A Ruckus in Damascus

Mawdud held his head low as he made his way towards the grand Umayyad Mosque with Tughtigin – the Emir of Damascus – at his side. The night air was cool and Mawdud found this strange. The Syrian night was unlike any other night and the lights of the Souk could not blot out the light of the stars. It was a desert sky; the moon, raw and full. 

‘The offensive will commence tomorrow Allah willing.” He said to Tughtigin. “If Allah wills we will drive the Franks out of Muslim land and avenge their crimes with a great slaughter of their knights and thugs.”

“Inshallah.” Tughtigin replied reluctantly. The emir frowned, using his cloak to hide his face.

“Inshallah.” Mawdud said. “A victory tomorrow is a victory for Islam. Not for Mosul or the Sultan. I was summoned here by the pleas of the righteous Qad’i of Aleppo and righteousness is better than land or gain, Allah increase us more and more.”

“Ameen ya Ghazi. Inshallah you will lead the armies and the tyrant of Jerusalem shall taste a sound defeat.” Tughtigin replied, speaking as if sarcastically. Mawdud tasted the tone and gave it no thought.  

As both men approached the court yard of the Mosque, several gatherings of men and women were leaving. The air was soon filled with conversation and the praising of Allah in between.

Suddenly a man approached the atabeg and the Mosuli governor.

“Asalamualykum ya Mawdud!” He said with great fervor. A hood covered his head and he suddenly stretched out his right hand. Mawdud took it with a warm smile.

“Walikum As salam brother! What brings you here?” he asked.

“I only wish that the great governor of Mosul – the pride of the Muslims and their fortress who shall drive the Franks out of this land tomorrow – I only wish to embrace him.” the man said.

Naively, Mawdud hunched to hug the man. Then it happened in a sudden rush of confusion.

A dagger glistened in the light and blood stained the holy Mosque. Tughtigin screamed and fainted as his men surrounded him. Mawdud was not so lucky. His fine thobe was now a mass of blood.

Shocked at the barbarity of the crime, he lost all words and stumbled inside the mosque, blood trailing behind him. Finally the Mosuli governor – the man that was to be the ram against the Franks and the savior of Islam – fell dead in disbelieve, still wondering through the pain how a Muslim could kill his own kind in his holy place.

Mawdud was sent by the Seljuk Sultan Muhammad at the plea of the Qad’i of Aleppo, the brave and stalwart ibn-Kashab who was outraged by the cowardice of Ridwan the emir of Aleppo. The Franks killed and raided as they pleased around the city and Ridwan sat barred in his palace, afraid at confronting them. He even hung a cross from the great mosque of Aleppo when the Franks threatened him. The insult was too great for ibn-Kashab. With nowhere to turn, he implored Bagdad and Sultan Muhammad to come to his aid.

A great army was gathered and the Turkish emirs (except for Ridwan) united under Mawdud, the considerate Mosuli governor. But on the eve of the assault on the Franks, he was assassinated in cold blood. Some cried foul play from Ridwan. Others blamed Tughtigin. Regardless, the opportunity to bring justice for the Muslims was stifled violently by ‘Muslims’ themselves. ‘Muslims’ who felt their power being threatened by Mawdud. 

The act was so heinous that even King Baldwain of Jerusalem wrote a scathing letter to Tughtigin. 

A nation that kills its leaders in the house of its God deserves to be annihilated.

He said with utmost disgust. This was in 1113, only a score after the fall of Jerusalem. Because of this treachery, the franks would ravage the Muslims for almost half a century.

Today we turn on the news and are horrified at the things happening in the Muslim world. We need only to look at how seriously we take our religion. Mawdud was assassinated because he was a threat to the emir’s power. Religion never came into play when he was killed in the sanctity of Allah’s house. 

‘Terrible’ we would say.

But in some instances, we might be no different. In some instances, we completely sideline the advice of Allah for a petty gain.

Not worth it.


The Crusades through arab eyes: Amin Maalouf

Ibn Athir


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