Why did Saladin show kindness to Richard I?

Why did Saladin show kindness to Richard I?

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Why did Saladin, when Richard the Lionhearted was sick with a fever, send him a gift of fruit? Or when Richard's horse was killed in battle, he sent a steed to be led to his camp?

Saladin was an unusual man who tried to win the "hearts and minds" of people he conquered.

When he reclaimed Jerusalem, he ordered his men NOT to kill and plunder (in contrast even to the crusaders).

When he ruled Cairo, Egypt, he built hospitals and universities for the city, even though he had to take harsh measures against the leaders of his former enemies.

In his dealings with the Crusaders, he allowed them to "save face" by permitting Christian pilgrimages to Jerusalem, even though he controlled the city. In an era when chivalry was just developing in Europe, Saladin won the reputation of being exceptionally "chivalrous." He and Richard I each became the other's "favorite" opponent.

Assuming this truly did happen, there are a couple of reasons that might explain why. First of all, Saladin was Muslim, and one of the of the main principles of Islam is that Muslims should help those in need. Secondly, Saladin could use this as an opportunity to send men into Richard's camp and report back on the condition and size of Richard's army, thereby giving Saladin a strategic advantage.

I believe Saladin showed kindness to Richard the Lionheart not because of religion or to spy, though that is a distinct possibility, but because of Saladin's respect towards Richard, even though they were enemies. This respect of an enemy is common throughout history, though not expressed like Saladin with gifts. Julius Caesar had respect for Pompey, Hannibal for Scipio Africanus, Genghis Khan towards Jelaudin, even in world war one there was a deep respect between Australia and the Turkish.

Richard and Saladin: Warriors of the Third Crusade

The overarching goal of the Third Crusade, which began in 1189, was to reclaim Jerusalem from the Muslims. Although the Christian crusaders would ultimately fail at their goal of re-establishing their hold on the Holy Land, many of the qualities of two historically famous figures emerge from the conflict. Although they were never to meet each other, King Richard I (the Lionhearted) of England and Salah ad-Din (Saladin) were the most dominant figures during this crusade, and the opposition and proximity of these two adversaries invites both comparison and contrast. Many Christian and Muslim contemporaries admired and respected both men, who in many ways were described in quite similar terms, and they described the characteristics of both Richard and Saladin in detailed sources. This may be why the legacies of both men live on to this day. We learn a great deal about Richard and Saladin from these sources, and we also gain insight into why both are often considered chivalrous warriors, as well as why Saladin has also become an embodiment of the Muslim concept of jihad.

It is important to first consider the historical events that preceded and surrounded the Third Crusade. Pope Urban II launched the First Crusade in 1095 when he called for Christians to free Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the control of the Muslims. This crusade "appealed to people from almost every level of society right across Christian Europe", so there was a very large response to this papal call to arms, and the crusade proved to be very successful. 1 The First Crusade was to be the only one that would accomplish its stated goal, and four different crusader states were established: the County of Edessa, the Principality of Antioch, the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and the County of Tripoli. Following their great success, many of the crusaders "returned to the West as heroes, fêted for their achievements". 2 Thus, the First Crusade set a precedent of success, and in many ways successive crusades began as a reaction to losses from the gains of the First Crusade. Pope Eugenius III issued a papal bull calling for the Second Crusade in 1145 in response to the fall of the County of Edessa to Muslims. This crusade had two major components: one was centered in the West in Spain, while the other, composed mostly of German and French soldiers, journeyed to the Baltic region in the East, eventually failing in a siege of Damascus. Although there was some success and progress made on the Iberian Peninsula, "the lack of success in the Baltic and the despair and anger engendered by the defeat of the main armies cast a shadow over crusading for many years". 3 It would be approximately forty years before the Third Crusade would begin.

Before relating the major events of the Third Crusade, the backgrounds of both Richard and Saladin must first be examined, especially since Saladin is so directly related to the precipitating events of the crusade. Richard was born in 1157 and was the third son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. He spent much of his youth in Aquitaine, where his mother "imbued Richard with her special code of courtly love". 4 As Richard grew older, he was defiant of his father. Richard was the Duke of Aquitaine, but this title carried no real power, and since he wanted more, he made a pact with the King of France. Despite the rebelliousness of his son, Henry II eventually forgave Richard, and it was after this point that Henry vested Richard with "the power and authority to subdue the rebellious barons of Aquitaine and Gascony and to confiscate the lands of any barons who resisted him", allowing Richard to hone his military skill. 5 Shortly after his father's death in 1189, Richard succeeded Henry as King of England, Duke of Normandy, and Count of Anjou, and he would soon prepare to set out on the Third Crusade.

Saladin was born into a Kurdish family in 1137 at Tikreet, and he grew up in Baalbek and Damascus. It is sometimes argued that Saladin learned from his education in Damascus to "walk in the path of righteousness, to act virtuously, and to be zealous in waging war against infidels". 6 He began his rise to power in Egypt, where he succeeded his uncle's command, serving Nur ad-Din, the lord of Syria centered in Damascus. Despite differences between the two men, following Nur ad-Din's death in 1174, Saladin was able to take control of Syria, and he was pronounced sultan of both Egypt and Syria, ending a division between the two that had lasted centuries. 7 This produced a united Arab front against the Christians and led to the events directly preceding the Third Crusade: the Frankish defeat at the Battle of Hattin and the fall of Jerusalem in 1187.

Similarly to the Second Crusade, the Third Crusade was also a response to losses in the East – this time from the defeat at Hattin and the capture of Jerusalem. Following these disasters, Pope Gregory VIII made an appeal for aid in the Holy Land. Frederick Barbarossa, the Holy Roman Emperor, set out for the East in 1189, but he died before he could reach the Holy Land, which was a severe loss for the Europeans near the very beginning of the Third Crusade. 8 The two most significant remaining leaders to set out on crusade from the West were Richard of England and Philip of France, who set out by sea separately in 1191. Richard stopped at Cyprus on his way to the Holy Land and conquered the island before meeting up with Philip at the siege of Acre on 8 June 1191. Saladin was unable to break the Christians' blockade, and the city fell to the crusading kings in a little over a month, after which Philip departed to return to the West and Richard turned south toward Jaffa. 9

Before setting out for Jaffa, Richard killed the Muslim captives that he had because he felt that Saladin was not honoring the terms of Acre's surrender. During the march on 7 September 1191, Saladin attacked the crusaders on the plains of Arsuf near Jaffa, but he suffered a heavy loss. Richard was then able to take Jaffa, and he then spent some time consolidating his gains. He decided that he had to return home the following spring because he had word of intrigue between his brother John and King Philip back home. Saladin decided to try and retake Jaffa, but Richard was able to defeat Saladin once again. Because of Richard's need for departure and because the resources of both Richard and Saladin were very low, they reached a three-year truce on 2 September 1192, in which the Christians had to give up a small portion of their gains and Christian pilgrims would be allowed to enter Jerusalem. 10 Richard soon departed the Holy Land on 9 October 1192, never to return, and Saladin died a few months later on 4 March 1193. The Third Crusade failed in its goal to recapture Jerusalem, but it did secure the coastline from Jaffa to Tyre, creating a point from which future crusades could be launched. 11

The preceding sketch of the occurrences of the Third Crusade sets the scene to examine the characteristics and actions of Richard and Saladin in greater detail. Both Richard and Saladin were successful generals Richard's successes not only at the siege of Acre but also during the Battle of Arsuf testify to this, as do Saladin's victories when first taking Acre and during the Battle of Hattin. Richard, for example, showed an appreciation of wider strategy in acknowledging the role of Egypt, and he also realized that although he and the other crusaders might be able to recapture the city of Jerusalem, that it would be very difficult to defend the city. 12 This understanding of strategy allowed Richard to realize that the combination of Saladin's dual control of Egypt and Syria allowed him to in effect surround the crusader states, while in the case of Jerusalem, many of the crusaders would want to return home after completing their objective of retaking the city. As a general, Saladin made "himself known to the rank and file of the soldiers in his army, creating bonds of loyalty and solidarity and enhancing corporate morale", important factors in waging battle. 13 Saladin was also a general whose "presence could snatch victory from the jaws of defeat" such as during his conquest of Acre when Ibn Shaddad writes that he "'stood firm with a handful of men until he was able to withdraw all his men to the hill and then lead them down into battle again, shaming them into turning and fighting." 14 Thus, Saladin was able to spur on his troops to victory even in the face of defeat.

