His personal name was " Yusuf "; " Salah ad-Din " is a laqab , an honorific epithet, meaning "Righteousness of the Faith. Ayyub provided ferries for the army and gave them refuge in Tikrit. Mujahed al-Din Bihruz , a former Greek slave who had been appointed as the military governor of northern Mesopotamia for his service to the Seljuks , reprimanded Ayyub for giving Zengi refuge and in banished Ayyub from Tikrit after his brother Asad al-Din Shirkuh killed a friend of Bihruz. According to Baha ad-Din ibn Shaddad , Saladin was born on the same night that his family left Tikrit. In , Ayyub and his family moved to Mosul, where Imad ad-Din Zengi acknowledged his debt and appointed Ayyub commander of his fortress in Baalbek. After the death of Zengi in , his son, Nur ad-Din , became the regent of Aleppo and the leader of the Zengids.

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Nazeer Ahmed, PhD A divided Islamic world offered feeble resistance to the Crusaders who consolidated their hold on the eastern Mediterranean and imposed their fiefdoms on the region. The Seljuks, preoccupied with defending their eastern flank against the Afghan Ghaznavids, had thinned out their western defenses.

The pagan Turkish tribes across the Amu Darya on the northeastern frontiers were a constant menace. The advancing Crusaders received valuable assistance from the local Orthodox and Armenian communities.

The Venetians provided transportation. Faced with a determined offensive, Tripoli surrendered in Beirut fell in Aleppo was besieged in Tyre succumbed in The warring Muslim parties did not take the Crusader invasion seriously at this stage. They considered the Christians to be just another group in the motley group of emirs, prelates and religious factions jostling for power in West Asia.

Meanwhile, the internal situation in Egypt went from bad to worse. Power had long ago slipped from the Fatimid Caliphs. The viziers had become the real power brokers.

Notwithstanding the rout of the Egyptian army by the Crusaders and the loss of Jerusalem, al Afdal, the grand vizier was more interested in playing politics in Cairo than in recovering the lost territories. But this did not sit well with Abu Ali. When he grew up, he had al Afdal murdered. In turn, Abu Ali himself was assassinated in Anarchy took over Egypt. Abu Ali left no male heirs. His cousin Abul Maimun became the Caliph. But he was deposed by his own vizier, Ahmed and put in prison.

Not to be outmaneuvered, Abul Maimun plotted from his prison cell and had Ahmed murdered. After Abul Maimun, his son Abu Mansur succeeded him. Abu Mansur was more interested in wine and women than in the affairs of state.

His vizier Ibn Salar ran the administration but his own stepson Abbas murdered him and became the vizier. The Fatimid Caliphs in Cairo had no power and became pawns in the hands of the viziers. And the institution of vizier was usurped by anyone who was ruthless and powerful. The sisters of Abu Mansur discovered this act of murder and appealed to Ruzzik, the governor of Upper Egypt for help in punishing Nasr.

They also appealed to the Franks in Palestine. Nasr ran for his life but was captured by the Franks and sent back to Cairo where he was nailed to a cross. Egypt was like a ripe plum ready to be plucked. The Crusaders knew that control of Egypt would deal a devastating blow to the Islamic world. The local Maronite and Armenian communities would welcome them. From Egypt they could open land communications with the Christian communities in Ethiopia and command the trade routes to India.

Several invasions of Egypt were launched. In , the Crusaders landed in Damietta, ravaged that city and advanced towards Cairo. The Egyptians repelled the invaders but the resources consumed in defending their home turf prevented them from defending Palestine. The last Fatimid stronghold in Palestine, Ascalon, fell in With Egypt in disarray and the Seljuks under increasing pressure from the Ghaznavids and the Turkish Kara Khitai tribes, Crusader rule in Jerusalem went unchallenged for almost a century.

The task of defending against European military invasions had to be organized from northern Iraq and eastern Anatolia. Maudud, a Seljuk officer from Mosul, was the first to take up the challenge. In , he defeated King Baldwin of Jerusalem in a series of skirmishes.

But Fatimid assassins murdered Maudud in Zengi was a first rate soldier, a man of righteousness, fairness and piety. He ruled with firm justice, making no distinction between a Turk and a non-Turk.

