Tamil Islamic Media

The Third Crusade, An Islamic Perspective


The Crusades (from the word Crux meaning Cross) had first been initiated in 1095 by Pope Urban II. The aim was to evict the Muslims from the Holy Lands (Syria, Palestine and Jordan), help halt the Islamic advance and unite the Christians under one banner instead of wasting their time fighting among themselves.

Before 1095, the Holy Lands had been collectively under Muslim rule for four centuries starting with Hazrat Umar’s historic entry to Jerusalem in 637 CE. The only changes had been administrative with different Muslim empires; one after the other, governing the region in turn.

The last to be dislodged (before the Turkish Muslims were themselves overthrown by the Christians) was the [Shia] Fatimid Empire, the then rulers of Egypt and had controlled Jerusalem since 969 CE. They had only recently been ousted.

The ensuing chaos following a change in government, had always led to difficulties for ordinary travellers and pilgrims, be they Christian, Jewish or Muslim and sparked off resentment and hostility to the new regime.

To add to that, Turkish leaders stopped Christian pilgrims from doing certain actions and rites the Muslims believed weren’t in line with Messianic teachings and asked them to respect the sanctity of the area by refraining from bizarre practices.

The First Crusade thus had been fuelled by Turkish refusal to allow Christian pilgrims to perform their rituals and religious functions without hindrance among other things. All subsequent crusades meanwhile, were because of major Islamic re-conquests of lands previously held by the Christians in the Middle East.

Between 1099, when Jerusalem fell to the Christians until 1187, when it was restored to Islamic occupation, it was every Muslim’s dream to liberate the Holy Lands but due to the breakdown of order, lack of able leaders and division among Islamic nations it could not be realised or achieved.

By the late 1170s the Kingdoms of Syria and Egypt had been united under one ruler, and the Muslim World had moved to a position from being largely defensive to being able to challenge Christian authority and consolidate its rule over newly acquired dominions. The Christians had done just this after 1099, despite pledging not to do so.

However a truce had existed since 1180 between the Christians and Muslims in Palestine, which the Muslims respected and honoured. The Christian ruler, Reynald or Reginald of Chatillon (also known as Lord of Kerak) massacred a caravan of pilgrims and pillaged their property as they were passing by his castle on their way to Hajj.

Salahudeen Yusuf bin Ayyubi (1139-1193), Sultan of Egypt and Syria (better known to Christians as Saladin) complained to the [French] King of Jerusalem, Baldwin IV, about the terms of the truce, which permitted free access and trade throughout the holy territories by both sides, but the response was limited.

Sometime later, Reginald of Chatillon attacked another caravan. Once more Salahudeen appealed to the Christians to do something about the killings but new leader, Guy De Lusignan, was merely king in name and had no control. The real power belonged to the perpetrator Reginald of Chatillon. On this occasion Reginald also said ‘Call your Mahomet [Prophet Muhammad SAW] to save you’.

This infuriated Salahudeen and he made immediate plans for a counter attack. The same man had earlier called for a crusade to invade Makkah and Medina in 1183, destroy the Ka’aba, desecrate the grave of the Prophet and he even tried to smuggle the Prophet’s body into Christian territory, hang him and then charge a standard fee for Muslims to come and see it.

The kidnapping plot was discovered and Reginald himself was lucky to escape but some of his co-conspirators were caught and beheaded but it had angered Muslims Worldwide when the news leaked. Salahudeen initially invaded the same year but after some negotiations, withdrew.

Finally a call for Jihad was made in 1187. First Salahudeen sent troops to blockade the route to Tiberius in Northern Palestine and assault it. Salahudeen then swept down through Galilee for his first confrontation with the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. On their way an army of knights attacked the Muslim forces and suffered a rout, barely three Christians survived the battle.

The Latin army [or ‘Franj’ in Arabic meaning French or European as all Christian forces were then known to the Muslims] of 20, 000 soldiers under Guy De Lusignan, made their way to meet Salahudeen’s forces.

On 4th July 1187, having gone days of exhausting travel and a night spent without water they saw Salahudeen waiting for them near a hill at the Horns of Hattin close to Lake Tiberius in Northern Palestine.

Salahudeen’s army prevented their access to the lake so that the Christians could have no water, soon after he made the final charge; by that time most of the knights had been killed.

Only a few of the leaders remained including the King Guy De Lusignan, Raymond of Tripoli (who died soon after in shock of losing Jerusalem) and the infamous Reginald of Chatillon. It’s now alleged Reginald was unhappy with the Latin Kingdom who were so divided Civil War looked dangerously likely and so wanted someway or another to unite them and help divert their attention elsewhere, Salahudeen was a good reason as any.

