UI – Part 598 – The Time of the First Crusade (2 of 2)
The Crusaders, after Constantinople, crossed territory controlled by the Turks. Each mile was met with arrows from the entrenched Jihadists. Piles of bones and pyramids of skulls lined their passage to which more were added when the Crusaders approached fortified areas. Heads of slaves were catapulted towards the Christian Knights and volunteers. Attempts to instill fear, the use of violence, were always part of the jihadist playbook.
Love of God, love of neighbor, kept the Crusaders focused. What they faced along the way made stopping the Muslim actions, any further progress, essential to ever having a world that is peaceful, rendering centuries of “persecution and harassment to the point of slaughter and destruction, suffered at the hands of Muslims [Arabs, Persians, and Turkish] rulers” (pg. 127. S&S) enough! It was Augustine that justified war, by Christian States, saying the duty to fight lies with the injustice of the opposing side. Punishment of those that love violence, cruelty and enmity – the nature of the Jihadist – is called for. There was a necessity for a response to Muslim (Jihadist) aggression, past and present. Even if brutally taken, the Crusaders, and the Pope, believed recovering Christian territory, stolen, was right.
At Antioch the caravan of Christian soldiers faced more heads thrust over the walls of the city at them. They were the heads of residents, dhimmi’s, non-Muslims. The Turks were mad. In response, Muslim captives were beheaded, and their oft bearded hairy heads catapulted back into the city. Tit for tat.
Recovery of Christian Land, not Spoils
Antioch took time to overcome. The Christians were not seeking treasure. They wanted to recover a holy city for the followers of Christ. At a moment of diplomacy the Turk leader asked “Why are Christians justified at taking Antioch, and not Muslims?” The answer, “It was and should remain Christian land, God’s Land.” Also, “you did not come to become a Christian, but to wrong Christians in every possible way.”
A miracle of sorts occurred outside the gates of Antioch. A large contingent of crusaders left the city, weak, famished, “spent and starved,” but willing to die for the cause, and sought out a nearby Muslim camp. Caught unawares, “Accustomed as they were to overwhelming their enemies” (pg. 143, S&S) the Saracens, terrified, fled. Even though “a superior, well-fed, and well-rested adversary” (pg. 143, S&S) the Muslims were overcome. Antioch was a victory for the Crusaders.
Following Antioch, recovering and gaining strength after a stay in the City, the balance of the journey remained before them. It remained an arduous excursion. By mid-1099, 4 years after the forces left Europe, the walls of Jerusalem were reached, the interior remained in Muslim hands. A month later they stormed the City. Success. The entire City was now in the hands of the Knights.
An idol of Muhammad located in the Dome of the Rock was destroyed (smited). There was much bloodletting. “The surviving crusaders did what they had abandoned all and endured years of deprivation and disease to do” (pg. 147, S&S)
1096 – Crusade began – summer
1096-1097 – Between November and April reached Constantinople
1097 – Captured Nicaea – June
1098 – Captured Antioch – June
1099 – Took the City of Jerusalem – June-July.
Understanding Islam was still difficult for the crusaders. They were aware, as Ibrahim notes (S&S), “He (Muhammad) gave them (his followers, Muslims) free reign for every shameful behavior” (pg. 146). The Muslim inhabitants had many rulers over many centuries, they experienced civil strife between Islamic factions and sects, so when Christians took charge, they found them fair. It was just another authority for them to obey.
“Thus, in 1099, it mattered little to local Muslims who lorded over them – so many different dynasties and sects, each more oppressive than the other, had come and gone in recent memory. After the initial massacres of Jerusalem and elsewhere – which the locals were accustomed to from Shia and Sunni infighting – the new rulers allowed Muslims to return, granted them freedom of worship (forced conversions to Christianity were expressly forbidden), lowered taxes, and enforced law and order” Pg. 148, S&S).
The Christians were the authority in Jerusalem for 40 to 50 years. There were Muslim clerics that resented the freedoms, the lifestyle, of the Christians. Not unlike today where freedom, the ability for people to think and believe independently, is anathema to Islam. “It was the seduction of life without the draconian dictates of Sharia that most obsessed” (the righteous Muslims) (pg. 149, S&S). The Crusader kingdoms became targets anew for the Turks, the Jihadists.
It was an obligation of the Islamists to continue to rid the land they had conquered of Christians, indigenous or foreign.
The First Crusade covered 4025 land miles. It took 4 years. As to numbers, even estimates are hard to find. Groups of 20,000 facing defenses of as many, 20,000, is often cited. Reinforcements arrived. Also estimates range from 200,000 to 1,000,000 dying during this 4 year escapade. In addition to the soldiers of war, collateral damage of residents, and certainly on the part of the Muslims, their slaves, died. That number could double the totals. Most Crusaders following the settling of Jerusalem returned home. Kingdoms established, Antioch, Edessa, Tripoli (N of Jerusalem) were made vulnerable to Muslim reconquest.
Next Came Saladin
Saladin was born in the 12th Century (1167). He was the first Sultan (Turk) of Egypt, his dynasty, Ayyubid. He was Sunni, Kurdish. The Fatimids (Shi’a) occupied Egypt. He was a military leader and at a young age defended Egypt from Crusader assaults. He took charge in 1171, abolished the Fatimid Caliphate to join the Baghdad Abbasid Caliphate. He targeted Muslim Syria, which by 1182 he conquered. Palestine and Jerusalem, Crusader positions, became his next objective.
After the retaking of Crusader kingdoms and then Jerusalem by Saladin and Muslims, support organizations in France, and Europe, called anew for additional Crusades to the Holy Land.
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.