The Ribat, a muslim model for Christian religious militia such as the Knights Templar?

Ribat at Monastir, Tunesia
source Wikipedia
In the paper "Europe Penetrated by lslam. - The Orientalization of the Order of the Templars" Jörg Feuchter writes the following:

"The Templars were the first military order,  a completely new, hybrid type of organization merging the hitherto mutually exclusive spheres of chivalry and monasticism into a single institution of sacred violence.a Beforehand, chivalry and monasticism had been regarded as incompatible spheres.

Although an accepted theory of just war had already been established by Augustine (354-430), killing, even in just wars, was considered an act that demanded penance. While monks viewed themselves as the true "soldiers of Christ" (milites Christi), the worldly trade of the soldier was largely disregarded by the church.

The fusion of chivalry and religious life in the Templars was soon accepted. Not only did the order receive a life rule at the council of Troyes in 1128 (or 1129) as well as wide-ranging privileges granted by Pope Innocent II in 1139, but on the latter occasion it was also officially declared a part of "God's militia" ("Dei militia").

When the Templars were first established in the twelfth century many followed Bernard of Clairvaux and hailed the new religious militia. Yet there were also those who scorned it, like Bernard's fellow Cistercian, Isaac de Stella, who called the Templar Order a monster whose rule of life must have been drawn from the
flfth gospel, i.e., that of the devil, time, during the entire Middle Ages there was never the slightest hint that the invention of the military orders, which had taken place in Palestine, had anything to do with a Muslim influence.

It was only at the beginning of the nineteenth century that the suggestion was flrst made that these orders were inspired by Muslim institutions. (...) According to supporters of this theory the context of Christianity provided an insufficient explanation for the birth of these orders. Instead, a Muslim antetype was imputed. The medieval Templars and other similar groups can, in this view, only be understood as a more or less direct imitation of the Islamic Ribat.

A Ribat is generally conceived of as a fortified convent populated by Islamic warrior monks, or, more succinctly, as a Muslim military monastery. This assertion of a Muslim model for the military orders evolved and thrived in the twentieth century. Although direct evidence was never put forward to support it, it has endured and continues to be defended by many scholars in religious and medieval studies.

However, research by Orientalists has revealed that the supposed model institution, the Muslim military monastery never existed. It has been shown that the notion of the Ribät as a convent of Muslim warrior monks is the result of an illegitimate conflation of spatially, chronologically, and conceptually dissociated references."


Wikipedia states: "Classically, ribat referred to the guard duty at a frontier outpost in order to defend dar al-Islam. The one who performs ribat is called murabit. Contemporary use of the term ribat is common among Islamic militant groups such as al-Qa'ida or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as well as by Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas to attack Jews who visit the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

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Introduction to the Middle Ages: Barbarians, Christians and Muslims - quotes

St. Stephen's Church at Umm al - Rasas
In his paper "Introduction to the Middle Ages - Barbarians, Christians and Muslims" Umberto Eco states:

"The Middle Ages were not only a period of European civilization. There was the western medieval period and that of the Eastern Empire, which still survived among the splendours of Byzantium for 1000 years after the fall of Rome. During those same centuries a great Arab civilization flourished, while in Europe there was a more or less clandestine, but very lively Jewish culture. The boundaries between these different cultural traditions were not as marked as people think today (the predominant image being the clash between Muslims and Christians during the Crusades). European philosophers knew Aristotle and other Greek authors through the medium of Arab translations, and western medicine made use of Arab science. Christians and Jewish sages, albeit discreetly, were in frequent contact.

However, what characterizes the western Middle Ages was its tendency to interpret every cultural contribution from other eras or civilizations in Christian terms. When discussing today whether to mention Europe's Christian roots in the European Constitution, some rightly object that Europe also has Greco-Roman and Jewish roots (and just think of the importance of the Bible) to say nothing of the ancient pre-Christian civilizations and therefore of Celtic, Germanic or Scandinavian mythology. But with regard to medieval Europe we certainly must speak of Christian roots. In medieval times, everything was translated and reinterpreted in the light of the new religion, right from the days of the Fathers of the Church. The Bible was known only in its Latin translation, the Vulgate of St. Jerome (340/345-420), and there were Latin versions of the Greek philosophers, used to show their convergence with the principles of Christian theology (and the monumental philosophical synthesis of Thomas Aquinas was aimed precisely at this)."

source of quotes and illustration

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March 18, 2016 - 702nd Commemoration death of Jaques de Molay

On March 18, 2016 we commemorated the 702nd anniversary of the death of the last official Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay. De Molay, born in 1244 was put to death in Paris by the King of France on 18 March 1314. He was the 23rd and last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, leading the Order from 20 April 1292 until it was dissolved by order of Pope Clement V in 1307.

