The Cutting Edge of the Poet’s Sword: Muslim Poetic Responses to the Crusades


In this comprehensive analysis of Arabic poetry during the period of the crusades (sixth/twelfth-seventh/thirteenth centuries), Osman Latiff provides an insightful examination of the poets who inspired Muslims to unite in the jihād against the Franks. The Cutting Edge of the Poet’s Sword not only contributes to our understanding of literary history, it also illuminates a broad spectrum of religiosity and the role of political propaganda in the anti-Frankish Muslim struggle. Latiff shows how poets, often used by the ruling elite to promote their rule, emphasised the centrality of Islam’s holy sites to inspire the Muslim response to the occupation and later reconquest of Jerusalem, and expressed some surprising views of Frankish Christians.
Restricted Access


EUR €100.00USD $116.00

Biographical Note

Osman Latiff, Ph.D. (2011), Royal Holloway, University of London, is a researcher in medieval and crusader history. He also writes on international relations, having completed a Post-doctorate study on counter-hegemony and political syncretism in Arab-U.S relations (2015) and is currently authoring a book on the place of empathy in challenging attitudes of ‘otherness’ in conflict

Table of contents

A Note on Transliteration

1 Introduction: Setting the Scene
 1.1 The Historical and Historiographical Context – Ideas and Definitions
 1.2 Sanctities of Space
 1.3 Sources
 1.4 Ideological Pursuits: Nūr al-Dīn, Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn, and Political Patronage: An Overview
 1.5 Al-Ghazālī and the New Sunnism of the Saljūq Period
 1.6 Faḍāʾil al-Quds (Merits of Jerusalem): Historiography and Relevance

2 Poetry and Poetics in Medieval Arabic Discourse
 2.1 Historiographical Considerations
 2.2 The Place of Poetry and Modern Perspectives

3 Theories and Principles of Jihād and the Quest for Martyrdom
 3.1 Yūsuf al-Findalāwī and the Pursuit of Martyrdom

4 Formative Muslim Responses: Franks (Faranj), Christians (Rūm) and the Making of a Christian Enemy
 4.1 The First Crusade 488–493/1095–1099: Syria and Internal Reform
 4.2 Verses in al-Sulamī’s Kitāb al-Jihād
 4.3 The Proximity of an Islamic Jerusalem: The Fall of Edessa, Banū Aṣfar, and the Revival of Jihād
 4.4 Images of the Franks in Muslim Poetry
 4.5 The Merging of Sacred Designations

5 Poeticising the Reconquest and Future Expectations
 5.1 The Reconquest of Jerusalem and Popular Piety
 5.2 The Sanctification of Spaces
 5.3 Constantinople and its Relation to Jerusalem
 5.4 Ibn Jubayr: Pilgrimage, Poetry, and Social Accountability

6 Literary Underpinnings of the Anti-Frankish Jihād
 6.1 Steering an Image: The Figure of the Christian ‘Other’ in Muslim Poetry
 6.2 Nūr al-Dīn and the Creation of a Pious Warrior Ethos
 6.3 The Inspiration of the Qurʾān in Jihād Poetry
 6.4 Heightened Fears and Eschatological Undercurrents in Muslim Poetry
 6.5 Gendering the Anti-Frankish Jihād

7 The Place of Egypt in Sixth-/Twelfth- and Seventh-/Thirteenth-Century Discourse
 7.1 Egypt and the Language of Realpolitik
 7.2 Poetry in Diplomacy and Calls for Unity

8 Shattered Dreams: Jerusalem, the Umma, and New Enemies
 8.1 Post-Reconquest Poetry
 8.2 Dismantling the Walls


Appendix: Arabic Poems


All interested in the study of the Crusades, Muslim medieval history, and the various strands of propaganda and ideology behind the Muslim anti-Frankish jihad.