The horror and bloodshed of the events known as the Crusades are today almost unimaginable. Occurring in the Middle-East between 1095 and 1291, these 9 church-sanctioned campaigns sought to “retake” the Holy Land from its Muslim occupants.
After the siege of Jerusalem in 1099, the invading army took control of the city and indiscriminately slaughtered the Jews and Muslims they came across. Whilst it is impossible to know the exact figures, somewhere between 3,000 and 70,000 (most likely around 10,000) was butchered.
“the slaughter was so great that [Crusader] men waded in blood up to their ankles…” Gesta Francorum
88 years later, however, Salahuddin had decimated the occupying armies and marched on the city of Jerusalem. To avoid the captivity they expected, the leader of the city Balian d’Iberin threatened to slaughter his own people and destroy the city.
“We will kill our own women and children and burn all that we possess. We will not leave you a single dinar of booty, not a single dirham, not a single man or woman to lead into captivity. Rhen, we shall destroy the sacred rock, al-Aqsa mosque, and many other sites; we will kill the five thousand Muslim prisoners we now hold.”
However, Salahuddin instead promised their security gave them 40 days to pay a small ransom to free themselves. The Crusaders accepted and surrendered the city unilaterally.
Salahuddin Al Ayubi
When he took the city, Salahuddin forbade any massacres or plundering of Christians, Frankish or oriental. He even strengthened the guards at their churches and gave them permission to return for their pilgrimages.
When the patriarch of the city took chariots full of gold, carpets, and precious goods from the city, Salah al-Din’s advisors were outraged.
“I said to the Sultan: ‘This patriarch is carrying off riches worth at least two hundred thousand dinars. We gave them permission to take their personal property with them, but not the treasures of the churches and convents.’ But Salah al-Din answered: ‘We must apply the letter of the accords we have signed so that no one will be able to accuse the believers of having violated their treaties. On the contrary, Christians everywhere will remember the kindness we have bestowed upon them.’
This amazing example is a testament to the character of Salahuddin, as well as his God-consciousness and forward thinking. As author Amin Maalouf described it:
““Saladin had conquered Jerusalem not to amass gold, and still less to seek vengeance. His prime objective, as he himself explained, was to do his duty before God and his faith.”
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