What were the Crusades?
The Crusades were fought during the middle ages by the Catholic Church in western Europe against heretics or in other words, Muslims because their belief differed from that of the official church. The first Crusades was launched by Pope Orban the second in 1095. This was the longest and largest Crusade of the Christian church and lasted for over 200 years, It was fought in the Middle East against Muslims and Islam. The apparent aim was to take the holy land of Palestine which was revered by Christians and was a place of pilgrimage for them. The Pope claimed that the land was controlled by Infidels', which is what they called the Muslims. But the more implicit political agenda was to militarily attack the ever expanding Islamic State, due to fear and horror that Islam may eventually enter Europe. It had already reached the gates of Vienna and France, so the Church inevitably felt threatened.
During the Middle Ages Europe was a feudal society controlled by the monarchy, clergy and 'knights'. The church in Europe at this time had the upmost authority, the Pope being the head of the church had the most power and therefore he had political interest in society. The Crusades where part of the church's wish to expand its empire. At the time of his call to destroy Islam in the Middle East, the Pope realised that the church's political interests could be furthered as the Byzantine Empire (controlled by the Greek Orthodox Church) was requesting help against the Muslims, from Rome. If the Crusades where fought and won, it would mean geographical expansion of political power and authority for the Church.
The whole of Europe was gripped by "Crusade Fever ". The military venture was seen as a confrontation between the truth of Christianity against the supposedly demonic and ignorant face of Islam which had been painted by the church. This propaganda Included attacking the authenticity of the Qur'an and the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), who were both tagged imposters, sorcerery, satanic, evil, and pagan. Furthermore, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was considered sexually promiscuous and lewd, an alcoholic, gambler and pimp. From this wretched fabrication, the church concluded that all Muslims were despotic and evil, to the extent where not only did they resemble beasts in their behavior, but also in their looks. So ridiculous were all these allegations, yet they were unquestioned and lapped up by the people, and added to the justification of attacking the Muslim world. These essentially became the roots of the long and continuing attack on Islam by the west, especially from its development into Orientalism. Years later, when the Crusades were subject of huge romanticisation, Chateaulri and would write about how the Crusades were the
'glorious Christian attempt to liberate the Muslims from the only thing they knew which is force.
This is ironically more accurate a picture of the Crusades rather than the Muslims.
The church had little worry of acquiring the military force that would be needed for the war; the religious hysteria which the church had evoked by using the above and similar depictions of Islam and the Muslims was enough to fund and haul support for the cause of the Crusades. Additionally this was one of the first times in history when European countries successfully mobilised against a common enemy further strengthening the Christian position. Driven by the Church's promise of eternal paradise and martyrdom, and seething, blind hatred for the 'barbaric' Muslims, a mass exodus of knights and peasants left Europe particularly from France, Germany and England, to conquer and ruthlessly kill the Muslims and take Jerusalem.
After three years of traveling, encountering Muslims and fighting, pillaging, raping, for example in Constantinople, the kuffar reached Jerusalem and took control. Why did they enjoy such a success? This was due to the fact that the Muslims at the time were deeply divided as a result of the dispute over the Khliafah (Islamic State); there was a division between the Abbasid and Fatimid families. Palestine was the place where the conflict between the Muslims took place, making them weak and the land easy to occupy. After occupying Palestine, the kuffar founded new states which where called "Outremer" (a French word meaning overseas). A king was established in Jerusalem and military expansion occurred when more knights where recruited from Europe, such as the knights Templar. The Muslims closed off the north and Outremer became like a fortress. Anyone coming Into Outremer from Europe had to do so by the sea. Eventually the Templar Knights became rich and powerful and by 1187 they where the biggest land owners in the Middle East. However the Crusaders' power could only be maintained while the Muslims remained divided, the policy they applied to achieve this was divide and rude.
Salah Ud-Din's Rise to Power.
Amidst the turmoil, a strong group of Muslims arose to challenge and defeat the power of the Outremer. In 1144 a Muslim by the name of Zengi took control of Edessa the most northern of the Outremer states, his son Nur Ad Din also participated in the jihad against the crusaders and the weakness of their states became more evident. An officer of Nur AdDin, Salah Ud-Din Ayubi overthrew the Crusaders and united the Muslims. Salah Ud-Din overthrew the kuffar in many areas such as Damascus ( 1174 ) Aleppo ( 1183 ) and Mosud ( 1186 ), these areas surrounded the Outremer. Salah Ud-Din led an army against the Christians in Tiberias, the king of Jerusalem sent knights to attack the army but failed and the Muslims recaptured Jerusalem without killing a single person in the city.
The church in Europe was shocked at the fact that they had lost Jerusalem to the Muslims. The church started to organise a further Crusade and requested the assistance of European riders (or butchers) such as Frederick Barbarossa, the German Holy Roman Emperor who had taken part in the earlier Crusades Philip Augustus of France and (the barbaric) Richard 1 of England known as Richard the Lionheart, who was responsible for the massacre of Muslims at Acre. It was reported that the streets were covered with Muslim blood. Nonetheless, the Crusaders failed to regain their previous stature and capture Jerusalem, and Salah Ud-Din maintained power.
It became clear to the Crusaders after a long war which spanned generations that they where not a military match to the Muslims. European leaders left the Middle East after having their own power and authority threatened in their homelands, such as Richard 1 of England who left his brother John on the throne in England realizing that John was reluctant to hand the authority back. Military allies of the Pope lost confidence in the churches loyalty after the Greek Orthodox Church offered money to the church to help them place Alexius, son of the former emperor of Greece in power which meant they had double crossed the Greeks. After the murder of Alexius the Crusaders where sent to capture Byzantium instead. Byzantium later fell to Muslims in 1453. As we can see, the Crusaders had to cope with much political dissension and corruption on their own territory, which made it increasingly difficult to wage military campaigns against the Muslims as Islam was expanding at a rate which they could not stop, or where not willing to take on. More accurately, though victory is in the hands of Allah or He (SWT) says:
We hurl the truth against the falsehood and it knocks out it's brain and behold, the falsehood does perish." (Quran 21:18)
Europe did gain many things as a result of the Crusades against Islam. As a result, Europe progressed materially, they advanced their knowledge in science, mathematics, medicine, astronomy, navigation and trade. Many new textiles such as silk reached Europe because of this new trade route established by the European presence in the Middle East, as well as spices and fruit. Many books where translated by Muslims from Arabic into Latin and used in European universities. This period in European history was called "The Enlightenment ". Unfortunately for Europe they only took materially from the Muslims and not the complete Deen of Allah (SWT). The military Crusades where the beginning of the long attack against Islam in the west.
Today Europe relishes in the propaganda against Islam, creating myths and stereotypes and perpetuating them in order to create a climate of Islamophobia. Words like Saracens, barbaric and Infidels where created in the past to negatively and wrongly stereotype Muslims and today they have been replaced by words like Terrorist, Fundamentalist or Extremist as we often see in the western media.
The crusading continues but manifests differently today Allah (SWT ) says in the Qur'an:
"...Hatred is revealed by the utterance of their (the kuffar's) mouth, but that which their breast hides is greater..." (Quran 3:118)
… and so Muslims must wake up and take responsibility of their situation and educate themselves in Islam, so that they do not feel apologetic about the slander and crusade against Islam, but can stand up and defeat it, like Salah Ud-Din and his army did. Islam is the Truth, we should take pride in that, and remember that the Truth will always prevail. over the falsehood, by the Will of Allah (SWT).
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