God’s Chosen People

The crusades were a time of great religious fervor and devotion. They were a time when all of the followers of the God of Abraham got together to discuss which sect would have access to the holly lands. However, followers of the God of love and peace, this God of Abraham, have a unique understanding of what the words discussion, love, and peace mean. To followers of these three Abrahamic religions, discussion means slaughter, love means cruelty, and peace means pillaging. Despite all the ideological similarities, the Christians, the Jews, and the Muslims all have unique motivations for their actions during this time of religious wars. “Pope Urban II’s Speech at Clermont,”  “the Crusades at Mains, May 27, 1096,” and “On the Franks” all work together to illuminate the sometimes murky motivations behind the Crusades.

Christians had a deep seeded fear of being unworthy of the rewards of heaven, and missionizing and spreading the gospel was one of the ways that one could prove their worthiness for their eternal reward. According to Fulbert of Chartres recollection of “Pope Urban II’s Speech at Clermont,” the Pope said “Do not go to sleep, but be on guard on all sides the flock is committed to you. For if through your carelessness or negligence a wolf carries away one of your sheep, you will surely lose the reward laid up for you with God” (Fulbert of Chartres 357). Although cloaked in religious rhetoric, the fear of the outside world is there. One must always be on the lookout for wolves or non-Christians that wish to carry the flock or Christians away. And if one member of the church is led astray those responsible for that member’s religious wellbeing will be damned. This admonition to beware the other, the outsider already meshed well with the Christian habit of forced conversion. Just in case this was not enough of a reason for the typical Christian to be called to arms, According to Fulbert, the Pope promised a full remission of sins to anyone that fought to protect the Christian religion (Fulbert of Chartres 358). And with license from the Pope, the voice of God on earth, the Christians could feel justified in committing horrible acts of violence in the name Christianity. But the Christians were not the only group involved in the Crusades.

The Jews during the Crusades played the necessary of scapegoat for Christian aggression; however one may wonder how a devoutly religious people could stand back and allow such violence to befall them. The Jews have a long history of wandering about from place to place and they are accustomed to being surrounded by people that are not of their religion; however, they tend to live cloistered together in homogenous ethnic Jewish communities. These communities allow them to keep their unique cultural and religious heritage intact and are not explicitly designed to keep other peoples out. In “The Crusades at Mainz, May 27, 1096,” Solomon bar Sampson wrote, “It was on the third of Siwan…. At noon [Tuesday, May 73], that Emico the wicked, the enemy of the Jews, came with his whole army against the city gate, and the citizens opened it up for him” (Solomon bar Sampson 361). Baring the incendiary and condemning language that was likely added to this account after the author knew of the terrible outcome of this day in history, one can conclude from this passage that the Jews of this community did not fear the Christian army at their door until it was too late. They must have seen the massive army as one meant to protect them or at least an army that was in need of support and resupply. Or they felt that surrendering to these overwhelming odds might at least save their lives. Whatever the case, the Jews seemed to have a misplaced trust in the inherent goodness of humanity that led to their slaughter. Although they may have misplaced their trust by hoping for mercy from the Christians, the Jews did not misplace their trust in god and many of them chose to sacrifice their own life than to convert to Christianity, a religion that they felt was false. This showed that the Jews were very devout and trusted fully in machinations of their God.

But strangest of all were the Muslims who barely even knew that they were in the middle of an armed conflict at all. While Muslims were a very devout people, they were not as strongly compelled to protect their Islamic faith as the Christians and the Jews protected their own faiths. Although the Muslims were part of the missionizing Islamic religion, this missionizing was more of a conversion by example than the convert or die attitude of the Christians. To convert by example, the Muslims lived together with other peoples in a culturally and religiously diverse community.  They were more accepting of other peoples and their curious ways; however, these curious ways were looked upon with suspicion.

In “On the Franks Usmah ibn Munqidh said, “When one comes to recount cases regarding the franks, he cannot but glorify Allah (exalted is he!) and sanctify him, for he sees them as animals possessing the virtues of courage and fighting, but nothing else…” (Usmah ibn Munqidh 367). One can deduce by the tone of this quote that although the Muslims are more tolerant of other cultures and peoples, they do not extend all the rights and privileges of a proper Muslim to the ignorant Franks.

However, not all that Munqidh says about the franks is negative. He tells of a good Frankish doctor who he met in his journeys. This Frankish doctor  not only had a cure worthy of use by a good Muslim doctor like himself, but also he was generous and wanted the cure to only be given out for free (Munqidh 368). Munqidh seemed to be impressed by meeting a Frank who not only had some knowledge, but also had the charity to meter out that knowledge freely without pay, and the story of the former Frankish knight seems to explain why. Munqidh had dinner with a former Frankish knight but the part that he was impressed with was not the former knight saving his life (although he almost certainly appreciated having his life saved); Munqidh admired the Knights knowledge of Islamic dietary restrictions. In the introduction to this section of Munqidh’s writing he states, “Among the Franks are those who have become acclimatized and have associated long with the Muslims. These are much better than the recent comers from the Frankish lands” (Munqidh 369). The adoption by the Frankish knight of the Islamic dietary laws was one step toward the conversion of this man, and his conversion would lead to the conversion of others that he knew. So even if the Muslims did not know that they were in conflict, their mere presence and intention to spread their religion even in this peaceful manor was plenty enough to draw the anger and condemnation of the Christians.

Even with all the distrust of foreigners and foreign religions buried inside the texts of “Pope Urban II’s Speech at Clermont,”  “the Crusades at Mains, May 27, 1096,” and “On the Franks,” one can clearly see that veritable renaissance of the Islamic golden age led the Muslims to have a far more accepting civilization than others that existed during that time. Even with all the mayhem and killing that ensued during the this period of Crusades and all the bad blood that would last until the current day, the western world benefited greatly from the coming together of cultures that constituted the Crusades. The crosspollination of scientific, political, and philosophic knowledge almost made all the chaos and loss of life worthwhile (and almost, in this case, means not at all).

Bibliography

Chartres, Fulbert of. Fulcher of Chartres, “Pope Urban II’s Speech at Clermont”. Envisioning World Civilizations: a Primary Source Workbook. Edited by Maureen Staudt, Michael Stranz. Mason, Ohio: Cengage Learning, 2012.

Munquidh, Umah ibn. Usmah ibn Munqidh, Autobiography: “On the Franks”. Envisioning World Civilizations: a Primary Source Workbook. Edited by Maureen Staudt, Michael Stranz. Mason, Ohio: Cengage Learning, 2012.

Sampson, Solomon bar. Solomon bar Sampson, “The Crusaders at Mainz, May 27, 1096”. Envisioning World Civilizations: a Primary Source Workbook. Edited by Maureen Staudt, Michael Stranz. Mason, Ohio: Cengage Learning, 2012.

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