The Shaqaiq al Nauman (sisters of Nauman) are waving at me. I stop to stare at them. In this wilderness of ruins of a powerful castle I feel they want to tell me the story of Saladin, I know enough, which is what brings me here.
Saladin’s castle on top of a mountain flanked by two ravines, entered by the south gate by ascending 144 steps. It is approached by traveling up the mountain on hairpin bends and looking down at the possibility of sure death with the slightest miscalculation of the road edge.
I think of Salahudin ……and his family, emigrating on the night of his birth from Mosul to Aleppo, the reasons are hidden between the lines, he spends his first sixteen years being educated in Islam by the Sufis……………….suddenly all the stories of Ehsaan that I have heard about him come to life. I see a young boy learning to forgive, to give more than is being asked, to take only what is needed and to give away the rest Fi sabeelallah.
A little boy who grows up to be a powerful strong soldier and Sultan that spares the Crusaders when he conquers Jerusalem. Those very Crusaders who on conquering Jerusalem had massacred every muslim and Jew in the city, such that it is recorded in history books that their horses waded in blood up to their knees. ……. and yet when he (Salahudin) enters Jerusalem as a conqueror……..and has those very Crusaders at his mercy, he lets them go………..
Ehsaan had entered his very being. He is the epitome of a true muslim, Ehsaan exuding from every cell of his heart.
Why was he a soldier then? The thought occurs to me as I walk the paths in Saladin’s castle. Every shaqaiq e Naumaan as the red poppies of the desert are called affectionately waves to me gently in the breeze reminding me of their frailty and their temporary stay this spring in this stronghold of the Muslims….
Why was he a soldier? Being a soldier entails killing, which is opposite of the Sufi teachings of overcoming your nafs and purifying your heart with the Name and worship of Allah and Allah alone.
I look around; the scene is breathtaking; the breeze blows laden with memories of the past glory of muslims.
There is an underlying assurance of impermanence of life, power and even ehsaan.
All things must end, good or bad with the final judgment, punishment and reward meted out by Allah SWT on The Day.
The final day of Judgment whence everything and every part of us will give witness to our past actions and there will be no shade for the sinner.
Nowhere else is one more acutely aware of this than in Saladin’s powerful castle now in ruins.
Something turned him into what he became: The knight for the defense of the defenseless.
As we roll back the pages of history, we realize that Power changed hands when one of the Christian kings decided that he could attack Mecca and Medina the holiest of places for muslims and massacred a ship full of pilgrims
What arose in Saladin’s fair and just heart at this news broke the walls of tolerance. He rose to mete justice and punish the perpetrators for the attack planned for the holiest of places……….and in doing so kept going until he had conquered not only Jerusalem but also a large part of Palestine and what is today Syria and Lebanon.
Balian…….A Lord treated like a King in Jerusalem wrote to Saladin after the masacre of the pilgrims and before saladin conquered Jerusalem:
**“…………If we see death as inevitable, then, By God we will kill our own women and children burn all we possess………then we shall destroy the sacred rock, Al Aqsa mosque, and many other sites; we will kill the five thousand Muslim prisoners we hold and will exterminate the mounts and beasts……..” and on and on.
Any one with a strong ego as most rulers and leaders do would have punished Balian and the Franjs of Jerusalem with a vengeance, but not Saladin, his earlier training of reining in the nafs with prayer and fasting stood him in good faith.
“He entered Jerusalem on Friday October 2, 1187 or Rajab 27 583 by the Muslim calendar, the very day on which Muslim celebrate the Prophet’s (PBUH) nocturnal Journey to Jerusalem (Isra wal mairaaj). His emirs and soldiers had strict orders: No Christian whether Frankish or Oriental was to be touched. And indeed there was neither massacre nor plunder.
The fact that the Christian shrines and churches still stand today in Jerusalem bear witness to Salahudin’s level of ehsaan when entering Jerusalem as the Conqueror of Jerusalem.
Ehsaan: an integral part of Islam, transmitted by Gabriel (AS) to Prophet Muhammad PBUH, a mercy to mankind, so difficult to imbue in ones actions when one is victorious and has the power to hurt or desecrate.
“Most of the Franj (Frankish Crusaders) remained in the city after Salahudin conquered it. He (Salahudin) surrounded by a mass of companions, went from sanctuary to sanctuary weeping. praying and prostrating himself. He allowed the rich to sell their property to Orthodox Christians and Jews who planned to continue to stay on”
His extreme level of ehsaan and fulfilling his pact with the vanquished patriarch of Jerusalem was demonstrated when the Patriarch of Jerusalem drove out of city accompanied by numerous chariots filled with gold, carpets and all sorts of precious goods. Imad al Din Asfahani was scandalized and the treasurers of the muslim state became angry:
“ I said to the Sultan (Salahudin): The patriarch is carrying off riches worth at least two hundred thousand dinars. We gave them permission to take their personal property with them but not the treasures of the churches and convents. You must not let them do it” but Salahudin answered: we must apply the letter of the accords we have signed, so that no one will be able to accuse the believers of having violated their treaties. On the contrary Christians everywhere will remember the kindness we have bestowed upon them.” **
The red poppies swaying in the wind, smile at me baring their chest to show me the black covering their heart. Is the black cover on the heart waiting to be polished by the Mujahida of the Momins of the muslim world? Perhaps from someone like Salahudin. Their petals are deep red with the blood of muslims soaking the earth all over.
I detect no sadness in their demeanor, as they sway with the breeze, their delicate petals red with the central black covering on their hearts.
They seem to say, as they gently wave to me ……..Powers greater than those who are now bent on destruction of muslim homes and countries have perished in the past…………………………….do not grieve, this too shall pass!