In 492H (1099CE), the Western Crusaders had arrived at the city of Jerusalem. Tens of thousands of Muslims were killed, including children and women. They were slaughtered at the hands of these Crusaders in an ugly massacre. In 493H, these same invaders annihilated the residents of both Haifa and Beirut. The following cities were also evacuated: Ramlah, Beisan and Tayariyyah. As a consequence, the people ran away to the interior regions of Ash-Sham.
The news of this tradegy arrived at the Islamic captial, Baghdad, but the response was weak. The leaders of the kingdoms in Ash-Sham were busy with their own personal affairs and feared for their own individual small kingdoms. The Isma'ili State and the Fatimid Dynasty in Cairo did not care very much, but rather they cooperated with these invaders later on.
The journey to return to the land and free it from the invaders was slow. It was similar to streams of water that flow from different places, gathering to form springs whcih gather to form a stormy river.
In an effort to stand up to these invaders, Muslim scholars worked to spread a spirit of resistance among the people. They worked on bringing the people back to the Sunnah after the serious attempts of the Fatamid State to spread their corrupt Isma'ili ideas.
Among these scholars was 'Ali ibn Tahir as-Sulami (431-500H), a Shafi'i jurist. He stood up against the Crusader-led annihilation, and used Al-Masjid al-Umawi in Damascus as a centre for teaching and for the efforts of the uprising and revival. When Sultan Nuruddin Mahmud came to power and took Damascus as his capital, the spirit of Jihad was well established in the hearts of the people.
There was another scholar located in Alexandria, Egypt - Imam At-Tartushi (451-520H). He was a scholar of the Maliki madhhab who called the people to the Sunnah. Ibn Awf az-Zuhri, who was one of his students, played a leading role in spreading the spirit of Jihad and later provided Salahuddin al-Ayyubi with the necessary money and men to fight the minister of the Fatamid State, Shawur, who had conspired against the Muslims with the Crusaders. Alexandria then belonged to the Fatamid State and Salat al-Jumu'ah had not yet been established there. Apologizing for his stay in Alexandria, because of the evil influences there, Imam At-Tartoushi said, "Should Allah ask me about my stay in Alexandria, I would say to Him, 'I found misguided people there and I hoped to be a means of guiding them.' "
Another great "Sunni Revival" leader was Ahmad ibn Muhammad as-Salafi (475-576H). The Sunni leader, Ibn as-Salar, built Al-Adiliyyah School for him which was a great centre for teaching the Shafi'i Madhhab.
Among those who revived the Sunnah in Ash-Sham and Egypt was a man who had an effective leading role in assisting Salahuddin in his plans for Jihad. He also assisted in Salahuddin's plans to unite the regions that were struggling with the Crusaders. His experience came from the office of government and administration in Cairo. He was a Palestinian clerk from the city of Asqalan and belonged to a learned family. His name was 'Abdur-Rahim al-Baysani, better known as Al-Qadhi al-Fadhil or "The Eminent Judge".
'Abdur-Rahim was born in Asqalan in 526H. The Crusaders repeatedly attacked the city of Asqalan by land and sea. In 543H his father sent him to Cairo to receive training in management and clerical studies. 'Abdur-Rahim worked in the Correspodence Cabinet and was very succesful in his work. Egypt, during the years between 558H and 564H, was badly stumbling in its political instability. There were conspiracies everywhere: betweem the ministers and the ruling place, and amongst the ministers themselves. They sometimes sought assistance from the Crusaders, fearing that the state might be run by Nuruddin in Damascus. There were a lot of internal struggles and fights. Because the government had sought assistance from the Crusaders, King Ammuri imposed high taxes, which exhausted Egypt financially.
'Abdur-Rahim lived in this corrupt political environment and amongst these conspiracies against the religion and the Ummah. He met with the armies of Ash-Sham, led by Asaduddin Shirakoa, the uncle of Salahuddin. 'Abdur-Rahim was delighted with the position of Nuruddin in Damascus - the pivotal point of his life. He later became the political and administrative advisor for Salahuddin, after the latter had taken a ministry position following his uncle Asaduddin. The first step in the Jihad plan was to eliminate the Fatamid State with the help of Al-Qadhi al-Fadhil. Then Salahuddin officially announced his loyalty to Abbasid Khilafah in Baghdad.
In a letter sent to the Abbasid Khilafah, Al-Qadhi al-Fadhil wrote: "We will fight both enemies, the covert and the overt. We will also endure the suffering from both evils, the hypocrites and the disbelievers. We will do so until Allah brings about His Decree and bestows on us His Victory." The hidden enemy was the Fatamid leaders in Egypt, and the open enemy was the Crusaders. In another letter to the Khilafah, he wrote: "The religion became one after the there were many religions. Al-Jumu'ah Salah is now established." The concern for Islamic unity was always present with Al-Qadhi al-Fadhil. The second step, after the death of Nuruddin Mahmud, was to unite Ash-Sham and Egypt. Al-Qadhi al-Fadhil continued to send letters to the leaders in Damascus, calling upon them to join the battle for unity.
Al-Qadhi was not only a political clerk and minister, he knew that the strength of the state was in justice and knowledge. He advised Salahuddin to make contaces with the public and to concern himself with the affairs and problems of the people. He used to tell him, "Our leader! Relieving the people's distress and lifting injustice are the most important acts of obedience to Allah." After these steps were succesful, there had to be a call for Jihad to liberate the sacred land, especially the city of Jerusalem. Al-Qadhi al-Fadhil himself supervised the preparation of the armies (what is presently known as logisitics), and fighting the enemy became his only concern. He advised Salahuddin not to concern himself with the annexation of the city of Mosel, but to instead focus his attention on ending the Crusaders' occupations. Salahuddin became ill before he surrounded Mosel. Al-Qadhi said to him, "You must not fight any Muslim after Allah has cured you. You should now direct you attentions to fighting the Crusaders."
Salahuddin knew the significance of Al-Qadhi's opinion. He knew that Al-Qadhi had an understanding of the strategies that would lead to victory. As a result, he used to consult Al-Qadhi in every matter, small and large. As a result of this close relationship between the military, administrative and scholarly leadership, the Sunni revival and the unity between Ash-Sham and Egypt were the greatest victories achieved. These victories began with the Battle of Hittin in 583H (1187CE). Salahuddin stepped down from his horse and prostrated in gratitude to Allah. He cried out with happiness over the victory. The victory was followed by the conquest of Akka and Asqalan. Finally, Jerusalem returned to the Islamic State and that was one of the Days of Allah.
Al-Qadhi al-Fadhil continued to concern himself with Jihad and took lessons from the initial victories. When Salahuddin intended to go to Makkah and perform Hajj, Al-Qadhi wrote to him: "The Crusaders have not left Ash-Sham or forgotten Jerusalem. They should not be trusted in peace treaties." He then advised him to delay his Hajj trip.
Despite all of these victories, Salahuddin remained humble, filled with kindness and fairness. He was grateful to those who shared these victories with him. He used to say to his friends and leaders, "Do not think that I conquered these places with soldiers. I conquered them with Al-Qadhi al-Fadhil."
(s) Al-Jumu'ah Magazine, Ramadhan 1420H Issue
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