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An Upside-Down History of the World [Japanese]
[Chapter 3] The Origins of Monotheism

Part 1: A Human Hypothesis
37 Losing to Saladin—An Unsuccessful Third Crusade
Crusader States JapanKnowledge (Encyclopedia Nipponica)

Having managed to secure the pilgrimage route from Europe to the Holy Land by retaking Jerusalem in the First Crusade, Christian believers wasted no time in instigating another crusade. It was their answer to Pope Eugene III’s call to retake from the Seljuk Empire the Crusader state known as the County of Edessa. And it’s what led to the worst-case-scenario for Christians—an Islamic recapture of Jerusalem.

The heroic Islamic protagonist was Kurd and sultan Saladin.

It was a time when the Fatimid Caliphate (909-1171), based in Egypt and founded by the adherents of Isma'ilism, a branch of Shia Islam, was one of the Islamic Empires. The Fatimid rulers had stood up against the caliphs of the mostly Sunni Abbasid Caliphate (750-1258) by declaring themselves caliph. Sunnis, by the way, were then the majority religion in the Muslim world.

The Sultan and the Decline of the Caliph

The “Islamic Empire” originally referred to a city-state that, basically, treats its people, as long as they are Muslim, equally, regardless of race or ethnicity. This was the Prophet Muhammad’s intent. But the Umayyad Caliphate, having overthrown the Rashidun and usurped the caliphate, created a government where only those of Arabic descent ruled and held political supremacy, hence the Umayyad Caliphate’s other name of “Arab Empire.” In contrast, the Abbasid Caliphate, which wiped out the Umayyad Caliphate along with many social inequalities against non-Arabs, is usually referred to as the “Islamic Empire”.

But even the Abbasid Caliphate was not free of discrimination. While Sunnis enjoyed equal status, Shiites were considered heretics. Consequently, the Shiites had a need for the creation of another Islamic Empire, one different from the Abbasids, and the Fatimid Caliphate was the answer.

Now, with the foundation of the Fatimid Caliphate and the late-Umayyad Caliphate, three caliphs controlled the Islamic world.

The Islamic world had split, and it was the herald of the caliph’s decline. In the Sunni Islamic empires, rulers of the Abbasid Caliphate gave themselves the title of caliph before naming other leaders of other Islamic Empires sultan.

While there are some similarities between the caliph’s bestowing of the title of sultan onto Islamic leaders with that of the pope’s conferring of the title of Emperor of Rome onto the Frankish king Charles the Great, there was one notable difference: sultan was a new title. And, unlike the pope, the caliph would eventually lose his power and fade into irrelevance. (Islamic State advocates the restoration of the caliphate.)