversaries. These operations initially took the form of ambushes and raids aimed at isolating Mecca, the enemy’s main city, and other trading towns that opposed him. Only one in six Arabs lived in a city or town at this time; the others resided in the desert, living as pastoral nomads. Muhammad chose Medina as his base of operations because of its strategic location. Medina was close to the main caravan route from Mecca to Syria that constituted the economic lifeline of Mecca and other oases and towns dependent upon the caravan trade for their economic survival. Medina was also sufficiently distant from Mecca to permit Muhammad a relatively free hand in his efforts to convert the bedouin clans living along the caravan route. Muhammad understood that conversions and political alliances with the bedouins, not military engagements with the Meccans, were the keys to success.

Insurgencies require an armed force and the manpower to sustain them. It was from the original small cadre of guerrillas that the larger conventional army could be grown that would ultimately permit the insurgency to engage its enemies in set-piece battles when the time and political conditions were right. Muhammad may have been the first commander in history to understand and implement the doctrine later espoused by General Vo Nguyen Giap of North Vietnam as “people’s war, people’s army.” Muhammad established the belief among his followers that God had commandeered all Muslims’ purposes and property for His efforts and that all Muslims had a responsibility to fight for the faith. Everyone—men, women, and even children—had an obligation for military service in defense of the faith and the ummah that was the community of God’s chosen people on earth. It is essential to understand that the attraction of the Islamic ideology more than anything else produced the manpower that permitted Muhammad’s small revolutionary cadre to evolve into a conventional armed force capable of large-scale engagements.

The rapid growth of Muhammad’s insurgent army is evident from the following figures. At the Battle of Badr (624 ce), Muhammad could only put 314 men in the field. Two years later at Second Badr, 1,500 Muslims took the field. By the 628 battle at Kheibar, the Muslim army had grown to 2,000 combatants. When Muhammad mounted his assault on Mecca (630) he did so with 10,000 men. And at the Battle of Hunayn a few months later the army numbered 12,000 men. Some sources record that Muhammad’s expedition to Tabuk later the same year was composed of 30,000 men and 10,000 cavalry, but this is probably an exaggeration. What is evident from the figures, however, is that his insurgency grew very quickly in terms of its ability to recruit military manpower.

Like all insurgent armies, Muhammad’s forces initially acquired weapons by stripping them from prisoners and enemy dead. Weapons, helmets, and armor were expensive items in relatively impoverished Arabia, and the early Muslim converts, drawn mostly from among the poor, orphaned, widowed, and otherwise socially marginal, could ill afford them. At the Battle of Badr, the first major engagement with an enemy army, the dead were stripped of their swords and other military equipment, setting a precedent that be­came common. Muhammad also established the practice of requiring prisoners to provide weapons and equipment instead of money to purchase their freedom. One prisoner taken at Badr, an arms merchant, was forced to provide the insurgents with a thousand spears to obtain his freedom. Muhammad eventually had enough weapons, helmets, shields, and armor to supply an army of 10,000 for his march on Mecca.

Muhammad’s ability to obtain sufficient weapons and equipment had an important political advantage. Many of the insurgency’s converts came from the poorest elements of the bedouin clans, people too impoverished to afford weapons and armor. By supplying these converts with expensive military equipment, Muhammad immediately raised their status within the clan and guaranteed their loyalty to him, if not always to the creed of Islam. In negotiations with bedouin chiefs he made them gifts of expensive weaponry. Horses and camels were equally important military assets, for without them raids and the conduct of operations over great distances were not possible. Muhammad obtained his animals in much the same manner as he did his weapons and with equal success. At Badr the insurgents had only two horses. Six years later at Hunayn Muhammad’s cavalry squadrons numbered 800 horse and cavalrymen.

An insurgency must be able to sustain the popular base that supports the fighting elements. To accomplish this, Muhammad changed the ancient customs regarding the sharing of booty taken in raids. The chief of an Arab clan or tribe traditionally took one-fourth of the booty for himself. Muhammad decreed that he receive only one-fifth, and even this the chief took not for himself but in the name of the ummah. Under the old ways individuals kept whatever booty they had captured. Muhammad required that all booty be turned in to a common pool where it was shared equally among all combatants who had participated in the raid. Most important, Muhammad established that the first claimants on the booty that had been taken in the name of the ummah were the poor and the widows and orphans of the soldiers killed in battle. He also used the promise of a larger share of booty to strike alliances with bedouin clans, some of whom remained both loyal and pagan to the end, fighting for loot rather than for Islam.

The leader of an insurgency must take great care to guard his authority from challenges, including those that come from within the movement itself. Muhammad had many enemies, and he was always on guard against an attempt upon his life. Like other leaders, Muhammad surrounded himself with a loyal group of followers who acted as his bodyguard and carried out his orders without question. For this purpose he created the suffah, a small cadre of loyal followers who lived in the mosque next to Muhammad’s house. Recruited from among the most pious, enthusiastic, and fanatical followers, they came from impoverished backgrounds. The suffah members spent much of their time studying Islam. They were devoted to Muhammad and served not only as his life guard but also as a secret police that could be called upon at a moment’s notice to carry out whatever task Muhammad set for them, including assassination and terror.

No insurgency can survive without an effective intelligence apparatus. As early as when Muhammad left Mecca in 622, he left behind a trusted agent, his uncle Abbas, who continued to send him reports on the situation there. Abbas served as an agent-in-place for more than a decade, until Mecca itself fell to Muhammad.

In the beginning Muhammad’s operations suffered from a lack of tactical intelligence. His followers were mostly townspeople with no experience in desert travel. On some of the early operations Muhammad had to hire bedouin guides. As the insurgency grew, however, his intelligence service became more organized and sophisticated, using agents-in-place, commercial spies, debriefing of prisoners, combat patrols, and reconnaissance in force as methods of intelligence collection.

Muhammad himself seems to have possessed a detailed knowledge of clan loyalties and politics within the insurgency’s area of operations and used this knowledge to good effect when negotiating alliances with the bedouins. He often conducted advance reconnaissance of the battlefields upon which he fought. In most cases his intelligence service provided him with sufficient information as to the enemy’s location and intentions in advance of any military engagement. We have no knowledge of exactly how the intelligence service was organized or where it was located. That it was part of the suffah, however, seems a reasonable guess.

Insurgencies succeed or fail to the degree that they are able to win the allegiance of great numbers of uncommitted citizens to support the insurgency’s goals. Muhammad understood the role of propaganda and went to great lengths to make his message public and widely known. In a largely illiterate Arab society, the poet served as the major conveyor of political propaganda. Muhammad hired the best poets money could buy to sing his praises and denigrate his opponents. He issued proclamations regarding the revelations he received as the Messenger of God, and remained in public view to keep the vision of the new order and the promise of a heavenly paradise constantly before the public. He also sent missionaries to other clans and tribes to instruct the “pagans” in the new faith, sometimes teaching those groups to read and write in the process. Muhammad understood that the conflict was between the existing social order with its manifest injustices and his vision of the future, and he surpassed his adversaries in spreading his vision to win the struggle for the hearts and minds of the Arab population.

Terrorism seems to be an indispensable element of a successful insurgency, and it was no less so in Muhammad’s case. He used terrorism in two basic ways: First, he ensured discipline among his followers by making public examples of traitors and backsliders. In Muhammad’s day the penalty for apostasy in Islam was death. He also ordered some of his political enemies assassinated, including poets and singers who had publicly ridiculed him. When his armies marched into Mecca, for example, Muhammad’s suffah set about hunting down a list of old enemies marked for execution. Second, Muhammad used terrorism to strike fear in the hearts of his enemies on a large scale. In the case of the Jewish tribes of Medina, Muhammad seems to have ordered the death of the entire Beni Qaynuqa tribe and the selling of their women and children into slavery, though he was later talked out of it by the chief of one of his allies. On another occasion, again against a Jewish tribe of Medina, he ordered all the tribe’s adult males, some nine hundred, beheaded in the city square, the women and children sold into slavery, and their property distributed among his Muslim followers. Shortly after the conquest of Mecca, Muhammad declared “war to the knife” against all those who remained idolaters, instructing his followers to kill any pagans they encountered on the spot. His ruthlessness and brutality served to strengthen his hand with opponents and allies alike.

Muhammad’s use of terrorism does not detract from Islam as a religion any more than the history of the Israelite military campaign to conquer Canaan detracts from Judaism. Over time the violent origins of religions are forgotten and only the faith itself remains, so the founders of the creeds come to be remembered as untouched by the violence of the historical record. In Muhammad’s case the result has been to deemphasize the military aspects of his life and his considerable military accomplishments as Islam’s first great general and the inventor of the theory and practice of insurgency.

Muhammad also managed to bring about a revolution in the way Arabs fought wars, transforming their armies into instruments capable of large-scale combat operations that could achieve strategic objectives instead of only small-scale clan, tribal, or personal objectives. In so doing he created both the means and historical circumstances that transformed the fragmented Arab clans into a national military entity conscious of its own unique identity. As a result, the greatest commanders of the early Arab conquests were developed by Muhammad himself.

Had he not brought about a military revolution in Arab warfare, it is possible that Islam might not have survived in Arabia. Within a year of Muhammad’s death many of the clans that had sworn allegiance to Islam recanted, resulting in the War of the Apostates, or Riddah. The brilliance of Muhammad’s generals and the superior fighting skills of his new army made it possible for Islam to defeat the apostates and force them back into the religious fold. Commanding the Arab armies, those same generals carried out the Arab conquests of Persia and Byzantium. The old Arab way of war would have had no chance of success against the armies of either of those empires.

Muhammad transformed the social composition of Arab armies from a collection of clans, tribes, and blood kin loyal only to themselves into a national army loyal to a national social entity, the ummah. The ummah was not a nation or a state in the modern sense, but a body of religious believers under the unified command and governance of Muhammad. The ummah transcended the clans and tribes and permitted Muhammad to forge a common identity, national in scope, among the Arabs for the first time. It was leadership of this national entity that Muhammad claimed, not of any clan or tribe. Loyalty to the ummah permitted the national army to unify the two traditional combat arms of infantry and cavalry into a genuine combined arms force. Bedouins and town dwellers had historically viewed one another with suspicion. Arab infantry had traditionally been drawn from the people living in the towns, settlements, and oases of Arabia. Arab cavalry was traditionally drawn from bedouin clans, whose nomadic warriors excelled at speedy raids, surprise attacks, and elusive retreats, skills honed to a fine edge over generations of raiding.

