116 Facts About Saladin


Alongside his uncle Shirkuh, a general of the Zengid dynasty, Saladin was sent to Egypt under the Fatimid Caliphate in 1164, on the orders of Nur al-Din.


Saladin, meanwhile, climbed the ranks of the Fatimid government by virtue of his military successes against Crusader assaults as well as his personal closeness to al-Adid.


Not long after Nur al-Din's death in 1174, Saladin launched his conquest of Syria, peacefully entering Damascus at the request of its governor.


Saladin launched further conquests in northern Syria and Upper Mesopotamia, escaping two attempts on his life by the Assasins, before returning to Egypt in 1177 to address local issues there.


Alongside his significance to Muslim culture, Saladin is revered prominently in Kurdish, Turkic, and Arab culture.


Saladin has frequently been described as the most famous Kurdish figure in history.


Saladin's family was most likely of Kurdish ancestry, and had originated from the village of Ajdanakan near the city of Dvin in central Armenia.


About education, Saladin wrote "children are brought up in the way in which their elders were brought up".


Saladin spoke Kurdish and Arabic and knew Turkish and Persian.


Saladin was more assiduous and zealous in this than in anything else.


Saladin was a supporter of Sufism as a patron of khanqahs in Egypt and Syria.


Saladin opposed the Assassins, an extremist Isma'ili Shi'i sect in Iran and Syria, as heretics who enjoyed too-close relationships with Latin Christian crusaders.


Saladin welcomed Asiatic Sufis to Egypt and he and his followers founded and endowed many khanqahs and zawiyas of which al-Maqrizi gives a long list.


Saladin asked for military backing from Nur ad-Din, who complied and, in 1164, sent Shirkuh to aid Shawar in his expedition against Dirgham.


Saladin played a major role, commanding the right-wing of the Zengid army, while a force of Kurds commanded the left, and Shirkuh was stationed in the centre.


The battle ended in a Zengid victory, and Saladin is credited with having helped Shirkuh in one of the "most remarkable victories in recorded history", according to Ibn al-Athir, although more of Shirkuh's men were killed and the battle is considered by most sources as not a total victory.


On one occasion Isa al-Hakkari, a Kurdish lieutenant of Saladin, urged a candidate for the viziership, Emir Qutb al-Din al-Hadhbani, to step aside by arguing that "both you and Saladin are Kurds and you will not let the power pass into the hands of the Turks".


Nur ad-Din chose a successor for Shirkuh, but al-Adid appointed Saladin to replace Shawar as vizier.


Al-Wahrani wrote that Saladin was selected because of the reputation of his family in their "generosity and military prowess".


Imad ad-Din wrote that after the brief mourning period for Shirkuh, during which "opinions differed", the Zengid emirs decided upon Saladin and forced the caliph to "invest him as vizier".


Saladin himself had been strengthening his hold on Egypt and widening his support base there.


Saladin began granting his family members high-ranking positions in the region; he ordered the construction of a college for the Maliki branch of Sunni Islam in the city, as well as one for the Shafi'i denomination to which he belonged in al-Fustat.


Amalric withdrew his Templar garrison from Gaza to assist him in defending Darum, but Saladin evaded their force and captured Gaza in 1187.


In 1191 Saladin destroyed the fortifications in Gaza built by King Baldwin III for the Knights Templar.


Saladin then fell ill or was poisoned according to one account.


Saladin sent a gift to Nur ad-Din, who had been his friend and teacher, 60,000 dinars, "wonderful manufactured goods", some jewels, and an elephant.


Saladin did not press an attack against the desert castles but attempted to drive out the Muslim Bedouins who lived in Crusader territory with the aim of depriving the Franks of guides.


In 1174, Saladin sent Turan-Shah to conquer Yemen to allocate it and its port Aden to the territories of the Ayyubid Dynasty.


The Ayyubids held a council upon the revelation of these preparations to discuss the possible threat and Saladin collected his own troops outside Cairo.


Saladin's death left Saladin with political independence and 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".


Saladin saw that in order to acquire Syria, he needed either an invitation from as-Salih or to warn him that potential anarchy could give rise to danger from the Crusaders.


Saladin rode across the desert with 700 picked horsemen, passing through al-Kerak then reaching Bosra.


Saladin installed himself in the castle and received the homage and salutations of the inhabitants.


Saladin's army conquered Hama with relative ease, but avoided attacking Homs because of the strength of its citadel.


One of Saladin's chroniclers claimed "the people came under his spell".


Saladin later moved toward Homs instead, but retreated after being told a relief force was being sent to the city by Saif al-Din.


Saladin aimed to counter this propaganda by ending the siege, claiming that he was defending Islam from the Crusaders; his army returned to Hama to engage a Crusader force there.


The Crusaders withdrew beforehand and Saladin proclaimed it "a victory opening the gates of men's hearts".


Heavily outnumbered, Saladin initially attempted to make terms with the Zengids by abandoning all conquests north of the Damascus province, but they refused, insisting he returns to Egypt.


