Thursday, March 29, 2012

Jerusalem was Liberated - Waiting for Salahuddin

The Great Warrior and Ruler - Sultan Salahuddin Ayoubi 

History tells us that when Sultan Salahuddin recaptured Jerusalem from the invading and ruthless Crusaders. Who had ninety years earlier massacred and savagely treated its Muslim and Jewish inhabitants, he met a group of Latin Christian women who addressed him, "0 Sultan! You see that we are leaving. Among us are mothers, wives, daughters or sisters to the soldiers in captivity with you. These men are our support in life; and if we lose them we will lose everything. But if you leave them for our sake, you will be giving us back our lives." At this Salahuddin smiled and gave orders that the sons and husbands of those women be set free. He went even further and gave money to the women whose supporters were killed in the battle. An irate French girl came up to the Sultan and said, "You murderer, you have killed my father and captured both of my brothers. So there remains no one to support me!" Salahuddin calmly ordered that her brothers be set free, and then addressed her: "your father was killed in a war which he started himself, and in which many innocent people were killed." The French girl looked down, full of shame and regret for her insolence with such an honorable man and, with tears in her eyes, she said, "Forgive me, Sir! It was the bitterness of grief and the descriptions and bad impressions given to us about your people and their cruelty in our country (that caused my insolence). But now I see the reality: that you are honorable and I have not despaired of your forgiveness. May God curse the liars in our homelands who deceived us and depicted you as savage assassins who had desecrated our holy places? They exploited our emotions (and sent us here). But when we came to know you well we could not see the truth in any of their claims."
Salahuddin used to say, "It is better for one to err in forgiveness than to be right in punishment." However, we should not forget that this was only one of many special qualities that adorned his character.
Salahuddin was born of Kurdish parents in Takreet (in Iraq) in 1137 G., came at a time when the Islamic world was at its worst state, politically and even morally. In the Fertile Crescent (Today’s Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan and Iraq) the ruler of almost every small town had an independent state of his own and tried to expand his authority through fighting with the other neighboring city states. Besides, almost all the major coastal towns on the East Mediterranean were captured and ruled by the Crusader invaders. Jerusalem (the claimed target of the Crusaders) was, of course, already under ruthless foreign domination. In brief, the picture was very bleak indeed.
Salahuddin was a man of unflinching faith. He knew that through the application of Islamic teachings and its principles, miracles could be made. Had not the early Muslims gone out of the desert and defeated the two greatest Empires on earth of their time? What were the arms with which they faced fighters who were much superior in number, training and equipment? It was certainly their firm faith in Allah, devotion to justice and unity. These three things were then the goals which Salahuddin tried to achieve in order to liberate Muslim lands from the Crusaders.
To Salahuddin Jihad started from inside. He had to watch himself and his aids and soldiers to make sure that they behaved in compliance with Divine commandments in all spheres of life, spiritual, moral and material. It is reported that prayers and devotion to Allah were the constant companions of Salahuddin. Once an adviser of his suggested, "Why do you not save the money you give in charity to the poor and religious teachers, and spend it in your war efforts?" He answered that he could not do that, because the prayers of poor men were a sure source of his strength in his wars.
Ibn Shaddad (an intimate companion of Salahuddin) reports, "In faith and practice the Sultan was a devout Muslim, ever conforming to the tenets at Islam. He was regular in the performance of religious observances, assiduous in offering the ritual prayers, founded on the practice of the Prophet; he also performed the voluntary prayers during the night." Salahuddin’s attitude to material luxury and gains is revealed in the fact that when he died he left nothing except one dinar and 47 dirhams. Nothing else did he leave by way of houses, goods, gardens or any other type of property. He did not leave even as much as that could suffice to defray his burial expenses. As for the acute sense of justice of Salahuddin, it is enough to mention that he did not object to go with one of his subjects to the Qadi (the judge). When he won the case he forgave the man and even gave him what he had claimed.
"0 believers! Stand out firmly for Allah as just witnesses; and Let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice, Be just: that is nearer to piety and fear of Allah. Verily, Allah is well acquainted with what you do," (Al-Our'an: 5:8)
