Last night I heard the testimony of Pakistani medical doctor Reginald Zahiruddin, a Christian. Captured by the Taliban for an initial ransom of 20 million rupees, he was eventually released, given all his possessions, and returned safely to his wife and family. And the Taliban did not get a penny (rupee!).
This is a powerful testimony of a man who, like Daniel in the Old Testament, was thrown into a den — not of lions but one full of Muslim ferocity — and lived to tell the tale. More than once they threatened to behead him if he did not convert to Islam and have his wife and friends pay their ransom.
He stood firm, prayed day and night, and on the basis of God’s promises to him, refused to capitulate to the demands of his Taliban captors, confident in his understanding that God had communicated to him all will be well.
Unknown to his captors, however, was his history of being in the only Christian medical clinic in Pakistan that would treat injured Taliban soldiers. This eventually saved his life. But not before, in the remotest parts of Taliban mountain hideway, Dr. Zahiruddin had told his captors about the Jesus Christ who was alive, risen from the grave, and now ready to forgive the sins of even the most hardened Taliban fighters.
When the Ottoman Turks sent 40,000 of their best soldiers, including their elite Janissaries, to Malta to dislodge the Knights of the Order of St. John so they would have smooth passage to Western Europe, they were confident that victory would be in their hands within days.
The Janissaries were used to strike fear into the hearts of their opponents. These whirling dervishes of the battlefield, dressed in white, scimitars glinting in the sunlight, were created and trained to never turn their back on their enemy. It was kill or be killed. They lived up to their reputation and struck fear into their enemies. Some of them, however, were not intimidated by them.
The creation of the Turks, this elite force was made up of the children of Christians, taken at age seven, and then only the strongest and best were incorporated into the brotherhood. These boys were eventually sexually compromised and encouraged to be homosexual, while discouraged from marriage and family. On retirement, should they live through the battles, they were pensioned into a comfortable lifestyle. The Janissaries were not abolished until 1826 when they revolted against plans to reorganize them along European military lines. Most of the Janissaries were killed in the violent repression of their revolt.
In the years 1564-65, Suleiman the Magnificent was preparing yet again for the control of Western Europe. Having been stopped at Vienna in a land approach to the West almost 40 years earlier, the Turkish leader planned to use the Mediterranean as a gateway to reach his desired destination. Suleiman had become intoxicated with dreams of victory by his earlier defeat of Hungary, and so launched against the Hapsburg’s at Vienna, but found no success. This defeat began the demise of the Turkish empire.
His Mediterranean plan, however, had a problem. A small band of Christians — the Noble Order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem — were located on the island of Malta, and they had a reputation of disrupting the Turkish Muslims any time they sailed in to their parts of the Mediterranean. There was only one course of action: remove them.
Preparations were made and eventually a flotilla of ships transported an estimated 30,000 Muslims (not including sailors and support teams) ready to do Jihad in the name of Allah. But preparations were also made on the island of Malta under the leadership of Grand Master Jean Parisot De La Valette.
In mid-May of 1565, the island inhabitants, plus approximately 1,000 Knights, a total of about 9,000, were ready and prepared for battle. In his final speech before the battle, La Valette said,
“It is the great battle of the Cross and the Koran, which is now to be fought. A formidable army of infidels are on the point of investing our island. We, for our part, are the chosen soldiers of the Cross, and if Heaven requires the sacrifice of our lives, there can be no better occasion than this. Let us hasten then, my brothers, to the sacred altar. There we will renew our vows and obtain, by our Faith in the Sacred Sacraments, that contempt for death which alone can render us invincible.”
Those words indicate the resoluteness of the Grand Master to the task at hand. Death would be preferable to surrender.
On May 24, 1565, the Turks began their bombardment of the Christian strongholds. Thus began a key battle between the Cross and the Koran that eventually resulted in the demise of Turkish Islam as a world power. They left on September 8 without having achieved their goal. They lost thousands of their best soldiers, including the Janissaries, to the resolute defenders of Malta, who knew they were really defending Europe. On one day alone, June 16, it is estimated the Turks lost about 4,000 men, while the Christian defenders lost only 150, though many more were wounded. The Muslims were eventually driven down to the sea, and there boarded their boats to begin the long journey home to confront Suleiman with their defeat.
It would take half a millennium for the Muslims to rise again and threaten the West.
- Ernlee Bradford, The Great Siege: Malta 1565 (London : Hodder and Stoughton, 1961), p. 57.↵back