SALADIN AND THE MUSLIMS RETAKE JERUSALEM IN THE 12TH CENTURY

SALADIN (c. 1138-1193)


Saladin by an Italian painter in 1568

Salah a;-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyud (1138-1193), a Kurdish warrior better known as Saladin, rallied Islamic forces and drove the Crusaders out of Jerusalem and Palestine in the 12th century. The Crusaders were never able to reclaim Jerusalem after that, even after Richard the Lion Hearted and Saladin held a summit meeting.

Saladin become so well known Dante included him with his Homer, Caesar and Plato in Limbo, the highest place non-Christians could enter. He also appeared in romances by Sir Walter Scott. In recent years his name has been invoked by people like Saddam Hussein and Hafez Assad as a cry for Muslims to reclaim the Holy Land. [Source: David Van Biema, Time, Dec. 26, 1999]

Saladin was small and somewhat frail but Robert Wernick wrote in Smithsonian magazine that Saladin "was an extraordinary figure too. Wise, wily, devout, soft-spoken, a politician more than military hero.” "He had achieved the miracle of uniting of uniting most of the squabbling emirates, sultanates and kingdoms of the Muslim East. He had also fulfilled a century old Muslim dream of breaking the power of the Crusading states and reconquering the holy city of Jerusalem...He ruled by personal authority and knew how to reinforce his prestige by theatrical gestures."

David Van Biema wrote in Time, “When Dante Alighieri compiled his great medieval Who's Who of heroes and villains, the Divine Comedy, the highest a non-Christian could climb was Limbo. Ancient pagans had to be virtuous indeed to warrant inclusion: the residents included Homer, Caesar, Plato and Dante's guide, Vergil. But perhaps the most surprising entry in Dante's catalog of "great-hearted souls" was a figure "solitary, set apart." “That figure was Saladin. It is testament to his extraordinary stature in the Middle Ages that not only was Saladin the sole "modern" mentioned--he had been dead barely 100 years when Dante wrote--but also that a man who had made his name successfully battling Christianity would be lionized by the author of perhaps the most Christ-centered verse ever penned.” [Source: David Van Biema, Time, Dec. 26, 1999]

Websites and Resources: Islam Islam.com islam.com ; Islamic City islamicity.com ; Islam 101 islam101.net ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org/islam ; BBC article bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam ; Patheos Library – Islam patheos.com/Library/Islam ; University of Southern California Compendium of Muslim Texts web.archive.org ; Encyclopædia Britannica article on Islam britannica.com ; Islam at Project Gutenberg gutenberg.org ; Islam from UCB Libraries GovPubs web.archive.org ; Muslims: PBS Frontline documentary pbs.org frontline ; Discover Islam dislam.org ; Islamic History: Islamic History Resources uga.edu/islam/history ; Internet Islamic History Sourcebook fordham.edu/halsall/islam/islamsbook ; Islamic History friesian.com/islam ; Islamic Civilization cyberistan.org ; Muslim Heritage muslimheritage.com ; Brief history of Islam barkati.net ; Chronological history of Islam barkati.net

Saladin's Life and Character

Saladin was born in 1138 in the mountain town of Takrit in a Kurdish area in what is now Iraq. During his youth the Muslim world consisted of a bunch of squabbling warlords living under the Christian shadow. The Crusaders occupied four militarily aggressive states and the Muslims were unable to unify against them.

Saladin’s uncle, the one-eyed ruffian Sirkuh, was the de facto king of Egypt. When he died in 1169, Saladin took his place and after a 17 year campaign, using diplomacy and violence, with some luck, he united Muslims in Egypt, Syria and much of the Middle East. He was able to assemble an army to fight the Crusaders.

Saladin's courage, chivalry and generosity were admired by the Crusaders. According to one story, he felt sorry for his rival Richard the Lionhearted after he fell sick and ordered his messengers to bring him some snow and ice from the mountains for some relief. By the same token he once ordered his troops not to aim their catapults at a pavilion where the newlywed stepdaughter of a ruthless French Crusader was staying with her husband only to personally chop of the head of French lord when he had the chance. [Source: Robert Wernick, Smithsonian magazine, September 1986]

Saladin’s Desire to Reclaim Jerusalem for the Muslims


Portrait of Saladin before AD 1185

Saladin said: "If God blesses us by enabling us to drive His enemies out of Jerusalem, how fortunate and happy we would be! For Jerusalem has been controlled by the enemy for ninety-one years, during which time God has received nothing from us here in the way of adoration. At the same time, the zeal of the Muslim rulers to deliver it languished. Time passed, and so did many [in different] generations, while the Franks succeeded in rooting themselves strongly there. Now God has reserved the merit of its recovery for one house, the house of the sons of Ayyub, in order to unite all hearts in appreciation of its members." [Source: Hadia Dajani-Shakeel. "Some Medieval Accounts of Salah al-Din's Recovery of Jerusalem (Al-Quds)", “Studia Palaestina: Studies in honour of Constantine K. Zurayk,” edited by Hisham Nashabe, Institute for Palestine Studies, Beirut 1988 <^>]

In "Some Medieval Accounts of Salah al-Din's Recovery of Jerusalem”, Hadia Dajani-Shakeel wrote: “This statement not only sums up Salah al-Din's attitude towards Jerusalem but also embodies what the Arabs and the Muslims of the area keenly felt. That the liberation of Jerusalem had always been the ultimate goal of Salah al-Din (d. A.H. 589/A.D. 1193), as it had been that of his predecessor Nur al-Din Zangi (d. A.H. 569/A.D. 1174), is a historical fact for which evidence is abundant. Interruptions in Salah al-Din's progress towards achieving this goal may have led some historians to minimize his quest for the recovery of the city, but, in our judgment, this is a misreading of history.” <^>

Al-Sulami and Jihad Against the Crusaders

In "Some Medieval Accounts of Salah al-Din's Recovery of Jerusalem”, Hadia Dajani-Shakeel wrote: “When the first Crusaders entered Syria in A.H. 49l/A.D. 1097, the first scholars to raise their voices in condemnation of the passiveness of the Muslim rulers, and to warn of the potentially disastrous consequences of the Crusade, were in Damascus. Among them was 'Ali Ibn Tahir al-Sulami (d. A.H. 5OIIAD 1106). Al-Sulami wrote one of the earliest treatises on the jihad in response to the Crusade. [Source: Hadia Dajani-Shakeel. "Some Medieval Accounts of Salah al-Din's Recovery of Jerusalem (Al-Quds)", “Studia Palaestina: Studies in honour of Constantine K. Zurayk,” edited by Hisham Nashabe, Institute for Palestine Studies, Beirut 1988 <^>]

“Al-Sulami defined the Crusade as an invasion by Western nations, which started with the conquest of Sicily and parts of al-Andalus. These same nations, having encountered the weakness of the Muslims in the West and heard reports about their disunity in the East, marched against the East, while their ultimate goal was the conquest of Jerusalem. This definition of the Crusades by al-Sulami appears to have escaped many modern historians, who allege that the Muslims underestimated the nature and motives of the Crusade in the twelfth century. <^>

“Al-Sulami, who preached in Damascus until his death, interpreted the Crusade as a divine warning to test the willingness of the Muslims to refrain from committing acts that God forbade and to unde take the duty of jihad, which they had neglected. He warned his contemporaries that if they did not act immediately, while the enemy was still weak and far from his sources of supply, they would not be able to uproot him. <^>

“In his preaching al-Sulami provided his contemporaries with a new definition of jihad that, although derived to a great extent from the Islamic theory of war, was aimed at the confrontation with the Crusaders. According to him: "The early jurists emphasized the offensive Jihad, or the Jihad against enemies in countries that are nearby or remote. However, if an enemy attacks the Muslims, as this enemy [the Crusaders] has done, then pursuing him in areas that he has conquered from us [an allusion to those parts of Syria and Palestine then held by the Crusaders] is a just war aimed at protecting lives, children, and families and at preserving those parts that are still under our control."

