Gentle hearted Salahuddin Ayyubi became one of the world's greatest warriors by defeating crusaders and capturing the holy city of Jerusalem. He is remembered by Muslims as well as Non-Muslims as a kind hearted un-selfish Warrior. He was a religious person and followed the teachings of Quran (Book of God) and Prophet Muhammad’s teachings regarding War, he treated all of his Prisoners with Respect and dignity, no torture, massacre, mass killing, took place during his time. It is equally true that his generosity, his piety, devoid of fanaticism, that flower of liberality and courtesy which had been the model of our old chroniclers, won him no less popularity in Frankish Syria than in the lands of Islam. And unlike all other Sultan’s he did not build a single Palace or any building for himself yet he erected mosques, hospitals, and universities for his Muslim brothers in Cairo.
He led Islamic opposition to the Franks and other European Crusaders in the Levant. At the height of his power, he ruled over Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, Hejaz, and Yemen. He led the Muslims against the Crusaders and eventually recaptured Palestine from the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem after his victory in the Battle of Hattin. As such, he is a notable figure in Kurdish, Arab, and Muslim culture. Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) was a strict adherent of Islam. His chivalrous behavior was noted by Christian chroniclers, especially in the accounts of the siege of Kerak in Moab, and despite being the nemesis of the Crusaders he won the respect of many of them, including Richard the Lion-heart; rather than becoming a hated figure in Europe, he became a celebrated example of the principles of chivalry.
His family was of Kurdish background and ancestry, and had originated from the city of Dvin, in medieval Armenia. His father, Najm ad-Din Ayyub, was banished from Tikrit and in 1139, he and his uncle Asad al-Din Shirkuh, moved to Mosul. He later joined the service of Imad ad-Din Zengi who made him 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.
About education of Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) historian wrote "children are brought up in the way in which their elders were brought up". According to one of his biographers, al-Wahrani, Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) 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. During his studies he was more interested in religion than joining the military. A 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. In addition to Islam, Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) had 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.
Salahuddin's (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) military career began when his uncle Asad al-Din Shirkuh (اسدالدّین شیرکوہ), an important military commander under Nur ad-Din (نورالدّین), started training him. 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. Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی), at age 26, went along with them. Shawar was successfully reinstated as vizier. Salahuddin's (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) role in this expedition was minor, and he was ordered by Shirkuh to collect stores from Bilbais prior to its siege by a combined force of Crusaders and Shawar's troops.
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. Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) played a major role, commanding the right wing of the Zengid army, while a force of Kurds commanded the left, and Shirkuh stationed in the center. Sources at the time put Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) in the "baggage of the center" with orders to lure the enemy into a trap by staging a false retreat. Commander Hugh of Caesarea was captured while attacking Salahuddin's (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) unit. The battle ended in a Zengid victory, and Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) is credited to have helped Shirkuh in one of the "most remarkable victories in recorded history".
Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) and Shirkuh moved towards Alexandria (اسکندریہ) where they were welcomed, given money, arms, and provided a base. Shirkuh split his army. He and the bulk of his force withdrew from Alexandria, while Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) was left with the task of guarding the city.
In Egypt (مصر)
Al-Wahrani wrote that Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) was selected because of the reputation of his family in their "generosity and military prowess." The bulk of the Syrian rulers supported Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) due to his role in the Egyptian expedition, in which he gained a record of impeccable military qualifications. Inaugurated as vizier on March 26, Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) repented "wine-drinking and turned from frivolity to assume the dress of religion."
Towards the end of 1169, Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) defeated a massive Crusader-Byzantine force near Damietta. After establishing himself in Egypt, Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) launched a campaign against the Crusaders, besieging Darum in 1170. The same year, he captured the Crusader castle of Eilat, built on an island off the head of the Gulf of Aqaba. It did pose a threat to the passage of the Muslim navy and harass smaller parties of Muslim ships, Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) decided to clear it from his path.
During the summer of 1172, a Nubian army along with a contingent of Armenian refugees were reported on the Egyptian border, preparing for a siege against Aswan. The emir of the city had requested Salahuddin's (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) assistance and was given reinforcements under Turan-Shah (طوران شاہ)—Salahuddin's (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) brother.
On July 31, 1173, Salahuddin's (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) father Ayyub was wounded in a horse-riding accident, ultimately causing his death on August 9, 1173.
In Syria (شام)
In the early summer, On May 15, 1174 Nur ad-Din was died and his power was handed to his eleven-year-old son as-Salih Ismail al-Malik. In a letter to as-Salih, he promised to "act as a sword" against his enemies and referred to the death of his father as an "earthquake shock."
14th In the wake of Nur ad-Din's death, Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) faced a difficult decision; he could move his army against the Crusaders from Egypt or wait until invited by as-Salih in Syria to come to his aid and launch a war from there. He could also take it upon himself to annex Syria before it could possibly fall into the hands of a rival, but feared that attacking a land that formerly belonged to his master—which is forbidden in the Islamic principles he followed—could portray him as hypocritical and thus, unsuitable for leading the "holy war" against the Crusaders.
