The First Friday Sermon in Salah al-Din’s Liberated Jerusalem

The mimbar constructed by Nūr al-Dīn Zengī that was moved to Jerusalem upon its liberation in 1187.

The minbar constructed by Nur al-Din Zengi that was moved to Jerusalem upon its liberation in 1187.

After 88 years of Crusader control, Salah al-Din’s Ayyubid Empire liberated Jerusalem on 2 October, 1187 CE (27 Rajab, 583 AH). During the era of Crusader occupation of the city, al-Aqsa Masjid did not hold any Friday prayers, making the first one after Salah al-Din’s liberation of the city especially significant.

Below is an English translation of the first Friday sermon (khuṭbat al-jumuʿah) in al-Aqsa, given by the Shafi’i scholar and later qaḍi of Damascus, Muḥyī al-Dīn ibn al-Zakī. It is found in the found in the Kurdish scholar Ibn Khallikān’s (d. 1282 CE) biographical dictionary, Deaths of Eminent Men and History of the Sons of the Epoch (Wafayāt al-aʿyān wa-anbāʾ abnāʾ az-zamān).Ibn Khallikān’s commentary is in bold.

On the conquest of Jerusalem, all the learned men who happened to be in the retinue of the sultan aspired to the honor of pronouncing the khutba on the ensuing Friday, and each of them sent in for examination a khutba written with great eloquence, in the hopes of being chosen; but the sultan addressed an order to Muhyi al-Din, directing him to be the preacher. This was the first Friday on which the public prayer was said at Jerusalem after the taking of the city, and the sultan with all the chief men of the empire attended the ceremony. Muhyi al-Din mounted the pulpit and commenced his discourse by pronouncing the Fatiha. Then he said:

God has cut off the uttermost part of those who acted perversely; so praise be to God, the Lord of all creatures. “Praise be to God, who has created the heavens and the earth and ordained darkness and light” (6:1). “Praise be to God who has never begotten a son; who has no partner in His Kingdom; who needs none to defend Him from humiliation; and magnify Him by proclaiming His greatness” (17:111). “Praise be to God who has revealed the Book to His servant shorn of falsehood and unswerving from the truth, so that he may give warning of a dire scourge from Himself, proclaim to the faithful who do good works that a rich and everlasting reward awaits them, and admonish those who say that God has begotten a son” (18:1-3). “Say: Praise be to God, and peace upon His servants whom He has chosen! Who is more worthy, God or the idols they serve besides Him?” (27:59). “Praise be to God, to whom belongs all that the heavens and earth contain! Praise be to Him in the world to come. He is the Wise One, the All-knowing” (34:1). “Praise be to God, Creator of the heavens and the earth! He sends forth the angels as His messengers, with two, three or four pairs of wings. He multiplies His creatures according to His will. God has power over all things” (35:1).

In this, the preacher’s design was to quote all the passages of the sacred Qur’an in which praise is given to God. He then commenced the khutba as follows:

Praise be to God, by Whose aid Islam has been exalted, and by Whose might polytheism has been humbled; Whose decrees control all events, and Who rewards gratitude by continuing His favors. He has enveloped the infidels in his toils, Whose justice has decreed that time should be a series of vicissitudes, Whose bounty has granted success to those that feared Him, Who spread His shade over His servants, and caused His religion to triumph over every other. In His might He is far above His creatures, and naught can resist Him; His sway extends over the world, and naught can withstand it. He commands what He pleases, and none can disobey Him; He decides what He will, and none can oppose Him. I praise Him for His victorious assistance; for His exalting of His friends; for His aiding of those who aided in His cause, and for His cleansing of His Holy House from the filth of polytheism and its pollutions. I give him such praise as a man can offer whose inmost feelings are conscious of gratitude, and who denotes it by his outward bearing, and I declare that there is no other god but the only God, Who has no associate in His power, Who “is one and eternal; Who begot none, nor was He begotten” (112:1-3). Such is the declaration of one who has purified his heart by the professing of God’s unity, and has given it in charge unto his Lord.

