Ibn Al-Athir, from The Perfect History

[Click on image to enlarge] Ibn 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 Third Crusade.

[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 Rock >> 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
      turns white.
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 of Hashim!
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 strike them."
Must the Arab champions then suffer with resignation,
      while the gallant Persians shut their eyes to their dishonour?

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