Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Crusades: Victory and Defeat

The Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt (Arabicسلطنة المماليك‎ Sulṭanat al-Mamālīk) was a state based in medieval Egypt. It lasted from the overthrow of the Ayyubid Dynasty until the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in 1517. The sultanate's ruling caste was composed of Mamluks, soldiers of predominantly Kipchak TurkCircassian, and Georgian slave origin. Mamluks were considered to be "true lords", with social status above freeborn Egyptian Muslims. Though it declined towards the end of its existence, at its height the sultanate represented the zenith of Egyptian and Levantine political, economic, and cultural glory in the Islamic era.

Baibars or Baybars (Arabicالملك الظاهر ركن الدين بيبرس البندقداري‎, al-Malik al-Zahir Rukn al-Din Baibars al-Bunduqdari), nicknamed Abu l-Futuh[1] (Arabic: أبو الفتوح) (1223 – 1 July 1277, Damascus), was the fourth Sultan of Egypt from the Mamluk Bahri dynasty. He was one of the commanders of the Egyptian forces that inflicted a devastating defeat on the Seventh Crusade of King Louis IX of France. He also led the vanguard of the Egyptian army at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260, which marked the first substantial defeat of the Mongol army, and is considered a turning point in history. Baibars' reign marked the start of an age of Mamluk dominance in the Eastern Mediterranean, and solidified the durability of their military system. He managed to pave the way for the end of the Crusader presence in the Levant, and reinforced the union of Egypt and Syria as the region's pre-eminent Arab and Muslim state, able to fend off threats from both Crusaders and Mongols. As Sultan, Baibars also engaged in a combination of diplomacy and military action, which allowed the Mamluks of Egypt to greatly expand their empire.

Battle of Ain Jalut

The battle of Ain Jalut which was fought on September 3, 1260 was one of the most important battles and a turning point in history. In 1250, only ten years before the battle of Ain Jalut, the same Bahariyya Mamluks (Qutuz, Baibars and Qalawun) led Egypt against the Seventh Crusade of King Louis IX of France. The Mongol army at Ain Jalut that was led by Kitbuqa, a Nestorian Christian Naiman Turk, was accompanied by the Christian king of Cilician Armenia and by the Christian prince of Antioch. After the fall of Khawarezm, Baghdad and Syria, Egypt was the last citadel of Islam in the Middle East, and the existence of crusade beach-heads along the coast of the Levant were forming a serious menace to the Islamic World. Therefore the future of Islam and of the Christian west as well depended on the outcome of that battle which was fought between two of the most powerful fighters of the Middle Ages, the Mamluks and the Mongols accompanied by some Christian crusaders. Baibars, who was known to be a swift commander, led the vanguard and succeeded in his maneuver and lured the Mongol army to the Ain Jalut where the Egyptian army led by Qutuz waited. The Egyptians at first failed to counter the Mongol attack and were scattered after the left flank of their army suffered a severe damage but Qutuz stood firm, he threw his helmet to the air and shouted "O Islam" and advanced towards the damaged side followed by his own unit. The Mongols were pushed back and fled to a vicinity of Bisanfollowed by Qutuz's forces but they managed to gather and returned to the battlefield making a successful counterattack. Qutuz cried loudly three times "O Islam! O God grant your servant Qutuz a victory against the Mongols". The Mongols with their Christian and Muslim allies were totally defeated by Qutuz' army and fled to Syria where they became a prey for the local population. Qutuz kissed the ground and prayed while the soldiers collected the booty. Kitbuqa the Commander of the Mongol army was killed and his head was sent to Cairo. An account by the celebrated British historian Toynbee A Study of History of the Oxford University Press does refer that the General Kitbuqa (Ketboga) was injured during the battle, however his corpse may have fallen into Mameluke hands, he may have been injured as a result of the Mongol troops having killed the horse of Baibars on their left-wing of the Mameluke troops contrary to the practice of military of the day when originating from the steppes. The incident of the horse is also recorded but not necessarily in the account of Toynbee and at least one painting shows the occurrence. Or it may be that Ketboga died in Mameluke hands for reasons of military custom, (his name possibly indicates a link to Khitan customs), or because he was Christian but Nestorian Christian so that he would not take part in mainstream Orthodox Christian communion and this may have led to him refusing treatment for his wound not so common among the Mamelukes for their captives to engage in, while it is unclear if he was influenced by the recommendation and custom "not to uncover private parts" possibly post-"Great Mongol (Mongol can be abbreviation for or version of the "Mengwu Shiwei") United Fighters State" which is the translation of the contemporary historical name. Although Muslim medical practice fully endorses the same, but also even as far as ancient China there were people not prepared to disrobe even the entire body for acupuncture.However the Mamelukes were by nature not inclined to engage in any treatment whatsoever. This was the first defeat suffered by the Mongols since they attacked the Islamic world. They fled from Damascus then from the whole of the northern Levant. Qutuz entered Damascus with his army and sent Baibars to Homs to liquidate the remaining Mongols. While Alam ad-Din Sonjar was nominated by Qutuz as the sultan's deputy in Damascus, Qutuz granted Aleppo to al-Malik al-Said Ala'a ad-Din the Emir of Mosul and a new Abbasid Caliph was about to be installed by Qutuz. All of the Levant from the border of Egypt to the river Euphrates was freed from the Mongols. After this victory the Mamluks stretched their sovereignty to the Levant and were recognized by the Ayyubids and the others as legitimate rulers. When Hulagu heard about the defeat of the Mongol Army he executed an-Nasir Yusuf near Tabriz. Hulagu kept threatening the Mamluk Sultanate, but soon he was struck hardly by conflicts with the Mongols of the Golden Horde, in the western half of the Eurasian Steppe, who converted to Islam (see Berke–Hulagu war). Hulagu died in 1265. He never would avenge the defeat of the Mongols at Ain Jalut.
The Battle of Ain Jalut is also notable for being the earliest known battle where explosive hand cannons (midfa in Arabic) were used. These explosives were employed by the Mamluk Egyptians in order to frighten the Mongol horses and cavalry and cause disorder in their ranks. The explosive gunpowder compositions of these cannons were later described in Arabic chemical and military manuals in the early 14th century.
[Above info is via: Wikipedia]

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