SALADIN (ṢALĀḤ AL-DĪN BIN AYYŪB)(1138–1193). Saladin became the most famous of Islamic leaders to assault the Latin colonies in Palestine and Syria. His ascendancy led to the Third Crusade and a reduction in the Crusader territories.
Saladin was born in 1138 at Taqrīt, in Iraq, the son of Kurdish parents. His birth name was Yūsuf. In 1139, Saladin’s father, Ayyūb, was made governor of Baalbeck by Zangī, the Syrian leader who was making increasing inroads into the Latin states. Saladin was raised in Baalbeck, though he reputedly also spent much time in Damascus. During the 1160s, by his own account, he fought alongside his father and uncle, Zangī, who served Nūr al-Dīn, the son of Zangī, who had taken control of Aleppo on the death of his father. Zangī made him his deputy, and Nūr al-Dīn in 1165 appointed him shiḥna (police chief) of Damascus.
When Zangī was despatched to support Shāwar, vizier of the Fatimid sultanate of Egypt, Saladin went with him. Shāwar’s machinations with Amalric of Jerusalem led to Zangī ultimately taking over as vizier himself. Saladin succeeded Zangī as vizier on his death in 1169. In the same year, he fought off a combined Frankish and Byzantine attack on Damietta and established his power base in Cairo. As vizier of Egypt, Saladin consolidated his power by conquering areas of Gaza, Arabia, and Yemen—extending his control over the major trade routes to the east. In this, he became effectively the sultan of Egypt in his own right, although when he abolished the Fatimid dynasty altogether in 1171, he ordered that the name of the ‛Abbāsid caliph be mentioned in official prayers.
The subsequent biographical traditions established by ‛Imād al-Dīn al Iṣfahānī, Bahā’ al-Dīn, and especially Abū Shāma would represent Saladin’s rise to power in terms of a natural succession to leadership of the jihad commenced by Zangī and Nūr al-Dīn against the Latin colonies. This is in many ways a retrospective view, however, and much of Saladin’s imperialism can be understood in terms