The Crusades Were a Good Thing?

The Crusades Were a Good Thing? January 27, 2005

• Islam was born in war and grew the same way. From the time of Mohammed, the means of Muslim expansion was always the sword.

• With enormous energy, the warriors of Islam struck out against the Christians shortly after Mohammed’s death. 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 end of the medieval Crusades 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.

• 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.

• It is often asserted that Crusaders were merely lacklands and ne’er-do-wells who took advantage of an opportunity to rob and pillage in a faraway land. Recent scholarship has demolished that contrivance. The truth is that the Crusades were notoriously bad for plunder. A few people got rich, but the vast majority returned with nothing.

• The Ottoman Turks conquered not only their fellow Muslims, thus further unifying Islam, but also continued to press westward, capturing Constantinople and plunging deep into 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.

• Whether we admire the Crusaders or not, it is a fact that the world we know today would not exist without their efforts. Without the Crusades, Christianity might well have followed Zoroastrianism, another of Islam’s rivals, into extinction.

From A Concise History of the Crusades by Madden, Thomas F.


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