PROFILE – Salahuddin: Iconic Muslim ruler, commander

By Faruk Zorlu

ANKARA (AA) – Salahuddin al-Ayyubi, popularly known in the West as Saladin, is a revered figure in Islam best known for recapturing Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187.

Jerusalem was first conquered in 638 by the second Muslim caliph, Umar bin al-Khattab. Over the next four centuries, it was ruled by Muslims until the holy city fell during the European crusades in 1099.

Salahuddin was born in 1137 in the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit.

In his youth, he studied the holy Quran and theology along with astronomy, mathematics and law and received military training.

He later entered the service of Imad ad-Din Zangi ibn Aq Sonqur, a powerful Turkish governor in northern Syria who made him commander of his fortress in Baalbek city in eastern Lebanon near the Syrian border.

– Military experience

Salahuddin joined the staff of his uncle, an important military commander under ruler and military leader Nur al-Din, who was the son and successor of Sultan Imad ad-Din Zengi of Mosul.

In 1169, Salahuddin, at the age of 31, became the commander of the Syrian troops in Egypt and vizier of the Fatimid caliphate there.

He abolished the Fatimid caliphate in 1171. Three years later, Salahuddin declared himself sultan of Egypt and founded the Ayyubid dynasty after Nur al-Din's death in 1174.

Soon he moved to cement his control over Syria and later captured Aleppo in 1183 and Mosul in 1186.

– Battle of Hattin

After reuniting Syria and Egypt, Salahuddin set out to launch a campaign against the Crusaders, who controlled Jerusalem.

In the northern Israeli city of Tiberias, he faced the combined Crusader forces and defeated them on July 4,1187.

He conquered most of the Crusader states, including the Kingdom of Jerusalem, after his victory at the Battle of Hattin on Oct. 2, 1187.

Salahuddin signed the Treaty of Ramla with Richard I (the Lionhearted) in June of 1192 following the Battle of Arsuf in September 1191.

He died in Damascus in 1193 and the Ayyubid dynasty succumbed to the Mamluk Sultanate in 1250.