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ON FRIDAY 2 OCTOBER 1187, after a twelve-day siege, and less than a century after the victorious climax of the First Crusade, the inhabitants of Jerusalem surrendered their city under the terms allowed them by Saladin. Those who could afford to pay their ransom were free to walk towards the coast; those who could not pay were to be taken away as slaves. A few Knights Hospitaller were permitted to remain to run their hospital for pilgrims located in the heart of the city adjacent to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The knights of the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ were driven out altogether – their headquarters had been the Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount. The Franks believed that the Aqsa mosque had been built on the very site of the Templum Solomonis, as they called it in Latin, and it was not long before the knights became known as the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon; or, simply and most famously, the Templars.
|The Templars' Jerusalem headquarters was the Aqsa mosque, which they believed to be the palace of Solomon on the Temple Mount.|
To the Franks of Outremer – ‘the land across the sea’, as the crusader states were called – the fall of Jerusalem was seen as the terrible judgement of God. Saladin’s capture of the city even suggested to some that Christianity was an inferior belief to Islam. ‘Our people held the city of Jerusalem for some eighty-nine years’, wrote the anonymous author of the De Expugnatione Terrae Sanctae per Saladinum. ‘Within a short time, Saladin had conquered almost the whole Kingdom of Jerusalem. He exalted the grandeur of Mohammed’s law and showed that, in the event, its might exceeded that of the Christian religion.’5
|The Temple Mount with the Aqsa mosque in the foreground and the Dome of the Rock at the centre.|
|The dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on the right; the church stands on a hill overlooking the Dome of the Rock seen on the right.|
As well as using the propaganda of jihad to make his Muslim rivals submit to his authority or to eliminate them altogether, Saladin also used jihad as an excuse for imposing Muslim rule on Christians, who even at this time were still the majority of the population in Syria, Palestine and Egypt.15 Jihad has its origins in the Koran, which enjoins Muslims to ‘proclaim a woeful punishment to the unbelievers’16 and to ‘make war upon them: God will chastise them at your hands and humble them’.17 Defined as a ‘divine institution of warfare’, the purpose of jihad is to extend Islam into the dar al-harb – that is, the abode of struggle or disbelief (as opposed to the dar al-Islam, the abode of peace, where Islam and sharia law prevail); and jihad ends only when ‘the unbelievers have accepted either Islam or a protected status within Islam’.18 Jihad is also fought when Islam is in danger, so that when Christians reclaim Christian territory from Muslim occupation, that too can be a reason for jihad. It was a concept that perfectly suited Saladin’s ambitions, providing religious justification for his imperialist war against Outremer.
|The southwest corner of the Temple Mount, headquarters of the Templars.|
|Detachments of Templars protected pilgrims as they made their way along the wilderness road from Jerusalem to the site of Jesus' baptism in the river Jordan. A crusader castle stands on the right.|
|The Templars bring a party of pilgrims safely to Jerusalam.|
|Paperback cover for The Tragedy of the Templars.|
2 Imad al-Din, as quoted by Abu Shama in the Recueil des Historiens des Croisades, Historiens Orientaux, vol. IV (Paris, 1898), p. 333, and translated and reproduced in Hillenbrand, Crusades, p. 301.
3 Imad al-Din, in Gabrieli, Arab Historians of the Crusades, p. 147.
4 The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was closed to pilgrims for five years, only opening in 1192 and then at a charge of 10 bezants.
5 Anonymous, De Expugnatione Terrae Sanctae per Saladinum; repr., trans. Brundage, The Crusades: A Documentary History, p. 163. The author of De Expugnatione, though anonymous, is thought to have been an Englishman in the service of Raymond of Tripoli.
6 Imad al-Din, in Gabrieli, Arab Historians of the Crusades, p. 156.
7 Ibn Shaddad, in Hillenbrand, Crusades, 189.
8 Imad al-Din, in Gabrieli, Arab Historians of the Crusades, p. 160.
9 Tyerman, God’s War, p. 353.
10 Hillenbrand, Crusades, p. 180.
11 Lyons and Jackson, Saladin, p. 240.
12 Ehrenkreutz, Saladin, p. 237.
13 Lyons and Jackson, Saladin, p. 280.
14 Ibid., pp. 275–6.
15 See for example Tyerman, God’s War, p. 52: ‘The question of the extent of Arabisation and Islamicisation of conquered lands remains obscure and vexed, but it appears that the process was slow, uneven and, by the eleventh century, still incomplete. It is not certain whether there was even a Muslim majority in Syria or Palestine when the crusaders arrived in 1097.’ The evidence for a Christian majority is far greater than Tyerman admits and will be dealt with later in this book.
16 Ibid., sura 9, verse 4.
17 The Koran, trans. Dawood, sura 9, verse 14.
18 See Cyril Glassé, The Concise Encyclopaedia of Islam, Stacey International, London 1991.
19 Hillenbrand, Crusades, p. 444.
20 Ibid., p. 333.
21 Lyons and Jackson, Saladin, p. 276.
22 Ibid., p. 361.
23 William of Tyre, A History of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea, pp. 406–8.