The Justice of Saladin Ayyubi
The barbaric Crusader army made Jerusalem their capital, and established a Latin Kingdom whose borders stretched from Palestine to Antioch. However, the Crusaders who brought savagery to Palestine did not last long. Saladin gathered all the Muslim kingdoms, and defeated the Crusaders at the battle of Hattin in 1187. After the battle, the two leaders of the crusader army, Reynald of Chatillon and King Guy, were brought into Saladin's presence. Saladin executed Reynald of Chatillon, who had become infamous for the terrible savagery he had committed against Muslims, but he let King Guy go, as he had not committed the same crimes. Palestine once again saw the true meaning of justice.
Immediately after Hattin, and on the very same day that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had been taken from Mecca to Jerusalem in one night, the day of the Ascent, Saladin entered Jerusalem and freed it from 88 years of Crusader occupation. When the Crusaders had taken the city 88 years earlier, they had killed all the Muslims inside it, and for that reason they were afraid that Saladin would do the same thing to them. However, he did not touch even one Christian in the city. Furthermore, he merely ordered the Latin (Catholic) Christians to leave it. The Orthodox Christians, who were not Crusaders, were allowed to live in the city and worship as they chose. In the words of John L. Esposito, "The Muslim army was as magnanimous in victory as it had been tenacious in battle. Civilians were spared; churches and shrines were generally left untouched... Saladin was faithful to his word and compassionate toward noncombatants."21
Karen Armstrong describes the second capture of Jerusalem in these words:
On 2 October 1187 Saladin and his army entered Jerusalem as conquerors and for the next 800 years Jerusalem would remain a Muslim city. Saladin kept his word, and conquered the city according to the highest Islamic ideals. He did not take revenge for the 1099 massacre, as the Qur'an advised (16:127), and now that hostilities had ceased he ended the killing (2:193-194). Not a single Christian was killed and there was no plunder. The ransoms were deliberately very low... Saladin… released many of them freely, as the Qur'an urged ... His brother al-Adil was so distressed by the plight of the prisoners that he asked Saladin for a thousand of them for his own use and then released them on the spot... All the Muslim leaders were scandalised to see the rich Christians escaping with their wealth, which could have been used to ransom all the prisoners ... [The Patriarch] Heraclius paid his ten-dinar ransom like everybody else and was even provided with a special escort to keep his treasure safe during the journey to Tyre.22
In short, Saladin and the Muslims in his command treated the Christians with great mercy and justice, and even showed them more compassion than their own leaders had. Not only the Christians but also Jews attained peace and security with the conquest of Jerusalem by Muslims. The well-known Spanish-Jewish poet Yehuda al-Harizi expressed his feelings thus in one of his works:
Saladin entered Jerusalem in 1187 and freed it from 88 years of Crusader occupation. While best known for this military triumph, Saladin was also very forgiving and just toward the Crusaders as well as all other Christians. Even though the Crusaders had inflicted unspeakable cruelty on the Muslims, Saladin exacted no revenge upon them, and no civilian was harmed when he freed Jerusalem.
God …decided that the sanctuary would no longer rest in the hands of the sons of Esau... Thus in the year 4950 of Creation [AD 1190] God aroused the spirit of the prince of the Ishmaelites [Salah al-Din], a prudent and courageous man, who came with his entire army, besieged Jerusalem, took it and had it proclaimed throughout the country that he would receive and accept the race of Ephraim, wherever they came from. And so we came from all corners of the world to take up residence here. We now live in the shadow of peace.23
After Jerusalem, the Crusaders continued their barbarity and the Muslims their justice in other cities in Palestine. In 1194, Richard the Lionheart, who is portrayed as a great hero in British history, had 3,000 Muslims, among whom were many women and children, basely executed in Castle Acre. Although the Muslims witnessed this savagery, they never resorted to the same methods. They abided by God's command "Let not the hatred of a people [who once] obstructed you from the Sacred Mosque lead you to transgress..." (Qur'an, 5:2) and never used violence against innocent civilians. They never employed unnecessary violence, not even against the Crusader armies they defeated.
The savagery of the Crusaders and the justice of the Muslims once more revealed a historic truth: An administration built on the principles of Islam allowed people of different faiths to live together. This fact continued to be demonstrated for 700 years after Saladin, particularly during the Ottoman period.
Saladin and Guy de Lusignan after battle of Hattin in 1187
King Richard ruthlessly executed 3,000 Muslim civilians in the Castle of Acre, among whom were many women and children.