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Monday, February 7, 2022

Medieval Jihad

  The concept of jidad predated the crusades by more than four hundred years. Before one can begin to understand the crusades, it is necessary to first understand jihad as it was understood and practiced in the Middle Ages. Below is a short explanation.

Jihad is the theology that justified all Muslim conquest throughout the Middle Ages.

Although Islamic scholars also recognize “internal” jihad, the struggle against sin and the striving for a more perfect Islamic life on the personal level, the external jihad against non-believers was recognized as legitimate — and was practiced — from the earliest days of Islam.

Islam divides the world into two houses or camps: The dar al-islam (usually translated as the Abode of Islam) and the dar al-harb (the Abode of War). Thus, in the name of peace, all regions still in the dar al-harb must be conquered and eliminated until the entire world lives harmoniously together in the happy house of the dar al-islam.

Indeed, many medieval Islamic scholars argued that it was impossible and wrong even to make truces with non-Islamic powers. Practical politics got in the way of such purity, and Islamic states found it increasingly convenient to make truces with non-believers. This led to acknowledgement that there was a grey area between the dar al-islam and the dar al-harb, namely the dar al-’ahd — the Abode of the Treaty.

Nevertheless, such treaties were always viewed as temporary conveniences. Throughout the crusader period, for example, it was widely believed that the absolute longest period of time a truce between a Muslim and non-Muslim power could last was 10 years, 10 months and 10 days. In short, the very concept of permanent peace between Muslims and non-Muslims was rejected as contrary to Sharia Law in this period.

After the death of Muhammad conquests in the Arabian Peninsula were undertaken in the name of jihad. In the name of jihad, the conquests continued:

·       634–644 Muslim conquests of Egypt, Libya, Persia and Syria

·       637 Muslim conquest of Jerusalem

·       649 Muslim attacks on Cyprus

·       678 First Muslim siege of Constantinople

·       698 Muslim capture of the Christian city of Carthage

·       711–713 Muslim conquest of most of the Iberian Peninsula

·       713 Muslim conquest of Corsica

·       717 Second Muslim siege of Constantinople

·     732 Muslim invasion of Southern France stopped on the Loire River by Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours Oct. 10.

·       825 Muslim conquest of Crete

·       827–902 Muslim conquest of Sicily

·       837 First Muslim raids on mainland Italy

·       888 Muslims establish a base for raiding on the coast of France

·     997 Muslims pillage the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella in Northern Spain

·       1086 Muslim conquest of Christian Antioch

Naturally, jihad also justified all the campaigns against the crusaders and the crusader states.

To find out what these wars were like, you need to look at individual campaigns, particularly theaters of war such as North Africa, Spain, the Byzantine Empire, the Crusader States, etc.

Dr. Helena P. Schrader is the author of six books set in the Holy Land in the Era of the Crusades. Find out more at:



Dr. Schrader's comprehensive study of the crusader states is available for pre-order on 


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