Salah al-Din Ayubi
Salah al-Din, (Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayub, Saladin in English) was born in 1137 to a Kurdish family near Tikrit (Iraq). He got his early training under his illustrious father Najm al-Din Ayub and his chivalrous uncle Asad al-Din Sherkoh, who were the trusted lieutenants of Noor al-Din Muhmud of Syria.
Saladin received his early childhood education in Baalbek and Damascus, Syria. In 1143, when Saladin was six years old, Sultan Zengi of Musel appointed his father Ayyub as the governor of Baalbek. Later, Salah al-Din joined the staff of his uncle Asad al-Din Shirkuh, an important military commander under the emir Nur al-Din, who was the son and successor of Zangi. During three military expeditions led by Shirkuh into Egypt to prevent its falling to the Latin Christian (Frankish) rulers of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, a complex, three-way struggle developed between Amalric I, the king of Jerusalem; the Zangids and the Fatimidis.
Asad al-Din Sherkohís Syrian forces which had defeated the Crusaders both in Syria and Egypt. Sherkoh entered Egypt in February 1167 to meet the challenge of the Fatimide Minister Shawer.
On January 8. 1169, Sherkoh arrived in Cairo and was appointed as the Minister and Commander-in-Chief by the Fatimid Caliph. But Sherkoh was not destined to enjoy the fruits of his high office long. He died two months later. After Shirkuhís death, Saladin, in 1169 at the age of 31, was appointed both commander of the Syrian troops in Egypt and vizier of the Fa?imid caliph there. He soon won the hearts of the people by his liberality and justice. Saladinís position was further enhanced when, in 1171, he abolished the weak and unpopular Shia Fa?imid caliphate, proclaiming a return to Sunni Islam in Egypt and on the death of the Egyptian Caliph became the virtual Ruler of Egypt.
Dealing with young Saleh of Syria
In Syria too, the celebrated Noor al-Din died in 1174 and was succeeded by his 11 year old son, Malik-us-Saleh who was too young to rule the country. So as a result he became a tool in the hands of his interested courtiers, specially Gumushtagin. Salah al-Din sent message to Malik-us-Saleh offering his services and devotion. He even continued to keep his name in "Khutaba" (Friday Sermons) and coinage. But all these considerations were of no avail for the young ruler and his ambitious courtiers. This state of affairs once more heartened the Crusaders who were kept down by Noor ul-Din Mahmud and his capable General Sherkoh. Malik-us-Saleh. on the advice of Gumushtagin retired to Aleppo. leaving Damascus exposed to a Frankish attack. The Crusaders instantly laid siege to the Capital city and raised it only after being paid heavy ransom. This enraged Salah al-Din who hurried to Damascus with a small force and took possession of it.
There was a truce between the Sultan and the Franks in Palestine but, according to the French historian Michaud, "the Mussalmans respected their pledged faith, whilst the Christians gave a signal for a new war". Contrary to the terms of the truce, the Christian Ruler Renaud or Reginald of Chatilion attacked a Muslim caravan passing by his castle, massacred a large number of people and looted their property. The Sultan was now free to act.
The Batlle of Hattin
In a battle fought near the western shore of the Sea of Galilee on 4th July 1187, the Sultan Saladin inflicted a terrible defeat on the field army of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, killing or capturing the vast majority of its soldiers. Historians have questioned the long- term significance of many medieval battles, but nobody has denied that the Battle of Hattin had a decisive impact on the history of the crusader states in Palestine and Syria.
The Sultan did not allow the Christians to recover and rapidly followed up his victory of Hittin. In a remarkably short time he reoccupied a large number of cities which were in possession of the Christians, including Nablus, Jericho, Ramlah, Caesarea, Arsuf, Jaffa and Beirut. Ascalon, too, submitted after a short siege and was granted generous terms by the kind-hearted Sultan.
According to the French historian Michaud, on the conquest of Jerusalem by the Christians in 1099, "the Saracens were massacred in the streets and in the houses; Jerusalem had no refuge for the vanquished. Some fled from death by precipitating themselves from the ramparts, others crowded for shelter into the palaces, the towers, and above all in the mosques, where they could not conceal themselves from the pursuit of the Christians. The Crusaders, masters of the Mosque of Umar, where the Saracens defended themselves for sometime, renewed their deplorable scenes which disgraced the conquest of Titus. The infantry and cavalry rushed pell-rnell among the fugitives. Amid the most horrid tumult, nothing was heard but the groans and cries of death; the victors trod over heaps of corpses in pursuing those who vainly attempted to escape. Raymond d'Agiles, who was an eye-witness, says, 'that under the portico of the Mosque, the blood was knee-deep, and reached the horses' bridles".
Capture of Jerusalem
Baron Balian of Ibelin had entered the city, with the permission of Saladin, to collect his wife and children. He took an oath to Saladin to remain in Jerusalem for only one night to carry out his task. But Balian decided to stay longer inside the city. He asked Saladin to free him from his oath, so that he could stay in Jerusalem and help in its defense. Saladin agreed, arranging for an escort to take Balianís wife and children to safety. This action among many others has contributed to Saladinís reputation in history as a chivalrous and heroic figure.
When the Sultan captured Jerusalem on 2nd October, 1187, he gave free pardon to the Christians living in the city. Only the combatants were asked to leave the city on a payment of nominal ransom. In most of the cases the Sultan provided the ransom money from his own pocket and even provided them transport.
The Third Crusade
The Sultan had now to face the combined might of Europe. The reinforcements continued pouring in for the Crusaders and despite their heavy slaughter in combats against the Sultan, their number continued increasing. The besieged Muslims of Acre, who held on so long against the flower of European army and who had been crippled with famine at last capitulated on the solemn promise that none would be killed and that they would pay 2,00,000 pieces of gold to the Chiefs of the Crusaders. There was some delay in the payment of the ransom when the Lion-hearted King of England butchered the helpless Muslims in cold blood within sight of their brethren.
At last the Lion-hearted King of England sued for peace. which was accepted by the Sultan. He had found facing him a man of indomitable will and boundless energy and had realised the futility of continuing the struggle against such a person. In September 1192 A.C. peace was concluded and the Crusaders left the Holy Land with bag and baggage. bound for their homes in Europe.
In February, Salah al-Din wasnít feeling well but he went out of Damascus to welcome the Hajjis from Mecca and in this process he caught cold. As days passed his condition worsened and he lapsed into unconsciousness. On 3/4 March, the Cadi read the Koran over him. When he came to the words: 'There is no God but God, in Him do I trust,' Saladin opened his eyes, smiled, and died peacefully in Damascus in 1193.
On the day of death, the palace, the empire, and the world was overwhelmed with grief, the whole city was plunged in sorrow, and followed his weeping and crying.
One his friends found that the most powerful and most generous ruler in the Muslim world had not left enough money to pay for his grave.