These two different types of combatants possessed only limited experience in fighting alongside one another. Bound by clan loyalties and living in settlements, Arab infantry was steadfast and cohesive and could usually be relied upon to hold its ground, especially in the defense. Arab cavalry, on the other hand, was unreliable in a battle against infantry, often breaking off the fight to keep their precious mounts from being hurt or make off with whatever booty they had seized. Bedouin cavalry was, however, proficient at reconnaissance, surprise attack, protecting the flanks, and pursuing ill-disciplined infantry. Muhammad was the first Arab commander to successfully join both combat arms into a national army and use them in concert in battle. Thanks to the larger religious community of believers, the ummah, he could combine the two primary elements of traditional Arab society, town dwellers and bedouin tribes, into a single Arab national identity. That change was actually preceded by a shift in the social composition of Arab society.

Before Muhammad, Arab military contingents fought under the command of clan or tribal leaders, sometimes assembled in coalition with other clans or tribes. While the authority of these clan chiefs was recognized by their own clan, every chief considered himself the equal of any other, so there was no overall commander whose authority could compel the obedience or tactical direction of the army as a whole. Clan warriors fought for their own interests, often only for loot, and did not feel obligated to pursue the larger objectives of the army as a whole. They often failed to report to the battlefield, arrived late, or simply left the fight once they had captured sufficient loot. Warriors and horses were precious, and clan leaders resisted any higher tactical direction that might place their men and animals in danger. As a result, Arab battles were often little more than brief, disorganized brawls that seldom produced a decisive outcome.

To correct these deficiencies Muhammad established a unified command for his armies centered on himself. Within the ummah there was no distinction between the citizen and the soldier. All members of the community had an obligation to defend the clan and participate in its battles. The community of believers was truly a nation in arms, and all believers followed the commands of Muhammad, God’s Messenger. As commander in chief Muhammad established the principle of unified command by appointing a single commander with overall authority to carry out military operations. Sometimes he also appointed a second-in-command. Muhammad often personally commanded his troops in the field. He also appointed all the other commanders, who operated under his authority. As Muslims, all members of the army were equally bound by the same laws, and all clan members and their chiefs were subject to the same discipline and punishments. When operating with clans whose members were not Muslims, Muhammad always extracted an honor oath from their chiefs to obey his orders during the battle.

The establishment of a unified military command gave Muhammad’s armies greater reliability in planning and in battle. Unified command also permitted a greater degree of coordination among the various combat elements of the army and the use of more sophisticated tactical designs that could be implemented with more certainty, thereby greatly increasing the army’s offensive power.

Traditional Arab warfare emphasized the courageous performance of individual warriors in battle, not the clan’s ability to fight as a unit. The Arab warrior fought for his own honor and social prestige within the kin group, not for the clan per se. One consequence was that Arab armies and the clan units within them did not usually reflect a high degree of combat unit cohesion, the ability of the group to remain intact and fight together under the stress of battle.

Muhammad’s armies, by contrast, were highly cohesive, holding together even when they fought outnumbered or were overrun. The ummah served as a higher locus of the soldier’s loyalty that transcended the clan. Many of Muhammad’s early converts had left their families and clans to follow the Prophet. There were many instances where members of the same clan or even families fought on opposite sides during his early battles. Religion turned out to be a greater source of unit cohesion than blood and clan ties, the obligations of faith replacing and overriding those of tradition and even family. His soldiers cared for each other as brothers, which under the precepts of Islam they were, and quickly gained a reputation for their discipline and ferocity in battle.

Muhammad’s armies demonstrated a higher degree of military motivation than traditional Arab armies. Being a good warrior had always been at the center of Arab values, but Muhammad enhanced the warrior’s status. His soldiers were always guaranteed a share in the booty. It became a common saying among Muslims that “the soldier is not only the noblest and most pleasing profession in the sight of Allah, but also the most profitable.” Muhammad’s soldiers were usually paid better than Persian or Byzantine soldiers.

But better pay was only a small part of the new Islamic warriors’ motivation. One of Muhammad’s most important innovations was convincing his troops that they were doing God’s work on earth. There were of course soldiers of other faiths who fought on religious grounds. But no army before Muhammad’s ever placed religion at the center of military motivation and defined the soldier primarily as an instrument of God’s will on earth. The soldiers of Islam came to see themselves as fighting under God’s instructions. The result, still evident in Islamic societies today, was a soldier who enjoyed much higher social status and respect than soldiers in Western armies.

A central element to an Islamic soldier’s motivation in Muhammad’s day was the idea that death was not something to be feared but rather embraced. Muhammad’s pronouncement that those killed in battle would be welcomed immediately into a paradise of pleasure and eternal life was a powerful inducement to perform well in combat. To die fighting in defense of the faith was to fulfill God’s will and become a martyr. Life itself was subordinate to the needs of the faith. Muslim soldiers killed in battle were accorded the highest respect on the Arab scale of values. While those who died in battle had formerly been celebrated as examples of courage and selflessness, before Muhammad it was never suggested that death was to be welcomed or required to be a good soldier. Muhammad’s teachings changed the traditional Arab view of military sacrifice and produced a far more dedicated soldier than Arab armies had ever witnessed before.

Arab warfare prior to Muhammad’s reforms involved clans and tribes fighting for honor or loot. No commander aimed at the enslavement or extermination of the enemy, nor the occupation of his lands. Arab warfare had been tactical warfare, nothing more. There was no sense of strategic war in which long-term, grand strategic objectives were sought and toward which the tactical application of force was directed. Muhammad was the first to introduce to the Arabs the notion of war for strategic goals. His ultimate goal, the transformation of Arab society through the spread of a new religion, was strategic in concept. Muhammad’s application of force and violence, whether unconventional or conventional, was always directed at this strategic goal. Although he began as the founder of an insurgency, he was always Clausewitzian in his view that the use of force was a tactical means to the achievement of larger strategic objectives. Had Muhammad not introduced this new way of thinking to Arab warfare, the use of later Arab armies to forge a world empire would not only have been impossible, it would have been unthinkable.

Once war was harnessed to strategic objectives, it became possible to expand its application to introduce tactical dimensions that were completely new to Arab warfare. Muhammad attacked tribes, towns, and garrisons before they could form hostile coalitions; he isolated his enemies by severing their economic lifelines and disrupting their lines of communication; he was a master at political negotiation, forming alliances with pagan tribes when it served his interests; and he laid siege to cities and towns. He also introduced the new dimension of psychological warfare, employing terror and massacre as means to weaken the will of his enemies. Various texts also mention Muhammad’s use of catapults (manjaniq) and movable covered cars (dabbabah) in siege warfare. Most likely these siege devices were acquired in Yemen, where Persian garrisons had been located on and off over the centuries. Muhammad seems to have been the first Arab commander to use them in the north. Where once Arab warfare had been a completely tactical affair, Muhammad’s introduction of strategic war permitted the use of tactics in the proper manner, as a means to greater strategic ends. War, after all, is never an end in itself. It is, as Clausewitz reminds us, always a method, never a goal.

As an orphan, Muhammad had lacked even the most rudimentary military training typically provided by an Arab father. To compensate for this deficiency, he surrounded himself with experienced warriors and constantly sought their advice. In fact, he frequently appointed the best warriors of his former enemies to positions of command once they converted to Islam. He sought good officers wherever he found them, appointing young men to carry out small-scale raids to give them combat experience, and sometimes selecting an officer from a town to command a bedouin raid, to broaden his experience with cavalry. He always chose his military commanders on the basis of their proven experience and ability, never for their asceti­cism or religious devotion. He was the first to institutionalize military excellence in the development of a professional Arab officer corps. From that corps of trained and experienced field commanders came the generals who commanded the armies of the Arab conquests.

We have little information on how Muhammad trained his soldiers, but it is almost certain he did so. There are clear references to training in swimming, running, and wrestling. The early soldiers of Islam had left their clan and family loyalties behind to join the ummah. Converts had to be socialized to a new basis of military loyalty—the faith—and new military units created with soldiers from many clans. References in various texts suggest that Muhammad trained these units in rank and drill, sometimes personally formed them up and addressed them before a battle, and deployed them to fight in disciplined units, not as individuals as was the common practice. These disciplined units could then be trained to carry out a wider array of tactical designs than had previously been possible. Muhammad’s use of cavalry and archers in concert with his infantry was one result. While Arab fathers continued to train their sons in warfare long after Muhammad’s death, the armies of the Arab conquests and later those of the Arab empire instituted formal military training for recruits.

Muhammad had been an organizer of caravans for twenty-five years before he began his insurgency, and he showed the caravaner’s concern for logistics and planning. His expertise in those areas permitted him to project force and conduct military operations over long distances across inhospitable terrain. During that time he made several trips to the north along the spice road, for example, and gained a repu­tation for honesty and as an excellent administrator and organizer. Such expeditions required extensive attention to detail and knowledge of routes, rates ofMuhammad had been an organizer of caravans for twenty-five years before he began his insurgency, and he showed the caravaner’s concern for logistics and planning. His expertise in those areas permitted him to project force and conduct military operations over long distances across inhospitable terrain. During that time he made several trips to the north along the spice road, for example, and gained a repu?tation for honesty and as an excellent administrator and organizer. Such expeditions required extensive attention to detail and knowledge of routes, rates of march, distances between stops, water and feeding of animals, location of wells, weather, places of ambush, etc.?knowledge that served him well as a military commander. In 630 he led an army of twenty to thirty thousand men (sources disagree on the exact numbers) on a 250-mile march across the desert from Medina to Tabuk lasting eighteen to twenty days during the hottest season of the year. By traditional Arab standards, that trek was nothing short of astounding.

