Post-classical history

Al-Kamil (d. 1238)

Ayyûbid sultan of Egypt (1218-1238).

Al-Malik al-Kāmil Muhammad ibn Ahmad, born around 1177/1180, was the son of Sultan al-‘Adil. When al-‘Adil died in 1218, Egypt was facing the crisis of the Fifth Crusade (1217-1221), which was besieging the port of Damietta. Al-Kāmil attempted to buy off the crusaders by offering them all the former Frankish territories west of the Jordan; this offer was refused and Damietta fell to the crusaders in 1219. Al-Kāmil was rescued by reinforcements from his kinsmen in Syria and also helped by the flooding of the Nile and disagreements among the crusaders. In 1221 the crusaders withdrew from the Nile Delta under truce.

In 1226 al-Kāmil sent an embassy to Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, making him the same offer he had previously made to Pelagius, if Frederick would support him against the Ayyūbid ruler of Damascus, al-Mu‘azzam. In 1227 al-Kāmil, allied with al-Ashraf Mūsa of al-Jazira (Upper Mesopotamia), ousted their kinsman al-Nasir Dawūd from Damascus. Al-Ashraf Mūsatook Damascus, whereas al- Kāmil received Palestine and Transjordan. By the time Frederick arrived in Palestine in 1228, al-Kāmil no longer wanted his assistance, but the emperor still posed enough of a threat for al-Kāmil to enter into negotiations with him. In 1229 he restored to the Christians most of the city of Jerusalem as well as some of the other territories that had been conquered by his uncle Saladin, while keeping the al-Aqsā Mosque and the Dome of the Rock under Muslim control.

Al-Kāmil’s concessions were widely unpopular, and al- Nasir Dawūd sponsored propaganda for a renewed jihād (holy war). Al-Kāmil disliked his eldest son, al-Salih Ayyūb, and sent him to al-Jazira. However, after al-Kāmil’s death, al-Salih Ayyūb was ultimately successful in establishing himself as his father’s heir in Egypt.

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