Islam Undressed: Early Islam and the Crusades
Islamic leaders and politicians constantly tell us in English that "Islam is a peaceful religion", but one can’t help wondering if they would say it quite so often if they were absolutely sure it was true.
In the following chronology, note how closely Islam’s inception is associated with war. From 623 to 777, a span of 154 years, there are 83 major military conflicts involving the Muslims…. Muslims tell us Islam is a religion of peace, but all historical facts seem to discredit that claim rather convincingly. The history of Islam has essentially been a story of conquest and re-conquest.
Chronology of Early Islam
570 – Birth of Muhammad in Mecca.
577 – Muhammad’s mother dies.
595 – Muhammad marries, starts to have children.
605 – Placement of Black Stone in Ka’aba.
610 – Mohammed, in a cave, hears an angel tell him that Allah is the only true God.
613 – Muhammad’s first public preaching of Islam at Mt. Hira. Gets few converts.
615 – Muslims persecuted by the Quraish.
619 – Marries Sau’da and Aisha.
620 – Institution of five daily prayers.
622 – Muhammad immigrates from Mecca to Medina, gets more converts.
623 – Battle of Waddan.
623 – Battle of Safwan.
623 – Battle of Dul-’Ashir.
624 – Raids on caravans to fund the movement begin.
624 – Zakat becomes mandatory.
624 – Battle of Badr (see chapter on Badr).
624 – Battle of Bani Salim.
624 – Battle of Eid-ul-Fitr & Zakat-ul-Fitr.
624 – Battle of Bani Qainuqa’.
624 – Battle of Sawiq.
624 – Battle of Ghatfan.
624 – Battle of Bahran.
625 – Battle of Uhud. 70 Muslims killed.
625 – Battle of Humra-ul-Asad.
625 – Battle of Banu Nudair.
625 – Battle of Dhatur-Riqa.
626 – Battle of Badru-Ukhra. 626 – Battle of Dumatul-Jandal.
626 – Battle of Banu Mustalaq Nikah.
627 – Battle of the Trench.
627 – Battle of Ahzab.
627 – Battle of Bani Quraiza.
627 – Battle of Bani Lahyan.
627 – Battle of Ghaiba.
627 – Battle of Khaibar.
628 – Muhammad signs tre
aty with Quarish. (The Al-Hudaybiyya agreement was signed for a period of 10 years, which became the time limit for any agreement with non-Muslims.
630 – Muhammad breaks his treaty and conquers Mecca (Quarish).
630 – Battle of Hunsin.
630 – Battle of Tabuk.
632 – Muhammad dies. …The reign of the Caliphs begins.
632 – Abu-Bakr (Muhammad’s father-in-law) along with Umar, begin a military move to enforce Islam in Arabia.
633 – Battle at Oman.
633 – Battle at Hadramaut.
633 – Battle of Kazima.
633 – Battle of Walaja.
633 – Battle of Ulleis.
633 – Battle of Anbar.
634 – Battle of Basra.
634 – Battle of Damascus.
634 – Battle of Ajnadin.
634 – Death of Hadrat Abu Bakr. Hadrat Umar Farooq becomes the Caliph.
634 – Battle of Namaraq.
634 – Battle of Saqatia.
635 – Battle of Bridge.
635 – Battle of Buwaib.
635 – Conquest of Damascus.
635 – Battle of Fahl.
636 – Battle of Yermuk.
636 – Battle of Qadsiyia.
636 – Conquest of Madain.
637 – Battle of Jalula.
638 – Battle of Yarmouk.
638 – The Muslims defeat the Romans and enter Jerusalem.
638 – Conquest of Jazirah.
639 – Conquest of Khuizistan and movement into Egypt.
641 – Battle of Nihawand.
642 – Battle of Rayy in Persia.
643 – Conquest of Azarbaijan.
644 – Conquest of Fars.
644 – Conquest of Kharan.
644 – Umar is murdered. Othman becomes Caliph.
647 – Conquest of Cypress island.
644 – Uman dies, succeeded by Caliph Uthman.
648 – Byzantine campaign begins.
651 – Naval battle against Byzantines.
654 – Islam spreads into North Africa.
656 – Uthman is murdered. Ali becomes Caliph.
658 – Battle of Nahrawan.
659 – Conquest of Egypt.
661 – Ali is murdered.
662 – Egypt falls to Islam rule.
666 – Sicily is attacked by Muslims.
677 – Siege of Constantinople.
687 – Battle of Kufa.
691 – Battle of Deir ul Jaliq.
700 – Sufism takes root as a sect.
700 – Military campaigns in North Africa.
