Muslim Accounts of the Conquest of Jerusalem

Note: The following is taken verbatim from an archived version of the website [unavailable as of 13 January 2008].

The Franks Conquer Jerusalem

Taj as-Daula Tutūsh1 was the Lord of Jerusalem but had given it as a fief to the amir Suqman ibn Artuq the Turcoman. When the Franks defeated the Turks at Antioch the massacre demoralized them, and the Egyptians, who saw that the Turkish armies were being weakened by desertion, beseiged Jerusalem under the command of al-Alfdal ign Badr al-Jamali.2 Inside the city were Artuq’s sons, Suqman and Ilghazi, their cousin Sunij and their nephew Yaquti. The Egyptians bought more than forty seige engines to attack Jerusalem and broke down the walls at several points. The inhabitants put up a defence, and the siege and fighting went on for more than six weeks. In the end the Egyptians forced the city to capitualte, in sha’ban 489/ August 1096. . .

After their vain attempt to take Acre by seige, the Franks moved on to Jerusalem and besieged it for more than six weeks. They built two towers, one of which , near Sion, the Muslims burnt down killing everyone inside it. It had scarcely ceased to burn before a messenger arraived to ask for help and to bring the news that the other dide of the city had fallen. In fact Jerusalem was taken from the north on the morning of Friday 22 sha’ban 492/15 July 1099. The population was put to the sword by the Franks, who pillaged the area for a week. A band of Muslims barricaded themselved into the Oratory of David3 and fought on for several days. They were granted their lives in return for surrendering. The Franks honored their word, and the group left by night for Ascalon. In the Masjid al-Aqsa the Franks slaughtered more than 70,000 people, among them a large number of Imams and Muslim scholars, devout and ascetic men who had left their homelands to live lives of pious seclusion in the Holy Place. The Franks stripped the Dome of the Rock4 of more than forty silver candelabra, each of them weighing 3,600 drams, and a great silver lamp weighing forty-four Syrian pounds as well as a hundred and fifty smaler silver candelabra and more than twenty gold ones, and a great deal more booty.

It was the discord between the Muslim princes, as we shall describe, that enabled the Franks to overrun the country.

The following is an account by the Ibn al-Qalanisi, the chronicler of Damascus.

Thereafter they [the Franks] proceeded towards Jerusalem. at the end of Jrajab (middle of June) of this year [1099], and the people fled in panic from their abodes before them. They descended first upon al-Ramla, and captured it after the ripening of crops. Thence they marched to Jerusalem, the inhabitants of which they engaged and blockaded, and having set up the tower against the city they brought it forward to the wall. At length news reached them that al-Afdal wa on his way from Egypt with a mighty army to engage in the Holy War against them, and to destroy them, and to succour and protect the city against them. Tey therefore attacked the city with increased vigour, and prolonged the battle that day until the daylight faded, then withdrew from it, after promising the inhabitants to renew the attack upon them on the morrow. The townsfolk descended from the wall at sunset, whereupon the Franks renewed their assault upon it, climbed up the tower, and gained a footing on the city wall. The defenders were driven down, and the Franks stormed the town and gained possession of it. A number of the townsfolk fled to the sanctuary of David, and a great host were killed. The Jews assembled in the synagogue, and the Franks burned it oever their heads. The sanctuary was surrendered to them on guarantee of safety on the 22nd of Sha’ban (14th July) of this year, and they destroyed the shrines and the tomb of Abraham.

Gabrieli’s notes:
1. A Syrian Seljuqid, Malikshah’s brother.
2. The Fatimid vizier
3. The Mihrab Dawud, called the Tower of David in the European sources, in the citadel of Jerusalem. Not to be confused with a small sanctuary of the same name in the Temple precinct.
4. The rock from which, the Muslims believe, Muhammad ascended into heaven. Over it was built the so-called ‘Mosque of ‘Umar’, the chief Islamic monument in Jerusalem. It was from this Mosque that the conqerors took their booty. Near by, but separate from it, is the ‘Farthest Mosque’ (al-Masjid al Aqsa), where according to Ibn al-Athir the armies of the Cross showed even greater barbarity. The two sanctuaries are often confused on both Arabic and European sources.

Source: Arab Historians of the Crusades, trans. F. Gabrieli, trans. E. J. Costello. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984.