The Patriarch demanded that the Caliph guarantee the terms personally, so Omar traveled to Jerusalem.
Continuing Muslims Conquer Syria,
our selection from History of the Saracens by Simon Ockley published in 1718. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in twelve easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Muslims Conquer Syria
Sophronius the patriarch went to the wall, and by an interpreter discoursed with Abu Obeidah, telling him that Jerusalem was the holy city, and whoever came into the Holy Land with any hostile intent would render himself obnoxious to the divine displeasure. To which Abu Obeidah answered:
“We know that it is a noble city, and that our prophet Mohammad went from it in one night to heaven, and approached within two bows’ shot of his Lord, or nearer; and that it is the mine of the prophets, and their sepulchers are in it. But we are more worthy to have possession of it than you are; neither will we leave besieging it till God delivers it up to us, as he hath done other places before it.”
At last the patriarch consented that the city should be surrendered upon condition that the inhabitants received the articles of their security and protection from the Caliph’s own hands, and not by proxy. Accordingly, Abu Obeidah wrote to Omar to come, whereupon he advised with his friends. Othman, who afterward succeeded him in the government, dissuaded him from going, in order that the Ierosolymites might see that they were despised and beneath his notice. Ali was of a very different opinion, urging that the Muslims had endured great hardship in so long a siege, and suffered much from the extremity of the cold; that the presence of the Caliph would be a great refreshment and encouragement to them, and adding that the great respect which the Christians had for Jerusalem, as being the place to which they went on pilgrimage, ought to be considered; that it ought not to be supposed that they would easily part with it, but that it would soon be reinforced with fresh supplies. This advice of Ali being preferred to Othman’s, the Caliph resolved upon his journey; which, according to his frugal style of living, required no great expense or equipage.
When he had said his prayers in the mosque and paid his respects at Mohammad’s tomb, he appointed Ali his substitute, and set forward with a small retinue, the greatest part of which, having kept him company a little way, returned back to Medina.
Omar, having all the way he went set things aright that were amiss, and distributed justice impartially, for which he was singularly eminent among the Saracens, came at last into the confines of Syria; and when he drew near Jerusalem he was met by Abu Obeidah, and conducted to the Saracen camp, where he was welcomed with the liveliest demonstrations of joy.
As soon as he came within sight of the city he cried out, “Allah akbar [O God], give us an easy conquest.” Pitching his tent, which was made of hair, he sat down in it upon the ground. The Christians hearing that Omar was come, from whose hands they were to receive their articles, desired to confer with him personally; upon which the Muslims would have persuaded him not to expose his person for fear of some treachery. But Omar resolutely answered, in the words of the Koran: “Say, ‘There shall nothing befall us but what God hath decreed for us; he is our Lord, and in God let all the believers put their trust.'” After a brief parley the besieged capitulated, and those articles of agreement made by Omar with the Ierosolymites are, as it were, the pattern which the Muslim princes have chiefly imitated.
The articles were these:
- The Christians shall build no new churches, either in the city or the adjacent territory.
- They shall not refuse the Muslims entrance into their churches, either by night or day.
- They should set open the doors of them to all passengers and travelers.
- If any Muslim should be upon a journey, they shall be obliged to entertain him gratis for the space of three days.
- They should not teach their children the Koran, nor talk openly of their religion, nor persuade anyone to be of it; neither should they hinder any of their relations from becoming Mohammadans, if they had an inclination to it.
- They shall pay respect to the Muslims, and if they were sitting rise up to them.
- They should not go like the Muslims in their dress, nor wear the same caps, shoes, nor turbans, nor part their hair as they do, nor speak after the same manner, nor be called by the names used by the Muslims.
- They shall not ride upon saddles, nor bear any sort of arms, nor use the Arabic tongue in the inscriptions of their seals.
- They shall not sell any wine.
- They shall be obliged to keep to the same sort of habit wheresoever they went, and always wear girdles upon their waists.
- They shall set no crosses upon their churches, nor show their crosses nor their books openly in the streets of the Muslims.
- They shall not ring, but only toll their bells; nor shall they take any servant that had once belonged to the Muslims.
- They shall not overlook the Muslims in their houses: and some say that Omar commanded the inhabitants of Jerusalem to have the foreparts of their heads shaved, and obliged them to ride upon their panels sideways, and not like the Muslims.”
Upon these terms the Christians had liberty of conscience, paying such tribute as their masters thought fit to impose upon them; and Jerusalem, once the glory of the East, was forced to submit to a heavier yoke than ever it had borne before. For though the number of the slain and the calamities of the besieged were greater when it was taken by the Romans, yet the servitude of those that survived was nothing comparable to this, either in respect of the circumstances or the duration. For however it might seem to be utterly ruined and destroyed by Titus, yet by Hadrian’s time it had greatly recovered itself. Now it fell, as it were, once for all, into the hands of the most mortal enemies of the Christian religion, and has continued so ever since, with the exception of a brief interval of about ninety years, during which it was held by the Christians in the holy war.
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