“If you are an Arabic-speaking, Greek-Orthodox going to a French school it makes you deeply skeptical if you have to listen to three different accounts of the Crusades – one from the Muslim side, one from the Greek side and one from the Catholic side.” – Nassim
Beginning in 1095, the crusades were the wars fought in the medieval era (11th, 12th and the 13th centuries) in the Eastern Mediterranean region, sanctioned by the Church, in an attempt to recover their Holy Land from the Islamic rule. The 196 year long battle was won by the Muslims, but not in a satisfactory form. The Muslims were left too weak to expand their rule over Europe. Jerusalem, the place holy to Islam, Christianity and Judaism was the target region.
The Christians, Muslims and Jews had their share of positive and negative effects during the crusades. The bloody battles were fought for holy rights and with an aim to maintain sanctity, but in reality they were meaningless acts initiated by inhuman feelings amongst those in power.
Nevertheless, they did have their benefits.
Positive effects of the crusades
When Christians moved to the Middle East, they learned a lot about the new culture. The West and the East merged their food, culture and ethics for the first time. They learned about a number of new things that were otherwise unknown to them. Also, the economy and trade sectors of both countries flourished. New foods and clothing materials like muslin were now available in the Western markets.
The Muslims also benefited in a similar way. They learned about arms and ammunition that were otherwise foreign to them. The concept of standing army was introduced to them. Also, it was a great opportunity for Muslims to show their unity. They also promoted schools and mosques heavily during that period of the history.
Feudalism was a huge issue in Europe at that time which was solved due to the crusades. The Western Europe got free of the system of feudalism.
Also, medical advancements were noted by Persian and Arabian soldiers. This improved the lifestyle of people living in these countries. The East and the West came together for the first time and gave us a glimpse of the Renaissance.
A heightened knowledge of geography, literature and mathematics was passed to and fro. Cultures intermixed to increase the knowledge of humans and the pages of history were marked with a sense of certain enlightening knowledge.
Negative effects of the crusades
Jews were hit the hardest during the crusades. When crusaders crossed the north of France and Germany, a lot of Jews were killed without cause. Their temples and books were destroyed. Their synagogues were in peril. By the end of the war, Jews had no land to call their own. They were thrown out of the East and were despised by the West. Segregation for the Jews spread throughout Europe and Jews were being killed mercilessly. It severed ties between Christians and Jews.
Monarchy became dominant and the kings increased taxes in order to get funds for the crusades. The Christian and Muslim soldiers were killed in equal numbers. Bloodshed and unrest engulfed the continent. Feudalism ended but the heavy taxes levied by the Monarchs were a burden. Also, a lot of damage to the so called “holy land” was done.
The crusades led to a war between the West and the Middle East that continues till date. The saddest part is that nobody is ready to back off, to apologize. A lot of people were killed. Even more people were enslaved and had to live terrible lives. Aggressive and violent rulers emerged during that era and such leaders continued to poison the minds of the innocent.
A lot of beautiful cities and landscapes were demolished. Technological advancements were lost and research had stopped. Constantinople is an excellent example of the damage done. The city was looted like anything and was left vulnerably helpless.
The crusades played an important role in shaping different religions and their ideologies towards each others. As Karen Armstrong claimed, “Ever since the Crusades, when Christians from western Europe were fighting holy wars against Muslims in the near east, western people have often perceived Islam as a violent and intolerant faith – even though when this prejudice took root Islam had a better record of tolerance than Christianity.”
Crusades were unjustifiable. The fights were meaningless, and the masses participated in it driven by nonsense about religious issues fed to them by those in power at that time. A lot came out of it – but to whose advantage it played is yet to be decided.