There has been a lot of debate over the years as to why “radical Islam” is so intent on committing violent acts against Western Civilization. Some people have gone so far as to say it is Western Civilizations fault to begin with. And although it is admirable that these people try to look within to solve their problems, it is also not true.
These people like to point at the Crusades in the Middle Ages as the start of Islam’s hatred of the West. Unfortunately, this statement has no basis in fact, and to see why, we need to go back a little further.
In 313 AD, Roman Emperor Constantine the Great decriminalized Christianity across the Roman Empire (which at the time covered most of Europe, The Near and Middle East, and North Africa.) In 380 AD, Emperor Thessalonica made Nicene Christianity (later known as the Catholic Church) the state church of the Roman Empire, and the sole authorized religion. In 382 AD Pope Damasus I commissioned Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus (also known as Saint Jerome) to make a definitive Latin translation of the Christian Bible that became known as the “versio vulgata” (which translates to the “version commonly-used”), or simply “The Vulgate”. This Latin version of the Christian Bible was used by the Catholic church until the 2nd Vatican Council in 1964 when the church then used it to translate into local languages that are used presently at Catholic churches around the world). (this is important later on in this article).
In 476 AD, Rome (the city) fell to Germanic tribes, and the Western Roman Empire fell. However, the Eastern Roman Empire continued on. The Eastern Roman Empire (commonly known today as the Byzantine Empire) had it’s capital in modern day Istanbul (known at the time as Constantinople, named after Emperor Constantine who founded the city). (Both Byzantine Empire and Eastern Roman Empire are more modern terms and the people of the time simply referred to it as the Roman Empire, and called themselves Romans.) During this time, the Eastern Roman Empire ruled over Italy, and much of the near east and north Africa.
In 570 AD, the Islamic prophet and writer of the Quran, Muhammad, was born in Mecca (just outside the boundaries of the Roman Empire.
Muhammad wrote the Quran (the Holy Book of Islam) between 600 AD and his death in 632 AD. In the Quran, Muhammad declares that both he, and all Muslims, are descendants of Ishmael (the first son of Abraham).
By the time of Muhammad’s death, his armies had taken control of much of what is now known as Saudi Arabia. After his death, the Muslim conquest continued, and by 750 AD the Islamic Caliphate had invaded the Eastern Roman Empire territories in much of the near east, and north Africa, and had even gone as far as taking over much of Spain in military conquest. In the east, modern day Turkey was the only thing that stood between the Muslim invaders and the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. In the west, the Franks had stopped the Muslim invasion of Europe at the Battle of Tours in 732.
To the European Christians, (who were no longer ruled by Rome, but still held allegiance to the Pope in Rome), Islam was attacking on all sides, and the Crusades were a defensive war to push back against the Caliphate and reclaim land concurred by Islam.
So if the Crusades were a defensive war to stop (and turn back) the Muslim invasion of Christian lands, then where does the animosity between Islam and the Judeo-Christian West begin? It begins in the very foundation of Islam. As I mentioned before, Muhammad claimed that he (and all Muslims) are the descendants of Ishmael. To understand how this claim puts Islam at odds with Judeo-Christian civilization, we must understand the story of Ishmael.
As we already discussed, the modern Christian Bible (in the Latin form) had been circulating the Middle East for 200 years before Muhammed began writing the Quran. The Christian Bible contains the Old Testament which was a translation of the Greek Septuagint (which was a 3rd century BC Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures). The Septuagint was originally commissioned to be a Greek language version of the Jewish scriptures to be kept in the Library in Alexandria, but quickly became the common form of Jewish scriptures used. Therefore, it is very likely that Muhammad had access to these writings before he began writing the Quran.
Traditionally, the first 5 books of what the Christians call the Old Testament were said to be written by Moses (who lived around 1393-1273 BC), however, secular scholars tend to think they were written around 600 BC. (So the Judeo-Christian version of the birth of Ishmael predates Muhammad’s version by a minimum of 1200 years.)
Genesis (the first book of the Old Testament) brings us the story of Abraham. (beginning at Genesis 11:26). In chapter 15 of Genesis God speaks to Abraham and promises that he will have a son, and that his son will be the father of a great nation, and that his descendants shall be as numerous as the stars in the sky.
However, Abrahams wife Sarai told Abraham that she was barren and could not have children, so if he wanted a son, he should lay with her servant Hagar. From this union between Abraham and Hagar, Ishmael was conceived. God then came to Hagar and told her (Genesis 16:11-12) And the angel of the LORD said to her, “Now you have conceived and shall bear a son; you shall call him Ishmael, for the LORD has given heed to your affliction.
He shall be a wild ass of a man, with his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him; and he shall live at odds with all his kin.”
Then God went back to Abraham (Genesis 17:18-19) And Abraham said to God, “O that Ishmael might live in your sight!”
God said, “No, but your wife Sarah shall bear you a son, and you shall name him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.
Abraham’s son Isaac later fathered Jacob who’s name was changed to Israel and became the father of the 12 tribes of Israel, and therefore the father of all Judeo-Christian people.
In Genesis 21:10-12 Abraham casts out Hagar and Ishmael. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.”
The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son.
But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you.
Meanwhile, Islam claims to be the descendants of Ishmael, the wild ass of a man, with his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him; and he shall live at odds with all his kin.
So the old testament stats that Islam (the descendants of Ishmael) will live at odds with all their kin: (the descendants of Isaac, aka all Judeo-Christian people).
Islamic tradition is a little different from the Judeo-Christian version (even though it was likely based off of the Genesis account).
Islamic Scholar Ibn Kathir (1300-1373 AD) wrote that the angel told Hagar that “”His hand would be over everyone, and the hand of everyone would be against him. His brethren would rule over all the lands.” This changes the Genesis story from proclaiming the descendants of Ishmael to be violent madmen to proclaiming them the rightful rulers of the earth.
Islamic tradition also states that Abraham did not cast out Hagar and Ishmael, but instead took them to Mecca, and that Abraham and Ishmael built the Kaaba in Mecca (that big black cube that Muslims make pilgrimage to and walk around in circles during the Hajj).
So the religious implications here are that the (according to Islam) the Jews lied about Ishmael’s (and his descendants) right to “rule over all the lands”, so that Isaac and his descendants (the Jews) could claim that right. Christians were fooled by the Jewish lies. And therefore, Islam must be against Judeo-Christian people.
This is evident in the Opening of the Quran verse 6-7 “Guide us to the straight way. The way of those on whom you have bestowed your grace, not (the way) of those who earned your anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians).
On the flip side, Judeo-Christian people are left with 2 choices. Either Muhammad is correct that Islam is the descendants of Ishmael, and are therefore like a wild ass of a man, with his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him; and he shall live at odds with all his kin. or they must believe that Muhammed was a liar that made everything up for the sole purpose of tricking other people into attacking Judeo-Christian people.
In the end, it seems obvious that the animosity between the West, and Islam is based in the core beliefs of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.