Though little is known of his actual life and deeds except for his last years as Grand Master, he is the best known Templar, along with the Order's founder and first Grand Master, Hugues de Payens (1070–1136). Jacques de Molay's goal as Grand Master was to reform the Order, and adjust it to the situation in the Holy Land during the waning days of the Crusades.

Death-site plaque of Jaques de Molay on Isle des Juifs, Paris
As European support for the Crusades had dwindled, other forces were at work which sought to disband the Order and claim the wealth of the Templars as their own. King Philip IV of France, deeply in debt to the Templars, had De Molay and many other French Templars arrested in 1307 and tortured into making false confessions. When de Molay later retracted his confession, Philip had him executed by burning upon a scaffold on the Paris Ile des Juifs in the River Seine on 18 March 1314.

source text and illustrations

12th century Templar ecclesiastical privileges, powers and immunities by papal bull "Omne Datum Optimum"

Pope Alexander III, Barbarossa and his wife
In 1172 AD Pope Alexander III famous bull, omne datum optimum, confirming the previous privileges of the Templars, and conferring upon them additional powers and immunities, was published in England.

After the preamble, the pope earnestly exhorts the Templars to pursue with unceasing diligence their high vocation; to defend the eastern church with their whole hearts and souls, and to strike down the enemies of the cross of Christ. “By the authority of God, and the blessed Peter prince of apostles,” says the holy pontiff, “we have ordained and do determine, that the Temple in which ye are gathered together to the praise and glory of God, for the defence of the faithful, and the deliverance of the church, shall remain for evermore under the safeguard and protection of the holy apostolic see, together with all the goods and possessions which ye now lawfully enjoy, and all that ye may hereafter rightfully obtain, through the liberality of christian kings and princes, and the alms and oblations of the faithful.
“We moreover by these presents decree, that the regular discipline, which, by divine favour, hath been instituted in your house, shall be inviolably observed, and that the brethren who have there dedicated themselves to the service of the omnipotent God, shall live together in chastity and without property; and making good their profession both in word and deed, they shall remain subject and obedient in all things to the Master, or to him whom the Master shall have set in authority over them.

“Moreover, as the chief house at Jerusalem hath been the source and fountain of your sacred institution and order, the Master thereof shall always be considered the head and chief of all the houses and places appertaining thereunto. And we further decree, that at the decease of Odo, our beloved son in the Lord, and of each one of his successors, no man shall be set in authority over the brethren of the same house, except he be of the religious and military order; and has regularly professed your habit and fellowship; and has been chosen by all the brethren unanimously, or, at all events, by the greater part of them.

“And from henceforth it shall not be permitted to any ecclesiastical or secular person to infringe or diminish the customs and observances of your religion and profession, as instituted by the Master and brethren in common; and those rules which have been put into writing and observed by you for some time past, shall not be changed or altered except by the authority of the Master, with the consent of the majority of the chapter.

“... No ecclesiastic or secular person shall dare to exact from the Master and Brethren of the Temple, oaths, guarantees, or any such securities as are ordinarily required from the laity. 
“Since your sacred institution and religious chivalry have been established by divine Providence, it is not fit that you should enter into any other order with the view of leading a more religious life, for God, who is immutable and eternal, approveth not the inconstant heart; but wisheth rather the good purpose, when once begun, to be persevered in to the end of life.
The above bull further provides, in various ways, for the temporal and spiritual advantage of the Templars, and expressly extends the favours and indulgences, and the apostolical blessings, to all the serving brethren, as well as to the knights. It also confers upon the fraternity the important privilege of causing the churches of towns and villages lying under sentence of interdict to be opened once a year, and divine service to be celebrated within them.

