This paper is a historical survey examining the nature of Islamic civilization and the factors underlying its expansion, peak and decline. It is not meant to provide answers to every obscure question that may arise regarding Muslim history. Nor is it meant to give prescriptions to cure every problem associated with the rise of contemporary radical Islam. However, there are a number of implications that the reader might want to seriously consider.
Educational reform should be an urgent priority in the western world. Understanding history objectively is essential if the civilization-killing bias infecting the education establishment is to end. As Bat Yeor puts it:
What I see and hear today I recognize it, as it is endlessly repeated in past chronicles. Maybe we should start to learn this history to understand what is happening to us, as a first step to find a solution, to retrieve our lost basic liberties to life and security, and our self-esteem.
Energy independence is essential. Reducing our dependence on foreign oil would be a good thing for many reasons, not the least of which would be to reduce the financial means through which Islam expands.
The fragile democracies of the West cannot, indefinitely, withstand the massive transfer of excess population from lands that refuse to implement responsible demographic policies. Such large movements of population would be a serious problem in and of itself. When combined with a large Muslim component such migration is a sure recipe for disaster. Immigration reform including an indefinite moratorium on Muslim immigration is necessary for the survival of Western culture.
A realistic foreign policy regarding the Islamic world is also essential. Western style democracy cannot be imposed on populations suffering with a legacy of centuries of the Islamic slave mentality. Of course, there should be encouragement and support given to true Muslim reformers and secularists within Islamic countries. Accompanying that should be the ending of the Western “jizya” in terms of foreign aid. Wealthy Muslim nations should bear the burden of aiding their impoverished co-religionists without any fundamentalist strings attached. In addition mutual respect and forbearance should be expected on the part of Muslim states claiming to seek friendship. They should be required to cease financial support for terrorists, seek good relations with their neighbors, cease funding propaganda, replace sharia with modern law, implement a true separation of mosque and state, cease persecuting minorities and provide the latter with equal rights of citizenship.
The basic theory of expansion and decline in the Islamic world as presented in previous chapters may be recapitulated as follows.
All Muslim societies show remarkable similarities in the patterns of expansion and decline occurring during and subsequent to the political establishment of Islam. In the majority of cases Islam expands via conquest, usually by vigorous recently converted nomadic warriors. Islam is in essence a powerful meme with great appeal to nomads and other primitive peoples.
Muhammad, the founder of Islam was a charismatic leader with many admirable qualities and a clear sense of an obligation to elevate his violent and primitive countrymen to a higher level of culture. Unfortunately, he was unable to overcome a number of personal flaws. The religion he founded was inextricably contaminated with the shortcomings of its great prophet.
However, the ideology expressed in the Prophet’s meme became the most powerful and successful engine of conquest in history, right up to the modern era. Arab Muslim imperialists, in an amazingly brief period of time conquered the entire Middle East, North Africa, most of Spain and parts of India and Central Asia. The ideology of Islam and holy war provided powerful incentives in terms of material and sexual advantages for its male followers. At a later date the Islamic meme was carried primarily by various Turco-Mongolian peoples originating in north central Asia. The latter spread Islam further into Central Asia, conquered most of India, overthrew the ancient Byzantine Empire and brought the frontiers of Islam deep into central Europe and southern Russia. Other Islamic expansions followed a more peaceful course; these were carried by merchants and missionaries into sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and China. Nevertheless, the latter history of these peaceful expansions usually saw the rise of jihads carried out by local Muslim settlers or by converted native rulers who used the holy war ideology as a means of subduing their neighbors and expanding their territory.
Of course, Islamic imperialism, like all others, eventually reaches geographic limits. Its lines of communication and supply are overextended and a spirit of grim resistance arises on the part of yet unconquered nations. Thus, the expansions of the various Muslim empires were eventually halted and in many cases other civilizations adopted parts of the martial spirit of holy war in imitation of the Islamic meme.
However, the learning curve on the part of those living on the Islamic frontier was distressingly protracted. This is shown by a repeated pattern of treachery and betrayal on the part of factions and religious minorities in the bordering lands. In other cases unscrupulous politicians sought to utilize the Islamic warrior zeal to serve their own ambitions. The shortsightedness of these ethnic, religious and factional leaders in underestimating the power and permanence of Islam is a recurring feature in the history of Islamic conquest.