I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and apostle, the remover of doubt, the confuter of infidelity, and dispeller of falsehood; that God “transported him by night from the Holy Temple [of Mecca] to the Farther Temple [of Jerusalem]” (17:1), and raised him up to the highest heavens, “even unto the lote-tree of the utmost bound, near which is the garden of repose; and his eyes did not wander, nor did they turn aside” (53:14-15, 17). May God’s blessing be upon him and upon his successor Abu Bakr al‑Siddiq, the first to embrace the faith; and upon the commander of the faithful ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, the first who removed from this house the sign of the cross; and upon the commander of the faithful ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan, the possessor of the two lights, the collector of the Qur’an; and upon the commander of the faithful ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, the destroyer of polytheism and the breaker of idols. And God’s blessing be on the family of Muhammad, on his Companions, and on the succeeding generation.

O men, rejoice at good news! God is pleased with your conduct; and that is the utmost term, the highest point, of man’s desires; inasmuch as He rendered it easy for your hands to recover this strayed camel [i.e. Jerusalem] from the possession of a misguided people, and to bring it back to the fold of Islam, after it has been abused by the polytheists for nearly one hundred years. Rejoice at the purifying of this house “which God allowed to be raised, and in which He permitted His name to be mentioned” (24:36); the ways of which He has delivered from polytheism, after He had spread His tent over it and established His rites within it; a house of which the foundations were laid on the profession of God’s unity, for that is the best basis to build on, and of which the edifice was erected to His glory, for it stands founded on piety from ancient times till now. It was the dwelling-place of your father Abraham; the spot from which your blessed Prophet Muhammad mounted to heaven; the qibla towards which you turned to pray at the commencement of Islam; the abode of the prophets; the place visited by the saints; the cemetery of the apostles; the spot where the divine revelation descended, and to which the commands and the prohibitions were sent down: it is the country where mankind will be assembled for judgment; the ground where the resurrection will take place; the Holy Land whereof God has spoken in His perspicuous book (5:21); it is the mosque wherein the Apostle of God offered up his prayer and saluted the angels admitted nearest to God’s presence; it is the town to which God sent his servant and apostle, and the Word which he caused to descend on Mary, and his spirit Jesus, whom he honored with that mission and ennobled with the gift of prophecy, without removing him from the rank he held as one of his creatures: and the Almighty said that the Messiah “does not disdain to be a servant of God, nor do the angels who are nearest to Him” (4:172). They lied, those who said that god had equals, and widely did they err. “Never has God begotten a son, nor is there any other god besides Him. Were this otherwise, each god would govern his own creation, each holding himself above the other. Exalted be God above their falsehoods!” (23:91) “They are surely infidels who say: ‘God is the Messiah, the son of Mary’” (5:72).

Here the preacher repeated the remaining verses of The Table (Sura 5).

This temple is the first of the two qiblas; the second of the two sacred Mosques (17:1); the third after the two holy cities [Mecca and Medina]; the next place, after these two Mosques, to visit which travelers girth their camels; the next spot named after these two mansions, when the number of holy places is counted on the fingers. Therefore, had you not been of God’s chosen servants, of those whom he selected from amongst the dwellers in his cities, he had not honored you with this favor wherein you will never have a rival, and in the excellence of which you will remain without a competitor. Blessings be on you for an army which has procured the triumph of the miraculous powers displayed in the Apostle’s gift of prophecy, which has fought battles like those of Badr, which has shown resolution like that of Abu Bakr, achieved conquests like those of ‘Umar’s, behaved like the armies of ‘Uthman, and charged like those of ‘Ali! You have renewed for Islam the glorious days of Qadisiya, the conflicts of Yarmuk, the sieges of Khaybar, and the impetuous attacks of Khalid ibn al-Walid. May God grant you his best rewards for the service you have rendered to his blessed prophet Muhammad. May he recompense you for the blood you lost in combating his foes. May he accept from you as an agreeable offering the blood which you have shed, and remunerate you with Paradise, for that is the abode of happiness.

