This week we have seen terrorists attacking innocent people in Barcelona, Spain. Twenty-two year old Moroccan man Younes Abouyaaquoub ploughed his van into a crowd. One of these victims was from California, just got married and went for his honeymoon. His life was cut short by this terrorist act. I saw his father weeping for his son. Thirteen people were killed, over hundred people were critically injured. Immediately after the attack, ISIS claimed the responsibility for these attacks.
London, Brussels, Paris, Nice, Berlin, Rome these days, the terrorist attacks seem non-stop and happen with frightening frequency. As Christians, how should we respond?
One of the most ridiculous responses I have seen came from Wolf Blitzer, CNN anchor and host of The Situation Room. He portrayed Barcelona attack as ‘copycat’ of Charlottesville, Virginia. As you know, recently in Charlottesville a white supremacist plowed his car into a crowd and killed a young woman. We have some experts like Wolf Blitzer who do not see much difference between attacks that happened in Charlottesville, Virginia and Barcelona, Spain. Let us contrast these two incidents. Muslim radicals were ploughing their vans and trucks into infidels for over hundred years. They did not learn this from white supremacists. It is more likely that white supremacists are learning their deadly tactics from Muslim radicals. Both white supremacists and muslim radicals love Hitler. In fact, one thing common between white supremacists and Muslim radicals is their hatred of Jewish people. Before and during the Second World War, arab youth walked in the streets of Europe helping the Nazis identify the Jewish people. In 1941, the Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini met with Hitler. Mufti told Hitler that Jews were their foremost and common enemy. So, this anti-semitism is raising its ugly head again in our time. I never thought I would see a day when people walk in the streets of America and chant ‘Jews will never replace us’. But that is what is happening. Antisemitism is getting worse because our society is moving away from the God of the Bible.
The Islamic terrorist attacks on Spain are not new. They have been going on for the last fourteen hundred years. Muhammad, the founder of Islam died in AD 632. Then the leadership of Islamic community was taken over by Caliphs. There have been four major Islamic Caliphates. The friends and family members of Muhammad were the early caliphs. Their caliphate is called Rashidun Caliphate, it lasted from AD 632 to 661. Then came Umayyad Caliphate that lasted from AD 661 to 750. Then came Abbasid Caliphate from AD 750 to 1258. Finally, there was Ottoman Caliphate from AD 1299 to 1924. So, the caliphate lasted from AD 632 to 1924, that is from the death of Muhammad all the way to 20th century. You should understand the institution of Caliphate because ISIS declared itself as a Caliphate. It wants to restart the caliphate of Islam that ended in 1924. ISIS looks at Spain from a historical viewpoint. They see it as a lost ground that must be reconquered because, for centuries Spain was a Muslim nation before it was reconquered by Christians.
Our culture has been intoxicated with political correctness. Our leaders say, ‘if only we create more jobs, if only we become less racist, if only we become more tolerant, Islamic violence will cease’. Either unknowingly or intentionally they are not telling the truth. The truth is ISIS wants to establish the caliphate that started after the death of Muhammad. They have not hijacked real Islam. They want to practice the real Islam, they want to practice the fundamental Islam started by Muhammad. So, don’t believe the lie, ‘ISIS hijacked a peaceful religion’. One of the foundational doctrines of Islam is to bring the whole world under the subjection of Allah, to bring the whole world under the submission of Islam and Sharia law. Islam is no Buddhism. Buddhism teaches: leave the worldly matters and meditate and practice nonviolence. That teaching came from Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. Buddhism separates religion and government. You don’t see that in Islam. In Islam both government and religion must be under Allah. Both must be governed by Sharia law.
Before Islam conquered Spain in eighth century, it was a Christian territory. It is likely that Apostle Paul took the gospel of Christ into Spain. After being arrested in Jerusalem, he was imprisoned in Caesarea Maritima for two years. After he was released he went to Spain. There is some evidence for this from apocryphal gospels like The Acts of Peter. It reports that after the martyrdom of Peter, Marcellus and his fellow Christians waited for Paul’s return to Rome from Spain. After it was converted to Christianity, this region acted as a conduit to many Roman customs. St.Isidore of Seville, a bishop of Visigothic Spain produced Etymologies, this is a kind of encyclopedia in the Roman tradition.
