Puzzling Encounters

Take My Son?

A very important Frankish knight . . . had come on a pilgrimage and was going home again. We got to know one another, and became firm friends. He called me “Brother,” and an affectionate friendship grew up between us.

When he was due to embark for the return journey, he said to me, “My brother, as I am about to return home, I should be happy if you would send your son with me” (the boy, who was about 14 years old, was beside me at the time), “so that he could meet the noblemen of the realm and learn the arts of politics and chivalry. On his return home, he would be a truly cultivated man.”

A truly cultivated man would never be guilty of such a suggestion; my son might as well be taken prisoner as go off into the land of the Franks!

I turned to my friend and said, “I assure you that I could desire nothing better for my son, but unfortunately the boy’s grandmother, my mother, is very attached to him, and she would not even let him come away with me without extracting a promise from me that I would bring him back to her.”

Their God Is Too Small

I was present myself when one of them [Templars] came up to the emir Mu’in ad-Din—God have mercy on him—in the Dome of the Rock, and said to him, “Would you like to see God as a baby?”

The emir said that he would, and the fellow proceeded to show us a picture of Mary with the infant Messiah on her lap. “This,” he said, “is God as a baby.”

Almighty God is greater than the infidels’ concept of him!

Fanatic Foreigner

This is an example of Frankish barbarism, God damn them! When I was in Jerusalem, I used to go to the Masjid al-Aqsa, beside which is a small oratory which the Franks have made into a church. Whenever I went into the mosque, which was in the hands of Templars, who were friends of mine, they would put the little oratory at my disposal, so that I could say my prayers there.

One day I had gone in, said the Allah akhbar [the beginning of a sequence of prayers], and risen to begin my prayers, when a Frank threw himself on me from behind, lifted me up, and turned me so that I was facing east.

“That is the way to pray!” he said. [Medieval Christians prayed facing east—toward Jerusalem; Muslims faced the qibla, the direction of Mecca.]

Some Templars at once intervened, seized the man, and took him out of my way, while I resumed my prayer. But the moment they stopped watching him, he seized me again and forced me to face east, repeating that this was the way to pray. Again the Templars intervened and took him away.

They apologized to me and said, “He is a foreigner who has just arrived today from his homeland in the north, and he has never seen anyone pray facing any other direction than east.”

“I have finished my prayers,” I said, and left, stupefied by the fanatic who had been so perturbed and upset to see someone praying facing the qibla!


[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #40 in 1993]

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