Kingdom of Heaven is a fitting sequel to Gladiator for Ridley Scott, with beautiful set pieces, an all-star cast and a love story that weaves its way through historical events effortlessly and ties the whole thing off very nicely in the end. Inspired by real events, it follows the story of Balian, defender of Jerusalem, and culminates in a battle won by the legendary Saladin, played with steel and panache by Ghassan Massoud.
In his first confrontation with the crusaders (not his actual first, but the first one depicted in the film), having cornered a particularly malicious mercenary in his lair at Kerak, Saladin is unexpectedly forced to stand down by the arrival of King Baldwin’s army. This is a great frustration to his men, because the mercenary in question has been harassing caravans of Muslim pilgrims, in violation of the peace King Baldwin had negotiated.
This poem, inspired by the 60th Psalm, is in the voice of a mullah played by Khaled Nabawy who, after this undecided battle, questions Saladin’s assurance that the right time and place will be chosen for victory, by him. The mullah prefers to give all credit for planning and promising victory to Allah.
God, You turned your back on us – our homes are overrun.
You exacted blood for our impieties – relent!
You made our great roads tremble, thick with infidels.
Restore what now remains of our toppled pride.
You answered our thirst for glory with harsh medicine,
You filled our cup with a bitterness that left us dry.
You gave God-fearing people a rallying cry,
a scripture of our own to teach the truth.
Will you not free your followers from Western despots?
Extend your hand in aid to answer our prayers, our oaths.
Allah has spoken, that it should be written down:
“Over the village of Asqalan let me exult,
and all the forests of Lebanon I shall measure.
Mine is Galilee, and I shall take back Ibelin,
from the fortress of Tiberius, invincible,
where the Horns of Hattin will draw blood before night falls.
The Gulf of Aqaba will do for a washbasin,
in Judea I cast off my sandals and take rest,
over Jerusalem’s gates my men shout, triumphant.”
Who will stand forth and lead us to Raynald’s lair, Kerak,
and lay siege to the sell-sword who desecrates the Hajj?
Have our men of courage quailed within sight of his walls?
Salahadin will not avenge even his own kin.
God will deliver us from these infidels’ terror,
if petitioning men for redress has been in vain.
In the name of Allah, we shall summon greater strength,
and God will give these mercenary knights a dog’s death.