Bernard Lewis on Knowing Enemies and Friends

A friend has sent me this passage with his astute comment, which I came across while cleaning my desktop. If you read this let me know so I can credit you. It needs no further comment by me.

Source: Article by Bernard Lewis in Encounter Magazine, Feb. 1968 – Entitled Friends and Enemies – Reflections After a War

In the beginning of the article, Bernard Lewis quotes directly from Ibn Hazm of Cordova (994-1064) from Ibn Hazm’s work The Book of Morals and Conduct.

“The measure of prudence and resolution is to know a friend from an enemy; the height of stupidity and weakness is not to know an enemy from a friend.

Do not surrender your enemy to oppression, nor oppress him yourself. In this respect treat enemy and friend alike. But be on your guard against him, and beware lest you befriend and advance him, for this is the act of a fool. He who befriends and advances friend and foe alike will only arouse distaste for his friendship and contempt for his enmity. He will earn the scorn of his enemy, and facilitate his hostile designs; he will lose his friend, who will join the ranks of his enemies.

The height of goodness is that you should neither oppress your enemy nor abandon him to oppression. To treat him as a friend is the mark of a fool whose end is near.

The height of evil is that you should oppress your friend. Even to estrange him is the act of a man who has no sense, from whom misfortune is predestined.

Magnanimity (i.e., hilm) is not to befriend the enemy, but to spare them, and to remain on guard against them.”

In short … you must defeat your enemy and only then be magnanimous. If your stop before victory, you will be understood as weak and foolish. Your enemy will not respect you and will continue the fight and your friend will join the ranks of your enemies.

One Response to Bernard Lewis on Knowing Enemies and Friends

  1. Lawrence Barnes says:

    Now that’s what I call brilliant insight, and I’m not waxing sarcastic.

    The “religion of peace” has a lot to say about how people should interact; it defines precisely the wisdom of just governance. That allows apologists of Islam to quote the Koran selectively to prove its humane nature. The flaw: those aphorisms are not unconditional injunctions, nor are they independent of context. They are not to be put into practice in a world still troubled by unrestrained unbelievers and idolators. They are principles that can be realized only in a future Islamic Utopia.

    Peace and tranquility and justice are indeed the goals of Islam. Peace means the accursed enemy can no longer resist; tranquility means the dhimmis accept their degenerate status and behave respectfully to Muslims; justice means the totalitarian rule of the caliphate.

    Only in that context will Islam ever be a religion of peace.

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