“Al-Sulami, who established the theoretical foundations of the Countercrusade, did not live long enough to see the results of his teachings. However, he sowed the seeds of national and religious renaissance, which passed from one generation of scholars to another. These scholars, who included Syrian, Palestinian, Egyptian, Baghdadi, Andalusian, and even non-Arab Muslims - among whom the most outspoken was 'Imad al-Din al-lsfahani - passed the torch of the liberation of Jerusalem and other occupied terrltories in Syria and Palestine to Salah al-Din, who grew up and flourished in the same environment. The result of the long ideological campaign was manifested in the popular response to Salah al-Din's successes in Palestine, especially after the battle of Hittin. According to Ibn Shaddad, "Knowing that Salah al-Din was marching on Jerusalem, people had flocked from Syria and Egypt to join him in his battle,'' hoping thereby to earn a spiritual reward. Every famous person from Egypt and Syria witnessed the liberation, so that when Salah al-Din entered the city he was surrounded by scholars, jurists, sufis, and poets as well as by crowds of civilians and members of the military. <^>


Saladin's conquest of Egypt


Rise of the Islamic War Machine

Bernard Lewis wrote in The New Yorker: “In the course of human history, many civilizations have risen and fallen—China, India, Greece, Rome, and, before them, the ancient civilizations of the Middle East. During the centuries that in European history are called medieval, the most advanced civilization in the world was undoubtedly that of Islam. Islam may have been equalled—or even, in some ways, surpassed—by India and China, but both of those civilizations remained essentially limited to one region and to one ethnic group, and their impact on the rest of the world was correspondingly restricted. The civilization of Islam, on the other hand, was ecumenical in its outlook, and explicitly so in its aspirations. One of the basic tasks bequeathed to Muslims by the Prophet was jihad. This word, which literally means “striving,” was usually cited in the Qur’anic phrase “striving in the path of God” and was interpreted to mean armed struggle for the defense or advancement of Muslim power. In principle, the world was divided into two houses: the House of Islam, in which a Muslim government ruled and Muslim law prevailed, and the House of War, the rest of the world, still inhabited and, more important, ruled by infidels. Between the two, there was to be a perpetual state of war until the entire world either embraced Islam or submitted to the rule of the Muslim state. [Source: Bernard Lewis, The New Yorker, November 19, 2001 <||>]

“From an early date, Muslims knew that there were certain differences among the peoples of the House of War. Most of them were simply polytheists and idolaters, who represented no serious threat to Islam and were likely prospects for conversion. The major exception was the Christians, whom Muslims recognized as having a religion of the same kind as their own, and therefore as their primary rival in the struggle for world domination—or, as they would have put it, world enlightenment. It is surely significant that the Qur’anic and other inscriptions on the Dome of the Rock, one of the earliest Muslim religious structures outside Arabia, built in Jerusalem between 691 and 692 A.D., include a number of directly anti-Christian polemics: “Praise be to God, who begets no son, and has no partner,” and “He is God, one, eternal. He does not beget, nor is he begotten, and he has no peer.” For the early Muslims, the leader of Christendom, the Christian equivalent of the Muslim caliph, was the Byzantine emperor in Constantinople. Later, his place was taken by the Holy Roman Emperor in Vienna, and his in turn by the new rulers of the West. Each of these, in his time, was the principal adversary of the jihad. <||>

“In practice, of course, the application of jihad wasn’t always rigorous or violent. The canonically obligatory state of war could be interrupted by what were legally defined as “truces,” but these differed little from the so-called peace treaties the warring European powers signed with one another. Such truces were made by the Prophet with his pagan enemies, and they became the basis of what one might call Islamic international law. In the lands under Muslim rule, Islamic law required that Jews and Christians be allowed to practice their religions and run their own affairs, subject to certain disabilities, the most important being a poll tax that they were required to pay. In modern parlance, Jews and Christians in the classical Islamic state were what we would call second-class citizens, but second-class citizenship, established by law and the Qur’an and recognized by public opinion, was far better than the total lack of citizenship that was the fate of non-Christians and even of some deviant Christians in the West. The jihad also did not prevent Muslim governments from occasionally seeking Christian allies against Muslim rivals—even during The Crusades, when Christians set up four principalities in the Syro-Palestinian area. The great twelfth-century Muslim leader Saladin, for instance, entered into an agreement with the Crusader king of Jerusalem, to keep the peace for their mutual convenience. <||>


Byzantine-Arab wars in 867 and 1045


“Under the medieval caliphate, and again under the Persian and Turkish dynasties, the empire of Islam was the richest, most powerful, most creative, most enlightened region in the world, and for most of the Middle Ages Christendom was on the defensive. In the fifteenth century, the Christian counterattack expanded. The Tatars were expelled from Russia, and the Moors from Spain. But in southeastern Europe, where the Ottoman sultan confronted first the Byzantine and then the Holy Roman Emperor, Muslim power prevailed, and these setbacks were seen as minor and peripheral. As late as the seventeenth century, Turkish pashas still ruled in Budapest and Belgrade, Turkish armies were besieging Vienna, and Barbary corsairs were raiding lands as distant as the British Isles and, on one occasion, in 1627, even Iceland.” <||>

Saladin Defeats the Crusaders Retakes Jerusalem for the Muslims

Saladin defeated the Crusaders at Hattin, near the Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee in presntday Israel. Saladin commanded an army with a cavalry with 12,000 men. The Christians were lured from Jerusalem to Lake Tiberias with the kidnaping of a knight's wife. The Christians became overheated in their armor and the Muslims kept them from getting water and in the end the Christians were easily defeated.

When the Christians retreated, Saladin advanced on Jerusalem. The Crusaders surrendered after two weeks without a battle. Contrary to what happened when the Crusaders took Jerusalem, there was no looting and slaughter under the Muslims. Afterwards Christians were allowed to visit Jerusalem but only after paying a tribute and submitting to blindfolds as they passed the Muslim monuments.

