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Jerusalem Taken from the Christians by Saladin

Jerusalem was taken from the city’s Christians rulers by the Ayyubid sultan Saladin in 1187 according to the Bible Timeline Chart with World History. The defeat of the Christian rulers in the Battle of Hattin only hastened the fall of Jerusalem. News of Jerusalem’s loss later pushed the rulers of Europe to launch the Third Crusade.

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The Rise of Saladin

The great Muslim ruler Saladin was born Yusuf ibn Najm al-Din Ayyub Salah al-Din. He was one of the most unusual Muslim rulers as he was not an Arab, a Turk, or a Persian. His Kurdish family migrated from Dvin in Armenia and into Tikrit (present-day Iraq) before he was born. His father, Najm al-Din Ayyub, was the warden of Tikrit who saved Zengi, the Turkish ruler of Mosul, when he escaped from the city. His family was later forced to leave Tikrit when his uncle, Shirkuh, killed a man.

Saladin was born during the night that they left Tikrit in 1139. They traveled to Mosul where Zengi (now back as the city’s ruler) welcomed them in payment for his debt. Nur ad-Din, Zengi’s son, succeeded his father several years later. Saladin grew up during a time when European Crusaders flowed into the Holy Land and conquered some territories. He, along with his uncle, served Nur ad-Din after he rose as ruler of Mosul.

In Jerusalem, King Baldwin III died and was succeeded by his younger brother Amalric I in 1163. Eager to enlarge his territory, Amalric attacked Fatimid Egypt which, by that time, had weakened. The more powerful vizier Shawar asked for Nur ad-Din’s help to defend Egypt from Amalric. Nur ad-Din sent Turkish troops he needed and they were led by Shirkuh and his young nephew, Saladin. Together with the Fatimid troops, they defeated Amalric’s soldiers and drove them back to Jerusalem.

Saladin in Egypt and the Collapse of the Fatimid Dynasty

But Shirkuh was an ambitious man, and he wanted Egypt for himself. Shawar quickly realized that the alliance was a mistake, so he offered an alliance to Amalric. Together, they attacked and drove out Shirkuh, Saladin, and the Turkish troops out of Egypt. Shirkuh, however, never forgot about Egypt and his dreams of conquering it. He returned to Egypt with Saladin and the Turkish troops to defeate their enemies in 1167. Shawar, meanwhile, knew that he would not last in his position, so he went to Shirkuh to bargain with him in 1169. Saladin and his men stopped him when he was near the camp, took him somewhere else, and killed him.

Shirkuh ruled Egypt and controlled the Fatimid caliph al-Adid from then on. He did not get to enjoy his new status for long as he died two months later. The rule of Egypt passed to Saladin, after his death. Seven months after he rose as the ruler of Egypt, Saladin faced the threat of a combined Crusader and Byzantine force. He easily toppled this alliance as the Crusaders and the Byzantines were poorly equipped and often fought against each other. He drove their army back to the Holy Land and returned to Egypt to rule on Nur ad-Din’s behalf.

In 1171, Nur ad-Din ordered Saladin to remove the young Fatimid ruler al-Adid so that Egypt would be in Turkish hands. Saladin thought that this was not a good idea at that time but later changed his mind. He finally followed Nur ad-Din’s instruction just as when the caliph became so ill. Caliph al-Adid died not knowing that he was removed from his position and that he was the last of the Fatimids to rule Egypt.

Saladin ruled Egypt from then on. He gradually became so powerful that he began to rule it without paying heed to Nur ad-Din’s orders. For example, he attacked the Crusader castle of Montreal from Egypt while Nur ad-Din closed in on the same castle from the north. He bowed out of this battle and returned to Egypt. He lost Nur ad-Din’s trust because of this, and his former master started his plans to remove Saladin from Egypt. But the Turkish ruler died of throat infection before he could carry out his plans in 1174. His young son, Al-Salih Ismail, was left to rule his kingdom.

Saladin knew this was his chance to wrest the Holy Land and Syria for himself, so he went to Damascus and presented himself as the boy’s guardian. He also married Nur ad-Din’s widow and the young Al-Salih conveniently died in 1181. With the Turkish rulers out of the way, Saladin was now free to rule Syria and Egypt.

