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Tamerlan Tsarnaev: What’s in a Name?

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Karl Wittfogel’s study of Oriental despotism, invokes Koran 4:59, appositely, as providing the ultimate Islamic legal basis for authoritarian rule, such as Timur’s.

The Koran exhorts believers to obey not only Allah and his prophet, but also “those in authority amongst you.” In the absolutist states established by Mohammed’s followers, this passage was invoked to emphasize the importance of obedience in maintaining governmental authority.

Law Professor Emile Tyan, one of the great modern scholars of Islamic governance, produced a monumental two-volume legal analysis of the Caliphate system. Tyan expands upon Wittfogel’s apt characterization—which hinges, appropriately, upon Koran 4:59 (and its classical and modern exegeses)—highlighting Islam’s natural predilection for despotic rule, and the “sacralized” impetus to universalize this despotism, via jihad.

The power of Muslim monocracy is an absolute, personal power. Personal because, outside the person of the caliph (Muslim leader), there is no organism with its own existence directly invested with any parcel of authority whatsoever. All organs of government, administration, and justice exercise their respective competence on the basis of a formal or tacit delegation from the caliph. Absolute in that there is no constitutional body that limits, oversees, or curbs the power of the caliph.

[O]ne of the basic principles of Islam is that it must be extended to the whole world by conversion or at the least by submission to Islamic authority. The caliph has an obligation to promote and fulfill this universalism, if necessary by the force of arms. This is the meaning of holy war or jihad. From which it follows that Islamic sovereignty is at least potentially universal.

Timur, Tamerlane, epitomized these classical Islamic trends, still very much alive today, and embodied by the murderous exploits of Tamarlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev, to impose totalitarian Islam.

A longer, more detailed version of this article can be found at AndrewBostom.com.

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About the Author: Andrew G. Bostom, M.D., is the author of the highly acclaimed The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims, The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History, and, Sharia Versus Freedom—The Legacy of Islamic Totalitarianism. Dr. Bostom has published numerous articles and commentaries on Islam in the New York Post, Washington Times, The New York Daily News, National Review Online, The American Thinker, Pajamas Media, FrontPage Magazine.com, and other print and online publications. More on Andrew Bostom’s work can be found at his blog: www.andrewbostom.org.


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Karl Wittfogel’s study of Oriental despotism, invokes Koran 4:59, appositely, as providing the ultimate Islamic legal basis for authoritarian rule, such as Timur’s. The Koran exhorts believers to obey not only Allah and his prophet, but also “those in authority amongst you.” In the absolutist states established by Mohammed’s followers, this passage was invoked to […]

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