Both Richard and Saladin were also capable of the slaughter of a great number of prisoners. Richard was "capable on occasion of extreme severity towards prisoners", such as when he had "many Muslim prisoners killed at Acre", perhaps numbering as many as 3,000. 15 Prior to Richard's recapture of Acre, Saladin had made sure that "Templars and Hospitallers were. executed" after the Battle of Hattin, using his victory as an "opportunity to rid himself of his most feared opponents." 16 Richard and Saladin are likely to have executed their prisoners for pragmatic and militaristic reasons – neither of the two men wanted to face the prisoners of the opposite side again in battle. After Acre, Saladin delayed in living up to the terms of his treaty with Richard in an attempt to keep "the king hanging on for a long time". 17 Bahā' ad-Din notes that "the English King saw that Saladin delayed in carrying out the terms of the treaty", confirming Saladin's delay in a Muslim source. 18 This suggests that it was to Richard's advantage to depart and to Saladin's advantage to delay, and rather than delaying or leaving men behind to guard the prisoners, Richard found it to his military advantage to kill the prisoners and move southward with his army.

Primary sources provide a great deal of evidence that corroborates many of the specific details of the Third Crusade. In fact, one of the only major differences within several of the sources deals with issues of the descriptions and portrayals of Richard and Saladin themselves. The Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi portrays Saladin in a much different way than does Ambroise in his The Crusade of Richard Lion-Heart even though both are sources originating from Englishmen. In the Itinerarium Saladin is a figure with many negative qualities for much of the work, up until the point at which he and Richard conclude the three-year truce in 1192. According the author of the Itinerarium, Saladin "treacherously killed. unsuspecting men" to gain lordship in Egypt, rising to a "ruler from a slave", and it was only good fortune that allowed a "pimp, who had. an army in taverns. [to be] suddenly raised up high."19 Thus, the author does not have a very high opinion of the origins of Saladin or the means through which he came to power. 19

During the account of the Third Crusade itself, there is also a negative portrayal of Saladin in the Itinerarium. He is presented as a cruel man who had Christians slaughtered, wounded, and thrown into chains and had many prominent Christians (such as Templars and the prince of Antioch) beheaded. 20 There is also an incident in which Saladin is boasting and bragging in front of some Christians. One of them retorts that God is using Saladin for God's own purpose, "'just as a worldly father sometimes when he is enraged grabs a filthy stick from the mud with which to beat his erring sons, and then throws it back into the dungpit from which he took it.'" 21 Saladin is portrayed in a very negative light during this episode. Later, the author of the Itinerarium writes that Saladin is a "timid creature, like a frightened hare." 22 There are many other examples such as these of disparaging comments and a negative portrayal of Saladin.

Following the conclusion of his truce with Richard, however, Saladin seems to become a different person in the Itinerarium. Not only do Richard and Saladin converse amicably through messengers, but Saladin also shows Hubert Walter, bishop of Salisbury "much honor and fulfilled all his requests" when the bishop visits Jerusalem. 23 Saladin proves to be a very good host to this bishop from England. Saladin "enjoin[s] his servants to show the bishop and his people every kindness." 24 Does this seem to be the same person described above? Hubert even tells Saladin that if there were any way in which to combine "[Saladin's] virtues with those of King Richard, and share them out between [them] so that both. were furnished with the abilities of both, two such princes could not be found in the whole globe." 25 It may be difficult to believe that mixing the positive qualities of a man who was described as a "filthy stick" and a "timid creature" with those of Richard would create such a magnificent ruler. The Itinerarium's description of Saladin becomes much more positive and essentially the direct opposite of what it had been prior to the truce between Richard and Saladin.

Ambroise's description of Saladin in his Crusade is much more balanced throughout the work, although his view of Saladin is definitely not always positive. At one moment, Saladin is an intelligent Saracen, while soon thereafter he comes "himself to wreak / The vengeance swift he coveted / And cut off every Christian head." 26 Ambroise once again expresses a negative view of him following the siege of Acre because Saladin's delay in abiding by the terms of the treaty following the siege of Acre. Ambroise writes that he was "false and recreant therein, / Failing to ransom or recover / The men whom he to death gave over", placing sole responsibility of the Muslim prisoners' death at Richard's hands upon Saladin. 27 Despite this, however, Ambroise will later describe Saladin as the "brave and generous Saracen", shifting back to a positive portrayal. 28 Ambroise is also impressed with Saladin's actions following the truce in 1192. He also describes the way in which Saladin honors the safe-conduct of Christian pilgrims and even honors them, as well as the way in which he courteously receives Hubert Walter. 29 Similarly to the Itinerarium, there is both praise and disparagement in Ambroise's work, but yet with Ambroise it is dispersed throughout. Also, there do not seem to be quite so many negative comments, and such comments do not seem quite as severe as those found in the Itinerarium.

Interestingly, within the Crusade Ambroise relates an episode similar to the stick of God analogy in the Itinerarium. According to Ambroise, Saladin's victories "[w]ere won because through him God chose / To work, and through his work bring those / His people who had gone astray / Back once more to the righteous way." 30 In both this and the stick of God analogy Saladin is equated with Christian punishment originating directly from God. This is perhaps the only explanation that Christians can come up with for why God would allow the Christians to be removed from Jerusalem. After all, according to the Christian view, God wants Christians to hold the city. Saladin's role as punisher may partially explain his dichotomous portrayal within these two Christian primary sources. On the one hand, there is a figure that represents and is responsible for displacing the Christians from Jerusalem, but on the other there is a figure with many positive characteristics. Although many of these characteristics come through in the works, Saladin is still the enemy and still a powerful figure who believes in an opposing faith. Following the conclusion of the truce with Richard, Saladin becomes less of a threat and less of an enemy, and he is viewed a great deal more positively. Of course, some of the negativity surrounding Saladin might also be attributed to biases on the parts of the Christian authors, especially since it can be argued that Richard is in effect the hero of their works.

If the Itinerarium and Ambroise's Crusade seem somewhat confused in their portrayal of Saladin, they are very clear and almost completely positive in their descriptions of Richard, noting many positive characteristics. According to the Itinerarium, Richard is generous and "delighted all his subjects with his actions and his incomparable superiority." 31 Richard is also compared to the heroes of classical works, as well as to Roland. He has "the valour of Hector, the heroism of Achillies, he was not inferior to Alexander, nor less valiant than Roland[, and]. he easily surpassed in many respects the most praiseworthy figures" of the time. 32 In this source, there seems to be no limit to Richard's excellence. After all, his "magnificent deeds overshadowed all others, no matter how glorious." 33 Ambroise also describes Richard in very positive terms in his Crusade. According to Ambroise, "the whole world o'er / There was no mightier warrior" than Richard. 34 At one point, Richard does "a noble thing / His heart to good was swift to spring." 35 Similarly to the Itinerarium, Richard is described as a very good and noble figure.

