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The Battle of Hattin, as it has come to be known, was a very decisive event in the history of the Crusades.
After destroying the Christian army, Saladin and his Muslim brothers quickly conquered almost every Frankish city and on October 2, 1187, the Holy City of Jerusalem fell which signaled the beginning of the Third Crusade, "a reaction to the fall of the Holy City of Jerusalem to the Muslim forces under Saladin" (Spielvogel, 277).
When Western Christians learned of the fall of Jerusalem into Muslim control, the entire European continent reacted with shock and utter dismay. Almost immediately, the Pope declared a brand-new Crusade, led by the kings of France and England, being Phillip II and Richard I; however, they did not reach the Holy Land soon enough, for by 1191, Saladin had managed to lay siege to the town of Acre, yet on July 12, the Crusaders and their troops retook Acre. Phillip left for Europe soon after, yet his famous comrade-in-arms King Richard the Lionhearted remained behind to take command of the Crusaders.
The Third Crusade is undoubtedly best remembered for the year-long fighting that erupted under the domination of Richard the Lionhearted. In September of 1192, Richard and Saladin agreed to a treaty which granted the Frankish Christians a large portion of land along the Mediterranean coast while allowing the Muslims to control the rest of the area which included the city of Jerusalem. However, the Muslims guaranteed that all
Western Christians who wished to make a pilgrimage to the Holy City "would not be molested nor ill-treated." Although Richard did not take control of Jerusalem as planned, he did restore a modicum of peace and tranquillity between the Frankish Christians and the Muslim population.
Unfortunately, Pope Innocent III was not pleased with this agreement between his people and their bitter enemies and considered the Third Crusade as a complete failure. Thus, in 1198, Pope Innocent III ordained a Fourth Crusade with the "goal being to liberate the Holy City of Jerusalem from the hands of the Muslim heretics" (Brehier, Internet).
Therefore, it is not surprising that the Muslim view and attitudes toward Western Christians following the Crusades became extremely negative. First of all, Muslims considered the Frankish/Crusader kingdoms, towns and other settlements as "alien and illegitimate," due to being "established at the expense of the native population which had been displaced or massacred." Overall, Western Christians after the Crusades were viewed by the Muslim world as "ruthless, bloodthirsty and barbaric," due in part to the murders of thousands of Muslims at the hands of Christian Crusaders (Dajani-Shakeel, Internet).
In addition, every Muslim during the latter years of the Crusades viewed the loss of Jerusalem as "the greatest loss in their history," partially because two of Islam's most important religious shrines, being the Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, are located there. In Muslim eyes, "to profane Muslim shrines was to abuse Islam itself" which created a Muslim bitterness that endured for many centuries after the Crusades (and perhaps, as some scholars point out, has endured into modern times).
And when these and other holy shrines were taken back from the Crusaders, the result was the "destruction of Christian images and objects," a sign that the Muslims considered Christianity and Western man as not worthy of the ability to worship their Hebrew God. However, despite the fact that Muslims considered the Crusades as Western man's war against Islam and the teachings of Mohammad, "they considered Christians as more of a political enemy than a religious enemy. Thus, when Saladin recovered the Holy Land from the Christians, he gave them the choice of living in the area and paying a poll tax" or relocating to territories held by the Frankish Christians" (Dajani-Shakeel, Internet).
An even more devastating effect of the Crusades on the relationship between Christians and Muslims and how they viewed each other was the breakdown of Islamic ideals and spirituality. In the days of the Crusades, Islam was considered as a very tolerant religion, due in part to the writings of Mohammad in the Quran which stressed the idea that "Jews and Christians had received a partial revelation through the prophecy of Jesus Christ and were thus not to be persecuted." Likewise, a large number of early Arabic thinkers and writers practiced Christianity rather than Islam and were highly-accepted and respected by the Muslim population in such cities as Constantinople and even Jerusalem.
Although it is a fact that Islam and its followers had been roundly defeated a number of times during the Crusades by the invading Christian believers, all of whom were under the protection of several Popes and various Frankish governments, by the year 1300, Islam as a religion had outdistanced Christianity in Western Asia. Part of the reason was that thousands of Christians and those from other sects and denominations had converted to Islam, due to feeling that they had been deserted by their Western religious leaders and no longer had the ability nor the spirit to resist the pressure of the all-conquering Muslims in the Holy Land.
However, there are those who see the Crusades and the resulting negativity toward Christians by Muslims in an entirely different light. Thomas F. Madden, writing in "The Real History of the Crusades," states that although the Crusades are usually seen as "a series of holy wars against Islam led by power-hungry Popes and fought by religious fanatics," there were in fact "a black stain on the history of the Catholic Church... And Western civilization," due to the Crusaders themselves being "proto-imperialists" who introduced "Western aggression into the peaceful Middle East and then deformed the enlightened Muslim culture, leaving it in ruins" (2002, Internet).
Conversely, it can be stated with a good amount of certainty that the Crusades in the Middle East were "a direct response to Muslim aggression" and symbolized the attempt to "turn back or defend against the Muslim conquests of Christian lands." Thus, whether or not the Crusades had a highly negative effect on Christian-Muslim relations remains unanswered, yet it is abundantly clear that the Crusades greatly affected all of the centuries to come and that its influence can be felt even in today's world, especially in the Middle East, where Christians and Muslims continue to fight their Holy War against each other.
Brehier, Louis. "Crusades." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. IV. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 2006. Internet. Retrieved at http://www.newadvent.
Crusades." Columbia Encyclopedia. Internet. 2005. Retrieved at http://www.bartleby.com/65/cr/Crusades.html.
Dajani-Shakeel, Hadia. "War: A Muslim Perspective." ChristianityToday.com. Internet. 2001. Retrieved at http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/newsletter
Madden, Thomas F. "The Real History of the Crusades." Crisis: Politics, Culture & the Church. Internet. April 2, 2002. Retrieved at http://www.crisismagazine.com / april2002/cover.htm.
Spielvogel, Jackson J. Western Civilization. Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006.
The Crusades." 2007. Internet. Retrieved at http://www.themiddleages.net/life / crusades.html.
The Crusader Period (1095-1291)." Jewish Virtual Library. Internet.…[continue]
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