Palestine In The Islamic History Part 3: The Political Map Of The Region Before The Crusades

10 April 2011

By Dr. Hassan A. Khater

Palestine In The Islamic History Part 2: Imad El-Deen Zanki Carries Al-Jihad Banner

Palestine In The Islamic History Part 1: The Crusaders and the Tatars, Ayn Jalout Battle, Elimination Of The Crusaders

The Abbasid Caliphate was established in the East; the Fatimid Caliphate in Egypt, parts of North Africa and Syria, and the Umayyad Caliphate in Andalus. The Crusades took place under these circumstances.

The political map of the region before the Crusades

Forty years before the Crusades, the Turkish Saljuks had succeeded in dominating Baghdad and took over the rule under the nominal Abbasid Caliphate. The Saljuks had managed to dominate over larger parts of Persia, northern Iraq, Armenia and Asia Minor around 1040 CE. The Saljuk ruler, Toghrol Bic, dominated over Bain 1055 CE.

The Saljuks spread their rule over the Byzantines in Asia Minor. On 19 August 1071 CE, the Malathkard battle, under the command of the Saljuk ruler Alb Arsalan, took place, and a catastrophe befell the Byzantines till the end of the eleventh century CE.

In 1071 CE, the Saljuks seized most of Palestine except for Arsout, and dismissed the Fatimid dominion from it. The Saljuks expanded their dominion to include most of Syria.

In 1092 CE (485 H [Hijra]), the Saljuk Sultan Malikshah passed away, thereby breaking down the Saljuks' dominion and launching many long and severe battles among them over the dominion and power. In 1096 CE, their rule was divided into five kingdoms: Sultanate of Persia (under the ruler Birkiyarouq), Kingdom of Khurasan and beyond the River (under the ruler Singer), Kingdom of Aleppo (under the ruler Radwan), Kingdom of Damascus (under the ruler Daqaq) and the Roman Saljuks Sultanate (under the ruler Qalj Arsalan). Most of the regions in Palestine were subjected to the Damascus regime, and during the weakness of the two rulers of Syria (Radwan and Daqaq), a lot of private rulers emerged, none of which dominated more than one city.

The Crusaders commenced their military campaign of 1098 CE (491 H) while Muslim regions in Syria, Iraq and others were torn apart because of their differences and bloody conflicts. The two brothers, Radwan and Daqaq, sons of Titish, launched a war against each other in 490 H. Many battles broke out between Mohammed Ibn Malikshah Birkiyarouq because of their conflict over the power in which they exchanged victories and sermons in the Caliphate court during the period 492-497 H.

During Pope Urban the Second's time (1088-1988 CE), the Europeans focused on the Holy Land. The Pope called on the Claremont Council on 26 November 1095 CE to restore the Holy Land by taking it back from the Muslims.

Many councils were held in Limoux, Angariz, Man, Tours, Bouwatieeh, Bordeaux, Toulouse and Neim, in which he called for launching the Crusades during the period 1095-1096 CE. He promised that any volunteer who would participate in the Crusades would be forgiven his sins. He also promised that any crusader's property would be kept under the auspices of the Church during their absence. He required that each warrior should wear a cloth cross on his tunic.

First Crusader Military Campaign And Its Results

During Pope Urban the Second's time (1088-1988 CE), the Europeans focused on the Holy Land. The Pope called on the Claremont Council on 26 November 1095 CE to restore the Holy Land by taking it back from the Muslims.

Many councils were held in Limoux, Angariz, Man, Tours, Bouwatieeh, Bordeaux, Toulouse and Neim, in which he called for launching the Crusades during the period 1095-1096 CE. He promised that any volunteer who would participate in the Crusades would be forgiven his sins. He also promised that any crusader's property would be kept under the auspices of the Church during their absence. He required that each warrior should wear a cloth cross on his tunic.

The Crusades were launched as public campaigns or callers' campaigns. They were poor in arms and in order. One of these campaigns was the campaign of Peter the Hermit, who was an eloquent person known for riding on a lame donkey barefoot and with tattered clothes. He gathered about 15,000 volunteers in France. En route to their destination, they committed the massacre of 4,000 individuals because of a dispute over rations. The bands of Walter the Penniless assembled with them in Constantinople, and they all entered the Asian seashore. A battle with the Saljuks took place and the Saljuks defeated them and killed 22,000 Crusaders. Only 3,000 Crusaders survived. As to the Volkmar and Ameikh campaigns, they began by massacring the Jews along their route. Thereafter, the two campaigns perished in Hungary!

