Hostility – Where it all began.
Sad to say, in order to understand the problems we are facing in this present time, we need to first see how all the hostilities began. But hopefully after understanding the historyof it all, we won’t make the same mistakes.
Before we proceed, it is important to come without religious prejudice; instead, let us learn from the common ground we share. It is good for us to consider what our religious prejudices are. Regardless of what religious background we each come from, if we were to come with certain prejudices, say, against the Muslims, Christians or Jews, it would be difficult for us to experience and share the light of truth and revelation. We ourselves may continue to remain in darkness.
Let us now start by looking more closely into the Quran. The first point you will realize is that these revelations were not brought by a man of war, because you will notice that much of what was revealed to him was given before he ever engaged in any battle. There were two periods in Prophet Muhammad S.A.W.’s life. There was the earlier Meccan period and the later Medina period. During the Meccan period, the Prophet was not involved in military operations; he did not have an army at that time. He had nothing at that time; and it was at this time that many of the revelations in the Quran were given to him 1.
The later period, i.e. the Medina period was the period when he began his military ventures. There was a lot of fighting with the Meccans at that time.
Unfortunately, it looks like it was this military-added element that was carried over into Islam to a great extent. Very soon after Prophet Muhammad S.A.W.’s death, his companions (as they were called) took on the military leadership with the result that Islam was spread by the sword. It is a well-known fact that sadly, people were not won to Islam, say, by preaching; they were, in most cases, compelled into Islam by the sword; it was conversion by the sword. So, soon after Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. died, his various companions became commanders of various Muslim armies which moved forward in all directions. That was 632 A.D, the year of the Prophet’s death, and onwards.
And as for Christianity, it was progressing well; from the time of Isa Al-Masih and his apostles until the end of the 3rd century, the leaders were mostly Jewish. Later on, however, the churches were established by non-Jews such as Greeks, Romans, and so on.
So, whichever direction the Muslim armies moved, they ran into Christian countries. By that time, North Africa was Christian, Palestine (what is Israel today) and Syria were all Christian. So, wherever the Muslim armies moved, they ran into Christian territory. The result was, of course, battles with Christian armies. That’s when the bad blood began.
The Muslim armies were much more successful of course, because the Christian armies were not really well-equipped to fight. Also, all these countries had been Christian for centuries, long before Islam even came into the picture. Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. was born at the end of the 6th century – so, that makes it six centuries after Christianity had already spread around the world. So, you see, Islam came as an upstart religion, trying to push the Christians out of the territories where they were established.
Indeed, they were successful militarily. We see Egypt today is Muslim when it was once Christian. So is most of the Middle East – it is all Muslim. North Africa was all Christian, and now is all Muslim. The invasion went all the way eastward. Christianity had followed the Silk Road to China, it had been going eastward. And the Muslims came very quickly behind them, conquering everything ahead them.
The result was, of course, bad blood. But then here comes the Christian part: What disturbed Christian Europe was that Islam now occupied Jerusalem and all the holy sites. This was a little bit too much for the Christians to swallow. The result was the infamous Crusades. The Pope tried to raise armies to throw out the Muslims from what they regarded as Christian holy sites. To the Christians, the Muslims were the infidels, the unbelievers who had now occupied Jerusalem – the place where Jesus died and from which the Church came forth.
With this little bit of background to these hostilities, you can understand where these hostilities come from. It was about 400 years after the beginning of Islam that the Crusades began. This was about the 11th and 12th centuries when the Crusades were raging. There were many Crusades, of course; it was not one Crusade. There were many Crusades, one after another; they were terrible episodes.
For Christianity, it was a total disgrace. The Christians had forsaken the Scriptural principles, and were fighting for their own corrupt notions of Western Christianity. By that time, Christianity was very corrupt; it was a shameful business. Christianity had degenerated into every form of power-grabbing, corruption, whatever it is; you name it, they had it. There was even in-fighting, i.e. Christians fighting each other, all power-grabbing. The Pope was trying to make use of the situation to achieve his own personal goals, or the goals of the Catholic Church as he saw them. This is not a question of opinion; they are facts we can read in any historical account.
The problem with Christianity is there has been the constant tendency towards corruption – moral corruption, above all. The most shameful thing is, for example in the last Crusade, Christians were betraying one another in order to get wealth and achieve some status; and the Christian capital of Constantinople was sacked, not by Muslims, but by fellow Christians! It was utterly disgraceful. The great Christian city of Constantinople was sacked of all its glory by Christians, long before the Muslims even got there!
There is no ground for Christians to be self-righteous and say, “You see, you Muslims started it all.” Well, perhaps so, but the point is that the Christians fought shameful battles. One of the most shameful episodes of that crusade under Richard the Lion-Hearted was when he captured the city of Tyre from the Muslims. All the Muslim soldiers had actually surrendered in the face of impossible odds because he had had the city surrounded. Thousands of Muslim soldiers surrendered; but when they came out disarmed, Richard the Lion-Hearted had them all executed! There were thousands of unarmed soldiers! Thousands! He turned the water red with blood.
Later on, we read the Muslims repaid the compliment and did the same thing to Christian soldiers who surrendered. But who can deny that it was the Christians who first started it. Up to then, it was a matter of honor that if a soldier surrendered, you let him go.
There was more and more bad blood. One needs to understand the reason behind all these to understand the bitterness and the resentment, and the very strong feeling of hostility from both sides. Otherwise, you don’t know what the problem was all about. With all this background, you can now understand why each side tries to put down and discredit the other, saying, “Your Scriptures are corrupted,” and so on.
Our dear brothers and sisters, Christians, Muslims and Jews – people of the Book – if God did not allow us to have His Books, do you think we would have all the Scriptures today? Let us not say, “Our book,” or “Your book.” Don’t we have eyes to see they are all His Holy Book and what a mess we have done by interpreting according to our own likings.
Let us all, with openness of heart, start with the last testament, the Holy Quran. Let us start with the study on what the Holy Quran says about the Messiah, Yeshua ha’Mashiach, or in Arabic, Isa Al Masih.
The Holy Quran has called all Jews to perceive that the true Messiah of Israel has come; he is Jesus of the Gospels (the Injeel). The Holy Quran has called all Christians to look at Jesus Christ in the right perspective. Lastly, the Holy Quran also introduces all Muslims to Al Masih Isa.
Sahih International: [And mention] when the angels said, “O Mary, indeed Allah gives you good tidings of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary – distinguished in this world and the Hereafter and among those brought near [to Allah].
2Surah Al-Imran 3.45
- 86 out of a total of 114 Surahs are of the Meccan period (Zarkashi, B. Al-burhan fi ‘ulum al-Qur’an, Cairo, 1958,Vol. 1, pp. 193-194)
- Al-Quran verse in Arabic and English translation sourced from http://corpus.quran.com, with thanks.