If the Popes believed that their God intended to keep them in control of Jerusalem, or indeed, in such high esteem at home, then they were to be rudely disabused. Central to Islam is the notion that the entire world not under its control is Dar al-Harb.
(This is the second chapter of the book World War Three.)
The Qu’ran or Koran is the codification of messages believed by Muslims to have been received by Mohammed from the Angel Gabriel. It says a territory may exist under two conditions: Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb. These mean, roughly, ‘Land of Submission’. and ‘Land of War’.
Dar al-Islam is territory whose inhabitants have accepted or submitted to Islamic Law, Sharia, or which has been occupied by Muslim armies who then enforced Sharia.
Dar al-Harb is all those lands and territories which are not under Islamic control and where Sharia is not in sway.
A Muslim’s sacred duty, expressed in the Qu’ran, is to do everything in his power (women have no say in Islam) to turn Dar al-Harb into Dar al-Islam. ‘Holy’ War to conquer non-Islamic territory is the purpose and meaning of jihad. Although the word can mean ‘struggle’ in a spiritual sense, this is a secondary meaning. The principal one is that Muslims must wage a war of conquest over the world.
Freeing land from Islam returns it to Dar al-Harb.
Bad as this is, there is a worse injunction: no land that was ever under Sharia may be permitted to escape from it. If it does so, it becomes a special form of Dar al-Harb. In this, the occupants are not seen only as enemies but also as traitors.
This is the main reason why Israel will always be at war with the Arab nations. As far as Muslims are concerned, the entire territory, having once been possessed by Muslims, must remain under Islam for all time. There is no hope or opportunity for peace, without the complete destruction of Israel and the eviction or killing of every Jew there. Israel’s leaders know this and for them, the war is existential: either they go on winning or every Israeli will be slaughtered. It is a heavy burden indeed.
Just as the punishment for a Muslim who converts to another faith is death, so the punishment for a population that breaks free of Sharia is to have the most savage and brutal war rained down upon it. It is the duty of all Muslims everywhere to establish the entire world as Dar al-Islam. The front line in the war to destroy Dar al-Harb is those territories that once endured Islam and have rejected it. It is here that the most vicious attacks of jihadists are seen.
This is why, as an aside, the stated objectives of Daesh today, also known as ‘Islamic State’, include the conquest and Islamification of Sicily, Corsica, Spain and parts of France, as a first step towards global domination. Europeans would do well to take this menace seriously.
Occupation of the Holy Land.
The Christian liberation and re-occupation of the Holy Land was a slap in the face to the rulers of the most powerful empire the world had hitherto seen. Dar al-Islam had been liberated. It was now Dar al-Harb, and had to be destroyed. Worse, the population punished for accepting infidel rule. The liberation of the Holy Land was not something the Caliphs would take lightly and their reaction was predictable. War raged in the Holy Land for almost two centuries.
Their fury was not simply because the land had been liberated after their invasion and occupation of it. The Qu’ran is based, loosely, on the Bible. It is a sort of half-understood pastiche. But, crucially, the most important people in the Bible were retained by Mohammed as ‘prophets’. The most important city to the Jews and Christians, Jerusalem, was written into the Qu’ran as the most important city to the Muslims — even though Islam had its roots hundred of mile tot he east and south.
This was the justification that Islamic warlords used to invade and occupy the city and its surrounding territory. This caused the forced Islamification of what had previously been a Judeo-Christian territory. In other words, the land and city had been made Dar al-Islam. But the Crusaders had made it Dar al-Harb again. It was inevitable that Islamic forces would try to seize the land and the city of Jerusalem itself, once again.
The Fatimid rulers of Egypt were unable to do so but they were defeated by the Abbasids under Salah al-Din (Saladin). In 1187, he recaptured Jerusalem. To be fair, Saladin was far more tolerant than the Fatimids had been, and Christians and Jews who paid the dhimmi — a special tax imposed on non-Muslims living in Islamic territory, allegedly for ‘protection’ — were not persecuted.
The end of the grand design.
This was not the end of the Papacy’s grand design to rule the Holy Land, but it was never able to recover. A moment should be passed in considering what the consequences were.
