1 At the turn of the 12th century, the Middle East was in crisis. Just a couple years before, on Tuesday, November 27, 1095, Pope Urban II made a public speech at the Council of Clermont. As he addressed the gathering crowd, he urged his fellow countrymen to forsake whatever they had and march on to the Holy Land. He wanted them to free Jerusalem from the Turks and restore it as a Christian city. Pope Urban's passionate pleas and powerful closing remark ("God wills it!") moved the audience and initiated the First Crusade. In no time, more than sixty thousand Christian warriors signed away their lives, ready to fight the Islamic Turks. After enduring years of hardship, they finally achieved what they had set out to do in the first place. They captured Jerusalem on July 15, 1099. Immediately following the success, the Crusaders began a killing rampage, slaughtering as many as thirty thousand Jerusalem residents, regardless of their faiths. They killed not only Muslims, but also Jews and even Christians!
2 The fall of Jerusalem was a cruel wake-up call to Muslims. They desperately wanted it back. To attain that goal, they needed a strong leader who could unite the rival factions. At the time, there was simply no such candidate available. So they had to wait -- for eighty-eight years! On October 2, 1187, a sultan named Saladin conquered Jerusalem and brought the Holy Land back in the hands of Muslims.
3 Saladin was born into a prominent Kurdish family in Tikrit in 1137 or 1138. His full Arabic name was Salah ad-Din Yusuf Ibn Ayyub, which means "The Righteousness of the Faith, Joseph, Son of Job."
5 In September 1171, the last Fatmid caliph (Al-Adid) died. Upon his demise, Saladin proclaimed Egypt a return to Sunnite Islam (from Shiite) and renewed his allegiance to Nur al-Din. As an ambitious young man, Saladin wanted to build his own empire. But he did not want to have any conflict with his overlord. So he put his dream on hold for three years. When Nur al-Din died in 1174, Saladin founded the Ayyubid dynasty and began a series of military aggressions. His first target was Syria. From 1174 to 1186, Saladin worked zealously in consolidating his power. Over the short span of twelve years, he enlarged his empire from the original holding of Egypt to include Syria, northern Mesopotamia, and Palestine. Throughout the expansion, he tried to stay out of the Crusaders' way. He did that not because he was afraid of his enemies, but because the time was not ripe yet. Despite his best efforts, Saladin could not avoid every skirmish. When a conflict became inevitable, he and his men fought bravely and often emerged victorious. During this period, he had only one major setback. On November 25, 1177, the combined forces of Baldwin IV (the king of Jerusalem), Raynald of Chatillon (the prince of Antioch; also spelled as Reginald or Reynald), and the Knights Templar ambushed the overconfident Saladin at Montgisard and nearly wiped out his entire army. Only one tenth of his forces made it back to Egypt.
6 After recovering from this humiliating defeat, Saladin rebuilt the military and scored a major victory against the Crusaders the following year. For the next few years, the story was more of the same. Saladin and the Crusaders exchanged blows from time to time. While the fight was always on, both sides had an understanding that they should leave the Muslim pilgrims alone. In January 1187, Raynald of Chatillon broke the truce and looted a caravan of rich pilgrims on the Hajj. After confiscating their possessions, he held them hostage and treated them badly. When Saladin heard the news, he was very angry. He decided that he must respond to this challenge. So he prepared his troops and set out to do away with the Crusaders once and for all. Saladin's force confronted the Crusaders in early July 1187. Knowing that his enemies had just traveled across a scorching desert and were now very dehydrated, he strategically placed his soldiers in front of Lake Tiberias (also called Sea of Galilee). To get to the water, the Crusaders, led by Guy of Lusignan (the new king of Jerusalem) and Raynald of Chatillon, must fight first. And they did. On the fateful day of July 4, 1187, a great battle broke out near Hattin. The exhausted Christian knights were no match for the well-rested Muslim warriors. After hours of fighting, they finally surrendered. Saladin brought Guy of Lusignan and Raynald of Chatillon to his tent. He spared the former, but personally decapitated the latter. He told the king of Jerusalem that Raynald of Chatillon deserved to die because of his attack on the innocent Muslim pilgrims.