Such shortsightedness did not take account of a number of characteristics in the ideology and development of Islam that made it both more contagious and tenacious than was true of other imperialisms before or since. In the first place, Islam had an inherent tendency toward proselytism and conversion. This tendency was not expressed in the wake of the earliest years of the Arab Empire; but eventually it came to the fore. When combined with the economic and social disabilities inflicted on the conquered population, conversion to Islam was an attractive option for vast numbers of non-Muslims. The Muslim breeding system was another important factor making for the permanence of Islam. Polygamy and the legalized rape represented by the system of sexual slavery and concubinage solidified the hold of Islamic culture in the generations following the initial conquests. Slavery was the third major reason for the spread and tenacity of Islam. Vast numbers of slaves accompanied by the movement of large populations was a permanent characteristic of Islamic civilization. These immense deracinated slave populations having their own cultural traditions erased adopted in total the culture and religion of their conquerors and masters.
Inevitably, despite the success of the Islamic meme, the erasure of long-established cultures was never complete. The older traditions of the conquered survived in various Islamic cults which were often highly syncretistic as well as in many cultural survivals which were sometimes only slightly altered to conform to Islamic norms. The most successful cultural survival occurred in Iran. The early conversion of many of the Persian elite was accompanied by a strategy whereby Islamic military might became the means of spreading Iranian civilization to the tribes of central Asia who ultimately carried it into India. In addition, one of these central Asian peoples, the Turks, helped settle the ancient Persian grudge against Greece and Rome by conquering Byzantium. In much of the Islamic world, in fact, Persian culture eventually rivaled that of the Arabs in importance.
All Islamic civilizations followed, with minor variations, the same basic pattern of political evolution. This would start with a period of tribal egalitarianism, which did not, of course, extend to the conquered masses. This would be followed by a phase of increasing Oriental despotism, the first part of which might often be marked by a liberal outlook of tolerance and learning. Inevitably, however, there would follow a decline into a rigid and repressive despotism.
Islamic societies were invariably parasitic, consuming the economic and intellectual resources of indigenous non-Muslim populations. Under the conditions of an early Pax Islamica following the initial conquest, these resources, now liberated from chronic warfare and disorder, could engender a brilliant flowering of civilization which historians somewhat deceptively refer to as an ‘Islamic golden age’. The most brilliant of such golden ages occurred, a century after the first Arab conquests, in Baghdad. However, as the resources were consumed, Islam became more widespread and entrenched, and the pre-Islamic civilization was submerged, these golden ages always ended in a period of irreversible decline. There were additional reasons for the decline of Islamic civilization. The increasingly repressive political despotism sapped the energy and destroyed the initiative of both Muslims and dhimmis. The slave mentality inherent in Muslim theology became more ingrained. The fatalism of Islam eventually undermined intellectual curiosity. The continuing dependence on vast numbers of slaves destroyed the incentive for invention and innovation. The Muslim system of sexual slavery working at the highest levels of the governing class created a chronic condition of harem intrigue which weakened the administration of the state.
After three centuries of quiescence due to the technological dominance of the West, Islam is once again on the offensive. The re-emergence of Islam is due to the exhaustion of the West after a century of war, the petroleum windfall and the demographic explosion in Islamic countries at the same time as demographic collapse in the West. The most important factor, however, is the social suicide of the West. The betrayal of western civilization by members of its own elite is reminiscent of the pattern of treason that has, throughout history, facilitated the triumph of Islam.
Finally, reforming Islamic society is not a task that can be imposed from the outside. The most troublesome characteristics of Islam are deeply rooted within Muslim society since these are the very factors underlying Islam’s historic success. Furthermore, in the absence of any strong opposition, these factors give promise to the adherents of the Islamic meme of the ultimate attainment of world-wide domination. The jihad ideology of war and violence, present in the root scriptures of Islam, has not diminished over time. The fatalism and anti-intellectualism of these scriptures are still potent in modern times. The legacy of slavery, concubinage and the dhimmi system continues to exist even where these institutions have, in theory, been abolished.
Muslims, themselves, must be open to both scriptural reinterpretation and to embracing a secular society with all citizens having equal rights under the law and freedom from persecution. To truly enter the modern world, they must follow in the footsteps pioneered by the philosophers of the Enlightenment and critically examine their own institutions and history. Above all, they must be willing to embrace and not belittle the long and glorious achievements of their pre-Islamic ancestors.
 Bat Yeor, in Symposium: The Death of Multiculturalism? FrontPageMagazine.com, September 8, 2006.