Saturday, 1 September 2007

Baibras, Hero of Ayn Jalut

His name is still unknown to many in the Muslim World, his career and conquests however continue to shine above several generations as an example of courage, conviction and class for his headstrong approach and resilient attitude to come what may.

In 1258, when the Mongol Empire had smashed the Central Caliphate in Baghdad and left it in ruins amidst rivers of blood, Muslims the World over felt apprehensive at the prospect of further annihilation.

The Mongols seemed invincible, they had destroyed the World’s best armies in parrot fashion and then horribly sacked successive cities after submission with little respect for civilians, even farm animals were not spared massacre.

Two years later, Halaku Khan, the grand Mongol Khan, appeared in person to annex Syria to his empire. Aleppo, Antioch and Damascus fell within a short time, Muslim populations in all such cities and others were put to the sword, while the Christians were spared.

Prince Bohemond of Antioch and the [Christian] King of Armenia rode triumphantly in the streets with Halaku Khan, as Christians gradually replaced Muslims as the majority in Syria.

Despite reducing the Caliphate to rubble, the Mongol Emperor wanted Egypt as well. At the time, Egypt was a strong and thriving civilisation and although it did not possess the glitter and once magnificence of the Caliphate in Baghdad, it was nevertheless a powerful state, a state the Mongols wanted for themselves.

From Damascus, a message was delivered to Sultan Qutuz of Egypt. Submit and be safe or resist and be destroyed. Sultan Qutuz was not to be swayed that easily and replied he had every intention of remaining where he was and the Mongols wouldn’t dislodge him.

Sultan Qutuz moved first and an Egyptian army was sent to Syria for the inevitable confrontation. Halaku Khan similarly made plans to amass a huge army for the battle and lead them from the frontline.

It so happened, Mangu, a brother of Halaku Khan, died and the Mongol Emperor delegated the task of punishing Sultan Qutuz to his stepbrother, Ketbugha, and himself returned to attend his blood brother’s funeral and succession disputes.

The two determined empires met on the plains of Ayn Jalut near Galilee in Palestine. Here, 1200 years earlier, Jesus the Messiah, had once preached and lived. Now the stage was set for one of the bloodiest battles in history.

The two forces fought with distinction and much zeal, but ultimately the unexpected came to pass the invincible had been humbled, the Muslims had vanquished the myth of Mongol supremacy.

Not only had the Mongol army suffered defeat, but the greater part of it was practically cut to pieces and its commander, Ketbugha, was killed. The Mongols retreated, leaving behind most of their comrades and ablest soldiers on the battlefield.

Soon afterwards, while the Muslims had yet to savour the full effects of the historic occasion, Sultan Qutuz was assassinated and with his death, it seemed so did the dream of further conquests and efficient executive leadership.

Not so however, Baibras, who participated in the battle as a general, assumed office as his successor and with a vision of isolating those who had initiated and encouraged the aggression against Muslims in the first place; the Christians.

In 1263, Baibras crossed into the heart of Christian territory and pillaged Nazareth and Acre. The Church of Nazareth, which was little more than a shrine, was also demolished. This was in reality a slap in the face and not a fully fledged invasion of Christian held areas.

In 1265, Baibras was on the march again; this time the campaign was to be larger and bolder. The Christians were then grouped into two main divisions; the Templars and Hospitallers. Baibras first attacked the Templars and captured the fort of Athlit.

The Templars shut themselves inside the castle and Baibras proceeded to Arsuf; a Hospitaller fortress. Two hundred and seventy knights held the fort and it was taken by assault and all the knights perished. Baibras was now master of Galilee.

In 1266, Sufed, another fortress, this time belonging to the Templars, fell to Baibras and again all the knights perished. To prevent future attacks from Christians in outlying areas and protect their rear, villages inhabited by Christians were burnt along the way.

Next, the Egyptians moved up the coast and after vanquishing the Armenians, they besieged Antioch. Prince Bohemond, who was one of the defenders, purchased peace by paying a huge sum and agreeing to pay Jizya.