David Van Biema wrote in Time, “A generation before, European Crusaders had conquered Jerusalem, massacring its Muslim and Jewish inhabitants. The Franks, as they were called, then occupied four militarily aggressive states in the Holy Land. The great Syrian leader Nur al-Din predicted that expelling the invaders would require a holy war of the sort that had propelled Islam's first great wave half a millennium earlier, but given the treacherous regional crosscurrents, such a united front seemed unlikely. [Source: David Van Biema, Time, Dec. 26, 1999 \~\]

“Saladin got his chance with the death, in 1169, of his uncle Shirkuh...A seasoned warrior despite his small stature and frailty, Saladin still had a tough hand to play. He was a Kurd (even then a drawback in Middle Eastern politics), and he was from Syria, a Sunni state, trying to rule Egypt, a Shi'ite country. But a masterly 17-year campaign employing diplomacy, the sword and great good fortune made him lord of Egypt, Syria and much of Mesopotamia. The lands bracketed the Crusader states, and their combined might made plausible Nur al-Din's dream of a Muslim-Christian showdown.” \~\



“That encounter took place near Hattin, within sight of the Golan Heights. Saladin had assembled a pan-Islamic force of 12,000 cavalry near Lake Tiberias. The Christians were lured on a long July march across Galilee's parched Plain of Lubiya. Saladin had the right bait--he had besieged the lakeside town in which a knight's wife was staying--and the Crusader force, frying in heavy armor and unable to fight its way to the water, was overwhelmed by the Muslims. When the Christian knights retreated to the coastal fortress of Tyre, Saladin turned his army inland. Jerusalem withstood him for less than two weeks. In stark contrast to the earlier Crusader bloodbath, his occupiers neither murdered nor looted. "Christians everywhere will remember the kindness we have bestowed upon them," he said. \~\

Accounts of Saladin’s Capture of Jerusalem

In "Some Medieval Accounts of Salah al-Din's Recovery of Jerusalem”, Hadia Dajani-Shakeel wrote: “The accounts of the actual capture of Jerusalem are varied with respect to the perspective from which they were written and the details they give. However, despite some discrepancies, they cohere and complement one another. [Source: Hadia Dajani-Shakeel. "Some Medieval Accounts of Salah al-Din's Recovery of Jerusalem (Al-Quds)", “Studia Palaestina: Studies in honour of Constantine K. Zurayk,” edited by Hisham Nashabe, Institute for Palestine Studies, Beirut 1988 <^>]

“The Arabic accounts give us general information about Salah al- Din's attack on Jerusalem, but they fail to identify the exact locations of some of his battles and other important information about the Latins in the city, as well as about Salah al-Din's contacts with the Arab-Christian community in Jerusalem. In order to complete this picture we will utilize the chronicle of Ernoul (Chroniquc d'Er- noul). Ernoul (d. A.D. 1230) was the squire of Balian of Ibelin, the Latin leader who negotiated the surrender of Jerusalem to Salah al- Din. He was an eyewitness to the battle of Jerusalem and provides insight into what was happening within the walled city,. <^>

“There is some measure of coherence among the Arabic accounts as well as between the Arabic accounts and Ernoul's account. The consistency of these accounts itself supports their claim to authenticity. In addition to the medieval accounts, we will also use, wherever possible, modern sources that have utilized accounts in Latin. <^>

Jerusalem in the Summer of 1187: Before Saladin’s Offensive

In "Some Medieval Accounts of Salah al-Din's Recovery of Jerusalem”, Hadia Dajani-Shakeel wrote: Salah al-Din's decisive victory at Hittin on Saturday, 24 Rabi' al- Thani, A.H. 583/4 July, A.D. 1187 opened the way for him to reconquer the rest of Palestine. Thus, within a period of two months, from July to September, he recovered all the inland cities and fortresses except Jerusalem, al-Karak, and al-Shawbak in Transjordan, as well as some fortresses in the north, like Kawkab (Belvoir) and Safad. He also recovered all major ports between 'Asqalan and Jubayl except Tyre.2 In so doing, he cleared the land route between Egypt and Palestine for the movement of his troops and established his fleet in the Mediterranean between Alexandria and Acre. His fleet went into action immediately (Jumada al-Thani, A.H. 583/September, A.D. 1187) and blocked the movement of European ships in the area under its control. [Source: Hadia Dajani-Shakeel. "Some Medieval Accounts of Salah al-Din's Recovery of Jerusalem (Al-Quds)", “Studia Palaestina: Studies in honour of Constantine K. Zurayk,” edited by Hisham Nashabe, Institute for Palestine Studies, Beirut 1988]


Christians in Jerusalem


“Jerusalem, the capital of the Latin kingdom, had suffered a great loss of manpower as a result of Hittin. Among those captured or killed were the king, Gui of Lusignan; his counsellors; his brother Amaury, the constable of the kingdom; the grand masters of the Templars and the Hospitallers, and a large number of the knights of these two military orders. The only surviving leaders, who fled the battle to safety through Muslim lines, were Raymond of Tripoli, Reynold of Sidon, and Balian of Ibelin (referred to in Arabic sources as Balian Ibn Barzan). These men had enjoyed friendly relations with Salah al-Din and were suspected by the Latins of complicity with him. Of the three, the most important for our discussion is Balian. <^>

“While Salah al-Din mopped up Crusader strongholds in Palestine after the battle of Hittin, Jerusalem was placed under a temporary government, with Queen Sybil, wife of Gui of Lusignan, as the ruler along with Heraclius, the controversial and unpopular patriarch. The city faced many problems. In addition to the loss of most of its male population, it suffered from a shortage of food because the battle of Hittin had occurred at harvest time and, accordingly, the crops were lost. <^>

“The shortage of food and supplies became more acute as refugees poured into Jerusalem from most of the areas surrounding it. Some of these refugees must have gone to Jerusalem seeking shelter within its walls, while others presumably went to defend the city, just as native Palestinians had done ninety years earlier. The city, which could accommodate a population of about 30,000, became the residence of about 60,000 persons, according to estimates of Arab chroniclers. As Runciman indicates, there were fifty women and children for every man. Refugees so crowded the streets, the churches, and the houses that the walled city could hardly accommodate them. According to Ibn al-Athir's somewhat exaggerated description, when Salah al-Din's forces approached the city, "they saw on the wall a terrifying crowd of men and heard an uproar of voices coming from the people inside the wall, which led them to infer that a large population was assembled there.''

Contacts Between Saladin and the Christians Holding Jerusalem

In "Some Medieval Accounts of Salah al-Din's Recovery of Jerusalem”, Hadia Dajani-Shakeel wrote: “Faced with all these problems, Jerusalem could not have resisted an attack by Salah al-Din for very long. Realizing this, its authorities tried to establish contact with Salah al-Din to discuss the future of the city. We have two different accounts of their efforts. The first, by Abu Shamah, who quotes al-Qadisi, indicates that Salah al-Din had said in a letter to a relative that the sovereign of Jerusalem (Malik al-Quds) had contacted him during his attack on Tyre (Jumada al-Thani, A.H. 583/August, A.D. 1187) to ask for safe conduct (aman), and that Salah al-Din had responded, "I will come to you in Jerusalem." According to al-Qadisi, the astrologers informed Salah al-Din that the stars indicated he would enter Jerusalem but that he would lose one eye. To this Salah al-Din responded, "I would not mind losing my sight if I took the city." Only the siege of Tyre prevented him from going to Jerusalem. [Source: Hadia Dajani-Shakeel. "Some Medieval Accounts of Salah al-Din's Recovery of Jerusalem (Al-Quds)", “Studia Palaestina: Studies in honour of Constantine K. Zurayk,” edited by Hisham Nashabe, Institute for Palestine Studies, Beirut 1988 <^>]



“The second account is by Emoul, the Latin chronicler who was in Jerusalem during Salah al-Din's invasion of the Latin kingdom, and it provides details that do not appear in the Arabic sources. Ernoul indicates that a delegation of citizens from Jerusalem went to see Salah al-Din on the day he took 'Asqalan (Jumada al-Thani, A.H. 583/September, A.D. 1187) to ask for a peaceful solution for Jerusalem. On the day of the meeting there was an eclipse of the sun, which the Latin delegates considered to be a bad omen. Never- theless, Salah al-Din offered them generous terms for the city: They were to be allowed to remain in the city temporarily, they were to retain the land within a radius of five leagues around it, and they were to receive the supplies they needed from Salah al-Din. The settlement was to remain valid until Pentecost. If the citizens of Jerusalem could obtain external help, they would remain rulers of the city; if not, they were to surrender it and remove themselves to Christian lands. According to Ernoul, the delegation rejected this offer, saying they would never give up the city in which "the Lord died for them." Salah al-Din then vowed to take Jerusalem by force and started his march against the city. <^>