Most of the leaders were set free, but not Reginald of Chatillon. The Sultan then beheaded him personally the following morning. Guy De Lusignan begged for mercy and was treated courteously but remained a prisoner until 1189.

Sultan Salahudeen then moved north. In a remarkably short period with the Grace of Allah the Sultan re-occupied a large number of cities then under Christian rule including Nablus, Jericho, Ramlah, Caesara, Arsuf, Jaffa, Beirut and Ascalon.

The Sultan then turned to Jerusalem, which contained more than sixty thousand Christian troops. This took him another five months and finally on 2nd October 1187, Jerusalem itself fell to the Muslims after 88 years of Christian rule. The Christians of the city fought back for two weeks further before accepting defeat, (well at least until the reservists arrived.)

Unlike the appalling events of 1099 when all seventy thousand Muslims were massacred as soon as the Christians occupied the city in the First Crusade, not a single Christian was killed, humiliated or molested. All those who had been living in Jerusalem for years were granted residence, Churches remained secure from desecration and all recent European visitors asked to leave were assisted with transport facilities and money to do so.

Upon departing all Christian territories refused access to their own brethren and some even stripped them of their belongings and resources available. Just like the Second Crusade when Christians found themselves in a desperate position after being rejected by their own kind, only Muslims and Islamic lands adjacent to Jerusalem accepted them and provided the Christians with food, clothes and shelter with the result many willingly embraced Islam.

By the end of 1187 Salahudeen had reoccupied Toron, Sidon and Nazareth as well. From Jerusalem the Sultan marched upon Tyre, a city where ungrateful Christians pardoned by Salahudeen had organised defences.

Among them were soldiers from a fresh Italian fleet led by Conrad of Montferrat who refused to share power with anyone, even with other Christian leaders recently evicted from Jerusalem (and later even with the Christians from Europe).

He not only refused to give assistance and provide a base from which they could launch military maneuvers against Salahudeen, but later also asserted his right in being the new king of Jerusalem. He would later be murdered by his fellow Christians during the crusade.

Although the City of Tyre held by Conrad of Montferrat along with the country of Tripolis and the principality of Antioch eluded the Sultan in the long run and remained well protected until fresh reinforcements arrived, Salahudeen continued to press ahead reserving much of his forces for the coming battles with his European counterparts

The Sultan meanwhile defeated the resident Christian army from their base in Tyre and annexed a number of towns still held by them on the seacoast including Laodicea, Jabala, Saihun, Becas, Bozair and Derbersak. By 1188 nothing remained of the Christian stranglehold except Tyre, Belfort and a few castles.

Sultan Salahudeen had set free Guy De Lusignan on the promise he would instantly leave for Europe, but as soon as he was released, he collected a huge army and laid siege to Ptolemais in Acre. He would later say his word had been taken ‘under duress’

Soon after, on account of the Pope’s proclamation of a crusade, reinforcements from Europe arrived on the scene. By 1192 at the War’s end, 600, 000 Christian troops from several different countries would land in the Holy Lands.

Representing the European response, the two youthful kings; the one-eyed Phillip II of France (1165-1223), a son of Louis VII who had participated in the ill-fated and disastrous Second Crusade in 1147-48 the Half-English homosexual Richard I of England (1157-1199) who could not even speak his own language and the ageing Anti-Semitic Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa (1123-1190) of Germany, whose hatred of Jews went as far as once imposing a fine of 500 silver marks on his local Jewish community as punishment for their ‘Wickedness’.

They were accompanied by a large number of small kings, dukes and nobles with the largest Christian crusading force since 1099 and had assembled to counter the power of just one Muslim leader; Sultan Salahudeen.

The Third Crusade started first, just like the two before it, with large-scale massacres of Jewish civilians on the way (Richard had hanged some Jews just after his coronation and angry mobs roamed around several towns and cities griped with crusading fever hunting and slaughtering Jews endlessly for months). It then suffered a series of setbacks even before it officially got under away.

Richard not only refused to marry Phillip II’s half-sister in Sicily (with whom he had been engaged to as a child) but instead married another princess later and annoyed fellow Christians by annexing Byzantine (Greek Christian) territories in Cyprus amidst great slaughter.

Frederick Barbarossa however, entertained the Christian’s biggest and best hope. Armed with 260, 000 fully trained knights from Germany, he was the most imposing, ambitious and experienced general.

Interestingly it wasn’t religion nor popular enthusiasm and adventure but pride, animosity to Islam and personal prestige that prompted Barbarossa to join the latest crusade. As a ‘good Christian’ he had already intentionally burnt down a major cathedral, torched more than just a few churches and reduced countless houses to rubble in a bloody war against fellow Christians some twenty years earlier, and in Italy, the Pope’s home of all places.