Considering the previous descriptions of Richard in the Itinerarium and the Crusade, it might seem that Richard was considered to be perfect within both of these Christian sources. Although this is very nearly the case, they both are at least somewhat critical of Richard's rashness. In the Itinerarium, there is a description of a time in which Saladin's men almost capture Richard in an ambush because he is traveling nearly unaccompanied. Directly following this episode, some of Richard's household "scolded him over his frequent recklessness and cautioned him against such behavior." 36 In the Crusade, Ambroise also mentions this (although not in such strong terms) when he writes that "worthy men great effort spent / Counseling him to mend his way" in which "he flung himself into the fight." 37 Although Richard's recklessness is definitely described to be a negative characteristic, the author of the Itinerarium tries to somewhat explain or rationalize this behavior when he states that if anyone should think that Richard "could be accused of rash actions, [that person] should know that he had an unconquerable spirit, could not bear insult or injury, and his innate noble spirit compelled him to seek his due rights" so that he "may not unreasonably be excused." 38 Although both sources describe Richard's rashness as a negative characteristic, neither source wants to make too much of it.

Muslim sources seem to agree with this generally positive assessment of Richard. In fact, many Muslim authors shower "warm praise. on Richard the Lionheart." 39 One Arab historian named Ibn al-Athir writes that Richard "'was the man of his age as regards courage, shrewdness, endurance, and forbearance and because of him the Muslims were sorely tested by unprecedented disaster.'" 40 This is quite a long list of positive characteristics, and stating that Richard was the "man of his age" might even suggest that he was even stronger than Saladin in these characteristics. Although there might be some hints of equality in the Christian sources (such as when Hubert Walter comments in the Itinerarium that anyone that possessed a combination of Richard and Saladin's qualities would also possess unparalleled magnificence), there does not seem to be anything to suggest that Saladin might in some way actually be better than Richard.

Bahā' al-Dín also describes many positive characteristics of Richard. For example, he writes that Richard was "courageous, energetic, and daring in combat. renowned as a warrior." 41 This is similar to some of the positive descriptions of Richard in the Christian sources previously mentioned. Perhaps the same author (despite the small difference in spelling), Bahā' al-Dín describes the "king of England [as] a very powerful man among the Franks, a man of great courage and spirit" and says that although "his kingdom and standing were inferior to the French king [Philip]. his wealth, reputation, and valour were greater." 42 Similarly to the Christian sources, Richard is placed above his peers in many qualities. A little later, Bahā' al-Dín continues by saying that "the king [Richard] was indeed a man of wisdom, experience, courage, and energy. [and] his arrival put fear into the hearts of Muslims", further complimenting Richard. 43 Although this author also mentions Richard's execution of his Muslim captives after Acre and says that Richard broke his word, he also offers some explanations for why Richard may have done so as opposed to placing too much blame upon him. One reason Bahā' al-Dín mentions is that it was an act of "reprisal for their [the Christians] own prisoners killed before then by the Muslims", while another is that Richard "did not want to leave behind him in the city a large number (of enemy soldiers)." 44 Bahā' al-Dín often praises and describes Richard's positive characteristics, but when he has the opportunity to deride Richard for a cruel act, he chooses not to do so and instead offers explanations for why a man that he had described as wise and valorous had performed such an act.

Muslim sources describe the positive characteristics of Richard in much the same way that Christian sources do, but how do they describe Saladin? Much of what they have to say is positive. Bahā' al-Dín wrote a biography of Saladin, and it provides a great deal of information about his character, tending toward a balanced view. Saladin's faith seems to be of prime importance, since the section dealing with this topic is the first to appear in the biography. A ruler of "firm faith", Saladin "venerated deeply the laws of the Faith." 45 Despite this, however, Bahā' al-Dín feels the need to defend Saladin's faith because there were some problems with it. One example is that Saladin did not go on the "Pilgrimage" and missed some ramadāns, seemingly due to illness. 46 In other areas, Saladin seems to have greatly excelled, however. He was a very just ruler, "just, benign, merciful, [and] quick to help the weak against the strong." 47 When he dispensed justice, Saladin "listened to the litigants, for all had access to him, great and small, old, hale, and sick." 48 Saladin is also noted for his courage and steadfastness. To demonstrate these qualities, Bahā' al-Dín writes that "Saladin was indeed one of the most courageous of men brave gallant, firm, [and] intrepid in any circumstance." 49 In addition to these, there are also many other examples of respect and praise for Saladin's qualities in the passages of Bahā' al-Dín's biography.

Although there is this respect and praise for Saladin, there is also criticism. Ibn al-Athir writes that Saladin "never evinced real firmness in his decisions" and that when he laid siege to a city, "if the defenders resisted for some time, he would give up and abandon the siege. [which is why] it is his fault that the Muslims suffered a setback at the walls of that city [Tyre]." 50 This is a criticism of stratagem that is not found of Richard in either the Itinerarium or Ambroise's Crusade. But the criticism does not end here. Ibn al-Athir also criticizes the way in which after he had seized the strongholds at Acre, Ascalon, and Jerusalem, Saladin had "allowed the enemy soldiers and knights to seek refuge in Tyre", making the city "virtually impregnable." 51 Again, Saladin's strategy and decisions are questioned. It is likely that much of this has to do with the way in which Saladin kept losing battles with Richard, such as at Acre and Arsuf, even though the overarching confrontation between the two figures ended in a truce. Saladin's major military accomplishments were all won prior to the beginning of the Third Crusade during the crusade he made mistakes, while Richard won victories.

Despite their differences in faith, as well as other individual differences between Richard and Saladin, both have shared a legacy in that they have been considered exemplars of chivalry. In his book about William Marshal, an exemplar of chivalry, Georges Duby defines and discusses chivalric obligations, and he identifies four primary obligations centering on loyalty, proper conduct as a warrior, courtoisie (courtesy), and largesse (generosity). 52 According to Duby loyalty obliged a chivalric knight to keep his word and not to betray his sworn faith, proper conduct involved valor and victory in battle while still conforming to certain rules and remaining honorable, courtesy compelled chivalric knights to treat ladies a certain way, and generosity is what established social distinction. 53 There is no real mention of either Richard or Saladin acting courteously in the sources previously mentioned, and there is little mention of loyalty. One Muslim source does make it seem as though Richard had only been able to secure surrender from the Muslims at Acre after promising to spare them their lives, but as previously mentioned, the actual reasons behind Richard's execution of his prisoners, as well as what exactly happened, can be and is contested. 54 This possible disloyalty can also be countered with a rousing speech that appears in the Itinerarium regarding Richard's loyalty to his "beloved companions" in which he says that if he does not bring them the aid that he has promised them, then he should "never again usurp the name of king", making loyalty appear central to Richard and his authority. 55

If there is so little mention of loyalty and no mention of courtesy in these sources, how could Richard and Saladin be considered chivalric based on their actions during the Third Crusade? Although these sources contain hardly any information about Richard and Saladin's loyalty and courtesy, they provide quite a few references to their conduct as warriors and their generosity. Personal valor is emphasized in the case of both Richard and Saladin. The author of the Itinerarium describes the way in which Richard "pursued the Turks with singular ferocity. [and] no one escaped when his sword made contact with them wherever he want his brandished sword cleared a wide path on all sides", and Saladin is said to comment later in the account that Richard is a king "who is endowed with. great valour" in battle. 56 Ambroise writes that Richard, "[w]ith his sword of steel in hand. charged full tilt upon the foe / And harried them most fiercely", while Bahā' al-Dín remarks about Richard's renown as a warrior. 57 Richard's valor and standing as a warrior is questioned neither in Christian nor Muslim sources.

