Hadrat Sultan Salah ad-Din Abu al-Afdal
Yusuf ibn al-Ayyub Radi Allahu Ta'ala Anho
Sultan SalāH ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb was a Kurdish Muslim who became the Sultan of Egypt and Syria. He led Islamic opposition to the Franks and other European Crusaders in the Levant. At the height of his power, he ruled over Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, Hijaz, and Yemen. He led the Muslims against the Crusaders and eventually recaptured Palestine from the Kingdom of Jerusalem after his victory in the Battle of Hattin. As such, he is a notable figure in Kurdish, Arab, Persian, Turkish and Muslim culture. Hadrat Sultan Salahuddin Ayyubi was a strict practitioner of Islam. His chivalrous behavior was noted by Christian chroniclers, especially in the accounts of the siege of Kerak in Moab, and despite being the nemesis of the Crusaders he won the respect of many of them, including Richard the Lionheart; rather than becoming a hated figure in Europe, he became a celebrated example of the principles of chivalry.
Sultan Salahuddin Ayyubi was born in the year 532 AH/1137 CE in Tekrit on the West Bank of the Tigris between Mosul and Baghdad, loved dearly by his father, Ayyub. His family was of Kurdish background and ancestry, and had originated from the city of Dvin, in medieval Armenia. His father, Najm ad-Din Ayyub, was banished from Tikrit and in 1139, he and his brother Asad al-Din Shirkuh, moved to Mosul. He later joined the service of Imad ad-Din Zangi who made him commander of his fortress in Baalbek. After the death of Zangi in 1146, his son, Nur ad-Din, became the regent of Aleppo and the leader of the Zengids.
Salahuddin Ayyubi, who now lived in Damascus, was reported to have a particular fondness of the city, but information on his early childhood is scarce. About education, Salahuddin Ayyubi wrote
"Children are brought up in the way in which their elders were brought up."
According to one of his biographers, al-Wahrani, Salahuddin Ayyubi was able to answer questions on Euclid, the Almagest, arithmetic, and law, but this was an academic ideal and it was study of the Qur'an and the "Sciences of Religion" that linked him to his contemporaries. Several sources claim that during his studies he was more interested in religion than joining the military. Another factor which may have affected his interest in religion was that during the First Crusade, Jerusalem was taken in a surprise attack by the Christians. In addition to Islam, Salahuddin Ayyubi had a knowledge of the genealogies, biographies, and histories of the Arabs, as well as the bloodlines of Arabian horses. More significantly, he knew the Hamasah of Abu Tammam by heart.
According to Imad al-Din, Salahuddin Ayyubi had fathered five sons before he left Egypt in 1174. There are no known details about most of the wives and slaves who bore him children. Salahuddin Ayyubi's eldest son, al-Afdal was born in 1170 and Uthman was born in 1172 to Shamsa who accompanied Salahuddin Ayyubi to Syria. Al-Afdal's mother bore Salahuddin Ayyubi another child in 1177. A letter preserved by Qalqashandi records that a twelfth son was born in May 1178, while on Imad al-Din's list, he appears as Salahuddin Ayyubi's seventh son. Mas'ud was born in 1175 and Yaq'ub in 1176, the latter to Shamsa. Nur al-Din's widow, Ismat al-Din Khatun, remarried to Salahuddin Ayyubi in September 1176. Ghazi and Da'ud were born to the same mother in 1173 and 1178, respectively, and the mother of Ishaq who was born in 1174 also gave birth to another son in July 1182.
“No sooner did he assume the overlordship of Egypt the world and its pleasures lost all significance in his eyes”, says ibn Shaddad the Qadi of his army. He renounced the temptations of pleasure and took to a life of sweat and toil, which increased day by day until Allah summoned him to his Mercy. Such are the words of Allah:
“Perhaps you hate a thing while it is good for you and you may love a thing while it is bad for you.”