The carnage and savagery he meted out on opponents after overcoming them made several Italian cities align together against him (called the Lombard League) and defeated Barbarossa throughout the 1160s but most decisively at the Battle of Lagnuna in 1176 and finally forced him to sue for peace in 1183.

Alexander III, the then Pope, who had been forced to flee from Rome because of Barbarossa, described him as ‘The Chief Persecutor of God’ for trying to get one of his own sympathisers and supporters to occupy his position. Even when a pope had already been selected and officially designated, Barbarossa still installed his own one anyway.

This then was the man who was now leading, representing the cross and carrying the hopes and ambitions of thousands, if not millions, of Christians Worldwide in the Third Crusade. Unlike most of his fellow leaders, it was not his first experience of a crusade, only his first to re-conquer Jerusalem, a City he had visited during the Second Crusade.

As a youth forty-two years earlier, Barbarossa had accompanied his uncle, Conrad III, in the Second Crusade aimed at capturing Damascus, Syria and failed miserably. Both the French and German armies sent, separately at first, were annihilated whilst trying to cross through Turkish territory and then pushed back when besieging Damascus.

Four decades of wounds had not yet healed for Barbarossa, and now a veteran of Sixty-seven he aimed to correct that error by defeating Salahudeen, the student and successor of Nurudeen Zangi (1118-1174); the man he had lost to so badly in 1147-48.

It was expected he would be the overall leader and saviour, conquer and enter Jerusalem victoriously and would be remembered similar to earlier heroes of the First Crusade like Godfrey of Bouillon and Bohemond I were before him. After his death, many Christians prayed for the real Godfrey of yesteryear to come and relieve them.

Salahudeen ordered some towns and cities in places Barbarossa would land to be burnt so that he couldn’t use them and a Turkish army was sent to confront him. In some cities local leaders offered little or no resistance to him increasing his growing stature among Christians in Acre.

Arriving with his enormous army in Turkey in June 1190 Barbarossa now planned to travel to the Holy Lands by sea whilst Richard and Phillip would come later by land. It was felt among Christians he was invincible and he let everyone believe he was.

Unexpectedly for everyone, he was thrown off his horse in a crossing and fully laden with heavy armour, failed to get up from the water that was not even deep, and drowned after a heart attack there and then.

Others have said, unable to resist the temptation of bathing in cool water having travelled through and across hot scorching Turkish deserts, he tried to swim a wide river and died of heart failure.

Even before this however, the German army under Barbarossa had been terribly under-nourished by this time and were further weakened by ambushes and thirst. Soldiers resorted to chewing horse manure, many left refusing to march on further, others just laid down to die.

His army decimated to five thousand soon after his death with many returning to Europe almost immediately and some were soon cut to pieces by Turkish troops sent to greet them. All lands taken by the Germans would be re-occupied within two weeks by the Turkish forces.

Thus the first offensive expedition and initial assault of the Third Crusade by the Christians had ended in failure. Richard and Philip were still in Europe at the time and wouldn’t arrive for another year.

A son of Barbarossa did however, retrieve his father’s body out of the sea, had it pickled in vinegar and then carried it in a barrel for the rest of the journey. He did this so that Barbarossa, even in death, could reach Jerusalem. Due to an epidemic at Antioch though, it had to be quickly buried, but his skull survived the arduous journey and made it to Jerusalem intact two years later.

With the end Barbarossa, Leopold, the Duke of Austria, assumed responsibility for the depleted German army and later led them to Acre. Salahudeen meanwhile now concentrated on the Christians nearer to him and awaited Phillip and Richard’s arrival.

Richard later assumed Barbarossa’s mantle for the crusade shortly afterwards. Described by some as a ‘reddish giant’ and by the standards of the day among medieval Christians, Richard was everything required of an accomplished knight and warrior king.

After having fought sixteen years alongside his mother and later all three brothers against his father, Henry II, then king of England, he later allied with his father against his older brother, known popularly as young king Henry.

As a despotic ruler of the Duchy of Acquitane himself, many of the barons under Richard rallied to his older brother to help them against him. Young king Henry, king only in name since 1170, with the combined force of the barons and his half-brother Geoffrey, defeated Richard with ease. It seemed Richard’s days of glory and honour were over.

Only his older brother’s early death in 1183 made Richard, his father’s third and most hated son, heir to the English throne. Strangely, among his relatives only his father may have been English, although Richard’s paternal grandfather was also French.

Later as king, the then unmarried, Richard acknowledged fathering an illegitimate son, Phillip, before he left on the crusade. Historians suggest this may have been to alleviate people’s fears and growing suspicion that he couldn’t be homosexual after all. Only heterosexuals can have children, or so everyone thought.

