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18 I OPINION FEATURE Passion Islam I July 2009
Saladin
Mighty warrior with
a humble heart
Saladin (1137 -1193) (‘Salah Ad- and Saladin hoped that the kingdom Crusader city except Tyre.
din Yusuf Ibn Ayyub) founded the would remain intact as a buffer Hattin and the fall of Jerusalem
ethnically Kurdish Ayyubid dynasty state between Egypt and Syria, until prompted the Third Crusade. This
of Egypt and Syria. He was also a Saladin could gain control of Syria Crusade took back Acre, and Saladin
renowned leader in the Crusades as well. Both Nur ad-Din and Saladin was defeated by King Richard I of
for his military prowess against the were planning a war against each England at the Battle of Arsuf in 1191.
Crusaders and his honorable mercy other when Nur ad-Din died in 1174. Saladin’s relationship with Richard
to them. Saladin then marched on Damascus, was one of mutual respect as well
and was welcomed into the city. as military rivalry. When Richard was
Rise to power Aleppo and Mosul, on the other hand, wounded, Saladin even offered the
He was born into a Kurdish family at the two other largest cities that Nur services of his personal physician; at
Tikrit on the river Tigris. After an initial ad-Din had ruled, were never taken, Arsuf, when Richard lost his horse,
military education under the command but Saladin managed to impose his Saladin sent him two replacements.
of the Seljuk statesman and soldier influence and authority on them in There were even plans to marry
Shirkuh, Saladin defended Egypt 1176 and 1186 respectively. While Richard’s sister to Saladin’s brother.
against the Crusaders and abolished besieging Aleppo on May 22, 1176 The two came to an agreement over
the Fatimid caliphate in 1171. He the “Assassins” attempted to murder Jerusalem in 1192, whereby it would
took power in Egypt with the title of him. remain in Muslim hands but would be
sultan, though many Seljuks refused While Saladin consolidated his open to Christian pilgrimages.
to serve under a Kurd. His position power in Syria, he generally left the Not long after Richard’s departure,
was tenuous at first, as no one Crusader kingdom alone, although Saladin died in 1193 at Damascus,
expected him to last long in Egypt he was usually victorious when he where his tomb is now a major tourist
where there had been many changes met the Crusaders in battle. One attraction.
of government in previous years due exception was the Battle of Montgisard
to a long line of underage caliphs. in 1177, although he soon recovered Recognition
As the leader of a foreign army from and defeated the Crusaders at the Despite his fierce opposition to the
Syria, he also had no control over the Ford of Jacob’s Daughters in 1179. Christian powers, Saladin achieved
Egyptian army, which was led by the However, the Crusaders repeatedly a great reputation in Europe as a
now otherwise powerless caliph. provoked him. Raynald of Chatillon, chivalrous knight, so much so that
With his brothers, Saladin turned in particular, harassed Muslim trading there existed by the 14th century
Egypt essentially into a vassal state and pilgrimage routes, and threatened an epic poem about his exploits,
of his own family, against the wishes to attack Mecca with a fleet on the and Dante included him among the
of Nur ad-Din who had sent Shirkuh Red Sea. In July of 1187, Saladin virtuous pagan souls in Limbo.
and Saladin to Egypt in the first place. invaded the Kingdom of Jerusalem The name Salah ad Din means
He also restored Sunnism in Egypt. and annihilated the Crusader army “Light of the Faith”, “Righteousness
at the Battle of Hattin. Saladin of the Faith” or “Weapon of the Faith”,
Fighting the Crusaders captured and executed Raynald; and through the ages Saladin has
On two occasions, in 1171 and 1173, he also captured King Guy. He then been an inspiration for Muslims in
Saladin retreated from an invasion recaptured Jerusalem on October many respects. A province centered
of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. These 2, 1187, after 88 years of Crusader around Tikrit in modern Iraq, Salah ad
had been launched by Nur ad-Din, rule. Soon he had taken back every Din, is named after Saladin.
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