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The Crusades

by Dr. Daniel Scott

Sura ‘Al-Fatihiah’ (The Opening) 1:1-7


In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, The Beneficent, the Merciful. Master of the Day of Judgment, You (alone) we worship; You (alone) we ask for help.  Show us the straight path, The path of those whom You have favoured; Not the (path) of those who earn Your anger nor of those who go astray.

Jesus said: “...and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

NOTE: Authoritative Islamic texts are the Qur’an and Hadith.  According to Islamic belief, the Qur’an is the revealed word of Allah (verse  numbers differ slightly in different versions) and Muhammad is the perfect example to be followed by all Muslims. Whatever he said, practiced or approved is called Hadith. There are six authentic ahadith (Hadiths): Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmizi, Sunnan Ibn Majah and Sunnan Nasa’i.  Sura always stands for a chapter in the Qur’an.  This pamphlet is intended to show the teachings and examples of Muhammad, and is not intended to be offensive to Muslims; many Muslims may have little real knowledge of what their prophet or Allah have said on this topic.

Misunderstanding about the relationship between Islam and Christianity often stems from ignorance of the Crusades.  The West is told that Muslims, Christians and Jews happily and peacefully co-existed until the Crusades.   Is this true?

Conditions in Palestine

Michael the Syrian, the 12th century Jacobite patriarch of Antioch, reproducing earlier contemporary sources in his famous Chronicle, summarized the prevailing conditions for Christians in Palestine, as follows: As the Turks were ruling the lands of Syria and Palestine, they inflicted injuries on Christians who went to pray in Jerusalem, beat them, pillaged them, levied the poll tax at the gate of the town and also at Golgotha and the [Holy] Sepulchre; and in addition, every time they saw a caravan of Christians, particularly of those from Rome and the lands of Italy, they made every effort to cause their death in diverse ways. And when countless people had perished as a result, the kings and counts were seized with [religious] zeal and left Rome; troops from all these countries joined them, and they came by sea to Constantinople [First Crusade (1096-99)].  (The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam, 1996, p. 292-293).

The first Crusade in 1095, 463 years after Muhammad’s death, was a response to the pleas of Christians in the Holy Land.  The Christians, who had once been a majority now found themselves as oppressed minorities. Given that Muhammad died in the year AD 632, it is worthwhile looking at the intervening years to see how Christians, Muslims and Jews managed to peacefully co-exist.

Peaceful co-existence with Muslims

As Muhammad lay on his death bed, he commanded his followers to expel non-Muslims from the Arabian Peninsular (Bukhari, Vol. 5, Hadith No. 716).  No exception was made. The Caliph Umar is famous for his Pact of Umar which details, amongst other things, instructions for humiliating and degrading Christians and Jews if they refused to convert to Islam. The pact was based on Sura 9:29 and 9:5, commands from Allah and his prophet Muhammad.  (See also Ibn Kathir Tafsir, Sura 9:29).

Sura 9:29 ‘Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya (protection money) with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.’

Sura 9:5 ‘Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.’


The states along the edge of the Mediterranean, from the death of Muhammad to the first Crusade, endured 463 years of bloody incursions by Muslim forces intent on booty (precious stones, metals and slaves), the spreading Islam and the destruction of churches and Christianity. They overran Syria, North Africa, Sicily, Sardinia and most of Spain.  They had regular incursions into France and Italy and much of the Adriatic.

Historian Paul Stenhouse lists the following Muslim conquests prior the first Crusade in 1095. (‘Crusades in Context,’ Annuls Australia, July 2007).


As you can see, the notion that Christians, Jews and Muslims lived in harmony under Islamic rule is a lie.  This list is just a small sampling of events during the “Golden Age of Islam.” Muslims continued to battle non-Muslims after the first Crusade in 1095, culminating in the battle at the gates of Vienna in 1683.  This shows how far the Muslim armies had advanced; they did not conquer these lands in peace; there was no peaceful coexistence.




















The Caliph Umar instructed ’Arfajah, a commander in his army, “Summon the people to God; those who respond to your call, accept it from them, (assume their conversion is genuine) but those who refuse must pay the Jizya (poll tax) out of humiliation and lowliness. If they refuse this, it is the sword without leniency. Fear God with regard to what you have been entrusted.” (The History of al Tabari, The Battle of al-Qadisiyyah and the Conquest of Syria and Palestine (vol. 12). [2383] p.167).

      Some peoples (such as the Christians in Egypt) did welcome the Muslim forces, for they saw them as a better alternative to their Byzantine (Eastern Roman) oppressors. They were soon proved wrong.  In many places, the Jizya (protection money) payable by non-Muslims was up to 80% of their income (Muhammad imposed 50% on many conquered peoples) and the Pact of Umar was enforced with irregular brutality.

As previously mentioned, the first Crusaders were not bent on destroying Islam. They often passed through Muslim territory and even provided armed escorts to Muslim traders because their goal was to secure their Holy Sites in Jerusalem, not attack Islam.  And although parts of the Crusades were brutal and even severely criticized by Christians themselves, they did not match the ferocity that Muslims had shown in the previous 500 years.

The Muslim armies were merely following Allah’s revelation that Islam will conquer all other religions (Sura 2:193; 9:33; 61:9 etc). Christians had followed the example of Jesus, turning the cheek, until it became too much to bear. 

Muhammad is well known as the ‘Prophet of the Sword’ (he fought and planed 81 battles) and commanded the use of the sword, forcing people to become Muslims, even though Allah hates people who only pretend to be Muslim.  Muslim armies killed and conquered in obedience to Allah and the Qur’an; Christians killed and attacked in disobedience to Jesus.

And Jesus said to him, "Friend, do what you have come for." Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.  - Matthew 26:50-52.

The content here will probably have raised some questions in your mind.  Muslims are commanded to read and believe the Scriptures that God gave Christians and Jews (Sura 10:94-95; 2:41).  If you think they have been corrupted, doesn’t Allah say that His word cannot be changed? (Sura 6:115; 10:64-65; 18:27; 48:23). 

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