Ibn Al-Athir, from The
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
[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
>> 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
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
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
Must the Arab champions then suffer with resignation,
while the gallant Persians shut their eyes
to their dishonour?