Carl Brockelmann: “Islamophobe” or Scholar?

by Raymond Ibrahim

Jihad Watch

Recently reading through Professor Carl Brockelmann’s History of the Islamic Peoples (1948), I was struck by a particular passage that, inasmuch as it is objective and thoroughly grounded in Islamic law and Muslim practice, if asserted now by any scholar of whatever caliber would surely only earn the label “Islamophobe.” Brockelmann (1868-1956), of course, was one of the premiere scholars of Islam in his day and a prolific writer; so too was he one of those explicitly named and denounced by Edward Said for being an Orientalist — or, according to Said, for being a “tool” of colonialism and imperialism, not a “true” scholar.

The passage that impressed me for its forthrightness follows. After discussing the Five Pillars of Islam, Brockelmann wrote:

Besides these five canonical duties, which are regarded as inviolable, the Muslim’s entire private and public life is encompassed by a multiple chain of prescriptions, the observation of which is likewise part of the religion…

The Muslim may show only hostility to infidels when encountered: war against them is a religious duty. Idol-worshippers must always be attacked without more ado, Jews and Christians, however, only after they have ignored a summons, made three times, to accept Islam. After defeat the men are to be killed, women and children to be sold into slavery. Whoever is killed in the Holy War is sure of paradise, as a martyr. In addition, it is permitted to conclude treaties with Jews and Christians, following the example of the Prophet… But the obligation of the Holy War is merely postponed by such contracts, not annulled….

A child’s legitimacy does not depend on the position of the mother, but only on its recognition by the father…. [T]he slave, whether taken captive in war or purchased, or born in the household, is legally an object [of the Muslim master] that may be bequeathed in inheritance or given away….

The penal code of Islam has remained on a rather primitive level and only marks a slight advance over the ancient pagan concepts of law….Theft is punishable by amputation of the right hand, in case of relapse by additional maiming. Adultery is punished by a hundred strokes of a lash; but if an infidel seduces a Muslim woman, he is subject to the death penalty. Blasphemy with respect to God, the Prophet, and his predecessors is punishable by death, as is defection from Islam [apostasy], if the culprit persists in his disbelief (p. 43-45).

While Islam’s apologists may fume and rage at the “Islamophobic” nature of this passage, only one question matters: Are the points of this excerpt demonstrably true or not? In fact, they are true: From the life-pervading nature of sharia, to jihad against infidels and polytheists, to the praiseworthiness of martyrdom, to the temporary nature of “truces,” to the inhuman status of the slave, to the draconian laws of sharia, including the killing of the apostate — all of these aspects make their appearance regularly in headlines and here onJihad Watch, demonstrating their very real, and tenacious, nature within Islam.

Brockelmann knew as much; these were not issues open to debate or “nuance.” But, then again, Brockelmann lived in a very different era — when empirical facts, no matter how ugly or unpleasant, were never clouded or ignored simply to make people feel good about themselves, and others.

Raymond Ibrahim is the editor of the Al-Qaeda Reader, translations of religious texts and propaganda.

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