Once Richard and the remainder of Europeans had landed however, the Christians first attacked Syria then moved to the City of Acre in Palestine, which they besieged for several months. Some light moments however also occurred during the siege of friendly exchanges between the two sides.

When not fighting, some Muslims would invite themselves to the Christian camp and converse with their opponents. At other times both Christians and Muslims played card games and chess outside the fort.

Aware of the huge presence of knights in Acre, Sultan Salahudeen sent word to the garrison not to lose heart and that he would send fresh troops to assist them. He then marched south and began reinforcements.

Acre meanwhile already had withstood a siege for two years against very heavy odds but with more troop deployments concentrating on its borders and bombarding its walls, the onslaught was beginning to take its toll as the inhabitants.

Still the fort could not be dislodged easily, despite Richard’s best efforts and attempts to breach damaged walls and intensify bombardment. Unlike the fate of Jerusalem in 1099, the fort was never itself permanently damaged and all assaults were successfully repulsed with heavy losses to the Christians. Richard himself spent much of his time during the siege sick in bed and took little part in the actual assaults.

But food and other supplies were beginning to run out for the Muslims due to a blockade stringently enforced by an increase in enemy ships guarding the sea from where rations had previously found its way to the besieged. The fort’s leaders now set a date for the Sultan to save them, if he could, or their definite capitulation if he couldn’t.

Richard had earlier asked for the whole of the lands taken by the Muslims in 1187-88 in return for their safety. He would repeat the same demand to Salahudeen every time negotiations for peace arose.

In direct violation of the Sultan’s command, the city agreed to surrender on condition none of the Muslims would be killed, fifteen hundred Christian prisoners would be freed and a sum of 200, 000 pieces of gold would be paid to each of the chiefs of the Christian armies.

The tired garrison then opened its gates in July 1191 and with it the Christians had scored their first victory and Richard was now in a confident and jubilant bargaining position able to impose and dictate terms subject to his satisfaction alone.

Such a demand of exacting tribute for the Prisoners of War, Richard knew was impossible given the time the Sultan was asked to give it in by, nevertheless he tried to raise it. Nothing however could have prepared the Muslims of the fate of their comrades if the money was handed late

Richard, who had since recovered, had no intention of releasing the Muslims or later in selecting how many or who could go when the Sultan deposited some of the money. He was restless and just wanted to move on to the bigger prize; Jerusalem.

Frustrated at being forced to encamp at Acre and not being able to advance further Richard ordered all 2, 700 men along with their wives and children (a further 300 people) to be mercilessly butchered in cold blood in full view of the Sultan’s emissaries, who tried but could do nothing to help them. The slaughter took 3 days to complete.

Despite the victory, a total of 100, 000 Christians had died besieging Acre since 1189, the heaviest number of casualties in a single assault, among them Duke Frederick of Swabia, another son of Barbarossa and the Duke of Flanders, the latter a hero of the crusade before Richard and one of the earliest to enlist.

After this incident, Philip II, who had once been Richard’s childhood sweetheart and regular bed partner, set sail for Europe. Phillip had favoured negotiation to slaughter and earlier wanted to quickly take more cities and thus end the crusade before 1192.

Richard however, despite suffering from Arnaldia (a disease he shared with Phillip which made the hair and fingernails fall out) remained, even though his condition was much worse than Philip’s and he did start losing some hair immediately afterwards. Phillip, like Guy De Lusignan and other Christian leaders, had lost prestige and power since his arrival and felt dejected in being overshadowed by him and ignored.

Phillip also had other motives to return early. In fact Jerusalem and religious zeal had nothing to do with Philip’s coming to the Third Crusade. He and Richard had almost gone to War themselves in France over territorial ambitions and a confrontation was only avoided when Phillip announced he was also travelling to the Middle East.

Now that Richard was too pre-occupied with fighting Muslims outside Europe, Phillip could concentrate on his French lands with the excuse he was no longer needed and that the battle was already as good as won.

Richard, at first, was unsure of his fellow Christian’s intentions and angry at this sudden urge to return home, was even more appalled to learn Phillip had made immediate plans to seize all of Richard’s territories in France, which he did with ease.

Although Phillip left the Duke of Burgundy in charge of what was left of the French army, huge contingents of reinforcements would keep pouring in from Europe as long as the Christians remained.

From Acre Richard moved on to Jaffa and Arsuf on the coast, both cities since deserted (and later a few towns and other cities) fell to the Christians. In a confrontation at Arsuf in September 1191, Sultan Salahudeen attacked Richard’s army on their way to Ascalon and suffered a reverse. Salahudeen then withdrew to Ramlah and later to Jerusalem.

