This work looks at the history of Jerusalem during the critical Ayyubid period, one of a new beginning for Islamic Jerusalem after almost a century of Crusader domination. In a series of articles by internationally recognised scholars and specialists this volume places the monuments and art of this critical period in their regional and historical context.
Jerusalem is a city with a unique status in the consciousness of the great monotheistic faiths. Its significance is enshrined in the beliefs of the three Abrahamic religions of the Book: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which together are sacred to almost half of humanity. Jerusalem remains today a focus for the hopes and prayers of millions of people around the world.
With its overwhelming historic and spiritual importance, Jerusalem is, and has always been, among the most sensitive issues of human controversy. As with other holy places, the question of Jerusalem has never been a purely religious one, yet the convergence of values between the adherents of the different monotheistic faiths proposes the way forward. Jerusalem may be a turbulent city, but it is also one of sublime beauty, whose holy sites highlight our shared consciousness and speak of man's common quest for contact with the infinite and the desire to find both God and self. This deep awareness of our common heritage points to the need for a recognition of the moral and philosophical authority of holy sites and cities. Religious authority should be raised above the mundane. The civilizational ties which we all have with these unique structures make it imperative that they do not become pawns in either political, or ideological, struggles.
Today the Old City of Jerusalem remains a precious heritage for the world, a unique collection of buildings and monuments form the humblest shops and houses to the great mosques and mausolea. This fabric has evolved over more than two millennia, providing a setting for the lives of Jew, Christian and Muslim as they go about their daily business.
What we see today in the Old City, what can be studied, photographed and measured, is largely a creation of successive Muslim periods. As such it deserves preservation in its own right as a rare and valuable example of a process of urban evolution over the centuries. The spiritual elements lifts the Old City to a higher plane and makes its conservation an urgent priority for us all. Its history as a living entity deserves to be better understood.
This study is the third in a distinguished series which seeks to make a contribution to that understanding. It concentrates on Ayyubid Jerusalem, the short, but significant, period of Saladin and his successors which saw the reassertion of the Muslim presence while Christians and Jews remained and continued to settle in the Old City. It was an era of cultural, socio-economic, and architectural change, in which Ayyubid Jerusalem can be perceived as a cultural entity enriched by the wide variety of groups shaping public life.
With its two companion volumes (Mamluk Jerusalem, 1987, and Ottoman Jerusalem, 2000) this book draws on nearly 30 years of dedicated scholarship. It is hoped that the completed trilogy will add substantively to current knowledge about Jerusalem's unique urban environment and so increase the rationale for its preservation for future generations.
By HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal
Part of a Trilogy
'The trilogy of Ottoman Jerusalem, Mamluk Jerusalem and Ayyubid Jerusalem by Sylvia Auld & Robert Hillenbrand is magisterial, brilliantly fascinating, obligatory reading.' -- London Evening Standard (2009)