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November 27, 2005

Jihad Vs. Crusade -- Which Came First?

We always hear about the evil of the Crusades and the righteous indignation of Muslims over a series of wars that provide a poor witness to the Gospel. However, was Islam an innocent victim, or were the crusades a response to a long series of Muslim religious conquest of Christian lands and oppression of Christian believers?

Take a look at the timeline and decide. I'll put Muslim jihad against Christian lands in bold, and Christian assaults on Islamic lands in italics.

630 Two years before Muhammad’s death of a fever, he launches the Tabuk Crusades, in which he led 30,000 jihadists against the Byzantine Christians. He had heard a report that a huge army had amassed to attack Arabia, but the report turned out to be a false rumor. The Byzantine army never materialized. He turned around and went home, but not before extracting “agreements” from northern tribes. They could enjoy the “privilege” of living under Islamic “protection” (read: not be attacked by Islam), if they paid a tax (jizya).

This tax sets the stage for Muhammad’s and the later Caliphs’ policies. If the attacked city or region did not want to convert to Islam, then they paid a jizya tax. If they converted, then they paid a zakat tax. Either way, money flowed back to the Islamic treasury in Arabia or to the local Muslim governor.

632-634 Under the Caliphate of Abu Bakr the Muslim Crusaders reconquer and sometimes conquer for the first time the polytheists of Arabia. These Arab polytheists had to convert to Islam or die. They did not have the choice of remaining in their faith and paying a tax. Islam does not allow for religious freedom.

633 The Muslim Crusaders, led by Khalid al-Walid, a superior but bloodthirsty military commander, whom Muhammad nicknamed the Sword of Allah for his ferocity in battle (Tabari, 8:158 / 1616-17), conquer the city of Ullays along the Euphrates River (in today’s Iraq). Khalid captures and beheads so many that a nearby canal, into which the blood flowed, was called Blood Canal (Tabari 11:24 / 2034-35).

634 At the Battle of Yarmuk in Syria the Muslim Crusaders defeat the Byzantines. Today Osama bin Laden draws inspiration from the defeat, and especially from an anecdote about Khalid al-Walid. An unnamed Muslim remarks: “The Romans are so numerous and the Muslims so few.” To this Khalid retorts: “How few are the Romans, and how many the Muslims! Armies become numerous only with victory and few only with defeat, not by the number of men. By God, I would love it . . . if the enemy were twice as many” (Tabari, 11:94 / 2095). Osama bin Ladin quotes Khalid and says that his fighters love death more than we in the West love life. This philosophy of death probably comes from a verse like Sura 2:96. Muhammad assesses the Jews: “[Prophet], you are sure to find them [the Jews] clinging to life more eagerly than any other people, even polytheists” (MAS Abdel Haleem, The Qur’an, Oxford UP, 2004; first insertion in brackets is Haleem’s; the second mine).

634-644 The Caliphate of Umar ibn al-Khattab, who is regarded as particularly brutal.

635 Muslim Crusaders besiege and conquer of Damascus

636 Muslim Crusaders defeat Byzantines decisively at Battle of Yarmuk.

637 Muslim Crusaders conquer Iraq at the Battle of al-Qadisiyyah (some date it in 635 or 636)

638 Muslim Crusaders conquer and annex Jerusalem, taking it from the Byzantines.

638-650 Muslim Crusaders conquer Iran, except along Caspian Sea.

639-642 Muslim Crusaders conquer Egypt.

641 Muslim Crusaders control Syria and Palestine.

643-707 Muslim Crusaders conquer North Africa.

644 Caliph Umar is assassinated by a Persian prisoner of war; Uthman ibn Affan is elected third Caliph, who is regarded by many Muslims as gentler than Umar.

644-650 Muslim Crusaders conquer Cyprus, Tripoli in North Africa, and establish Islamic rule in Iran, Afghanistan, and Sind.

656 Caliph Uthman is assassinated by disgruntled Muslim soldiers; Ali ibn Abi Talib, son-in-law and cousin to Muhammad, who married the prophet’s daughter Fatima through his first wife Khadija, is set up as Caliph.

656 Battle of the Camel, in which Aisha, Muhammad’s wife, leads a rebellion against Ali for not avenging Uthman’s assassination. Ali’s partisans win.

657 Battle of Siffin between Ali and Muslim governor of Jerusalem, arbitration goes against Ali

661 Murder of Ali by an extremist; Ali’s supporters acclaim his son Hasan as next Caliph, but he comes to an agreement with Muawiyyah I and retires to Medina.

661-680 the Caliphate of Muawiyyah I. He founds Umayyid dynasty and moves capital from Medina to Damascus

673-678 Arabs besiege Constantinople, capital of Byzantine Empire

680 Massacre of Hussein (Muhammad’s grandson), his family, and his supporters in Karbala, Iraq.

691 Dome of the Rock is completed in Jerusalem, only six decades after Muhammad’s death.

705 Abd al-Malik restores Umayyad rule.

710-713 Muslim Crusaders conquer the lower Indus Valley.