Appreciate then (and God be merciful unto you) this favor at its just value, and thank for it the Almighty with fit acknowledgment, inasmuch as He placed you under deep obligations by conferring this honor upon you, and appointing you for this service. It is a victory which has opened for you the gates of heaven, and illumined by its light the face of the darkness; which has made the most highly favored of the angels to rejoice, and solaced the eyes of the prophets who were sent unto mankind. How great a favor was that which rendered you the army by whose hands the Sacred City was recaptured in these latter times, the body of troops whose swords set up again the monuments of the faith, after the mission of prophets had ceased. Soon, perhaps, may God achieve, by your hands, other victories such as this; victories whereat the people of the green [the inhabitants of Paradise] will rejoice yet more than the people of the earth. Is this not the House whereof God has spoken in His book and explicitly named in this formal address directed to Himself: “Glory be to Him who transported His servant by night from the Holy Temple to the Farther Temple” (17:1)? Is it not the house which all religions honored, towards which the prophets turned themselves, and in which were read the four books [Torah, Gospels, Psalms, Qur’an] sent down from Almighty God? Is it not the house for the sake of which God staid the sun over Joshua so that it set not, and delayed its pace so that the victory might be rendered prompt and easy? Is it not the house which God commanded Moses to order his people to deliver, yet none obeyed him but two men? Wherefore He waxed wroth against them, and cast them into the wilderness in punishment for their disobedience. Give therefore praises unto God for having helped you to the fulfillment of your resolutions in an undertaking from which the children of Israel, His chosen people, recoiled; and for having prospered you in an attempt wherein the nations of former ages failed; and for having made you of one opinion after you were divided; and for having enabled you to speak of this as a past event, when before you spoke of it only as an event to come.

Receive our congratulations, inasmuch as God has mentioned your conduct to those near Him, and has made you His own troops after you have been troops in the service of your passions. Rejoice at the coming of the angels, sent down to thank you for the sweet odor of the profession of God’s unity wherewith you have gifted this House; and for the perfume of sanctification and glorification you have spread throughout it; and for having removed from their paths therein the nuisance of polytheism and trinitarian doctrines, and a criminal and evil belief. Now, the angels of the heavens implore God’s mercy on you, and pray for you and give you blessings. Therefore, with the help of God, preserve this gift which you have obtained, and protect this favor which you have received, by living in the fear of God, that fear which saves him who holds unto it and delivers from danger him who clings thereto. Beware the seductions of your passions. Avoid falling into perdition, or turning back from the path of righteousness, or recoiling before an enemy. Seize this opportunity for removing the annoyances which still subsist in the land. Fight the good fight in the cause of God, and devote yourselves, O servants of God, to His will, for He has made of you His chosen servants. Beware lest Satan cause you to slip and lead you into rebellion; making you imagine that this victory was owing to your sharp swords, your fleet steeds, and your intrepidity in battle. No, by God! Victory comes not but from the Mighty, the Wise. Take care, O servants of God, after His having ennobled you by this great conquest, this signal favor, and after His having reserved for you so evident a triumph, and placed within your grasp His strong cord [of guidance]—take care not to commit such deeds as He has forbidden, or show the grievous sin of disobedience; lest you be “like the woman who unravels the thread she has firmly spun” (16:92); and like him “to whom We vouchsafed Our signs and who turned away from them, therefore Satan overtook him as he was led astray” (7:175).

Maintain the holy war: it is the best means which you have of serving God, the most noble occupation of your lives. Support God’s cause, and He will support you. Protect His religion and He will protect you. Remember Him, and He will remember you. Thank Him, and He will give you an increase of favors and reward you. Labor to expel the evil, and tear up the enemy by the root. Purify the rest of the land from this filth which has angered God and His Apostle. Lop off the branches of infidelity and cut through its roots. For now the times cry aloud: “Vengeance for Islam and the community of Muhammad. God is mighty. God gives victory and aid. God conquers and subdues. He humbles the infidel!”

