A review of The Sword of the Prophet by Serge Trifkovic

Regina Orthodox Press, 2002. (Available from Crossroad Books in Melbourne – crossroadbooks.com.au)

There has been a flood of books on Islam penned in the past few decades, and especially since September 11. This volume appeared just after the New York tragedy, and is one of the better volumes on Islam and its impact on the world.

Trifkovic provides a brief look at the life of Muhammad, a detailed account of Islamic beliefs, and a discussion on how Islam in the modern world is faring. The book has meaty chapters on jihad, the outcomes of Islamic thinking, Western appeasement and Islamic immigration.

He begins by noting that “beliefs have consequences” and argues that Islamic beliefs lead to some very serious consequences. Islam is not just a religion, but an all-inclusive way of life. After examining in detail some of the core beliefs of Islam, Trifkovic states that of all the world religions, “the teaching of Islam makes it the least amenable to dialogue with other faiths”. While many people in the inter-faith dialogue camp are happy to hold ecumenical discussions with Muslims, we are reminded that Islam “seeks converts or obedient subjects, not partners in a dialogue”.

Later in the book the author picks up this theme, and bewails the fact that many Christians are quite happy to compromise their core beliefs in order to get along with Muslims. This is not the way to proceed. For Christians to survive, they “need to rediscover theological firmness and doctrinal clarity”.

The chapter on jihad is perhaps the one most readers would be interested in. Just what does jihad mean? Is Islam a religion of peace? Are Muslim suicide bombers aberrations in Islam, or a natural by-product of it? Trifkovic answers these questions in the context of an important Islamic distinction. Muslims believe that the world is divided into two camps, the Dar-al-Islam (the House of Islam) and Dar-al-Harb (the House of War). There can be no lasting piece until the House of War (those who are non-Muslims) finally submit to the House of Islam.

Says Trifkovic, “The House of Islam is in a state of permanent war with the lands that surround it; it can be interrupted by temporary truces, but peace will only come with the completion of global conquest”. Thus the real meaning of jihad is the perpetual and obligatory war of Muslims against unbelievers.

But what about the distinction so often heard between the greater and lesser jihad? The greater refers to the spiritual struggle one goes through, while the lesser is the militant, armed variety. Yet as the author demonstrates so well, the life and teaching of Muhammad, the Hadith, and the early centuries of Islamic expansion all point to armed struggle as the main understanding of jihad.

Islam really teaches that the greater jihad of personal spiritual struggle can only come about when the lesser jihad has been accomplished, with Islam in global dominion. Real peace (the cessation of inner spiritual struggle) can only achieved when global Islamic rule is established.

Indeed, a good Muslim is one who believes that Islam must rule the world. This seems plain enough from the teachings of the Koran. So do all Muslims want the world to be subject to Sharia law? No, but that may just mean that not all Muslims are fully committed to their faith, and are simply nominal. In the same way, we can answer this question: are there moderate Muslims? Yes, is the clear answer. But it is perhaps the wrong question. The real issue is, is Islam moderate? Trifkovic clearly thinks that it is not, and to be a serious follower of Islam means to abandon moderation:

“Islam is and always has been a religion of intolerance, a jihad without an end. Despite the way the apologists would like to depict it, Islam was spread by the sword and has been maintained by the sword throughout its history.” Thus contemporary “radical Islam” is not in fact a deviation but a natural expression of the teachings and history of Islam. Therefore, the Wahhabi movement, for example, in its desire to recover pure Islam on a global basis, is not tangential to Islam but is in fact mainstream Islam.

As such, says Trifkovic, Islam is no different than its twentieth century totalitarian counterparts: Fascism and Communism. The Nazi and Stalinist terrors were based on force, bloodshed, and repression. Islam’s history and practice has been markedly similar.

His chapter on the fruits of Islam further makes this case. The way women are viewed in Islamic societies, the way dissenters are treated, the continuing problem of slavery, the inherent anti-Semitism, these are all examples of the totalitarian, anti-democratic nature of Islam.

“The all-pervasive lack of freedom is the hallmark of the Muslim world. Discrimination against non-coreligionists and women of all creeds, racism, slavery, virulent anti-Semitism, and cultural imperialism can be found – individually or in various combinations – in different cultures and eras. Islam alone has them all at once, all the time, and divinely sanctioned at that.”

Western appeasement has also been a major problem. Indeed, Trifkovic laments the West’s efforts to support “moderate” Muslim states, noting that all such support has been counterproductive. For various reasons, including dependence on Arab oil, the West has sought to get along with Islamic nations, instead of challenging their many shortcomings.

And the struggle is ultimately a religious one: “To face the war of religion that has been imposed on it, the West also needs to rediscover its own religion, or at least to stop denying its value.”

As to the immigration issue, the author reminds us that many mosques in Western nations are simply breeding grounds for hate and recruitment centres of more martyrs. Thus mirroring the recent remarks of Peter Costello, Trifkovic calls for thorough background checks of all Muslims seeking to take up residence in Western nations.

He concludes by saying we need to be doing two things: rejecting anti-democratic and totalitarian religions and worldviews of any stripe, and proclaiming loudly and proudly the virtues of a free and open society. “We have no obligation to ‘respect other cultures’ and ideas when those cultures and ideas lead to human suffering, misery and servitude”.

Of course in an age of political correctness and guilt manipulators, such advice may be hard to follow. But if we at all value the freedoms and privileges of living in the West, even with all its faults, then we need to start displaying some moral and intellectual clarity. Making distinctions is part of that clarity. And the distinctions raised in this book are an important contribution to the struggle that we find ourselves in.

[1095 words]

3 Replies to “A review of The Sword of the Prophet by Serge Trifkovic”

  1. A useful reminder of this book, most of which, I believe, was actually written before 9/11. (I had the pleasure of meeting Dr Trifkovic once.) Of course, I fear Dr Trifkovic’s work will be in vain for as long as we have half-witted or simply gormless politicians yabbering about Islam being “a religion of peace” …

    RJ Stove, Melbourne

  2. Hi R.J. Stove!

    I agree with your comments about politicians’ naïve approach to Islam.

    I’m unfamiliar with the term “gormless”, but perhaps we’re onto something here… the first king of Denmark was called Gorm the Old (Gorm den Gamle) the second was Harold Bluetooth (Harald Blåtand). The latter is honoured by mobile phone bluetooth technology.

    If my memory serves me correctly, Gorm was something of a “Joseph of Arimathea” style Christian. But Harold went through a more profound conversion experience, bringing Denmark with him.

    In short, Denmark is facing the same problems that Australia is, only far worse. And it is, once again, because of gormless (indeed Gormless) politicians.

    See: http://www.danielpipes.org/article/450

    Mind you, as improbable as it may sound, a few leftist politicians in Denmark have had “conversion” experiences of their own and said enough is enough. In the words of Pim Fortuyn, the murdered Dutch politician, “there are many guests in the house that now want to take over the house”.

    Danmark for Danskerne! (Denmark for the Danes!)

    James Forsyth, China

  3. When I’m asked to recommend an introductory book on Islam to someone who doesn’t really have any background, this is the one I consistently wholeheartedly recommend.
    Kendra Mallock, USA

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