When Islam faced a massive attack from Crusader Europe, one man united the Muslims and led them to victory over the enemy. Salahuddin Ayubi rescued Jerusalem from the Crusaders and fought off one of the most menacing enemies that Muslims have ever faced.
Jerusalem was important to the Muslims because it contained the Dome of Rock, where Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) ascended to heaven, and the Masjid al Aqsa. Christians also valued Jerusalem as it contained the church of Jesus’ tomb.
In 1095 the Pope urged the Christians to unite and take Jerusalem. Four years later, Christian forces captured Jerusalem and slaughtered Muslims in the process.
By 1176 Salahuddin had become a powerful Muslim ruler. Even though the Crusaders had signed a peace treaty with Salahuddin, Reynald (a Christian prince) attacked a pilgrim caravan on its way to Hajj. He even planned to attack Makkah and Madinah to destroy the grave of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w). Salahuddin made the call for Jihad and united all Muslim states to defend Islam.
The Crusaders gathered their armies and confronted Salahuddin at a place called Hattin. Salahuddin prevented access to water by blockading Lake Tiberas, and left the thirsty Christians without water throughout the night. Then when the sun blazed, Salahuddin started bush fires, which glared into the eyes of the crusaders. Salahuddin’s archers then shot their arrows at the Crusaders. The Crusaders charged at the Muslims and managed to break the lines. However Salahuddin’s armies closed in behind them, leaving them trapped. Salahuddin made the final charge and cut through the Christians – the battle had been won.
Salahuddin took back Jerusalem in 1187 after 88 years of occupation; this would forever be remembered as Salahuddin’s greatest achievement and it made him a hero of Islam. He will be remembered as the Rectifier of Faith because he brought faith back to the Holy Land.
Salahuddin was a devout Muslim who would never miss his daily prayers. He loved hearing the Quran and would weep at the beauty of Allah (s.w.t)’s words. He was an Islamic scholar who would often journey just to gain more knowledge. He disliked people who brought unnecessary debate and controversy into Islam.
He is best known for his mercy. When the Crusaders had invaded Jerusalem they massacred the inhabitants and destroyed the mosques. The slaughter was so immense that Crusaders waded through blood up to their ankles. But when Salahuddin retook the city he allowed the women and children to leave if they wished. And rather than destroying the churches he allowed Christian pilgrims free passage. He also invited Jews to resettle in Jerusalem.
Salahuddin built schools and abolished taxes that pilgrims had to pay on their way to Makkah. He had great compassion, mercy and generosity. He was known to give jewels away to schools and hospitals. At his death he was the most powerful ruler of Islam there had been since the Prophet (s.a.w), but he had only 1 gold piece and 47 silver pieces to his name, and owned no property.
Many people and leaders of today dwell on worldly goods, they should look at Salahuddin as an example. He placed Islam above everything else.
Salahuddin was very courageous. He rose to the occasion in battle; he never showed any anxiety about the numbers and strength of the enemy. This was due to his strong faith in Allah (s.w.t).
The Muslim youth should look up to him as a role model. His generosity, courage and devotion to faith should inspire us all to be better Muslims.
Al-Afdal his son had the following description placed on his tomb:
‘Almighty Allah, look upon his soul and open to him the gates of Paradise, the last victory for which he hoped.’