Sultan Salahuddin Ayubi, the hero of hundreds of battles, was the person who for twenty years braved the storm of the Crusaders and ultimately pushed back the combined forces of Europe which had come to swarm the Holy Land. The world has hardly witnessed a more chivalrous and humane conqueror.
The Crusades represent the maddest and the longest war in the history of mankind, in which the storm of savage fanaticism of the Christian West burst in all its fury over western Asia. `The Crusades form', says a Western writer, `one of the maddest episodes in history. Christianity hurled itself against Muhammadanism in expedition after expedition for nearly three centuries, until failure brought lassitude, and superstition itself was undermined by its own labour. Europe was drained off men and money, and threatened with social bankruptcy, if not with annihilation. Millions perished in battle, hunger or disease and every atrocity imagination can conceive disgraced the warrior of the Cross'. The Christian West was excited to a mad religious frenzy by Peter the Hermit, and his followers to liberate the Holy Land from the hands of the Muslims. `Every means', says Hallam, `was used to excite an epidemical frenzy'. During the time that a Crusader bore the Cross, he was under the protection of the Church and exempted from all taxes as well as free to commit all sins.
Peter the Hermit himself led the second host of the Crusaders comprising forty thousand people. `Arriving at Mallevile, they avenged their precursors by assaulting the town, slaying seven thousand of the inhabitants, and abandoning themselves to every species of grossness and liberalism'. The savage hordes called Crusaders converted Hungary and Bulgaria into desolate regions. When they reached Asia Minor, they, according to Michaud, `committed crimes which made nature shudder'.
The third wave of the Crusaders commanded by a German monk, according to Gibbon, `were comprised of the most stupid and savage refuse of people. They mingled with their devotion a brutal licence of rapine, prostitution and drunkenness'. `They forgot Constantinople and Jerusalem', says Michaud `in tumultuous scenes of debauchery, and pillage, violation and murder was everywhere left on the traces of their passage'.
The fourth horde of the Crusaders which had risen from western Europe was, according to Mill, `another herd of wild and desperate savages... The internal multitude hurried on the south in their usual career of carnage and rapine'. But, at last, they were annihilated by the infuriated Hungarian Army which had a foretaste of the madness of the earlier Crusaders.
Later the Crusaders met with initial success and conquered a major part of Syria and Palestine, including the Holy city of Jerusalem. But their victories were followed by such brutalities and massacres of innocent Muslims which eclipsed the massacres of Changiz and Hulaku. Mill, a Christian historian, testifies to this massacre of the Muslim population on the fall of the Muslim town of Autioch. He writes: `The dignity of age, the helplessness of youth and the beauty of the weaker sex were disregarded by the Latin savages. Houses were no sanctuaries, and the sign of a mosque added new virulence to cruelty'. According to Michaud: `if contemporary account can be credited, all the vices of the infamous Babylon prevailed among the liberators of Scion'. The Crusaders laid waste to flourishing towns of Syria, butchered their population in cold blood and burnt to ashes the invaluable treasures of art and learning including the world famous library of Tripolis (Syria) containing more than three million volumes. `The streets ran with blood until ferocity was tired out', says Mill. `Those who were vigorous or beautiful were reserved for the slave market at Antioch, but the aged and the infirm were immolated at the altar of cruelty'.
But in the second half of the 12th century, when the Crusaders were in their greatest fury and the emperors of Germany and France and Richard, the lion-hearted king of England, had taken the field in person for the conquest of the Holy Land, the Crusaders were met by Sultan Salahuddin Ayubi, a great warrior who pushed back the surging wave of Christianity out to engulf the Holy Land. He was not able to clear the gathering storm but in him the Crusaders met a man of indomitable will and dauntless courage who could accept the challenge of the Christian West.