The first Crusade campaign took place in which professional European barons and knights participated. The campaign started to overcome the Muslim regions beginning in the summer of the year 1097 CE. In March 1098 CE, the Crusades formed Al-Raha State under the leadership of the Pole Baldwin. The Crusaders besieged Antioch for nine months. The ruler of Antioch, Baggissian, had shown courage, good opinion and took precautions more than anyone else. Thus, the Crusades perished. However, if their crowds had survived, they would have dominated over the Muslim countries. One of the Armenians who was guarding the walls of the city contacted the Crusaders. They gave him money and property for opening the door of the tower he was guarding. Because of this, the Crusaders occupied the city and formed their second State on 3 June 1098 CE (491 H) under Bohemond of Normandy.

While the Saljuks were defending themselves against the Crusaders along the north of Syria, the Fatimids took the opportunity to invade and occupy Tyre in 1097 CE. They dominated over Jerusalem in February 1098 CE, while the Crusaders were besieging Antioch. In Tripoli, the Judge Ibn Ammar, one of the followers of the Fatimids, declared his independence. The Fatimids sent to the Crusaders, during their besieging of Antioch, a mission so as to join in alliance. They proposed to fight against the Saljuks provided that they should capture Palestine while the northern region (Syria) would be under the dominion of the Crusaders. The Crusaders sent a delegation to Egypt to manifest their "good intention".

While the Saljuks were engaged with the Crusades, the Fatimids were engaged in expanding their dominion in Palestine over the Saljuk's State till their borders reached Al-Kalb River north of the Jordan River in the east!

Treacheries and betrayals of the States of the cities, which were so eager to gain the Crusaders' friendship during their expansion, were manifested. This happened when the ruler of the Sheezar region contacted the Crusaders and agreed not to encounter them and to provide them with what they needed, such as food and rations. He even sent two guides with them to help them find the right routes. The city of Homos also gave them gifts. The city of Mosyaf concluded a treaty with them. Tripoli paid to them taxes and provided them with guides. Beirut paid them money and proposed to be subjugated to them in case they managed to seize Jerusalem.

Raymond of Toulouse (Prince of Province and Toulouse in France) continued to lead the rest of the Crusaders' march to Jerusalem. Their number was only 1,000 knights and 5,000 infantry. In the springtime of the year 1099 CE, they entered Palestine. They passed by Acre, whose ruler provided the Crusaders with supplies, then by Qeisarya and Arsouf. After that, they captured Al-Ramleh, Lod and Bethlehem. On 7 June 1099 CE, the besiege of Jerusalem started. Iftikhar Al-Dawalah, who was appointed by the Fatimids, ruled it. The city was captured on 15 July 1099 (23 Sha'aban 492 H). The Crusaders continued killing the Muslims for one week. They killed more than 70,000 inside Al-Aqsa Mosque, including many groups of Muslim chiefs, scholars and worshippers. Both the Fatimid and the Abbasid States did not do anything to help but rather kept silent regarding these events. Jerusalem was ruled by the leader of the Crusades, Godfry of Bouillon, who was called humbly the "Jerusalem defender". Nablus and Hebron surrendered to the Crusaders.

It is narrated that only 300 knights and 2,000 infantry of the Crusaders remained for this reason--they could not expand their dominion over more territories because most of them returned home after Jerusalem was conquered. Therefore, the kingdoms of the Crusaders became like islands surrounded by enemies. Nevertheless, these kingdoms continued to survive for 200 years whereafter the last one perished because of lack of supplies and expeditions. The Muslims were weak because they split into groups, making their numbers very small. They did not take advantage of the opportunity to overcome the Crusaders during their periods of spreading out over large areas in limited numbers. The Muslims lagged till ot was too late. The Crusaders became strong during the Muslim period of weakness and it was no longer an easy task to drive the Crusaders out.

