Post-classical history

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Document 17 TWO SOURCES ON THE HANDOVER OF JERUSALEM TO FREDERICK II

(i) Ibn Wasil

Al-Kamil’s handover of Jerusalem to Frederick II, and the latter’s subsequent visit to the Temple Mount, are described in the Mufarrij al-Kurub fi Akhbar Bani Ayyub (The Remover of Worries about Reports of the Scions of Ayyub) of the qadi and historian Jamal al-Din Muhammad ibn Wasil (d. 1298).

Al-Malik al-Kamil was of the opinion that if he broke [his agreement] with the emperor and did not satisfy him with everything [that had been promised], he would open up an episode of war with the Franks, disruption would spread and everything that vanishes because of it would thus slip away. He believed that he should satisfy the Franks with the city of Jerusalem in ruins, and make peace with them for a time, and then he would be able to seize it from them whenever he wished. The emir Fakhr al-Din ibn al-Shaykh carried the messages between him and the king-emperor, and between them there were discussions on various topics. During these the emperor sent al-Malik al-Kamil difficult philosophical, geometrical and mathematical questions, in order to put the learned men who were with him to the test. Al-Malik al-Kamil showed the mathematical questions that had come to him to the shaykh ‘Alam al-Din Qaysar ibn Abi’l-Qasim, who was a leader in the field, and showed the remainder to a group of learned men, and they answered the lot. Then the sultan al-Malik al-Kamil swore to abide by what they had agreed on, as did the emperor, and they concluded a peace agreement for a fixed term. The matter was arranged between them, and each side felt secure with the other. It reached me that the emperor said to Fakhr al-Din, ‘Had I not feared that my reputation among the Franks would collapse, I would not have imposed any of this on him. I have no desire to take Jerusalem or anywhere else, and only really want to preserve my honour among them.’

When it was proclaimed in Jerusalem that the Muslims were to leave, and [the city] was to be surrendered to the Franks, tumult and weeping broke out among the people of Jerusalem. It was distressing for the Muslims. They grieved for Jerusalem’s passing out of their possession and disapproved of al-Malik al-Kamil for this act […] but al-Malik al-Kamil, may God have mercy on him, knew that it would be impossible for the Franks to restrain themselves from [attacking] Jerusalem, since its walls had been destroyed, and that if he achieved his objective and the situation stabilised for him, he would be able [later] to purify it of the Franks and expel them from it.

When the matter of the truce was concluded, the emperor asked the sultan for permission to visit Jerusalem, and he gave it to him. The sultan commissioned the qadi Shams al-Din, the qadi of Nablus, may God have mercy on him, who was revered in the state and given precedence by the rulers of the Ayyubid family, that he provide service to the emperor until he had visited Jerusalem and returned to Acre. Shams al-Din, may God have mercy on him, related to me, ‘When the emperor came to Jerusalem, I accompanied him as the sultan al-Malik al-Kamil commanded me. I entered the Noble Sanctuary with him, and he looked at the shrines in it. Then I entered the Aqsa Mosque with him, and the building amazed him, as did that of the sanctified Dome of the Rock. When he reached themihrab of the Aqsa [Mosque] its beauty, and the beauty of the minbar, astounded him, and he went up the steps [of the minbar] to its top. Then he descended and took my hand, and we went out of the Aqsa [Mosque]. He saw a priest, with the Gospel in his hand, who was intending to enter the Aqsa [Mosque], and he shouted an objection at him, saying, “What has brought you here? By God! If any of you comes in here again without my permission, I shall certainly pluck his eyes out! We are the slaves and servants of this sultan al-Malik al-Kamil, and he has donated this church to me and you as a way of granting favour, so let not one of you exceed his limits.” The priest went away, trembling with fear of him, and the emperor passed on to the house that had been assigned for him to dwell in, and stayed there.’

The qadi Shams al-Din, the qadi of Nablus, said, ‘I ordered the muezzins not to give the call to prayer that night, out of esteem for him, and when we got up in the morning and I went in to see him, he asked me, “O qadi, why did the muezzins not utter the call to prayer from the minbars according to their custom?” I answered him, “This slave forbade it to them out of respect for the king and esteem for him.” He said, “You committed an error in what you did. By God, the greatest of my aims in staying overnight in Jerusalem was to hear the muezzins making the call to prayer and glorifying God in the night.” Then he departed for Acre.’