In 1267, the countryside across Acre was ravaged and the following year, Antioch was successfully besieged and captured by assault. In just four years, almost all of Christian held territory was recaptured and with it the Christian vision of expelling Islam from the Middle East was destroyed.

The Ninth Crusade

Events in the Middle East did not go unnoticed in Europe and Pope Clement IV urged the most able of Christian leaders; King Louis of France, a veteran of earlier crusades, to retrieve their positions.

King Louis, in earlier times as a youth twenty years ago, had been arrested and imprisoned in a failed crusade against the Muslims and was now past his prime. However, he complied and by 1270 he was ready for battle.

Unfortunately for Louis, misleading reports of a possible ally in the form of Tunisia, caught the attention of the eager monarch. It appeared the Tunisian ruler would forsake Islam and support the cross. The plan thus became to attack Egypt from Tunisia. Louis duly sailed to Africa, instead of Syria. He had just walked into a trap.

Upon arrival, the Christian army was immediately blockaded and the hot conditions, as well as the inability of access to water wells there added to growing thirst among the soldiers. Plague soon broke out and among the victims was none other than King Louis himself. Following his death, the Christians sued for peace and then sailed to France.

After the fiasco of the ninth crusade seemed over, Baibras now centred his attention on finishing what he had started, namely the destruction of all remnants of Christian control in the Middle East.

In 1271, Krakdes Chavellers, a Templar stronghold was besieged and captured after a fortnight. Many fortresses thereafter chose capitulation than defeat in battle, although Montfort, a Teutonic castle, dismally held out but also fell after a week.

A new face appeared shortly afterwards. A European giant, 6ft7ins, known by his contemporaries as Edward Longshanks, but to the rest of the World, Prince Edward, heir to the throne in England, arrived to relieve the crusading spirit.

Unlike Louis, following in the footsteps of Richard I who had fought Sultan Salahudeen Yusuf Bin Ayyubi, in the Third Crusade (1189-92) a century earlier, Edward went straight to the Asian mainland of the Middle East and soon found himself in Acre.

After some initial skirmishes and bitter battles, Edward had resigned himself to the futility of continuing the campaign and agreed to an 11-year truce. A truce he held he would use to raise an even larger army and return as a victor in the future against Islam.

Despite his strong words, he never did return even when the opportunity presented itself more than once. The ninth crusade similarly failed to wield any significant results for Christians.

Baibras himself died in 1277, and although he did not live to see the end of Christian rule in the Middle East, he paved the way for it and his son and successor, Sultan Qalawun, and after him Sultan Al-Ashraf, a grandson of Baibras, continued his legacy and pushed the Christians further from complete encirclement.

By 1291, the Christians in the remaining footholds had become severely weakened due to internal rivalries, thereby inviting the Muslims to finalise the mission initiated by Baibras thirty years earlier.

Tripoli (now in Lebanon) was bombarded into submission and the Sultan took to the field in person. Next, Acre, the last outpost not under Muslim occupation came under scrutiny.

The siege began on 6th April 1291 and ended with the destruction of the garrison on 18th May 1291, approximately five weeks. Most Christians chose death to surrender and so few remained alive by the time the city capitulated.


Baibras had assumed importance at a time when it appeared Islam was on the brink of annihilation. The Mongols had conquered all those who had chosen to stand against them. At first, Baibras, saw service as a soldier under the tutelage of Sultan Qutuz and functioned as a general in the famous Battle of Ayn Jalut.

By the time of his own death seventeen years later, Baibras had participated in the last major crusade (1270-1272), fought and won against two separate European leaders of repute and reduced resident fortresses of Templars and Hospitallers and Christian strangulation of the Middle East to almost nothing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

All I can say is that islam and Muslims and Baitul Maqdas is calling for another Baibras and another Salahuddin to come to their rescue.
May Allah grant the most blessed place in heaven to Baibras
Dr Saleem Adil