His greatness was due to two main qualities namely,
(1) His inborn leadership qualities, and
(2) Meticulous application of the Islamic teachings in all aspects of his life: spiritual and material, individual and social, at war and in peace.
The liberation of Jerusalem from the hands of the ruthless Crusaders was only one of the great achievements of Salahuddin.  At the age of seven, Salahuddin moved with his father Najmuddin to Damascus, where he closely witnessed the heroic deeds of his relative Nouruddin, the ruler of Damascus and some other parts of Syria, who was at constant war with the invading Crusaders. So, besides the civil education Salahuddin received (especially in religious learning), he had the opportunity of training in the arts of war and military maneuvers as well.
Later, when Salahuddin Uncle Asaduddin Shirkoh was sent to Egypt,  Salahuddin was ordered to accompany him, which he did. However, this trip proved to be the most critical in Salahuddin’ s life, For not only did he learn so much from his second teacher , his great uncle Asaduddin in the tactics of war, but he also succeeded him later to the position of minister to the Fatimide Caliph in 564 A.H. (1169 C.E).
At the age of 32 he was given the title "The Supporting King". This appointment seemed to have changed Salahuddin’ s temperament and attitude to life in a manner reminiscent of another earner hero of Islam, 'Urnar ibn 'Abdul-Aziz. For to both, authority was a responsibility rather than an honor, and they felt that they had to shun the life of ease and comfort in order to carry out the responsibility placed upon their shoulders. Salahuddin started by rectifying the corrupt conditions in Egypt. His first target was to clean the government from corrupt elements and the heads of treachery, some of whom he caught red-handed. The second major step was to abolish the whole ailing Fatimide Dynasty, sending parts of the unjustly earned and heaped property of the Dynasty to the Abbaside caliph in Baghdad and to his commanders-in-chief in Damascus to be used in his war efforts. The rest of the properties of the Dynasty Salahuddin sold, and he deposited the money in the public treasury.
As an honest and sincere leader, Salahuddin stayed in his old residence and refused to move to the luxurious palaces of the Caliphate, until he built the castle at AI-Mugattam mount in Cairo. Then he launched a long campaign in an attempt to unify the Muslim world; thus, bringing into the fold a great part of North Africa {Libya and Tunis}, the West of Arabia (where the Sacred Cities of Makkah and Madinah are situated}, down to Yemen. Upon the death of Nouruddin , Salahuddin became the undisputable master and Sultan of Egypt, Yemen and the Syrian region, which were subjugated by Salahuddin after some battles in which some rulers of the area allied themselves with the invading forces. Despite the fact that Salahuddin had by then a very strong army, we believe that he had something far greater on his side in those battles; that is, his charitable nature, for that won him the hearts of the residents of the fortified towns even before he entered them. We find an illustration of this charitable and chivalrous nature of Salahuddin in the following incident. While Salahuddin was besieging Haab {Aleppo} and attacking it, the young daughter of his former leader Nooruddin Mahmood came out of the city to meet him. He gave her a very warm welcome. Then he asked her about her request. She told him that the people wanted 'l'zaz' (honourable departure). He complied with her request and even accompanied her and her soldiers to the gates of the city. Then he set free all the soldiers captured in that battle, soldiers whose hearts Salahuddin had already won, due to his kindness and charitable nature. As pointed out earlier, Salahuddin was in his kindness and charity only applying the teachings of Islam, which instructs its followers to demonstrate justice even with the most detested enemies.
Salahuddin returned to Egypt after unifying the newly founded state under his command. He sent his soldiers to their families and directed his attention to civil projects, such as building hospitals, schools, bridges and public parks. He also ordered the fortification of Cairo.
All these and similar incidents increased Salahuddin's conviction of the necessity of a major offensive. The battlefield was Hitteen at which Salahuddln met with a huge army of the Crusaders for which the conflicting Crusader rulers came into form with each other. The battle was very fierce but Salahuddin finally won the day, and the invaders were beaten. Thus, the way to Jerusalem was half paved for Salahuddin who captured (or rather liberated) it after ninety years of occupation. This was in Rajab 583 A.H. (July 1187); thus, opening the doors of the Masjid AI-Aqsa the most sacred mosque in Jerusalam, or (Bait-ul-Maqdis which is regarded as the third Sacred Mosque in Islam) again for the pious followers of Islam.

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