Niall Christie: ABSTRACT: "Fighting on Earth to Gain Heaven: The 'Vision of Paradise' Motif in the Kitab al-Jihad of ‘Ali ibn Tahir al-Sulami (d. 1106)"

Over the course of the year 1105, six years after the fall of Jerusalem to the forces of the First Crusade, a Damascene jurisprudent called ‘Ali ibn Tahir al-Sulami publicly composed an extended call to the jihad against the crusaders. In his work he summoned his Muslim brethren both to return to moral rectitude and good conduct, and to march out to fight against the invaders from the west. As a number of scholars have shown, al-Sulami’s work is of vital importance for gaining a full understanding of the initial Muslim response to the First Crusade, containing as it does one of the earliest records of a contemporary Muslim reaction to the events of the time.

Al-Sulami employs a number of strategies in his efforts to motivate his listeners, including promising each of them a place in heaven if they are killed while fighting. To support his point he provides a number of stories drawn from Muslim tradition in which fighters in the holy war receive a vision of Paradise before they die. In the process al-Sulami links marching out to fight in an earthly battle with a spiritual conquest, a winning of heavenly delights resulting from devotion to the jihad.

In this paper we will look more closely at the use of these stories in al-Sulami’s work, noting their common features and examining how they serve his wider agenda, encouraging his listeners to participate in the holy war against the crusaders.