“It seems most probable that there was more than one contact between Salah al-Din and the authorities in Jerusalem, the first being in Tyre. 'Imad al-Din informs us that while at Tyre Salah al-Din summoned King Gui and the grand master of the Templars and promised both of them freedom if they helped him secure the surrender of other cities. These two did in fact later help him to secure the surrender of 'Asqalan and Gaza. Salah al-Din may at the same time also have contacted Balian of Ibelin, who was already in Tyre, and asked him to secure the surrender of Jerusalem. Ernoul mentions that while Salah al-Din was in Tyre, Balian sought his permission to go to Jerusalem in order to rescue his wife, Maria Comnena, as well as other members of his family and their possessions. Salah al-Din granted him permission to go to Jerusalem on the condition that he not bear weapons against him and that he spend only one night there. <^>

“In so doing, Salah al-Din must have hoped to use Balian as his chief negotiator for the surrender of Jerusalem. Balian ultimately did negotiate the surrender of the city, but only after he had broken his agreement with Salah al-Din and played a dramatic role in its defence. <^>

Jerusalem Prepares for Saladin’s Assault

Hadia Dajani-Shakeel wrote: “After arriving in Jerusalem, Balian was pressed by the patriarch to remain there and to mobilize the population for its defence. At first Balian resisted, insisting that he would adhere 10 his commitment to Salah al-Din. But at the insistence ol the patriarch, who absolved him of his oath, Balian finally consented to accept the leadership of the city. His rank among the Latins was, according to Ibn al-Athir, analogous to that of a king. [Source: Hadia Dajani-Shakeel. "Some Medieval Accounts of Salah al-Din's Recovery of Jerusalem (Al-Quds)", “Studia Palaestina: Studies in honour of Constantine K. Zurayk,” edited by Hisham Nashabe, Institute for Palestine Studies, Beirut 1988 <^>]


Saladin council

“Balian began immediately to consolidate the Latin forces and plan the defence of the city. According to Latin sources, he found only two knights in the city who had survived Hittin. Thus, to make up for the shortage of male fighters, he knighted fifty sons of the nobility. According to Runciman, he knighted every boy of noble origin who was over sixteen years of age; he also knighted sixty burgesses. Since money was scarce, Balian, with the blessing of the Patriarch Heraclius, stripped the silver from the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and used it, along with some church funds and money that King Henry II of England had sent to the Hospitallers, to produce a currency. He then distributed arms to every able-bodied man in the city. <^>

“As the undisputed ruler of Jerusalem, Balian is most likely to have contacted Salah al-Din once again regarding Jerusalem at 'Asqa- lan. According to Latin sources, Balian wrote him at 'Asqalan to apologize for having broken his agreement and to ask his forgiveness, which Salah al-Din gave.2

“No one knows the nature of the secret correspondence between the two leaders, but the terms that Ernoul alleges Salah al-Din to have proposed, regarding the fate of Jerusalem, seem doubtful. Salah al-Din was by then well aware that Jerusalem would not be able to hold out against him for long, especially since he had isolated it almost completely. Nor would he have allowed a situation to develop in Jerusalem such as that in Tyre, which had become the centre of resistance against his forces. Furthermore, even before the capture of 'Asqalan, Salah al-Din had written to the caliph and to other relatives announcing his intention to capture the city. In one letter he stated, "The march to Jerusalem will not be delayed, for this is precisely the right time to liberate it."

“Ernoul's account need not be taken as a contradiction of other accounts. Moreover, although it raises many questions, one cannot discount it. Hence, it seems quite likely that a Latin delegation went to 'Asqalan proposing the kind of terms that Ernoul attributed to Salah al-Din, that Salah al-Din rejected them, and that the authorities in Jerusalem began their preparations for the defence of the city. <^>

Saladin Arrives in Jerusalem Area

Hadia Dajani-Shakeel wrote: “After capturing 'Asqalan on 16 Jumada al-Thani, A.H. 583!5 September, A.D. 1187 and arranging for its administration and settlement, Salah al-Din summoned all his forces, which were then dispersed along the coast between 'Asqalan and Jubayl. They joined him, according to Ibn Shaddad, "after having fulfiled their desires in pillaging and raiding," and he then marched on Jerusalem, "entrusting his affairs to God and anxious to profit by the opportunity of finding the door of righteousness opened." Salah al-Din marched in a great procession accompanied by his knights, sons, brothers, mamlukes, commanders, and friends in "squadrons ranked according to their merit, in platoons drawn up in solemn cavalcades . . . with yellow flags that signalled disaster to the Banu al-Asfar." [Source: Hadia Dajani-Shakeel. "Some Medieval Accounts of Salah al-Din's Recovery of Jerusalem (Al-Quds)", “Studia Palaestina: Studies in honour of Constantine K. Zurayk,” edited by Hisham Nashabe, Institute for Palestine Studies, Beirut 1988 <^>]


Saladin marches to Jerusalem

“As they were approaching Jerusalem, however, the vanguard of the army, unaware of the presence of Latin scouts, was ambushed near al-Qubeiba and sustained heavy losses. Ibn al-Athir, who mentions this incident without indicating its location, notes that one of Salah al-Din's commanders, an amir, was killed along with some of his men. This incident grieved Muslims greatly. <^>

“Upon reaching Jerusalem Salah al-Din enquired about the location of al-Aqsa mosque and the shortest route to it, "which is also the shortest route to Heaven." As 'Imad al-Din reports, he swore to bring back to the sacred shrines their old grandeur and vowed not to leave Jerusalem until he had recovered the Dome of the Rock, "from which the Prophet had set foot," raised his flag on its highest point, and visited it personally. <^>

“According to Arabic sources, Salah al-Din arrived from 'Asqalan at the western side of the city on Sunday, 15 Rajab, A.H. 583/21 September, A.D. 1187, although, according to Ernoul, he arrived on Thursday evening, 12 Rajab, A.H. 583/18 September, A.D. 1187. The next day, Ernoul says, Salah al-Din ranged his forces opposite the western wall of Jerusalem, where he subsequently started his attack. Arabic chroniclers do not tell us the exact location of Salah al-Din's forces in the first few days of combat, but Ernoul states that they were stationed opposite the western wall between David's Gate (Bab al-Khalil) and St. Stephen's Gate (Bab al-'Amud). More specifically, they were facing the hospital for leper women behind David's Gate and that for leper men near St. Stephen's Gate. <^>

Fighting Around the Western Wall of Jerusalem

Hadia Dajani-Shakeel wrote: “The western side of the city was well fortified because of its geographical location. Al-Qadi al-Fadil describes it as follows: "From this side of the city, where he [Salah al-Din j had encamped, he saw a deep valley, a precipice rugged and profound, with a wall which encircled the city like a bracelet, and towers which represented the larger pearls of the necklace worn by that place of residence." [Source: Hadia Dajani-Shakeel. "Some Medieval Accounts of Salah al-Din's Recovery of Jerusalem (Al-Quds)", “Studia Palaestina: Studies in honour of Constantine K. Zurayk,” edited by Hisham Nashabe, Institute for Palestine Studies, Beirut 1988 <^>]


