The Counter Crusade

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Inspirations and the spirit of this blog.

bism Allah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim,

When the first crusade was launched against the Muslims, the Muslim cities were divided up among amirs (army commanders), and princes. The amirs fought against each other as secular rulers, and so when the crusaders came, they were not viewed as Christians or as foreigners and enemies to the Muslims, but only as rival kings. Thus many local rulers allied with the crusaders against other local rulers, while many crusaders also allied with the locals against other crusaders! To them, this was a war of kings, not people of different religions and cultures. One of the first of such rulers to defeat the crusader armies (but was just as willing to conquer the cities of other Muslims), was Imad ud-Din Zangi, founder of the Zangid Dynasty. He was a very proud man - and pride is a sin in Islam- and would not listen to anyone who did not address him with his full title:

"The emir, the general, the great, the just, the aid of God, the triumphant, the unique, the pillar of religion, the cornerstone of Islam, ornament of Islam, protector of God's creatures, associate of the dynasty, auxiliary of doctrine, grandeur of the nation, honour of kings, supporter of sultans, victor over the infidels, rebels, and atheists, commander of the Muslim armies, the victorious king, the king of princes, the sun of the deserving, emir of the two Iraqs and Syria, conqueror of Iran, Bahlawan, Jihan Alp Inassaj Kotlogh Toghrulbeg atabeg Abu Sa'id Zangi Ibn Aq Sunqur, protector of the caliph."

But Allah is he who "produces the living from the dead, and the dead from the living" (Quran 10:31), and from such a heedless ruler he brought a hero to Islam whose life was devoted to God. As soon as Mahmud Zangi succeeded his father, he launched attacks at the crusaders and was determined to unify all of Syria under one Muslim ruler -without shedding any Muslim blood- and to unite the various Muslim forces between the Euphrates and the Nile to make a common front against the crusaders. And thus began the first great counter-crusade.

Mahmud Zangi was aided by God for his piety, and met with astounding success, defeating the Crusaders time and time again. It was only in his time of illness that the crusaders were saved from his victories. Another notable time in which the Crusaders were spared was when he heard of the death of King Baldwin III of Jerusalem, whom Mahmud respected. After King Baldwin III's death, Mahmud Zangi refrained from attacking the crusaders, although they were then especially vulnerable, and said, "We should sympathize with their grief and in pity spare them, because they have lost a prince such as the rest of the world does not possess today.”

Mahmud Zangi became known as Nur ad-Din Zangi (The Light of the Religion), as he is known today. But he himself did not like to call himself by that title, in stark contrast to his father. Before going to battle, one man prayed, "May God grant victory to Nur ad-Din". Mahmud's reply was, "Who is this dog Mahmud that God should grant him victory? May God grant victory to the Muslims!"

Even in the eyes of William of Tyre the son of crusaders and historian of the crusades, Nur ad-Din was “a just prince, valiant and wise, and according to the traditions of his race, a religious man.” Furthermore, Nur ad-Din Zangi was very tolerant of the Christians who lived under his territories and only fought the crusaders. As was said before, he refrained from attacking the vulnerable crusaders in Jerusalem when they lost their King out of respect, in contrast with the actions of the crusader Amalric I who immediately besieged Banias upon learning of the death of its emir and extorted a vast amount of money from his widow.

"Nur ad-Din also constructed universities and mosques in all the cities he controlled. These universities were principally concerned with teaching the Koran and Hadith. Nur ad-Din himself enjoyed to have specialists read to him from the Hadith, and his professors even awarded him a diploma in Hadith narration. He had free hospitals constructed in his cities as well, and built caravanserais on the roads for travellers and pilgrims. He held court several times a week so that people could seek justice from him against his generals, governors, or other employees who had committed some crime. In the Muslim world he remains a legendary figure of military courage, piety, and modesty."

- Maalouf, Amin. The Crusades Through Arab Eyes, 1985


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