Know therefore (and God be merciful unto you): that is the opportunity, therefore seize it; this is the spoil, hasten to obtain it; this is the serious matter, put forth your serious efforts to accomplish it, and send forward the troops of your resolutions in battle-array. For each deed is judged by its result, and each merit by its recompense. God has now made you victorious over this misguided enemy who was equal to you in number, or even surpassed you. And how if you were one to twenty? “If there are twenty steadfast men among you, they shall vanquish two hundred; and if there are a hundred, they shall rout a thousand unbelievers, for they are devoid of understanding” (8:65). May God enable us and you to follow His commandments and be restrained by His prohibitions. May He aid us, Muslims, with succor from Himself. If God assist you, who can overcome you? And if He deprive you of His protection, who then can help you? The best saying is that which is uttered in fitting place; the arrow which strikes deepest is that which is shot from the bow of speech; the best word by which one can touch the intelligence is that of the only God, the sole God, the Mighty, the Wise, who has said: “When the Qur’an is recited, listen to it in silence so that you may be shown mercy” (7:204). I fly to God from Satan the accursed. In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

The orator then recited the beginning of Exile (Sura 59), after which he said:

The Apostle ordered you and me to conform to that which God has commanded on the subject of devoted obedience to His will; let us therefore obey Him. He forbade you and me to commit the foul sin of disobedience; let us not therefore revolt against Him. I ask pardon of God for myself, for you, and for all Muslims; ask also pardon.

He then prayed for the imam al-Nasir, the caliph of that age, after which he said:

And prolong, O Almighty God, the reign of Your servant, so humble in his fear of You; so thankful for Your favors, so grateful for Your gifts; Your trenchant sword, Your shining torch; the defender of Your faith, the champion and protector of Your Holy Land; the firmly resisting, the great, the helping prince [or, victorious emir?]; him who gave might to the declaration of the true faith, who vanquished the adorers of the cross; the weal (salah) of the world and of religion (al-din); the sultan of Islam and of the Muslims; the purifier of the Holy Temple; Abu al-Muzaffar Yusuf, the son of Ayyub; the giver of life to the empire (muhyi’l-dawla); the commander of the true believers. Grant, O Almighty God, that his empire extend over the earth, and that the angels ever encircle his standards. Reward him for the services he has rendered to the orthodox [Sunni?] belief, and for his firm resolution and prompt execution in the defense of the Muslim religion. Preserve his life, we beseech You, for the prosperity of Islam. Protect his empire for the advantage of the faith, and extend his authority over the regions of the East and of the West. As You have enabled his hand to retake Jerusalem when men had begun to doubt of Your intentions, and when the Muslims were suffering under their trials, so let his hand take possession of the land far and near. Help him to seize infidelity by the forelock. Let him scatter their squadrons, disperse their multitudes, and send them, band after band, to join their predecessors [in hell]. Reward him, O God, in the name of Muhammad, for his efforts, and let his orders and prohibitions issue uncontrolled to the East and to the West. Let the center and the frontiers of the land, and all the regions of the kingdom, prosper under his rule. Let him humble the pride of the infidels, and tame the insolence of the perverse; spread his dominion unto every city, and post the detachments of his troops on the roads to every country. Maintain, O God, him and his children in the possession of the empire till the day of judgment. Preserve his days and those of his sons and brethren, emirs highly favored. Strengthen his power by granting them long life, and decide, by Your will, the exaltation of his friends and theirs. O God: inasmuch as You have produced, through his means, this lasting advantage for Islam, to endure as long as months and years pursue their course, grant him the eternal kingdom in the abode of the pious, and answer his prayer when he says: “Inspire me, Lord, to render thanks for the favors You have bestowed on me and on my parents, and to do good works that will please You. Admit me, through Your mercy, among Your righteous servants” (27:19).

He then pronounced the usual prayers.

[1] Translated by Baron Mac Guckin de Slane, Ibn Khallikan’s Biographical Dictionary (2nd edition, 4 vols., Paris, 1842-1871), vol. II, pp. 633-643.