There is also a focus on Saladin's conduct as a warrior and his personal valor. According to Bahā' al-Dín, he "never saw [Saladin] find the enemy too numerous or too powerful", and he uses Saladin's actions and thinking at Acre as an example, even though the battle ultimately ended in a loss for the Muslims. 58 At the fall of Acre, "every time [Saladin] looked toward Acre and saw the agony she was in and the disaster looming for her inhabitants, he launched himself once more into the attack and goaded his men on to fight." 59 In this instance, Saladin displays personal valor (and leadership), even in the face of defeat. In the Christian sources, Ambroise mentions Saladin's bravery. 60 Although Saladin's conduct as a warrior and his personal valor are not quite as pronounced in these sources as Richard's (probably as a result of his losses during the Third Crusade), there are still quite a few references to Saladin's ability as a warrior.

There are also references to the generosity necessary for a chivalric knight in the descriptions of both Richard and Saladin in these sources. One example lies in the Itinerarium, where Richard is said to have been conferred with "a generous character. which seemed rather to belong to an earlier age." 61 Ambroise also mentions Richard's "largesse" in his work. 62 To describe Saladin's generosity, Bahā' al-Dín describes the way that Saladin "used to give away whole provinces", that he was "as generous when he was poor as when he was rich, and [that] his treasurers kept certain reserves concealed from him for fear that some financial emergency might arise." 63 This is generosity at its utmost. As an example from a Christian source, Ambroise also describes Saladin as "generous". 64

Although there are examples in these sources establishing Saladin as the kind of person who could be considered a chivalric figure at a later point in time, it seems as though Richard is set up as a chivalric figure within the Christian sources right away. For example, he is described as "the flower of virtue and the crown of knighthood." 65 Such consideration as a superior knight required that the knight be chivalrous. After describing an event in which Richard was nearly captured, he writes that Richard was able to avoid capture because "he fought with such dauntless will / And did such deed of gallantry, / He and his men of chivalry". 66 It is here that Richard's connection with chivalry is the most direct within these sources. Even though Saladin is not as directly connected as Richard within these primary sources, both are portrayed in later works as chivalric figures. Richard, who was to "become the very epitome of chivalry" and "one of the most romantic figures of all of English history", was featured in chivalric works along with Saladin, his enemy. 67 Saladin became a "central figure in thirteenth-century chivalric works" and an "exemplar of chivalric behaviour." 68 This is especially interesting in that Saladin was a Muslim and chivalry was so tied in with Christian knighthood, but there is evidence within the primary sources that Saladin actually did possess qualities of chivalric virtue, as was previously argued.

In addition to Saladin's chivalric qualities, his zeal for jihad in the form of Holy War is also important to Saladin and his legacy. According to Bahā' al-Dín, the "Holy War and the suffering involved in it weighed heavily on Saladin's heart and his whole being". 69 This makes it seem as though Saladin had an internal personal struggle with the concept, and it also almost seems as if the idea of Holy War consumed Saladin. There is no similar evidence of any sort of deep, personal religiousness in Richard's case. Saladin "spoke of nothing else [other than Holy War]. [and] had little sympathy with anyone else who spoke of anything else or encouraged any other activity." 70 It is possible that Bahā' al-Dín is attempting to make it seem that Saladin was more concerned with Holy War than he was in reality. If Saladin was really so single-minded as to say that "when God grants [him] victory over Palestine. [he would] set sail on this sea. [to] pursue the Franks. so as to free the earth of anyone who does not believe in God, or die in the attempt", it seems hard to believe that he could also treat Hubert Walter, a Christian bishop, so well and have so much respect for Richard, a Christian king. 71 Even though Holy War was probably a concern for Saladin, perhaps even a major concern, it is more likely that it was one among many. The concept of jihad could be used as propaganda for bringing Muslims together and to help consolidate Saladin's power. As propaganda, it could be used as a rallying cry to bring both the public and the military together. 72 Peter Partner, who wrote a book that focused on Holy War, argues that Saladin was a "genuinely religious ruler. [who] also appeared to make a real effort to rule according to Islamic law", but he can also see a "propagandist intention. [in] Saladin's entire prosecution of the holy war". 73 Similarly to Richard, Saladin is likely to have had other objectives in waging war other than religious zeal. As Partner states, Richard and Saladin "waged holy war with motives that included all sorts of temporal objectives. principally their own dynastic aggrandizement". 74 Saladin is likely to have had many different motivations for his actions both during and prior to the Third Crusade.

Whatever Saladin's exact feelings and motivations were regarding the concept of jihad, it has become a part of his legacy. The story of his success with jihad and his ability to recapture Jerusalem lives on to this day. James Reston, Jr. argues that "in the seemingly endless struggle of modern-day Arabs to reassert the essentially Arab nature of Palestine, Saladin lives, vibrantly, as a symbol of hope and as the stuff of myth." 75 It would seem that Saladin is a key and inspiring figure for those in the Middle East who hope to once again "liberate Jerusalem". 76 Similarly to Richard, Saladin's legacy is that of an exemplar of romantic ideals of chivalric knighthood, but Saladin's legacy also has an additional component. It can also invoke religious and political feelings that lie at the heart of some present-day issues and problems.

Richard the Lionheart and Saladin are two fascinating historical figures whose forces clashed during the Third Crusade over 800 years ago. Christian sources such as the Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi and Ambroise's The Crusade of Richard Lion-Heart, as well as Muslim sources by such historians as Bahā' al-Dín and Ibn al-Athir describe and illustrate the lives of these two men. Although they were technically enemies of opposing faith on a Holy War against one another, there were many amazing similarities between the two, and both are remembered today for some of the chivalric qualities that they displayed during the crusade. Additionally, the name of Saladin has connection to some modern conceptions of jihad. Connections such as this one make an examination of the conflict between and characteristics of Richard and Saladin during the Third Crusade even more relevant and engaging.

English Historical Fiction Authors

Richard the Lionheart was a man of war, and he had many adversaries in his lifetime. He fought his father more than once in his early years, with his father against the rebellious lords of the Aquitaine and against the French King even more frequently. He spent the last six years of his life in a bitter struggle against King Philip II. Yet of all his adversaries, few have captured the imagination of chroniclers, novelists or artists as much as the man he fought in the Holy Land - Sultan Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub, more commonly known as Saladin.

Saladin has long been viewed as the epitome of “chivalry.” His honesty and sense of honor is often compared favorably to the duplicity and dishonor of Richard's Christian foes such as the Holy Roman Emperor and Philip of France. Indeed, in the 19th century it became common to suggest that, while the crusaders (including Richard!) were treacherous barbarians, Saladin stood out as a paragon of virtue and honor, a shining light of decency and chivalry in an otherwise brutal age. This is the view of Saladin that dictated the highly sympathetic portrayal in Ridley Scott's film “The Kingdom of Heaven.”

The Hollywood Saladin - "The Kingdom of Heaven"
This positive view of Saladin in Western literature is largely attributable to a biography of Saladin published by Stanley Lane-Poole in 1898. This was arguably the first scholarly biography of the 12th century Kurdish leader in the English language, and Lane-Poole made a major contribution to Western scholarship by drawing upon Arab sources for his work. Unfortunately, he did so uncritically, adopting without scruple the purely adulatory descriptions of Saladin penned by the Sultan’s court biographers. Indeed, Lane-Poole is so completely under the spell of his Arab sources that he claims:

With this statement, Lane-Poole dismisses Richard the Lionheart, the troubadour and paragon of Western chivalry, without so much as a mention.

