Lecture 17 – (14.2) Islamic & (16.1) Mamluk and Ottoman Jerusalem

(14.2) Islamic Jerusalem

This lecture, we began by finishing up our discussion of Islam and its transformation of Jerusalem from the time when Caliph Umar took Jerusalem (638 CE) up to the Crusaders’ takeover and reinstitution of Jerusalem as a Christian center in 1099 CE. We discussed last time the changes that occurred under the Umayyad Dynasty (638-750CE) ruling out of Damascus (Syria), mostly in the context of things we know for sure (things they build) [Caliph Umar‘s building of a wooden mosque, Abd al-Malik‘s building of the DotR (691 CE) and the various other events and ideas associated with it, and also the building of the Al-Aqsa Mosque (“The Farthest Mosque”) (705-715 CE) by Caliph Walid]. After spending a second looking into a bit of the architecture of Solomon’s Stables, which are basically vaults under the Southeast corner of the Temple mount (attributed to Solomon, but really had nothing to do with him), we moved on to the next Islamic Dynasty to take control over Jerusalem: the Abbasid Dynasty (750-969 CE), ruling out of Baghdad. The Abbasids tried to wipe out the memory of Umayyad Dynasty, destroying palaces and Caliph Al-Ma-mun taking credit for the building of the DotR (However, he forgot to erase the date of construction).  Al-Ma-mun not only seemed willing to lie to take credit for Umayyad accomplishments, but also had a polemic against Christianity, where he argued against the Trinity and said “God is only one God.” This type of thinking combined with various other hostility shown towards Christians (Muhammad al-Sanhaji (governor of Jeru.) kills John the Patriarch (965 CE)), shows the Abbasids were much less tolerant of other faiths than their predecessirs the Ummayads. A new Islamic dynasty rose out of Egypt and took over control of Jerusalem from 969 to 1099 CE: the Fatimids. More unrest rose up ruing this period (period of upheaval), but this population of Jerusalem steadily increases nonetheless. Those in power in Jerusalem under the Fatimids in this period show the idea that the welfare of those of other faiths (Jews and Christians) depends highly on the ruler, as while some rulers persecuted and otherwise tarnished Jewish and Chrisitian presence (e.g. Caliph al-Hakim orders destruction of all Jewish and Christian houses of prayer (including Holy Sepulcher)), near the end of the Fatimid rule Jewish and Christian governors were appointed. However, this period of Fatimid rule was fairly short-lived (relative to the two previous Islamic dynasties), and they seemed to begin to get pressure from all over. For example, the Byzantine army advanced southward taking Muslim territory in Syria, aiming to recapture Jerusalem (“The War of Sixty Days” [969-1029]). Natural forces came in to hurt them as well, with earthquakes severely damaging Jerusalem’s walls and other building (including DotR) in 1033. The Seljuqs (a break-away group previously part of the Fatimids) took Jerusalem from the Fatimids and occupied the city from 1070-1098, non-diplomatically destroying and looting the city and massacring many inhabitants. In 1098, the Fatimids took back control (in 40-day siege), but the damage had already been done. This infighting between Islamic groups (Fatimids and Seljuqs) is reminiscent of what we saw with the Sadducees and Pharisees upon the Roman invasion in 63 BCE, weakening each other until all Pompey had to do was talk in and declare the city his. We see the same thing here, so by the time the Crusaders (under Godfrey de Bouillon) came , despite the population swelling to ~20,000 upon the even of the 1099 CE takeover, there was no strong resistive force united and ready to meet them.

This Islamic period of rule was a very interesting one and I think it was covered well in this class. I particularly liked the covered at the end of the idea that we cannot think of conflicts of faith as purely Muslim vs. Jews vs. Christians, but rather need to look at many conflicts as based in complex ethnical and religious sectarian divisions. For example, we see the ethnic battle between Persians (Iran) and Arabs (Iraq, syria, S.Arabia, etc.) and the sectarian divides of non-Sunni (Shi’ite, etc) vs. Sunni Muslims, Zealots vs. Zionist Jews, S, Catholic vs. Protestant Christians, etc. It is key not to stereotype (not to “trash in any homogeneous way”), because as we’ve seen with some of the Muslim rulers of this period, some are very tolerant, and others are not. Have to judge a person by who they are, not what ethnic group and religious affiliations they have. This message, along with explaining the basis for the Muslim divide between Sunni and Shi’ite (in 14.1 (Part I) of this lecture) made this a very interesting lecture in my view. Learned a lot I didn’t know.

