Post-classical history

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Document 12 AN EXCHANGE OF LETTERS DURING THE THIRD CRUSADE

Baha’ al-Din’s work includes the following letters, exchanged between Saladin and Richard in October 1191. They provide a succinct summary of the issues at stake.

Richard to Saladin

The Muslims and the Franks are done for. The land is ruined, utterly ruined at the hands of both sides. Property and lives on both sides are destroyed. This matter has received its due. All we have to talk about is Jerusalem, the Holy Cross and these lands. Now Jerusalem is the centre of our worship which we shall never renounce, even if there were only one of us left. As for these lands, let there be restored to us what is this side of the Jordan. The Holy Cross, that is a piece of wood that has no value for you, but is important for us. Let the sultan bestow it upon us. Then we can make peace and have rest from this constant hardship.

Saladin’s reply

Jerusalem is ours just as much as it is yours. Indeed, for us it is greater than it is for you, for it is where our Prophet came on his Night Journey and the gathering place of the angels. Let not the king imagine that we shall give it up, for we are unable to breathe a word of that amongst the Muslims. As for the land, it is also ours originally. Your conquest of it was an unexpected accident due to the weakness of the Muslims there at that time. While the war continues God has not enabled you to build up one stone there. From the lands in our hands we, thanks be to God, feed on the produce and draw our benefit. The destruction of the Holy Cross would in our eyes be a great offering to God, but the only reason we are not permitted to go that far is that some more useful benefit might accrue to Islam.

Source: Baha’ al-Din ibn Shaddad. (2001) The Rare and Excellent History of Saladin, p. 186.

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