Warrior of Islam I-‘Atabek ‘Imaduddin Zangi
At the critical moment, when the despair of the Muslims was at its height, a bright star rose in the eastern horizon. As it had happened earlier, Islam found from an unexpected quarter a champion for its cause, who appeared on the scene to save the situation.
“It was but necessary to preach the jihad- the Holy War-and to show a commander whose courage and military genius all must respect, and the Turkmans chiefs and vassals would at once become a Church Militant with whom the Crusaders would have very seriously to reckon. The leader was found in ‘Imaduddin Zangi’. Saladin.p 34.-rightly said by Stanley Stanpole .
‘Imaduddin Zangi was the son of one of thecourt chamberlains of Malik Shah. Sultan Mahmud conferred on him the government of Mosul along with the title of ‘Atabek , the Tutor of the Princess. After consolidating his power in Syria and Irag. ‘Imaduddin advanced against Edessa (Roha) which was one of the strongest fortresses held by the Crusaders, and formed the centre of their aggressive inroads into the neighbouring territories held by the Muslims. ‘Imaduddin captured Edessa on the 6th of Jamadi al-akhir, 539 A.H. According to Arab historians it was the “conquests of conquest” for Edessa was regarded by the Christians as the “stoutest prop of the Latin Kingdom.” The valley of the Euphratus was thus finally saved from the marauding excursions of the Crusaders. Shortly after achieving this brilliant victory ‘Imaduddin was assassination by a slave on the 5th of Rabi’ al-Thani , 541A.H. Thus perished one of the greatest heroes of Islam, who had opened the way for a counter-attack against the Crisaders. However; the task left incomplete by the great ‘Atabek was taken far ahead by his illustrious son, al- Malik al-‘Adil Nuruddin Zangi.
Al –Malik al-‘Adil Nuruddin Zangi.
Nuruddin Mahmud (known to the west as Noradinus) was now the Sultan of Aleppo, on whom devolved the responsibility of championing Islam. The aim devolved the responsibility of championing Islam. The aim of his constant efforts was the expulsion of the Latin Christians from Syria and Palestine and to this object he rem,ained faithful throughout his life . for him jihad with the Crusaders was the greatest act of piety which will be crowned with the Devine blessing. In 559 A.H. Nuruddin Zangi captured Harim, a stronghold of the Crusaders in the north, after defeating the united armies of the Franks and the Greeks. It is related that ten thousand Christians were slain in this battle and innumerable Crusaders were taken to prisoners along most with most of their chieftains, such as Bohemond, Prince of Antioch, Raymond of the court of Tripoli, Joscelin III, and Greek general, Duke of Calamar. Soon after it the fortress of Banais. (Saladin ,p.84 and al-Kamil, Vol XI, p 124.)[Caesarea Philippi] at the foot of Mount Hermon, fell two sides. The significance of this political change has been described thus :
“The possession of the Nile by Nuruddin’s general (Salahuddin) placed the Kingdom of Jerusalem as it were a cleft stick, squeezed on both sides by armies controlled by the same power. The harbours of Damietta and Alexandra gave the Muslims the command od a fleet, and the Crusaders with Europe, stop the annual pilgrim ships and seize their supplies.” [Saladin p.103]
Nuruddin had thus practically outmanoeuvred the Crusaders in Palestine but his greatest ambitios was to drive out Jerusalem. This was, however , to be accomplished by Salahuddin but its foundation was laid by the departing sovereign, Nuruddin, who died in 569 A.H. in his fifty-sixth year, of a desease of quinsy (a kind of throat disease ). The news of the death of Nuruddin, “Fell like a thunderbolt among the Saracans.” – by Lane-Poole.
Character of Nuruddin
Muslim historians describe Nuruddin as a chivalrous , just and generous ruler, most tender-hearted , pious and high- minded, and a fearless warrior ready to expose himself in the frontline of every battle. True to his name ‘Mahmud’ he was acclaimed as one of the best of the kings; as the historians tell us, he was more capable and enlightened than his predecessors.
