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Salah Uddin Ayyubi


Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb  better known in the Western world as Saladin, was the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria and the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty. A Muslim of Kurdish[1][2][3] origin, Saladin led the Muslim opposition against the European Crusaders in the Levant. At the height of his power, his sultanate included Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, Hejaz, Yemen, and other parts of North Africa. Originally sent to Fatimid Egypt by his Zengid lord Nur ad-Din in 1163, Saladin climbed the ranks of the Fatimid government by virtue of his military successes against Crusader assaults on its territory and his personal closeness to the caliph al-Adid.
 
 When Saladin's uncle Shirkuh died in 1169, al-Adid appointed Saladin vizier, a rare nomination of a Sunni Muslim to such an important position in the Shia Muslim-led caliphate. During his term as vizier, Saladin began to undermine the Fatimid establishment and following al-Adid's death in 1171, he took over government and realigned the country's allegiance with the Baghdad-based Abbasid Caliphate. In the following years, he led forays against the Crusaders in Palestine, ordered the successful conquest of Yemen and staved off pro-Fatimid rebellions in Upper Egypt. Not long after the death of Nur ad-Din in 1174, Saladin personally led the conquest of Syria,

Sources

Among Saladin's admirers who produced personal biographies are the historians: Qadi al-Fadil from Ascalon; Imad al-Din al-Isfahani, and Bahā' al-Dīn, a jurist from Mosul. Ibn al-Athir (d. 1233), on the other hand, produced a more hostile picture. Certainly "Imad al-Din al-Isfahani shows a deep admiration for Saladin, but his greatness appears wholly as a corollary from the facts themselves." Throughout the Barq he is presented in human and realistic terms, even more than in Bahā' al-Dīn's biography.[6]

Early life

Saladin was born in Tikrit, Mesopotamia. His personal name was "Yusuf"; "Salah ad-Din" is a laqab, a descriptive epithet, meaning "Righteousness of the Faith."[7] His family was of Kurdish ancestry,[1] and had originated from the village of Azerbaijan.[8][9] The Rawadid tribe he hailed from had been partially assimilated into the Arabic-speaking world by this time.[10] In 1132 the defeated army of the Imad ad-Din Zengi, the Lord of Mosul, found their retreat blocked by the Tigris River opposite the Tikrit fortress where Saladin's father, Najm ad-Din Ayyub served as the warden. Ayyub provided ferries for the army and gave them refuge in Tikrit. Mujahed al-Din Bihruz, a former Greek slave who had been appointed the military governor of northern Mesopotamia for his service to the Seljuks had reprimanded Ayyub for giving Zengi refuge and in 1137, banished Ayyub from Tikrit after his brother Asad al-Din Shirkuh killed a friend of Bihruz in an honour killing. According to Baha ad-Din ibn Shaddad, Saladin was born the same night his family left Tikrit. In 1139, Ayyub and his family moved to Mosul where Imad ad-Din Zengi acknowledged his debt and appointed Ayyub commander of his fortress in Baalbek. After the death of Zengi in 1146, his son, Nur ad-Din, became the regent of Aleppo and the leader of the Zengids.[11]
 
Saladin, who now lived in Damascus, was reported to have a particular fondness of the city, but information on his early childhood is scarce. About education, Saladin wrote "children are brought up in the way in which their elders were brought up." According to one of his biographers, al-Wahrani, Saladin was able to answer questions on Euclid, the Almagest, arithmetic, and law, but this was an academic ideal and it was study of the Qur'an and the "sciences of religion" that linked him to his contemporaries.[11] Several sources claim that during his studies he was more interested in religion than joining the military.[12] Another factor which may have affected his interest in religion was that during the First Crusade, Jerusalem was taken in a surprise attack by the Christians.[12] In addition to Islam, Saladin had a knowledge of the genealogies, biographies, and histories of the Arabs, as well as the bloodlines of Arabian horses. More significantly, he knew the Hamasah of Abu Tammam by heart.[11] He also spoke Kurdish, and likely Turkish as well.[13]

