This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
0 © 1999 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
CRUSADES. Originally applied to military and religious expeditions organized in Western Europe and intended to take back from and defend against Islam the Holy Places of Palestine and nearby Syria, the term was later extended to all wars waged against "infidels" and even to any undertaking carried out in the name of a worthy or supposedly worthy cause; naturally these extensions of meaning are not part of our present concern. The first Crusade (1096-99), following on from expeditions against the Muslims in the West, led to the establishment around Jerusalem, Tripoli, Antioch and Edessa of four States constituting (and later including Cyprus, then the Latin Empire of Constantinople) the Latin East, which from then on until the recapture of its last citadel Acre by the Muslims in 1291 was an essential factor in the history of the Middle East. The second Crusade started by the fall of Edessa bore no concrete results; the third, started by the fall of Jerusalem, ensured the maintenance of "Frankish" possessions on the Syro-Palestinian coast; the fourth was only concerned with Constantinople, the fifth failed at Damietta in Egypt, the sixth was more of a diplomatic journey by Frederick II and brought about the temporary restitution of Jerusalem to the Franks, the seventh led by St. Louis after the loss once more of the Holy City ended in another disaster at Damietta and the eighth, which brought the same king to Tunis, ended with his death. One might add to this traditional number of Crusades other less important ones and later Crusades against the Ottomans (Nicopolis, Varna, etc.). The Crusades|in Syria-Palestine alone had a lasting effect on the history of Muslim countries, in view of the Frankish dominance in the East, uninterrupted for nearly two centuries, which was initiated by the first Crusade and maintained by those that followed. In an encyclopaedia of Islam there can of course be no question of giving the history even of only these Crusades in its entirety; it would even be somewhat odd to speak of them at all, were it not that the Crusades when considered in terms of Islam give rise to certain problems which alone will be discussed here. The specific character of the Crusades was not and could not be understood by Muslims. The very term, Èuråb al-ßalÊbiyya, used to designate them in modern
Arab literature, was unknown to ancient authors, who referred to Crusaders by the plain ethnical term "Franks", and seems to have made its appearance during the Ottoman period in Christian circles of the East influenced by French culture. The theory of the Crusade, a war for the defence or liberation of oppressed co-religionists, differs from the theory of the þših§d, a war for the expansion of Islam; but in practice almost the very reverse appears to have obtained at the time of the first Crusade, þših§d in the majority of Muslim countries being no more than a memory and Christendom from the time of Charlemagne onwards having elaborated campaigns for the expansion of Christianity by force of arms. No doubt, in one sense the Crusades appear as a reaction, which had gradually been desired and made possible, against the humiliation of four centuries caused by the Muslim conquest of half the Mediterranean basin; but the example of Spain and Sicily proves that the Christian West did not need any deterioration in the generally reasonable treatment of Christians in Muslim countries as a spur to move onto the offensive or counter-offensive. In the East it is true that the Turkoman invasion of Asia Minor revived amongst a particular social group the tradition of Muslim Holy War in the form of ÿŠazwa, bringing disaster to Byzantine Christendom; but in the old Muslim countries and particularly in Palestine the forming of the SalþšåÎid Empire brought no fundamental change to the lot of autochthonous Christians or to the treatment of foreign pilgrims; the precise motivation of crusading, however sincere it was, could not therefore occur to the Muslim mind. Muslims obviously saw that they were dealing with Christian warriors who as such were attacking Islam, but apart from the distance from which they came they saw in them roughly the equivalent of the Byzantines whose Christian-inspired attacks and counter-attacks they had been sustaining for two centuries. The Crusaders' conquests only affected territory which was incompletely Islamized, relatively small and quickly reduced by gradual Muslim reconquest, and even in Syria-Palestine did not reach any of the large Muslim centres. Nevertheless, the constant menace to vital sea and land routes between Muslim countries in the Middle East, the knowledge of Muslim abasement under Frankish rule, above all the repetition of Crusades, the non-assimilation of Franks into the native milieu and the permanence of a state of at least "cold" war finally conferred indisputable importance on the Crusades and the existence of the so-called "Latin" East in the history of Middle Eastern Islam. It would be interesting to examine more thoroughly than has hitherto been the case how Muslims, according to time and place, reacted to this phenomenom. |The Crusades found the Muslim Middle East in a state of division and dissension which alone made their initial success possible. Preceding generations had seen many examples of Islamo-Christian co-operation in Syria even against other