The Sultan, with the consent of the inhabitants and on the advice of his generals, then razed the city of Ascalon to prevent the Christians from having a base to launch attacks on Jerusalem. Richard later reached the outskirts of Jerusalem but was forced to withdraw due to the unwillingness of his army to continue further.

Salahudeen then followed up Richard’s withdrawal from Jerusalem by retaking Jaffa and then advanced to Acre and Richard ‘conveniently’ fell ill and sued for peace. It was not fear of losing more land that prompted this, but an inability by either side to win outright.

Bitter battles and in some cases indecisive engagements would continue throughout Syria and Palestine throughout and after the first of many peace talks. Neither leader would actually meet or fight the other in person.

In the final agreement, a narrow strip of coastland stretching from Tyre to Jaffa was given to the Christians, as well as safe passage and access to the sacred sites to visiting Christian pilgrims.

The ‘True Cross’ (on which the alleged crucifixion of Prophet Jesus had taken place) that meant nothing to Muslims was also handed over, whilst Jerusalem and most of Palestine remained with the Muslims.

Initially impressed by Al-Adil, Salahudeen’s brother and representative at the peace talks, Richard proposed Joan, his recently widowed sister, (without asking her first) be married to him, all territories taken by the Muslims be given to her as dowry and the couple both settle in Jerusalem.

Ironically, Joan’s late husband, William II of Sicily, had planned to embark with and alongside brother-in-law Richard in the Third Crusade against Salahudeen but died just before joining it. Now his widow was being given away to the brother of one her late husband’s biggest enemies by her own brother who was still in the holy lands fighting against whom he intended to be his new brother-in-law, Sultan Salahudeen.

The Sultan thought it was some kind of strange joke and was amazed something like this could come from Richard and that he had resorted to this as a kind of diplomatic strategy to gain Jerusalem. Both Al-Adil and Joan rejected the offer outright. Joan was most incensed by it all and could not tolerate even the idea of being married to an ‘infidel’.

The Pope also forbade such a union and Richard then gave his virgin niece away in marriage, with the same conditions saying by not being a queen papal authority did not extend to her.

Western writers say Richard’s low view and opinion of women in general, including to close female members of his own family were understandable given his homosexuality whilst politics and War were more important to him than who just happened to be his in-laws.

Once an agreement had been reached Salahudeen allowed large numbers of his troops to return home and Richard made another unsuccessful attempt to wrest Jerusalem from the Muslims almost immediately after having vowed to leave earlier.

His troops refused to comply citing tiredness and lack of energy and with that Richard refused to even look at Jerusalem (which was visible from his camp) if he could not enter it as a conqueror.

Failing to take Jerusalem by surprise, Richard then endeavored on storming Beirut. Sultan Salahudeen’s forces met Richard there as well and finally he bade farewell forever to the lands he had failed to take.

Before leaving, Richard informed the Sultan after the three-year truce they had agreed to (and he had already violated twice) he would return and conquer Jerusalem. The Sultan amused at his remark replied if he had to fight anyone for Jerusalem he would prefer to fight Richard.

When Sultan Salahudeen died in 1193 leaving behind 17 sons and one daughter the calmness and order that had existed in his lifetime was threatened from within. Taking advantage of the situation, the Christians broke the terms of the agreement set out in the truce and the Pope declared yet another crusade the same year.

On this occasion there was no Salahudeen, the Christians sensing a quick and easy victory sent a large expeditionary force, which landed on the Syrian coast and besieged Beirut. Allah had decreed otherwise and allowed the Muslims, despite not having been given a chance to recover from losing the Sultan, to act swiftly upon hearing the news.

Under new leader, Malik Al-Adil, the Muslims rushed a similar force from their base in Egypt to relieve them and chose the port of Jaffa (then under Christian rule since the last crusade) as their target and center of future operations for the duration of the conflict.

While the Christians were still laying siege to Tibnin and Beirut, Malik Al-Adil took the City of Jaffa by storm, thus cutting off the invaders from their base on the seacoast. After this the Christians could muster no more effective assaults on any city and were reduced to unproductive skirmishes with Muslim defenders.

A truce was concluded in 1197, four years later with the Christians winning even less than they did in the last crusade, much less a city or a town or achieving anything substantial to their name. Barbarossa’s son and successor, Henry VI, had intended to join them but died suddenly the same year.

Unlike all crusades before and after it European and other modern historians tend not to mention this particular episode as an actual event and even fewer record it as a crusade despite the Papal Proclamation.

As for Richard, he had been captured (despite his disguise) en route to Europe after returning from the Third Crusade by one of his fellow Christian enemies. The same enemy then handed him over to another even bigger enemy (another Christian) who immediately jailed him in 1192 where Richard remained incarcerated for two years.

