Saladin (1138-93), Muslim leader, who recaptured Jerusalem from the Crusaders.
Born in Tikrit, Iraq, Saladin, as he is known in the West, was a Kurd; his Arabic name is Salah ad-Din Yusuf. At the age of 14 he joined other members of his family (the Ayyubids) in the service of the Syrian ruler Nur ad-Din. Between 1164 and 1169 he distinguished himself in three expeditions sent by Nur ad-Din to aid the decadent Fatimid rulers of Egypt against attacks by the Christian Crusaders based in Palestine. In 1169 he was made commander in chief of the Syrian army and vizier of Egypt. Although nominally subject to the authority of the Fatimid caliph in Cairo, Saladin treated Egypt as an Ayyubid power base, relying mainly on his Kurdish family and supporters. Having revitalized Egypt's economy and reorganized its land and naval forces, Saladin repelled the Crusaders and took the offensive against them. In September 1171 he suppressed the dissident Fatimid regime, reuniting Egypt with the orthodox Abbasid caliphate, but his reluctance to cooperate with Nur ad-Din against the Crusaders brought him to the brink of war with his former master.
After Nur ad-Din's death in 1174, Saladin expanded his power in Syria and northern Mesopotamia, mainly at the expense of his Muslim rivals. Following the submission of Damascus (1174), Aleppo (1183), and Al Mawsil (1186), numerous Muslim armies, allied under Saladin's command, were ready to move against the Crusaders. The young general is one of the few commanders in history who are tremendously respected by their friends and enemies alike. When he took control over Cairo, the Fatimids remained isolated in their palaces. Saladin did not seek revenge, but rather waited until their Caliph died. He then expelled the Fatimids out of their palaces and sent them to exile. Unlike his successors, the young general did not seize the Fatimid's wealth, nor did he occupy their palaces. Like a caring ruler, he opened the gates of Cairo and allowed Egyptian citizens to live within the city walls in areas which had been exclusively occupied by Fatimid royalty. Beause of his sincerety and kindness, he became popular among Egyptian citizens -Moslems and Christians alike- and even had a Jewish personal doctor. And when he later fought Richard the Lionheart, legend goes that Saladin ordered his horsemen to carry ice down the mountain to comfort the British King when he was sick.
In Cairo, Saladin not only built mosques and palaces (in fact he did not build a palace for himself), but also colleges, hospitals,and a fortress, the Citadel, which still remains one of Cairo's landmarks to this day. Unfortunately, it is to be taken against himand his successors that they used some of the Pyramids stones to meet the excessive need for building materials in the growing city. The Citadel was built on a elevated spot near the the Muqattam Hills, and occupies a strategic spot from which you can, to this day, have a panoramic view of Cairo. New city walls were also erected outside the Fatimid walls to defend Cairo from enemy raids.
In 1182, Saladin marched to Palestine and Syria
and never returned to Cairo. For the next 10 years, he fought the Crusaders
and managed to end their presence in the region, at least temporarily.
In 1187 he invaded the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, defeated the Christians at Hittin in Galilee (July 4), and captured Jerusalem the following October. In 1189 the nations of western Europe launched the Third Crusade to win back the holy city.
Despite Saladin's relentless military and diplomatic efforts a Christian land and naval blockade forced the surrender of the Palestinian stronghold of Acre in 1191, but the Crusaders failed to follow up this victory in their quest for Jerusalem. In 1192 Saladin concluded an armistice agreement with King Richard I of England that allowed the Crusaders to reconstitute their kingdom along the Palestinian-Syrian coast but left Jerusalem in Muslim hands. On March 4, 1193, Saladin died in Damascus after a brief illness.When he died in Damascus in 1193, he had almost no personal possessions, but he earned himself a remarkable place in history.
Muslim historiography has immortalized
Saladin as a paragon of princely virtue. He has held enduring fascination
for Western writers, including modern novelists.