Saturday, December 6, 2014

Saladin Book 16. To Challenge a Caliph

“People should know when they are defeated”….Maximus, general of Rome

Saladin, founder of the Ayyubid dynasty and ruler of Egypt

After our victory at Alexandria, it seemed that the Fatimid Caliphate that once ruled the entire north African coast was now weak, and its Caliph, Mustafa ab-din, hath become a coward. He sued for peace, but the tone of his voice was still arrogant. So I said I would only make peace with him, if he would renounce the Shiite faith, of which he was supreme leader and embrace the Abbasid Caliph as his overlord.

This Mustafa declined, and so war against Cairo was inevitable. I marched against the great city from Alexandria, and although the Egyptians had a great army, they were terrified of my reputation in war. They knew that I had vanquished the Crusaders many times over and had fought against Sultan Ahmed and defeated Mustafa in the epic battle of Alexandria itself.

In fact, there were many Sunni warriors in Alexandria who flocked to my side. Soon, I had an army of 150,000 men after after the heavy losses in the earlier battle, but now our forces marched on Cairo. Caliph Mustafa managed to gather 300,000 men, twice my size, but many of them were already fearful.

When the war broke out, some of them fled to the southern delta, while some deserted Cairo to join our Alexandrian army. After just the first week of warfare, our forces were almost equally matched, and the Ayyubids fought harder. In three months, Cairo fell. Over 50,000 men died in the battle.

Caliph Mustafa fled to Memphis, but soon, one of his commanders surrendered to me and bound the Caliph to my presence.

Sala-hu-din: “How do you want to be treated?”

Caliph: “Like a caliph.”

Sala-hu-din: “But there can only be one Caliph in the world, and that is the true Abbasid Caliph in Bagdhad. You must embrace the Sunni faith and accept his as your overlord.”

Caliph: “Then, give me death, for I shall not bow down to a misguided faith.”

I imprisoned Mustafa for one month and pondered upon his fate. I did not want to kill a man who was once favored by Allah and who came from an illustrious line. For all we know, he could really be a descendant of the holy Ali and the Prophet Muhammad himself. By contrast, the Abbasid Caliph was only related to the Prophet’s uncle.

But I had my duty, and I could not allow him to remain alive in Egypt, for fear of incitement. The southern delta still had not been pacified, and there were many pretenders and powerful men who would support Mustafa’s claim to rulership in these lands.

In the end, I sent Mustafa to Bagdhad, where he was held at the mercy of the Abbasids and Seljuks and never heard of again.

The war with the southern Egyptians lasted five more long years. There were many claimants to the throne of Egypt. One of this was Prince Umar, a son of Mustafa by a minor mistress, but Umar was a good warrior. Too good for me to let him live. He fought until the city of Thebes fell, and I ordered men to shoot him. I did not want to capture him and have to ponder on his fate again. After Umar’s death, I proclaimed myself Sultan of Egypt, and declared Umar a hero.

And I hoped that my descendants should rule these lands for many years to come. Nassur hath died a hero in Alexandria, but his sacrifice was not in vain.

Prologue: The Ayyubid sultanate founded by Saladin lasted several centuries after his death, until they were in turn usurped by their own slave military order, known as the Mamelukes, whom they had trained for war. Even the first Mameluke sultan, Baybars I, was a great admirer of Saladin, who had stood up against the Crusaders in three long wars and sparred with the legendary Richard the Lion-hearted himself.

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