7 After the decisive victory at Hattin, Saladin marched toward Jerusalem and conquered it on October 2, 1187. While thrilled by the triumph, he had no intention of carrying out another massacre on the Holy Land as the Crusaders had done previously in 1099. He told the terrified Christians that they could leave the city after paying a ransom. This noble gesture spared many lives and avoided major bloodshed.
8 The loss of Jerusalem sent a shockwave across Europe. Almost immediately, Pope Gregory VIII made an emotional plea, calling for the Third Crusade. (The Second Crusade took place between 1144 and 1150.) The German king, Frederick Barbarossa, answered it and assembled an army of 100,000. The sheer size of his force concerned even Saladin. But as it turned out, there was really nothing to worry about. En route to Jerusalem, Frederick Barbarossa accidentally fell off his horse and drowned. After his death, his military simply lost interest and returned home. Now with Frederick Barbarossa gone, the newly crowned king of England, Richard I (or Richard the Lion-Heart), and king of France, Philip II, became the co-leaders of the Third Crusade. Before Richard left for the Middle East, he refitted his military with the best equipment at the time, using the proceeds from a special tax called "Saladin tithe" that his father, Henry II, had levied in 1188. When Richard was at last ready for the journey, he took off with more than 12,000 men in early 1191. They arrived at Acre on June 8 and subdued it a month later. Upon entering the city of Acre, Richard offered Saladin a deal. In exchange of the 2,700 Muslim POWs that he had captured, Saladin needed to free all his Christian prisoners, return the True Cross that he had confiscated at Hattin, and pay a ransom of 200,000 gold pieces. Saladin tried to drag on the negotiation, and that frustrated Richard a great deal. When the king of England couldn't stand it anymore, he ordered the execution of all the Muslim captives in view of Saladin and his army. To retaliate, Saladin also slaughtered most of his Christian hostages.
9 To Richard, the aim of the Third Crusade was to reclaim Jerusalem. Nonetheless, as he was getting closer and closer to the Holy Land, he came to realize that he simply did not have enough resources to hold it forever. In September 1191, Richard made a startling decision when he was just miles away from Jerusalem. He decided to turn around and go back to Acre.
10 Saladin and Richard were bitter rivals. Yet, they had mutual respect for each other. For example, when Richard lost his horse in one of their encounters, Saladin gave him a replacement so the king of England could fight on. As the Third Crusade dragged on, neither side was able to claim a total victory. At last, Saladin offered Richard a truce in 1192. Both men agreed that Christians would keep the coastal cities from Jaffa to Tyre, and Muslims would retain Jerusalem. In exchange for giving up the Holy Land, Christian pilgrims would be allowed to enter the city and worship at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. After the treaty was signed, Richard left for Europe in October 1192. Upon his departure, he boldly told Saladin that he would raise more money and come back to reclaim Jerusalem. Saladin replied that he would rather lose the Holy Land to Richard than to anyone else.
11 On March 4, 1193, only six months after the conclusion of the Third Crusade, Saladin died in Damascus. When his friends and relatives scrambled to prepare for his funeral, they discovered that this powerful yet extremely generous Muslim sultan did not leave behind enough money to pay for his
own grave. They buried him in a modest mausoleum next to the Umayyad Mosque (or the Grand Mosque of Damascus). For the next seven centuries, Saladin's tomb stood quietly and became rather neglected. Then, in
1898, the German Kaiser (Emperor) Wilhelm II visited Damascus and decided to restore the tomb. He offered a white marble sarcophagus in place of the original wooden one and hung a silver lamp above the tomb. The newly renovated mausoleum bears the inscription, "Oh Allah, be satisfied with this soul and open to him the gates of paradise, the last conquest for which he hoped."
1. What year did Christians attack and claim Jerusalem? Who ordered them to do this?
2. Saladin began his empire in Egypt. Which were the first three regions he took over?
4. When King Richard conquered Jerusalem, what did he do to the Muslims living there? Why would he do this? What would it take to give orders of that type??
5. Do you agree with Richard's decision of not advancing to Jerusalem and trying to reclaim it? What would YOU have done if you were in King Richard’s place? Explain your reasons.