Manual The Soldiers of Islam

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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. 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 Arab warrior fought for his own honor and social prestige within the kin group, not for the clan per se.

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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. 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. His soldiers were always guaranteed a share in the booty. There were of course soldiers of other faiths who fought on religious grounds. The result, still evident in Islamic societies today, was a soldier who enjoyed much higher social status and respect than soldiers in Western armies.

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. 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. 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.

Forgotten Muslim soldiers of World War One 'silence' far right - BBC News

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. 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. War, after all, is never an end in itself.

Bring Islam Back

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.

The Return of Islam's Child Soldiers

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 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. His expertise in those areas permitted him to project force and conduct military operations over long distances across inhospitable terrain.


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During that time he made several trips to the north along the spice road, for example, and gained a repu? 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.? In he led an army of twenty to thirty thousand men sources disagree on the exact numbers on a 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. 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.

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In the years following his death, Islamic scholars developed an account of the Islamic law of war. This body of law, essentially complete by , ultimately rests on two foundations: the example and teaching of Muham?


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  • At the heart of the Islamic law of war is the concept of jihad, meaning? 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 ,?

    Islamic law posits the inalienability of Islamic territory. But it's the small-town speeches that Howk looks forward to most. Often his audience has never met a Muslim and has formed their worldviews on what they've seen on television. The country doesn't talk about Islam, he said. And when it does, quotes are often taken out of context. Howk, who was raised in a Baptist family, said he just wants to set the record straight and help the public understand. Howk said misconceptions about Islam have only grown since the Sept.

    Government leaders have largely avoided the topic, he said. And that empty space was filled "by every bomb thrower and loudmouth in America. He said soldiers tend to be better educated, due to their time overseas or their interactions with Muslim soldiers. In his speeches, Howk gives an overview of Islam and Muslim culture.

    He defines vocabulary words. And he patiently answers any question, so long as it isn't hateful. Many of those questions have to do with terrorism, he said. And Howk is quick to knock down anything that might suggest Islam is more violent than other religions. Become an FT subscriber to read: Onward Muslim soldiers Make informed decisions with the FT Keep abreast of significant corporate, financial and political developments around the world.

    Choose your subscription. For 4 weeks receive unlimited Premium digital access to the FT's trusted, award-winning business news. Premium Digital. Team or Enterprise. Premium FT. Pay based on use.