“This location was extremely difficult for Salah al-Din's army, or any other, to attack, for it enclosed two towers. The first was David's Tower (al-Qal'a), which was impregnable, and the second was Tancred's Tower. According to a twelfth-century Latin pilgrim, David's Tower contained two hundred steps leading to the summit and formed the main defence of the city. It was very heavily guarded in times of both peace and war. During the confrontation with Salah al-Din most of the Latin fighters were stationed in David's Tower. This same citadel had been attacked by Raymond of Toulouse, ninety years before Salah al-Din, and had been taken from its defenders only after they had surrendered. <^>

“This part of the western wall gave the Latins other advantages as well. According to Ernoul, they had the sun to their backs, while Salah al-Din's forces were facing it. This fact determined to some extent the pattern of battle, for the Latins attacked the forces of Salah al-Din in the morning, trying to push them away from the walls, while Salah al-Din's forces attacked the Latins in the afternoon and continued the fight until nightfall. <^>

“The Latins had the upper hand at first. Writing of some of the battles between the two sides, 'Imad al-Din hints at the courage of the enemy: "They challenged [us I to combat and barred the pass. They came down into the lists like enernies. They slaughtered and drew blood. They blazed with fury and defended the city .... They drove us back and defended themselves. They became inflamed and caused us harm, groaned, incited, and called for help in a foreign tongue.... They clustered together and obstinately stood their ground. They made themselves a target for arrows and called on death to stand by them. They said: "Each one of us is worth 20, and every ten is worth 200! We shall bring about the end of the world in defence of the church of resurrection." So the battle continued, as well as slaughter with spear and sword."

“Ernoul provides additional details of the battle at the western wall. He says that Salah al-Din had at first warned the authorities in Jerusalem and asked them to surrender, but they had rejected his request because they were very well armed and fortified. Salah al-Din then ordered his troops to attack the city. They tried to reach the gates several times but failed. The Latins, in turn, tried to make sorties but were repulsed. <^>

Saladin Changes His Attack Position


Hadia Dajani-Shakeel wrote: “As the fighting raged, Salah al-Din travelled around the city in an attempt to find a more suitable location for his attack. After one week, according to Ernoul, or five days, according to the Arab chroniclers -- he decided to reposition his forces. Abandoning their old encampment between David's Gate and St. Stephen's Gate his troops camped in a triangular area at the northeastern corner of the city, where, Ernoul tells us, they were facing the area between the Postern of St. Mary Magdalen (Bab al-Sahira) and the Gate of Jehoshafat (Bab al-Asbat). According to al-Qadi al-Fadil, this area was more accessible and better suited to the movement of cavalry. Salah al-Din pitched his tent very close to the city walls so that it could be reached easily by the weapons of the enemy. [Source: Hadia Dajani-Shakeel. "Some Medieval Accounts of Salah al-Din's Recovery of Jerusalem (Al-Quds)", “Studia Palaestina: Studies in honour of Constantine K. Zurayk,” edited by Hisham Nashabe, Institute for Palestine Studies, Beirut 1988 <^>]

“The new location, on the Mount of Olives (Jabal al-Zaytun), was quite high, according to Ernoul, so that from it Salah al-Din was able to watch the movement of the Latin forces insidc the city walls, except in those streets that were covered. Furthermore, in this location Salah al-Din's forces had their backs to the sun, while the Latins were facing its glare. <^>

“In addition, a demographic factor made it more favourable to Salah al-Din. The northern triangular section of the city, which extended between St. Stephen's Gate and the Gate of Jehoshafat and which was known in medieval times as the Juiverie, enclosed the quarters of the native Christians. Often referred to in medieval chronicles as 'Syrians," they formed the most underprivileged community in Jerusalem under Latin rule and were despised by their Latin neighbours. Medieval Latin pilgrims placed them at the bottom of the demographic scale next to Muslims, or "Saracens."

“The native Christians were more inclined towards Salah al-Din than towards the Latins. For besides their hostile relations with the Latins and their linguistic and ethnic identification with the Arabs of the area, they were also influenced by the Greek Orthodox Church in Byzantium. Byzantium at this time was an ally of Salah al-Din. The Emperor Isaac II Angelus had confirmed an agreement with Salah al-Din in A.D.1185, according to which Salah al-Din offered to convert existing Latin churches in the Holy Land to the Christian rite once they had been recovered. <^>

Saladin Launches His Decisive Attack on Jerusalem

Hadia Dajani-Shakeel wrote: “Once in Jerusalem, Salah al-Din seems to have contacted the leaders of the native Christian community through an Orthodox Christian scholar from Jerusalem, known as Joseph Batit. Batit, as Runciman says, had even secured a promise from the leaders of the community that they would open the gates of the city in the vicinity of Salah al-Din, but this did not take place because the R Latins decided to surrender the city. [Source: Hadia Dajani-Shakeel. "Some Medieval Accounts of Salah al-Din's Recovery of Jerusalem (Al-Quds)", “Studia Palaestina: Studies in honour of Constantine K. Zurayk,” edited by Hisham Nashabe, Institute for Palestine Studies, Beirut 1988 <^>]

“On Friday, 20 Rajab, A.H. 583/25 September, A.D. 1187, Salah al-Din set up his mangonels and started his attack on the city. Ibn Shaddad gives a brief account of the battle, stating only that Salah al-Din pressed his attack on the city in hand-to-hand combat and through the use of archers, until a breach was made in the wall facing the Jehoshafat Valley (Wadi Jahannam) in a northern village. Realizing the inevitability of their defeat, the besieged Latins decided to ask for safe conduct and thus sent messengers to Salah al-Din to ask for a settlement. An agreement was soon reached. <^>

“Ibn al-Athir's account of the battle is more detailed. According to him, on the night of 20 Rajab, A.H. 53/25 September, A.D. 1187 Salah al-Din installed his mangonels, and by morning his machinery was functional. The Latins also installed their mangonels on the wall and started to fire their catapults. Both sides fought bravely, each considering its struggle to bc in defence of its faith. The Latin cavalry left the city daily to engage in combat with Salah al-Din's forces, and both sustained casualties. <^>

“In one of these battles a Muslim commander, 'Izz al-Din 'Isa Ibn Malik, was martyred by the Latins. His death so grieved the Muslims that they charged the Latins vehemently, forcing them away from their positions and pushing them back into the walls of the city. The Muslims crossed the moat and reached the wall. Sappers prepared to destroy it while archers gave them cover, and mangonels continued bombarding the Latins to drive them away from the wall so the sappers could complete their work. When the wall had been breached, sappers filled it witll wood. <^>

Saladin’s Force Breach the Walls and Take Jerusalem

Hadia Dajani-Shakeel wrote: “Realizing that they were on the verge of perishing, the Latin leaders met in council and agreed to surrender Jerusalem to Salah al-Din and to ask him for safe conduct. Accordingly, they sent a delegation of their leaders to speak with Salah al-Din, but he turned them away, saying that he would treat them the way their anccstors had treated the residents of Jerusalem in A.H. 492/A.D. 1099, by death and captivity. On the following day, Balian Ibn Barzan (Balian of Ibelin) left Jerusalem to discuss the future of the city and its population with Salah al-Din. [Source: Hadia Dajani-Shakeel. "Some Medieval Accounts of Salah al-Din's Recovery of Jerusalem (Al-Quds)", “Studia Palaestina: Studies in honour of Constantine K. Zurayk,” edited by Hisham Nashabe, Institute for Palestine Studies, Beirut 1988 <^>]


