The Reconquest of Jerusalem
Compiled by: Syed Muhammad Bokreta
Salah Al din Yusuf Ibn Ayyub, also called Al Malik Al Nassir Salah Din Yusuf was born in 1137 in Tikrit , Iraq and he passed away on the 04th of March 1193 in Damascus ; he was a great Muslim Sultan of Egypt, Syria , Yemen , and Palestine , founder of the Ayyubid dynasty, and the most famous of Muslim heroes.
In wars against the Christian crusaders, he achieved final success with the ever disciplined and widely human re conquest of Jerusalem on October the 02nd 1187, ending its 88-year occupation by the Franks. The great Christian counterattack of the Third Crusade was then stalemated by Salah Al Din’s military genius (Saladin for the Franks), 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 chauvinist and sometimes trivial discrepancies, they cohere and complement one another.
It was these daring and earnest supplications to Almighty Allah that still perpetually live in History memories from this Great Muslim Warrior: “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 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.”
This statement of Salah Al Din not only sums up his earnest 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 as it had been that of his predecessor Noureddin Zangi (d. A.H. 569/A.D. 1174) and as it should have been to the Muslims at present and for our Future Muslim generations too!!!
Nevertheless and despite the wealth of choice towards compiling our Historic Diary as our primarily concern will be mainly focused on the different aspects of Salah al-Din’s recovery of Jerusalem in terms of military and ideological matters, after a probing comparison of all different tellers and accounts of this great event, no better than the original “récit” (in French Language) of “Les chroniques D’Ernoul” or the chronicles of Ernoul.
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, and he was an eyewitness to the battle of Jerusalem and provides insight into what was happening within the walled city as such and after his brilliant victory at Hittin on Saturday, 24 Rabi' al- Thani, A.H. 583/ 4 July, 1187 the way was opened for Salah Al Din 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, 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, 1187) and blocked the movement of European ships in the area under its control.
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 Prestige and Grandeur and vowed not to leave Jerusalem until he had recovered the Dome of the Rock, from which the Beloved Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) had set foot, and 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, 1187, although, according to Ernoul, he arrived on Thursday evening, 12 Rajab, A.H. 583/ 18 September, 1187. The next day, Ernoul says, Salah al-Din ranged his forces opposite the western wall of Jerusalem , where he subsequently started his attack.
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 or Franks in turn, tried to make sorties but were repulsed.
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 and pitched his tent very close to the city walls so that it could be reached easily by the weapons of the enemy.
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 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.
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”.
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.
A common and unanimous verdict, even amongst the heart grudgy European Historians and Orientalists agreed ,that they 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.
Having taken due note that Certainly Salah Al Din‘s magnanimity towards the Latins contrasts sharply with the attitude of the victorious Crusaders where on that fatidic date of the 15th of July 1099 King Godfrey de Bouillon entered Jerusalem and slaughtered all its Muslim and Jewish inhabitants, one chronicler gives Salah Al Din‘s officers credit for their humane treatment of the refugees, noting that these officers, who could not endure the suffer of the refugees, ordered their squires to dismount and set aged Christans upon their steeds. Some of them even carried Christian children in their arms, it remains no surprise to find that the Crusaders, who have caused so much havoc to Muslims, were fascinated by Salah Al Din and his army who possessed virtues they assumed were Christian.
The City of Jerusalem was at last surrendered and by God’s will it happens to be on a Friday, 27 Rajab, A.H. 583 corresponding to the 02nd of October, 1187, as it is well known in Islamic History, The twenty-seventh of Rajab was the anniversary of Al Mi'raj (Ascension) where from this Holy City our Beloved Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) made the famous Celestial journey or (Ascension), through which Jerusalem had become a part of Islamic history and piety since that date.
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, 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” [May Almighty Allah speed up again another “Day”for us to witness such Honour and Glory].
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, 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-AqsaMosque and the Dome of the Rock to their original Islamic character in preparation for the following Friday congregation (04th of Sha’ban, A.H. 583/09th October, 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 and Al Haram Al Sharif.
The Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque were purified with large quantities of water and rose water and perfumed with incense [How much we are yearning and longing to such new occasion Inch ‘Allah], even Taqi Al Din Omar and other relatives of Salah al-Din participated in the purification in the hope of gaining spiritual reward, according to the Historian Imad al-Din.
Once this was done, the first Friday prayer took place in Al-Aqsa mosque on the 04th of Sha’ban, A.H. 583/ the 09th October, 1187. Juma Imam Muhyi Al-Din Ibn 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 Ibrahim, the place of ascension of your Prophet Mohamed (PBUH), the burial ground of the Messengers of God, 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 Holy 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”.
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 Muaddhin (muezzin) 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.
Salah Al Din’s liberation of Jerusalem was portrayed by his contemporaries as a miracle no wonder that it earned him the title of Barq Al Sham (lightning) due to the swiftness of such Victory, The Muslim Historian Ibn Al Athir had to say about 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”.
Finally believing in the natural rise and decline cyclic curb of History, the date of the 02nd of October 1187 stood until another date occurred according to this cyclic movement, the 14th of May 1948, then followed by a bitter and tragic date of the 05th of June 1967 both dates are the reminder of such disturbing events to be considered as shameful and disgraceful to the Ummah, where the green landscape of Muslim Palestine has over the past 64 years taken on the red colour of the Martyr’s blood, and for sure it is an undeniable fact that Palestine is an Islamic Wakf (Endowment) for all Muslims of the Globe , and its immediate liberation is an individual duty binding on all Muslims.