A handsome fine of ₤15, 000 was demanded (three times Richard’s actual salary) and then paid (courtesy of unpopular and heavy taxes rendered on the British people by younger brother John) for his release.

After that Richard finally returned to England after five long years, but only briefly for a second coronation and reconciliation with John and then to France; the country he regarded as his only real home. He once remarked he would sell London, if only he could find someone rich enough to buy it.

Even with the Pope’s pleas and his earlier vow to return as a conqueror, Richard had lost patience, energy and interest in Jerusalem. He liked winning battles not losing them and being humbled by an older man with just one army and fewer combat troops had brought the reality of his defeat down on him.

His unhappy, far from pleasant and uncomfortable experience made Richard refuse to join any more crusades despite the occurrence of two more and the proclamation of a third in his lifetime.

The first of which was in the Holy Lands and the second right next door to his native France (where he would continue to live until his death) in Muslim Spain and a third initially aimed at Egypt (which was later diverted to attacking and invading the territories of other Christians) all of which ended disastrously for the Christians.

Ironically, in the crusade to Spain, huge numbers of Christian knights (most of whom were French) who had participated in the Third Crusade under the leadership of both Richard and Phillip II went, along with several European leaders and senior generals, all the Spanish provinces then under Christian rule, enthusiastic volunteers from France as well as several priests to bless the troops.

On that occasion, one hundred and forty-six thousand Christians would be killed in the first battle alone, with a further thirty thousand taken captive by a much smaller army from Morocco; the then seat of government for Muslim Spain.

Alfonso VIII of Castile, the main Christian leader, after withdrawing to his capital, Toledo following his defeat, would lose further territories immediately afterwards and even have his own State besieged.

In the battle just outside Toledo, he suffered another reverse and the city looked certain to fall any time. The Muslim ruler wanted nothing short of unconditional surrender and the fall of Castile, a rich prize for any Muslim in Andalusia then.

Only due to a touching plea from the elderly mother of Alfonso VIII, would the Muslims raise the siege of Toledo and allow him to retain what was left of his kingdom by the end of the crusade.

The campaigns didn’t end there and numerous cities and forts outside his realm were also taken in both Spain and Portugal including Calatrave, Guadlaxara, Madrid, Escelona and Salamanca.

The crusade ended finally in 1197 after two years when the Muslim ruler accepted the call for peace from Christian embassies across the Iberian Peninsula anxious to save something for themselves.

The same Muslim leader, known more popularly as Mansur, was also one of the few who had helped Salahudeen against the Christians in the Middle East as well as supplying the latter with both troops and weaponry.

After his release from jail in 1194 Richard, despite showing no interest in either crusade, continued to fight but only against easier enemies, and in particular with the notorious French King, Phillip II, the same man who had earlier deserted him against the Muslims in 1191.

Phillip himself, once back in Paris, had personally gloated over his role as the conqueror of Acre and primary source of inspiration to all Christians in the Middle East. Having won wide acclaim amidst huge celebrations from his people upon his return to France, he had for the time being become a popular icon able to extend his victories to his own nation and later in Europe.

However, despite his self-awarded status and being the most powerful Christian military strategist in Europe, he would witness at least four more crusades against the Muslims in the Holy Lands as well as a fifth in Spain in his lifetime, and like Richard abstain from all of them and encourage others to do the same.

To his credit, his grandson, Louis IX, would go twice, by which time the goal was to conquer Egypt, (the center of Muslim power in the region) and force the Islamic rulers to just hand over the Holy Lands out of fear of losing their main base in Africa.

Louis IX would be captured in his first crusade, spend years in jail until a fine was paid for his release afterwards and then die fighting in Tunisia in his second one in the Eighth (and last major) Crusade in the 1270s.

After Richard, (who would die fighting in France in 1199), only one further English King would participate in the crusades, Edward I, then still a prince, between 1270-1272 alongside Louis IX of France (the second time a French and English king would go together and fail) in the Eighth Crusade to the Holy Lands.

Like Edward’s predecessors and successors in these expeditions, his presence, personal engagements and alleged gains there were too insignificant to mention even for interested historians outside English soil.

By this time The Mameluks (slave kings) of Egypt had assumed supremacy in the Middle East and having humbled the power of the Mongols (starting with the historic battle of Ayn Jalut in 1260 and thus destroying the myth of Mongol invincibility) made successful inroads against the Latin army from 1263 onwards thus setting off the Eighth Crusade.

Not wanting to take on the Mameluke Empire after the fiasco of the Eighth Crusade, (and later to the Turkish strength in the region) European responses to further tensions in the area were lacking and without the previous vigour, now unconcerned and disconnected to future events there.