The Crusaders continued to capture more cities in Palestine. Jaffa was captured during the besieging of Jerusalem by Genoan ships (in the Mediterranean Sea) on 15 June 1099 CE. They also captured the eastern area of Lake Tiberias (Al-Sawad area) in May of 1100 CE. The Crusaders also captured Haifa by force during the month of Shawwal 94 H (August 1100 CE) with the help of a great fleet from Venice. They dominated over Arsouq peacefully and drove its inhabitants out. They captured Qeisarya by force on 17 May 1109 CE. They killed its inhabitants and robbed their property on 17 May 1101 CE. Thus, the Crusaderimposed their dominion over Palestine except Ashkelon owing to the Egyptians (the Fatimid) supplying it with ammunition, men and funds every year. Although the Crusaders used to besiege Ashkelon every year, they failed to capture it until the year 1153 CE (548 H). In that year, Ashkelon's inhabitants managed to drive the Crusaders back. But, when they got desperate and were about to retreat, they received tidings that Ashkelon's people were in dispute. So, the Crusaders waited with patience. The reason for the dispute between the parties of Ashkelon was because of a power struggle; each party alleged that they alone achieved the victory. However, the dispute increased in size till one person from one of the two parties was killed. This led to a much worse situation and, consequently, war broke out between them and many of them were killed. The Crusaders were hoping for this window of opportunity and shortly thereafter, they advanced to Ashkelon and easily occupied it.

Although the Crusaders were small in number, they managed to maintain great control by building fortified castles that were built like islands in many areas in Sham. And as the struggle continued between the Muslims themselves, some of them resorted to getting help from the Crusaders to overpower their foes. The Muslims at large were weaker, and the Crusaders became more powerful and dominant, to such a degree that they played the role of a guardian policing the region.

The struggle between Baktash and Tagatken over Damascus continued, and Baktash sought help from the king of the Crusaders in 498 H and from all those "who wanted corruption." However, the king's only help was to push Baktash for further corruption, which ultimately led to his downfall and the triumph of Tagatken. At the battle between the Fatimids and the Crusaders in 498 H, in an area between Ashkelon and Jaffa, the Fatimids were supported by a force of more than 300 knights from Damascus, and the Crusaders were helped by a group of Muslims led by Baktash Bin Tatash. When the Sultan's army, under the leadership of Barsaq Bin Barsaq, came from Iraq in 509 H to Damascus for the sake of fighting the Crusaders, the rulers of Halab and Damascus feared for their own interests and power. They collaborated, under the leadership of Tagatken, with the Antakya Crusader troops to oppose the Sultan's army. Tagatken fought the Crusaders of Bayt Al-Maqdis and won back the city of Rafnya after the Crusaders captured it.

Generally, however, the Muslim struggle (Jihad) against the Crusaders continued, though it actually lacked a strategic plan or organization. Some of the other reasons for the continuation of the struggle include the fact that there were many Muslim leaders, who appeared and disappeared frequently, which led to a lack of stable leadership. Also, the conflict with the Crusaders was distributed on many fronts simultaneously in Belad El-Sham. Furthermore, Muslims did not have a powerful centre that could be used as a launching base for their assaults on the Crusaders. More often than not, the battles were mainly in the form of a single Muslim city or castle trying to defend itself, or expand, against the Crusaders.

The wars continued between the Muslims and the Crusaders. Sometimes the Muslims triumphed, and in other times the Crusaders achieved the victory. It was not difficult for Muslims to get into the middle of Palestine and fight the Crusaders at Ramleh or Jaffa, for instance, but the Crusaders continued to have great control over the areas they occupied.

As a result, many new Muslim leaders appeared, but they were not strong enough to unite the Muslim forces for the fight against the Crusaders. Nonetheless, these leaders kept the spirit of resisting the Crusaders alive, and they inflicted them with many casualties and damages. They deprived the Crusaders from the security they were after, and managed to kill and capture many of their prominent leaders. For example, when Mu'een Al-Dawlah Saqman was fighting a war with Shams Al-Dawlah Jakramesh, and Harran was surrounded by the Crusader forces in 497 H, they started to contact each other and pledged a solemn oath for sacrificing themselves for the sake of God and His retribution. They gathered near Al-Khabour area in an army composed of more than 10,000 men from various nationalities, among who were Turks, Arabs and Kurds. They met with the Crusaders at Al-Bleekh River and defeated them. The Muslims captured the Crusader leader Burdawel and traded him for 35 dinars. They were also able to reclaim 160 Muslim prisoners of war that had previously been captured by the Crusaders. In this battle, however, more than 12,000 Crusader soldiers were killed.



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