The Syrians request the aid of Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) who complied. On November 23, he arrived in Damascus (دمشق) amid general acclamations and rested at his father's old home there, until the gates of the Citadel of Damascus were opened to him. He installed himself in the castle and received the homage and salutations of the citizens.
Leaving his brother Tughtigin (تغتگین) as Governor of Damascus, Salahuddin's (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) aim was to defending Islam from the Crusaders; his army returned to Hama to engage a Crusader force there. The Crusaders escaped beforehand and Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) proclaimed it "a victory opening the gates of men's hearts."
On April 13, 1175 he issued at the Cairo (قاہرہ) mint gold coins bearing his name—The Abbasid caliph in Baghdad graciously welcomed Salahuddin's (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) assumption of power and declared him "Sultan of Egypt and Syria." The prisoners, however, were given gifts and freed by Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) and all of the booty of his victory were handed to the army, not keeping a thing for himself.
Having been absent roughly two years, he had much to organize and supervise in Egypt, namely fortifying and reconstructing Cairo. The 280 feet (85 m) deep Bir Yusuf ("Joseph's Well") was built on Salahuddin's (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) orders. The chief public work he commissioned outside of Cairo was the large bridge at Giza, which intended to form an outwork of defense against a potential Moorish invasion.
Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) remained in Cairo supervising its improvements, building colleges such as the Madrasa of the Sword Makers and ordering the internal administration of the country.
In November 1177, The Christians sent a large portion of their army to besiege the fortress of Harim north of Aleppo and so southern Palestine bared few defenders. Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) found the situation ripe and so marched to Ascalon, which he referred to as the "Bride of Syria." William of Tyre recorded that the Ayyubid army consisted of 26,000 soldiers, this army proceeded to raid the countryside, sack Ramla and Lod, and dispersed themselves as far as the Gates of Jerusalem.
The Ayyubids did allow King Baldwin to enter Ascalon with his Gaza-based Templars without taking any precautions against a sudden attack. Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) and his men were surprised at Tell Jezer, near Ramla. Before they could form up, the Templar force hacked the Ayyubid army down.
Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) was prepared to fight the Crusaders once again. In the spring of 1178, he was encamped under the walls of Hims. His forces in Hama won a victory over their enemy and brought the many prisoners of war to Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) .
In the summer of 1179, King Baldwin had set up an outpost on the road to Damascus and aimed to fortify a passage over the Jordan River, known as Jacob's Ford, that commanded the approach to the Banias plain. Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) had offered 100,000 gold pieces for Baldwin to abandon the project which was peculiarly offensive to the Muslims, but to no avail. He then resolved to destroy the fortress. As the Crusaders hurried down to attack the Muslim forces, they fell into disorder, with the infantry falling behind. The engagement ended in a decisive Ayyubid victory and many high-ranking knights were captured. Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) then moved to besiege the fortress which fell on August 30, 1179.
Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) proceeded to take Nusaybin. A medium-sized town, Nusaybin was not of great importance, but it was located in a strategic position between Mardin and Mosul and within easy reach of Diyarbakir. In the midst of these victories, Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) received word that the Crusaders were raiding the villages of Damascus. He replied "Let them... whilst they knock down villages, we are taking cities; انشااللہ when we come back, and we shall have all the more strength to fight them."
He had no doubts about his success, stating that Aleppo was "the key to the lands" and "this city is the eye of Syria and the citadel is its pupil." After the capture of the city and spending one night in Aleppo's citadel, Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) marched to Harim, near the Crusader-held Antioch. The city was held by Surhak, a "minor mamluk."
Wars against Crusaders
Sultan Salahuddin Ayyubi, (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) the hero of hundreds of battles, was the person who for twenty years braved the storm of the Crusaders and ultimately pushed back the combined forces of Europe which had come to swarm the Holy Land. The world has hardly witnessed a more chivalrous and humane conqueror. The Crusades represent the maddest and the longest war in the history of mankind, in which the storm of savage fanaticism of the Christian West burst in all its fury over western Asia. `The Crusades form', says a Western writer, `one of the maddest episodes in history. Christianity hurled itself against Muslims in expedition after expedition for nearly three centuries, until failure brought lassitude, and superstition itself was undermined by its own labour. Europe was drained off men and money, and threatened with social bankruptcy, if not with annihilation. Millions perished in battle, hunger or disease and every atrocity imagination can conceive disgraced the warrior of the Cross'. The Christian West was excited to a mad religious frenzy by Peter the Hermit, and his followers to liberate the Holy Land from the hands of the Muslims. `Every means', says Hallam, `was used to excite an epidemical frenzy'. During the time that a Crusader bore the Cross, he was under the protection of the Church and exempted from all taxes as well as frees to commit all sins.
