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Saladin – Salah al-Din Yusuf bin Ayub

31 March 2010 2 Comments

Salah al-Din Yusuf bin Ayub or Saladin as he is popularly known was born in 1137 AD and was of Kurdish descent. The meaning of his Arabic name is “righteousness of the faith” As a child Saladin was a scholar who studied the Koran as well as poetry and his scholarly ways would continue through his life even when the thoughts of Holy War -”Jihad” consumed his focus.

At the young age of fourteen, he entered into the service of his uncle Nur ed-Din another great and respected Arab warrior. Another mentor of the young Saladin was the Saracen chief Zenghi who in 1144 overthrew the city of Edessa, an outpost of Western world for many years prior because of its proximity to Antioch. Saladin learned his military lessons well and soon began to stand out among Nur ed-Din’s forces. In several campaigns between the years of 1164 and 1169 C.E. he had made a lasting impression on his peers.

In 1169 Saladin served with another uncle named Shirkuh as second to the commander in chief of the Syrian army. Shirkuh died only two months after Saladin received his new position. Despite his humble position and due to the fact that he held little regard for the Fatimid ruler of Cairo, Saladin turned Egypt into an Ayyubid powerhouse. He used many Kurds in important positions in his army and in no time he had improved the Egyptian economy and trained an army ready to take on the Frankish Crusaders.

In just two years Saladin suppressed the rulers for which he had little regard and thus united Egypt with the Abbasid Caliphate. When Nur ed-Din died in 1174, Saladin began his expansion of territories. In just twelve years he had Damascus, Syria, Alleppo, Mawsil and Iraq. After a three-month battle he captured Jerusalem in 1187 at the Battle of Hattin.

In February of 1193 Saladin rode out to meet some pilgrims returning from Mecca. That evening he became bed ridden due to pain and fever and in a number of days fell into a coma from which he never returned. Saladin died March 3rd 1193 at the age of 55.

According to The French Writer Rene Grousse:

“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”

Renee Grousse – The Epic of the Crusades – Orion Press 1970 – Translated from the French by Noel Lindsay

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  • Danny Saner said:

    Jihad does not mean Holy War.Jihad is the “War” against one’s own bad thoughts,acts and sins.I do not understand why everybody insists upon misinterpreting the Coran in that way.For a Muslim it is unforgivable,because he knows…whereas a Christian should make an effort to read a correct translation of the Coran and cease to stupidly repeat what the media and ignorant Muslims throw at him.Why does everybody misuse religion to their own purposes,that is the question one should ask oneself.It’s the same God,and The Bible and the Coran both speak of peace,respect and compassion…

  • admin (author) said:

    This article was originally written around 1998 or 1999, long before 9/11 and “the media” made Jihad a popular word.

    I’m well aware of the Islamic interpretation as “struggle,” but Merriam Webster offers holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a legitimate definition of Jihad.

    In the case of Saladin, whipping up and down the coast capturing (or recapturing) territory wasn’t for his own personal internal struggles and growth.

    1: a holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty; also : a personal struggle in devotion to Islam especially involving spiritual discipline.
    2: a crusade for a principle or belief.

    Although it may not be politically correct in there – let’s-not-offend-anyone-days – the use of the word in its English understanding is correct according to Merriam Webster.