A bull exactly similar to the above appears to have been issued by Pope Alexander, on the seventh id. Jan. 1162, addressed to the Master Bertrand de Blanquefort. Both the above instruments are to a great extent merely confirmatory of the privileges previously conceded to the Templars.

source "The History of the Knights Templars, Temple Church and The Temple", by Charles G. Addison Esq (London 1842)

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The Hospitaller Order - from caring to fighting

source Wikipedia
"The first authentic notice of an intention on the part of the Hospitallers to occupy themselves with military matters, occurs in the bull of Pope Innocent the Second, dated 1130 AD. This bull is addressed to the archbishops, bishops, and clergy of the church universal, and informs them that the Hospitallers then retained, at their own expense, a body of horsemen and foot soldiers, to defend the pilgrims in going to and in returning from the holy places. The pope observes that the funds of the hospital were insufficient to enable them effectually to fulfil the pious and holy task, and he exhorts the archbishops, bishops, and clergy, to minister to the necessities of the order out of their abundant property. The Hospitallers consequently at this period had resolved to add the task of protecting to that of tending and relieving pilgrims.

After the accession (1163) of Gilbert d’Assalit -a man described by De Vertot as “bold and enterprising, and of an extravagant genius”- to the "guardianship of the Hospital" (Grand Master of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, a post he held till 1169, TN) a military spirit was infused into the Hospitallers, which speedily predominated over their pious and charitable zeal in attending upon the poor and the sick.

Gilbert d’Assalit was the friend and confidant of Amalric, king of Jerusalem, and planned with that monarch a wicked invasion of Egypt in defiance of treaties. The Master of the Temple being consulted concerning the expedition, flatly refused to have anything to do with it, or to allow a single brother of the order of the Temple to accompany the king in arms; “For it appeared a hard matter to the Templars,” says William of Tyre, “to wage war without cause, in defiance of treaties, and against all honour and conscience, upon a friendly nation, preserving faith with us, and relying on our own faith.” Gilbert d’Assalit consequently determined to obtain for the king from his own brethren that aid which the Templars denied; and to tempt the Hospitallers to arm themselves generally as a great military society, in imitation of the Templars, and join the expedition to Egypt, Gilbert d’Assalit was authorised to promise them, in the name of the king, the possession of the wealthy and important city of Belbeis, the ancient Pelusium, in perpetual sovereignty.

According to De Vertot, the senior Hospitallers were greatly averse to the military projects of their chief: “They urged,” says he, “that they were a religious order, and that the church had not put arms into their hands to make conquests;” but the younger and more ardent of the brethren, burning to exchange the monotonous life of the cloister for the enterprize and activity of the camp, received the proposals of their superior with enthusiasm, and a majority of the chapter decided in favour of the plans and projects of their Guardian. They authorized him to borrow money of the Florentine and Genoese merchants, to take hired soldiers into the pay of the order, and to organize the Hospitallers as a great military society."

source "The History of the Knights Templars, Temple Church and The Temple", by Charles G. Addison Esq (London 1842)

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Templar privileges, powers and immunities set by papal bull "Omne Datum Optimum" 1172 AD

In 1172 AD Pope Alexander’s famous bull, omne datum optimum, confirming the previous privileges of the Templars, and conferring upon them additional powers and immunities, was published in England. It commences in the following terms:
“Alexander, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to his beloved sons, Odo, Master of the religious chivalry of the Temple, which is situated at Jerusalem, and to his successors, and to all the regularly professed brethren.

“Every good gift and every perfect reward cometh from above, descending from the Father of light, with whom there is no change nor shadow of variety. Therefore, O beloved children in the Lord, we praise the Almighty God, in respect of your holy fraternity, since your religion and venerated institution are celebrated throughout the entire world. For although by nature ye are children of wrath, and slaves to the pleasures of this life, yet by a favouring grace ye have not remained deaf hearers of the gospel, but, throwing aside all earthly pomps and enjoyments, and rejecting the broad road which leadeth unto death, ye have humbly chosen the arduous path to everlasting life. Faithfully fulfilling the character of soldiery of the Lord, ye constantly carry upon your breasts the sign of the life-giving cross. Moreover, like true Israelites, and most instructed fighters of the divine battle, inflamed with true charity, ye fulfil by your works the word of the gospel which saith, ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends;’ so that, in obedience to the voice of the great Shepherd, ye in nowise fear to lay down your lives for your brethren, and to defend them from the inroad of the pagans; and ye may well be termed holy warriors, since ye have been appointed by the Lord defenders of the catholic church and combatants of the enemies of Christ.”
source "The History of the Knights Templars, Temple Church and The Temple", by Charles G. Addison Esq (London 1842; illustration: Allegorical sculpture of Pope Alexander III and Saint Bernard of Clairvaux crowning Afonso I King of Portugal, in the Alcobaça Monastery., source Wikipedia

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