How Europe Escaped Speaking Arabic
The Western world has never taken Islam with the full seriousness it has earned. Down through history, once Islamic armies have conquered a land, with very few exceptions, that land has remained Muslim. A Christian will wish in vain that the great circle of Christian lands around the Mediterranean (and on up into Syria, Iraq, Iran, and northwards into Georgia) had not fallen irretrievably into Muslim hands, most of them before 732 A.D. For Christians who think that the future of the world favors movement in their direction, a study of the latent dynamism of Islam is not a little unsettling.
Edward Gibbon, finishing up his The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-78), was able to imagine how easily serene little Oxford could have been dominated by tall Islamic minarets before his birth, and the accents in its markets would have been Arabic: " . . . the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet" (469).
Gibbon was writing about the decisive battle of Poitiers in 732 A.D., when at last a Christian leader, Charles Martel ("Charles the Hammer"), drove back the Muslims from their highwater mark in Western Europe with such force that they went reeling backwards into Spain. From there, it took Spain another 750 years--until 1492--to drive Islamic armies back into North Africa, whence they had invaded. Even so, the Islamic terror bombers who just a few years ago killed more than a hundred commuters in Madrid did so (they announced) to avenge the Spanish "Reconquista" of 1492. For Islam, to lose a territory once Muslim is to incur a religious obligation to wrest it back.
It had been a marvel in 732 that a mere one hundred years earlier, Mohammed had launched his army from Medina, to conquer in rapid fire so many of the most glorious capital cities of Christianity--Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Hippo, Tunis, Carthage, and then all of Spain. More amazingly still, Muslims went very quickly further into the Far East than Alexander the Great ever had.
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