Go back to 710 AD. Umayyad Caliphate was ruling the Muslim world from Damascus. The Muslim armies already conquered the vast stretches of the world from western end of North Africa all the way to the eastern end of Middle East. The Umayyad armies were preparing to attack Spain on the western front and India on the eastern front. They succeeded. In 711, Spain became an Arab state and in 712 India became an Arab state. The Pax Islamica has arrived.
The year 711 is very important year in the history of Spain. In that year, the Arabs crossed the Mediterranean and conquered most of the Iberian peninsula, that is present day Spain and Portugal. The African general Tariq ibn Ziyad brought his Muslim armies and captured what is now Spain. The Muslims settled in this area are called Moors. The Visigoths who were ruling this region before Muslim armies arrived here fled north.
In 730 the Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik appointed Abdul Rahman as commander of Al Andalus. Al-Andalus is the Muslim name for formerly Christian Spain. Under Abdul Rahman, the Muslim armies invaded France. On October 10,732 a fierce battle was fought between Frankish army under Charles Martel and the army of Abdul Rahman. In my humble opinion, this is the most important battle in the history of Europe because had Charles Martel lost this battle, Europe would have become Muslim. The whole world would have been Muslim today. This article would have been written in Arabic rather than English.
The Nazis were good students of history. Hitler admired the Islamic advance at Battle of Tours. According to Albert Speer, Hitler’s Armaments Minister, Hitler was impressed how Islam was spread by the sword and subjugation of all nations around it. He considered Islam more suited to the Germanic temperament than Christianity. Charles Martel’s grandson Charlemagne founded the Holy Roman Empire. He became the first Emperor in the West since the fall of Rome. Holy Roman Empire was fighting with invading Muslim armies on all fronts.
In 750, the Abbasid dynasty overthrew the Umayyad caliphs. The caliphate was moved from Damascus to Baghdad. Umayyads lost their territory, but one of them, Abd al-Rahman I fled to Spain; there he established himself as ruler in al-Andalus in 756. This Umayyad dynasty ruled in Spain until 1031. Under Abd al-Rahman III, the Umayyad rule in Spain reached its zenith. He reigned between 912 and 961. Al-Rahman declared himself the caliph in 929 and wanted to conquer the Christian areas of Spain. He was ruthless towards Christians. At this time, Christian kingdoms were limited to northern Spain. He sacked the town of Santiago de Compostela, where the most famous Christian shrine in Spain was located. Al Mansur attacked Barcelona in 978. Thousands of Christians were slaughtered by Muslim army in what is called Slaughter of Barcelona. Monasteries were destroyed. Refugees from this area fled into northern Europe. That was ISIS in 978 AD, thousand years ago. Christians were converted en mass and Islam became the religion of a majority of those living in al-Andalus.
Jews and Christians were given dhimmi status under Islamic law. Quran gave dhimmi status to the People of the Book. Christians and Jews are called People of the Book. You can live as a dhimmi as long as you obey the Muslim masters and pay the jizya, the tax.
Cultural Exchanges: Under Muslim rule in Spain, there was a tremendous cultural transformation. Churches were converted into mosques. Even now if you visit Spain, you can still see its Muslim past. Cordoba in the southern Spain was home to the caliphate of Cordoba. By the year 1000, the city of Cordoba has a population of around 500,000. It enjoyed commercial ties to virtually the entire Mediterranean basin. The Cathedral of Cordoba is a marvel of Spanish architecture. In 784 Abd al-Rahman I ordered construction of the Great Mosque over the Christian church which stood in the place. When Cordoba returned to Christian rule in 1236, the mosque was converted to a Roman Catholic church. Today it is called Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba.