Interestingly the Mongols sent delegations to the Pope and both England (then still under Edward I) and France to mount further crusades offering troops amongst other valuable gifts and the usual promises of heaven at a later date.

The Pope said he couldn’t initiate a crusade without the support of powerful European nations and Edward referred the Mongols back to the Pope. The French went one better and gave their Asian visitors a tour of Paris before mildly rejecting their offer.

As with Richard, Edward had vowed to return and with a bigger army after the 11-year truce between them expired but never did even with a smaller one. When the Mongols, at the height of their power offered to supply him with the larger reinforcements that he had wanted and arrived on the English mainland, he refused to entertain them.

Without the support and interest in the Holy Lands after 1272 by the Europeans, the Christians, resident in the Holy Lands, eventually lost ground and as more and more strategic sites began to slip out of their hands, the prospects of re-conquest began to look increasingly grim.

The Knights Hospitallers Order of St John and Templars defending the cities and fortresses still held by Christian knights, now without fresh troops from overseas to relieve them, lost momentum and the towns and cities gradually fell one by one during the next decade.

In 1291, the City of Acre, the last outpost in their possession also collapsed. After the city’s capture, the Latin army was expelled from the Holy Lands. No more major crusades to the Middle East were ever launched again as Muslims had begun to threaten Europe itself and people had found salvation could be sought on earth as well as heaven.

As for the Knight’s Templars, the last heroes and ‘valiant’ defenders of Christian territory in the Holy Lands, they would also be richly rewarded by being accused of heresy and wiped out for good in 1307.

Edward I, who was still alive when all these events occurred, and like Richard before him continued fighting and died whilst engaged in War in Europe, did nothing to help his fellow Christians in faraway Asia.

He is remembered more for his succession of victories against the Welsh and the Scots across the border and expulsion of all 16, 000 Jews from England in 1290 as king, then for his dismal record against the Muslims abroad as a prince.

Once safely enthroned and with more local fish to fry back home, he had a sense of general apathy towards returning to the Middle East or having anything more to do with Islam in general.

As a general and strategist in the Third Crusade, Sultan Salahudeen fought several hundred battles over four years with the help of Allah and Allah alone, and it should be said without the financial, military, logistical and technical support of other Muslim kings or even the Caliph himself.

Whilst he initially received some assistance in the form of foreign troops after Jerusalem had been liberated, he fought largely unaided against a continuous stream of European armies once the Third Crusade had been declared and still managed to contain the Christian onslaught.

It is estimated that out of 600, 000 Christians who arrived on the shores of the Middle East by 1192 less than 300, 000 actually returned to their homes, a fact not recorded by Western historians, and wrongly described by others as being due to famine and disease.

Despite this, it is still described as a successful venture with Richard as a chivalrous War Hero accepting rather than proposing peace terms and abandoning plans to take Jerusalem instead of accepting defeat.

Only Barbarossa overshadowed Richard initially, with the result Richard and many of his troops are alleged to have seen the Virgin Mary in the skies decorating them with divine legitimacy. Others had seen saints and even recently deceased soldiers stirring them on.

Rodrigo Ruy Diaz De Vivar better known as El Cid, a famous eleventh century Christian knight and mercenary in Muslim Spain, had apparently also been given legitimacy and divine support through a personal visit by Angel Gabriel a hundred years earlier, so holy apparitions were nothing new.

Had Frederick Barbarossa lived and fought against Salahudeen, Jerusalem would have been conquered, or so Christian historians still claim. Only his death prevented the Christians from total victory.

Barbarossa, known to his Christian enemies for not bluffing ruthless strategies and tactics, had sent letters to Salahudeen demanding total surrender or face immediate ruin by his hands.

Salahudeen mailed him similar replies and prepared to face him personally as soon as he was due to arrive. His delay to Acre, initially due to facing Frederick’s colossal army, would cost the Muslims dearly later

The Sultan inflicted heavy losses in several open battles against different Christian leaders along the 150 miles of coastlines in the Holy Lands and on other occasions his forces defeated the Christians with very heavy casualties, but despite their setbacks Christian reinforcements continued to arrive on a very large scale encouraging the invaders to stay longer and ignore the mounting death toll.

However by 1192 Richard, aware he could not take Jerusalem (and knowing he couldn’t defend it even if he did) and anxious to save his throne, which had since been usurped by younger brother John with the assistance of Phillip II and a new Holy Roman Emperor hostile to him, as well as his French possessions asked for peace terms.

By this time Richard was seriously ill the Sultan sent him sherbet, fruit, lemon, some peaches and snow (to make cool drinks) to assist him in his recovery. Letters were arriving from England day by day both requesting and demanding he return to England and telling him how much more land he had now lost to Phillip II.