Muhammad’s transformation of Arab warfare was preceded by a revolution in the way Arabs thought about war, what might be called the moral basis of war. The old chivalric code that limited bloodletting was abandoned and replaced with an ethos less conducive to restraint, the blood feud. Extending that ethos beyond the ties of kin and blood to include members of the new community of Muslim believers inevitably made Arab warfare more encompassing and bloody than it had ever been.

Within two hundred years after the Muslim conquests of Byzantium and Persia, Muhammad’s reform influence on the conventional Arab armies had disappeared, displaced by the more powerful influence of Byzantine, Persian, and Turkic military practices. Muhammad’s military legacy is most clearly evident in the modern methodology of insurgency and in the powerful idea of jihad. In the years following his death, Islamic scholars developed an account of the Islamic law of war. This body of law, essentially complete by 850, ultimately rests on two foundations: the example and teaching of Muham ‘mad and the word of God as expressed in the Koran. At the heart of the Islamic law of war is the concept of jihad, meaning ?to endeavor, to strive, to struggle,’ but in the West commonly understood to mean ‘holy war.’

According to classical Sunni doctrine, jihad can refer generically to any worthy endeavor, but in Islamic law it means primarily armed struggle for Islam against infidels and apostates. The central element of the doctrine of jihad is that the Islamic community (ummah) as a whole, under the leadership of the caliph (successor to Muhammad), has the duty to expand Islamic rule until the whole world is governed by Islamic law. Expansionist jihad is thus a collective duty of all Muslims. Land occupied by Muslims is known as the dar al-Islam, while all other territory is known as the dar al-harb, ‘the land of war.’ Islamic law posits the inalienability of Islamic territory. If infidels attack the dar al-Islam, it becomes the duty of all Muslims to resist and of all other Muslims to assist them. Thus jihad can be defensive as well as offensive.

In the waging of jihad, all adult males, except for slaves and monks, are considered legitimate military targets and no distinction is made between military and civilians. Women and children may not be targeted directly, unless they act as combatants by supporting the enemy in some manner. The enemy may be attacked without regard for indiscriminate damage, and it is permissible to kill women in night raids when Muslim fighters cannot easily distinguish them from men.

Islamic law prohibits mutilation of the dead and torture of captives, although the definition of torture is problematic, since Muhammad himself imposed punishments that would easily qualify as torture today. Following Mu’hammad’s own practice, a jihadi may execute, enslave, ransom, or release enemy captives. Although captured women and children were not supposed to be killed, they could be enslaved, and Muslim men could have sexual relations with female slaves acquired by jihad (any marriage was deemed annulled by their capture).

Shiites, some ten to fifteen percent of Muslims, subscribe to a somewhat different doctrine of jihad, believing that it can only be waged under the command of the rightful leader of the Muslim community, whom they call imam. Shiites believe that the last imam went into hiding in 874 and that the collective duty to wage expansionist jihad is suspended until his return in the apocalyptic future. But Shiite scholars do affirm a duty to wage defensive jihad against infidel invaders.

Classical Islamic law is less tolerant of non-Muslims. Apostates from Islam, pagans, atheists, agnostics, and ‘pseudo-scriptuaries,’ that is, members of cults that have appeared since Muhammad’s day; for example, Sikhs, Bahais, Mormons, and Qadianis, are only offered the option of conversion to Islam or death.

By the beginning of the nineteenth century, Sunni Islamic modernists began to modify the classical law of war. The Indian Muslim thinker Sayyid Ahmad Khan argued that jihad was obligatory for Muslims only when they were prevented from exercising their faith, thus restricting jihad to defensive purposes. Mahmud Shaltut, an Egyptian scholar, likewise argued only for defensive jihad.

Conservative Sunnis, such as the Wahhabis of Arabia, and modern militant jihadis in Iraq and Pakistan still adhere to the traditional doctrine. It is among these militant conservative Muslims that the military legacy of Muhammad is most alive today.


Richard A. Gabriel, a military historian and adjunct professor at the Royal Military College of Canada, has authored forty-one books. His latest is Muhammad: Islam’s First Great General (Oklahoma University Press, 2007).


