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Salahuddin Al-Ayoubi, Life and Legend!

Updated on April 18, 2020
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I like to read and write in the English language on topics such as society, politics, business, education, sports, and worldly issues.

No one in ancient and modern history may have gained an interest and a positive outlook in the East and West, such as Salahuddin Al Ayyubi. It is well known that he was widely respected in the Christian West, even though he is the military commander who regained - if this political description is correct - Jerusalem from the Crusader West. The Salah al-Din statue is located next to the Citadel of Damascus, and the British Royal Navy gave its name to one of its warships and the British army shot it on one of its armored vehicles.

But celebration of that immortal leader is also taking place in other countries where a new airport was opened in eastern Turkey, and a university in central Erbil in northern Iraq. But in 2015, Egypt's new pharaohs prevented references to it in school textbooks, under the pretext that they would contribute to strengthening extremist tendency, according to Jonathan Phillips, author of “The Life and Legend of Sultan Salahuddin” (The Bodley Head 2019)! (As for his Kurdish origins, Al-Hassan bin Dawood Al-Ayoubi says in his book, “The Clear Benefits of the Nasirid Laws.” What was said about the lineage of his ancestors and cut off that they are not Kurds, but they descended with them, so they were attributed to them).

The writer says that watching the musical theatrical dance show in Damascus, prompted him to write this author and search for the different ways in which the image of Salahuddin's achievements and reshaping in the modern era was adopted, and also to the question: How did he become such a heroic character mostly? Salah al-Din started a good man and became a great man and ended up with a legend. Within this framework, the writer adds, there is little opportunity to develop the character, but when one explores the life and location of Salahuddin, it is clear that he was in fact able to make mistakes and care about self-interest and the practice of cruelty like everyone else in a particular situation. Salah al-Din has become a man famous for his faith, generosity, mercy and justice. Mundane personality attributes attracted people and greatly contributed to explaining his success, but in the eyes of some of his contemporaries he was a usurper of power and a founder of dynastic power.

The writer divided the content of the work into two parts: Hayat Salah El-Din, which contains 21 chapters and includes the prevailing information about it. The second section, which focuses on "the afterlife" of Salah al-Din, is what distinguishes the book. Here the author explores how the image of Saladin has been demonstrated, established and used throughout the centuries in both the Islamic world and Europe, for various political purposes. In five chapters, this section reviews a wide range of medieval European authors such as Dante and Bucaccio to more recent authors such as film director Sir Walter Scott, and from Ottoman writers to contemporary Muslim rulers and leaders of political Islam and Arab scriptwriters. With this, the writer rid of the widespread fallacy of Salah al-Din. It also carefully charts the importance of the historical research of Middle Eastern societies today through careful analysis of how Saladin was used as a symbol by various competing interest groups, as his image was often misappropriated for its own purposes.

The author’s goal - always, according to the writer's words - is to try to feel the man in the various images that these people have developed, and her story takes us time and time again beyond the blunt stereotypes of the "clash of civilizations" and Christianity against Islam, even when his legacy returns us to it.

Salah al-Din's life included people from a variety of backgrounds from various religious, ethnic, and political backgrounds, and his story is rich in bloody conflict, but not always through the subtle divisions of faith that were not noticed until then: We will see Christians fighting Christians, and Muslims fighting Muslims. We have Christians and Muslims fighting different Christians and Muslims. They may reach a truce, change their alliances, and continue their struggles, or even be together for a while. At that time, as it is now, the reality on the ground was always much more complicated than it seemed from afar, a mixture of ethnic, political, economic and personal factors, not just religious beliefs.

The author also explains how after his death, Salahuddin became a figure who possessed this amount of fame and respect in the Christian West and great importance in the Muslim Near East. The writer traces his story through history, poems and contemporary articles, and then through newspapers, plays, films and novels.

The book explores how its image has been used throughout the centuries in the Islamic world and Europe

The most appreciated component of Salahuddin's career can be found during his early years in Egypt. At the time when his uncle Shirkuh died suddenly, he was part of a combined force of the invaders from Syria, and he was a Sunni Kurd in a country ruled by the Shiite Fatimids, and he seemed to have had limited experience. However, he was chosen to be a minister. This was a very weak situation, but it is surprising how quickly Salah Al-Din understood and understood the challenges he faced. He seized the land and money to get immediate support. Given the enormous wealth of the Fatimids, he was fortunate to have the great resources at his disposal.

He quickly reconciled with the Fatimid bureaucrats, some of whom had become lifelong members of his inner circle in order to be able to execute it. The hallmark of his career was the ability to locate and hire the best managers, meaning that he had a reliable and talented group around him at all times. It is no coincidence that he immediately supervised the first re-calibration in decades of the basic tax index, and was commissioned to conduct a major land survey, indicating interest in government and resources, an understanding of what was available to him and how the country operated. These fortunes also allowed him to practice what would become one of his most famous traits of generosity. The money spent on caring for the court poets was wise because it would transfer its benefits to the outside world. Likewise, the strong support for religious institutions was very effective.

Finally, Salah al-Din's interaction with the centuries-old rituals of measuring the Nile and cutting the canal showed that he was sensitive to local customs possessing intelligence sufficient to exploit the enormous ceremonial potential of these events in his favor. While Salah al-Din was known for his mercy, particularly in Jerusalem, he was brutal, according to the writer’s description, in his treatment of Rinald of Chatillon and the military orders in Hittin, in addition to issuing orders for executions after previous battles against the Franks and after the Acre massacre. He also put down the revolutions in Egypt with great cruelty.


  • The Life and Legend of the Sultan Saladin - The Bodley Head 2019. 478 Pages with several maps and illustrations. Jonathan Philips

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Hafiz Muhammad Adnan


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