Friday, December 11, 2015

Spiritual devotion, the greatest threat of the Knights Templar

Saladin (source)
The muslim perspective of the intransigence of the Military Orders is best reflected in the writings of Abu al-Hasan Ali bin Abi Bakr al-Harawi (ca 1145-1215), a courtier, military theorist, and propagandist in the service of Saladin.

A noted scholar and traveler, al-Harawi seems to have served as a type of secret agent for Saladin. As a part of ongoing military reforms, Saladin ordered the preparation of at least three manuals on statecraft and warfare, one of which was written by al-Harawi, entitled al-Harawi's Discussion on the Strategems of War.

Al-Harawis's manual offers some interesting insights into Muslim prejudices concerning the Crusaders. In describing the Latin clergy, Al-Harawi wrote:
[The Sultan] should not neglect to write to the clergy [concerning surrender] .... For they have little religious sentiment and are capable of treachery and disloyalty. They desire the things of this world and are indifferent to the things of the next. [They are] irresponsible, thoughtless, petty,  and covetuous, .... being concerned with rank and status among kings and nobles. [They] have a permissive religious judgment regarding their own [actions].
 On the other hand, al-Harawi's view on the Hospitallers and Templars is quite different:
[The Sultan] should beware of the [Hospitaller and Templar] monks, .... for he can not achieve his goals through them. For they have great fervor in religion, paying no attention to the [things of this] world. He can not prevent them from interfering in [political] affairs. I have investigated them extensively and have found nothing which contradicts this.
In other words, the Military Orders were a threat not only because of their military strength but because of their absolute spiritual devotion to their cause as well. And that devotion, when it entailed the destruction of Islam, represented an unacceptable threat to Muslims in the age of Saladin.

This blog draws freely on the paper "Muslim perspectives on the military orders during the crusades" by William J. Hamblin, published in BYU Studies.

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