Source: Jamal al-Din Muhammad ibn Wasil. (1953–75) Mufarrij al-Kurub fi Akhbar Bani Ayyub. Ed. Jamal al-Din al-Shayyal et al. Cairo: Al-Matba‘a al-Amiriyya, Vol. 4, pp. 242–5.

(ii) Sibt ibn al-Jawzi

The famous religious scholar Yusuf ibn Qizughli, known as Sibt ibn al-Jawzi (d. 1257) was initially brought up by his equally famous grandfather, ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Jawzi, then moved to Damascus in about 1204 after the latter’s death. There he taught and preached, as well as serving a number of the Ayyubid rulers including al-Mu‘azzam ‘Isa and al-Nasir Dawud. The following account of the same events is drawn from his universal history, Mir’at al-Zaman fi Ta’rikh al-A‘yan (The Mirror of Time concerning the History of Important People).

In [the year AH 626/CE 1229] al-Kamil gave the emperor Jerusalem […] This grieved [al-Ashraf], and he reproached al-Kamil, who said, ‘I only did this because I was obliged to by al-Mu‘azzam’ and stated that al-Mu‘azzam had given the emperor [the lands] from the Jordan to the [Mediterranean] Sea, and the estates from the gate of Jerusalem to Jaffa, and others. When al-Ashraf and al-Kamil joined together they agreed to besiege Damascus. The news of the surrender of Jerusalem to the Franks arrived, and turmoil erupted in all the lands of Islam. The misfortunes [associated with the events] were so distressing that ceremonies of mourning were held. Al-Malik al-Nasir Dawud asked me to host a meeting in the [Umayyad] Great Mosque of Damascus and speak about what had happened to Jerusalem. I could not refuse him, seeing conformity with his desires as part of the religious duties that defend Islam. So I sat in the Great Mosque of Damascus, in the presence of al-Nasir Dawud, at the Gate of the Mashhad of ‘Ali. It was a day witnessed by many, with not one of the people of Damascus being absent. Among the words [that I spoke] were: ‘Parties of pilgrims have been cut off from Jerusalem! O, for the desolation of those who live around it! How many prayer-cycles have they performed in those places? How many tears have they shed in those dwellings? By God, if their eyes became springs, they would not shed sufficient tears [for such a calamity], and if their hearts were rent by sorrow, they would not ease it. May God grant consolation to the believers. Shame upon the rulers of the Muslims! At such events tears are poured out. At such [events] hearts break from sighs. At such [events] sorrows increase.’

The emperor entered Jerusalem, while Damascus was being besieged, and remarkable things happened [during his visit]. Among them was that when he entered the [Dome of the] Rock he saw a priest sitting at the Foot[print of the Prophet Muhammad], taking pieces of paper from the Franks. He came up as if he wanted a blessing from [the priest], but [the emperor] struck him and threw him to the ground, saying, ‘You pig! The sultan has honoured us with a visit to this place, and you do such deeds here? If any of you comes back and starts behaving in such a way again, I will surely kill him!’

The custodians of the [Dome of the] Rock described this situation, and they said, ‘[The emperor] looked at the inscription in the Dome, which said, “Salah al-Din has purified Jerusalem of the polytheists,” and asked, “Who are the polytheists?” He asked the custodians, “What is the purpose of these nets on the doors of the [Dome of the] Rock?” They answered, “So that little birds do not come in.” He responded, “God has brought you giants.”’

They added, ‘When it was time for the midday prayer, and the muezzin uttered the call to prayer, all those who were with him got up, his attendants and pages, and his teacher, who was from Sicily and with whom he was reading [Aristotle’s] Logic chapter-by-chapter, and performed the salat, for they were Muslims.’ [The custodians] said, ‘The emperor was light-skinned, with weak eyes. If he was a slave he would not be worth 200 dirhams,’ and they added, ‘What was apparent from his words was that he was a materialist, and that he was only play-acting at being a Christian.’

Sibt ibn al-Jawzi follows this passage with an account, similar to that of Ibn Wasil, in which Frederick II demonstrates great respect for the muezzins of Jerusalem.

Source: Sibt ibn al-Jawzi. (1951–2) Mir’at al-Zaman fi Ta’rikh al-A‘yan. Hyderabad-Deccan, India: Dairatu’l-Maarifil-Osmania, Vol. 2, pp. 653–6.

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