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Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub (c.1137 – 4 March 1193),[lower-alpha 1] commonly known as Saladin (lit.'Honour of the Faith'),[lower-alpha 2] was the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty. Hailing from a Kurdish family, he was the first sultan of both Egypt and Syria. An important figure of the Third Crusade, he spearheaded the Muslim military effort against the Crusader states in the Levant. At the height of his power, the Ayyubid realm spanned Egypt, Syria, Upper Mesopotamia, the Hejaz, Yemen, and Nubia.

Quick facts: Saladin, Sultan of Egypt and Syria, Reign, Co...
King Who Grants Victory
Sultan of Egypt and Syria
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
Dirham coin depicting Saladin (c.1189)
Sultan of Egypt and Syria
Reign1174 – 4 March 1193
Coronation1174, Cairo
PredecessorAl-Adid (as Fatimid caliph)
Vizier of the Fatimid Caliphate
Reign26 March 1169 – 26 September 1171
SuccessorPosition abolished
BornYusuf ibn Ayyub
Tikrit, Upper Mesopotamia, Abbasid Caliphate
Died4 March 1193 (aged 5556)
Damascus, Syria, Ayyubid Sultanate
Umayyad Mosque, Damascus
SpouseIsmat ad-Din Khatun
DynastyAyyubid (founder)
FatherAyyub ibn Shadi
ReligionSunni Islam

Alongside his uncle Shirkuh, a general of the Zengid dynasty, Saladin was sent to Egypt under the Fatimid Caliphate in 1164, on the orders of Nur ad-Din. With their original purpose being to help restore Shawar as the vizier to the teenage Fatimid caliph al-Adid, a power struggle ensued between Shirkuh and Shawar after the latter was reinstated. Saladin, meanwhile, climbed the ranks of the Fatimid government by virtue of his military successes against Crusader assaults as well as his personal closeness to al-Adid. After Shawar was assassinated and Shirkuh died in 1169, al-Adid appointed Saladin as vizier. During his tenure, Saladin, a Sunni Muslim, began to undermine the Fatimid establishment; following al-Adid's death in 1171, he abolished the Cairo-based Isma'ili Shia Muslim Fatimid Caliphate and realigned Egypt with the Baghdad-based Sunni Abbasid Caliphate.

In the following years, he led forays against the Crusaders in Palestine, commissioned the successful conquest of Yemen, and staved off pro-Fatimid rebellions in Egypt. Not long after Nur ad-Din's death in 1174, Saladin launched his conquest of Syria, peacefully entering Damascus at the request of its governor. By mid-1175, Saladin had conquered Hama and Homs, inviting the animosity of other Zengid lords, who were the official rulers of Syria's principalities; he subsequently defeated the Zengids at the Battle of the Horns of Hama in 1175, and was thereafter proclaimed the 'Sultan of Egypt and Syria' by the Abbasid caliph al-Mustadi. Saladin launched further conquests in northern Syria and Upper Mesopotamia, escaping two attempts on his life by the Assassins, before returning to Egypt in 1177 to address local issues there. By 1182, Saladin had completed the conquest of Islamic Syria after capturing Aleppo, but failed to take over the Zengid stronghold of Mosul.

Under Saladin's command, the Ayyubid army defeated the Crusaders at the decisive Battle of Hattin in 1187, capturing Jerusalem and re-establishing Muslim military dominance in the Levant. Although the Crusaders' Kingdom of Jerusalem persisted until the late 13th century, the defeat in 1187 marked a turning point in the Christian military effort against Muslim powers in the region. Saladin died in Damascus in 1193, having given away much of his personal wealth to his subjects; he is buried in a mausoleum adjacent to the Umayyad Mosque. Alongside his significance to Muslim culture, Saladin is revered prominently in Kurdish, Turkic, and Arab culture. He has frequently been described as the most famous Kurdish figure in history.