The battle ended in a decisive victory for Saladin, who pursued the Zengid fugitives to the gates of Aleppo, forcing as-Salih's advisers to recognize Saladin's control of the provinces of Damascus, Homs, and Hama, as well as a number of towns outside Aleppo such as Ma'arat al-Numan.


Saladin had gathered massive reinforcements from Egypt while Saif al-Din was levying troops among the minor states of Diyarbakir and al-Jazira.


When Saladin crossed the Orontes, leaving Hama, the sun was eclipsed.


All of the booty from the Ayyubid victory was accorded to the army, Saladin not keeping anything himself.


Saladin continued towards Aleppo, which still closed its gates to him, halting before the city.


Saladin was unnerved at the attempt on his life, which he accused Gumushtugin and the Assassins of plotting, and so increased his efforts in the siege.


Saladin's assaults were again resisted, but he managed to secure not only a truce, but a mutual alliance with Aleppo, in which Gumushtigin and as-Salih were allowed to continue their hold on the city, and in return, they recognized Saladin as the sovereign over all of the dominions he conquered.


Saladin had by now agreed to truces with his Zengid rivals and the Kingdom of Jerusalem, but faced a threat from the Isma'ili sect known as the Assassins, led by Rashid ad-Din Sinan.


Saladin retreated the same month, after laying waste to the countryside, but failing to conquer any of the forts.


Presently, Saladin awoke to find a figure leaving the tent.


Saladin saw that the lamps were displaced and beside his bed laid hot scones of the shape peculiar to the Assassins with a note at the top pinned by a poisoned dagger.


Saladin gave a loud cry, exclaiming that Sinan himself was the figure that had left the tent.


In reality, Saladin sought to form an alliance with Sinan and his Assassins, consequently depriving the Crusaders of a potent ally against him.


Saladin remained in Cairo supervising its improvements, building colleges such as the Madrasa of the Sword Makers and ordering the internal administration of the country.


Not discouraged by his defeat at Montgisard, Saladin was prepared to fight the Crusaders .


Saladin spent the rest of the year in Syria without a confrontation with his enemies.


Saladin had offered 100,000 gold pieces to Baldwin to abandon the project, which was particularly offensive to the Muslims, but to no avail.


Saladin then resolved to destroy the fortress, called Chastellet and defended by the Templars, moving his headquarters to Banias.


Nur al-Din asked Saladin to mediate the issue, but Arslan refused.


Saladin was later enraged when he received a message from Arslan accusing Nur al-Din of more abuses against his daughter.


Saladin felt that Arslan was correct to care for his daughter, but Nur al-Din had taken refuge with him, and therefore he could not betray his trust.


Saladin was again embroiled with the Bedouin; he removed two-thirds of their fiefs to use as compensation for the fief-holders at Fayyum.


Saladin's intimates accused Majd al-Din of misappropriating the revenues of Zabid, but Saladin himself believed there was no evidence to back the allegations.


Saladin had Majd al-Din released in return for a payment of 80,000 dinars.


Saladin thus, handed Aleppo to his brother Imad al-Din Zangi, in exchange for Sinjar.


Saladin offered no opposition to these transactions in order to respect the treaty he previously made with the Zengids.


Saladin took this as an evil omen and he never saw Egypt again.


Saladin was met by a substantial Crusader force in an inconclusive battle near Belvoir Castle, but he was unable to destroy the Christian army and could not logistically sustain his own army any longer, so he withdrew across the river.


Saladin promptly impressed the inhabitants of the town by publishing a decree that ordered a number of taxes to be canceled and erased all mention of them from treasury records, stating "the most miserable rulers are those whose purses are fat and their people thin".


Saladin destroyed his own citadel at A'zaz to prevent it from being used by the Ayyubids if they were to conquer it.


Izz al-Din would not accept his terms because he considered them disingenuous and extensive, and Saladin immediately laid siege to the heavily fortified city.


Saladin decided to attack Sinjar, which was held by Izz al-Din's brother Sharaf al-Din.


Saladin's soldiers broke their discipline, plundering the city; Saladin managed to protect the governor and his officers only by sending them to Mosul.


Saladin reported that they intended to attack Medina and remove Muhammad's body.


Saladin handed the city to Nur al-Din Muhammad together with its stores, which consisted of 80,000 candles, a tower full of arrowheads, and 1,040,000 books.


The fall of Amid, in addition to territory, convinced Il-Ghazi of Mardin to enter the service of Saladin, weakening Izz al-Din's coalition.


Saladin attempted to gain the Caliph an-Nasir's support against Izz al-Din by sending him a letter requesting a document that would give him legal justification for taking over Mosul and its territories.


Saladin aimed to persuade the caliph claiming that while he conquered Egypt and Yemen under the flag of the Abbasids, the Zengids of Mosul openly supported the Seljuks and only came to the caliph when in need.


Saladin accused Izz al-Din's forces of disrupting the Muslim "Holy War" against the Crusaders, stating "they are not content not to fight, but they prevent those who can".


