Saladin is an important historical figure in the Islamic world. He was born in 1137, and died in 1193. Saladin was a famous military and political leader of the Islamic Empire, who eventually rose to the position of Sultan of Syria and Egypt.
Saladin was born into a military family. He was a Sunni Muslim, and quickly rose to prominence as a young man under the Mesopotamian commander Nur al-Din.
Saladin became head of the military expeditionary force in 1169, meaning that he was in charge of the forces who would fight at the frontline of any battles.
Over time, Saladin was appointed wazir (adviser) to the Shi’ite Caliph in Cairo. After reaching this position, he consolidated the position of his expeditionary force by eliminating all rival military groups.
Tensions between Saladin’s old commander Nur al-Din and Saladin himself rose over the years – but just when it looked like the two were going to engage in open warfare, Nur al-Din died in 1174.
This afforded Saladin the chance to advance from Egypt to Syria, where he used his new wealth to conquer the nation.
Saladin became the political leader of the Islamic Empire through a series of conquests from 1174 to 1187, leaving religious power with the caliphate in Constantinople.
Saladin brought important Islamic cities such as Aleppo and Damascus under his control by defeating other Muslims in combat, and then consolidated his base of control by appointing his own family members to prominent positions in each region’s government.
The reason Saladin fought his fellow Muslims was to combine each territory of the Empire under a single religious banner – but at the same time, he waged open war against the Christian armies of the era.
Saladin’s primary aim was to eliminate Roman control and influence in the Middle East. Part of this included eliminating the center of Christian control in Jerusalem. However, this targeting of the Christian armies would later go on to be his downfall.
Despite managing to free Jerusalem from Christian control in 1187, the soldiers of the Third Crusade eventually recaptured the city and destroyed its Muslim forces under the leadership of “Richard the Lion-Heart”. Saladin held out in a power struggle against Richard’s armies until his death, and managed to preserve Muslim control over Jerusalem and Syria/Palestine.
Saladin also justified his conquest by his belief in the concept of jihad. In the Islamic faith, jihad is the idea of “holy war”, which justifies the act of warfare in the name of spreading Allah’s teachings.
Saladin was an extremely devout Muslim, and it was an important part of his political policy to spread the religion wherever he could. Under Saladin, many Islamic colleges and mosques were constructed.
His rule led to a renaissance in the faith of the Middle East, and inspired a new generation of Islamic soldiers who were willing to fight and die for their lord.
The devotion he encouraged helped greatly in the battle against the Christian Crusaders, who fought for similar reasons to his own forces.
By the time of Saladin’s rise to power, the position of caliph had become more ceremonial than political. While the caliphs remained the religious leader among Muslims, political power now rested in the hands of the “Sultan”.
Saladin became the Sultan of Egypt and Syria during his lifetime, but ceded religious control to the leaders of the caliphate, who were still based in Constantinople.
Shortly after his death, this caliphate would be forced to move to Cairo – and there, their political influence would weaken even further.
Despite not being a caliph, however, Saladin managed to establish a dynasty across the Islamic Empire that controlled most of its territories, and which was only fully dismantled by the Ottomans at the beginning of the Middle Ages.
After a lifetime of many battles, Saladin died of a fever in 1193.
– Sultan of Syria and Egypt.
– Richard the Lion-Heart.
– The concept of jihad refers to the concept of holy war, which permits warfare in the name of spread the Islamic faith.