711-713 Muslim Crusaders conquer Spain and impose the kingdom of Andalus. This article recounts how Muslims today still grieve over their expulsion 700 years later. They seem to believe that the land belonged to them in the first place.

719 Cordova, Spain, becomes seat of Arab governor

732 The Muslim Crusaders stopped at the Battle of Poitiers; that is, Franks (France) halt Arab advance

749 The Abbasids conquer Kufah and overthrow Umayyids

756 Foundation of Umayyid amirate in Cordova, Spain, setting up an independent kingdom from Abbasids

762 Foundation of Baghdad

785 Foundation of the Great Mosque of Cordova

789 Rise of Idrisid amirs (Muslim Crusaders) in Morocco; foundation of Fez; Christoforos, a Muslim who converted to Christianity, is executed.

800 Autonomous Aghlabid dynasty (Muslim Crusaders) in Tunisia

807 Caliph Harun al-Rashid orders the destruction of non-Muslim prayer houses and of the church of Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem

809 Aghlabids (Muslim Crusaders) conquer Sardinia, Italy

813 Christians in Palestine are attacked; many flee the country

831 Muslim Crusaders capture Palermo, Italy; raids in Southern Italy

850 Caliph al-Matawakkil orders the destruction of non-Muslim houses of prayer

855 Revolt of the Christians of Hims (Syria)

837-901 Aghlabids (Muslim Crusaders) conquer Sicily, raid Corsica, Italy, France

869-883 Revolt of black slaves in Iraq

909 Rise of the Fatimid Caliphate in Tunisia; these Muslim Crusaders occupy Sicily, Sardinia

928-969 Byzantine military revival, they retake old territories, such as Cyprus (964) and Tarsus (969)

937 The Ikhshid, a particularly harsh Muslim ruler, writes to Emperor Romanus, boasting of his control over the holy places

937 The Church of the Resurrection (known as Church of Holy Sepulcher in Latin West) is burned down by Muslims; more churches in Jerusalem are attacked

960 Conversion of Qarakhanid Turks to Islam

966 Anti-Christian riots in Jerusalem

969 Fatimids (Muslim Crusaders) conquer Egypt and found Cairo

c. 970 Seljuks enter conquered Islamic territories from the East

973 Israel and southern Syria are again conquered by the Fatimids

1003 First persecutions by al-Hakim; the Church of St. Mark in Fustat, Egypt, is destroyed

1009 Destruction of the Church of the Resurrection by al-Hakim (see 937)

1012 Beginning of al-Hakim’s oppressive decrees against Jews and Christians

1015 Earthquake in Palestine; the dome of the Dome of the Rock collapses

1031 Collapse of Umayyid Caliphate and establishment of 15 minor independent dynasties throughout Muslim Andalus

1048 Reconstruction of the Church of the Resurrection completed

1050 Creation of Almoravid (Muslim Crusaders) movement in Mauretania; Almoravids (aka Murabitun) are coalition of western Saharan Berbers; followers of Islam, focusing on the Quran, the hadith, and Maliki law.

1055 Seljuk Prince Tughrul enters Baghdad, consolidation of the Seljuk Sultanate

1055 Confiscation of property of Church of the Resurrection

1071 Battle of Manzikert, Seljuk Turks (Muslim Crusaders) defeat Byzantines and occupy much of Anatolia

1071 Turks (Muslim Crusaders) invade Palestine

1073 Conquest of Jerusalem by Turks (Muslim Crusaders)

1075 Seljuks (Muslim Crusaders) capture Nicea (Iznik) and make it their capital in Anatolia

1076 Almoravids (Muslim Crusaders) (see 1050) conquer western Ghana

1085 Toledo is taken back by Christian armies

1086 Almoravids (Muslim Crusaders) (see 1050) send help to Andalus, Battle of Zallaca

1090-1091 Almoravids (Muslim Crusaders) occupy all of Andalus except Saragossa and Balearic Islands

1094 Byzantine emperor Alexius Comnenus I asks western Christendom for help against Seljuk invasions of his territory; Seljuks are Muslim Turkish family of eastern origins; see 970

1095 Pope Urban II preaches first Crusade; they capture Jerusalem in 1099

So, let's consider these simple questions. Were the Crusades an unprovoked assault by the Christian world upon Islam, or a Christian response to a long train of attacks and assaults upon Christian nations, Christian institutions, and Christian people? Is the anti-Christian rhetoric of Osama and the Islamists a response to the Crusades, or a true expression of Islam that dates back to its foundation?

I believe the above makes the answers quite obvious.





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