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Friday Focus – Salah ud Din Ayyubi: Personality Review

Friday Focus – Salah ud Din Ayyubi: Personality Review
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Faraz Ahmed*

When this great Sultan died in 1193, he possessed one piece of gold and forty pieces of silver. He had given away his great wealth to his poor subjects, leaving nothing to pay for his funeral.

Life Span: 55 (1138-1193 AD)


Although well versed in subjects of his time, his deep interest was in study of Islam and specifically “Sciences of Quran”. In addition to Islam, Salah al-Din had a knowledge of the genealogies, biographies, and histories of the Arabs, as well as the bloodlines of Arabian horses. He spoke Kurdish and Arabic.


Asad al-Din Shirkuh, Salahuddin’s uncle was his most influential teacher.

The Legacy:

In the annals of History, rarely do we find a personality who is both revered and feared by his enemies. Salah al-Din or Saladin (as known to the western world) was one such great personality. He is perhaps the most celebrated Muslim soldier since the last of the four rightly guided Caliphs for his iron willed efforts of liberation of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) in 1187. But his legacy includes unification of most of the fractured Muslim territories under one banner and defending Jerusalem from the might of Europe during Third and most bitterly fought Crusade (1188-1191) for the rest of his remaining life which ensured The Holy Land remains to Muslims for the next 730 Years.

Noble Character:

By age 36, Salah al-Din was one of the most powerful people in the world as the leader of Egypt and yet, all the chroniclers of the time, Muslim and Christian, talk about his humility. He never cared about the pleasures of this life and remained focused on his role in the liberation of Muslim lands. It was said that he never laughed in any situation. When confronted about this, he replied “how can I laugh when Masjid al-Aqsa is under the control of the Crusaders?” His advisers that were in charge of the treasury had to hide away a sum of gold from him as a reserve, because if he knew it existed, he would spend it to better his army in the face of the enemy. The people around him used to say that he was very harsh on himself, and very lenient on others, which echoes the character of the first four Rightly Guided Caliphs of Islam. This was the type of character that was needed to liberate Muslim lands.

But his noble characters were at display to the Europeans at the conquest of Jerusalem, when in his magnanimity, he made most generous of terms of surrender to the enemy. He allowed safe passage to its resident to nearest Christian land under his protection, an unusually low ransom for the times (around $50 today) was to be paid for each Frank in the city, whether man, woman, or child, but Salah al-Din, against the wishes of his treasurers, allowed many families who could not afford the ransom to leave. History has seldom seen such a contrast between the chivalry of a conquering hero like Salah al-Din who treated his vanquished foes with generosity and compassion and the savage butchery of the Crusaders when they took Jerusalem in 1099.

Even during the Third Crusade Salah al-Din’s magnanimous behaviour towards King Richard in the battlefield earned him great respect among his foes, in one battle, he noticed that Richard’s horse was killed, so he sent him a horse from the Muslim army because he believed no general should ever have to be without a horse to lead his troops from. When Richard fell ill, Salah al-Din asked about his health and sent fruits and ice to him. The generosity and kindness of Salah al-Din became a legend in Christian Europe among his enemies.

When this great Sultan died in 1193, he possessed one piece of gold and forty pieces of silver. He had given away his great wealth to his poor subjects, leaving nothing to pay for his funeral.

Major Work on Him:

The work of 12th century Historian and Salahuddin’s Biographer Baha ad-Din ibn Shaddad is the major source of information on Salahuddin, which he knew well. Ibn Shaddād was contemporary to the events he writes and it makes his history particularly valuable published in English as The Rare and Excellent History of Saladin.

 *Author is pursuing B.Tech from ZHCET , AMU , Aligarh. He is media advisor of students’ activists group “Students of AMU” at campus.He can be reached at

Disclaimer: Views expressed are exclusively personal and do not necessarily reflect the position of Oracle Opinions.

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