Yet, as Andrew Ehrenkreutz meticulously documents in his biography of Saladin, far from being the embodiment of "magnanimity, real chivalry and gentle culture," Saladin used deceit, hypocrisy, propaganda, bribery, extortion, murder and, ultimately aggressive war to establish an empire in the Near East. Notably, Saladin spent much more time and many more resources fighting (and killing) fellow Muslims than he did fighting Christians, and that Saladin was responsible for the loss of many more Sunni Muslim lives than Christian ones.

Furthermore, the many instances in which Saladin treated former foes with leniency, often awarding them new lands and titles within his growing empire, demonstrates not so much his “gentleness” and “chivalry” as his cynical opportunism. If fighting men, particularly the commanders of contingents of troops that offered effective armed opposition to Saladin, could be bought with the promises of riches and titles, then why fight? After all, the alternative (killing or enslaving his opponents on capture) would only have increased the tenacity and fervor of his opponents, and Saladin had a hard enough time subduing them as it was. His mild treatment of defectors is not so much a mark of “gentleness” and “chivalry” as of opportunism that was particularly effective against the fragmented and jealous feudal lords in northern Syria.

Against these documented cases of apparent “gentleness” and “chivalry” are a number of equally well documented incidents of ruthlessness, brutality, duplicity and vindictiveness that are incompatible with the image of Saladin as the paragon of chivalry. To name only a few, Saladin played a key role in eliminating the Egyptian vizier Shawar. Then, having won the confidence and trust of the Fatimid Caliph, Saladin worked systematically to undermine his regime and carried out a bloody coup d’etat against the Fatimid elite as soon as the Caliph conveniently died. While it might be argued that this was justified by repeated Fatimid conspiracies against Saladin or by Sunni orthodoxy’s hostility to Shiism, the same cannot be said of the slaughter of the unarmed women and children of the Sudanese guard that the “gentle and chivalrous” Saladin ordered burned alive in their homes. And if that weren’t enough, Saladin ended the rebellion of their men by agreeing to spare their lives if they left Cairo — only to break his word and slaughter them after they had laid down their arms.

So, yes, Saladin did break his word when it suited his purposes -- as he did to Richard the Lionheart with regard to the surrender of Acre.

Saladin next distinguished himself by waging war against the heir of his feudal overlord Nur al-Din, the eleven-year-old al-Salih -- but only after first swearing humble and abject submission to al-Salih. When the young Sultan’s legal guardians refused to acknowledge Saladin’s bogus claims to be the “true” guardian of the young Sultan, Saladin gave up his pretense of serving the interests of al-Salih, and demanded patents for his position as Sultan of Damascus from the Abbasid caliph of Baghdad. He then spent the better part of the next ten years fighting bitter campaigns against the family of Nur al-Din and their supporters based in Aleppo and Mosul and all across northern Syria.

Which is not to say that Saladin did not fight the Christians too. In fact, Saladin undertook a number of campaigns against the Christians including the invasion of 1177 that ended in Saladin’s complete humiliation at Montgisard, the invasion of 1179 that ended in the routing of the Templars and the capture of nearly 300 Christian knights and nobles on the Litani. The siege of Beirut in the same year, the campaign that ended in the draw at Le Forbelet in 1182, the equally indecisive campaign of 1183, and the sieges of Kerak in 1183 and 1184. This may sound like an impressive track record, but given Saladin’s overwhelming strategic advantages, and the fact that the Kingdom of Jerusalem was led by a youth slowing dying of leprosy, his lack of success suggests either strategic and tactical incompetence or anemic motivation.

Not that Saladin didn’t demonstrate his hatred of the Franks. When in August of 1178, less than a year after Saladin’s scalding defeat at Montgisard, Christian prisoners fell into Saladin’s hands he had them summarily executed, one by one, by members of his retinue. Aside from it being against Sharia law to kill men who had surrendered, it was hardly a demonstration of “chivalry.” Nor was it an isolated incident. When the Christians involved in the Red Sea raids were finally run-to-earth and captured, Saladin again ordered their execution. According to Bernard Hamilton in his excellent work The Leper King and His Heirs, the Christian prisoners were “taken to Mecca where, during the great annual pilgrimage, they were…slaughtered ‘like animals for sacrifice.’” Clearly these men were mercenaries and they had killed Muslim pilgrims and captured Arab shipping so perhaps they were not worthy of mercy, but the same cannot be said of the “unlucky common Christian soldier whom the sultan had slain when he noticed a minor facial scratch his son al-Afdal [by then in his late teens] sustained in the battle of Arsuf.” (Ehrenkreutz, p. 228.)

Last but not least, no discussion of Saladin would be complete without reference to the brutal execution of the Templars and Hospitallers taken captive at the Battle of Hattin. On July 6, these knights and sergeants, bound and helpless, were beheaded in public. Bartlett describes the scene in Downfall of the Crusader Kingdom as follows: “Saladin gave the task…to a group of religious Sufis, holy men largely untrained in the arts of war. Some of them took six or seven attempts to sever the heads of their victims…However justified the death of these men might have been in military terms, the cruelty and indignity of their death did Saladin no credit whatsoever. It was an act of violence, almost barbarism, which Saladin’s apologists have all too frequently glossed over.” (Bartlett, p. 204-205.)

It is important to remember that this massacre preceded — and may indeed have helped instigate — the slaughter of the Muslim hostages at Acre by Richard the Lionheart four years later. If Richard the Lionheart's reputation was sullied by the massacre at Acre, so was Saladin's by the massacre after Hattin. The 12th century was a brutal age, and empires were not built with kindness and "gentle culture" -- not in France, Aquitaine, Egypt or Syria.

Helena Schrader is the currently writing a three part biography of Balian d’Ibelin, who served as Richard the Lionheart’s envoy to Saladin in 1192. Saladin plays a role in all three books in the series, while Balian’s relationship with Richard and their common struggle to recapture Jerusalem 1191-1192 is the subject of the third book in her Balian series, Envoy of Jerusalem. The first two books in the series, Knight of Jerusalem and Defender of Jerusalem, were released in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Saladin's Reign of Jerusalem

Saladin shamed the ruthless Crusaders by treating the city with kindness and keeping every promise he made to its people. Islam controlled Jerusalem from that day until the 20th century.

Saladin hoped to hold all of Palestine. However, Crusaders Richard Lionheart and Philip Augustus of France soon recaptured Acre. Richard Lionheart defeated the Saladin again, dashing Saracen hopes of total control. The Lionheart perpetrated atrocities to equal the other Crusaders. Yet his personal strength and valor made him legendary. He is said to have struck down four hundred men by himself in one battle alone. Faced with such a foe, Saladin finally agreed to a treaty that permitted Europeans to hold ports on the Palestine coast. Christians were allowed to make pilgrimages to sacred shrines in Jerusalem.

Saladin's courage, justice and moderation were rare in that age and have won him lasting respect in the West. Christians thought they were justified in launching the crusades. They argued that their actions were defensive-- preemptive strikes to keep Islam from renewing its attacks on Europe--and that they were just taking back turf the Saracens had snatched earlier. Whether their arguments are valid or not, one thing is certain: They did not live up to Christ's teachings about love after they had conquered the Middle East. What a different tale the Crusaders might have told if they had at least lived up to Saladin's code, even it they were unable to abide by the law of love!