702 – Battle of Deir ul Jamira.
711 – Muslims invade Gibraltar.
711 – Conquest of Spain.
713 – Conquest of Multan.
716 – Invasion of Constantinople.
732 – Battle of Tours in France.
740 – Battle of the Nobles.
741 – Battle of Bagdoura in North Africa.
744 – Battle of Ain al Jurr.
746 – Battle of Rupar Thutha.
748 – Battle of Rayy.
749 – Battle of lsfahan.
749 – Battle of Nihawand.
750 – Battle of Zab.
772 – Battle of Janbi in North Africa.
777 – Battle of Saragossa in Spain.
Within a century after the prophet's death, Muslim armies had reached as far as India in the east and Spain in the west. As this chronology shows, in the 7th century A.D. Muhammad’s Bedouins defeated the Persian and eastern Roman empires, and conquered the Middle East, North Africa, and Spain. Iberia (Spain) was conquered in 710-716 AD. This period, referred to as Islam’s ‘golden years’, is what many Muslims aspire to be restored. The invaders eventually were stopped in the east in 718 at the city walls of Constantinople, and in the west in 732 some 200 miles from Paris. At the Battle of Tours (732), the Frankish leader Charles Martel defeated a massive invading Islamic army near the city of Tours, France. At this pivotal event brave and outnumbered European freedom fighters insured the survival and advancement of western civilization against the murderous onslaught and momentum of the Islamic crusades. The crusaders were stopped by brave Hindu armies in the East at even greater cost and sacrifice.
During this period of "enlightened" Muslim rule, the Christians of Toledo (Iberia Spain) first submitted to their Arab Muslim invaders, but then revolted under dhimmi in 713. In the harsh Muslim reprisal that ensued, Toledo was pillaged, and all their Christian leaders had their throats cut. More Toledan revolts followed. In 806, seven hundred inhabitants were executed, and yet again in 811-819 when the Christian ‘insurgents’ were crucified, as prescribed in the Qur’an. "For those who do not submit to Allah their punishment is . . . execution or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet, from the opposite sides, or exile from the land."
There followed another thousand years of seesaw wars on sea and land before the last Middle Eastern attack on a major European city, Vienna, was repulsed in 1683.
Islam in the Middle Ages
Muslim armies engaged in Jihad had victories in subsequent centuries including the seventeen Indian campaigns of Mahmud of Ghazna (998-1030), the battle of Manzikert opening Anatolia (1071), the conquest of Constantinople (1453), and the triumphs of Uthman dan Fodio in West Africa (1804-1817). Mohammed’s faithful followers also wiped out the Syrian and Moroccan cultures, Christianity in Turkey, Jewish cultures in Syria and the rest of Middle East, the Zoroastrian Faith in Iran, and Buddhism in Afghanistan and Indonesia. For centuries, from the Iberian Peninsula to the Indian subcontinent, jihad campaigns waged by Muslim armies against infidel Jews, Pagans, Zoroastrians, Christians, Buddhists, Animists, and Hindus were punctuated by massacres, including mass beheadings.
Some recorded massacres in Muslim history: Joseph HaNagid, the Jewish vizier of Granada, Spain, was crucified on December 30, 1066 by an Arab mob, which then proceeded to raze the Jewish quarter of the city and slaughter its 5,000 inhabitants. Apparently, Muslim preachers objecting angrily to what they saw was inordinate Jewish political power, so they incited the riot. Similarly, in 1465, Arab mobs in Fez slaughtered thousands of Jews, leaving only 11 alive, after a Jewish deputy vizier treated a Muslim woman in "an offensive manner." The killings touched off a wave of similar massacres throughout Morocco. Other mass murders of Jews in Arab lands occurred in Morocco in the 8th century, where whole communities were wiped out by Muslim ruler Idris I; North Africa in the 12th century, where the Almohads either forcibly converted or decimated several communities; Libya in 1785, where Ali Burzi Pasha murdered hundreds of Jews; Algiers, where Jews were massacred in 1805, 1815 and 1830 and Marrakesh, Morocco, where more than three hundred Jews were murdered between 1864 and 1880.
Decrees were issued and ordering the destruction of synagogues in Egypt and Syria (1014, 1293-4, 1301-2), Iraq (854-859, 1344) and Yemen (1676). Jews were forced to convert to Islam or face death in Yemen (1165 and 1678), Morocco (1275, 1465, 1790-92) and Baghdad (1333, 1344). Some escaped, but the Jews of Arabia who remained were pretty much completely wiped out. Islamic revisionists claim they were killed because they were literally asking for it, is their apologetic rubbish propaganda. These Islamic revisionists (Islamaniacs) claim that the Jews demanded it as per their own law. I mean, that’s like the Nazis claiming they were only accommodating the Jews demand to get warm by the ovens. Like Goebbels said, the bigger the lie, the easier it is for others to believe it. Revising history to glorify Islam and hide its more brutal aspects seems a favorite pastime of literate Muslims.