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  1. THE CANCER OF ISLAM DIAGNOSED The West, Christians & Jews in Saudi Arabian Schoolbooks This report presents the official Saudi world-view to which school students between the ages 6-16 are exposed through the medium of subject textbooks. For this purpose, 93 books taught in grades 1-10, mostly from the years 1999-2002, have been examined. Executive Summary This report presents the official Saudi world-view to which school students between the ages 6-16 are exposed through the medium of subject textbooks. For this purpose, 93 books taught in grades 1-10, mostly from the years 1999-2002, have been examined. Special emphasis is placed on the Saudi Arabian attitude to the “other”, namely, Christians, Jews and the West, as well as on: the Middle East conflict, the concept of government, women’s status in society and children’s status in the family. Following are the main findings. • Education in Saudi Arabia is centred around Islam, as stated in the Education Policy document (cf. the Preface and clauses 2, 11, 12, 13, 25, 28, 29, 31, 50, 60, 64, 74, 83, 95, 153, 209, 232 of that document in Chapter One). Islamic studies constitute a major portion of the curriculum at all educational levels, and even science textbooks contain Islamic notions. • Saudi Arabia is presented as a country where Islam plays the dominant role in state and society, in the judicial and educational systems, and in everyday life. Saudi Arabia assumes, in turn, a leading role in the Muslim world and sees itself as the champion of Islam. • Islam is presented as the only true religion, while all other religions are presented as false. It is the only religion leading its followers to Paradise, whereas all other religions destroy their believers in Hell. The Muslims are, consequently, superior to followers of all other religions, in both this world and the next. • Christians and Jews are denounced as infidels. Moreover, Christians and Jews are presented as enemies of Islam and of Muslims. Therefore, Muslims may not befriend them, nor emulate them in any way, lest that lead to love and friendship, which is forbidden. • The West in particular is the source of the past and present misfortunes of the Muslim world, beginning with the Crusades, through modern Imperialism and ending in the establishment of the State of Israel. However, the West’s most dangerous effect on Muslim society nowadays is its cultural and intellectual influence in various fields such as: the spread of Western practices and habits – from Western democracy to alcoholic drinks, Western influence in the fields of literature, art, music, the media and fashion, Western-inspired ideologies such as Nationalism – including its Arab version, Communism and Secularism, Western influence in education and research – including research of the Muslim world (“Orientalism”), Christian missionary work, Western humanitarian and medical aid, and even Western-invented computer games. The West itself is a decaying society on its way to extinction, the symptoms of which are the absence of spirituality, adultery and sodomy that increase the number of AIDS cases in the West, and the large number of suicides in Western society. War and Jihad The Muslim is hostile to his enemy. Dictation, Grade 9, pt. 1 (2000) p. 38 The Arab soldier is the bravest soldier. Facilitating the Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 9, pt. 2 (1999) p. 74 The soldier pounced on the enemy like a lion. Facilitating the Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 9, pt. 2 (1999) p. 108 Would you not like ([that]) the enemy be defeated? Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 7, pt. 1 (2002) p. 15 The army shelled the enemy with two ([shells]). Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 7, pt. 1 (2002) p. 29 The soldier fought like a hero. Facilitating the Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 9, pt. 1 (1998) p. 9 The soldier stabs his enemies. Facilitating the Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 9, pt. 2 (1999) p. 56 I saw a soldier decapitating his enemies. Facilitating the Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 9, pt. 2 (1999) p. 57 What a wonderful sacrifice the soldier is making. How ugly is running away from battle. Facilitating the Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 9, pt. 1 (1998) p. 65 We ward off the aggressor’s deception. Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 7, pt. 1 (2002) p. 50 We attacked the enemy. The enemy will be defeated. Facilitating the Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 9, pt. 2 (1999) p. 23 The enemies suffered defeat. Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 7, pt. 1 (2002) p. 91 I rejoiced at the enemy’s defeat. Facilitating the Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 9, pt. 1 (1998) p. 15 I congratulated soldiers on their victory. Facilitating the Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 9, pt. 1 (1998) p. 82 How many wars we have waged and how many enemies we have defeated! Facilitating the Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 9, pt. 1 (1998) p. 121 The legitimacy of Jihad in God’s cause, which is one of the best actions… [Qur’an] Commentary, Grade 9, (2000) p. 81 The legitimacy of Jihad against the infidels by fighting… [Qur’an] Commentary, Grade 9, (2000) p. 156 Jihad in God’s cause is the path to victory and to strength in this world, as well as to attaining Paradise in the hereafter. [Qur’an] Commentary, Grade 9, (2000) p. 90 A Jihad is not to be called Jihad in God’s cause unless it is done exclusively for raising God’s word. [Qur’an] Commentary, Grade 9, (2000) p. 91 The interests of religion are above all other interests, for it is the pillar of goodness of [both] this world and the next one… God in His mercy has legislated many ways for guarding religion. Among them are [the following ones]: • Killing apostates and heretics. • Jihad in the cause of God by soul and property. [Islamic] Jurisprudence, Grade 10, (2001) p. 10 [Some] of the principles of the Sunni [Muslims are as follows]: 2. … Jihad in the cause of God… Monotheism, Hadith, [Islamic] Jurisprudence and [Qur’an] Recitation, Grade 6, pt. 2 (1999) p. 23 From Ali’s Sermon Jihad is one of the gates of Paradise opened by God to the upper class of his closest people… Therefore, he who refrains from it out of his own free will – God dresses him in the clothes of humiliation… What is the status of Jihad in God’s eyes, as depicted by Ali – may God be pleased with him? What is the gloomy fate that awaits anyone who refrains from Jihad out of hatred towards it? Arabic Literature, Grade 10, (1999) pp. 58, 63 respectively There are two happy endings for Jihad fighters in God’s cause: victory or martyrdom. Arabic Literature, Grade 10, (1999) p. 71 They are two roads: Either victory while storming [the enemy] Or martyrdom granted to the race winner who takes the prize I wish I were the winner, so I would take it For I compare it to neither money nor title Reader and Texts, Grade 9, pt. 2 (2002) p. 84 He [the poet] mentions that Jihad in God’s cause has two goals: either victory over God’s enemies, or martyrdom, which cannot be compared to money or fame. Reader and Texts, Grade 9, pt. 2 (2002) p. 85 8. What are the two roads mentioned by the poet? 9. What did the poet wish in the last verse? Reader and Texts, Grade 9, pt. 2 (2002) p. 86 How wonderful is Jihad in God’s cause. Facilitating the Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 9, pt. 1 (1998) p. 65 Jihad against the enemies is a religious duty. Facilitating the Rules of the Arabic Languages, Grade 9, pt. 1 (1998) p. 14 The Muslim responded to the call of Jihad. Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 7, pt. 1 (2002) p. 50 The swords of the Jihad fighters in God’s cause clattered. Facilitating the Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 9, pt. 1 (1998) p. 154 The Jihad fighters proved their bravery while fighting the enemy. Dictation, Grade 9, pt. 2 (2000) p. 51 The Jihad fighters are winning. Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 7, pt. 1 (2002) p. 70 Victory became complete for the Jihad fighters. Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 7, pt. 1 (2002) p. 37 The wisdom of the legitimacy of the [shorter] ‘fear prayer’: • Glorification of Jihad in Islam by preparing for it and by ignoring many prayer rules for its sake. [Islamic] Jurisprudence, Grade 7, (2001) p. 95 The Muslims in all parts of the land are entrusted with the duty of defence and Jihad which will ensure the Muslims’ glory and dignity and the purification of the Islamic holy places. Geography, Grade 6, (1999) p. 43 [the pupil] Hatem wished that God would give him courage and belief, so that he would become a Jihad warrior [mujahid] in the cause of God, like Sa’d Bin Abi Waqqas*. Reader and [Holy] Texts, Grade 4, pt. 1 (1999) p. 77 …Hoping that it [the textbook] will serve as an incentive to raising a virtuous generation who will follow the road of its ancestors, the victorious Jihad warriors. From the Introduction, History of the Muslim State, Grade 5, (2001) [p. 5] The two female believers who fight the Jihad – Paradise is theirs. Facilitating the Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 9, pt. 2 (1999) p. 12 Is there any way for a Muslim to get closer to God, after monotheism, other than Jihad in His cause…?! [Literary] Study, Grade 10, (2001) p. 109 Holy Jihad is the Muslims’ path to the recovery of Palestine. Clarify this. [Literary] Study, Grade 10, (2001) p. 110 The Jihad movements in Kashmir called upon the Muslim states to intensify their efforts to support them politically and economically. National Education, Grade 9, (2000) p. 18 [Muhammad] did not attack non-combatants in his battles, for he was bent very much on protecting and respecting innocents’ lives and property. When the [Jewish] tribe of the Qurayzah surrendered following the Battle of the Ditch [in Medina] he killed only the men who had actually fought the Muslims, betrayed their treaties and exposed the Muslims to annihilation. As regards the Qurayzah women and children, they were not harmed. Those among the Jews who had kept their treaties were not harmed either. Not one of the Qurayzah women was killed except for one woman. She was killed in punishment for her having killed a Muslim by throwing a quern [on him] from above her house. These are some of the lofty humane principles on which the idea of Jihad in Islam has been based in practice and which greatly contributed to the triumph of God’s Messenger in his battles against the polytheists and the Jews. Biography of the Prophet and History of the Muslim State, Grade 10, (2001) p. 25 The most prominent opinions of the Qadiyaniyyah* 2. Abolition of the principle of Jihad in Islam. … Thus, the Qadiyaniyyah movement has become in our modern time a force for internal destruction and corruption in the Muslim world. Biography of the Prophet and History of the Muslim State, Grade 10, (2001) p. 86 Martyrdom There are two happy endings for the Jihad fighters in God’s cause: victory or martyrdom. Arabic Literature, Grade 10, (1999) p. 71 A martyr in a battle shall be buried in the clothes with which he fell as a martyr. He shall not be washed, nor shall he be prayed over. [Islamic] Jurisprudence, Grade 7, (2001) p. 108 The martyr lives by his Lord’s side. Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 7, pt. 1 (2002) p. 81 The martyr is the most rewarded one by God’s side. Facilitating the Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 9, pt. 2 (1999) p. 71 The martyrs know that they have nothing to fear and nothing to be sad about. Dictation, Grade 9, pt. 2 (2000) p. 34 The devoted martyrs have a high position. Facilitating the Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 9, pt. 2 (1999) p. 12 I prayed for soldiers who seek martyrdom. Facilitating the Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 9, pt. 2 (1999) p. 13 I saw the soldiers sacrificing their souls in God’s cause. Facilitating the Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 9, pt. 2 (1999) p. 14 Express the following [phrase] by using ‘how many’…: The great number of martyrs on the field of honour. [Answer:] How many martyrs have fallen on the field of honour! Facilitating the Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 9, pt. 1 (1998) pp. 121, 123 respectively The Martyr by Abd al-Rahim Mahmud The occasion: The poet recited this poem during the outbreak of the great Palestinian revolt in 1936-39 CE, in which he himself participated with his fellow Jihad fighters… Abd al-Rahim Mahmud is a Palestinian poet who fell as a martyr in a battle with the Zionists in the year 1948 CE when the Jews occupied Palestine. I shall carry my soul in my palm And toss it into the abyss of destruction Either a life that gladdens a friend Or a death that irritates the enemies The soul of the noble one has two destinations: The arrival of death and the obtaining of what is desired What is living? I shall not live if I am not Dreaded and my sanctuary – kept sacred by your life! I see my death But I hasten my steps towards it I see my death without my stolen right And without my country as a desired one Hearing [arms’] clash is pleasant to my ear And the flow of blood gladdens my soul And a body thrown upon the ground Skirmished over by the desert predators A part thereof is a lot of the birds of heaven And a part thereof is a lot of the lions of evil Its blood covered the land with crimson And burdened the east wind with perfume He fell asleep to dream the dream of eternity [i.e., Paradise] And enjoy in it the loveliest visions By your life! This is the death of men And [for one] who asks for a noble death – here it is Reader and Texts, Grade 7, pt. 2 (2001) p. 92 5. When does one become a martyr [Shahid]? Reader and Texts, Grade 7, pt. 2 (2001) p. 94 Terror The Saudi textbooks are strictly opposed to any kind of terrorist activity, as can be inferred from the following passages. They also take a strong position against committing suicide, and even against attacks that may lead to the death of the attacker. There are, however, expressions which use the term Fida’i in a positive context. This term is used nowadays throughout the Arab world to denote members of the Palestinian armed organisations that are involved in terrorist activity against Israeli citizens. Hirabah is [a legal term denoting] an armed attack on people in the desert or in a built up area with a view to openly robbing them of their property. Attacking people in order to shed their blood and violate their honour is included within [the concept of] hirabah. [Also] included in [the concept of] hirabah are such actions that take place on a plane or ship or car, regardless of whether it be threatening with arms, or planting explosives, or blowing up buildings. Hirabah is forbidden and it is [considered] one of the greatest religious crimes. The Imam [the Muslim authority] has the discretion of either killing them [i.e., those who commit hirabah], or crucifying them, or amputating their hands and legs of the opposite sides – i.e., the right hand and the left leg, or banishing them from the land, unless the one who committed hirabah killed [someone], for [in such a case] it is mandatory to kill him… [Islamic] Jurisprudence, Grade 10, (2001) pp. 104-105 Among the forms of hirabah with which the nation has been afflicted in the modern age is the so-called kidnapping, the cases of which have increased and the criminals have become experts in its methods… The one who commits this [crime] deserves the punishment mentioned by God… regardless whether the kidnapper killed, or committed a crime lesser than murder, or took property, or violated honour, or did not do anything except intimidate and threaten, no matter whether the kidnapping took place in cities, villages or deserts, in cars, planes, trains or elsewhere, regardless of whether it was threatening with arms, or planting explosives, or taking hostages, or keeping them in their places and threatening to kill them, and the like. [Islamic] Jurisprudence, Grade 10, (2001) pp. 107-108 Safeguarding one’s soul is imperative… for God has bestowed His generosity upon Man… and [therefore] it is proper for him to safeguard his soul… and protect it from anything that may lead to its destruction… He should not become the reason for killing his soul… and should not assault someone else, which might result in his committing of this great sin. Definition of suicide – Suicide is killing oneself intentionally. Its judgement – It is forbidden, and is considered one of the great [religious] sins. The wisdom of making suicide forbidden – Man is the property of his Creator and Lord, and it is not permitted to anyone whomsoever to dispose of someone else’s property without the latter’s permission. [Islamic] Jurisprudence, Grade 10, (2001) pp. 19-20 The Palestinian Fida’is face great difficulties. History of the Saudi Arabian Kingdom, Grade 6, (2001) p. 60 The Fida’is terrorised the enemies. Language exercise, Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 7, pt. 1 (2002) p. 63 The Fida’i is more courageous than the lion. Facilitating the Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 9, pt. 2 (1999) p. 74 The two Fida’is are the best among men. The female Fida’is are the best among women. Facilitating the Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 9, pt. 2 (1999) p. 72 Chapter Ten: Notions About Government and Society Government Western principles of democracy are not part of the Saudi political worldview. The Saudi regime is based on Islamic Law [Shari’ah], one of the basic tenets of which is complete obedience to one’s rulers – even if they are oppressive – as long as they do not order their subjects to do something contradictory to the Shari’ah. The Muslim subject should not only obey his rulers but also love them, whatever their nature, and be patient vis-à-vis their oppressive measures – if these are taken. The reason for this is: an organised government, even an oppressive one, is much better than anarchy. Within this framework, duties, rather than rights, should be the citizen’s main concern. Yet, there is another aspect of government procedure, unique to Saudi Arabia, which is the “family-like” interconnection between the ruler and the ruled. This point is emphasised in the textbooks. It is interesting to note that one of the government’s duties towards the citizens is protecting them against “misleading” ideas, namely, ideas that are not in line with prevailing religious and political doctrines. Imperialism has succeeded in creating in the Muslim world a class of people who takes it upon itself to spread the principles and trends of Western civilisation which contradict the spirit of Islam. Imperialism has poisoned the mentality of this class and made it believe – out of ignorance of its own religion – that Islam is not compatible with the developments of the modern age… The call for Westernisation, the features of which have already become clear… has taken various forms – all aimed at discarding Islamic spiritual and moral values. Manifestations of the Call for Westernisation Introducing Western political institutions such as [political] parties and parliaments into the Muslim societies, which has resulted in tragedies and fragmentation among sons of the same society. Biography of the Prophet and History of the Muslim State, Grade 10, (2001) pp. 92-93 The regime in our beloved country is based upon the honourable Islamic Law [Shari’ah]; it relies on God’s Book [i.e., the Qur’an] and on His Messenger’s tradition [Sunnah]; it endeavours to preserve Islamic ideals and noble Arab morality. Grammar, Grade 10, (1999) p. 12 It is clear from the Book and from the Prophetic Tradition [Sunnah] that Islam has imposed on the citizens obedience to their rulers and governors, and has forbidden any Muslim to disobey those in charge, as long as they do not order [him] to disobey God. Being obedient to those in charge includes compliance with their orders, loving them and praying for their well being. National Education, Grade 7, (2001) p. 34 Activity 1 ‘It is incumbent upon the Muslims to obey those in charge as long as they do not order [one] to disobey God’. Form groups of students to discuss this statement and realise its impact on the State’s strength and unity. National Education, Grade 7, (2001) p. 35 Why has Islam made obedience to those in charge a duty? There is no doubt that disobeying those in charge is a clear call for anarchy and disorder, for the dissemination of disunion and break-up, and for the spread of problems, because everyone would become a selfish person who thinks of himself only. But obeying those in charge will guarantee for all the attainment of their rights in an orderly manner which will realise justice and equality for all in the shadow of the homeland where they live upon its land and respect its regime. National Education, Grade 7, (2001) p. 37 It is not permissible to stage a revolt against those in charge, nor to desist from obeying them – even if they are oppressive – nor to pray against them. But the Muslim has a duty to hate their oppression and [also hate] disobedience to them, and to be patient and give sincere advice to them. It is the duty of the learned ones and the men of virtue to endeavour to give them sincere advice secretly, without neither provoking dissension nor inciting against them. [Islamic] Jurisprudence, Grade 10, (2001) p. 111 Revolting against the Imam [the Muslim authority] is not permissible, unless he commits an open [act of] unbelief. [Islamic] Jurisprudence, Grade 10, (2001) p. 112 [Some] of the fundamentals of the Sunnites: • Hearing and obeying the Imams [i.e. the political authority] of the Muslims, be they pious or rakes, as long as they do not order to disobey God, for there is no obedience to a created being in disobedience of the Creator. • Performing the pilgrimage [Hajj], the Friday public prayer and the Jihad in God’s cause with them. • Not revolting against them, for that leads to division and provokes dissension among the Muslims. Questions: 1. What are the duties of the Muslims towards their ruler? 2. What is the mission of the Muslims’ ruler? 3. Why is it not permissible to revolt against the ruler of the Muslims, even if he is a rake? 4. Is it permissible to obey the ruler if he orders [you] to commit a sin? Monotheism, Hadith, [Islamic] Jurisprudence and [Qur’an] Recitation, Grade 6, pt. 2 (1999) p. 23 If the demand for [one’s] rights increases, performing duties decreases. There is no difficulty in explaining this clear fact, because the country where every person does his duty – no right is lost there and there is no need to demand it or to feel that it is missing. If we see a country where those who demand their rights are many, then the best thing to do for the benefit of that country is to remind them of their duties and to repeat a single maxim which they will read in every place and hear on any occasion: You do [your] duty and let the rights come to you quickly and with no effort. Facilitating the Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 9, pt. 1 (1998) p. 169 The Interrelationship between the Ruler and the Ruled You may have seen in the media the numerous meetings of the rulers with the citizens for the discussion of their affairs, listening to them and interrelating with them. The interrelationship between the ruler and the ruled in our homeland, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is considered one of the most important characteristics of Saudi society. That is [done] through the pursuit of the ‘open door’ policy to which our leaders are committed, from the time King Abd al-Aziz – may God have mercy on him – established this young state. His sons after him have followed his way. Their doors are open to all, and every citizen can reach them, so that they will listen to his opinion or complaint or demands, solve his problem, facilitate [the conduct of] his affairs and implant confidence in his soul. The reception of the citizens by the Servant of the Two Noble Sanctuaries [King Fahd Bin Abd al-Aziz] National Education, Grade 7, (2001) p. 29 Lesson Three: Security – Its Concept and Benefits 4. Protecting the citizens from any misleading ideas that are spread through the media and other means. National Education, Grade 7, (2001) p. 49 Women in Society Women’s status in Saudi society is determined by Islamic tenets – as interpreted by the Saudi clerics who follow the Wahhabi doctrine. Contrary to Western perception, women in Saudi Arabia are not despised; rather, the opposite is the case. But they must comply with certain rules that make them inferior to men by Western standards. This begins at home where women are restricted to the performance of specific roles and duties. Outside the home they are required to dress and behave in a certain way, which segregates them from male society. From the legal aspect, bloodmoney paid for the killing of a woman is half that of a man, a woman’s testimony is not accepted in court in certain matters, and – most importantly – she is placed under the jurisdiction of her husband at all times. Divorce is the legal right of the husband alone. In the field of education women enjoy the same rights as men. This does not advance them greatly, however, as they are not permitted to pursue independent careers, other than those of teachers, nurses and physicians – for female students and patients. An interesting illustration in one of the textbooks shows a female doctor with a veil standing beside a female patient in bed, also wearing the veil. The father is the head of the family. He provides its members with the necessities of life and educates them to obey God. The members of the family resort to him whenever they face a problem that they cannot solve. He receives them with an open mind and they find that he has the satisfactory solution, a sympathetic heart and the sound direction, which drives away from them any offence and makes them distant from any sin. That is the father’s responsibility towards his sons. Dictation, Grade 5, pt. 1 (2001) p. 61 My family is formed by my father, my mother, my brothers and my sisters… My father works, endeavours and toils for us, and my mother cooks, washes and keeps the house in order. My brothers and I help our father, and my sisters help our mother with the household chores. Reading, Writing and Poems, Grade 2, pt. 2 (1999) p. 13 An ambulance came and took Zaynab to the first aid centre. The female-doctor checked Zaynab over. Reading, Writing and Poems, Grade 2, pt. 2 (1999) p. 59 Women have taken their share in learning since the emergence of the light of Islam. There were among the Muslims learned women like Aishah, ‘Mother of the Believers’, who was an authority on the compilation of the sayings [Hadith] of God’s Messenger. Among them were Hadith transmitters, jurisprudents and writers who took part in spreading science throughout the ages. And in modern times the State has paid attention to the education of girls and mothers. It has opened a large number of elementary, intermediate and high schools as well as female-teachers’ institutes. It has also established intermediate and academic colleges. Hence, girls have gained their share of education and then started teaching other [girls]. Questions 1. What are the manifestations of the State’s interest in women’s education? Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 7, pt. 1 (2002) p. 42 Women in Islam enjoy an important position and great value. Therefore, the State provides them with all necessary services, including education. The Kingdom is thus intent on providing girls with education with no mingling [between the sexes], which is harmful to their dignity. National Education, Grade 7, (2001) p. 27 Islam did not neglect women, as it gave them their role in building the Muslim society, having liberated them from their slavery, prevented their burial at birth [wa’d]*, guaranteed their rights of education, inheritance and of choosing one’s husband, and entrusted them with the same religious concerns with which it has entrusted men. Arabic Literature, Grade 10, (1999) p. 9 The believers are brothers in Islam’s view. There is no difference between a black man and a white man, neither between the ruler and the ruled, nor between a man and a woman. Biography of the Prophet and History of the Muslim State, Grade 10, (2001) p. 63 O people, you owe your wives [their] right and they owe you [your] right. They are obliged to you not to let someone else into your bed, not to let someone whom you hate into your house without your permission, and not to commit an evidently vile sin. If they do, then God has permitted you to oppress them, avoid being with them in bed, and beat them – but not harshly. If they give up and obey you, then you should provide them with the means of subsistence and clothing in all fairness. Fear God with regard to women and have the best intentions towards them. From Muhammad’s last sermon, Arabic Literature, Grade 10, (1999) p. 51 Women have a strong innate [sense of] jealousy, which may lead to strange attitudes, as happened to the ‘Mothers of the Believers’ [i.e., Muhammad’s wives]. That does not diminish their rank and dignity. [Qur’an] Commentary, Grade 9, (2000) p. 148 Bloodmoney for [killing] a soul Bloodmoney [diyah] for a free male Muslim… is a hundred camels. Bloodmoney for a free [male] infidel is half the bloodmoney for a Muslim… Bloodmoney for a woman is half the bloodmoney for a man, each one according to her religion, as bloodmoney for a Muslim female is half the bloodmoney for a Muslim [male] and bloodmoney for an infidel female is half the bloodmoney for an infidel [male]. Bloodmoney for a slave: a slave is property to be sold and bought like [any other] property, and he has no legal bloodmoney. But his value is to be paid if a crime is perpetrated against him. [Islamic] Jurisprudence, Grade 10, (2001) p. 46 As for women – their testimony is not accepted in [matters of] legal punishments [Hudud] and homicide cases [Dima’]. [Islamic] Jurisprudence, Grade 10, (2001)p. 74 The parts of the body of a woman that must be covered 1. The parts of the body of a woman that must be covered in prayer: The woman in prayer must be totally covered except for her face and her palms. A woman should cover all her body in prayer except her face and palms, if she is not in the presence of men foreign to her. If there are strangers with her she should cover her face and palms as well. 2. The parts of the body of a woman that must be covered in the presence of strange men: The woman must be totally covered in the presence of strange men, and she should cover all her body because of them, except what appears unintentionally… such as her hands or her face… 3. The parts of the body of a woman that must be covered in the presence of her male relatives [maharim]: All of her body except those parts usually seen such as her face, head, neck, palms and feet. The Veil of the Muslim Woman The veil has been prescribed for the Muslim woman for covering that part of her body that may not be exposed. That is how her religious [conduct] becomes correct, her dignity is preserved, her shyness is safeguarded and the stranger’s respect for her is continued. It is desirable for a woman to take into consideration regarding her veil the following [points]: • That it covers her in the light of what has been said regarding the rule for covering her body. • That it be thick, not transparent, which would show the complexion. • That it be wide, not tight, which would show the size of her features. • That she does not imitate the clothing of infidel women or of men with it. The Muslim woman should adhere to [the rules of the] … veil and observe its conditions. What some women do, i.e., being tolerant regarding the veil in front of men foreign to them, like exposing the face, or the hands, or the legs, etc., is a great sin and a big error. [Islamic] Jurisprudence, Grade 9, (2000) pp. 64-65 There have been many [Qur’anic] proofs for the command of [using] the veil and the prohibition of beautification and unveiling… God has imposed on the woman the duty to cover her whole body in order to be safe because of her veil from the offenders’ insults… He has prohibited beautification and unveiling because of the scandalous deeds they lead to. [Islamic] Jurisprudence, Grade 10, (2001) p. 65 [A Hadith told] by Aishah – may God be pleased with her: May God have mercy on the first emigrant* women. When God revealed [the verse] ‘Let them pull their veils upon their pockets’ they split their garments and used them as veils. And it is meant by that that they covered their faces. Because if a woman lets her veil fall down on her pocket [which is under her garment in the chest area] it is imperative that it cover her head and chest and what is in between, namely, the face and the neck. [Islamic] Jurisprudence, Grade 10, (2001) p. 66 It is forbidden for a man to resemble a woman in her dress and ornaments with which she distinguishes herself, as well as in her [way of] talking, or in her movement, and the like. It is likewise [forbidden] for a woman to resemble a man in the above-mentioned [characteristics]… The wisdom of [this] prohibition is that imitation of external affairs leads to imitation of morals, acts and attributes, as well as to deviation from what God has moulded. The imitation of women by men leads to instability, coquettish behaviour and to acquirement of female attributes. The imitation of men by women [leads] to acting like men and to the deviation of the woman from her natural disposition. [Islamic] Jurisprudence, Grade 9, (2000) pp. 76-77 Clothes and ornaments that are prohibited are as follows: Wearing silk and gold for males… As for women, it is permissible for them to wear silk [garments] and be adorned with gold on their hands, legs, necks and other parts of their body. [Islamic] Jurisprudence, Grade 9, (2000) p. 75 The Prophet said: ‘It has been forbidden for the males of my nation to wear silk and gold, which has been permitted to their females’. Hadith and Islamic Culture, Grade 10, (2001) p. 75 Hand shaking of a man with a strange woman The Prophet used to make contracts with women by words only, without shaking their hands… If that was the case with the Messenger of God, in spite of his purity and of his being above suspicion, and in one of the greatest matters – such as contract [making] – then the more so with others. Anything more than hand shaking is more serious and more worthy of prohibition. All this is one of the ways leading to adultery and one of its strong motives. [Islamic] Jurisprudence, Grade 10, (2001) p. 67 Privacy and mingling [between the sexes] The presence in private of a man with a strange woman, as well as [social] mingling of women and men [who are not relatives], are [two] of the most serious things leading to adultery and [two] of their greatest [sources of] harm. Therefore, God’s Messenger forbade such mingling… Mingling of a woman with strange men not in private has two instances: • She is beautified [i.e., using make-up and lipstick] and unveiled, which is more forbidden. • She goes out with a veil and [behaves] modestly without pushing [herself] among the men. It is permitted for her [to do that], especially when there is need [for that]. [One] of the manifestations of forbidden privacy nowadays is a woman who sits in the car with the [strange] driver with no male relative [mahram]. It is best for a woman to protect herself from going out from home whenever possible. [Islamic] Jurisprudence, Grade 10, (2001) pp. 67-68 A Woman travelling with no male relative That is forbidden because it is [one] of the things leading to adultery … This law does not change with the transformation of means of transportation used by the traveller, be it travelling on beasts, or in cars, or planes, or boats, etc. [Islamic] Jurisprudence, Grade 10, (2001) p. 68 [One] of the most difficult matters for a sensible woman is threatening her with divorce. The matter becomes more difficult if [the husband] replaces her with someone who is better than she is. [Qur’an] Commentary, Grade 9, (2000) p. 151 [One] of the good qualities of this [Islamic] Law [Shari’ah] is the permission to divorce when that is needed, namely, when there is no other solution, such as when conflict between the couple increases, living together becomes difficult and other means such as admonition, separation and attempts at reconciliation between them become useless. The usage sanctioned by tradition in [matters of] divorce is that it takes place when the woman is not in her monthly period, no intercourse occurs between the couple, and he divorces her not in a definite manner [i.e., saying the phrase of divorce once, or even twice, but not thrice]… These stipulations, which have been enacted in [matters of] divorce, are for the benefit of the couple and for safeguarding their rights. [One] of them is safeguarding the woman’s right not to prolong the iddah [the period which the woman should wait before re-marrying] as well as safeguarding the husband’s right to have the possibility of reconsidering if he wants that. The revocably divorced* [woman] is not permitted to leave her husband’s house so long as she is within the iddah period, and it is not permitted to eject her. But she will spend her iddah period in her husband’s house, so that her [mere] presence in the house will be a reason for revocation of the divorce. [Qur’an] Commentary, Grade 9, (2000) p. 132 It is permissible for the husband to come back to the woman so long as she does not come out of the iddah period. [Qur’an] Commentary, Grade 9, (2000) p. 134 The iddah [clause] has been enacted out of great wisdom, such as: • Making sure that the woman is not pregnant. • Giving an opportunity for the husband to come back to his wife as long as she is within the iddah period, if the divorce is revocable, [namely] by saying the phrase [of divorce] once or twice. If the iddah period nears its end, the husband is given the choice between coming back to her and desisting from the divorce, or letting her come out of her iddah period and by that separation takes place. In both cases, coming back or separation, it should be done amicably. If he comes back to her [he should do that] with the intention to live nicely together. If he separates from her he [should] give her her rights without harming her. Coming back is not valid, except within the iddah period. If the iddah has ended, the woman is given the choice to marry him under a new contract or [to marry] someone else. 4. What is the Muslim husband’s duty towards his divorced wife and her relatives? 5. Is it pious behaviour for a husband and his divorced wife and her relatives to hate and fight each other? [Qur’an] Commentary, Grade 9, (2000) pp. 135-136 Morals and legal consequences 1. God has commanded to safeguard the divorced woman’s right regarding habitation, good treatment and payment of alimony in good will and generously. 