Diving deep into the history of moral outrage, personal gain, institutionalised political and religious propaganda is the prerequisite to float, especially when you’re living in part theocracy, part autocracy and full blown plutocracy. Here’s an account of how wars started for defence of faith had layers of ulterior motives.
I assume you all must be aware about the ‘Holy Wars’, but just in case you happen to be particularly ignorant of the most badass thing ever happened to this world, they were the wars waged for what is supposed or proclaimed to be holy, as the defense of faith. Being a big time sucker for the empires, the wars and obviously, the knights in shining armour, I would love to discuss this doomed venture and the ‘ENLIGHTENMENT’ which followed in its wake. Here, Holy Wars strictly mean ‘crusades’ or ‘series of so-called religious wars between Muslims and Christians’ which started in the 11th century.
The sole purpose behind taking you all straight to 11th century is not because I can not survive 2020 anymore, but it is just to test the validity of the much exploited saying ‘history repeats itself’ and obviously because the fact that they started out for Jerusalem and ended up at Constantinople is enough to give any history nerd multiple orgasms.
Getting back to the Crusades, I would not mention the dates here because broadly speaking, I am terrible at them, also I don’t want to make it mundane, however for your baseline understanding, just know that it started in late 11th century ‘seemingly’ on the commandments of Pope Urban from the Holy Roman Empire against the Muslim world, ‘seemingly’ to recapture the kingdom of heaven, Jerusalem (I believe, you all know about Masjid-ul-Aqsa, Church of Holy Sepulchre and the Western wall, the only wall left at the site of Prophet David’s temple) which was conquered by Umar Bin Al Khattab in mid 7th century making it the first successful attempt at Islamization of Jerusalem.
As per popular imagination, it was a religious war initiated by the Christian powers to take the holy land back from Muslim control. I wonder what made these Christian powers to launch a sudden campaign against the Muslim world when they themselves were toiling in the chains of feudalism and that too after 400 years of siege of Jerusalem? The answer lies here, when you have nothing to offer to your subjects, “START A WAR”.
When Pope Urban was playing the threat of Islam to Christian territories and busy mobilizing the people of the Holy Roman Empire on religious lines, demonizing Muslims to the extent of mass bloodshed, Muslims were struggling with their own sectarian feuds (between Abbasids and Seljuks, obviously) completely ignorant of the brewing crusade and that’s how it proves that the demonization was downright fake and the real motive was just to fuel participation of people to kill and to be killed. Over the course of time, through skillful propaganda, Pope Urban transformed the whole idea from ‘attacking them because they captured Jerusalem’ to ‘attacking them because they were Muslims’. (Any resemblance to ‘anything’ is purely coincidental.)
An estimated 90,000 men, women, and children of all classes participated in the first crusade, they considered this war, ‘a pilgrimage’ to expiate for their sins as they were told that their souls would reap untold rewards in the next life. Here is something interesting to note, Pope Urban initiated these crusades on the beseech of Byzantium Emperor Alexius, because he feared the advance of the Seljuk Turks towards his capital city of Constantinople, indeed religion is the most effective tool for political manoeuvring since aeon’s age.
Despite all odds, the first crusade had successfully secured its goal, the crusaders managed to defeat the Seljuk army and created a kingdom for themselves which included the states of Jerusalem, Tripoli, Antioch and Edessa. But this was not the happy ending, as the Muslim world would not remain so catastrophically divided for long. Saladin Ayyubi managed to bring both Fatimids and Seljuks under the Ayyubid banner and waged a war, popularly known as Battle of Hattin, against the crusaders, successfully wrecking their vengeance and turning the crusaders to ashes. It triggered the third crusade popularly known as Battle of Arsuf in which Richard, the King of England agreed to give up the city of Jerusalem and signed a peace treaty with Saladin Ayyubi ending the battle in truce.
Well, there were also rumours of brewing friendship between Richard and Saladin, in fact there’s a hollywood movie named ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ where they presented the whole picture of crusades so well and ended up eulogizing Saladin Ayyubi.
Now you must be thinking that finally it is over but the major twist is yet to come, Pope Innocent from Holy Roman Empire called for a fourth crusade, not to topple the Muslim forces but against the Byzantine Empire itself. It was never for religion but for territory. Religion was used as a pretext to mobilize participation. When the Christian-Muslim religious clashes did not work out, the languishing Holy Roman Empire came up with the idea of sectarian split and waged a war against Orthodox Byzantine Empire for Catholic supremacy, followed by the sack of Constantinople.
The chapter of crusades is a classic example of moral outrage, personal gain, institutionalised political and religious propaganda, peer pressure, societal expectations, but mostly a thirst for adventure which fills the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history.
The world is full of fools and hypocrites. Fools are quarrelling, fighting, burning and torturing one another for blurred speculations which are beyond the comprehension of the human mind. Hypocrites are using the fools as the means to their end, or to be precise for their political gains. The simplest way to escape this manipulation is to use your brain because historically speaking, religion and politics screw us enough on their own, and together, they’re our deathbed. Let us save ourselves, let us not die before our deaths.
Sadaf Parvez is a student pursuing Law from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Rutba Iqbal
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.