Early expeditions

Saladin's military career began under the tutelage of his uncle Asad al-Din Shirkuh, an important military commander under Nur ad-Din, Emir of Damascus and Aleppo, member of the Turkic Zengid dynasty and the most influential teacher of Saladin. In 1163, the vizier to the Fatimid caliph al-Adid, Shawar, had been driven out of Egypt by rival Dirgham, a member of the powerful Banu Ruzzaik tribe. He asked for military backing from Nur ad-Din, who complied and in 1164, sent Shirkuh to aid Shawar in his expedition against Dirgham. Saladin, at age 26, went along with them.[14] After Shawar was successfully reinstated as vizier, he demanded that Shirkuh withdraw his army from Egypt for a sum of 30,000 dinars, but he refused insisting it was Nur ad-Din's will that he remain. Saladin's role in this expedition was minor, and it is known that he was ordered by Shirkuh to collect stores from Bilbais prior to its siege by a combined force of Crusaders and Shawar's troops.[15]
 
After the sacking of Bilbais, the Crusader-Egyptian force and Shirkuh's army were to engage in a battle on the desert border of the Nile River, just west of Giza. Saladin played a major role, commanding the right wing of the Zengid army (Muslim Dynasty of Oghuz Turk origin), while a force of Kurds commanded the left, and Shirkuh stationed in the center. Muslim sources at the time, however, put Saladin in the "baggage of the center" with orders to lure the enemy into a trap by staging a false retreat. The Crusader force enjoyed early success against Shirkuh's troops, but the terrain was too steep and sandy for their horses, and commander Hugh of Caesarea was captured while attacking Saladin's unit. After scattered fighting in little valleys to the south of the main position, the Zengid central force returned to the offensive; Saladin joined in from the rear.[16]
 
The battle ended in a Zengid victory, and Saladin is credited to have helped Shirkuh in one of the "most remarkable victories in recorded history", according to Ibn al-Athir, although more of Shirkuh's men were killed and the battle is considered by most sources as not a total victory. Saladin and Shirkuh moved towards Alexandria where they were welcomed, given money, arms, and provided a base.[17] Faced by a superior Crusader-Egyptian force who attempted to besiege the city, Shirkuh split his army. He and the bulk of his force withdrew from Alexandria, while Saladin was left with the task of guarding the city.[18]peacefully entering Damascus at the request of its ruler. By mid-1175, Saladin had conquered Hama and Homs, inviting the animosity of his former Zengid lords, who had been the official rulers of Syria. Soon after, he defeated the Zengid army in battle and was thereafter proclaimed the "Sultan of Egypt and Syria" by the Abbasid caliph al-Mustadi. He made further conquests in northern Syria and Jazira and escaped two attempts on his life by the Assassins, before returning to Egypt in 1177 to address issues in Egypt. By 1182, Saladin completed the conquest of Syria after capturing Aleppo, but ultimately failed in taking over the Zengid stronghold of Mosul.
 
Under Saladin's personal leadership, the Ayyubid army defeated the Crusaders at the decisive Battle of Hattin in 1187, leading the way to the Muslims' re-capture of Palestine from the Crusaders who had conquered it 88 years earlier. Though the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem would continue to exist for an extended period, its defeat at Hattin marked a turning point in its conflict with the Muslim powers of the region. Saladin has become a prominent figure in Muslim, Arab, and Kurdish culture.[4] His reportedly noble and chivalrous behavior was noted, even by Christian chroniclers, and despite being the nemesis of the Crusaders, he purportedly won the respect of many of them, including Richard the Lionheart who led the Third Crusade.[5] In 1193 he died in Damascus, having given much of his wealth to his subjects. Saladin is buried in a mausoleum adjacent to the Umayyad Mosque.
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