The cathedral of Toledo is another masterpiece of architecture. It’s construction started around 1226 to 1227. It’s a beautiful cathedral. The Christians reconquered Toledo from Muslim rulers. Also the famous Alhambra Palace in Granada. It features beautiful Islamic calligraphy and mosaics.
Great philosophers came from this region. Ibn Rushd comes to mind. He is known as Averroes in the West. He was a prominent Muslim philosopher who lived in 12th century Cordoba. He defended the rationalism of Aristotle and became a major influence on medieval philosophy. Moses Maimonides, one of the greatest Jewish scholars of all time also lived here. He is known as Rambam. He was born in 1135 in Cordoba and died in 1204 in Egypt. Among his other works, his 14-volume Mishneh Torah, a codification of Jewish law and ethics is still studied by Jewish rabbis today. He is also the author of the famous book, The Guide for the Perplexed.
The arabs introduced many new technologies and agricultural practices to Spain after they conquered it. They introduced rice, sugarcane and cotton. The Western academia calls it Islamic Golden age. It abhors religion except Islam. All great things that came under Islam are called Islamic Golden Age. They don’t give such honorable labels to any other religion. Isaac Newton and Leibniz were great Christian scientists, but their time is not called Christian Golden Age. Albert Einstein was a great Jewish scientist, but his time is not called Jewish Golden Age. Only Islam has been given the privilege, they say, ‘let us have a course on Islamic Golden Age, let us teach our children about Islamic astronomy’. You see the double standards here.
Yes, Taj Mahal is beautiful, but it should not be a cover to the atrocities committed on India by Muslim kings. Yes, Alhambra is beautiful, but it should not be a cover to the atrocities committed on Iberian peninsula.
Reconquista: Let me talk about Reconquista for a few minutes. Something unique happened in Spain. Muslim territories, from Europe to Asia, once they were conquered by Islamic armies, stayed Muslim to our day. But in Spain, an unprecedented movement started. It is called Reconquista. It is the Christian movement in Spain to reconquer territories lost to Muslim rules from the time of the Arab conquest of Iberia in 711 until 1492. So, the Muslims ruled Spain for eight centuries and Christians were trying to take back their land for eight centuries. Over the centuries, the Christian kingdoms in the north grew stronger and the Muslim kingdoms in the south became weaker.
Finally, the caliphate of Cordoba ended in 1031 due to internal divisions. The collapse of the caliphate helped the Christian reconquest of Spain. When the Crusades started, many crusaders went to Spain to liberate it from Muslim rule. One biggest lie we hear about Crusades is that violent Christians went and attacked peaceful Muslims. In fact, Crusaders were Christians fighting to take back the territories once belonged to Christians. Jerusalem once belonged to Byzantine Christians, so Christians went to liberate it from Muslim armies. Spain once belonged to Christians, so crusaders went to liberate it from Muslim armies. The famous Song of Roland was written during this time.
Over the centuries, Christians took over much of Spain. By 1236, only Granada remained under Muslim rule. Cordoba, once the Jewel of Moorish rule, now became a Christian city. In 1453, Muslims conquered Constantinople. The Christians in the Iberian peninsula worried, ‘Are we the next?’ In 1469, the crowns of the Christian kingdoms of Castile and Aragon came together with the marriage of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. They brought the Muslim rule on Iberian peninsula to an end in 1492.
In the same year that the Muslims were pushed to the tip of the Iberian Peninsula, another great historical event happened: Christopher Columbus set sail for the New World. The world would never be the same again.
Initially Ferdinand and Isabella did not support Columbus. The fall of Granada in January 1492 and the culmination of reconquista changed their minds. They accepted Columbus’ arguments and agreed to finance his voyage.
You see how Muslim-Christian battles changed the course of modern history. What were Ferdinand and Isabella thinking when they were sending off Columbus? Were they confident that they took back Spain from Muslims or were they uncertain about its future and wanted to find new regions to settle?
