Although Mohammed, the creator and prophet of Islam, died in A.D. 632, he left behind the Koran and his own example for his converts to follow. The commandment to wage continuous and unabated holy war or “jihad” against the enemies of Allah, the god of Islam, spurred the Arab tribes to new heights of conquest. The unrelenting wars against Christendom, Jews, and the various fellow pagans of Arabia and elsewhere, lasted for more than a thousand years. Successes were followed by the establishment of Sharia Law in the conquered nations. Within their first century, the followers of Islam stretched from the borders of China to the southern borders of France and over all of North Africa and the Middle East. At the Battle of Tours in France in 732, Charles “The Hammer” Martel finally stopped the Muslim horde and drove them back over the Pyrenees. There were some within Christendom, including several popes, who began advocating a Christian military response in kind. In 1095 they got their wish.
In 1065 seven thousand Christians were ambushed and massacred on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The leaders of the Eastern Church in Constantinople also asked for help. Pope Urban II convinced famous preachers like Bernard of Clairveaux to promote a crusade to liberate “The Holy Land” from Muslim domination. The retaking of Jerusalem became the raison d’ être for the recruiting of a multi-national army of western Christendom to fight the Muslims. About 130,000 people set out on the First Crusade, with about 13,000 nobles and knights, perhaps 50,000 trained infantry, 15,000 non-combatants—priests, camp-followers, and an unknown number of peasants and villagers “swept up in the excitement”.