Salah Al-Din Al-Ayyubi

Who was Salah Ad-Din Al-Ayyubi (Saladin)? 


Saladin is the Anglicized name for Salah Ad-Din, one of the most famous Muslim historical figures in the West. Coming from Sunni Kurdish origins in Syria, Saladin built his reputation as a military leader under the Shi’a Fatimid Caliphate that built Cairo, but eventually seized power for himself, founding the Ayyubid Dynasty in 1171 AD and becoming the First Sultan of Egypt and Syria.  As a courageous and brilliant Muslim leader of the Ayyubid Dynasty, Salah Ad-Din Al-Ayyubi defended Egypt and the Levant from the Crusader invasions in the second half of the 12th century AD. His firm foundation in the religion and its solid values along with his commitment to living for the Islamic cause contributed to the great things he accomplished during his reign. 


Salah Ad-Din was born in 1137 AD in Tikrit, Iraq, he studied the Quran, theology, astronomy, mathematics, and law. As a member of the military at that time, he was trained by his uncle Asad-al-Din Shirkoh, who was a commander of the Zengid Dynasty. Salah Ad-Din was capable of taking on leading responsibilities during military campaigns, and that’s because of his extraordinary performance during battles. His great capabilities and cleverly executed tactics also allowed him to move on from being a soldier to be the King of both Egypt and Syria. His power enabled him to overthrow the Fatimids and maintain authority in Egypt. 

Born into a Sunni and a military family, Salah Ad-Din was raised within Muslim society as a subordinate to the Mesopotamian military leader Nur al-Din. After his participation in three campaigns into Egypt during the reign of the Shi`ite Fatimid dynasty, Salah Ad-Din became head of the military expeditionary forces in 1169. 

After he became the adviser to the Shi`ite caliph in Cairo, he continued to prove his power by eliminating the Fatimid’s sub-Saharan infantry slave forces. In 1171, Salah Ad-Din was able to end the Fatimid caliphate with the recognition of the Sunni caliphate in Baghdad. 


 Salah Al-Din Al-Ayyubi


What is Salah Ad-Din most famous for?


Saladin’s reputation in the West grew out of his leadership of the Muslim armies that opposed Richard I of England during the Third Crusade. Rather than becoming a hated figure in Europe, Saladin was admired for his noble and chivalrous behavior during the course of his campaigns, eventually earning the respect of Richard I and many of the Crusaders. Most notably, he granted amnesty to the Crusader army and the Christians of Jerusalem when he retook the city in 1187 AD in return for an unusually small ransom. 


 Salah Al-Din Al-Ayyubi


How did Salah Ad-Din contribute to the Arab and Islamic History?  


In Arab and Islamic history, Saladin has become a symbol of resistance to the West, especially after the rise of Arab Nationalism in the 20th century. The flag of Egypt bears Saladin’s Eagle as a crest in its center. In addition to this, Saladin’s physical legacy can still be seen in Cairo. The best example can be the construction of Cairo’s Citadel, which is named after him as Salah Ad-Din citadel, and extensions walls of the city were begun under Saladin; however, they were not finished until after his death in 1193 AD.


The Ayyubid Empire of Salah Ad-Din has succeeded in making Egypt and Syria united. He played a major role in defeating the Crusaders by successfully reclaiming Jerusalem which in return helped him to earn a name for himself among both Muslim and Western history. Although one would expect Salah Ad-Din to be hated among the Crusaders, he became one of the most esteemed Muslim figures of the medieval Islamic world because of his chivalry and generosity towards the Christians at that time. 


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