All content on this blog is protected by copyright.
Content used elsewhere without attribution constitutes theft of intellectual property and will be prosecuted.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Atrocities in Jerusalem based on Arab Sources

Much has been made of the fact that the Christians took Jerusalem in 1099 by assault resulting in the slaughter of many (though by no means all) of the inhabitants. It is usual to contrast this with Salah ad-Din's more "civilized" agreement to let the inhabitants of Jerusalem buy their freedom.  

To put things in perspective, I'd like to share the following description written by Imad ad-Din, one of Salah ad-Din's intimates (his secretary and chancellor to be precise), of what happened after the surrender of Jerusalem in 1187.

Under the treaty, at the end of forty days whoever was unable to pay what he owed or refused to pay it ws to become our slave by right and come into our possession.  The tax was ten dinars for each man, five for a woman and two for a boy or girl. Ibn Barzan (Balian d'Ibelin, son of Barisan) and the Patriarch and the Grand Masters of the Temple and the Hospital [sic. In fact, both Grand Masters had been slain and/or taken captive at before the surrender of Jerusalem; one presumes Imad ad-din means the senior officials of the respective orders in Jerusalem after the surrender in 1187] stood guarantee, and Ibn Barzan gave 30,000 dinar for the poor, fulfilling his word faithfully and without default.(1)

...There were more than 100,000 persons in the city, men, women and children. The gates were closed upon them all, and representatives appointed to make a census and demand the sum due. ... About 15,000 were unable to pay the tax, and slavery was their lot; there were about 7,000 men who had to accustom themselves to an unaccustomed humiliation, and whom slavery slip up and dispersed as their buyers scattered through the hills and valleys. Women and children together came to 8,000 and were quickly divided up among us, bringing a smile to Muslim faces at their lamentations. How many well-guarded women were profaned, how many queens were ruled, and nubile girls married, and noble women given away, and miserly women forced to yield themselves, and women who had been kept hidden stripped of their modesty, and serious women made ridiculous, and women kept in private now set in public, and free women occupied, and precious ones used for hard work and pretty things put to the test, and virgins dishonoured and proud women deflowered, and lovely women's red lips kissed and dark women prostrated, and untamed ones tamed, and happy ones made to weep! How many noblemen took them as concubines, how many ardent men blazed for one of them, and celibates were satisfied by them, and thirsty men sated by them, and turbulent men able to give vent to their passion. How many lovely women were the exclusive property of one man, how many great ladies were sold at low prices, and close ones set at a distance, and lofty ones abase, and savage ones captured, and those accustomed to thrones dragged down!

The length to which Imad ad-Din goes to describe the humiliations of the Christian women, and the stress he puts on their misery and Muslim joy and delight surely says all that needs to be said about Muslim attitudes to women.

These atrocities -- committed not in blood-lust after a successful assault on a city after three years of hard campaigning but in cold-blood after a comparatively easy victory -- are far more outrageous and repulsive in my humble opinion.

The surrender of Jerusalem to Salah ad-Din in 1187 forms the climax of "Defender of Jerusalem," Book II in a three-part biographical novel of Balian d'Ibelin. 

Book I, "Knight of Jerusalem" is on sale now. Buy on amazon here!

                                                      Buy on Barnes and Noble here!

(1) No other action by Balian so exemplifies his chivalry and Christianity as this concern for the poor when Heraclius, the Patriarch, left Jerusalem with wagons loaded down with riches allegedly worth 200,000 dinar and so sufficient to buy the freedom of ALL who went into slavery. Balian did not have those resources, but he did want he could.


  1. Not at all. Quite common actually, even today. You should have heard what my Armenian grandparents had to say about the Muslim Turks and Kurds.


I welcome feedback and guest bloggers, but will delete offensive, insulting, racist or hate-inciting comments. Thank you for respecting the rules of this blog.