Saladin defended his own conduct claiming that he had come to Syria to fight the Crusaders, end the heresy of the Assassins, and stop the wrong-doing of the Muslims.


Saladin promised that if Mosul was given to him, it would lead to the capture of Jerusalem, Constantinople, Georgia, and the lands of the Almohads in the Maghreb, "until the word of God is supreme and the Abbasid caliphate has wiped the world clean, turning the churches into mosques".


Saladin stressed that all this would happen by the will of God, and instead of asking for financial or military support from the caliph, he would capture and give the caliph the territories of Tikrit, Daquq, Khuzestan, Kish Island, and Oman.


Saladin stationed his men dangerously close to the city, hoping for an early success.


Saladin was unpopular with his subjects and wished to return to his Sinjar, the city he governed previously.


The people of Aleppo had not known about these negotiations and were taken by surprise when Saladin's standard was hoisted over the citadel.


Saladin replaced the Hanafi courts with Shafi'i administration, despite a promise that he would not interfere in the religious leadership of the city.


Saladin offered him the city of Busra and property in Damascus in exchange for Harim, but when Surhak asked for more, his own garrison in Harim forced him out.


Saladin was arrested by Saladin's deputy Taqi al-Din on allegations that he was planning to cede Harim to Bohemond III of Antioch.


When Saladin received its surrender, he proceeded to arrange the defense of Harim from the Crusaders.


Saladin reported to the caliph and his own subordinates in Yemen and Baalbek that he was going to attack the Armenians.


Raynald of Chatillon, in particular, harassed Muslim trading and pilgrimage routes with a fleet on the Red Sea, a water route that Saladin needed to keep open.


Saladin still had to exact retribution on Raynald, so he twice besieged Kerak, Raynald's fortress in Oultrejordain.


Saladin opened his campaign of 1184 with a second siege of Kerak, hoping this time to draw the Crusader army into battle on open ground, but they outmaneuvered him and successfully relieved the fortress.


On hearing of the attack, Saladin vowed that he would personally slay Raynald for breaking the truce, a vow he would keep.


The outrage led Saladin to resolve to dispense with half-measures to rein in the unruly lord of Kerak, and to instead topple the entire edifice of the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem, thus precipitating the invasion of the summer of 1187.


Saladin captured Raynald and was personally responsible for his execution in retaliation for his attacks against Muslim caravans.


Saladin preferred to take Jerusalem without bloodshed and offered generous terms, but those inside refused to leave their holy city, vowing to destroy it in a fight to the death rather than see it handed over peacefully.


The agreement was read out through the streets of Jerusalem so that everyone might within forty days provide for himself and pay to Saladin the agreed tribute for his freedom.


In 1188, at Tortosa, Saladin released Guy of Lusignan and returned him to his wife Sibylla of Jerusalem.


Saladin's response is not recorded, but the queen's efforts seem to have been successful as Jacques de Vitry, the Bishop of Acre, reports the Georgians were, in contrast to the other Christian pilgrims, allowed a free passage into the city with their banners unfurled.


Meanwhile, Saladin moved south, where he dismantled the fortifications of Ascalon to prevent this strategically important city, which lay at the junction between Egypt and Palestine, from falling into Crusader hands.


However, Saladin rejected this idea when Richard insisted that Saladin's brother convert to Christianity.


At last Richard agreed to demolish the fortifications of Ascalon, while Saladin agreed to recognize Crusader control of the Palestinian coast from Tyre to Jaffa.


Saladin had given away his great wealth to his poor subjects, leaving nothing to pay for his funeral.


The sons listed by Imad number fifteen, but elsewhere he writes that Saladin was survived by seventeen sons and one daughter.


Saladin's daughter is said to have married her cousin al-Kamil Muhammad ibn Adil.


Saladin married Ismat al-Din Khatun, the widow of Nur al-Din Zengi, in 1176.


Saladin was widely renowned in medieval Europe as a model of kingship, and in particular of the courtly virtue of regal generosity.


Saladin is a central character in Sir Walter Scott's novel The Talisman, which more than any other single text influenced the romantic view of Saladin.


Notwithstanding the differences in beliefs, the Muslim Saladin was respected by Christian lords, Richard especially.


Saladin, in turn, stated that there was not a more honorable Christian lord than Richard.


Saladin gave it to the mother and she took it; with tears streaming down her face, and hugged the baby to her chest.


Saladin suckled it for some time and then Saladin ordered a horse to be fetched for her and she went back to camp.


Saladin has become a prominent figure in Islamic, Arab, Turkish and Kurdish culture, and he has been described as the most famous Kurd in history.


Saladin's reputation had previously been largely forgotten in the Muslim world, eclipsed by more successful figures, such as Baybars of Egypt.


Saladin first fortified the Citadel of Cairo, which had been a domed pleasure pavilion with a fine view in more peaceful times.


In Syria, even the smallest city is centred on a defensible citadel, and Saladin introduced this essential feature to Egypt.