The topic of “The Crusades” inevitably comes up when speaking about the violence of Islam. I will be the first to agree that murder is horrible, and murder with a cross and a shield is perhaps even worse. I would submit to you that as a Christian, our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Eph 6:12). We are not called to harm people in the name of Christ, but to show kindness, love and forgiveness.
There were a series of nine crusades that lasted from the 10th through the 12th centuries. They were bloody and deadly. It has been estimated that close to 1.7 million people died as a result of armies attempting to reclaim the holy lands. The question that needs asked is: Were the actions and intents of the Crusaders similar to the actions and intents of the Muslims that then controlled Palestine?
I will agree that both the Christian and Muslim armies attempted to gain land, but the Crusades were a response to the relentless attacks of the Muslim armies as they pushed their kingdom further and further across the Mediterranean into Europe. The heart of the Crusades was to repel the advance of Islam, and by slapping the Christian idea of reclaiming the Holy Lands to the action many gladly jumped on board.
Another huge difference between the two forces is that the Byzantine Empire was a military force that used religion to unite individuals. After the embrace of Christianity by Constantine, people had something in common to hold them together. Islam was a religion that became militarized. The purpose of Islam is and has always been to conquer. “Fighting is prescribed upon you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not.” (Quran 2:216).
“It is he (Allah) who has sent his Messenger (saw) with guidance and the religion of truth, in order for it to be dominant over all other religions, even though the Mushrikoon (disbelievers) hate it.” (EMQ at-Tawbah, 9: 33)
By the end of the first millennia after the death of Christ, Islam had exploded. The Sinai Peninsula wasn’t able to contain this fledgling religion and it spilled out all across the Middle East, but that’s not where it stayed.
By 680 AD what is now Northern Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Omen, Yemen and Palestine had all been touched by the arms of Islam. By 740 AD, half of Turkey, the southern tip of Russia, the northern sliver of Africa and Iran had also been reached. Once most of the Middle East was under Islamic control, the next natural extension of the Islamic arm was throughout regions surrounding the Mediterranean. By 820 AD, Spain, France and parts of Italy were fighting against a new type of war—the Jihad.
When you look at the nine reactionary Crusades made by the Christianized Byzantines they pale in comparison to the close to 550 Islamic battles. Link to Bill Warner’s Youtube video of below image.
Another component that drove the Byzantines to the crusades was the slave raiding made by the Muslims armies. “What Islam did bring to Europe was war and slavery, on a massive scale. The House of Islam in the tenth century had little use for any of the produce and natural resources of Europe, except one; the bodies of the Europeans themselves. Young women and boys were preferred, but during the tenth century Europeans of almost any age or class, and in almost any part of the continent, could find themselves in chains and on a ship bound for North Africa or the Middle East.” – The Impact of Islam, BY Emmet Scott.
In summary, I would say Christianity at it’s heart is non-violent. Jesus implores us to show love. Even when we consider the violent stories in the Bible, they are just stories of the past, and not mandates for our future. The violent verses in the Quran however are not stories from the past, but instructions to the Muslim. I want to be clear, there are many Muslims that are not violent, Muslims that have been taught to interpret the Quran in a non-violent way. But while Muslims may choose to be non-violent, the Quran teaches violence.