The Interaction between the Crusaders and Muslims in the East: Myth and Reality
By Ma’en Omoush
Jordan Journal for History and Archaeology, Vol 5, No 2 (2011)
Abstract: Historically, Christianity and Islam have had their fourteen hundred-year relationship defined by the era of the Crusades, a period that has often been characterized as a disastrous clash between two societies. The series of holy wars each religion mutually experienced through Crusade and jihad have undoubtedly had the greatest impact upon how their relationship has developed throughout the years. The long-standing realities that contributed so greatly to the generated perceptions have persisted even into contemporary times.
Unfortunately, many of the perceptions are true, especially those emphasizing deeply rooted hatred between the followers of the two religions, which resulted in fanatic intolerance. Once the era of crusading warfare had begun, there was seemingly no way to stop it, and with recurring periods of conflict grew the distrust, misunderstanding, and often outright hatred between followers of the two religions. Control of Jerusalem, sacred ground of the three religions of Abraham, has undoubtedly been a central focus of crusading warfare, which was to be the ebb and flow in the eastern Mediterranean world for several hundred years; a period of intense religious confliction for what the leaders of each faith believed, and argued to be waging on behalf of a just cause. Yet, despite the obvious examples of intolerance and violence that have been labelled as characteristics of Crusades, there remains more to be undertaken in hopes of gaining a perfect view. Perceptions and understanding of the relationship between Muslims and Christians during the Crusades are subject to revision. This research will try to define who the Crusaders were, the interactions between them and the Muslims, their views about each other, and the approaches of both religions – Islam and Christianity – during the Crusades.
Introduction: When Pope Urban II announced his intention to deliver the Holy Land from the assumed infidels (Muslims) at the Council of Clermont (1095), the response of the audience was immediate and phenomenal: ‘God wills it’ was their answer. Impatiently, the common people sold their belongings at whatever price and started their Crusading expedition . The difficulty in defining the Crusades springs from the various and violent emotions they move in different people, ranging from the greatest achievements according to some, to the most absurd and cruel enterprise in human history, according to others; the Crusades were a controversial question of unique interest. Until now an unambiguous and generally accepted definition of the Crusades is incomplete; only late in the twelfth century did the terms ‘Crusade and Crusaders’ (signed with the cross) come into use. Previously, there was not a certain word or expression to denote exactly a Crusade; a general passage – the business of Christ – pilgrimage – or euphemistic expressions were usually used.