Alright, let’s start from the beginning:
One poster asked about why the Sahaba (companions of the Prophet) engaged in wars of expansion. I pointed out that during the era of the first 4 caliphs, the Rashidun Caliphate, the Muslims only had two targets in their sights: the Eastern Roman Empire and Sassanid Persia.
Well, those were the only powerful countries that bordered Arabia. They could not attack any other country, even if they wanted to do that. Attacking Persia and Byzantium while they were vulnerable of the wars between them was the only way for the Muslims to become a true power.
The question is why, and it is a very interesting historical question that has yet to be fully answered in a satisfactory matter. It’s a matter of interpretation, especially when you consider the fact that not all of the facts on the ground are available to us.
I proposed three possibilities:
1 – Eschatology
2 – An attempt to end corrupt Sassanid and Roman rule and introduce Islam, especially in Jerusalem due to its prophetic legacy.
3 – A preemptive strike.
I don’t have a final answer because I have not studied the topic in depth.
It is very easy to answer it. The Muslims wanted to expand, to establish their country as a power in that area, where the Romans and Persians had influence. Both states were in war at those times, both were weak, so the Muslims used that. It is simple as that.
But here is one thing I want to point out right away. First, look at a map from the 7th century – both of those empires bordered Arabia. Even before Muhammad’s death, the Romans had already started amassing troops on the border – this is a threat, and there were already indications that the Romans intended to engage in an offensive attack eventually. Muhammad did send an army to confront the Romans but it was for defensive purposes. Even the supposed radical scholar Ibn Taymiyyah said that after examining all of the Prophet’s wars (by mining all the sources available to him), he could only conclude that all of the Prophet’s wars were either defensive in nature or were pre-emptive strikes against tribes who were about to attack.
The Romans indeed spammed troops there, but not to invade Arabia, for them Arabia was lost, but to be ready for quick actions against Persia, because between Persia and the Roman Empire there was never trust, they broke the agreements as quickly as they made them. And, as I once said, I do not speak about the wars that Muhammad's wars, i speak about one case: the conquest of Jerusalem. I am focused on that, not on other wars,
As i said above, i do not speak about Syria, i do not speak about other Roman provinces. So, all those arguments you make about those wars are just for those wars. For that, we can discuss later.
Secondly, fighting and warfare was a part of everyday life for the Bedouin Arabs, and that explains why Islam did much to incorporate and regulate warfare in its doctrine. Turning the other cheek would not have been realistic for those people; Muhammad took that desert ethos of the Arabs and transmuted it in order to serve a higher cause.
Yes, warfare and vendetta and similar things were part of everyday life of the pagan Arabs. Nobody denies that. And about taking those ethos of the Arabs and the people there, there is a good answer given by st. Cyril the Philosopher, but since we do not talk about that here, i will not mention it.
I have no qualms in admitting that Islam incorporates warfare into its doctrine, but it regulates and limits it. The killing of civilians, monks, women, children, the elderly, and non-combatants is strictly prohibited. However, human nature being what it is, that was not always properly implemented in practice. On numerous occasions, Muslims did engage in massacres and unjust acts against Christians, I don’t deny that.
Do not forget to say that Muslims attacked Christians first too.
I do agree that Jesus’s teachings are beautiful and morally superior to follow on an individual basis, but it would not work on a wider societal level that needs law and order. Even the Byzantine Empire, which some Orthodox Christians love to praise, was ruled at certain times by bloody tyrants who justified their tyranny in the name of God. The Ottomans were no different.
Our Lord Jesus Christ never focused to teach on a wider societal level, because His mission was not to focus on laws, politics, authorities etc. but to help the fallen humanity and to free it from the chains of its sins. But, the Apostles did. Especially st. Paul. If you read carefully his Epistels, you will find verses that talk about authority, laws and about societal things.
You say taking something that belongs to someone else is wrong – I agree, but since when did Jerusalem belong to you or anyone else? Muslims took al-Sham by beating the Romans and got the city through warfare. If we go by your logic, then the Romans had no right to take Jerusalem either. This is the nature of empire, war, and politics. Jerusalem is no one’s personal property. The same goes for any piece of land on the Earth. All of the Earth belongs to God and God alone, and people are on a piece of land or territory as long as they can enforce their right to be there. No nation, so to speak, has the “right” to exist. You put up a flag, pick up your gun, and protect yourself. That is pretty terrible, but that’s how the “fallen” world works.
Where did i say that Jerusalem belonged to me? But at that time it belonged to the Christians. Yes, the Romans had no right to take Jerusalem either. But Jerusalem was taken by pagans, so we can not justify or condemn their actions from Christian and Islamic aspect too. But, with this argument you destroyed all your justified arguments you previously offered because indirectly you confessed that the Muslims took something that did not belong to them.
Even if we say the Romans did not have right in Jerusalem, that does not mean that Christians do not have right of that city, because most of the early Christians had Jewish origin.
And what about the Old Testament and the war on the Canaanites? Didn’t the Children of Israel feel mandated by God to take away the land of the Canaanites? I’ve yet to come across any Christian response that is convincing. You can say that Christ came along and changed that law, but that still does not address the fact that what we see in parts of the Old Testament is very much the complete opposite of the New Testament message. Old Testament law, some Christians say, was for those unruly and barbaric people. Okay, let’s accept that argument. Why can’t the same be said for people of Muhammad’s time and era? The pre-Islamic pagan Arabs even had sexual relations with their own mothers and consumed urine. The people of Canaan engaged in cannibalism according to some accounts. Maybe the Bedouin Arabs weren’t ready for the way shown by the New Testament either, and tough measures were needed to wipe away their idolatry.
Have you read the Old Testament carefully? Why God gave Canaan to the Israelites? Because in that place lived people that made such sins that the people nearby did not made. The worst of their sins - child sacrifices
! So, God, many times said that He patiently waits for those people to do what they will do before giving them in the hands of the Israelites. That is why God commands the Israelites to destroy just those people, not other people and not to oppress people of other nations that dwell among the Israelites. Those people made such big sins, that God punished them by erasing them from the face of the Earth. If you read the Bible, in many passages even after those events, the prophets announce that God's wrath will fall upon all that offer children as sacrifices. Well, we know what happened to the Aztecs.
You have not addressed the fact that Umar’s treatment of Christians and their property in Jerusalem was exemplary. Read the story of how he entered Jerusalem and forbid his men from praying inside The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in order to protect it from being converted to a mosque– all you did was bring me an example from 1099, which is irrelevant to this discussion.
True, he did all of that, i do not deny that, but still, that does not justify his war for Jerusalem. You still did not bring argument that will make the war for Jerusalem justified, even according to your Islamic standard of warfare.
Islam didn’t come to places like China or Indonesia or Malaysia through warfare – it was mostly through travel and trade. Did the early Muslims conquer Ethiopia? No, they didn’t, and that itself is very telling, even though Ethiopia (at the time, they called it Abyssinia) was very close to Arabia. So that brings back the question of why the first Muslims went after Rome and Persia specifically.
Yes, but it came on the Balkans through warfare, on the Iberian peninsula, north Africa, Sicily and other places. So, it is not just Rome and Persia.
As for the first Crusade, it was a political war disguised in the cloak of religion. The people of Europe were barbarically warring with one another nonstop and the Pope came up with the idea of creating a common enemy in order to unite the European masses at the time. Regardless of the moral legitimacy of his actions, his policy worked. Muslims need to get over the Crusades and just shut up about it. What’s past is past.
If the Muslims were peaceful and held their hands off the Christian holy sites, they would not have made Byzantium to appeal to the Pope for help. So, as we say in my country: What you called, that has answered.