Peter the Hermit himself led the second host of the Crusaders comprising forty thousand people. `Arriving at Mallevile, they avenged their precursors by assaulting the town, slaying seven thousand of the inhabitants, and abandoning themselves to every species of grossness and liberalism'. The savage hordes called Crusaders converted Hungary and Bulgaria into desolate regions. When they reached Asia Minor, they, according to Michaud, `committed crimes which made nature shudder'.
In July 1187 Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) captured most of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. On July 4, 1187, at the Battle of Hattin, he faced the combined forces of Guy of Lusignan, King Consort of Jerusalem and Raymond III of Tripoli. In this battle alone the Crusader army was largely annihilated by the motivated army of Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی). It was a major disaster for the Crusaders and a turning point in the history of the Crusades. Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) captured Raynald de Châtillon and was personally responsible for his execution in retaliation for his attacking Muslim caravans. The members of these caravans had, in vain, besought his mercy by reciting the truce between the Muslims and the Crusaders, but he ignored this and insulted their prophet Muhammad before murdering and torturing a number of them. Upon hearing this, Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) swore an oath to personally execute Raynald.
It is not the wont of kings, to kill kings; but that man had transgressed all bounds, and therefore did I treat him thus.
Capture of Jerusalem
October 2, 1187, before the siege, Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) had offered generous terms of surrender to the Crusaders, which were rejected. After the siege had started, he was unwilling to promise terms of quarter to the Frankish inhabitants of Jerusalem until Balian of Ibelin threatened to kill every Muslim hostage, estimated at 5000, and to destroy Islam's holy shrines of the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque (مسجد الاقصی) if quarter was not given. Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) consulted his council and these terms were accepted. In 1187 CE, Jerusalem was conquered by Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی)but he did not enter the city of Jerusalem until the Crusaders had left. On Friday 27th Rajab 583 AH, Salahuddin entered in Jerusalem. After entering the city they went straight to the Mosque and cleaned it. Then for the first time in more then 80 years, the people of Jerusalem heard the Azan (call of prayer) from Al Aqsa Mosque. Thousands of Crusaders were arrested; the humanity of the Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) towards the defeated Christians of Jerusalem procures an unpleasant contrast to the massacre of the Muslims in Jerusalem when conquered by the Christians about ninety years before.
Hattin and the fall of Jerusalem prompted the Third Crusade, financed in England by a special "Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) tithe." Richard I of England led Guy's siege of Acre, conquered the city and executed 3000 Muslim prisoners including women and children. Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) retaliated.
As leaders of their respective factions, the two men came to an agreement in the Treaty of Ramla in 1192, whereby Jerusalem would remain in Muslim hands but would be open to Christian pilgrimages. The treaty reduced the Latin Kingdom to a strip along the coast from Tyre to Jaffa. This treaty was supposed to last three years.
The Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) devoted the rest of his life to public welfare activities and built hospitals, schools, colleges and mosques all over his dominion. He died of a fever on March 4, 1193, at the age of 55 years in Damascus. Thus died Sultan Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی), one of the most humane and chivalrous monarchs in the annals of mankind. In him, nature had very harmoniously blended the benevolent and merciful heart of a Muslim with a matchless military genius. The messenger who took the news of his death to Baghdad brought the Sultan's coat of mail, his horse one dinar and 36 dirhams which was all the property he had left. His contemporaries and other historians are unanimous in acknowledging Salahuddin as a tender-hearted, kind, patient, affable person--- a friend of the learned and the virtuous whom he treated with utmost respect and beneficence.
"A Knight without fear or blame who often had to teach his opponents the right way to practice chivalry". An inscription written by Kaiser Wilhelm II on a wreath he laid on Salahuddin's (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) Tomb.
Recognition and legacy
His fierce struggle against the crusaders was where Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) achieved a great reputation in Europe as a chivalrous knight, so much so that there existed by the fourteenth century an epic poem about his exploits. Though Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) faded into history after the Middle Ages. Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) granted amnesty and free passage to all common Catholics and even to the defeated Christian army, as long as they were able to pay the aforementioned ransom (the Greek Orthodox Christians were treated even better, because they often opposed the western Crusaders), the Muslim Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) was respected by Christian lords, Richard especially. Richard once praised Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) as a great prince, saying that he was without doubt the greatest and most powerful leader in the Islamic world. In April 1191, a Frankish woman's three month old baby had been stolen from her camp and had been sold on the market. The Franks urged her to approach Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) herself with her grievance. According to Bahā' al-Dīn, Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) used his own money to buy the child back:
"He gave it to the mother and she took it; with tears streaming down her face, and hugged it to her breast. The people were watching her and weeping and I (Ibn Shaddad) was standing amongst them. She suckled it for some time and then Salahuddin (صلاح الدّین ایّوبی) ordered a horse to be fetched for her and she went back to camp".