In the year 1099 C.E., a European army that came to be known as the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem. These Crusaders conquered Jerusalem and the Holy Land with the utmost savagery and disregard for human life, ultimately killing thousands of Muslims, Jews, and Christians.
After the fall of Jerusalem, these Crusaders went about consolidating their position. They captured the smaller cities surrounding Jerusalem and some ports on the coast. This became the establishment of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
The powers back in Europe were shocked by the Crusaders success and immediately sent more soldiers and settlers to Jerusalem. The surviving Muslims in the area were not allowed to live in Jerusalem, but they continued to live in the surrounding towns and villages.
Outside of Jerusalem, life went on as it had before. Some of the Europeans were granted land but there was not much agriculture to be had in Jerusalem. The European settlers preferred to live in the larger cities like Antioch, Edessa, and Jerusalem, while allowing Muslims to work their lands.
The main source of income for Jerusalem was trade with other states. Despite the constant influx of pilgrims and immigrants from Europe, the Kingdom of Jerusalem had a pretty small military. Muslims weren’t allowed to join the army, so the only way to get soldiers was from local Christian Europeans.
However, there were military orders that the Kingdom could count on for protection. These military orders were made up of men who took an oath of monasticism, while also training to be soldiers. T
hese warrior monks became some of the best fighters of their time, since they devoted their entire life to fighting the armies of Islam. The two main orders were The Knights of Solomon’s Temple, also known as the Knights Templars, or just the Templars, and The Knights Hospitallers.
The more notorious of these two were the Templars. The Templars were a monastic order and answered only to the Pope in Rome. Their official purpose was to protect the Christian population from the Muslims, but they did much more than that.
You can compare their duty in some ways to the Ku Klux Klan in America. The KKK used terrorism, intimidation, and brutality to keep African-American’s in line during the days after slavery.
The Templars used these same methods to keep the Muslims in line. But the Templars were more than just soldiers. They were also bankers and investors. The property the Templars owned, both in Jerusalem and in Europe was not taxed.
They enjoyed large gifts of wealth and property from the Pope and many European monarchs. One very interesting exception the Templars enjoyed was that they were allowed to deal in interest.
In those days the Catholic Church forbade its followers from becoming involved in usury or interest. But the Templars were exempt from this rule, and amassed a huge fortune as a result. And since they were so rich, they could loan huge sums of money.
The Templars charged interest on these loans, and they were the only people in the Christian world who could do so. Eventually the Templars became very powerful and influential. Over the centuries, after the Crusades ended and they left Jerusalem, the Templars developed very strange and dark initiation rituals.
They kept much of their order in secrecy and were accused of many un-Christian practices. As time went on, and the Templars became a regular part of European society, their wealth and power became a point of envy.
The Pope and King of France conspired to persecute and destroy the Templars. They were charged with many crimes such as homosexuality and devil-worship. Some of these charges were probably overblown.
As the persecution increased, the Templars were forced to go underground. The organization went through a number of changes, such as no longer being a religious organization, opening membership to all men, and leaving the military aspect of their organization behind.
However, the biggest change was their name, which became the Freemasons. You can see some of the remnants of the Templars in the Freemasonic practices today. For example they still use a lot of middle-eastern symbolism like the crescent, a scimitar, and sometimes they wear a fez at their meetings.
Also strangely today’s Freemasons still have a strong attachment to Jewish legend and to Jerusalem itself. Muslims who are confused about the Freemasons of today and whether it is permissible to join them should consider how they came into being.
Their original purpose was to fight and terrorize Muslims.
The Knights Hospitalers were formed to care for the sick Christians in Jerusalem, and provide aid to Christian Pilgrims. After some time they expanded their duties to protecting pilgrims coming to Jerusalem, and that eventually led to them becoming a full-fledged fighting force similar to the Templars.
They maintained two divisions, one for medical care, and the other for fighting Muslims. Like the Knights Templars they only answered to the Pope. Due to a vow of poverty, they did not get as individually wealthy as the Templars, but the order did own large tracts of land in Palestine and Europe.
After the Muslims regained control in Palestine, the Hospitalers were forced to relocate to the Greek island of Rhodes, and then to the island of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea. They did not face persecution like the Templars, probably because they remained loyal to the Pope. The Knights Hospitalers now go by the name Knights of Malta, and make Spain their headquarters.