(16.1) Mamluk and Ottoman Jerusalem

Last time (Lecture 16), we went threw the Crusader period in Jerusalem, the time between the Islamic period (ended above) and the Mamluk Peruid that then arose after. We concluded with the (15.1) Crusader Period by examining Salah ad-Din’s conquering of Jerusalem in 1187 CE in the “Horns of Hattin” victory, as well as the proceeding reign of himself and the Ayyubid Dynasty (1187-1250).  The nature with which Saladin took over the previously Crusader-occupied Jerusalem grew into his legacy, as he had spared the people. His legend grows out the contrast between Saladin, who handled the occupiers peacefully, and the Crusaders’ method of fighting (some argue this is part of the reason the Crusades eventually failed, people began to see the contradictions between what the Gospel preaches and what they were doing to one another). Saladin also purified the Haram, gave the CotHS (Church of the Holy Sepulcher) to the Greek Orthodox, and also allowed Jewish settlement, displaying his tolerance as a ruler. However, although Jerusalem surrendered and the Crusaders left, Jerusalem would experience many struggles for power between the Ayyubids themselves and between the Ayyubids and Crusaders, particularly after Saladin’s death.In this period the Ayyubids and Crusaders struggle over Jerusalem, however, with each Crusade (3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th…), the Crusaders’ attempts grew weaker and less successful, until in 1291 the last Crusader outpost fell (Akko). Most importantly, however, the walls of Jerusalem were dismantled (ca. 1219) during the 5th Crusade (1217-1221), leaving Jerusalem unprotected and the people fled and the population sank to 2000. By 1244, both the Ayyubids and the Crusaders lost interest in Jerusalem as it (with its lack of walls) had lost its prominence as a political stronghold, and rose up as a religious center during the Mamluk Period (1244-1516).

This new period was more of a movement than a dynasty. The Mamluk movement was a grassroots movement of Islamic soldiers. However, ‘Mamluk’ means ‘owned’. The Mamluks were originally slaves. Thus, they were soldiers of slave origin that converted to Islam and began to join forces to create a grassroots movement. New people (Mamluks) were now coming to control power, a people of little control traditionally. This military movement was of great political importance and their influence and reign over affairs in various parts of the near east and the world (Egypt, Lavant, Iraq, India). This powerful military movement led to some proclaiming the rank “sultan” while others held regional power. Under the Mamluks, Jerusalem arose as a religious center, which was made possible partly (and significantly) because of its political and military insignificance (due to its lack of walls)  – it became a place of political exile. However, Jerusalem also grew into a religious center due to new emerging ideas about Jerusalem as such a vital place for faith (particularly for Islam), such as the concept of “Ziyara” (or “visit”) to Jerusalem (vs. Hajj [pilgramage to Mecca]), 30 anthologies made “In Praise of Jerusalem” during this and the Crusader period, and Muhammad having said that “He who lives in Jerusalem is considered a warrior of the jihad”. The Mamluk period involved new developments in Jerusalem, mostly to secure and strengthen its new role as a religious center. The Haram al-Sharif was developed and schools (‘madrasas’ – Qur’anic schools, hospices,  and hostels were constructed in many places. Two mosques were built. New architecture emerged, similar in a sense to the Umayyad obsession with geometry, but with a new style behind it, which is showcased in one particular Madrasa (al-Ashrafiyya – “third jewel of Jerusalem”).The Ghawanima Minaret arose and charitable foundations were created for the general benefit of the people, including improvement to mostly the NW sides of the Temple Mount (facing the Modern Day Islamic Quarter).

The Jewish aspect of Jerusalem was also growing at the time, aided by one prominent Jew (Rabbi Modes ben Nachman (Nachmanides) making an aliyah (“going up” to Jerusalem) in 1267 CE, attracting many Jews to come study with him in Jerusalem. He argued this “going up” to Jerusalem is a commandment to all Jews, and he developed Kabbalah (Jewish Mysticism), a spiritualized Jerusalem (Temple a symbolized path to God). He built up the ideas of “Zion” as meaning the “divine presence” and being the innermost stage on path to God, with Kabbalah making this spiritual aliyah (to Zion/God) possible. This was a very important development in the rise and presence of Zionism today.

Next we discussed Ottoman Jerusalem (1516-1918), with Ottoman Rule in Jerusalem coming with the falling of Constantinope (1453) and then Selim I’s defeat of the Mamluks in 1517 in northern Syria, with Jerusalem peacefully surrendering in 1516. They became and described themselves as the “new possessors of “the first quibla”. The Turkish-Ottoman kingdom flourished under strong government. Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566) made huge improvements to the city, including most importantly the rebuilding of the city walls (1536-1541 CE), refurbished the Haram and its monuments (added Syrian tiles on the DotR), and in general made renovations to markets, public charities, and mausoleums, until his work in Jerusalem paralleled that at Mecca and Medina. Suleiman had, in a sense, reestablished Jerusalem as the “third great city” in Islam. Jewish refugees were encouraged to resettle and restore the city.  He restored both Christian and Islamic religious establishments simultaneously (or at least tried his best to accommodate both), showing the Ottoman shrewdness at pleasing multiple parties and maintaining power (which they did for ~ 400 years!). We looked at Ottoman Architecture, including the new huge walls of Jerusalem, containing various gates. Damascus Gate the North is the largest of the seven gates of Jerusalem, AKA the “Gate of the Column”, with numerous defenses (this was always the side attacked). We talked about the history of the Jaffa Gate and how its tradition of “walking into Jerusalem” (Caliph Umar 638) was broken by Kaizer Wilhelm II, who wanted to make a “grand entrance”. This was then contrasted with General Allenby (1917) of the British, who dispite the new hole/passageway, took the old way on foot, saying “he wouldn’t enter a city on horseback, when his savior entered on a donkey.” We then finished up this lecture discussing The Western Wall (which was GIVEN to the Jews by Suleiman as a place of prayer) and its increasing significance for Judaism and Zionism in particular, as it became thought that they”Shekhinah” (“presence of God”) settled there after the Temple Destruction. It became known that the “Gate of Heaven” existed just above it, and this Wall became the place Jews from all over came to pray and submit letters to God within its crevices.


~ by Andru on March 12, 2011.

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