Saladin's Conquest of Jerusalem (1187 CE)

Jerusalem, a holy city for the adherents of all three great monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) was conquered by the armies of the First Crusade in 1099 CE. The Muslims failed to halt their advance, as they were themselves disunited and disorganized, but this was soon to change and the Holy City was to be retaken. Saladin (l. 1137-1193 CE), the Sultan of Egypt and Syria, who united the core of the Islamic Empire under his domain prepared to strike back. He utterly vanquished the Crusader field army at the Battle of Hattin, in 1187 CE, and took Jerusalem later that year. Saladin's triumph was, however, far less violent than that of the medieval knights of the First Crusade (1095-1099 CE), and for this, he has been endlessly romanticized by Muslims and Christians alike.


The rise of the Seljuk Turks in the 11th century CE crushed the status quo established in Asia Minor. Most of Anatolia was lost to the steppe warriors who had come to settle in this pastureland from central Asia. Although the Turkish princes were chivalrous, their soldiers were extremely brutal and often undisciplined - committing the most horrendous of war crimes on their own accord. In 1071 CE, the hope of restoring Byzantine authority over the region was shattered when a Byzantine army was crushed at the Battle of Manzikert. But the Turks soon fell from their glory and the mighty empire was carved up into smaller sultanates and independent states.


Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081-1118 CE) was determined to reverse the setbacks of his predecessors. He appealed the Papacy for assistance, probably seeking a mercenary force subject to his personal control, but the result was beyond his wildest imagination. Pope Urban II (r. 1088-1099 CE) responded to the emperor's appeal and called a council at Clermont, a village in France, where he addressed a gathering of European nobilities and clergy. He used spiced-up and exaggerated tales (with a bit of accuracy) of the sufferings of their fellow Christians in the Holy Land, and preached a holy war against the "infidels" (Muslims), in return of which he offered complete plenary indulgence (remission of sins).

Stirred by the Pope's speech and motivated both by religious fervor and practical prospects, noblemen from all corners of Europe vowed to wrest the Holy Land from Muslim hands and embarked with armies on the First Crusade (1095-1099 CE) to the Levant. There they conquered Nicaea in 1097 CE (which was taken over by the Byzantines), Antioch, and Edessa in 1098 CE, and then proceeded to Jerusalem which fell in 1099 CE and was subjected to mass slaughter. Disunited Muslim princes made several futile attempts to halt the Crusader advance but suffered humiliating defeats at the hands of the organized and committed Crusader armies. The biggest shock to the Muslim world, however, resulted from the desecration of the Al Aqsa mosque, which was later converted to a church: the Temple Church.


Though lacking in strength to fight at that point, the Islamic front was preparing slowly and steadily to reclaim Jerusalem. The Islamic holy war or Jihad, long forgotten, was now revived for use against the Crusaders, and the standard was first raised by the Zengids (1127-1250 CE), a Turkish dynasty based in Mesopotamia and Syria. After the death of the second Zengid ruler, Nur ad-Din (l. 1118-1174 CE), the banner was taken up by his protégé: the Sultan of Egypt, Saladin (l. 1137-1193 CE). By 1187 CE, Saladin had spent over two decades of his life fighting the Crusaders, and it was this fateful year that would bring him the greatest triumph of his career.

Hostilities erupted between the two parties when a crusader knight, Reynald of Chatillon (l. c. 1125-1187 CE), attacked a Muslim trade caravan in defiance of the peace pact of 1185 CE put forward by his side. He imprisoned many, killed others, and when he was reminded of the pact, he mocked the Prophet Muhammad. In retaliation, the wrath of Saladin would engulf all that the Crusaders had achieved so far. On 4 July 1187 CE, the largest-ever Crusader army (although outnumbered by Saladin's forces) was crushed at the Battle of Hattin and the Holy Land lay undefended.

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Taking the Levantine Coast

The pulverizing defeat at Hattin had left most of the Crusader strongholds without enough soldiers to defend them. And since the threat of a Crusader counterattack had vanished, Saladin scattered his forces to take the Levantine coast. The strongholds fell, mostly in an eventless manner in many cases, local Muslim and Jewish populations rebelled and kicked the Crusader forces out, welcoming the Ayyubid armies to the undefended cities. Historian A. R. Azzam narrates as follows:

He decided to dispatch his commanders, 'like ants covering the whole face of the country from Tyre to Jerusalem', to the corners of the kingdom. Nazareth fell to Keukburi (Gokbori), and Nablus to Husam al-Din. Badr al-Din Dildrim took Haifa, Arsuf and Caesarea, while al-Adil took Jaffa. Saladin then sent Taqi ul-Din, his most capable commander to seize Tyre and Tibnin… (185)

Tibnin fell, but it was Tyre that should have been the first target of Saladin this tactical error returned to haunt him later on in the Third Crusade (1189-1192 CE). Crusaders, from all corners of the Latin Kingdom flocked to Tyre. After a failed attempt to negotiate a surrender of the city, Saladin moved towards Ascalon (the gateway to Egypt), taking Ramla, Ibelin, and Darum en route. Although the defenders were initially defiant, once Saladin besieged the city, they capitulated without a fight. Now, he sought to claim the most prized treasure of all, he knew it by no name other than Quds, the Holy City – Jerusalem.


At the Walls of the Holy City

Saladin wished not to delay taking the holy city lest this opportunity be lost, for he knew that the might of the whole Christendom would soon be set upon him. He met with delegates from the city outside Ascalon and offered generous terms of surrender: they could take all of their possessions and leave the city under the protection of an Ayyubid military escort. This offer was rejected, prompting the Sultan to offer even more generous conditions: they could carry on with their lives, unhindered by the Ayyubid forces, and if no army came to their relief within the next six months, they shall surrender the city under the same conditions. The delegates refused to accept this offer as well, stating that they would not surrender the city under any condition. Insulted, the Sultan decided to subject the Christians to the same fate the Muslim and Jewish residents of the city suffered in 1099 CE.


The Ayyubid army, determined to storm and sack the city, marched confidently towards it under the leadership of the Sultan himself. Their flags were visible on the western side of Jerusalem on 20 September. Since Jerusalem was lacking severely on manpower, Balian had to knight several men (and even children), but even then, the citizens stood no chance in a direct assault, their main hope was to hold the walls.

As the siege commenced, the walls and the tower were showered with arrows and pelted with rocks hurled from catapults and mangonels siege towers were sent forward to take the walls but were pushed back forces that sallied out of the gate. This deadlock persisted for a few days until the Sultan realized his tactical error: not only was this area easily defendable, the sun faced directly at his fighters, and the blinding glare did not allow them to fight until noon had passed. He moved his siege force eastwards towards the Mount of Olives, where no nearby gates could be used for sorties. On 25 September, Saladin's siege force was positioned, ironically, at the spot from where the knights of the First Crusade had attacked the city 88 years ago. Indeed, this was an effective move, a breach was created in the wall just three days later by the Sultan's miners, and now the city could be assaulted.

The City Surrenders

Unable to defend the city any longer, Balian rode out to address the Sultan directly and offered a bloodless surrender of the city. His words have been reported by Stanley Lane Poole:


“O Sultan,” he said, “know that we soldiers in this city are in the midst of God knows how many people, who are slackening the fight in the hope of thy grace, believing that thou wilt grant it them as thou hast granted it to the other cities – for they abhor death and desire life. But for ourselves, when we see that death must needs be, by God we will slaughter our sons and our women, we will burn our wealth and our possessions, and leave you neither sequin nor stiver to loot, nor a man or a woman to enslave and when we have finished that, we will demolish the Rock and the Mosque el-Aksa (al-Aqsa), and the other holy places, we will slay the Moslem slaves who are in our hands – there are 5,000 such, – and slaughter every beast and mount we have and then we will sally out in a body to you and will fight you for our lives: not a man of us will fall before he has slain his likes thus shall we die gloriously or conquer like gentlemen." (228-229)

Whether the threats were hollow or genuine, the speech hit its mark, Saladin, who had been blinded by rage over the insulting encounter with Crusader emissaries at Ascalon, decided to spare the city a bloodbath. He realized that he could not let harm befall the Islamic holy sites and Muslims – as he had championed himself as their guardian.

