Saviours of Islamic Spirit

Salah ud-Din Ayyoubi (RA)

Salah ud-din was, in truth and reality, a standing miracle of the Prophet of Islam and a manifest sign of the truthfulness and authenticity of his message.

Salah ud-din was brought up like other Kurd youths of mode­rate means, studying the conventional sciences and the art of warfare. Nobody could have predicted before Salah ud-din captured Egypt and confronted the Crusaders, that this young man would one day emerge as the conqueror of Jerusalem and a great Defender of the Faith, and that he would achieve such an eminence as to be looked upon by posterity as a brilliant example for his ardent zeal and courage in fighting the infidels, or, for his sterling virtues which could rightly be envied even by the most pious and pure in heart. Describing the youthful days of Salah ud-din, Lane-Poole says :

'"As the favoured governors son, he naturally enjoyed a privileged position, but, far from exhibiting any symptoms of future greatness, he was evidently a shining example of that tranquil virtue which shuns 'the last infirmity of the noble minds'."2

God had, however, destined him to become the most renowned leader of his time; and when God wills a thing He provides the means there for. His master Nur-ud-din ordered him to proceed to Egypt. Cadi Baha ud-din ibn Shaddad, a trusted councilor of Salah ud-din, writes that the latter had confessed it to him that he had gone to Egypt dragged against his will, like one driven to his death. It was the fulfilment of what the Qur’an says : But it may happen that ye hate a thing whiih is good for you, and it may happen that ye love a thing which is bad for you?

Transformation of his life:

Salah ud-din was, however, completely a changed man after assuming power in Egypt. Conviction dawned upon him that God had to take some work from him which would be thwarted by the 'pursuits of pleasure.

Ibn Shaddad is on record that "no sooner did he assume the over-lordship of Egypt, the world and its pleasures lost all significance in his eyes. With a heart-felt sense of gratitude for the favour bestowed by God on him he gave up drinking, renounced the temptations of pleasure, and took to the life of sweat and toil which went on increasing with the passage of time.'" Lane-Poole too has the same story to tell. He says:

"On his side, Saladin began to order his life more rigorously. Devout as he had always shown himself, he became even more strict and austere. He put aside the thought of pleasure and the love of ease, adopted a Spartan rule, and set it as an example to his troops. He devoted all his energies henceforth to one great object—to found a Moslem empire strong enough to drive the infidels out of the land. 'When God gave me the land of Egypt,' said he, 'I was sure that He meant Palestine for me also.' It may well be that natural selfish ambition quickened his zeal; but the result was the 'same: thenceforward his career was one long championship of Islam. He had vowed himself to the Holy War."

Zeal for Jehad:

The constant aim of his efforts was to fight in the way of God. Describing the zeal of Salah ud-din for Jehad, writes Ibn Shaddad: "Fired with the zeal to wage war against the Crusaders, Jehad was the most favourite topic of his discussion; he was always seen making his dispositions for the strengthening of his forces, seeking out men and materials for the same purpose and paying attention to anyone who spoke about these matters to him. He had gladly abandoned for its sake his hearth and home, family and children, and betaken to the life of the camp where a wind could uproot his tent. Anybody encouraging him in his ambitions could easily win his confidence."

"One could make a solemn affirmation that after he started the war against the Crusaders he never spent a single shell on anything save on the preparation for war and help­ing his men." Ibn Shaddad continues:

"The Sultan appeared to be like a bereaved mother on the battle-field, who had been deprived of her only child by the cruel hands of Death. He could be seen trotting on his horse from one end of the battle-field to another, exhorting the people to fight for the sake of Allah. He would himself go round all the detachments, with tears in his eyes, asking people to come forth for the aid of Islam." The same writer describes how Salah ud-din spent his days during the siege of Acre :

"Excepting a sweet-drink for which his physician insis­ted, the Sultan did not take anything for the whole day.

"The royal physician told me that the Sultan had taken only a few morsels of food from Friday to Sunday as he was unable to pay attention to anything save the happenings on the battle-field."

Battle of Hittin:

After a series of fights and forays a hotly-contested battle was fought in the neighbourhood of Tiberias beneath the hills of Hittin, on Saturday, the 24th of Rabi ul-Akhir, 583 a.h., which gave a death-blow to the power of the Crusaders. The victory achieved by the Sultan has been described thus by Lane-Poole:

"The flower of chivalry was taken. The king and his brother, Reginald of Chatillon, Joscelin of Courtenay, Humphrey of Toron, the Masters of the Temple and Hos­pital, and many other nobles were among the prisoners .... The rest of the chivalry of Palestine was under Moslem warders. Of the rank and file, all who were alive were made prisoners. A single Saracen was seen dragging some thirty Christians he had himself taken, tied together with a tent-rope. The dead lay in heaps, like stones upon stones, among broken crosses, severed hands and feet, whilst muti­lated heads strewed the ground like a plentiful crop of melons.

"The field long bore the marks of the bloody fight where '30,000' Christians were said to have fallen. A year afterwards the heaps of bleaching bones could be seen from afar, and the hills and valleys were strewn with the relics of the horrid orgies of wild beasts."