“Al-Qadi al-Fadil gives us an account that differs slightly from that of Ibn al-Athir. According to him, the authorities in Jerusalem first sent a message to Salah al-Din offering to pay tribute for a limited period. This was only a delaying tactic until they could secure external help, however, and Salah al-Din, perceiving their intentions, rejected the offer and positioned his mangonels closer to the wal1. <^>

“According to al-Qadi al-Fadil, the fire from the mangonels destroyed thc tops of the towers, "which were used to repel the attacks." When they collapsed, "the towers made such a noise that even the deafest among the enemy must have heard it." The defenders thus had to abandon their positions, giving the sappers a chance to accomplish their task. When the wall fell, Balian Ibn Barzan, the leader of the besieged, left the city and told Salah al-Din that Jerusalem should be taken by surrender rather than by force. <^>

“Before discussing the negotiations between Salah al-Din and Balian, we shall present the viewpoint of the Latin chroniclers, which supplements the Arabic accounts. Although Ernoul and the author of Libellus agree with the Arabic accounts, they give us more details about the last stages of the war and the resulting negotiations. Ernoul says that the battle at the northeastern corner of the city lasted one week. The author of Libellus notes that Salah al-Din divided his forces, using 10,000 archers or more, "well armed down to their heels," to shoot at the walls. At the same time, according to Ernoul, about 10,000 horsemen, armed with lances and bows, waited between St. Stephen's Gate and the Gate of Jehoshafat to repulse any sortie by the Latin garrison, while the rest of his army was deployed around the siege engines. <^>

“When Salah al-Din's forces breached the wall, the defenders tried to drive them "away with stones and molten lead, as well as with arrows and spears," but they failed. They attempted a sortie, but this too failed. Sappers in Salah al-Din's army succeeded in making a breach, about thirty metres in length, in the wall which was sapped in two days. After that, the defenders fled the walls: "In the whole city there was not found a man bold enough to dare stand guard for a single night for a 100-bezant reward."

“The breach in the wall was in the same spot from which the first Crusaders had entered the city in 1099. When the wall fell, the great cross that had been installed there to celebrate the capture of Jerusalem by the Latins in that year also fell. The author of Libellus states that he personally heard a proclamation by the patriarch and others indicating that "if 50 strong men and daring servants were found who could guard the corner that had been destroyed for that one night, they would be given all the arms they wanted, but they were not to be found." <^>

Surrender of Jerusalem


Saladin, the Victorius

Hadia Dajani-Shakeel wrote: “Ernoul informs us that, realizing they could not hold the city for very long, the authorities in Jerusalem held an emergency meeting, attended by the Patriarch Heraclius and Balian of Ibelin, at which they discussed their military options. The citizens' representatives and the sergeants advanced a proposal for a massive attack on Salah al-Din's forces, thus "dying honourably in defence of the city." [Source: Hadia Dajani-Shakeel. "Some Medieval Accounts of Salah al-Din's Recovery of Jerusalem (Al-Quds)", “Studia Palaestina: Studies in honour of Constantine K. Zurayk,” edited by Hisham Nashabe, Institute for Palestine Studies, Beirut 1988 <^>]

“The patriarch rejected this proposal, however, arguing that if all the men died, the fate of the women and children in the city would be left in the hands of the Muslim forces, who would certainly convert them to Islam. He proposed instead that the city should be surrendered, and he promised that after surrendering it, the Latins would seek help from Europe. The authorities accordingly agreed, and hence dispatched Balian to discuss the terms of the surrender with Salah al-Din. According to Ernoul, Balian left the city to negotiate with Salah al-Din, and, while the talks were in progress, the Muslim forces succeeded in raising their flag on the main wall. Rejoicing, Salah al-Din turned to Balian and asked: "Why are you proposing to surrender the city? We have already captured it!" However, the Latins counter-attacked Salah al-Din's forces, driving them away from the section they had captured. Salah al-Din was so angered by this that he dismissed Balian and told him to return the following day. <^>

“When Balian returned to the city without an agreement, fear gripped the population. According to Ernoul, the citizens "crowded in the churches to pray and confess their sins, [they] beat themselves with stones and scourges, begging for God's mercy." The Latin women in the city placed tubs in front of Mount Calvary and filled them with cold water, then took their young daughters, stripped them naked, and placed them in the water up to their necks. They cut their hair and burned it in the hope of averting their shame. Meanwhile, the clergy walked in procession around the walls of the city chanting psalms and carrying the Syrian "true cross," which had been kept in the city after the "true cross" of the Latins had fallen into the hands of Salah al-Din's forces at the battle of Hittin. Ernoul reports that the entire population took part in the procession, except for the very old men, who locked themselves inside their homes. <^>

“When Balian appeared again before Salah al-Din, he asked for a general amnesty in return for the surrender of the city, but Salah al-Din rejected his request. Balian then threatened that the Latins inside the city would fight to the death: They would burn their houses, destroy the Dome of the Rock, uproot the Rock, and kill all Muslim prisoners, who were estimated to number in the thousands; they would destroy their property and kill their women and children. According to al-Qadi al-Fadil, Balian also "offered a tribute in an amount that even the most covetous could not have hoped for."

“Salah al-Din met with his commanders and told them that this was an excellent opportunity to capture the city without further bloodshed. After lengthy negotiations, an agreement was reached between Salah al-Din and the Latins according to which they were granted safe conduct to leave the city, provided that each male paid a ransom of ten dinars, each female paid five dinars, and each child was ransomed for two dinars. All those who paid their ransom within forty days were allowed to leave the city, while those who could not ransom themselves were to be enslaved. <^>

“'Imad al-Din indicates that Balian offered to pay 30,000 dinars on behalf of the poor, an offer that was accepted, and the city was at last surrendered on Friday, 27 Rajab, A.H. 583/2 October, A.D. 1187. The twenty-seventh of Rajab was the anniversary of al-Mi'raj, through which Jerusalem had become a part of Islamic history and piety . When Salah al-Din entered Jerusalem triumphantly, he immediately released the Muslim prisoners, who, according to Ibn Shaddad, numbered close to 3,ooo. The newly released captives were later rewarded with the homes vacated by the Latins. <^>

Exodus of the Christians from Jerusalem


Christians bow to Saladin

Hadia Dajani-Shakeel wrote: “Meanwhile, the Latins started to prepare for their departure. They began to sell their property and possessions at very low prices to the merchants in Salah al-Din's army, as well as to native Christians. According to 'Imad al-Din, they stripped the ornaments from their churches, carrying with them vases of gold and silver and silk- and gold-embroidered curtains as well as church treasures. The Patriarch Heraclius collected and carried away gold plating, gold and silver jewelry, and other arteacts from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. [Source: Hadia Dajani-Shakeel. "Some Medieval Accounts of Salah al-Din's Recovery of Jerusalem (Al-Quds)", “Studia Palaestina: Studies in honour of Constantine K. Zurayk,” edited by Hisham Nashabe, Institute for Palestine Studies, Beirut 1988 <^>]

