Saladin (1137/1138–1193) was a Muslim military and political leader who as sultan (or leader) led Islamic forces during the Crusades. Saladin’s greatest triumph over the European Crusaders came at the Battle of Hattin in 1187, which paved the way for Islamic re-conquest of Jerusalem and other Holy Land cities in the Near East.
Born into a Kurdish, Sunni, military family, Saladin rose rapidly within Muslim society as a subordinate to the Syrian-northern Mesopotamian military leader Nur al-Din. Participating in three campaigns into Egypt (which was governed by the Shi`ite Fatimid dynasty), Saladin became head of the military expeditionary forces in 1169. After he was appointed wazir(adviser) to the Shi`ite caliph in Cairo, he consolidated his position by eliminating the Fatimid’s sub-Saharan infantry slave forces. Finally, in 1171 the Shi`ite Fatimid caliphate was brought to an end by Saladin with the recognition of the Sunni caliphate in Baghdad. In the meantime, Nur al-Din kept pressuring Saladin to send him money, supplies, and troops, but Saladin tended to stall. An open clash between the two was avoided by the death of Nur al-Din in 1174.
On July 4, 1187, at the Battle of Hattin, he faced the combined forces of Guy of Lusignan, King Consort of Jerusalem, and Raymond III of Tripoli. In this battle alone the Crusader force was largely annihilated by Saladin's determined army. It was a major disaster for the Crusaders and a turning point in the history of the Crusades. Saladin captured Raynald and was personally responsible for his execution in retaliation for his attacks against Muslim caravans. The members of these caravans had, in vain, besought his mercy by reciting the truce between the Muslims and the Crusaders, but Raynald ignored this and insulted the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, before murdering and torturing a number of them. Upon hearing this, Saladin swore an oath to personally execute Raynald. Guy of Lusignan was also captured. Seeing the execution of Raynald, he feared he would be next. However, his life was spared by Saladin, who said of Raynald, "It is not the wont of kings, to kill kings; but that man had transgressed all bounds, and therefore did I treat him thus."
Capture of Jerusalem
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. Jerusalem capitulated to his forces on Friday, 2 October 1187, after a siege. When the siege had started, Saladin was unwilling to promise terms of quarter to the Frankish inhabitants of Jerusalem. Balian of Ibelin threatened to kill every Muslim hostage, estimated at 5,000, and to destroy Islam's holy shrines of the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque if such quarter were not provided. Saladin consulted his council and the terms were accepted. 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. An unusually low ransom for the times (around $50 today) was to be paid for each Frank in the city, whether man, woman, or child, but Saladin, against the wishes of his treasurers, allowed many families who could not afford the ransom to leave. Patriarch Heraclius of Jerusalem organised and contributed to a collection that paid the ransoms for about 18,000 of the poorer citizens, leaving another 15,000 to be enslaved. Saladin's brother al-Adil "asked Saladin for a thousand of them for his own use and then released them on the spot." Most of the foot soldiers were sold into slavery. Upon the capture of Jerusalem, Saladin summoned the Jews and permitted them to resettle in the city. In particular, the residents of Ashkelon, a large Jewish settlement, responded to his request.
Hattin and the fall of Jerusalem prompted the Third Crusade (1189–1192), financed in England by a special "Saladin tithe". Richard the Lionheart, King of England led Guy's siege of Acre, conquered the city and executed 3,000 Muslim prisoners, including women and children.
The armies of Saladin engaged in combat with the army of King Richard at the Battle of Arsuf on 7 September 1191, at which Saladin's forces, less in number, suffered heavy losses and were forced to withdraw. After the battle of Arsuf, Richard moved his forces towards Ascalon. Anticipating Richard's next move, Saladin emptied the city and camped a few miles away. When Richard arrived at the city, he was stunned to see it abandoned and the towers demolished. The next day when Richard was preparing to retreat to Jaffa, Saladin attacked his army. After a furious battle, Richard managed to save some of his troops and retreated to Ascalon. This was the last major battle between the two forces. All military attempts and battles made by Richard the Lionheart to retake Jerusalem were defeated and failed. Richard only had 2,000 fit soldiers and 50 fit knights to use in battle. With such a small force, he could not expect or hope to take Jerusalem although he got near enough to see the Holy City. Saladin's relationship with Richard was complicated despite their military rivalry. At Arsuf, when Richard lost his horse, Saladin sent him two replacements. Richard proposed that his sister, Joan of England, Queen of Sicily, should marry Saladin's brother and that Jerusalem could be their wedding gift. However, the two men never met face to face and communication was either written or by messenger. As leaders of their respective factions, the two men came to an agreement in the Treaty of Ramla in 1192, whereby Jerusalem would remain in Muslim hands but would be open to Christian pilgrimages.
Saladin died of a fever on 4 March 1193, at Damascus, not long after King Richard's departure. In Saladin’s possession at the time of his death, there were 1 piece of gold and 40 pieces of silver coins. He had given away his great wealth to his poor subjects, leaving nothing to pay for his funeral. He was buried in a mausoleum in the garden outside the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria. 7 centuries later, Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany donated a new marble sarcophagus to the mausoleum. The original sarcophagus was not replaced, however. Instead, the mausoleum, which is open to visitors, now has two sarcophagi: the marble one placed on the side and the original wooden one, which covers Saladin's tomb. (Muslims are buried in a simple shroud, so if there are any sarcophagi present, they are usually used for covering the top of the Islamic burials.)
Last Updated @ 12/9/2015 1:41:30 PM
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