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Salah ad-din, Yusuf ibn Ayyub, known as Saladin in the West, b. c.1138, d. Mar. 4, 1193, a Muslim warrior and founder of the Ayyubid dynasty, was a staunch opponent of the Crusades. Of Kurdish descent, Saladin was raised in northern Syria, where members of his family were prominent government and military leaders under the rule of the Zangid dynasty.

In 1152 he joined the staff of his uncle Shirkuh and later accompanied (1169) Shirkuh, who headed a Zangid army, to Egypt, where he helped the Fatimid rulers resist the Crusaders. Shirkuh was appointed (1169) Fatimid vizier but died two months later; Saladin, officially installed as Shirkuh's successor, effectively repulsed the Crusaders. He solidified his power base in 1171 when he overthrew the Fatimid dynasty, returning Egypt to Islamic orthodoxy and becoming sole ruler there.

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At the death (1174) of Nur Al-Din, the Zangid ruler, Saladin set out to conquer the Zangid kingdom in Syria as a preliminary to the holy war (jihad) against the Crusaders. Launching the jihad in 1187, Saladin was victorious at Hattin, recaptured Jerusalem, and drove the Crusaders back to the coast. These events prompted the Christians to mount the Third Crusade (1189-92), pitting Saladin against Richard I of England. The Crusaders succeeded only in capturing Acre, and the Peace of Ramleh (1192) left the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem with only a small strip of land along the Mediterranean coast.

Saladin not only vanquished the Crusaders but also restored Egypt as the major power in the Middle East. Within Egypt he established a stable dynasty, encouraged education, and reformed the financial structure to support the armed Kurdish and Turkish cavalry. Saladin also initiated a prolonged period of economic prosperity, population growth, and cultural revival. After he died, however, the Turks -- especially the Mamelukes -- began to predominate.

Michael W. Dols

Ehrenkreutz, Andrew S., Saladin (1972); Gibb, H. A. R., The Life of Saladin: From the Works of 'Imad ad-Din and Baha 'ad-Din (1973) and Saladin: Studies in Islamic History (1974); Newby, P. H., Saladin in His Time (1984).


General Information

Saladin (1138-1193) was a Muslim leader, who recaptured Jerusalem from the Crusaders.

Born in Tikrīt, Iraq, Saladin, as he is known in the West, was a Kurd; his Arabic name is Salah ad-Din Yusuf. At the age of 14 he joined other members of his family (the Ayyubids) in the service of the Syrian ruler Nur ad-Din. Between 1164 and 1169 he distinguished himself in three expeditions sent by Nur ad-Din to aid the decadent Fatimid rulers of Egypt against attacks by the Christian Crusaders based in Palestine. In 1169 he was made commander in chief of the Syrian army and vizier of Egypt. Although nominally subject to the authority of the Fatimid caliph in Cairo, Saladin treated Egypt as an Ayyubid power base, relying mainly on his Kurdish family and supporters. Having revitalized Egypt's economy and reorganized its land and naval forces, Saladin repelled the Crusaders and took the offensive against them. In September 1171 he suppressed the dissident Fatimid regime, reuniting Egypt with the orthodox Abbasid caliphate, but his reluctance to cooperate with Nur ad-Din against the Crusaders brought himto the brink of war with his former master.

After Nur ad-Din's death in 1174, Saladin expanded his power in Syria and northern Mesopotamia, mainly at the expense of his Muslim rivals. Following the submission of Damascus (1174), Halab (Aleppo) (1183), and Mosul (1186), numerous Muslim armies, allied under Saladin's command, were ready to move against the Crusaders. In 1187 he invaded the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, defeated the Christians at Hittin in Galilee (July 4), and captured Jerusalem the following October. In 1189 the nations of western Europe launched the Third Crusade to win back the holy city.

Despite Saladin's relentless military and diplomatic efforts a Christian land and naval blockade forced the surrender of the Palestinian stronghold of Acre (now 'Akko) in 1191, but the Crusaders failed to follow up this victory in their quest for Jerusalem. In 1192 Saladin concluded an armistice agreement with King Richard I of England that allowed the Crusaders to reconstitute their kingdom along the Palestinian-Syrian coast but left Jerusalem in Muslim hands. On March 4, 1193, Saladin died in Damascus after a brief illness.

Muslim historiography has immortalized Saladin as a paragon of princely virtue. He has held enduring fascination for Western writers, including modern novelists.

Andrew Stefan Ehrenkreutz


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Islam, Muhammad
Koran, Qur'an
Pillars of Faith
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Revelation - Hadiths from Book 1 of al-Bukhari
Belief - Hadiths from Book 2 of al-Bukhari
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Times of the Prayers - Hadiths from Book 10 of al-Bukhari
Shortening the Prayers (At-Taqseer) - Hadiths from Book 20 of al-Bukhari
Pilgrimmage (Hajj) - Hadiths from Book 26 of al-Bukhari
Fighting for the Cause of Allah (Jihad) - Hadiths of Book 52 of al-Bukhari
ONENESS, UNIQUENESS OF ALLAH (TAWHEED) - Hadiths of Book 93 of al-Bukhari
Hanafiyyah School Theology (Sunni)
Malikiyyah School Theology (Sunni)
Shafi'iyyah School Theology (Sunni)
Hanbaliyyah School Theology (Sunni)
Maturidiyyah Theology (Sunni)
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Mutazilah Theology
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Ishmael, Ismail
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Abu Bakr
Fatimids (Shia)
Ismailis (Shia)
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