Between 1894-96, the Ottoman Turks massacred over 200,000 (dhimmi) Christian Armenians, followed by the first formal genocide of the 20th century, in 1915, at which time they slaughtered an additional 600,000 to 800,000 Armenians. Contemporary accounts from European diplomats confirm that these brutal massacres were perpetrated in the context of a formal Jihad against the Armenians who had attempted to throw off the yoke of dhimmitude by seeking equal rights and autonomy. Regarding the 1894-96 massacres, the Turkish-speaking interpreter of the British embassy reported:
[The perpetrators] are guided in their general action by the prescriptions of the Sheri [Sharia] Law. That law prescribes that if the "rayah" [dhimmi] Christian attempts, by having recourse to foreign powers, to overstep the limits of privileges allowed them by their Mussulman [Muslim] masters, and free themselves from their bondage, their lives and property are to be forfeited, and are at the mercy of the Mussulmans. To the Turkish mind the Armenians had tried to overstep those limits by appealing to foreign powers, especially England. They therefore considered it their religious duty and a righteous thing to destroy and seize the lives and properties of the Armenians…"
The scholar Bat Ye’or confirms this reasoning, noting that the Armenian quest for reforms invalidated their "legal status," which involved a "contract"(i.e., with their Muslim Turkish rulers).
This …breach…restored to the umma [the Muslim community] its initial right to kill the subjugated minority [the dhimmis], [and] seize their property…
The decisive turning point in Western Europe’s long struggle against pre-modern Islamic conquerors came on the afternoon of Sept. 12, 1683, during the last Turkish siege of Vienna. The ever-heroic Poles marched to save Vienna while the French (surprise!) and other Europeans looked away. Louis XIV and his Frenchmen had cut a deal with the Sultan, because in their view humbling the rival Habsburgs trumped the fate of Western civilization (sound familiar?). But led by the valiant King Jan Sobieski, severely outnumbered Polish hussars - the finest cavalry Europe ever produced - charged into the massed Ottoman ranks with lowered lances and a wild battle cry. On that fateful afternoon, the Polish cavalry struck the Turkish lines with such force that 2,000 lances shattered. The charge stunned the Ottoman army, and a hundred thousand Turks ran for the Danube. No massed army from the Islamic world has since posed such an organized threat to the West. When the Muslim armies were stopped at the gates of Vienna, over a millennium of jihad had transpired. These tremendous military successes spawned many triumphant Islamic literary writings exalting Jihadic crusades. Muslim historians recorded in detail the number of infidels slain or enslaved, the cities and villages which were pillaged, and the lands, treasure, and movable goods seized. Christian (Coptic, Armenian, Jacobite, Greek, Slav, etc.), as well as Hebrew sources, and even the scant Hindu and Buddhist writings that survived the ravages of the Muslim conquests, independently validate this narrative and complement the Muslim perspective by providing testimonies of the suffering of the non-Muslim victims of jihad wars.
Those who expect Muslims to drop their belligerence toward the West, which has existed since Islam’s founding in the 7th century, expect them to jettison core values of their faith - something for which there is no precedent in Islamic history. Although nowadays nothing seems less tolerated than pessimism, yet in relation to Islam this negative attitude is in fact simply realism. The best prophet of the future is the past. While Muslims in the West live in peace, prosperity and religious liberty, Christians and other Infidels in Muslim lands have been, are now, and will continue to be persecuted, driven out, killed, or forced to convert and call themselves Muslims.
Non-Muslim Christian Violence
Undeniably, Christians have in the past also committed despicable acts in the name of their religion, and in recent history the Serbia conflicts and the Protestant-Catholic Northern-Ireland clashes stand out as examples. Detractors will continue to try to deflect criticism of Islam by pointing out such hatred and violence conducted in the name of Christianity. Though it is true that there has been many atrocities committed by misguided Christians (Spanish Inquisition, the Salem witch-hunts, and others), do not lose focus on the problem at hand today. Remember all those atrocities are diametrically opposed with Christian scripture and philosophy where the greatest commandment was affirmed by Christ to be:
So the basic tenet of the Christian faith is that people are the children of God, created in His image, and are all of value to Him. The basic tenet of Islam is that some people are chosen by God to be Muslim, but the rest are -not- the people of God, and that a Muslims duty is to expedite Allah’s plan for non-believers to be converted …or dispatched to hell! There are three major differences and distinctions that can be drawn between Christian crimes and the criminal acts committed in Islam’s name. The first difference is that the unfortunate events were limited in both time and scope …they had an end. The second distinction is that terrorists acting from Christian cultures always did their vile deeds in violation its scriptural teaching (the words and example of Christ), not in fulfillment of it, as in Muhammad’s Islam. The third dissimilarity is that people from Christian cultures who perform terrorist acts against others are recognized as criminals, not worshiped as heroes.
