The Doctrine of Jihad: Dracula Untold (2014)

dracula-untold-posterIn Gary Shore’s Dracula Untold (2014) Vlad (Luke Evans) must defend his kingdom against the invading Turks led by Mehmed (Dominic Cooper). Mehmed is driven by a desire to conquer other lands and expand his empire. For the real Mehmed of history, the desire for conquest was rooted in the doctrine of jihad.

Mehmed II, also known as Mehmed the Conqueror, was the sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1444 to 1446 and from 1451 to 1481.1 In 1453, he conquered Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, and renamed it Istanbul.2 Mehmed boasts that after he kills Vlad he will take his son on his “march into Europe.” This is true to history: He undertook many campaigns and expeditions including the Balkans and southern Italy.3 Although he failed in his siege of Belgrade in 1456, he later conquered Serbia and Athens, Greece.4 The military ambitions of Mehmed II ended with his death in 1481.5

Mehmed II was a conqueror because he believed in violent jihad. For Mehmed, “the non-Muslim world was ‘war territory’ ordained by the Koran to be subjected.”6 He said that “the ghaza (Holy War) is our basic duty, as it was in the case of our fathers.”7 The doctrine of jihad is based on verses in the Qur’an. Four of these verses include

  • Qur’an 8:12 – I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.8
  • Qur’an 8:39 – And fight them until there is no fitnah and [until] the religion, all of it, is for Allah.9
  • Qur’an 9:5 – Kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, let them [go] on their way.10
  • Qur’an 9:29 – Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth.11

For moderate Muslims, violent jihad is only permitted “in self defense, when other nations have attacked an Islamic state, or if another state is oppressing Muslims.”12 Moderate Muslims believe Islam is a religion of peace. They have no desire for conquest, and want to live in peace with non-Muslims. However, radical Muslims believe the “sword verses have abrogated (revoked or annulled) the verses that permit warfare only in defense. They [use the] sword verses to justify war against unbelievers.”13 As David Bukay explains, “The Qur’an is unique among sacred scriptures in accepting a doctrine of abrogation in which later pronouncements of the Prophet declare null and void his earlier pronouncements.”14 Radical Muslims believe the Qur’an teaches them to conquer other nations because of the doctrine of abrogation.

The doctrine of abrogation is based on verses in the Qur’an including 2:106: “We do not abrogate a verse or cause it to be forgotten except that We bring forth [one] better than it or similar to it.”15 Abrogation explains the apparent contradictions in the Qur’an. Earlier verses advocate peace, while later verses call for holy war. As circumstances in Mecca and Medina changed, Allah gave Muhammad new revelations that cancelled and replaced earlier commandments.

While Dracula Untold reveals many aspects of Vlad’s Christian faith and culture, there is no mention of Mehmed’s Muslim faith. This appears deliberate to avoid the controversy of suggesting that Islam is a religion of conquest. The historical reality, however, is that Muslim rulers, acting on their faith, have conquered other cities and nations. In the 15th century, Mehmed II believed the teachings of the Qur’an justified the expansion of the Ottoman empire throughout Europe and Asia. If he were alive today, he would be considered a radical Muslim.

Notes

  1. Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Mehmed II”, accessed December 28, 2015, http://www.britannica.com/biography/Mehmed-II-Ottoman-sultan
  2. Encyclopedia of World Biography, s. v. “Mehmed the Conqueror,” accessed December 28, 2015, http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Sultan_of_Ottoman_Empire_Mehmed_II.aspx
  3. Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Mehmed II”, accessed December 28, 2015, http://www.britannica.com/biography/Mehmed-II-Ottoman-sultan
  4. Encyclopedia of World Biography, s. v. “Mehmed the Conqueror,” accessed December 28, 2015, http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Sultan_of_Ottoman_Empire_Mehmed_II.aspx
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Qur’an 8:12 (Sahih International). http://quran.com/8
  9. Qur’an 8:39 (Sahih International). http://quran.com/8
  10. Qur’an 9:5 (Sahih International). http://quran.com/9
  11. Qur’an 9:29 (Sahih International). http://quran.com/9
  12. “BBC – Religions – Islam: War,” accessed December 30, 2015, http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/islamethics/war.shtml
  13. Ibid.
  14. David Bukay, “Peace or Jihad? Abrogation in Islam,” Middle East Quarterly 14, no. 4 (Fall 2007): 3, http://www.meforum.org/1754/peace-or-jihad-abrogation-in-islam
  15. Qur’an 2:106 (Sahih International). http://quran.com/2
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2 thoughts on “The Doctrine of Jihad: Dracula Untold (2014)

  1. This is a shockingly misinformed post consisting of atypically out-of-context verses from the Quran which is not unheard of from those that have a vendetta against the religion. The arguments you present are so ridiculous that they do not even merit a response, if only that some naive person should read your post and have it in them that this is the truth.

    For example, your quote from the Quran 8:12 was revealed at the Battle of Badr, in which 1000 pagan soldiers marched towards Madinah where there were but 300 Muslims able to defend. Why have you not included the verses that come before an after the once you handpicked out? In particular 8:13, 8:15 and 8:19. Your arguments are atypical for an Islamophobe.

    Like

  2. Thanks for the post Christopher,

    As a Muslim, I would like to clarify some points if you allow me to…

    I am doing this just for the cause of sharing knowledge, with no intention to create a debate 🙂

    -You divided Muslims into moderate and radical, which maybe reasonable but still will not help much if you want to learn about the true nature of the religion itself, which is much more important in analyzing the concept of Jihad.

    So your question must be whether Islam itself promotes violent Jihad or not, in order to avoid the common mistake that most people do by judging Islam according to some Muslims’ behavior.

    Jihad is not a doctrine in Islam. It is a method that acts as a guide to Muslims in the state of war, only in the state of war where they are being attacked.

    -Abrogation is not the reason why moderate Muslims, or allow me to say, Islam (true Islam) itself rejects – vehemently rejects – warfare and conquest for no reason other than defense.

    It is the EXCLUSIVITY of verses. Verses that seem to be promoting violence against non-Musims are only exclusive to a state of war that Muhammed and his companions were facing, and also works as a guide in case Musims were subjected to the same situation of being under attack at any time.

    Verses that emphasize such a general perecepton of peace with non-Musims are numerous in the Quran but they hardly make the headlines like the ones in your post do…for many reasons, one if which is that people have become so lazy to search for the truth.

    -I think that Mehmet II conquests do not represent Islam just as Vlad’s bloody history (the true story) do not represent Christian faith.

    -Finally, I think the movie was no more than a fantasy that is far from a historical reflection of what the true Vlad really was.

    Thanks,

    Liked by 1 person

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