Ibn al-Jawzi who was a contemporary of Nuruddin, writes of him in al-Muntazam:
“Nuruddin marched upon the enemy at the frontiers of his realm and succeeded in regaining more than 50 towns from the infidels. He led a life better than most of the kings and sultans. Peace and tranquility reigned in his kingdom. There is, in fact, a lot to be said in his praise. He always considered himself as a subordinate of the Caliph at Baghdad. Before he died he abolished all oppressive and illegal imposts within his territories. He was extremely simple in his habits and loved the pious and scholars.[Al-Muntazam, Vol,X ,pp . 248-249.
Another historian, Ibn Khallikan, who is known for his objective assessment of the characters and events , says:
“He was a just and pious king, always eager to follow the observances prescribed by the Shariah and a generous patron of scholars in whom he took great interest. He was distinguished for his keen desire to take part in the jihad; he spent his income on the pious foundations and welfare of the poor; and had set up educational institutions in all the principlal cities of Syria. It is difficult to enumerate all of his qualities or monuments of public works left by him .[Ibn-Khalikkan, Vol IV, p. 272.
Ibn al-Athir, the reputed historian and author of the Tarikh al- Kamil, writes:
“I have studied the careers of the rulers of the past but excepting the first four Caliphs and ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz there been no prince so liberal and pious, law abiding and just (as Nuruddin).” [Al-Khamil , Vol. XL ,pp. 163-164.
Ibn al –Athir’s testimony carries a special weight because he was in his fourteenth year when Nuruddin died. He writes about the character and disposition of Nuruddin as follows:
“He met his personal expenses from the property he had acquired out of the proceeds of his own share in the booty taken in war. He had set apart three shops situated in Hams, which fetched an annual rent of 20 dinars, for meeting his household expense. Once , when his wife complained to him that the income from the shops was insufficient, he dryly replied: “ I have nothing to give you. Whatever else you see, I hold in sacred trust for the Muslims and I am no more than their trustee. I would not like to be consigned to Hell for your sake by spending anything on ourselves out of the public funds.’
“He used to devote a greater part of his time after the nightfall in prayers. Belonging to the Hanafite School, he had studied jurisprudence and the Traditions but the narrow dogmatist was entirely foreign to his character.
“He was distinguished for his remarkable love for justice which could be seen , for example, in the fact that he had abolished all customs, dues and tithes throughout his vast kingdom comprising Egypt, Syria and Mosul. He was summoned to appear before a court. He sent the word to the Qadi that no preferential treatment should be accorded to him when he appeared before the court as a defendant. Although he won the case against the plaintiff, he gave his claim in favour of his opponent saying: ‘I had already decided to do so, but I thought that perhaps my vanity wanted me to avoid attending the court of law. I , therefore, decided to appear before the court and now I give up what has now been decided in my favour.’ He had set up a special tribunal known as Dar al-‘Adl (House of Justice) where he , along with a Qadi, personally heard the cases to check arbitrariness on the part of high officials, princes, etc.
“On battle-field he earned the admiration of everyone by his personal bravery. He always took two bows and quivers to the battle-field. Once somebody said to him: ‘For God’s sake, don’t expose to danger your own self as well as Islam.’ ‘Who is Mahmud, ‘ retoted Nuruddin, ‘ that you speak thus of him? Who defended the country and Islam before me? Verily, there is no defender save Allah.’
‘He held the scholars in high esteem and always stood up to receive them. He took keen interest in their affairs and patronized them with generous gifts but despute his humility and simplicity, he had such a commanding personality that the people were seized with fright in his presence. The fact is that it is not possible to relate all his qualities in the limited compass of this page.” [Al-Kamil; , Vol.XL, pp. 163-164.
-Lessons from Salahuddin-al-Ayyubi and his Successors.