Christians or Muslims. Although the Frankish invasion brought death or exile to many Muslims in Syria-Palestine, minor chieftains and certain isolated populations apparently at first assumed that it would be possible to adapt themselves to a state of small-scale war alternating with periods of peace, such as the former lord of ÷Šayzar, Us§ma b. MunÎiþŠ, by drawing on his early memories, was able to depict for us in his Memoirs. Soon, however, more directly threatened or more intensely Muslim communities, angered by the disgraceful indifference to the Frankish danger of Muslims beyond Syria-Palestine, attempted to rouse them from it by for example demonstrating in BaÿŠd§d. Although individual volunteers, subsidies (particularly for prisoners' ransoms) and exhortations were sometimes forthcoming from the rest of the Muslim world, the backbone of resistance came really from the immediate neighbours of the Franks. A necessary condition for that, and this was bound to be one consequence of the Crusades, was some degree of rapprochement between various Muslim elements which only recently had been suspicious of each other: Arabs from the plains and the towns, Turks from the official armies that had come into being under the SalþšåÎid regime, Turkomans lacking discipline but ready for ÿŠazwa, warlike Kurds joining up with the Turkish armies that shortly before they had been fighting and so on. òšazÊra constituted the hinterland, a source of manpower, such as Syria with its meagre resources could never be, and there followed a process of political unification between the two regions (remaining however somewhat incomplete in òšazÊra). From a religious point of view, the Frankish menace certainly contributed without being its sole cause to the progress of Sunnism, which was already developed in the SalþšåÎid domains of Irano-Mesopotamia, but until then scarcely of any importance in Syria. For one thing, intransigent elements denounced the heterodox as accomplices of the Franks and responsible for the misfortunes of Islam; more important, however, moderate ÷ŠÊ#Ês and even sometimes the F§ãimids, no longer sustained by unanimous Ism§#Êlism, in the face of common enemies rallied to the SunnÊ Turkish princes; the only group to remain outside this alliance were the Assassins, violent and irreconcilable enemies of SunnÊ orthodoxy, who were massacred by the Muslim majority and who sometimes collaborated with the Franks from their frontier strongholds. Naturally, the anti-Crusade movement never affected the whole of the Muslim population even amongst the neighbours of the Franks; devout Muslims lamented the fact that some of their brethren,
who were subjects or neighbours of the Franks, found it less dangerous to come to terms with them than to fight them and minor princes were hesitant about involving themselves in coalitions which could only serve to increase the authority of the more important. The ability of ZengÊ, Når al-DÊn and Saladin lay in realizing, each in his own manner, that the struggle against the Franks, by necessitating and favouring the unification of Muslims, played into the hands of anyone able to lead such a movement, although it is not possible for us of course, any more no doubt than it was for them, to say how far they were prompted by ardent con-|viction and how far by self-interest. This policy appeared to reach its final objective when after Jerusalem Saladin conquered almost the whole of the Latin East. It would be interesting to know whether in the Muslim States concerned the war against the Franks or their neighbours brought about any deeper or broader changes than this partial "moral rearmament". The period of the Crusades certainly coincides with a remarkable rise of inland Syria, starting with Damascus, then of Egypt which replaced BaÿŠd§d, linked too closely with the Iranian States, as the liveliest area of Arab Islam; but it is difficult to indicate the exact role of the various factors in this development, as it is to say whether the militarization of the politico-social order common to the whole of the Muslim world was more extensive here than elsewhere. In the art of warfare it is probable that some progress in siege armament and artillery is due to contact with the Franks; the mutual borrowings which appear to have taken place between the two sides in the technique of fortification have still never been properly studied. Peaceful trading relations between Frankish and Muslim territories co-existed with war; but Alexandria, not Acre, was the great international trading centre of the Mediterranean and the fall of the Latin East wwas to have little effect on commerce. It would be normal to expect the anti-Frankish reaction to have brought about some original movement of ideas. But Islam was no longer in a progressive phase and the conflict was after all limited. Subject to future research, therefore, the impression is that there was not really any ideological fermentation. The ancient themes of þšihad were rediscovered, the old accounts (pseudo-W§ÎÊdÊ) of the Conquests and anti-Byzantine ÿŠazwa were taken out and developed, emphasis was laid on devotion to the holy places of Jerusalem: but there was nothing really new and it must be admitted that the struggle against the Crusaders did not give rise to any doctrinal study of holy war or any popular works comparable with the epics about the Conquests or anti-Byzantine wars.
