The Muslim Defense
To get a full historical picture of any war, it is especially helpful to see it from the perspective of the invaded. What did Muslims think of their enemies? And how devastating was their being conquered? To get answers to such questions, Christian History asked Islamic historian Dr. Hadia Dajani-Shakeel to explain. She is associate professor in the department of Middle East and Islamic Studies at the University of Toronto and co-editor of The Jihad and Its Times (Michigan, 1991).
Pope Urban II staged a massive military invasion of the Muslim East. That invasion and occupation caused the forced expulsion, conversion, or enslavement of the Muslim majority. Only a few cities in Syria remained in Muslim hands, and these became centers for Islamic resistance.
Why did Christians embark on this First Crusade? According to Muslim observers of the time, Christians aimed to expand their territory, weaken or replace Islam, avenge earlier Muslim successes in Spain and Sicily, and above all, to take Jerusalem.
Elaborating on the motives of the First Crusade, one Muslim chronicler wrote, “In the year 490 [A.D. 1097], the Franks began their march against the Sham [modern Syria, Palestine, and Lebanon]. Baldwin, their king, a kinsman of Roger the Frank, assembled a great army and sent a message to Roger saying, ‘I have assembled a great army, and now I am on my way to you. From your base, Sicily, I will march against Africa and conquer it.…’
“Roger called together his companions and consulted them about these proposals. ‘We swear by the Bible that this is good for them and for us,” they said, for “By this means these lands will be converted to Christianity.’ ”
Roger then advised Baldwin to conquer Jerusalem; “If you have decided to wage war ...