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God is on Our Side: The Longevity of Nations

They decided to march towards the enemy. A talisman, the True Cross, which was carried by their bishop, accompanied the knight-strong cavalry and infantry that were blessed by the Church.

God must be on their side. The Crusaders felt victory was certain – rather, guaranteed – against, whom they called, the heathens.

Saladin was waiting for the invading Crusaders. He had secured the only water resource, which the Crusaders desperately needed. Exhausted upon arrival, the Crusaders realized that they had to fight Saladin’s army if they wanted water.

The Battle of Hattin ensued and the Crusaders suffered a defeat. Saladin then went on to liberate Jerusalem.

Was it not possible for God to send down rain from the skies and provide water for the Crusaders? They were waging “holy war”, and according to the late Pope Urban II, it was against “the wicked race” whose fight guaranteed, “the remission of your sins, with the assurance of the imperishable glory of the kingdom of heaven.”

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ISIS made similar claims: they issued forgiveness cards– proof that the holder’s repentance was accepted, declared their fight to be a jihad, promised paradise to those who furthered its cause; yet, they continued to lose battles, territory, and support.

So whose side is God really on?

The Crusaders, after their loss at Hattin, struggled with this question. How could they have lost the battle if God was on their side?

Some Christians tried to explain this dilemma by acknowledging that Saladin was a “better Christian”. Others made fantastic claims: Saladin converted to Christianity or was a closet Christian.

Dante, in his imaginary hereafter, did not go as far as to claim that Saladin was a Christian, but nevertheless placed him in Limbo, a place for “virtuous non-Christians”.

The Crusaders seemed to have been using the outcome of battles as the yardstick of correct faith. The Quran, however, put to rest such reasoning using the battle outcomes of the Byzantines and the Sassanids:

The Byzantines have been defeated. In the nearest land. But they, after their defeat, will be victorious. Within three to nine years. To Allah belongs the command before and after. (Quran 30:2-4)

After the Sassanids defeated the Romans, the pagans of Makkah rejoiced and spurned the Muslims. The pagans of Makkah had aligned themselves with the Sassanids due to their shared paganism, and the Muslims had aligned with the Romans due to their shared belief in monotheism, scripture, prophets, and the hereafter.

Several years later, as the Quran foretold, the Romans were victorious over the Sassanids. The Muslims then rejoiced:

And that day the believers will rejoice. (Quran 30:4)

The Quran showed that God gave victory and defeat to more than one faith. Hence, if outcomes of battles were used to determine the correct faith, it would inevitably result in confirming the same faith as true and false.

History also testified to the fact that superpowers throughout the ages emerged from diverse backgrounds, the Sassanid Empire: Zoroastrian, the Byzantine Empire: Christian, the Ottoman Empire: Muslim, etc.

It can then be concluded that God did not give victory solely based on correctness of faith. This canon also makes the charge, “Religion causes war”, more difficult to accept.

It was not religion that caused men to take the plunge into atrocious battles with aspirations of guaranteed victory. Rather, it was man’s own delusion.

Religions didn’t kill, people killed. If victory came from God, as the Quran taught:

{And victory is not except from Allah, the Exalted in Might, the Wise.} (Quran 3:126), and if victory was not granted based on faith, then when was it granted?

To answer this question we would need to know what caused nations to be destroyed.

Destruction and the Longevity of Nations

{And We would not destroy the cities except while their people were wrongdoers}, this verse from the Quran made wrongdoing the reason for destruction.

However, another verse gave an exception to destruction if the people were good to others:

And your Lord does not destroy cities for wrongdoing while they are doing good to others. (Quran 11:117)

Wrong “dhulm” could be divided into two types:

a) Wrong committed purely against the Creator, like polytheism and disbelief

b) Wrong committed against mankind, like backbiting, slander, murder, breaking contracts, violating their rights, etc.

Exegesis (tafsir) scholars like At-Tabari, Al-Qurtubi, Ash-Shawkani, and Al-Baghawi interpreted the word “wrongdoing” as polytheism or disbelief (shirk or kufr) in the verse:

And your Lord does not destroy cities for wrongdoing while they are doing good to others.

In essence, God spared nations if the first type of wrong was committed as long as they did not commit the second type of wrong, but fulfilled the rights of each other.

Longevity, then, was granted to those who did more good to others and who fulfilled each other’s rights, irrespective of belief.

The Prophet Muhammad warned:

Beware of the supplication of the wronged, even from a disbeliever, as there is no barrier for it. (Sahih al-Jami’- Hasan)

Ibn Taymiyah composed a principle for this concept:

“Allah aids a just nation, even if it is a disbelieving one, and does not aid a wrongdoing nation, even if it is a believing one.”

God required that a nation first achieve a moral victory by fulfilling the rights of man before it could be granted longevity.

Saladin was known for his morals, chivalry, and benevolence. While the first Crusaders ruthlessly killed Muslim men, women, and children, until blood came up to their ankles, at the invasion of Jerusalem in 1099, Saladin chose, instead, to give safe passage to the Christian inhabitants of Jerusalem in 1187 when he took the city. He was keen to keep his word and promises while his crusading counterpart, Raynald of Chatillon, did the opposite.

Saladin was a Muslim who was morally victorious which led to victory, and longevity of his rule. ISIS and many Crusaders, on the other hand, despite their claims of holiness were violating the rights of innocent people. The mantle of religion was nothing but an addendum to their agenda of wealth, rule, and adventure.

Islam taught that its followers were not allowed to use faith as a justification to maraud people of other convictions. Rather, the followers had to actually do good to others and ensure that the rights of others were not violated if longevity was sought. With such principles, it would be inconceivable that Islam would be the motivating force behind atrocities, including those of the likes of ISIS.

About Shakiel Humayun
Shakiel Humayun, a dad, a husband, and an entrepreneur, was born and raised in New York City. He graduated from Baruch College with a BBA in Business Administration. He then completed postgraduate studies at the Umm-ul-Qura University in Makkah al-Mukarramah receiving an Associate’s Degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies with honors. He continued his studies at the College of Shariah at Umm-ul-Qura University. During his stay in Makkah, he had the opportunity to benefit from many scholars.He firmly believes in the importance of a strong community and as a result his non-profit endeavors include founding the Foundation for Knowledge and Development,Wellspring Elementary, the Hatebusters, and Masjid ‘Eesa ibn Maryam. He currently blogs at