A period of 40 days was given for the residents to arrange for their ransom, but many failed to do so. Saladin's brother al-Adil, Balian of Ibelin, and many ameers (generals) of the Ayyubid army freed people on their own accord. As for Saladin himself, he announced that all elderly people, who could not afford their freedom were to be set free anyway. Moreover, he allowed all noblewomen to leave the city without ransom the Queen of Jerusalem, Sybilla (r. 1186-1190 CE), was also given safe conduct to meet her husband, Guy of Lusignan (l. c. 1150-1194 CE), who was in Saladin's captivity.

The Sultan was also approached by a group of wailing women, who, upon inquiry, revealed themselves as dames and damsels of knights who had either been killed or held prisoners. They begged for the Sultan's mercy, and Saladin ordered for their husbands, if they were alive, to be released, and none of these women were enslaved. Saladin's kindness was later narrated in a praising manner by Balian's squire.

The Aftermath

The Al Aqsa mosque was purified, and the Crusader cross was torn down from it. The building was washed and cleaned, adjacent buildings that had encroached over its area were taken down, so were the numerous Crusader artifacts placed within the mosque. Oriental carpets were placed inside, and perfumes were sprinkled over every corner of it. A pulpit, prepared under the orders of Saladin's patron Nur ad-Din (who had wished to reconquer the holy city himself, but did not live long enough to do so), was placed by the Sultan in the mosque, symbolizing the completion of his master's dream. After 88 years, the Friday prayer was held in the mosque in congregation.

The fall of Jerusalem hit Europe like a shockwave. Many scholars, including William, the Archbishop of Tyre (l. 1130-1186 CE), considered Saladin as a form of divine punishment, others thought of him as a scourge. For the Muslims, however, this was the long-awaited success brought to them by their Sultan.

The Crusaders drew their field army from their strongholds, and with most of the Crusader army annihilated, nothing stood in the way of the Muslims. Tyre, the sole bastion of the Cross in the Holy Land, as noted earlier, became the center of resistance. Soon, a fraction of the remainder Crusader army, the ones who were not permitted inside Tyre, laid siege on Acre (1189-1191 CE). This was the stage for the arrival of the armies of the Third Crusade (1189-1192 CE) under Richard I of England (r. 1189-1199 CE) and Philip Augustus of France (r. 1180-1223 CE). Though parts of the Levantine coast were recovered by this expedition, Saladin's Jerusalem remained untouched.


The battle of Hattin and the subsequent conquest of Jerusalem can be collectively termed as Saladin's magnum opus. He had strived his entire life, spent his entire wealth, and dedicated his entire will for one single purpose: the reinvigoration of the Muslim cause in the Holy Land and the expulsion of the Crusaders. Though he failed to accomplish the latter, he did incur irreparable damage upon the Crusader cause.

Why did Saladin show kindness to Richard I? - History

Saladin and Richard the Lionheart are two names that tend to dominate the Crusades. Both have gone down in Medieval history as great military leaders.

The Christians of western Europe were stunned by the success of Saladin. The pope, Gregory VIII, ordered another crusade immediately to regain the Holy City for the Christians. This was the start of the Third Crusade. It was led by King Richard I (Richard the Lionheart), Emperor Frederick Barbarossa of Germany and King Philip II of France.

King Frederick (of Germany) was drowned on his march across Europe. He was 70 years of age and his death shocked his army and only a small part of it continued to the Middle East.

King Richard and King Philip (of France) and their men travelled by boat. They stopped their journey in modern day Sicily. In March 1191, Philip then sailed to the port of Acre which was controlled by the Muslims.

This was an important port to capture for the Christians as it would allow them to easily land their ships and it was also the nearest big port to Jerusalem. Acre was besieged. Philip's men were joined by Richard's.

Richard was left by himself. While in control of Acre, the Christians massacred 2000 Muslim soldiers who they had captured. Saladin had agreed to pay a ransom for them but somehow there was a breakdown in the process of payment and Richard ordered their execution.

At night when the Crusaders tried to rest, they were plagued by tarantulas. Their bites were poisonous and very painful.

Both sides fought at the Battle of Arsur in September 1191. Richard won but he delayed his attack on Jerusalem as he knew that his army needed to rest. Also Richard knew that even if he continued on and captured Jerusalem, he would not have enough soldiers to hold on to it. He spent the winter of 1191 to 1192 in Jaffa where his army regained its strength.

However, by now even Richard the Lionheart was suffering. He had a fever and appealed to his enemy Saladin to send him fresh water and fresh fruit. Saladin did just this - sending frozen snow to the Crusaders to be used as water and fresh fruit. Also in a later battle, when Saladin saw that Richards horse had been killed, Saladin sent him a new horse! Why would Saladin do this?

There are several reasons. First, Saladin was a strict Muslim. One of the main beliefs of Islam is that Muslims should help those in need. Secondly, Saladin admired Richards, fighting skills, courage and bravery.

The Muslim writer Baha described Richard as ". a very powerful man of great courage. " and ". a king of wisdom, courage and energy. brave and clever."

Perhaps Saladin wanted to send his men into Richard's camp with the supplies and spy on what he had in terms of soldiers, equipment etc.

Although Richard failed to retake Jerusalem, he organised a truce with Saladin - pilgrims from the west would once again be allowed to visit Jerusalem without being troubled by the Muslims. Neither Richard or Saladin particularly liked the truce but both sides were worn out and in October 1192, Richard sailed for western Europe never to return to the Holy Land.

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Early life and military career

Saladin was born into a prominent Kurdish family. On the night of his birth, his father, Najm al-Dīn Ayyūb, gathered his family and moved to Aleppo, there entering the service of ʿImad al-Dīn Zangī ibn Aq Sonqur, the powerful Turkish governor in northern Syria. Growing up in Baʿlbek and Damascus, Saladin was apparently an undistinguished youth, with a greater taste for religious studies than military training.

His formal career began when he joined the staff of his uncle Asad al-Dīn Shīrkūh, an important military commander under the emir Nūr al-Dīn, who was the son and successor of Zangī. During three military expeditions led by Shīrkūh into Egypt to prevent its falling to the Latin Christian (Frankish) rulers of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, a complex, three-way struggle developed between Amalric I, the king of Jerusalem Shāwar, the powerful vizier of the Egyptian Fāṭimid caliph and Shīrkūh. After Shīrkūh’s death and after ordering Shāwar’s assassination, Saladin, in 1169 at the age of 31, was appointed both commander of the Syrian troops in Egypt and vizier of the Fāṭimid caliph there. His relatively quick rise to power must be attributed not only to the clannish nepotism of his Kurdish family but also to his own emerging talents. As vizier of Egypt, he received the title “king” (malik), although he was generally known as the sultan.