Shortly after Mohammed's death, the warriors of Islam struck out against Christians with enormous energy. Palestine, Syria, and Egypt -- once the most heavily Christian areas in the world -- quickly succumbed. By the eighth century, Muslim armies had conquered all of Christian North Africa and Spain. In the eleventh century, the Seljuk Turks conquered Asia Minor (modern Turkey), which had been Christian since the time of St. Paul. The Byzantine Empire was reduced to little more than Greece. In desperation, the emperor in Constantinople sent word to the Christians of Western Europe asking them to aid their brothers and sisters in the East. The ‘Crusades’ were the response to that desperate cry.
Due to disinterest, ignorance, and the tendency of Western societies toward excessive self-criticism, misconceptions about the Crusades remain common. Generally portrayed as a series of unprovoked holy wars against Islam, they are portrayed to have been the epitome of overzealous self-righteousness and intolerance -- a black stain on the history of the Catholic Church in particular and Western Christian civilization in general. Since September 11, variations of this theme have been used to explain -- even justify -- Muslim terror against the West. Former president Bill Clinton himself, in a speech at Georgetown University, fingered Muslim anger at the Crusades as the "root cause" of the present conflict.
It is often asserted that Crusaders were merely mercenaries and ne'er-do-wells who took advantage of an opportunity to rob and pillage in a far away land. The truth is that the Crusades were notoriously bad for plunder. A few people got rich, but recent scholarship shows the vast majority returned with nothing. It is also often assumed that a central goal of the Crusades was the forced conversion of the Muslim world to Christianity, but nothing could be further from the truth. Muslims who lived in Crusader-won territories were generally allowed to retain their property and livelihood, and always their religion. It was not until the 13th century that the Franciscans began conversion efforts among Muslims, but those efforts were mostly unsuccessful and finally abandoned. In any case, such efforts were by peaceful persuasion, not the threat of violence.
The truth is that the Crusades were not unprovoked aggressions intended to forcibly convert the non-Christian world. In A Concise History of the Crusades, by renowned medieval historian Thomas F. Madden, the record is set straight. The Crusades, he shows, were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope, nor were they inspired by opportunistic, cold-blooded plundering knights. What they were was a much delayed response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two thirds of what was the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense. The story of the Crusades is one of Western reaction to Muslim advances -- they were no more offensive than was the American invasion of Normandy.
The medieval Crusades underestimated their foes and did not accomplish their objectives, and unfortunately their end and the withdrawal of Christian forces did not bring an end to Muslim Jihad. Islamic states like Mamluk Egypt continued to expand in size and power, and the Ottoman Turks built the largest and most awesome state in Muslim history. The Ottoman Turks proceeded to not only conquered their fellow Muslims, thus further unifying Islam, but also continued to press westward, capturing Constantinople and plunging deep into Europe itself. Under Suleiman the Magnificent the Turks came within a hair's breadth of capturing Vienna, which would have left all of Germany at their mercy. At that point Crusades were no longer waged to rescue Jerusalem, but Europe itself. By the 15th century, the Crusades were no longer errands of mercy for a distant people but desperate attempts of one of the last remnants of Christendom to survive. Europeans began to ponder the real possibility that Islam would finally achieve its aim of conquering the entire Christian world. In 1529, Suleiman the Magnificent laid siege to Vienna. If not for a run of freak rainstorms that delayed his progress and forced him to leave behind much of his artillery, it is virtually certain that the Turks would have taken the city.
Although there were undoubtedly opportunist bad-apples in the barrel, the typical Crusade soldier was motivated by the same spirit and reasoning that drives the typical coalition soldier today in the far away land of Afghanistan. That is the spirit of freedom and self-determination for self and others, the desire to engage the enemy far from home in order to secure the right to live free of the horrors faced by non-Muslims in Muslim lands. Crusadars were defending friends under siege, and thereby securing their own their own families and communities. Whether one admires the Crusaders or not, it is a fact that the world as it is today would simply not exist without their efforts. Without the Crusades, Christianity might well have followed Zoroastrianism, another of Islam's rivals, into complete extinction.