AXING YOUR OWN LEG

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Story of capturing of the third holiest site in Islam due to the faulty nature of Muslims

The Crusades can be safely marked as the most vigorous era in the Muslim and Christian worlds, heavily laden with heroic tales of chivalry, bravery, and determination of legends of those times. The monumental struggle that the Crusades saw in the military expeditions made by Europeans to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries, is responsible for the development of Europe and Southwest Asia politically, socially, and religiously for centuries afterwards.

Going back to its origin, the Muslim world in the 1000s was a political mess. Beginning in mid 700s, the great Abbasid Empire was in the hands of Turkish warlords like the Seljuks (who ruled over Anatolia) even though on the forefront it was headed by puppet-natured caliphs.

The Seljuks in Anatolia had established a domain called the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum, the lands of Syria and Iraq, as well as Persia but were not united as a state. Each region’s governor (emirs) was regularly at war with his neighboring governor. The Fatimids (a rival Ismaili Shiite state in North Africa) regularly attempted to extend their domain into the Sunni Seljuk areas, with the frontier between the two usually being near the holy city of Jerusalem.

The Crusaders left no stone unturned in simply looting and pillaging the countryside as they marched through Anatolia despite the fact that the vast majority of the population there were Christians.

The Turks, in an attempt to extend their empire into Byzantine land despite this disunited political scene, soundly defeated the Byzantines at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 and conquered all of their territory in Anatolia, extending the Seljuk domain right up to the great Byzantine city of Constantinople. In 1095, the Byzantine emperor Alexios, in the hope for reinforcements and hoping for help against the increasingly powerful Turks, sent a letter to the Catholic Pope Urban II in Rome but Pope Urban, dreaming of a Latin kingdom in the Holy Land, took the letter plea as an excuse to raise a huge army and conquer the land from the Muslims to add to his own domain and envision the destruction of the Muslims as a political and military force. Soon the Catholics were roused to create an army and march to the Holy Land with a fighting force of over 30,000 men, women, children and the aged.

The Turks in Anatolia were the first Muslims who dealt with the Crusaders. Kilij Arslan, a Seljuk governor of the Sultanate of Rum, was able to win some early victories over the first Crusaders to cross into his territory but the mammoth size of the Crusader army was heavy on the Turks. The Crusaders left no stone unturned in simply looting and pillaging the countryside to get the supplies they needed as they marched through Anatolia despite the fact that the vast majority of the population there were Christians.

Reaching the fortress city of Antioch in 1097, the Crusaders found it hard to pit their army of over 30,000 against the city governor, Yaghi-Siyan’s troop of 6000 Turkish soldiers. The strong city walls, a river, a mountain and a steep valley perfectly protected the city from invaders but the disunity and treachery among the Muslims resulted in their downfall.

Yaghi-Siyan’s request of help and assistance from neighbouring governors was met with an attitude of “every man for himself”. This selfishness was widespread among all the emirs over Syria who ignored his pleas for help in the hope that he would soon be out of the picture. Despite this, Antioch may well have still held out, were it not for Firuz, an armour maker in charge of the defense of Antioch’s towers during the siege. He was held guilty of black-market trading once by Yaghi-Siyan who fined him heavily and so he figured that the best way to get back at Yaghi-Siyan would be to let the Crusaders into the city. In June 1098, the city was lost with massacres on the streets and the city was set on fire all because of the vengeance of one armour maker.

With the best defended city down and same treachery of Antioch intact, the Crusaders continued their march towards Jerusalem with almost all the cities along the coast giving in to the Crusaders a free pass through their lands.

A massacre killing over 70,000 civilians (Muslims and Jews) in the streets followed with Muslims fleeing to Masjid al-Aqsa for shelter but ending up being massacred in the holy masjid as well.

On June 7th, 1099, the Crusaders reached their goal city which lacked any sort of defence and the Fatimids of Egypt, who had conquered Jerusalem from the Turks just in the previous year, extending Shiite control into Syrian lands, finally gave in after a month-long seiege. The walls of the city from which Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) ascended to heaven during the Israa and Mi’raj, were breached and the holy city of Jerusalem was lost to the Crusaders. A massacre killing over 70,000 civilians (Muslims and Jews) in the streets followed with Muslims fleeing to Masjid al-Aqsa for shelter but ending up being massacred in the holy masjid as well. According to the boasting of one Crusader chronicler, the blood of the Muslims was “up to the ankles”. With Masjid al-Aqsa itself looted and defiled, the nearby Dome of the Rock was turned into a Christian church and painstakingly for the first time since the time of Umar ibn al-Khattab, no azaan was heard in the streets of Quds nor salah performed in its mosques.

Resonating well with the attitude of the Muslim world today, the shocking and disgusting capture of the third holiest site in Islam at that time was met with a disappointing reaction from the rest of the Muslim world which could put the prophets to shame. If only the ummah took leads from fables passed down generation to generation about unity and sacrifices for the goodwill of the religion that we can come up with not just a befitting response to the atrocities caused to our brethren but also put an end to all the miseries for once and for all.

Edited by : Zarafshan Shiraz

Source : lostislamichistory.com