From Birth to the Conquest of Jerusalem: The Tale of a Great Hero

The 12th century was crucial for Islamic culture. During this period, Islamic geography underwent significant changes. With these changes, history witnessed a hero emerging: “Rise of Saladin.” During this time, the Seljuks held both political and military power. Of course, Persians and Arabs were strong in terms of the economy, but, as I mentioned, important roles (such as military positions) were usually reserved for Turks.

After Sultan Malikshah, the Seljuks lost their power and administrative areas (with the first Crusade Eventually, the Seljuk Turkish beyliks strengthened in their areas, and as a result of the Crusades, the Seljuk state became fragmented into many parts. “Yusuf Bin. Necmeddin Eyyüp,” or with the most famous style, “Selehaddin Eyyübi” (Saladin Ayyübid), was born in 1138 in Tikrit and grew up during this time. There are still many different opinions about his nationality, whether he is Kurdish or Arab. Some important Turkish historians like Halil İnancık and İlber Ortaylı claim he was Kurdish, but we should not forget they are experts in Ottoman History. Whenever I listen to historians who are experts in Ayyubid history, like Ramazan Şeşber, one opinion is stronger than the other. The idea that he is Arab is stronger than the other one (I should add a short sentence here. We should remember he grew up with Turks).

İmadüddin Zengi (Sultan of Zengids) died after the conquest of Urfa (it was an important reason for the second crusade, but he died before it), and in this period, Zengids were divided between two sons: Nureddin Mahmut Zengi (in Mosul) and Seyfettin Zengi (in Aleppo). During the second crusade, Nureddin Zengi and the Sultan of Seljuks stopped the Crusaders. That’s why there were not enough Crusaders in Jerusalem. They tried to conquer Damascus but could not. After the War in Damascus, Nureddin Zengi also took his brother’s lands and became the first leader in the Islamic world to react against the Crusaders, shaping his policy as a struggle against them. After all these events, Nur ad-Din Zengi gathered strength and conquered Damascus. Following this conquest, he left Saladin’s father as the governor and took Saladin under his wing, nurturing him. Saladin learned a lot from this great Turkish leader over the years. Saladin improved in this situation and followed Nureddin Zengi. In the many years that followed, numerous wars took place among the Zengids, Fatimids, and the Kingdom of Jerusalem, but the end of this period was not bright for the Fatimids. Saladin’s uncle, who helped the Fatimids escape the occupation by the Kingdom of Jerusalem, was appointed as vizier by the Fatimid leader. This strange situation didn’t last long, and Saladin’s uncle died shortly after. after Saladin, who took his place, gradually increased his power in Egypt. He put his relatives in important positions rather than Shiites. After the death of the Fatimid leader, Saladin declared these lands to be under the control of Nur ad-Din Zengi. The EgEgyptiansere was like a diamond for those who governed them well, and Saladin knew this. He conducted successful campaigns to the east (Libya), fortresses along the pilgrimage routes in the west, and even Yemen.

With the death of Nur ad-Din Zengi, the Ayyubids were officially established. Saladin quickly worked to finish what Nur ad-Din Zengi started. After taking many castles, he couldn’t capture Aleppo but came back with the lands he got. Soon after, he attacked the Crusaders and faced IV. Baldwin in the Battle of Montgisard (yes, that famous scene :D), but sadly, he suffered a big loss. However, the determined commander didn’t give up and, after two more fights, he beat the Crusaders badly. After that, he marched on the rest of the Zengid lands and quickly brought them together. While Saladin was in Zengid lands, attacks from the Kingdom of Jerusalem disturbed the country. Saladin decided to fix this because things were getting worse. He settled in Syria, prepared a big army, and attacked the Crusaders. (At that time, the Crusaders didn’t fully cooperate, so there were two leaders in the war.) Saladin was an excellent commander, hiding his army’s weaknesses well. After following the Crusaders for a long time, they fought in the Turan region. Saladin won a great victory, making his name and Islam proud. After this excellent victory, Saladin didn’t waste any time. He conquered many castles from the Crusaders. And, at last, he focused on his last and biggest target: “Jerusalem.” The Crusaders, who were already weak, couldn’t hold on for long. Soon after, Saladin took his impressive place in history books as the “Conqueror of Jerusalem.”


İbrahim Bayram

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