“In order to control the departing population, Salah al-Din ordered that all the gates of Jerusalem be temporarily closed. At each gate a commander was appointed to control the movement of the Latins and to ensure that only those who had paid ransom could leave. Persons were employed inside the city to take a census. 'Imad al- Din says that Egyptian and Syrian officers were appointed to collect the payments and to give the departing Latins receipts that were to be submitted at the gate before leaving the city. Although this sounds like good administration, at the time the Latins were being counted and were making their departure, the city was in a state of chaos and there was much mismanagement of the ransom money collected. The grand masters of the Templars and Hospitallers were approached to donate money for the release of poor Latins, but when they resisted, a riot almost erupted and they were forced to contribute to the ransom. <^>

“There were examples of magnanimity on the part of the Muslim victors, however. The patriarch and Balian asked Salah al-Din to set some slaves free. Accordingly, he freed 700 slaves on behalf of the patriarch and 500 on behalf of Balian. Al-Malik al-'Adil, Salah al-Din's brother, asked him to release 1,000 slaves on his behalf and was granted his request. Furthermore, Salah al-Din sent his guard throughout the city to announce that all old people who could not pay would be allowed to leave the city: These came forth from the Postern of St. Lazar, and their departure lasted from the rising of the sun until night fell." Salah al-Din also allowed many noble women of Jerusalem to leave without ransom. Among them was Queen Sibyl, who left unhindered with all her entourage. Salah al-Din even granted her safe conduct to visit her captive husband in Nablus. The widow of Renaud of Chatillon was also released, as well as a Byzantine princess who had led a monastic life in Jerusalem and who was allowed to leave with all her entourage without paying a ransom. Some of Salah al-Din's commanders ransomed groups who they claimed belonged to their iqta' For example, the ruler of al-Bira asked for the release of 500 Armenians, and Muzaffar al-Din Ibn 'Ali Kuchuk asked for the release of 1,000, claiming that they had come from Edessa. Salah al-Din granted his request. <^>

“After the exodus of all those Latins who could leave, 15,000 individuals remained in the city. According to Imad al-Din, 7,000 of them were men and 8,000 were women and children. All were enslaved. Imad al-Din was amazed at the amount of treasure that had been carried away by the departing Latins. He reports having told Salah al-Din that these treasures could be valued at 200,000 dinars. He reminded him that his agreement with the Latins was for safe conduct (arnan) for themselves and their own property, but not for that of the churches, and he counselled that such treasures should not be left in Latin hands. But Salah al-Din rejected his proposal:

“"If we interpret the treaty [now] against their interest, they will accuse us of treachery, although they are unaware of the real meaning of the treaty. Let us deal with them according to the wording of the treaty so they may not accuse the believers of breaking the covenant. Instead, they will talk of the favours that we have bestowed upon them."


“Certainly Salah al-Din's magnanimity towards the Latins contrasts sharply with the attitude of the victorious Crusaders in 1099. Emoul, by now a Latin refugee, indicated that the ransomed refugees were assembled in three groups. One was placed in the custody of the Templars and another in that of the Hospitallers, while Balian and Patriarch Heraclius took charge of the third. Salah al-Din assigned each group fifty of his officers to ensure their safe arrival in territories held by the Christians. One chronicler gives Salah al-Din's officers credit for their humane treatment of thc refugees, noting that these officers, who could not endure the suffenng of the refugees, ordered their squires to dismount and set aged Christans upon their steeds. Some of them even carried Chnstian children in their arms."

“The refugees departed in three directions. One group went to Tyre, which was already overcrowded. Accordingly, the authorities there allowed only fighting men to enter the city. <^> The second group, accompanied by those turned away from Tyre, went to Tripoli, though not before they had suffered at the hands of other Latins. Near al-Batrun, a local baron known as Raymond of Niphin robbed them of many of their possessions. When they reached Tripoli, only the rich among them were allowed into the city. Ernoul states, in apparent shock, that Count Raymond of Tripoli sent his troops to rob the burghers of the possessions they had been allowed to take from Jerusalem. The remaining refugees continued their journey to Antioch, where some of them settled, while others went on to Armenia. <^>

“The third group headed for 'Asqalan and then to Alexandria. According to Emoul, they were treated hospitably in Egypt and remained in Alexandria until March 1188, when they were put on ships for Europe. The captains of Genoese, Pisan, and Venetian ships at first resisted boarding 1,000 poor refugees, but they were later obliged by Alexandrian officials to accept these destitutes in order to obtain sailing permits. Assurances were also secured of good treatment of the refugees on the part of the Italians by means of the threat that if they did not keep their promises, their fellow citizens would suffer in retaliation once they had arrived in Egypt. "Thus did the Saracens show mercy to the fallen city," says Lane-Pool. "One recalls the savage conquest by the first Crusaders in 1099, when Godfrey and Tancred rode through the streets choked with the dead and dying. If the taking of Jerusalem were the only fact known about Salah al-Din, it would be sufficient to prove him the most chivalrous and great-hearted conqueror of his own, and perhaps of any, age. <^>

Fate of the Native Christians

Hadia Dajani-Shakeel wrote: “'Imad al-Din indicates that, after paying their ransom, the native Christians requested Salah al-Din's permission to remain in their quarters in safety. Salah al-Din granted their request, provided that they paid the poll tax (jizya). Some members of the Armenian community also asked to stay in the city and were allowed to do so, provided that they also paid the tax. Many of the poor from both groups were exempted. Rich Christians bought much of the property of the departing Latins, as has been mentioned above. Salah al-Din allowed them to pray freely in their churches, and he handed over control of Christian affairs to the Byzantine patriarch. [Source: Hadia Dajani-Shakeel. "Some Medieval Accounts of Salah al-Din's Recovery of Jerusalem (Al-Quds)", “Studia Palaestina: Studies in honour of Constantine K. Zurayk,” edited by Hisham Nashabe, Institute for Palestine Studies, Beirut 1988 <^>]


Saladin and Christian prisoners

“'Imad al-Din notes that at first Salah al-Din ordered the closure of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Its future was discussed, and some even advised that it should be demolished in order to sever completely the attachment of the Christians to Jerusalem. However, a majority of the Muslims rejected the idea. They argued that demolishing the church would not help, for it would not prevent Christians from visiting it. According to 'Imad al-Din:

“"Those who come to visit it come to worship at the location of the cross and the sepulchre rather than at the building itself. Christians will never stop making pilgrimages to this location, even if it has been totally uprooted." Those who spoke in favour of preserving the Church of the Holy Sepulchre even suggested that when the Caliph 'Umar conquered Jerusalem, he confirmed the right of Christians to the church and gave no orders to demolish the building. <^>

“When the Byzantine emperor received the news of Salah al-Din's victory in Jerusalem, he asked him to restore the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to the Greek Orthodox Christians, a request that Salah al-Din granted. The Latins, however, were not allowed into Jerusalem for four years. In September 1192 the knights of the Third Crusade were allowed into the city as pilgrims to pray at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. When Hubert, Bishop of Salisbury, met with Salah al-Din, he was granted permission to have four Latin monks in the church. <^>

Muslim Response to Their Liberation of Jerusalem

Hadia Dajani-Shakeel wrote: “Salah al-Din's recovery of Jerusalem concluded a lengthy campaign of military activity and ideological preparation, which had begun at a slow pace early in the twelfth century, and became a massive liberation movement focusing on Jerusalem as its rallying symbol during the regimes of Nur al-Din and Salah al-Din. <^>

“The initial response to the recovery was euphoric: "People raised their voices in praise of God, expressing their gratitude and devotion to Him for having granted them the long-awaited victory.'' “Salah al-Din celebrated this great historical moment by receiving the crowds who had gone to congratulate him. He sat most humbly and graciously amongst the men of religion and scholars. <^>


“'Imad al-Din, who witnessed this gathering, described it as follows: "The sultan sat with his face gleaming with happiness. His seat looked as if it were surrounded by the halo of the moon. Around him readers of the Qur'an were reading the words of guidance and commenting; the poets were standing, reciting and seeking favours; while the flags were being unfolded in order to be raised and the pens were being sharpened in order to convey the good tidings. Eyes were filled with tears of joy while hearts were humbled in devotion to God and in joy for the victory."

