Jerusalem is holy to the three most prominent religions in history: Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Many battles have been fought over the control of the city ranging back thousands of years. The conquerors were swift to exact their wrath on the inhabitants and widespread massacres by the conquerors were common. Even today, the state of Palestine and Israel are fighting over the control of the holy lands which has led to countless lives being lost. But there was one general who changed the repetitive pattern of vengeance seeking. He not only conquered the city for the Muslim nation but did so in such a way that even the conquered people could stop from saying his praises. His name was Salahuddin.
Salahuddin means righteousness, a title given after his surprising victory over the Crusaders. He was originally born under the name Yusuf ibn Ayubi to a prominent family of Kurds in Syria in 1137. Growing up he had a greater apatite for religious studies than military, a trait that was evident by the way he retook Jerusalem. From 1174 till 1186, he zealously pursued a goal of uniting all the Muslim territories of Syria, Mesopotamia and Egypt. He accomplished this with masterful diplomacy backed by swift and resolute military force.
Massacre of Muslims
The siege of Jerusalem by the Crusaders in 1099 saw the city falling from the Fatimid Caliphate. What ensued was one of the most horrific massacres in written history. More than 10000 men women and children ,both Muslims and Jews, were slaughtered by the Christian army. Eyewitnesses of the time recall seeing the streets of Jerusalem to be filled with blood up to the ankles. Under such circumstances, Muslims all over the world were gruesome and wanted revenge.
Battle of Hattin
88 years later, Salahuddin led his forces against the occupying army at the decisive battle of Hattin. His armies decimated the occupying armies with masterful tactics. This eventually led to the city of Jerusalem falling a few months later. The occupying people feared for their lives expecting the same treatment with which the last occupants were given. Such was the fear that the leader of the city, Balian D’Ibelin ,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. Then 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 ensured the safety of his people and only made them pay a small ransom to pay for their freedom.
Following the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad at the Conquest of Makkah, Salahuddin entered Jerusalem, not in a boastful manner, but with utmost humility. He was in a position to seek vengeance for the thousands of massacred women and children. But he chose to forgive and give peace to his aggressors. Salahuddin forbade plundering of any Church or harming any non Muslim. He even stationed guards to protect Christians from angry mobs. The price of freedom was set at a low price so that everyone could pay. And for those that could not, Salahuddin paid it himself.
The mannerism in which Salahuddin conquered Jerusalem has seldom been seen in written history. Although the city fell again to the Christians Crusaders a few years later, the harmonious way of dealing with the occupiers allowed for a truce to be constructed between the Muslims and the Crusaders and ended the third Crusade.
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