Salah od-Din Yusuf bin Ayyub, the first Kurdish Sultan of Egypt and Syria
Compiled By: Syed Ali Shahbaz
On March 4, 1193 AD, Salah od-Din Yusuf bin Ayyub, the first Kurdish sultan of Egypt and Syria, died in Damascus at the age of 56. Born in the Iraqi city of Tikrit in what was named in 1976 as Salah od-Din Governorate in his honour by the Ba’thist regime, his fame mainly rests on his mobilization of Kurds, Turks, Arabs, Iranians and Egyptians to liberate the Islamic city of Bayt al-Moqaddas in 1987 from 88 years of occupation by European Crusader invaders.
Known in the Western world as Saladin, he rose from obscure origins to serve as assistant to his uncle, Asad od-Din Shirkuh (Persian for Mountain Lion), who was in the service of the Turkic Zengid Dynasty of Syria. Sent to Fatemid Egypt in 1163 with his uncle Shirkuh by Noor od-Din Zengi, he climbed the ranks of the Ismaili Shi’ite government as a result of his military successes against Crusader assaults.
When Shirkuh died in 1169, the caliph al-Adeed made the mistake of appointing Salah od-Din vizier. He now began to undermine Fatemid rule and following al-Adeed's death in 1171 he seized power and abolished the two-and-a-half century rule of the Fatemid caliphate. Salah od-Din savagely persecuted the followers of the Ahl al-Bayt, burned libraries, and imposed the Sunni creed on the Egyptians.
In the following years, he led forays against the Crusaders in Palestine, ordered the successful conquest of Yemen and staved off pro-Fatemid uprisings in Egypt. Soon after the death of his former master, Noor od-Din in 1174, he attacked Syria, took Damascus, forcibly married Zengi’s widow, and by mid-1175 had conquered Hama and Homs. A few years later he seized Aleppo, although he was unable to capture Mosul from the Zengids. Another blot on Salah od-Din’s character was his forcing of his son, Malik az-Zaher, the governor of Aleppo, to kill the famous Iranian Islamic philosopher Shahab od-Din Yahya Suhrawardi – the proponent of the Illuminist Philosophy (al-Hikmat al-Ishraaq).