Columbus made successful voyages to America. Spain colonized many regions in the North, South and Central America. Spain and Portugal were quarreling. Pope divided the world into two halves in 1494 with the Treaty of Tordesillas. The lands to the west belong to Spain and the lands to the east would belong to Portugal. By the 1540s three regions had emerged as the core centers of Spain’s empire in the Americas: the Caribbean, Mexico, and Peru.
Now the Islamic invasions into Europe did not stop with Umayyads. When the Ottomans became the caliphs they continued their attacks. After conquering Constantinople, they set their eyes on Spain. Consider Suleiman the Magnificent. He was the tenth and longest-reigning sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1520 to his death in 1566. He fought with Charles V, the Holy Roman emperor and king of Spain. Like Madison Square Garden, Holy Roman Empire is an oxymoron. It was not holy, it was not Roman, it was not an empire.
Things get more interesting under Charles V. In 1517, Martin Luther lit the fires of Reformation in Germany. It overwhelmed Charles V and Catholic Church.On one hand, they had to contain the Reformation and on other hand, they had to fight Muslim armies invading Europe from Ottoman Empire. They were selling indulgences to raise money to fight and stop Muslim armies.
People were fed up with buying indulgences and became an easy prey to Martin Luther. Thus, indirectly, Islam helped Protestant Reformation. God is sovereign over world history. Never forget that.
Thanks to Columbus, Spain became a superpower. But, it squandered its wealth fighting Protestants and Muslims. It went bankrupt and lost its superpower status. England defended the Reformation and began to rise to superpower status. To protect the purified religion that Martin Luther had taught them, the Pilgrims left England and established a new nation in the New World, which later became the United States of America, the current superpower.
Europe split into Protestant and Catholic camps. Religious wars erupted which culminated in the Thirty Years War. After the death of thousands of people, Europeans made peace with each other in the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. Sovereign nations were born. Dove with the olive branch originated at that time as a symbol of peace. Why are you carrying a passport when you travel across international boundaries? That’s a legacy of Westphalia.
Peace of Westphalia took the world in a new direction. Peace reigned for a while, but some intellectuals were not happy. The Nazis bemoaned the humiliation of Thirty Years War and the Treaty of Westphalia. They wanted to restructure the whole of Europe, if possible the whole world. The first European blood spilled by Nazi arms would flow in Spain. Civil war broke out in 1936 – 1939. Totalitarianism sprouted up. Hitler was elected in Germany, Mussolini in Italy and Franco in Spain.
So, I wanted to give you this long view of history because it is essential to understand current events. When ISIS says, ‘We want Spain back’. We might wonder, ‘what in the world are they talking about?’. They just want to take back the lands they lost to Christians in 1492; the same lands which Christians lost to Muslims in 711. H.R.McMaster, current US National Security Advisor does not even mention the word Islam in relation to ISIS attacks. He contends that Islam has no relation to these attacks. This is the man advising the President of the United States! The Islamic doctrine of Jihad is central to this centuries old fighting.
You can tell the truth with love. Telling truth about Islam is not tantamount to hating Muslims. You can speak truth about Islam while loving Muslims. Evangelism is speaking truth with love. Jesus died for all, including Muslims.
Today’s Europe is uncomfortable with its Christian past. It embraced secular, atheistic progressivism. A modern tower of Babel. Engineering human society without honoring the Creator. Their society is crumbling. The demographics are so low. Millions of Muslims moving in. Even a tiny minority of these immigrants would be enough to keep European authorities on their toes. A new Europe is emerging. But we can still have hope because God is sovereign over history.
Earlier I noted, there was a time when Holy Roman Empire and Roman Catholic Church put Europe under their grip. As Muslim armies invaded Europe, Catholic Church awoke to respond; Holy Roman Empire could not suppress Luther’s Reformation because it was preoccupied with Muslim armies invading from the East. God brought out Reformation from that turmoil.
As Muslim terrorists attack Europe in our time, let us pray that God will bring another Reformation in Europe, turn hearts and minds to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Peace!