A group today calling itself the Order of the Temple of Solomon claims that Muslims were allowed to become Knights Templar. It even asserts that the Saracen leader and great Islamic warrior Saladin was knighted a Templar at Alexandria. The story goes that in 1167, Saladin went to the camp of King Almaric of Jerusalem and met with a Christian knight, Humphrey of Toron. Saladin asked many questions about the Templar order culminating in him being initiated and regarding himself as a brother knight. Make of this story what you will.
The 18th century French historian François-Louis Claude Marin claimed to have documentary evidence proving that Saladin became a Templar. It’s also said that the 12th century chronicler Geoffrey of Vinsauf is referring to Saladin in the following passage: “In the process of time, when his years were matured…he came to Enfrid of Tours, the illustrious Prince of Palestine, to be mantled, and after the manner of the Franks received from him the belt of knighthood”.
For Prince of Palestine you’re asked to read Saladin and Franks are assumed automatically to be Templars. Muslim chroniclers do not record a knighting of Saladin or any kind of acceptance into the Knights Templar.
Templar tolerance towards Islam – and Saladin?
The Knights Templar are often depicted as being intolerant towards Islam. Yet, despite their role as crusaders, they may have been more tolerant than we give them credit for. In fact, contemporary chroniclers paint a very different picture.
We’re used to the binary idea promoted by scholars of all faiths that during the Crusades, it was all Christians on one side and all Muslims on the other. But of course, life is way more complex and intriguing than that. In fact, the Knights Templar were not averse to forming alliances with Muslim entities against both Christian and Muslim foes.
And remember that the Templars had lines of communication open to the cult known as the Assassins. These suicidal medieval terrorists murdered Seljuk, Sunni Muslim rulers first before turning their daggers later towards Christians. They were a Shia sect with a messianic philosophy that most Muslims rejected. But the Templars occasionally saw them as useful allies.
Knights Templar were involved in peace treaties with the Saracens such as the Treaty of Ramla in 1192, confirmed again by the Treaty of Acre in 1229.
Templar tolerance of Muslim prayer
This is a very telling story from an excellent book – Islam’s War Against the Crusaders – in which the story of a medieval Muslim writer, Usama of Shaizar is referenced. He once visited Jerusalem and went to the Al-Aqsa mosque to pray. Well, it had once been a mosque – and is today of course – but in the crusader period it had become the headquarters of the Templars. It was known as the Temple of Solomon and underwent some major modifications at that time – not least the walling up of the minbar.
Usama described the Templars as ‘friends of mine’ and there doesn’t seem to have been any problem with him popping in to pray. But as he knelt towards Mecca, a Frankish visitor – who was not a Templar – flew in to a rage and made him face in what he saw as a Christian direction. The Templars took exception to this rough handling of their guest and told the Frank off – but as soon as their backs were turned, he did it again!
The Templars laid in to the guy and apologising to Usama, they explained:
He is a foreigner who has just arrived from his homeland in the north and he has never seen anyone pray facing any other direction than east.