UI – Part 598 – The Time of the First Crusade (1 of 2)
The First Crusade, under the directive of Pope Urban II, began in 1095. He provided indulgences for Knights that gathered, organized as an army, and traveled to Jerusalem, a land considered by the Catholic Church as most Holy. The indulgences were the forgiveness of sins and salvation for those fighting the Muslims, and dying, as part of God’s army to avenge the taking of Christian territories by hate fueled jihadists.
The taking of Christian lands began immediately after the death of Muhammad. Within 75 years all of northern Africa, Alexandria to Morocco, to include Egypt, Christian cities established after Christ’s sacrifice on the cross 600 years prior were robbed, destroyed, women and children raped or taken as slaves, churches burned (priests and congregants inside), and landscapes turned into rubble. By the year 1000 the Mediterranean was controlled by Muslim pirates and Christians in the Roman empire receded to higher ground. Libraries with invaluable historical records were destroyed, along with books, scrolls of papyrus, containing poems and stories written by ancient scholars, lost forever. East of Constantinople, the center of the Byzantine empire, Turks held sway; Armenia destroyed and Christian settlements eradicated, their treasures and families taken.
Pilgrimages to sacred biblical sites in the holy land were stopped when the Seljuk Turks forbid them. The French, or Franks, took the lead. Persons making pilgrimage to this Holy Place needed protection. Muslims had occupied the areas surrounding Jerusalem, North, South, East and West, and inside as well. A monument to Islam, the Dome of the Rock, was erected on the ground of the Temple Mount in 695 by Caliph al-Malik, honoring the conquest by the Caliph Umar in 636, and the presence of Islam in this most holy location. It was also to honor a story Muhammad told of a night travel to the Temple. Viewed by many as an aggressive move by the invading Jihadists, an act of humiliation for Jews and Christians whose religious history has its foundations in this location. The Romans destroyed the Temple in 70AD, but the area remained a sacred place for Jews and Christians. It is where Christ was crucified. It was (and is) the holiest of temples for the Jews and the wailing Wall, a place where prayers take place, notes are left for God, and Biblical history comes to life.
Note: In total there were 9 Crusades. This is just about the first.
Injustice of Jihadists
From the time of Muhammad’s death in 632, under the authority of his successors and armies formed with his Companions, followers, nomads and Bedouins seeking fortune raiding, pillaging and marauding, Christian dominated lands, to the East (Persia) and West (North Africa), became opportunities for conquest and enrichment. Over 600 years of Christian growth following the Grace of God, Christ’s sacrifice, was burned, destroyed, lives and families erased, and records lost to aggressive violent Jihadists scouring new territories in the name of Allah. They were told that in victory they would be rich and blessed, and in death, as martyrs, forgiven of sins and rewarded with the pleasures of a Paradise with beautiful virgins and opportunities to fornicate without end. Killing a given number of Christians insured forgiveness of sins and paradise when they passed.
It was as if the wild animals of Arabia were collected in a pack and given free rein to savagely devour anything in their sight. The spoils had to be shared in part with their masters, but the bulk was theirs. So too the ability to set churches afire with congregations and priests locked inside, rape virgins, including nuns on alters. Gang raping some women continued until the last soldier, the dogs of this war, finished and then death would follow. As noted, in less than 75 years the whole of North Africa, Egypt as HQ, was Muslim. Millions (an estimate) of Christians were viciously exterminated, churches reduced to rubble and cities returned to the desert.
When there was nothing left, Spain became the territory of future Jihadist’s conquests.
By the tenth century the whole of the Mediterranean was ruled by the Pirates of the Mediterranean, all of them Muslim. History was held up, progress stopped, as persons in Europe found refuge from the horrors of the terrorizing aggressive Islamists inland, in manor houses, castles, monasteries and communes where their survival was the focus.
The clouds comprising the storm of Islam brought much darkness to this part of the world. Books, records, great writings by scholars, authors, records of historical events had been destroyed and little was left for students to study.
The Middle Ages
In schools today this era is studied as the Dark Ages, the perpetrators of this era, a void in learning and knowledge, were the Jihadists. They cared little about knowledge. Tragic is the magnitude of history lost when the bounty hungry Jihadists destroyed anything they could, burning was a favorite method. Fire to them was as a celebration of their strength and control, symbolizing their ability to destroy anything in their path, human, non-Muslim, architectural and recorded. They just lusted for what others made and owned, especially the Christians. The Cross was an object that stirred their hatred and provided an excuse for their vengeance.
Persia had been taken by 636 as well. Iraq, Baghdad became the center for the Abbasid Dynasty, the center of the Caliphate of Islam by the 800’s. After that Turks, led in the 10th century by a leader called Seljuk (from near Kazakhstan), and even Monguls whose habits were similar to the Jihadists, but without the blessing of Allah or the rewards in Paradise for martyrs, joined Islam, and became commanders. The ceremonial practices were less to their liking than the material and personal, sensual, pleasures available to the dedicated warrior, the Jihadist. The Seljuk Turks became the body of Islam while the Arabs were the mind. Jihad was carried out with elan by the Turks. The Quran and its tenets, the Laws of Islam (Sharia), were further developed by the Arabs and the authorities that ruled micro-centers of lands taken from Christians.