The Crusades had galvanised Christians all over Europe. Huge numbers of men joined them to travel the hard road to the Middle East and there, very likely, to die. Yet with military success came the confirmation of what the church extolled: the Christian God was all-powerful; he was the Almighty and could not be gainsaid. As long as the Papacy’s forces remained triumphant, this message could not be challenged.
Salah al-Din, a brilliant strategist and military commander, gave the lie to that. Just as the Crusaders had once slapped the Fatimids, now he slapped the Papacy in return.
This was a shocking challenge to Papal authority which, at the end of the twelfth century, was absolute over Europe.
Islam was once generally tolerant.
One must not run away with the idea that it was somehow far better to be a European living in a Christian theocracy than to be an Arab or any of the other ethnic groups ruled by the Caliphate and living under it. Far from it. Slavery — albeit called ‘serfdom’ — was normal throughout Europe. Living conditions for the majority were harsh at best, with diseases rife. While the wealthy elite did well, for most commoners life was a Hobbesian grind: poor, nasty, brutish and short.
In many ways, indeed, the ordinary people living under the Caliphate were better off than European Christians. Sharia is indeed a barbarous and harsh code, but at least it was a proper legal framework. Once the brutal slaughter always associated with military jihad was over and those who survived had been cowed, Islam regulated its warriors in how they must treat their victims.
Religious minorities, as long as they paid the dhimmi, were usually left alone in the Caliphate; they had second-class status but they were not, generally, persecuted in the way that Jews were in Europe, for example.
Furthermore, this is the time of the greatest advances in Islamic art and culture generally. There were many secularists and indeed atheists who again, were tolerated. The great writer Omar Khayyam, a Persian, spoke of a life that was far from grim and devoid of earthly pleasure. Philosophers, mathematicians and astronomers worked and studied with a freedom that was completely unknown in Europe.
But this period — we might call it a honeymoon — did not last.
Life under Islam today is a Hell.
Today, there is no doubt: life in an Islamic state is a hell on Earth. In Dar al-Islam, women are constantly abused and killed and homosexuals are routinely judicially murdered. (The latter despite the elevated prevalence if homosexual relations between Muslim men — or maybe because of it.) The slightest dissent will be punished with flogging or judicial murder. All science and technology that cannot be bent to the furtherance of Islam, is illegal.
Nobody in their right mind, today, would want to live under the horror of Islam.
With the fall of Jerusalem the very first cracks had begun to appear in the monolith of Papal authority. It did not take a genius to see that either the Christian God was less infallible and almighty than had hitherto been believed, or that he had lost faith in the Papacy. Shock waves rocked the Papacy and the Third Crusade was organised to retake Jerusalem. Although it did recapture some territory, it failed in this objective.
The Fourth Crusade.
In 1202 the Fourth Crusade was organised and this had markedly different results.
For centuries the schism between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church had festered. In 1203, en route to Jerusalem, the Crusader leaders were diverted. Prince Alexios Angelos persuaded them to attack the Byzantine Empire in Constantinople and reinstate his deposed father. Most of the Crusaders, eager for the spoils of war, agreed. Only about ten percent of the knights who had set out carried on to Acre.
Constantinople capitulated after a show of Crusader strength and Alexios Angelos was crowned co-emperor. However he was deposed in January 1204 by a popular uprising. This meant that the Crusaders could not receive the monies they had been promised. They, along with the Venetians, decided to sack the city. They did so, and set up the Latin Empire in its stead.
Effectively, the rape of Constantinople had four consequences. It cemented the schism between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. It broke Byzantine control over important trade routes to the east. The reason the Venetians had been interested in the fight was to secure these for themselves. The Latin Empire was weak and immediately challenged by Byzantine resistance. This meant that military strength that might have been used to re-conquer Jerusalem was not available. Finally, it broke the back of the Byzantine Empire. Despite regaining Constantinople and ending the Latin Empire, it fell into decline.
While these thoughts may have entered the minds of the European intelligentsia, and may have been discussed behind closed doors, for ordinary people, they were irrelevant. But something was to happen that made the questioning of the Church both more widespread and immediate.
Also published on Medium.