Saladin’s position was further enhanced when, in 1171, he abolished the weak and unpopular Shiʿi Fāṭimid caliphate, proclaiming a return to Sunni Islam in Egypt. Although he remained for a time theoretically a vassal of Nūr al-Dīn, that relationship ended with the Syrian emir’s death in 1174. Using his rich agricultural possessions in Egypt as a financial base, Saladin soon moved into Syria with a small but strictly disciplined army to claim the regency on behalf of the young son of his former suzerain. Soon, however, he abandoned this claim, and from 1174 until 1186 he zealously pursued a goal of uniting, under his own standard, all the Muslim territories of Syria, northern Mesopotamia, Palestine, and Egypt. This he accomplished by skillful diplomacy backed when necessary by the swift and resolute use of military force. Gradually his reputation grew as a generous and virtuous but firm ruler, devoid of pretense, licentiousness, and cruelty. In contrast to the bitter dissension and intense rivalry that had up to then hampered the Muslims in their resistance to the Crusaders, Saladin’s singleness of purpose induced them to rearm both physically and spiritually.

Saladin’s every act was inspired by an intense and unwavering devotion to the idea of jihad, or holy war. It was an essential part of his policy to encourage the growth and spread of Muslim religious institutions. He courted their scholars and preachers, founded colleges and mosques for their use, and commissioned them to write edifying works, especially on the jihad itself. Through moral regeneration, which was a genuine part of his own way of life, he tried to re-create in his own realm some of the same zeal and enthusiasm that had proved so valuable to the first generations of Muslims when, five centuries before, they had conquered half the known world.

Salahuddin Ayyubi (Saladin)

Saladin: Courageous and Brilliant

Salahuddin Ayyubi, popularly known in the West as Saladin, was a courageous and brilliant Muslim leader during the 12 th century. His firm foundation in the religion and its prime values, leading to his commitment to the Islamic cause, enabled him to accomplish great things.

His Ayyubid Empire united Egypt and Syria. Above all, he played an instrumental role in turning the tide against the Crusaders by successfully reclaiming Jerusalem and earned a name for himself in the annals of both Muslim and Western history.

Saladin was born in 1137 AD in Tikrit, Iraq, and studied the Quran and theology along with astronomy, mathematics, and law. He joined the military as a young man and was ably trained by his uncle Asad-al-Din Shirkoh, a commander of the Zengid Dynasty. Saladin’s impressive performance in his early battles enabled him to take on leading responsibilities during military campaigns. [Click here to read about Islam’s rules of engagement in war.]

His rise from a soldier to the King of Egypt and Syria was the result of both cleverly executed tactics and advantageous circumstances. He held key posts in Egypt, enabling him to consolidate power and overthrow the Fatimids. Syria, at the time, was ruled by the Zengids when the Zengid ruler unexpectedly died, leaving an underage successor, the road was eventually cleared for Saladin to capture Syria. During his reign, Saladin built many schools, hospitals, and institutions in his quest for intellectual and civic achievements. He was also determined to bring justice, peace, and prosperity to those within his domain.

Sh. Omar Suleiman tells us the story of Jerusalem. Can Jerusalem once again be home to all three faiths, Muslim, Jews and Christians. Once upon a time, they all lived together in theme. This talk takes us back to Jerusalem to the time Muslim rule. Watch this brief video to get some answers. This video is produced by 877-Why-Islam.

Saladin reconquered Jerusalem from Crusaders

Salahuddin is best known for repelling the Crusaders and reconquering Jerusalem. He defeated and decimated large numbers of the Crusaders in the decisive Battle of Hattin in July, 1187. On his way to Jerusalem, Saladin conquered almost every Crusader city. After a siege, Jerusalem was handed over to him in October of the same year. Subsequent efforts by the Crusaders to win back Jerusalem were resisted until they finally gave up and retreated homewards.

Although one would expect Saladin to be hated among the Crusader nations, he became one of the most esteemed Muslim figures of the medieval Islamic world because of the generosity he displayed towards the Christians despite the brutality Muslims had endured at the hands of the Crusaders. When the Christians had overtaken Jerusalem during the very first Crusade, they carried out mass atrocities and killings, creating a bloodbath in which the Muslim residents were the most prominent targets, as graphically documented in the PBS series Islam: Empire of Faith. In the words of the chronicler of Crusades, Raymond of Agiles, the massacre was so extensive that the Crusaders “rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins.”

When Saladin retook Jerusalem, the Christians waited for a similar onslaught. However, Salahuddin not only spared the Christians but treated them honorably, allowing those who wished to leave to do so in peace, and for those who wished to stay to do so in harmony. Truly, he was a living example of the tolerant, progressive, and inclusive faith which was so dear to his heart. By showing restraint and peaceful treatment, Salahuddin was upholding the central tenets of Islam such as freedom of religion and protection of non-Muslims. [Read more: Medina Charter of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and Pluralism]

The chivalry of Saladin

Moreover, his chivalrous conduct toward King Richard I, and the mutual respect which ensued despite their warring roles, won him further accolades in quarters that could not bring themselves to despise him. “When Richard falls sick at the siege of Acre in 1192, Saladin not only sends his personal physician Maimonides over to treat him, he sends ice to help him fight the fevers and certain healing fruits. When Richard’s horse is killed during battle, and the English king finds himself on foot facing the entire Muslim army, the Muslims let him walk by their entire phalanx without attacking. Later, Saladin sends him two fresh mounts so he will not be at a disadvantage,” wrote Michael Hamilton Morgan in Lost History.

According to the French historian, Rene Grousset, “It is equally true that [Saladin’s] generosity, his piety, devoid of fanaticism, that flower of liberality and courtesy, which had been the model of our old chroniclers, won him no less popularity in Frankish Syria than in the lands of Islam.”

Salahuddin Ayyubi died in 1193 AD at the age of 56. Although he was at the helm of a vast empire stretching from Egypt to Syria, he himself owned very little. At the time of his death, his property and assets included a horse and money which was not sufficient even to bury him. He had devoted his entire life to the service of Islam and his subjects, avoiding the pomp and splendor which often distract rulers. Indeed, he was the epitome of a true hero and a devoted Muslim.

Richard I (1157 - 1199)

Richard I © Richard was a king of England, later known as the 'Lion Heart', and famous for his exploits in the Third Crusade, although during his 10-year reign he spent only six months in England.

Richard was born on 8 September 1157 in Oxford, son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. He possessed considerable political and military ability. However, like his brothers, he fought with his family, joining them in the great rebellion against their father in 1173. In 1183 his brother Henry died, leaving Richard heir to the throne. Henry II wanted to give Aquitaine to his youngest son, John. Richard refused and, in 1189, joined forces with Philip II of France against his father, hounding him to a premature death in July 1189.

As king, Richard's chief ambition was to join the Third Crusade, prompted by Saladin's capture of Jerusalem in 1187. To finance this, he sold sheriffdoms and other offices and in 1190 he departed for the Holy Land. In May, he reached Cyprus where he married Berengaria, daughter of the king of Navarre. Richard arrived in the Holy Land in June 1191 and Acre fell the following month. In September, his victory at Arsuf gave the crusaders possession of Joppa. Although he came close, Jerusalem, the crusade's main objective, eluded him. Moreover, fierce quarrels among the French, German and English contingents provided further troubles. After a year's stalemate, Richard made a truce with Saladin and started his journey home.

Bad weather drove him ashore near Venice and he was imprisoned by Duke Leopold of Austria before being handed over to the German emperor Henry VI, who ransomed him for the huge sum of 150,000 marks. The raising of the ransom was a remarkable achievement. In February 1194, Richard was released. He returned at once to England and was crowned for a second time, fearing that the ransom payment had compromised his independence. Yet a month later he went to Normandy, never to return. His last five years were spent in intermittent warfare against Philip II. While besieging the castle of Châlus in central France he was fatally wounded and died on 6 April 1199. He was succeeded by his younger brother John, who had spent the years of Richard's absence scheming against him.


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