The Sacred Muslim Practice of Beheading
By: Andrew G. Bostom
Thursday, May 13, 2004

Think the decapitation of Mr. Berg is unprecedented? Think again.

Reactions to the grotesque jihadist decapitation of yet another "infidel Jew," Mr. Berg, make clear that our intelligentsia are either dangerously uninformed, or simply unwilling to come to terms with this ugly reality: such murders are consistent with sacred jihad practices, as well as Islamic attitudes towards all non-Muslim infidels, in particular, Jews, which date back to the 7th century, and the Prophet Muhammad's own example.

According to Muhammad’s sacralized biography by Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad himself sanctioned the massacre of the Qurayza, a vanquished Jewish tribe. He appointed an "arbiter" who soon rendered this concise verdict: the men were to be put to death, the women and children sold into slavery, the spoils to be divided among the Muslims. Muhammad ratified this judgment stating that it was a decree of God pronounced from above the Seven Heavens. Thus some 600 to 900 men from the Qurayza were lead on Muhammad’s order to the Market of Medina. Trenches were dug and the men were beheaded, and their decapitated corpses buried in the trenches while Muhammad watched in attendance. Women and children were sold into slavery, a number of them being distributed as gifts among Muhammad’s companions, and Muhammad chose one of the Qurayza women (Rayhana) for himself. The Qurayza’s property and other possessions (including weapons) were also divided up as additional "booty" among the Muslims, to support further jihad campaigns.

The classical Muslim jurist al-Mawardi (a Shafi’ite jurist, d. 1058) from Baghdad was a seminal, prolific scholar who lived during the so-called Islamic "Golden Age" of the Abbasid-Baghdadian Caliphate. He wrote the following, based on widely accepted interpretations of the Qur'an and Sunna (i.e., the recorded words and deeds of Muhammad), regarding infidel prisoners of jihad campaigns:

“As for the captives, the amir [ruler] has the choice of taking the most beneficial action of four possibilities: the first to put them to death by cutting their necks; the second, to enslave them and apply the laws of slavery regarding their sale and manumission; the third, to ransom them in exchange for goods or prisoners; and fourth, to show favor to them and pardon them. Allah, may he be exalted, says, 'When you encounter those [infidels] who deny [the Truth=Islam] then strike [their] necks' (Qur'an sura 47, verse 4)”....Abu’l-Hasan al-Mawardi, al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah." [The Laws of Islamic Governance, trans. by Dr. Asadullah Yate, (London), Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd., 1996, p. 192. Emphasis added.]

Indeed such odious “rules” were iterated by all four classical schools of Islamic jurisprudence, across the vast Muslim empire.

For centuries, from the Iberian peninsula to the Indian subcontinent, jihad campaigns waged by Muslim armies against infidel Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Buddhists and Hindus, were punctuated by massacres, including mass throat slittings and beheadings. During the period of “enlightened” Muslim rule, the Christians of Iberian Toledo, who had first submitted to their Arab Muslim invaders in 711 or 712, revolted in 713. In the harsh Muslim reprisal that ensued, Toledo was pillaged, and all the Christian notables had their throats cut. On the Indian subcontinent, Babur (1483-1530), the founder of the Mughal Empire, who is revered as a paragon of Muslim tolerance by modern revisionist historians, recorded the following in his autobiographical “Baburnama,” about infidel prisoners of a jihad campaign:

"Those who were brought in alive [having surrendered] were ordered beheaded, after which a tower of skulls was erected in the camp." [The Baburnama -Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor, translated and edited by Wheeler M. Thacktson, Oxford University Press,1996, p. 188. Emphasis added.]

Recent jihad-inspired decapitations of infidels by Muslims have occurred across the globe- Christians in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Nigeria; Hindu priests and "unveiled" Hindu women in Kashmir; Wall Street Journal reporter, and Jew, Daniel Pearl. We should not be surprised that these contemporary paroxysms of jihad violence are accompanied by ritualized beheadings. Such gruesome acts are in fact sanctioned by core Islamic sacred texts, and classical Muslim jurisprudence. Empty claims that jihad decapitations are somehow "alien to true Islam," however well-intentioned, undermine serious efforts to reform and desacralize Islamic doctrine. This process will only begin with frank discussion, both between non-Muslims and Muslims, and within the Muslim community.

Andrew G. Bostom is a frequent contributor to Frontpage Magazine.com, and the author of The Legacy of Jihad, and the forthcoming The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism.