This is the Crusader castle in which resided Reynald-de-Chatillon (also known as Arnat), one of the worst enemies of the Muslims during the Crusades. It was taken by Salahuddin Ayyubi on the second attempt in 1189 CE.
- In 1183 Salahuddin besieged the castle, the siege taking place during the marriage of Humphrey IV of Toron and Isabella of Jerusalem. Lady Stephanie (the wife of Reynald) sent plates of food to the Muslim army beyond the walls. In response, while his men were trying to bridge the moat and catapulting rocks against the walls, Salahuddin enquired which tower the newly weds were occupying. As an act of chivalry, Salahuddin ordered his army not to bombard the tower and direct their fire elsewhere. The siege was eventually relieved by King Baldwin IV.
- Despite a truce between the Crusaders and Muslims, in 1186 Reynald attacked a caravan travelling between Cairo and Damascus. In the ensuing hostilities, Reynald launched ships on the Red Sea, partly for piracy, but partly as a threat against Makkah and Madinah, challenging Islam in its own holy places. His pirates ravaged villages up and down the Red Sea, before being captured by the army of Al-Adil only a few miles from Madinah and subsequently beheaded.
- Reynald’s rein in Kerak was characterised by wanton cruelty. Not only did he throw prisoners from the castle walls, he encased their heads in boxes first, in the hope that this would stop them losing consciousness before they hit the rocks below.
- Salahuddin swore that if Reynald was ever captured he would be executed by his own hands. In 1187, the Muslims defeated the Crusaders at the Battle of Hattin during which Reynald was taken prisoner along with King Guy, both of whom Salahuddin ordered brought to his tent. The chronicler Imad ad-Din al-Isfahani, who was present at the scene, relates: “Salahuddin invited the king [Guy] to sit beside him, and when Arnat [Raynald] entered in his turn, he seated him next to his king and reminded him of his misdeeds. “How many times have you sworn an oath and violated it? How many times have you signed agreements you have never respected?”. Reynald answered through a translator: “Kings have always acted thus. I did nothing more.”
- During this time King Guy was gasping with thirst, his head dangling as though drunk, his face betraying great fright. Salahuddin spoke reassuring words to him, had cold water brought, and offered it to him. The king drank, then handed what remained to Reynald, who slaked his thirst in turn. The sultan then said to Guy: “You did not ask permission before giving him water. I am therefore not obliged to grant him mercy.” After pronouncing these words, the sultan smiled, mounted his horse, and rode off, leaving the captives in terror. He supervised the return of the troops, and then came back to his tent. He ordered Reynald brought there, then advanced before him, sword in hand, and struck him between the neck and the shoulder-blade. When Reynald fell, he cut off his head and dragged the body by its feet to the king, who began to tremble. Seeing him thus upset, Salahuddin said to him in a reassuring tone: “This man was killed only because of his maleficence and perfidy”.
- Salahuddin besieged Kerak castle again and finally captured it in 1189.
- Kerak is the unofficial capital of southern Jordan and lies around 125 km south of Amman.
References: Wikipedia, The Rough Guide to Jordan – Matthew Teller