Salah Al-Din, known as Saladin in Western texts was of Kurdish descent. He was the first Ayyubid sultan and at the age of 14 served under the Syrian ruler Nur ud-Din. Salah Al-Din became a notable opponent to the Crusaders in many battles. One excursion was the conquering of the land of the Nile in 1164 which was miscredited to Salah Al-Din. While he was left with the Egyptian lands in his control, he did not play a notable role in the conquering of those lands against the Crusaders.
In 1169, Salah Al-Din served as second in command to his uncle Shirkuh and became vizier of Egypt. Salah Al-Din revitalized the economy of Egypt, and reorganized the military forces in which he started military campaigns against the Crusaders. Salah Al-Din was able to suppress the rulers of Egypt, the Fatimids in 1171 and unite Egypt under the Abbasid Caliphate.

He was still serving under Nur ud-Din, when Nur ud-Din died in 1174. Salah Al-Din then began to expand his stronghold into neighboring areas. He was able to unite Egypt and Syria under his command and then moved west in an attempt to regain that area. Salah Al-Din marched to lake Tiberias in 1187 and set up a plan to reconquer the area. Around 12,000 Frankish troops began to make their way towards Salah Al-Din. However, Salah Al-Din set up a series of ambushes that would slow the Crusaders down and prevent them from reaching the Lake where they could slake their thirst. In this way, Salah Al-Din was able to crush the Crusaders. Soon after, he took Acre and sent his lieutenants into Palestine to reduce the Franj in that area. The most memorable conquests of Salah Al-Din was the recapturing of Jerusalem held by the Crusaders.

The Crusaders were not done yet and a massive amount of Franj began to gather and head towards Acre. This would become one of the most grueling battles between the Muslims and the Franj. Acre was a city that had a port on one side and thus it was easy for the Franj to lay seige. The Muslims and the Crusaders fought for many months but neither side was giving way. In 1191, Richard the Lionheart, arrived and it became obvious that his intention was to succumb Acre. Salah Al-Din gave up any hope of help and surrendered. One of the longest and gruesomest battles was over, yet while Salah Al-Din had previously released any prisoners he held, King Richard had 3000 inhabitants of Acre killed. Salah Al-Din was able to reach a peace agreement with the Lionheart for five years. In early March in 1193, Salah Al-Din became seriously ill and soon died in his bed surrounded by his family. A great leader of Islam and mis-represented in the Western world was layed to rest, yet his legacy lives on in the Arab world today and in the Islamic community as well.


Maalouf, Amin. The Crusades Through Arab Eyes. Translated by Jon Rothschild, 1984. Al Saqi Books, 26 Wetbourne Grove, London W2.