Religious Ardour of the Sultan :

The fateful fight at Hittln came to a close with an incident which is symptomatic of Sultan Salah ud-din's fiery zeal for the religion. This is how Lane-Foole describes it:

"Saladin camped on the field of battle. When, his tent was pitched, he ordered the prisoners to be brought before him. The King of Jerusalem and Reginald of Chatillon he received in his tent; he seated the King near himself, and seeing his thirst, he gave him a cup of water iced in snow. Guy drank and passed the cup to the lord of Karak: but Saladin was visibly annoyed. 'Tell the king,' he said to the interpreter, 'that it was he, not I, that gave that man drink.' The protection of 'bread and salt' was not to baulk his vengeance. Then he rose and confronted Regi­nald, who was still standing: 'Twice have I sworn to kill him; once when he sought to invade the holy cities, and again when he took the caravan by treachery, Lo ! I will avenge Mohammed upon thee!' And he drew his sword and cut him down with his own hand, as he had sworn. The guard finished it and dragged the body out of the tent; and God sped his soul to Hell.

"The King, trembling at the sight, believed his own turn was now coming, but Saladin reassured him : ‘It is not the custom, of kings to slay kings; but that man had transgressed all bounds, so what happened, happened.''!

Ibn Shaddad's version of Reginald of Chatillon's execution adds that Salah ud-din offered him the choice of Islam and on his refusal cut off his head. The Sultan said: "Lo! I avenge Muhammad, (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) upon thee."

Conquest of Jerusalem:

The victory at Hittin was but the prelude to the much coveted conquest of Jerusalem by Sulah ud-din. The intense desire of Salah ud-din for regaining the holy city has been starkly depicted by Ibn Shaddad who says that "the Sultan was so keen for Jerusalem that the hills would have shrunk from bearing the burden he carried in his heart."

On Friday, the 27th of Rajab, 583 a. h., the day of the Prophet's Ascension when he had led the congregational prayer of the earlier prophets in Jerusalem, the Sultan entered the city.

Ibn Shaddad has given a graphic account of this memorable day. He writes:

"It was the victory of victories. A large crowd consist­ing of scholars and the nobles, traders and the laity had gathered on this joyous occasion. A number of people had come from the coastal lands on getting the news of the Sultan's victory, and so had come nearly all the notable theologians from Egypt and Syria to congratulate him on his victory. Hardly any dignitary or any noteworthy personage of the empire was left behind. The joyful shouts of 'God is Great', and 'There is no god but God' rent the skies. After ninety years Friday prayer was again held in Jerusalem. The Cross that glittered on the Dome of the Rock was pulled down. An indescribable event as it was, the blessings and the succour of God were to be witnessed everywhere on the day."' A costly pulpit which had been designed under the orders of Nur ud-din Zangi twenty years ago was brought from Aleppo and erected in the Dome of the Rock.

Benevolence of Salah ud-din :

The forbearance, humanity and magnanimity of Salah ud-din on this occasion was in striking contrast with the brutality of his Christian foes. The Christian biographer of Salah ud-din, Lane Poole, acknowledges that the Sultan's kindness of heart had con­quered his desire for revenge. He writes:

"Never did Saladin show himself greater than during this memorable surrender. His guards, commanded by responsible emirs, kept order in every street, and prevented violence and insult, insomuch that no ill-usage of the Christians was ever heard of. Every exit was in his hands, and a trustee Lord was set over David's gate to receive the ransoms as each citizen came forth."

Then, after describing how the people left in the holy city were ransomed and how al-Malik al-Adil, the brother of the Sultan, the Patriarch and Balian of Ibelin, were each allowed to set free a thousand slaves given by Salah ud-din, Lane-Poole writes:

"Then said Saladin to his officers: 'My brother has made his alms, and the Patriarch and Balian have made theirs; now I would fain make mine.' And he ordered his guards to proclaim throughout the streets of Jerusalem that all the old people who could not pay were free to go forth. And they came forth from the postern of St. Lazarus, and their going lasted from the rising of the sun until night fell. Such was the charity which Saladin did, of poor people without number."

"Thus did the Saracens show mercy to the fallen city. One recalls the savage conquest by the first Crusaders in 1099, when Godfrey and Tancred rode through streets choked with the dead and dying, when defenseless Moslems were tortured, burnt, and shot down in cold blood on the towers and roof of the Temple, when the blood of wanton massacre defiled the honour of Christendom and stained the scene where once the gospel of love and mercy had been preached. 'Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy was a forgotten beatitude when the Chris­tians made shambles of the Holy City. Fortunate were the merciless, for they obtained mercy at the hands of the Moslem Sultan.

"The greatest attribute of Heaven is Mercy;

And it is the crown of justice, and the glory. Where it may kill with right, to save with pily.

“If the taking of Jerusalem were the only fact known about Saladin, it were enough to prove him the most chivalrous and great-hearted conqueror of his own, and perhaps of any, age.”