Who was Salahuddin Ayubi?

Sultan Salahuddin Ayubi was the legendary warrior who fought the Crusaders for a long time and at last overcame them and gained victory before he pushed back the joined powers of Europe away from the Holy Land. The world had not seen such a courageous and sympathetic victor. The Crusades refer to the bloodiest and longest war throughout history, during which the Christian powers of the West sought to overthrow the powers in Asia.

Not only was he a valiant warrior, Sultan Salahuddin Ayubi was a true Muslim Leader. He was merciful and kind.

Rana Kanwal writes:

“He would spend most of his savings on Sadqa (discretionary philanthropy), but never had, Sultan Salahuddin Ayubi, Sultan Salahuddin Ayubi enough that would allow him to pay Zakat (mandatory offerings). Despite his constant yearning to perform Hajj, he was not able to due to the fact that he was always involved in jihad and needed more cash to perform it. Not one to talk ill about anyone or to offend any Muslim through his writing, he never gave anyone else the opportunity to speak or write ill of him as well.”

Iffat Omar in an interview said, “Salahuddin Ayubi is not our hero”, indeed he is.

What does it take to become our hero?

He faced the crusaders multiple times in unfavorable circumstances and saved the lives of thousands of Muslims. Even if he was not born in the Subcontinent, he is my hero.

He was the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty. He was the first ruler in the Islamic world to be called the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. Many of scholars describe him as the de facto Caliph of Islam.

In 1169, Salahuddin, at the age of 31, became the commander of the Syrian troops in Egypt and vizier of the Fatimid caliphate there.

He abolished the Fatimid caliphate in 1171. Three years later, Salahuddin declared himself sultan of Egypt and founded the Ayyubid dynasty after Nur al-Din’s death in 1174.

The atrocities against the Muslims after the first crusade were still alive in the minds of people. Even the Christian historian described the First crusaders as mass murderers. According to Tyreman in his book ‘God’s War: A New History of Crusades’ has described the slaughter of Muslims of Jerusalem as

“A juxtaposition of extreme violence and anguished faith.”

Other historians have cited examples of horses swimming in the blood of the Muslim population. Tyerman has further said that,

“The slaughter continued for days; Muslims were indiscriminately killed, and Jews who had taken refuge in their synagogue died when it was burnt down by the Crusaders.”

He was a genius of war and peace and instead of showing his rage, he showed mercy after some discussion, an agreement was made that the Christians would pay a very small amount and can leave the city.

All these events took place just 88 years ago and the entire Christian population was very much frightened about whether Sultan Salahuddin would keep his promise or not. Sultan Salahuddin Ayubi was a true Muslim and a man of his words and, therefore, he kept his promise. No one was harmed at the time of surrender and the entire surrender of Jerusalem occurred peacefully.

Sultan Salahuddin Ayubi was a devout Muslim. He had special respect for women and this could be seen after he allowed many of the noblewomen of the city to leave without paying any ransom. 

Every woman was allowed to live a life she decides to live within the parameters of the law of the state. No man was allowed to belittle his woman, if any case of domestic violence was reported to Salahuddin, he would punish the culprit immediately.

When Sultan Salahuddin entered the city after its surrender, some of his advisers told him to destroy the Church in order to end all Christian interest in Jerusalem. But Sultan was a man who had respect for each and every religion and he reminded his advisors about Hazrat Omar (RA) the second rightly guided Caliph of Islam that he allowed the Church to remain in the hands of Christians after conquering the city.

So, ultimately Sultan didn’t destroy the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and set forward the example of religious tolerance for the generations to come.

Sultan Salahuddin brought various reforms of religious freedoms to the city. He allowed the Orthodox Christians and Syriacs to remain and to worship as they chose.


“Sultan Salahuddin Ayubi was a champion of human rights. He was a man far ahead of his time that showed the world the actual meaning of mercy and forgiveness. His remarkable humanitarian works have made him one of the most famous Sultans of human history.”

Abdullah Samdani former secretary, Law Society, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh.

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Danial Sulehri
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