|Saladin, sultan of Egypt, meeting Guy of Lusignan at Hattin, 1187|
True Name: Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb (أيوب صلاح الدين يوسف بن)
Parents: Najm ad-Dīn Ayyūb
Date of Birth: c. 1137
Reign: 1171 – 1193
Summary: The power and glory of Saladin began in a humble village named Tikrit in Iraq. The boy's family was Kurdish Sunnis who originally came from Armenia. Saladin's father was banished from Tikrit and joined the forces of Imad ad-Din Zengi and his son, Nur. While his dad served, Saladin studied history and religion before finally joining his uncle, Asad al-Din Shirkuh in the army of the Zengids. After gaining experience, Saladin had his first military success in 1164 when he helped defeat an army of Crusaders and Egyptians near Giza before moving north to Alexandria. Saladin became the commander of the Alexandrian garrison. Soon after, Saladin was appointed vizier to Fatimid Caliph al-Adid with the rank of emir. Saladin was now in a dangerous position. He was emir to al-Adid but still a ranked military officer within the army of Nur al-Din. The two still worked together, though, and defeated a joint Crusader-Byzantine raid. In 1170, the Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad sent Saladin's father to him to pressure the young emir to overthrow the Fatimid Caliph. Despite an increase in Sunni influence in Egypt, Saladin refused and instead re-energized his efforts to defeat the Crusaders. In 1171, the Fatimid Caliph died and the government collapsed. The Abbasid Caliphate of Baghdad was recognized as the legitimate authority in Egypt once again and Saladin was established as sultan.
Saladin continued his campaign against the Crusaders but was becoming increasingly in control of Egypt, whether he liked it or not. Attacks in the south and west forced him to divide his forces and take more direct management of the state. In 1174, Nur ad-Din died and Saladin was finally able to take control of Syria in the north. With Egypt and Syria in Saladin's control, he could finally present a united front against the Crusader states in Palestine. To secure his rule, he made peace with all parties and centralized his government. He fought a short war with the Hashshashin (Assassins) but his uncle resolved the dispute. He finally broke the treaty with the Crusader state in 1177 since the states had already invaded Syria. Saladin raided southern Palestine and marched his troops all the way to the gates of Jerusalem before stopping. The rival armies then fought each other numerous times in northern Palestine along the Jordan River before finally agreeing to a second truce in 1180. With a truce in place, Saladin moved inland and secured upper Mesopotamia from his relatives before doubling back on the Crusaders. This time, he was relentless. He pushed hard into the Kingdom of Jersualem and finally captured the whole of it. Nearly all of Palestine was in Muslim hands by the end of 1187, including Jerusalem. Only the city of Tyre along the coast survived. The Third Crusade under Richard the Lionheart was prompted to retake the Holy Land from Saladin but the mission failed. Saladin agreed to allow Christians to visit Jerusalem, but the city would remain in Muslim hands. Saladin died of fever soon after the Crusaders departed.
Date of Death: 4 March 1193
Successor: Al-Afdal (Syria) and Al-Aziz Uthman (Egypt)
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