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Salah al-Din al-Ayubbi (“Saladin”)

(1138 - 1193)

Salah al-Din al-Ayubbi founded the Ayyubid dynasty of Egypt and Syria. Known as Saladin in the West, Salah al Din al Ayubi was born in 1138 in Tikrit. Saladin, a Kurdish warrior, became the Sultan of Egypt and known as a champion of Islam. Salah al Din became a legend in the East and West for his role in clearing the Crusaders from Jerusalem. His capture of Jerusalem, and the Muslim triumph that followed, gave him a remarkable place in the pages of history. The rise of a new, unified Islamic state centered in Egypt was accomplished by the skilled leadership of Saladin.

The First Crusade captured Jerusalem in June 1099, amid a horrible massacre of the inhabitants. In 1174, Saladin began his expansion of his territory. In just twelve years he conquered Damascus, Alleppo, and Iraq. Saladin united the efforts of Egypt and Baghdad, and preached to the Muslim world to rise in a Jihad, a Holy War, a counter crusade, of all the Muslims against the Christians. Gathering a large force of Muslims of various groups, called Saracens by the Christians, Saladin set out to attack the Christians. Saladin attacked the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1187, and after three months of fighting he gained control of the city.

When Jerusalem fell to Saladin, all of Christendom called for a new crusade. In 1189, the nations of western Europe launched the Third Crusade to win back the holy city. During the Third Crusade, led by King Richard the Lionhearted, the King arranged for supplies to be accumulated and ships used to deliver them to his troops as they marched along the coast; however, when the King finally marched inland to besiege Jerusalem, he found that Saladin had stripped the countryside of food and fodder. The wells had been poisoned and Richard realized that his army would fall apart from starvation if he tried to besiege Jerusalem. The crusaders had to settle for a treaty with Saladin that guaranteed Christian pilgrims access to the Holy Places.

The death of Saladin in 1193 led Pope Innocent III to inaugurate the Fourth Crusade, but they could not defeat the empire that Saladin had established. The Ayyubid dynasty, founded by Salah al-Din ibn Ayyub, ruled Egypt and Syria from 1169 to 1250 CE. In some regions of upper Mesopotamia and Yemen, their rule continued until the end of the 15th century.

Sources: Saudi Aramco World, (January-February 2002); "Tikrit." Global Security