A world, Western Europe and the Middle East, was in the process of transformation. Christianity was spreading, education was taking root, learning was increasing, recorded history was made available, the ancient practices of warlord and neighbors as enemies was changing, but then came the Muslims, the jihadists. Islamaland arose from the ashes they made of Christ followers.
The Turks (Seljuk Empire) took Islam (from the East) to the doorsteps of Constantinople, raiding, pillaging, exploiting, killing with tyrannical violence, and dehumanizing Christians. Churches were turned into ruins. In some cases Cathedrals became Mosques, adorned with the decorations, the stones and jewels from Christian’s churches and homes. Women and children were made slaves, so numerous that many were trained from youth to be warriors in the army of Allah, as janissaries. Young boys, girls too, teens also, circumcised, many dying in the process as there was no anesthesia; it was pure brutality. Anatolia (think – Turkey) was now a Muslim domain.
Europe had had enough. They no longer felt defensive measures were sufficient. More overt action was needed to stop the spread of Islam. Its history had proven it was a vile, ungodly, ideology led by demons, hate fueled, anti-christian, and having no redemptive value, as peace was seldom present even in Islamaland. The Seljuk Empire became the target of the Crusades.
1095 – Pope Urban II agreed with many in Christiandom that the Muslim doctrine of martyrdom needed to be adopted. It had been resisted for many centuries. Between 996 and 1021 an Egyptian Caliph had “some thirty-thousand churches in Egypt and Greater Syria – including Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher, (which was) torn to its foundations and Christ’s tomb vandalized (in 1009)” (pg. 128, S&S). A small structure built in 1048 around Christiandom’s holiest site was now threatened. The Seljuk Turks occupied Jerusalem in 1077, taking it from the Fatimids (HQ – Egypt). In this holiest of cities many dignitaries were buried due to the ‘sacred ground.’
The battle for the eternal Lord, more than an earthly kingdom, was to begin. Popes prior to Urban, Sergius IV, and Gregory VII, helped pave the way for Urban’s decree. A recent victory restoring Sicily to Christian hands (1091) was a spark.
The Knights were religious and fierce. Fighting and violence was not uncommon as the medieval world was filled with in-fighting and territorial aspirations that involved conflict. A sizable army formed. From many corners of the surviving Christian world men approached with a cross sewn on their garments, their language foreign, but their goals in concert with those they joined. Trained military persons, the Knights, and volunteers from many areas, multi-lingual as a result, gathered to be blessed by the Pope and sent off to do battle against the aggressive Jihadists.
The route traveled to reach Jerusalem went directly into the remnants of the Byzantine Empire occupied by the Turks. They had to pass Constantinople, still held by Christians. Then transversing through Seljuk conquests and the area that was Armenia. First Nicaea, then Antioch came next, a city great with Christian history, but no longer Christian, and then south towards Jerusalem. The Knights, called the Knights Templar, were not fully prepared for what they were about to face. Like crossing acres covered in broken glass, bare footed, to reach an oasis, and then onward over a sharp obstacle strewn vastness, a walled city, and then the final destination.
Some reprovisioning at Constantinople was possible.
What I have not mentioned are the Seljuk Turks. To their surprise the Christians came to them now, only to meet the enemy, prepared, dug in, rabid, and wanting more. Asia minor was devoid of most Christians. The crusaders were slowed as conflict after conflict ensued. Heads were smote, and bones were piled mountain high. They continued. To scare the visiting army, slaves would be gathered, catapults then loaded and their severed heads cast into the arms of the Knights over the barriers between Knights and avarice Turks. Inventory was expended, weapons, ammunition (arrows) and food. The land provided little in way of provisions. Whatever crossed in their paths, from dogs to rats, became meat for the warriors. The road to Jerusalem, a trail of the faithful, was met with significant loss of life, unexpected horrors, sickness, and demons.
Obstacles, frustrations, endurance, starvation followed. The Crusaders did not give up. They knew there would be hardships. Their objective was clear. Would they succeed?
….to be continued….
Grace and Peace
Note: In a recent series of this blog, Understand-Islam.com, the historically aggressive nature of Islam is discussed. A historical narrative is provided. I give the inspiration and much of the factual references to the credit of Raymond Ibrahim, his book, Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War Between Islam and the West, Publisher: Da Capo Press, Hachette Book Group, New York, NY, 2018. His quotes are noted by page, and “S&S.” Another book, by Dan Jones, The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God’s Holy Warriors, Publisher: Penguin Books, NY, NY, 2017, noted by page and “TT,” although directly referenced less, still provided much critical analytical understanding of events related to the Christian Crusades. I thank both of these authors.