Blogging the Age of Faith

Monday, March 27, 2006

Arab Chronicle of Crusades

Ibn Al-Athir, from The Perfect History
Ibn Al-Athir (1160–1233) wrote a history of the Moslem world from its beginnings to 1231. His is the most authoritative account, from the Moslem point of view, of the first three crusades. He was an eyewitness to the Third Crusade.

[The Franks Conquer Jerusalem] >> note 1
After their vain attempt to take Acre by siege, the Franks moved on to Jerusalem and besieged it for more than six weeks. They built two towers, one of which, near Sion, the Muslims burnt down, killing everyone inside it. It had scarcely ceased to burn before a messenger arrived to ask for help and to bring the news that the other side of the city had fallen. In fact Jerusalem was taken from the north on the morning of Friday 22 sha'ban 492/15 July 1099. The population was put to the sword by the Franks, who pillaged the area for a week. A band of Muslims barricaded themselves into the Tower of David and fought on for several days. They were granted their lives in return for surrendering. The Franks honoured their word, and the group left by night for Ascalon. In the Masjid al-Aqsa [mosque near the summit of the city] the Franks slaughtered more than 70,000 people, among them a large number of Imams and Muslim scholars, devout and ascetic men who had left their homelands to live lives of pious seclusion in the Holy Place. The Franks stripped the Dome of the Rock >>

note 2 of more than forty silver candelabra, each of them weighing 3,600 drams, and a great silver lamp weighing forty-four Syrian pounds, as well as a hundred and fifty smaller silver candelabra and more than twenty gold ones, and a great deal more booty. Refugees from Syria reached Baghdad in ramadan, among them the qadi Abu l-Muzaffar al-Harawi. They told the Caliph's ministers a story that wrung their hearts and brought tears to their eyes. On Friday they went to the Cathedral Mosque and begged for help, weeping so that their hearers wept with them as they described the sufferings of the Muslims in that Holy City: the men killed, the women and children taken prisoner, the homes pillaged. Because of the terrible hardships they had suffered, they were allowed to break the fast.
* * *
It was the discord between the Muslim princes * * * that enabled the Franks to overrun the country. Abu l-Musaffar al Abiwardi >> note 3 composed several poems on this subject, in one of which he says: -->

We have mingled blood with flowing tears, and there is no room left for pity.To shed tears is a man's worst weapon when the swords stir up the embers of war.Sons of Islam, behind you are battles in which heads rolled at your feet.Dare you slumber in the blessed shade of safety, where life is soft as an orchard flower?How can the eye sleep between the lids at a time of disasters that would waken any sleeper?While your Syrian brothers can only sleep on the backs of their chargers or in vultures' bellies!Must the foreigners feed on our ignominy, while you trail behind the train of a pleasant life, like men whose world is at peace?When blood has been spilt, when sweet girls must for shame hide their lovely faces in their hands!When the white swords' points are red with blood, and the iron of the brown lances is stained with gore!At the sound of sword hammering on lance young children's hair turns white.This is war, and the infidel's sword is naked in his hand, ready to be sheathed in men's necks and skulls.This is war, and he who lies in the tomb at Medina >> note 4 seems to raise his voice and cry: "O sons of Hashim!I see my people slow to raise the lance against the enemy:I see the Faith resting on feeble pillars.For fear of death the Muslims are evading the fire of battle, refusing to believe that death will surely strike them."Must the Arab champions then suffer with resignation, while the gallant Persians shut their eyes to their dishonour?


  • At 7:58 AM, Blogger Rosey said…

    The speaker there at the end is quite set out to move men to action. How can it be that he feels the need to remind his fellow people of the hardships of being slughtered. Don't they remember? Did they just go and run and hide. I mean, yeah sure the Franks masscuring your people is a rough straw but that Is Your Holy Land being bloodied. Now, I am not saying that they shouldn't went and offered themselves up to project the land from being taken. Not at all. By all means go and take refuge but no not get cozy in another land and do not forget your sacred homeland. Also, the raging boldness of the Franks and such is apuling. As weak as it sounds, How Dare They!! Just go right in and kill people and take a land just because of this or that. Is it any wonder the english went and did the same to the indians with this as their background. Perhaps I should retain more info before voicing more blame and grrr-ed attiude about this. Till then.


  • At 8:51 PM, Blogger Magic Chicken said…

    It seems that by the time the third Crusades happened, the Muslims might have been tired of defending Jerusalem. This isn't to say that they avoided fighting at first, because they managed to take down one of the Frankish towers. In turn though, the Franks attacked the opposite side of the city and managed to take it. This major blow and the slaughter fest that occurred during it seems more than enough reason to retreat.

    However, I have to agree that Abu l-Musaffar al Abiwardi shouldn't have needed to remind the very people that fled of what they fled from. From how he was speaking, it seemed that the Muslims were too cowardly to think of a plan to take their Holy City back (or even remember it!) and instead decided to pretend nothing ever happened and remain idle. This was obviously not acceptable because the city was a homeland that should not be forgotten. Additionally, others were fighting the battle to take back the city still.

    Of course, I don't know all that much about this subject at the moment, so I obviously can't tell where to blame someone for what without further exploration. All I can say is that from the poem at the end, it seemed like the Muslims were forgetting what they shouldn't... at least it did to me.

  • At 7:11 PM, Blogger Krangor said…

    I would think them so much tired of defending their city as tired from defending the city. Years and years of near constant warfare wears down the resources of a city to fight defend itself. The Franks breaching the North wall after the defenders attack on the Southern tower is a classic flanking maneuver, the defending Muslims were most likely too committed to their attack to the south and stretched thin their northern defenses, allowing the Christians to break through.

    All though I agree that the displaced Muslims most likely needed no reminding of their defeat, I doubt this was the point of the speech. This theme of reminding of past transgressions seems to be a consistent part of most speeches motivating a people towards reclaiming what’s rightfully theirs or revenge or what have you. These themes reappear everywhere, from in the Bible as reminders of the evils of Babylon against the early Hebrews, to in the movie Independence Day in the final speech by the president declaring their independence from the alien invaders. I scarcely doubt contemporary Hebrews needed reminding of their sufferings due to Babylon, just as the people in the movie didn’t need to be reminded of the aliens’ attempts to wipe them off the face of the Earth.

    Reminding is not the point. The point is to spark the flame of passion that convinces a group of people they are a collective that need to go out and risk their lives fighting a collective enemy, rather than victimized individuals who may think it best to move on with their lives.

    Rather than thinking the Muslims too cowardly to try and retake their city, we should remember that at this point they were a shattered and broken group, which eventually did reform and regain their city.


Post a Comment

<< Home