“Salah al-Din's liberation of Jerusalem was hailed in all parts of the Arab and Muslim world, except at the court of the Caliph al-Nasir li-Din Allah, who unfortunately overlooked the magnitude of the victory and, instead, criticized some insignificant points. Thus, instead of congratulating Salah al-Din for an achievement that he permanently bore in his name (Al-Nasir), the caliph wrote rebuking him for the use of the title al-Malik al-Nasir, which was that of the Caliph himself. Naturally, Salah al-Din refused to abandon a title that he had earned in A.H. 567/A.D. 1172, long before the Caliph al-Nasir had come to power. <^>

“'Imad al-Din, reporting a dialogue he had had with Salah al-Din on this question, quotes him as having said, with some bitterness: "Did I not recover al-Bayt al-Muqaddas [Jerusalem] and unite it with al-Bayt al-Haram [al-Ka'ba, a reference to Mecca in general] ? Indeed, I have returned to the native land a part that had been missing from it."

“Salah al-Din's liberation of Jerusalem was portrayed by his contemporaries as a miracle. It was likened to lightning (barq) in its swiftness, and hence it earned the title Al-Barq al-Shami in 'Imad al- Din's biography of Salah al-Din. Even the pro-Zangid historian Ibn al-Athir could not but credit Salah al-Din with this great achievement: "This noble deed of liberating Jerusalem was achieved by none after 'Umar Ibn al-Khattab except for Salah al-Din, and this deed suffices for his glory and honour.''

Saladin Restores the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem

Hadia Dajani-Shakeel wrote: “The initial euphoria of the victory was followed by a busy week during which Salah al-Din, his relatives, and his entourage worked earnestly to restore al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock to their original Islamic character in preparation for the following Friday congregation (4 Sha'ban, A.H. 583/9 October, A.D. 1187). This task was rather difficult because they had to demolish many structures that the Latins had introduced into both buildings as well as in the area between them, al-Haram al-Sharif. Ibn al-Athir and 'Imad al-Din state that the Templars had built some residences to the west of al-Aqsa mosque, which they had equipped with grain storage and latrines, and they had included a part of al-Aqsa in their buildings. Salah al-Din had these structures cleared away and ordered the niche (mihrab) of al-Aqsa purified. <^>


Saladin

“All the columns that had been installed by the Latins were removed, according to 'Imad al-Din, and the floors were carpeted with precious carpets instead of woven and straw mats. A pulpit that had been prepared by Nur al-Din for the occasion was installed. Ibn al-Athir described it as a unique piece of art that was made over a period of several years by specialists in woodcraft in Aleppo. This pulpit was unfortunately burned soon after the Israeli occupation of the city. <^>

The Dome of the Rock was known to the Latins as the Temple of the Lord. All the Latins' additions were removed and arrangements were made to replace some missing pieces from the Dome of the Rock that had been taken by the early Crusaders and sold as relics in European markets for very high prices....The Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque were purified with large quantities of water and rose water and perfumed with incense. Even Taqi al-Din 'Umar and other relatives of Salah al-Din participated in the purification in the hope of gaining spiritual reward, according to 'Imad al-Din. <^>

“When this was done, the first Friday prayer took place in al-Aqsa mosque on 4 Sha'ban, A.H. 583/9 October, A.D. 1187. Muhyi al-Din Ibn al-Zaki addressed the first audience in al-Aqsa eloquently, explaining the place of Jerusalem in Muslim history and piety. In so doing, he echoed many of the ideas that had been preached throughout the twelfth century by the scholars and jurists during the period of the city's loss to the Crusaders:

“" Jerusalem is the residence of your father Abraham, the place of ascension of your prophet, the burial ground of the messengers, and the place of the descent of revelations. It is in the land where men will be resurrected and it is in the Holy Land, to which God has referred in His clear book [the Qur'an] . It is the farthest place of worship, where the prophet prayed, and the place to which God sent His servant and messenger and the word which He caused to descend upon Mary and His spirit Jesus, whom He honoured with that mission and ennobled with the gift of prophecy without removing him from the rank he held as one of His creatures. <^>

Saladin’s Rule in Jerusalem

Hadia Dajani-Shakeel wrote: “In his sermon he portrayed the victory of Salah al-Din in Jerusalem as a rejuvenation of Muslim power. He compared Salah al-Din's forces to those that had fought the battles of Badr, the wars of al- Ridda, the battles of al-Qadisiyya and al-Yarmuk, and the battle of Khaybar, which entailed the expulsion of the Jews from the Arabian Peninsula. He compared Salah al-Din's recovery of Jerusalem to 'Umar's conquest of the city. Thus, Ibn al-Zaki and other contemporaries of Salah al-Din accorded him a place in Islamic history similar to that of the greatest heroes who had shaped the history of Islam after the Prophet Muhammad. <^>

“Salah al-Din also introduced some structural changes in the city of Jerusalem. He transformed the Oratory of David in David's Tower into a religious building and installed in it an imam and a mu'addhin as well as caretakers. He also ordered the transformation of the Church of St. Anne into a Shafi'ite school and a ribat for the sufis, and he transformed the residence of the patriarch of Jerusalem, in the vicinity of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, into a ribat. <^>

“In A.H. 587/A.D. 1191 Salah al-Din planned to fortify Jerusalem. Thus, according to 'Imad al-Din, he decided to dig a new and deeper moat and to build a new wall, for which task he brought approximately 2,000 Latin captives. He also restored the towers between St. Stephen's Gate (Bab al-'Amud) and David's Tower (al-Qal'a). Salah al-Din personally supervised, and sometimes participated in, the fortification of the city. <^>


Omar map of Jerusalem


Saladin’s Legacy

Saladin’s family ruled less than 60 years but he set a precedent of strong but humane rule that influenced Arab rulers that followed him. He was known for his tolerance. Christians were allowed in Jerusalem and the great Jewish philosopher Mainmonides was his physician. Muslims held Jerusalem from 1188 until the Six Day War in 1967.

David Van Biema wrote in Time, “In a shocked Europe, the Pope immediately called a Third Crusade. And although Richard the Lion-Hearted bested Saladin in battle after battle, he could not wrest the Holy City from him, and he returned to Europe. The city, always Islam's third holiest site, became even more central to the faithful... Woven into chivalric legend as the worthy foeman, Saladin, scimitar flashing or compassionately sheathed, galloped from Dante into romances by Sir Walter Scott and eventually into young adult books.” [Source: David Van Biema, Time, Dec. 26, 1999]

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Islamic History Sourcebook: sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Arab News, Jeddah; Islam, a Short History by Karen Armstrong; A History of the Arab Peoples by Albert Hourani (Faber and Faber, 1991); Encyclopedia of the World Cultures edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994). Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, The Guardian, BBC, Al Jazeera, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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