Salahuddin was born in 1137. He got his early training under his illustrious father Najmuddin Ayub and his chivalrous uncle Asaduddin Sherkoh, who were the trusted lieutenants of Nooruddin Mahmud, the monarch of Syria. Asaduddin Sherkoh, a great warrior general was the commander of the Syrian force, which had defeated the Crusaders both in Syria and Egypt. Sherkoh entered Egypt in 1167 to meet the challenge of the Fatamide Minister Shawer who had allied himself with the French. The marches and counter-marches of the gallant Sherkoh and his ultimate victory at Babain over the allied force, according to Michaud, `show military capacity of the highest order'. Ibni Atheer writes about it: `Never has history recorded a more extraordinary event than the rout of the Egyptian force and the French at the littoral by only a thousand cavaliers'.
On January 8, 1169 Sherkoh arrived in Cairo and was appointed as the Minister and Commander-in-Chief by the Fatimid Caliph. But Sherokh was not destined to enjoy the fruits of his high office long. He died two months later in 1169. On his death, his nephew Salahuddin Ayubi became the Prime Minister of Egypt. He soon won the hearts of the people by his liberality and justice and on the death of the Egyptian Caliph became the virtual ruler of Egypt.
In Syria too, the celebrated Nooruddin Mahmud died in 1174 and was succeeded by his eleven year old son, Malik-us-Saleh who became a tool in the hands of his courtiers, specially Gumushtagin. Salahuddin sent a message to Malik-us-Saleh offering his services and devotion. He even continued to keep his name in the `Khutaba' (Friday Sermons) and coinage. But all these considerations were of no avail for the young ruler and his ambitious courtiers. This state of affairs once more heartened the Crusaders who were kept down by the advice of Gumushtagin retired to Alippo, leaving Damascus exposed to a Frankish attack. The Crusaders instantly laid siege to the Capital city and released it only after being paid heavy ransom. This enraged Salahuddin who hurried to Damascus with a small force and took possession of it.
After occupying Damascus, he did not enter the palace of his patron, Nooruddin Mahmud, but stayed in his father's house. The Muslims, on the other hand, were much dismayed by the activities of Malik-us-Saleh and invited him to rule over the area. But Salahuddin continued to rule on behalf of the young Malik-us-Saleh. On the death of Malik-us-Saleh in 1181-82, the authority of Salahuddin was acknowledged by all the sovereigns of western Asia.
There was a truce between the Sultan and the Franks in Palestine but, according to the French historian Michaud, `the Mussalmans respected their pledged faith, whilst the Christians gave the signal of a new war'. Contrary to the terms of the truce, the Christian ruler Renaud or Reginald of Chatillon attacked a Muslim caravan passing by his castle, massacred a large number of people and looted their property. The Sultan was now free to act. By a skilful manoeuvre, Salahuddin entrapped the powerful enemy forces near the hill of Hittin in 1187 and routed them with heavy loses. The Sultan did allow the Christians to recover and rapidly followed up his victory of Hittin. In a remarkably short time, he reoccupied a large number of cities which were in possession of the Christians including Nablus, Jericko, Ramlah, Caesarea, Arsuf, Jaffa and Beirut. Ascalon, too, submitted after a short siege and was granted generous terms by the kind-hearted Sultan.
The Sultan now turned his attention to Jerusalem which contained more than sixty thousand Crusaders. The Christians, could not withstand the onslaught of the Sultan's forces and capitulated in 1187. The humanity of the Sultan towards the defeated Christians of Jerusalem procures an unpleasant contrast to the massacre of the Muslims in Jerusalem when conquered by the Christians about ninety years before.
According to the French historian Michaud, on the conquest of Jerusalem by the Christians in 1099 `the Saracens were massacred in the streets and in the houses. Jerusalem had no refuge for the vanquished. Some fled from death by precipitating themselves from the ramparts; others crowded for shelter into the palaces, the towers and above all, in the mosques where they could not conceal themselves from the Christians. The Crusaders, masters of the Mosque of Umar, where the Saracens defended themselves for sometime, renewed their deplorable scenes which disgraced the conquest of Titus. The infantry and the cavalry rushed pell-mell among the fugitives. Amid the most horrid tumult, nothing was heard but the groans and cries of death; the victors trod over heaps of corpses in pursuing those who vainly attempted to escape. Raymond d'Agiles who was an eye-witness, says :that under the portico of the mosque, the blood was knee-deep, and reached the horses' bridles.'
Last edited by Designo_E320; 07-24-2007 at 05:48 PM.