2. The divorced husband is obliged to put up his divorced wife with him, [namely,] where he lives, during the iddah period, or to provide her with a residence of the same type according to his ability… 3. It is not permissible for a man to harass his divorced wife by word or deed, nor be remiss in [paying] alimony in order to weary her so that she leaves her home, because these are her rights as God has commanded… 4. It is incumbent upon a husband to pay alimony to his pregnant divorced wife during her pregnancy until she gives birth… 5. The divorced wife, if she nurses her baby, has the right to receive a feeding fee from his father. She will not be forced to feed her baby as long as there is no fear for his safety… 6. The parents should consult with each other and agree upon any matter, which is in the interest of the child… 7. The noble verses [of the Qur’an] include complete solutions for the problems of family life from which nations and peoples suffer, concerning divorce, the iddah period and the divorced woman’s rights to alimony, residence, [good] treatment and nursing [fee]. Islam has provided that these be dealt with in a good spirit of mutual consultation and moral interaction, has urged to behave in fairness and balance between the rights and duties of every party. [Qur’an] Commentary, Grade 9, (2000) pp. 141-142 Children’s Status in the Family and at School The child’s right to love, education, parental guidance and means of subsistence is greatly emphasised in Saudi Arabian textbooks. Strong emphasis is also placed on the child’s filial piety towards his parents throughout his life. Obedience of the student to his teachers is also required. A pious father is bent upon giving his children the best education and teaching them the best knowledge. The first thing he [should] be intent upon is to advise them to worship only God, to pray, to be patient in the face of difficulties, to treat others well and to enjoin good and forbid evil. Reader and [Holy] Texts, Grade 4, pt. 2 (2001) p. 8 It is not enough for a father to provide for the sustenance of his sons in a manner appropriate to his position and corresponding to his condition. He further has to teach them an occupation that will help them make a living in an honourable way… He has no excuse to be lenient in teaching them one of the occupations, which will open to them the doors of gaining profit, relying on the property he [already] has. [Literary] Study, Grade 10, (2001) p. 61 God commands Man to be kind to his parents and to treat them well, because of the hardship they endured while educating him, especially the mother. Reader and Texts, Grade 7, pt. 1 (2002) p.108 God is pleased with the one who pleases his parents. Dictation, Grade 9, pt. 2 (2000) p. 50 [A Hadith told] by Abu Hurayrah – may God be pleased with him: A man came to the Messenger of God and said: ‘Who among [all] people best deserves my friendly association?’ [The Prophet] said: ‘Your mother.’ [The man] said: ‘And then?’ [The Prophet] said: ‘Then, your mother.’ [The man] said: ‘Then who?’ [The Prophet] said: ‘Then your mother.’ [The man] said: ‘Then who?’ [The Prophet] said: ‘Then your father’… Monotheism, Hadith, [Islamic] Jurisprudence and [Qur’an] Recitation, Grade 6, pt. 2 (1999) p. 35 Being kind to one’s parents: obeying them, respecting them, not disobeying them, nor cutting in on, or interrupting, their talk, nor harming them, praying [to God] for them while they are alive or after their death, and visiting their friends. Obeying one’s parents is a cause of [one’s] entry to Paradise. Disobeying them is a cause of [one’s] entry into the fire [of Hell]. Monotheism, Hadith, [Islamic] Jurisprudence and [Qur’an] Recitation, Grade 6, pt. 2 (1999) p. 35 Being kind to one’s parents My father and my mother’s kindness to me is great. My father harbours affection for me and strives for my good. He works day and night to provide me with my food, drink, clothes and a home and is bent on having me educated, to become able in the future to make my living and to be fit for the service of my religion, nation and homeland. My mother takes great pains for my sake: She carried me in her womb for nine months, suffered pain while she bore me, took care of cleaning my body and clothes, remained awake next to me at night when I was sick, and offered what she could for the sake of my good and happiness. Then, what is my duty towards my mother and father? My duty is to be nice to them, to treat each one of them gently and humbly, not to do anything that would make them angry, to be kind and friendly to them when they are old, and to repay them for their good [deeds they did] to me while I was young. Reader and Poems, Grade 3, pt. 1 (1999) pp. 8-9 Answer the following questions: 1. What is your father’s kindness to you? 2. What is your mother’s kindness to you? 3. What is your duty towards your parents? 4. What would you say to one who makes his parents angry? Reader and Poems, Grade 3, pt. 1 (1999) p. 10 I remembered my mother’s kindness and knew what she endured for me: She carried me in her womb, then bore me and fed me. She took pains with my education. I, therefore, obey her and pray to God from [the depth of] my heart that He protect her. Reader and Poems, Grade 3, pt. 1 (1999) p. 39 5. Mention something of your mother’s kindness to you. 6. What is your duty towards your mother? Reader and Poems, Grade 3, pt. 1 (1999) p. 41 I love my father and I respect him, for his kindness to me is great, because he always endeavours to make me happy. He works hard for my success. And my mother is the one in my family I love best, because I am her own child. She carried me, bore me and educated me. I would sacrifice for her sake my soul and life. I love my parents. Both of them are precious to me. They have lit for me the path of my life. Therefore, all of my love, prayer and allegiance are [dedicated] to them. O my father, you are my love You are a person of noble deeds You work for my happiness You endure trouble for my safety All that you want Is to see me in the morning To my mother all grace As she is my soul and life You both are the light of my sky Like radiant stars To you is my love as long as I live And my plea [to God] in my prayer Reader and Poems, Grade 3, pt. 1 (1999) p. 87 Answer the following questions: 1. What does the father do for the sake of his children? 2. Why do you love your mother greatly? 3. What would you say to one who disobeys his father or mother? 4. What do you request for your parents during [your] prayer? 5. How do you treat your mother and father? 6. Mention something of what God has commanded us regarding our parents. Reader and Poems, Grade 3, pt. 1 (1999) p. 88 Talk about your mother and father’s kindness. Reader and Poems, Grade 3, pt. 1 (1999) p. 90 Lesson Four: Mother’s Rights You owe your mother many duties. She carried you in her womb and took care of you after you were born, when you were a baby. She stays awake at your side at night when you are sick and prays to God for your recovery. She bestows on you her affection and takes trouble for the sake of your happiness. She protects you from [any] harm. Remember that [some] of the duties you owe to your mother [are the following]: • Obeying her. • Praying for her [well-being]. • Being the first one to greet her and kiss her head. • Causing happiness to her soul. • Asking her permission when going out from home. • Helping her whenever necessary. Discuss with your classmate a deed that would make one’s mother happy and write a sentence about it. National Education, Grade 4, (2000) p. 21 Lesson Five: Father’s Rights One owes one’s father many duties. He toils and works in order to guarantee our living. It is he who strives for the comfort of all family members, including the protection of mother and children and is concerned for their education. It is he who gives advice to his children. Therefore, they consult with him regarding their actions and [regarding] the future of their life. By virtue of his experience, father understands many matters that will benefit his children and protect them from harm. Remember the duties you owe to your father: • Causing happiness in his soul. • Obeying him and praying for his well-being. • Asking his permission and consulting him. Also remember: • That he protected you and worked hard for your sake. • That you need to please him. • That you need him while you are young and he needs you when he is old. After you mention the duties you owe to your father, mention to your teacher a deed of yours that made your father happy and pleased. National Education, Grade 4, (2000) p. 23 Lesson Six: Being Kind to One’s Parents Grandfather Saleh was sitting with his family at home following the afternoon prayer. Mother asked her son to bring a plate with fruit from the kitchen. The son became angry and said: ‘Ask my brother to bring it. I am playing!’ Grandfather Saleh said: ‘Come, my little son, and sit next to me.’ Then he said: ‘Don’t you want to be kind to your parents?’ The son said: ‘And what does it mean, to be kind to one’s parents, O grandfather?’ Grandfather Saleh said: ‘Being kind to one’s parents is obeying them and being nice to them…’ Grandfather Saleh said: ‘Pay attention to this, my son. Our family, thank God, is a Muslim family, the foundation of which is being kind to parents, the young respecting the old, and the old [harbouring] affection for the young.’ The son then hurried to his mother, apologised, and brought the fruit plate. National Education, Grade 4, (2000) pp. 25-26 The Parents’ Rights 1. Their general rights: being kind to them, treating them well, and not being recalcitrant to them… God’s Messenger has made [the duty of] being kind to one’s parents one of the best deeds and of the ones most loved by God. [A Hadith told] by Ibn Mas’ud – may God be pleased with him – that he asked the Prophet: ‘What is the deed that is loved best by God?’ [The Prophet] said: ‘Praying on time.’ [The man] said: ‘And next?’ [The Prophet] said: ‘Being kind to one’s parents.’ [The man] said: ‘And next?’ [The Prophet] said: ‘Jihad in God’s cause… Recalcitrance is harming one’s parents in word or deed or omission, except when it is done with a legal justification, for then it is not recalcitrance – if the parents order to commit a sin or neglect a religious duty. God’s Messenger has forbidden recalcitrance and put us on notice that it is one of the greatest sins… Recalcitrance includes: being angry at them [one’s parents], not obeying them, not listening to their talk, rebuking them, grumbling about their needs and talk, etc., 2. Obeying them: it is obligatory to obey them in what they enjoin and forbid. This is conditional obedience: • That it be in [matters where] no disobedience of God [occurs]. • That it be feasible. 3. Talking to them gently and not being irritated whatsoever, not even grumbling when they speak or request something to be done. 4. Being humble with them, having forbearance in front of them, and not considering oneself higher than them because of a science one has learned, or money one has gained, or a position one has obtained. 5. Praying for their well being. The child should pray for the well being of his parents during their lifetime and after their death. 6. Not being the cause of their being cursed… [The Prophet] said: ‘[One] of the greatest sins is a man cursing his parents’. It was said [to him]: ‘O Messenger of God, how would a man curse his own parents?’ [The Prophet] said: ‘He would curse someone else’s father and then that one would curse his father…’ 7. Maintaining ties with their relatives and friends and respecting them while they [i.e., his parents] live and after their death. 8. Calling upon them [to follow the right path] and advising them. One’s parents are most worthy of all [other] people for having advice and help. Anyone who notices an error made by his parents which deserves a remark, [should] be gentle and polite while making his remark to them… It is best to advise indirectly. 9. Being a friend of theirs… 10. [Some] concluding courtesies in the son’s treatment of his parents: He should not call him by his name, neither sit down before [his father sits down], nor walk in front of him except when he precedes him for the purpose of removing an obstacle or opening a door and the like, serve him, answer his call, speak to him gently and politely. He [should] not cut in on his talk, neither say that he is wrong, nor say to him: ‘You do not know.’ He should endeavour to make his parents happy in all matters that are legally permissible. Hadith and Islamic Culture, Grade 10, (2001) pp. 111-114 Is it permissible for a Muslim to make his parents angry? Clarify. Dictation, Grade 8, pt. 2 (2002) p. 19 Obeying one’s parents: God has commanded us to obey [our] parents… It is impossible for a family to function in a natural manner if there is disobedience to the parents, as it is a great crime and one of the greatest sins which decrees a punishment in this world and entering the fire [of Hell] in the hereafter… Obeying the teacher: My brother the student, your teacher is a lamp that lights the way for you. Therefore, you should obey him… National Education, Grade 7, (2001) p. 36 What is our duty towards the teacher? Dictation, Grade 8, pt. 2 (2002) p. 30 The five prayers are obligatory for every adult Muslim who possesses his mental powers, either male or female. As to the young, they should be ordered [to perform] them when they reach the age of seven, in order to train them to perform this great worship. When he reaches the age of ten he should be beaten for it [i.e., for not performing it], but not painfully. [Islamic] Jurisprudence, Grade 7, (2001) p. 41 Conclusion The selection of textbooks surveyed in this report opens a window on to the Saudi Arabian general worldview, certain aspects of which may be summed up as follows: • A heightened sense of belonging to Islam, at the expense of all other loyalties. • The superiority of Islam and the Muslims to all other religions and their followers. • Christians and Jews are enemies of Islam and the Muslims; no love or friendship should prevail between them and Muslims. • The West is the source of evil that has afflicted the Muslim world. Its most dangerous effect upon Muslims nowadays is its cultural and intellectual influence, which should be resisted. The West is also responsible for the Zionist occupation of Palestine. • The Jews are a wicked nation, both in their relations with Arabs and Muslims, and in the context of world history. The Jews’ disappearance is, therefore, desired. • Israel is not recognised as a sovereign state. Its place is always taken by Palestine, which is depicted as a Muslim country occupied by the Zionist Jews, who defile its Muslim holy places and endanger the neighbouring Muslim countries as well. Zionism is depicted as an evil movement and a grave danger to Islam. • A peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict is not advocated. Rather, war, Jihad and martyrdom are alluded to. Palestine in its entirety should be liberated by force and purified of Zionist filth. • Western democracy is rejected; obedience to the ruler is demanded under all but one circumstance; women’s status is inferior to men’s according to Western standards. Within this overall context, the Saudi Arabian textbooks fail to comply with the criteria set up by UNESCO. The data given to the students about Christianity, Judaism, the West, Israel and Zionism is mostly incomplete and in many cases erroneous. The history of the Jews and of Western civilisation is not taught in Saudi schools, unless through the prism of hostility. Inaccuracy and distortion occur. Three prominent examples are the attempt to present the West as a materialistic and decaying civilisation, the use of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a source for Jewish history and the systematic erasure of Israel’s name from every map. Other, “minor”, inaccuracies also occur, such as the allegations that Israel initiated the arson incident at al-Aqsa Mosque in 1969, or that the Jews of the Ottoman city of Salonika were responsible for the abolition of the Muslim caliphate in Turkey in 1924 (whereas they actually had already been under Greek rule since 1912). The achievements of “others”, that is, non-Muslims, are hardly recognised, and equal standards regarding them are not applied. This gives rise to the question of whether political disputes can be presented objectively and honestly in the Saudi Arabian textbooks. In all examples, whether Palestine, Kashmir, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Philippines, or Chechnya, the Muslims are always the peaceful victims of vicious non-Muslims. “Is wording likely to create prejudice, misapprehension and conflict avoided?” The answer to this UNESCO criterion is definitely in the negative, as indicated by the following examples: • A malicious Crusader-Jewish alliance striving to eliminate Islam from all the continents. Geography of the Muslim World, Grade 8, (1994) p. 32 • The European Imperialists’ goal behind the domination of the Muslim world was humiliating the Muslims, crushing their power and impoverishing them. Biography of the Prophet and History of the Muslim State, Grade 10, (2001) p. 106 • Western civilisation, which has lost the meaning of spirituality, finds itself in its turn on the verge of an abyss. It is a civilisation on its way to dissolution and extinction. Biography of the Prophet and History of the Muslim State, Grade 10, (2001) p. 71 • The Jews are wickedness in its very essence. Facilitating the Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 9, pt. 2 (1999) p. 24 • The Jews, a people of treachery and betrayal… Dictation, Grade 8, pt. 1 (2000) p. 24 The “ideals of freedom, dignity and fraternity”, emphasising the “need for international co-operation” and “the formation of common human ideals” worldwide are advocated in the textbooks, but only among Muslims. The content of Saudi Arabian school textbooks is an example of literature directed against anything Western, Christian and Jewish. It is a disquieting reality that needs to be addressed rather than underplayed, as was done by Prince Sa’ud al-Faisal, Saudi Foreign Minister, in an interview to CBS’s 60 Minutes program in September 2002 (see Appendix A for a transcript of his statement). It is too early to determine whether the reform promised by the Minister is complete, but CMIP and AJC hope that the present survey of Saudi Arabian textbooks contributes to a useful discussion of this important issue. Appendix A Saudi Foreign Minister Sa’ud al-Faisal’s Statement regarding Saudi Textbooks (In an interview by Lesley Stahl on CBS’s 60 Minutes program, September 9, 2002) Interviewer: … We didn’t understand that your schoolchildren were being fed a diet of hatred about the United States. Prince Sa’ud: This is absolutely a misconception. The moment the [September 11, 2001] attack happened, and the moment we found out, to our remorse, that so many of those involved in the attack were Saudis, the first thing that occurred to my mind was: ‘how can this happen; how can this happen in spite of the friendship that we have for the United States?’ So, the first thing I thought was to go through the books that are taught in our schools and see within them direct [clues to a] Saudi Arabian [being] liable to be deluded by anybody who harbours enmity toward the United States. I was expecting the worst… Reporter: Even he thought students were being poisoned with anti-American vitriol. That is because he knew his government has long ago ceded control of Saudi schools and their curriculum to the hardline Islamists. Prince Sa’ud said he was relieved when his textbook review showed that 85% of what was being taught was not hateful. Prince Sa’ud: Ten percent of what we found was questionable. Five percent was actually abhorrent to us. So, we took a decision to change that, and we have changed. Appendix B CMIP was unable to obtain all Saudi Arabian school textbooks. However, material from some of the missing books was sometimes quoted elsewhere. An interesting case relates to an anti-Jewish Hadith (saying of Prophet Muhammad) that appears in two different textbooks (Hadith for Grade 9 and Monotheism for Grade 10) unavailable to CMIP. However, since this Hadith was quoted twice by the US media, it was decided to add this information as an appendix. Following are the relevant passages that quote the said Hadith, taken from two sources: Source 1 Excerpts from an interview by PBS on November 9, 2001 with a Saudi Arabian Shi’ite national who lives in the USA and presides over a Saudi human rights organisation there – ‘The Saudi Institute’: Q: Can you show me an example of what the teaching is in the schools? A: Well, here, this is a book, Hadeeth, for ninth grade. Hadeeth is a statement of Prophet Muhammed. This is a book that starts for ninth graders. This is talking about the victory of Muslims over Jews. This is a Hadeeth that I truly believe is not true, as a Muslim: ‘The day of judgement will not arrive until Muslims fight Jews, and Muslims will kill Jews until the Jew hides behind a tree or a stone. Then the tree and the stone will say: ‘O Muslim, O servant of God, this is a Jew behind me. Come and kill him.’ Except one type of a tree, which is a Jew tree. It will not say this.’ This is taught to 14-year-old boys in Saudi Arabia. Q: In middle schools… A: In middle schools, yes. Official middle schools. This is a book printed by Saudi government Ministry of Education. Q: In what year? A: This is in the year 2000. So this is current curriculum… A: This is an official book. This is printed, yes. This is for ninth grade, printed in the year 2000. This says here, the Minister [sic] of Education decided to teach this book, and print it at its own cost. And this is the first page. Q: And it’s distributed… A: This is to school curriculum. It’s taught. It’s mandatory for ninth graders in Saudi Arabia. (PBS – Frontline: “Saudi Time Bomb?” Interview with Ali al-Ahmed, Executive Director of the Saudi Institute (McLean, Va) November 9, 2001 The Hadith quoted here is a well-known one and is used by certain Muslim extremists (Hamas, for example) in their propaganda against Israel. The interviewee did not mention the exact name of the “Jews’ Tree” – gharqad – “salt tree”, or “salt bush”, which is found in the Hadith as well. Source 2 An excerpt from a report by Charles M. Sennott, the Boston Globe Online, March 4, 2002: At a public high school in this provincial town [Abha] in the southwest part of the country, 10th-grade classes are forced to memorise from a Ministry of Education textbook entitled “Monotheism” that is replete with anti-Christian and anti-Jewish bigotry and violent interpretations of Islamic scriptures. A passage on page 64 under the title “Judgement Day” says: “The Hour will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews, and Muslims will kill all the Jews.” Charles M. Sennott, “Driving a Wedge: Saudi schools fuel anti-US anger” (Second of three parts) Boston Globe Online, Mar. 4, 2002) List of Sources Reader and Literature Reading, Writing and Poems – Workbook, Grade 1, part 1 (2001) 83 pages Reading, Writing and Poems – Workbook, Grade 1, part 1 (2002) 83 pages Reading, Writing and Poems, Grade 2, part 1 (2001) 145 pages Reading, Writing and Poems, Grade 2, part 2 (1999) 118 pages Reader and Poems, Grade 3, part 1 (1999) 119 pages Reader and Poems, Grade 3, part 2 (1999) 102 pages Reader and [Holy] Texts, Grade 4, part 1 (1999) 98 pages Reader and [Holy] Texts, Grade 4, part 2 (2001) 111 pages Reader and [Holy] Texts, Grade 6, part 1 (1999) 83 pages Reader and [Holy] Texts, Grade 6, part 1 (2001) 83 pages Reader and Texts, Grade 7, part 1 (1998) 128 pages Reader and Texts, Grade 7, Part 1 (2002) 125 pages Reader and Texts, Grade 7, part 2 (2001) 131 pages Reader and Texts, Grade 7, part 2 (2002) 131 pages [Pages 49-72 are missing.] Reader and Texts, Grade 8, part 2 (2002) 151 pages Reader and Texts, Grade 9, part 2 (2002) 122 pages [Literary] Study, Grade 10, (2001) 116 pages Arabic Literature, Grade 10, (1999) 119 pages Script Arabic Script, Grade 2, (2001) 49 pages Arabic Script, Grade 3, (1999) 48 pages Arabic Script, Grade 4, (1999) 61 pages Arabic Script, Grade 6, (2001) 49 pages Dictation Dictation, Grade 4, part 1 (1999) 94 pages Dictation, Grade 4, part 1 (2001) 85 pages Dictation, Grade 5, part 1 (2001) 68 pages Dictation, Grade 6, part 1 (1999) 86 pages Dictation, Grade 6, part 2 (1999) 83 pages Dictation, Grade 7, part 1 (1998) 50 pages Dictation, Grade 7, part 1 (2002) 54 pages Dictation, Grade 8, part 1 (2000) 64 pages Dictation, Grade 8, part 2 (2002) 55 pages Dictation, Grade 9, part 1 (2000) 68 pages Dictation, Grade 9, part 2 (2000) 64 pages Grammar Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 6, part 1 (1999) 104 pages Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 6, part 1 (2001) 101 pages Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 6, part 2 (1999) 100 pages Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 7, part 1 (2001) 111 pages Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 7, part 1 (2002) 111 pages Facilitating the Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 9, part 1 (1998) 183 pages Facilitating the Rules of the Arabic Language, Grade 9, part 2 (1999) 156 pages Grammar, Grade 10, (1999) 77 pages Religious Education Monotheism and [Islamic] Jurisprudence, Grade 3, (2001) 50 pages Monotheism and [Islamic] Jurisprudence, Grade 4, (1999) 80 pages Monotheism, Hadith, [Islamic] Jurisprudence and [Qur’an] Recitation, Grade 5, part 1 (
  2. All of above can only mean one thing – that Muhammed, the military master, NEVER EXISTED. Period.

    All of Muhammed’s attributes are a compilation and consolidation by Ummayads and Abbasids over a 200-year period to establish a political system they felt would work relative to the militant/tribal attitudes of Arabs and Persians around them.

  3. You say “Muhammad’s use of terrorism does not detract from Islam as a religion any more than the history of the Israelite military campaign to conquer Canaan detracts from Judaism.” But there are crucial differences. The Old Testament says God ordered the Children of Israel to kill the people of Canaan. Once they were killed there was never again a command to kill in war. The Koran says Allah orders the followers of Muhammed to hate all non-Muslims “for ever” ie there is no limit in time. The Koran also says that the followers of Muhammed should kill non-Muslims “wherever you find them”, ie without a limit in space. So it is eternal war from the Koran and it is a war long over from the Old Testament. This affects your safety and your life today. It affects how millions of people see their religious duties today. One religion is still at war, and must be until all the Earth is ruled by those who follow Muhammed. Judaism says that war is a secular event, not a religious duty.

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