Division in the Holy Land

Meanwhile in Jerusalem, Baldwin IV the Leper succeeded his father Amalric II as King of Jerusalem. As Baldwin was just a child when his father died, Miles of Plancy stepped up to become his regent. Raymond III of Tripoli and other noblemen challenged his claim as regent. When Miles was killed, his widow married the Lord of Oultrejourdain called Reynald of Chatillon. Reynald had a history of being an all-around troublemaker. His antics would help bring about the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin.

With Miles of Plancy dead, Raymond III of Tripoli was free to arrange the marriage of Baldwin IV’s sister Sybilla to another nobleman. The couple had a son which they named as Baldwin V, but Sybilla’s new husband also died. Their son was later named as his uncle Baldwin IV’s co-ruler, while his mother married another nobleman named Guy of Lusignan.

Between 1177 and 1178, Saladin wore down Baldwin IV’s attempts to strengthen his kingdom. In 1182, Reynald of Chatillon led a raid on a caravan bound for Syria. It angered Saladin as the caravan was under his protection. He decided to attack the Crusader states in the same year. Reynald provoked Saladin once again when he announced his plans of invading Mecca via the Red Sea. Saladin attacked them for the second time in 1183 because of this.

King Baldwin IV knew that he needed to face Saladin in battle. The problem was that he had leprosy. So he allowed his new brother-in-law, Guy of Lusignan, to lead his army into battle. Guy replaced Raymond III of Tripoli as regent, but he and his army did not confront Saladin in battle—a move which made him unpopular in Jerusalem. Baldwin IV removed his brother-in-law as regent and brought back Raymond III of Tripoli. He also announced that his nephew, Baldwin V, would succeed him as king. But the young boy died in 1185, followed by the king a year later.

The throne of Jerusalem was vacant, and both Raymond and Guy fought to occupy it. Guy, Sybilla, and the ever-present Reynald of Chatillon later staged a coup to remove Raymond III as ruler of Jerusalem. Raymond was forced to seek an alliance with Saladin in hopes that he would get Jerusalem back. While he was negotiating with Saladin, however, Reynald of Chatillon raided another Syria-bound caravan. Saladin demanded payment for the damages. Reynald refused and even defied Guy who asked him to pay up.

“Dome of the Rock and West Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives”

The Battle of Hattin and the Fall of Jerusalem

Guy knew that this was the last straw for Saladin, so he sent his knights to make peace with Raymond. His strategy failed as Saladin’s men who lurked in Raymond’s territory killed the knights that he sent. In July of the same year, Saladin brought as much as 30,000 soldiers with him and besieged Raymond’s stronghold in Tiberias. Guy and his troops tried to attack Saladin in the Battle of Hattin, but infighting, lack of water, and the unbearable heat of the valley made it hard for them to win.

The Christian forces experienced a crushing defeat in Hattin, and all the noblemen were captured. Saladin treated the Christian noblemen with courtesy, and they were eventually set free. But he singled out Reynald of Chatillon whom he beheaded with his own sword. He also ordered his men to execute all Knight Templars and Hospitallers who joined the battle.

One by one, the cities of the Holy Land surrendered to Saladin’s army, and the refugees were forced to flee to Jerusalem. The holy city’s residents panicked when they heard that Saladin’s troops were headed their way, but Balian of Ibelin arrived and led the defense of the city. On the 20th of September 1187, Saladin and his warriors arrived outside the walls of Jerusalem. Although they were willing to fight, the residents knew that they were no match for the Muslim forces on the other side of the walls.

Balian was forced to negotiate with Saladin to save the city’s residents. Because of Balian’s efforts, Saladin agreed to let Jerusalem’s Christian residents leave the city unharmed. He accepted Jerusalem’s surrender and entered it in victory the same year. The Muslims then removed the cross from the Dome of the Rock. Once again, Jerusalem was in Muslim hands.

Picture By बिप्लब आनन्दOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Gibb, H. A. R., Kātib Al-Iṣfahānī, ʻImād Al-Dīn Muḥammad Ibn Muḥammad, and Ibn Shaddād, Bahāʼ Al-Dīn Yūsuf Ibn Rāfiʻ. The Life of Saladin: From the Works of ʻImād Ad-Dīn and Bahāʼ Ad-Dīn. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973.
Madden, Thomas F. Crusades: The Illustrated History. Ann Arbor, MI: Univ. of Michigan Press, 2004.
Nicolle, David, and Christa Hook. The Third Crusade 1191: Richard the Lionheart, Saladin and the Struggle for Jerusalem. Oxford: Osprey, 2006.
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