“When Allah gave me the land of Egypt with so little trouble, I knew that he meant for me the blessed land also, for He Himself implanted the thought in my heart”, said Salahuddin. He soon had the satisfaction of seeing his administration respected and order established in all aspects. He generously spent on the people from the money the Fatimids had been storing up in the palace walls, won the hearts of his people, and brought the faction-ridden country under obedience and his rule. He took great pains to establish the Sunnah more firmly in Egypt with the aid of the 'Ulama.
People came to visit him from every walk of life and flocked to his court from all parts. He never disappointed the hopes of visitors nor allowed them to depart with empty hands. When the crusaders heard that Salahuddin was ruling successfully they were convinced that he would soon overtake them, lay waste their usurped dwellings and wipe away all traces of their rule. This would most probably have happened but Salahuddin had one substantial obstacle - the disunity of the Muslims. They had immense riches and natural strength in the region and spent most of their time fighting each other rather than the real enemy. It took Salahuddin 18 years to get the attention of the Muslims in order to liberate Muslim lands. During that time Muslims were barely holding out in Egypt and Syria. Yet slowly, Salahuddin as example through persuasion, teaching, time and understanding worked to unite the Muslims. Kurds, Turks, Arabs and Egyptians - they were all Muslims and his servants when he called, Lane writes. “In spite of their differences of race, their national jealousies he had kept them together”
When Salahuddin had finally united the hearts in the core lands of Islam, virtually all the blessed lands returned to Muslim hands within five months. By Friday 27th Rajab/2nd October 1187 C.E. the Muslims were knocking on the door of al-Aqsa Masjid. Allah allowed the Muslims to take the city as a celebration on the anniversary of the Me'raj Sharif, the Prophet Ascension into heaven. Truly, this was a sign that this deed was pleasing to Almighty Allah. “It was a victory of victories, recalls ibn Shaddad. “A testimony of faith to a multitude of people, scholars, noblemen, merchants and masses who were brought there by the news of Salahuddins victories and success in the lands of the Mediterranean coast. All the Ulama came to join Salahuddin, both from Egypt and Syria. There was not a single well-known dignitary but he had come. The joyful shouts of “Allahu Akbar” and “La Ilaha Illallah” reached to the skies. After 90 years Friday prayers were again held in Jerusalem. A huge cross that glittered on the Dome of the Rock was thrown down. It was an indescribable event, the joy of the blessings and the victory of Allah were to be witnessed everywhere on that day.
The non-Muslims of Jerusalem asked for mercy and he gave it. Every man, woman and child was allowed to ransom themselves for a paltry price. He kept order in every street and refused to allow the People of the Book to be verbally abused, much less molested. What a far cry from the victorious Christians of 1099 (and the 1980s) who killed, tortured, shot in cold blood and burnt defenseless Muslims in the streets of Al-Aqsa. “Fortunate were the merciless because they obtained mercy at the hands of the Muslim Sultan”, said Lane. Salahuddin said: “Well, when by Allahs help not one crusader is left on this coast, I intend to divide my territories and to change the successors with my last commands, then, having taken leave from them, I will sail on this sea to its lands across the water until there shall not remain on the face of this earth one unbeliever in Allah or I will die in this attempt”
Letter from Sultan Salah ad-Din to the Muslim Ummah
Following is a letter written by Sultan Salah ad-Din Ayyubi when he started his Jihad against the crusaders more than 9 centuries ago:
"We hope in Allah most high, to whom be praise, who leads the hearts of Muslims to calm what torments them and ruins their prosperity.
Where is the sense of honor of Muslims? The pride of Believers? The Zeal of the Faithful?
We shall never cease to be amazed at how the disbelievers for their part have shown trusts, and it is the Muslims who have been lacking in zeal. Not one of them has responded to the call. Not one intervenes to straighten what is distorted; but observe how far the Franks have gone what unity they have achieved. What aims they pursue. What help they have given. What sums of money they have borrowed and spent. What wealth they have collected and distributed and divided amongst them. There is not a King left in their lands or islands, not a lord or a rich man who has not competed with his neighbors to produce more support and rival his peers in strenuous military efforts. In defense of their religion they consider it a small thing to spend life and soul; and they have kept their infidel brothers supplied with arms and champions of war; and all they have done and all their generosity has been purely out of zeal for him they worship in jealous defense of their faith.