Furthermore, diplomatically, whereas Saladin in particular tried to play off Westerners and Byzantines against each other, no unity comparable with the unity, however slight, of Western Christendom against Islam was ever achieved between the East and West of the Muslim world, for each part was involved in its own struggles with neighbouring Christians. Even in the East, leaving aside the Iranians who were far away and shaken by successive crises, the Turks of Asia Minor, after involuntarily setting the Crusades in motion by their invasion, practically restricted their efforts to attacks against Byzantium and, showing little interest in Syria, only took some part in the struggle against the Crusaders in the first century of the Latin East, when the latter crossed their territory. The Caliphate itself does not appear to have taken a very deep interest in the anti-Frankish struggle. Furthermore, at the end of Saladin's reign, the very seriousness of the Frankish defeat stirred the West, so that before his death in spite of all efforts he had to resign himself to certain losses and to the maintenance of a Frankish seaboard, emphasizing the extent of material sacrifices made practically in vain. Whence arose under the Ayyåbids the desire for a new policy which, recognizing both the presence of Franks in the trade ports of Syria-Palestine and the lessening of the Frankish menace, now that, left|to their own devices, the Eastern Franks could hardly contemplate further aggrandisement, sought to set up a modus vivendi economically favourable to both sides. This policy, compromised by the Crusading activities of the West, nevertheless continued a fairly successful existence for half a century, finding its most spectacular and in the eyes of the devout its most scandalous expression when, with certain reservations, alK§mil restored Jerusalem to Frederick II. Could such a policy have been kept up for a long time? The unleashing of the Mongol conquest made it in any case impracticable. That invasion, much more dangerous for the time being than the Crusades could ever be, produced in the Mamlåk State, established in Egypt and Syria as the final redoubt of Muslim resistance, an uncompromising tension of all forces and the unquestionable predominance of an intransigent army. Some of the Franks had come to terms with the barbarians: their extermination or expulsion became a matter of supreme urgency and this time Europe did not prevent it.
With the exception of the Armenians in the North, native Christians had remained practically outside the Crusades; Muslims therefore did not at first change their attitude to local Christians and even occasionally supported mmembers of the Greek Church who had serious grounds for complaint against Latin dominance, as well as the Jews. Tolerance of this kind contrasted with the treatment of Muslims under Frankish rule who, except in some special localities, had neither mosque nor Î§·Ê and were frequently considered as virtual enemies or spies. The over-quoted passage of Ibn òšubayr, shaming his co-religionists for Muslim satisfaction with good Frankish administration in the rich district of Tyre, cannot outweigh many cases where the opposite applied nor can it the legal status of Muslims; because of its warlike spirit, the Latin East was backward compared with the understanding which the Norman sovereigns of Sicily and the Spaniards were showing at the same time. In the long run the presence of Franks eventually jeopardized the native Christians of Muslim countries as well. For the lack of any future possibility of triumphing by the force of arms prompted the Franks to try to establish relations with Christians of Muslim states. It was inevitable that such a move should give rise to at least some suspicion amongst the Muslims. The most unfortunate individual case was that of the Maronites. This purely Lebanese minority living entirely within Frankish territory had rallied to the discipline of the Church of Rome and to a certain extent, in the coastal towns at least, had become intermingled with the Franks. Muslim reconquest did not wipe out the danger of Frankish attacks on the Syrian coast and, to prevent any Maronite complicity, the Mamlåks had many of the Maronite districts along the coasts evacuated. The fortunes of the Armenians, who had been the Mongols' quartermasters and were linked politically with the Christian West, were even less happy; in the fourteenth century their Cilician kingdom was destroyed and its population decimated. Generally speaking, the hardening of the Muslim attitude was bound to undermine the position of Christians and it is necessary to realise that the Crusades alone must bear, if not the sole responsibility, at least the greater part of it, for a development completely opposite to their avowed object. Did they at least help to increase the interpenetration of peoples, the knowledge of Islam in the|West, or of the West in Muslim countries? It would of course be paradoxical to contend that among the members of the two geographically close populations there was no exchange of knowledge. But examination of institutions in the Latin East shows fewer borrowings from the Muslim past and
less social intermingling than in the Christian States of Sicily and Spain. Similarly, from a cultural point of view, objective comparison leads to the categorical conclusion that where the West has acquired knowledge of Muslim civilization, it has done so mainly through Spain or Sicily and not through Western settlements in the East or Crusaders from the West; moreover, Islam as such nearly always remained misunderstood and the few accurate ideas about it that the West finally acquired are due to the efforts of missionaries, in other words to work undertaken in an entirely different spirit from the spirit of the Crusades. As for the Muslims, although some showed a certain curiosity about the Franks in the East or about a Western leader as exceptional as Frederick II, it must be acknowledged that their historians, geographers and antiChristian polemists still had after the Crusades the same few notions about the European West, gleaned from their co-religionists in the West, that they had had before. Therefore, and contrary I regret to current opinion, it seems to me an anachronism to repeat with those who have worked on the cultural or political influence, indeed a very real one, of modern France in the East, or written within that context, that the Crusades laid their foundations; if in their own way they bore witness to the beginning of a process of interpenetration, the atmosphere they created proved subsequently more of a hindrance than a help. (C. Cahen) Extract from the Encyclopaedia of Islam CD-ROM Edition v. 1.0 © 1999 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.