At this time Richard could barely walk or talk and if Sultan Salahudeen had wanted to he could have attacked the Christian camp in their most vulnerable and helpless condition, and then force them to leave without an agreement or relinquishing any territory voluntarily.

What could Richard do if Salahudeen refused to bargain with him whilst he was ill and knowing full well the former desperately wanted to return to Europe to save his lands from Phillip at almost any cost?

Salahudeen had earlier given Richard a sword during a battle when he saw Muslims surrounded the former without one and on another occasion supplied him with two horses when Richard’s own horse was killed, again in an encounter against him.

Without the treaty that followed Richard had nothing to boast about, retain or feel secure within his possession by 1192. Western history tends to ignore this and generally attribute the treaty as his ‘victories’.

The agreement and had given Christians some kind of respectable image they could present to their countrymen back home without losing face and return to Europe with a heroes welcome.

Prior to the Battle of Hattin in 1187 none of Palestine west of the Jordan belonged to the Muslims and by the time of the peace treaty of Ramlah in1192 practically everything had been taken back apart from a few coastal areas from Tyre to Jaffa surrendered in the Treaty to the Christians.

For Salahudeen, whilst the events surrounding 1187 were an offensive Jihad to capture and liberate the holy territories under Christian rule, the Third Crusade was a purely defensive measure to protect and preserve the lands already under Muslim occupation.

This was also in response to fresh attacks by the Europeans, that included trained and highly skilled Special Forces like the Knights Templars, Knights Hospitallers Order of St. John and others created specifically to counter the Islamic threat.

News of Salahudeen’s hospitality and fairness to all men had led many Christians to abandon their faith, the King of Jerusalem Guy De Lusignan, reported of at least six nobles embracing Islam even before the Battle of Hattin in 1187.

Countless others among them monks, nuns and even Christian crusaders from Europe deserted the religion they had grown up with for the one that made Sultan Salahudeen act the way he did towards them and which they saw practiced the laws and policies their own one professed but failed to implement.

As a ruler Salahudeen built and administered an empire stretching from the Tigris to the Nile, constructed forts, mosques, roads and irrigation channels. As an educator he founded the Ayyubid University in Damascus and in Cairo a religious seminary at the mausoleum of Imam Shafi.

In memory of his late teacher and famous predecessor, Nurudeen Zangi, the hero of the Second Crusade (1147-48), Salahudeen took the famous mimbar the former had purpose built and erected in Damascus to put in Bait-ul-Muqadis.

The Sultan placed the mimbar in Masjid Aqsa on behalf of Nuruddin who had wanted to do it himself if ever the opportunity had arisen in his lifetime. It remained in the vicinity of Bait-ul-Muqadis until 1969 when it was destroyed by a Jewish arsonist.

Sultan Salahudeen’s greatest achievement was by far however his liberation of Jerusalem in 1187 and his defence of the areas surrounding it immediately afterwards was an equally amazing fate and more so due to his age, limited resources and lack of experienced generals.

Unlike his opponents he had to lead most of his armies himself whilst knowing the risk his death carried and impact it could have on the morale of his forces, still he had no choice but to implement this dangerous strategy.

After the crusade, Richard had come to admire him and offered to leave some of his troops for his personal service and even suggested forming an alliance, whereby he could come to the Sultan’s aid whenever he needed him, be it against fellow Christians or Muslims.

Salahudeen was by 1187 however, already in his fifties and had fought his last battle whilst leaders like Phillip II and Richard were at least twenty years younger, much healthier and likely to fight longer.

A year after the peace treaty Salahudeen would die after an excruciatingly fierce four years of War among universal mourning, and be credited by some as being in the same league as the early conquerors like Khalid bin Waleed.

Only one other dream eluded Salahudeen in the long run, Hajj. He had planned to go as soon as the Christians withdrew their forces after the peace treaty, to thank and glorify his Creator for all that had happened and to see the two sites holier than Jerusalem, but illness was to shatter that opportunity.

He had contracted it during the crusade, but unlike both Richard and Phillip, was able to conceal it well and kept his condition a guarded secret and now that all immediate dangers had ceased, he could succumb to it knowing he had done his duty.

By the time of his death, despite being Sultan of Egypt and Syria, conqueror of Jerusalem and the spiritual inspiration for millions of Muslims Worldwide, Salahudeen who owned few things in his lifetime even as leader, did not have enough money for his own funeral.

Although many came to pay their final respects to Salahudeen at his janaza, in line with his wishes and the practice of the Prophet’s Sunnah in Islam, he was buried with a simple yet modest and dignified ceremony.

Thanks: The Islamic Adventurer: The Third Crusade, An Islamic Perspective (islamicglobalhistory.blogspot.com)

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