The Muslims on the other hand are weak and demoralized; they have become negligent and lazy, the victims of unproductive stupefaction and completely lacking in enthusiasm. If , Allah forbid, Islam should draw rein, obscure her splendor, blunt her sword, there would be no one, east or west, far or near who would blaze the zeal for Allah's religion, or choose to come to the aid of truth against error.
This is the moment to cast off laziness, to summon from far and near all those men who have blood in their veins; but we are confident (he speaks about himself and the small party of believers who began with him and then became a large party); but we are confident, thanks to Allah -Alhamdulillah- in the Help that will come from him and entrust ourselves to him in sincerity of purpose and deepest devotion.
In sha Allah, the disbelievers shall perish and the faithful have a sure deliverance."
— Salahuddin Ayyubi 12 CE
“After I die, you will see these Muslims fall apart in disunity, and you will see the Europeans grow strong. The best thing to do for now is to continue the fight until we drive them from the Coast (of Palestine) or die.”
These are the Ominous words of Sultan Salah ad-Din about our Ummah. Salahuddin Ayyubi stated this after King Richard of England proposed that Salahuddin Ayyubi's brother, Sayf ad-Dîn (popularly known as “Safadin” in the West), should marry his siter Joanna. So admirable was Salahuddin Ayyubi’s character that his worst enemy who had traveled over 2000 miles to eliminate him, ended up offering his own sister to his family. This is the result of Perfect Islâmic “Ikhlâq” and “’Adab”.
Also, Salahuddin Ayyubi stated in regards to the troubles he endured uniting the entire Muslim world under one banner:
“I do not know what will happen to me, if Allâh wills that the enemy should grow strong. They have established a base from which they can retrieve other lands. you will see these Muslim leaders sitting at the tops of their grandiose towers saying, ‘I shall not come down,’ until the Muslim world will be destroyed.”
How did Salahuddin Ayyubi destroy his enemies, drive the Franks from Jerusalem and most of Palestine, and be written of so well by the European historians whose people he defeated? This is how:
“On July 3 Salâh ad-Dîn performed the Friday prayer in the Mosque of al-Aqsa, He was seen prostrating and repeating his prayers over and over again as his tears soaked the prayer mat.”
On February 20, 1193, Salahuddin Ayyubi rode out to meet the Pilgrims returning from the Hajj in Makkah al-Mukarrama. He had longed to perform the Hajj his entire life, but the constant Jihâd did not allow such. That night he fell ill and broke out into a tempestuous fever. On the fourth day of his illness they had him bled, which was a tradition of the Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah be Upon him). Salahuddin Ayyubi would not stop sweating. On the ninth day of his illness he stopped taking liquids. By March 3 on the eleventh day of his illness, Salahuddin Ayyubi had sweat so much that the bed was soaked and the floor stained. The scholars who witnessed this testified to it being a match to the description of a good death in the Sunnah.
On the morning of March 4, 1193, the Imâm Abû Ja’far was reciting from the Qur’ân as Salahuddin Ayyubi’s son al-Afdal, and his friend and administrator al-Fâdil, as well as others looked on. As the Imâm reached following verse of Sûrat at-Tawbah, the Qur’ânic chapter most associated with Jihâd:
حسبي الله لا إله إلا هو عليه توكلت وهو رب العرش العظيم
“Allah suffices me; there is no worship except for Him; only Him have I trusted, and He is the Lord Of The Great Throne.”
Hadrat Salahuddin Ayyubi smiled from ear to ear, and breathed his last. Since Salahuddin Ayyubi had given most of his money away for charity when they opened his treasury, they found there was not enough money to pay for his funeral. And so Salahuddin Ayyubi was buried in a magnificent mausoleum in the garden outside the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria.