Crusaders and Muslims in Palestine
Throughout time, history has had a tendency to repeat itself. It has done so in good means as well as bad. People learn from the past and apply it to their every day lives. Although people try to do the right thing and not follow mistakes that have been already made, they just seem to come about. Today, our country is experiencing a situation that is extremely similar to the situation occurred in 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries. Crusades now can be defined as well all wars undertaken in pursuance of a vow and directed against infidels. Back in the middle ages, it was known as any military expedition undertaken by the Christians of Europe. The history of the crusades is filled with the mercilessness of the crusaders and the kind-heartedness of the Muslims. The Muslims were massacred everywhere the crusaders arrived, while the Christians were treated kindly by the Muslims. The Christians and the Muslims were fighting against one another in order to spread their religion, or end the other.
The event leading up to the start of the holy wars was the invasions of the Holy Land, Jerusalem. Jerusalem was a holy site for the Christians as well as the Muslims. For the Christians, it was a sacred place because Jesus was crucified and on the site where his body was placed in a tomb. They built a church of Holy Sepulchure which stands of the hill where Christ was believed to have been crucified, died, buried, and where he rose again. For the Muslims, this place was cared because they believed that the founder of their religion, Muhammad, was able to visit heaven from there. For that reason, they built many masques and the most famous one is the Dome of the Rock. Islam was spreading very fast. Europe’s greatest threat came from the forces of Islam. These threats became real. Battles broke out and these battles turned to wars that lasted from 1095 to 1229. These years of bloodshed were led by men of power to gain control over the Holy Land of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was extremely important to the Muslims and Christians at this time. Many religious events had happened there, and many of the landmarks of both religions were located in Jerusalem. It was all over for one city, Jerusalem the Holy Land. At first, Christians occupied Jerusalem. The Christian people head out from giving up their land to their invaders, the Muslims. In February of 638, the Christian bishop of Jerusalem, Sophronus, was forced to surrender the city. By the 11th century, the balance of power began to swing toward the West. The Church became more centralized and stronger. Europe’s population was growing, its urban life was beginning to revive, and both long distance and local trade were gradually increasing. A growing population created more wealth that meant a greater demand from elsewhere. The interests coincided with religious feeling about the Holy Land and so the crusades began. The Muslims treated Christians well at fist. They just thought of them as people who were misguided in their choice of religion. They encouraged them to convert to Islam, but never forced them. The Christians who did not convert were than known as mawali meaning brother of Islam. Those who did not convert were called djimmis meaning the protected people. Even thought the Christian people were able to keep their religion, they had to take certain rules that came along with that. They had to pay extra tax called jizya, as well as having to abide by extra rules such as not being allowed to marry a Muslim, or to own arms or horses. They were allowed to keep their churches. At this point of time, Europe was in what is known as the Middle Ages of the Dark Ages. This is when the land was separated by manors. All the neighboring manors would be in wars with each other. Each lord was trying to gain more land. Pope Urban II, in a speech of Clermont in France in November 1095, called for a great Christian expedition to free Jerusalem from the Turks, a new Muslim power that had recently begun actively harassing peaceful Christian pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem. Urban’s speech appealed to thousands of people of all classes. This started the first crusade.
The appeal for soldiers to fight for Jerusalem was very successful. Great nobles, clergy and peasants from all over Europe began preparing for the trip. Most of the people who were going were going for the most important reason, a religious reason. They thought that God had wanted them to. The Crusaders mission was to regain Jerusalem from the holiest ground of the Christian faith from the grasp of the Muslims. The official crusading armies did not head of the long journey until the middle of 1096. There were three main bands from Northern France, Southern France, and Southern Italy. The crusading army arrived in Byzantium over a period of several months early in 1097. Throughout their trip to Palestine, they committed horrible things like raping, murdering, and plundering Jews and Muslims. As they traveled to Jerusalem, they came upon many wars with other Turkish lands as well as lands occupied by Jews. As they marched east, they were joined by thousands of men and even women, ranging from petty knights and their families, to peasants seeking freedom from their ties to the manor. Few people knew what to expect. They all had one goal, to retake the Holy Land. When the Christians finally reached Jerusalem, the crusader army settled down to the business of conducting the siege. Led by priests chanting and holding their sacred relics in front of them, the entire army marched in slow solemn procession barefoot around Jerusalem. Six days after they marched into Jerusalem, the final assault began. More than a day of continuous fighting, the Crusaders forced their way into the city. After almost two months, Jerusalem fell. Crusaders swarmed into the city and killed more than 60.000 Muslim and Jewish inhabitants (Smith, 105). First Crusade was successful and it reinforced the authority of the Church and straightened the self-confidence of Western Europeans. Unfortunately, with victory came new problems. Many Crusaders saw the taking of Jerusalem as the goal; they were ready to go home. To keep the city safe for Christians and prevent Muslims from taking control again many Crusaders stayed behind and established the Christian states just like the ones in West Europe. They hoped to transplant their military. The Christian Knights who went to live in the Middle East found out that the people there had a different way of life. They ate different foods. They dressed in different clothes. The Christians and Muslims were not only living together in the Middle East but also in Spain and Sicily too (Norman, 66). In addition, one of the Crusaders greatest achievements was the opening of the eastern Mediterranean to European shopping. They established trading colonies in Egypt. Eastern connections opened Europe to a brighter understanding of optimistic ways of living and thinking. The biggest difference between Christians and Muslims is religion. Religion has always been a big issue. It always had a big impact on all people and there were many wars fought over the religion. Similarity that I have noticed is that both sides were warriors of God. Both sides fought for their religion and their beliefs. I do not think that Crusaders made a mistake by going into the war to free Jerusalem because they belong to Jerusalem as much as Muslims do. Neither Christians nor Muslims should forbid each other to be in Jerusalem because that place is very special to both sides. If Jerusalem were so important to both the Muslims and Christians of course, they would fight to keep it or gain control of it. The crusaders achieved the main purpose of the crusades and kept Jerusalem for a while, but the spirit of the people seen before the first crusade took place was never matched again. Later all of the cities taken by the Christians were to be taken back by the Muslims
In conclusion, the crusades were a very important part of European history that really affects the world. These people fought for what they believed in and, maybe, if they had not fought for what they believed in, we should practice Islam instead of Christianity. Though many people lost their lives and times were tough, balance of power was up for grabs, and it went on for so long, the crusades were fought over the Holy Land to preserve and protect the aspects of each side’s religion. The first three crusades show the best, how important they were to everyone and how they could have affected the world today. The First Crusade made people think that is possible for Christian crusaders to control the Middle East. Two hundred years after that, it was clear to them that it was not actually a possibility.