In , Zengi captured the city of Edessa. Zengi inflicted a crushing defeat on the invaders, forcing the Germans and the Franks to withdraw. But two events took place that delayed the task of expelling the Franks from Jerusalem. In , the Fatimid assassins murdered Zengi himself. A man of extraordinary ability, Nuruddin organized a systematic campaign to expel the Crusaders from West Asia.

Nuruddin was a man of piety, bereft of prejudice, of noble disposition. The unsettled military conditions provided ample opportunities for capable persons and non-Turkish soldiers rose rapidly through the army.

Among them were two officers, Ayyub and Shirkuh, the uncle of Salahuddin. Damascus was added in With the resources of these vast territories behind him, Nuruddin was ready to challenge the Crusaders in Palestine and fight for control of Egypt.

The key to Palestine lay in Egypt. As long as the Fatimids ruled Egypt, coordinated military action against the Crusader kingdoms was not possible. The race to Egypt was of great immediacy. In , there were two rival viziers in Cairo. One of them invited the Franks to intervene in Egypt. The other appealed to Nuruddin. Nuruddin prompted dispatched Shirkuh to Cairo. In both the Seljuks and the Crusaders appeared in Egypt but neither was able to establish a base.

Two years later Shirkuh returned to Egypt with his nephew Salahuddin. This time he was successful in establishing his authority in the Nile Delta. Mustadi, the last Fatimid Caliphwas forced to appoint Shirkuh as his vizier.

In , Shirkuh died and his nephew Salahuddin was appointed in his place. Salahuddin was the man of the hour. He fought off repeated attacks by the Crusaders on Egypt, put down revolts within the army and gave Egypt respite from incessant civil war. Despite three centuries of Fatimid rule, the Egyptian population had remained Sunni, following the Sunnah schools of Fiqh.

In , Salahuddin abolished the Fatimid Caliphate. The name of the Abbasid Caliph was inserted in the khutba. So peaceful was this momentous revolution that the Fatimid Caliph Mustadi did not even know of this change and quietly died a few weeks later.

The Fatimids, once so powerful that they controlled more than half of the Islamic world including Mecca, Madina and Jerusalem, passed into history. The Sunni vision of history, championed by the Turks, triumphed. With the disappearance of the Fatimid schism, a united orthodox Islam threw down the gauntlet to the invading Crusaders.

Historians often argue whether it is man that influences history or it is his circumstance and the environment that shape the course of events.

This argument misses the point. There is an organic relationship between the actions of men and women and the circumstances under which they operate. Those who chisel out the edifice of history do so with their power, bending the flow of events to their will and leave behind a blazing trail for others to follow and sort out.

But they succeed because circumstances are in their favor. Ultimately, the outcome of historical events is a moment of Divine Grace. It is not obvious, a priori, what the outcome of a critical historical moment will be.

Salahuddin, perhaps the most celebrated of Muslim soldiers after Ali ibn Abu Talib r , was a man who molded history with his iron will. His accomplishment in evicting the Crusaders from Palestine and Syria are well known. What is less well known is his achievement in welding a monolithic Islamic body politic, free of internal fissures, which offered the Muslims, for a brief generation, the opportunity to dominate global events.

It was the generation of Salahuddin that not only recaptured Jerusalem, but also laid the foundation of an Islamic Empire in India and briefly contained the Crusader advance in Spain and North Africa. It was only a matter of time before the weight of this power was brought on the Crusaders. The cause for hostilities was provided by one of the Latin chiefs, Renaud de Chatellon.

Renaud was the king of the coastal cities in Palestine and Lebanon. On one occasion, when there was a truce between the Muslims and the Franks, he treacherously attacked and carried off a caravan from Egypt that passed through his territory. He seized these people, put them to torture, threw them into pits and imprisoned some in dungeons. Salahuddin, when he heard these words, vowed to slay the infidel with his own hands. Salahuddin demanded retribution for the pillage of the caravan from Guy de Lusignan.

The latter refused. Salahuddin sent his son Al Afdal to hunt down Renaud. His capital Karak was besieged. The Franks, upon hearing of this siege, united and advanced to meet Al Afdal.


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