Jusuf ibn-Ayyub, famously known as Saladin, was born in 1138, on the bark of the River Tigris, which is between Iran and Iraq. Even though he was a Kurd by birth, he was an Arab by culture. Saladin captured Jerusalem back from the Latin Kingdom who occupied it for nearly ninety years, and became an idol to all Muslims and Arabs up till know. Gertrude Slaughter, the author of Saladin (11-38-1193) didn’t just give a biography of his life, but looked at him as a human being with emotions, desires, hopes and fears like any normal human being.
Saladin seemed to have had a normal childhood like any child would. As a child he played with his four brothers and two sisters, which he treated with a gentle consideration, since he treated people later on in his the same way. He liked to mingle and chat with his elders, which made him a better judge of men. All children look up to their parents, and Saladin had a very successful father not only in his job, but also in raising a great son. Slaughter wrote, ” he trained his sons to stand together and help one another. At a time when family rivalries caused bitter dissension and even murders, Ayyub’s five sons and two daughters were bound together by sincere affections.” (p.19) As one could see, Saladin looked up to his father like any normal child would, which helped him grow up to be a great person.
As a young adult, Saladin avoided going to the Harem which was a ” women’s apartment, was the place where men relaxed from business and warfare to enjoy music and poetry, dances and conversation, marionettes, mimes, and lantern shows.” (p.24), since he was a religious devotee, absorbed in deeds of piety, and the study of the traditions and the Koran, and Islam prohibited these kind of activities. According to his friend Baha al-Din “‘he gave up wine and the pleasures of youth to devote himself to god.’” This shows that he wasn’t extraordinary, but a normal man, since lots of Muslim men devoted themselves to god. Also to show that he was a simple man Slaughter wrote “His tastes were simple; he was submissive to his father’s will; his desire was to continue to quiet pursuit of study and pleasures among his friends.” (p.26) And that’s what men wanted to do.
As a ruler of Egypt, which was known for its wealth, and to no surprise it meant nothing to Saladin, since his faith and getting rid of the Franks were the most important things to him. That also in not out of the ordinary since in Islam wealth doesn’t mean anything at the end. As a leader, he built colleges and mosques not to impress his people or to gain political power, but to let people benefit from it. Saladin presented himself like anybody else during cabinet meetings were ” [his] audiences were so informal that it was said that in his presence, everybody talked at once.” (p.66) In addition, he was extremely devoted to his children, like any other parent. Slaughter mentioned, ” In those three years in Egypt three sons were born to him. The eldest, al-Afdal, who, like the others, had the best tutors of Cairo and Alexandria,” (p.69), and every father wants the best for his children. Slaughter also added the Saladins’ greatest sacrifice was made when he left his home and children to fight the Franks.
In conclusion, Gertrude Slaughter pictured Saladin as a normal human being in various stages of his life, a child, a young adult, and a father and ruler at the same time. It all seemed realistic since most people go through these stages even though time periods change. Most people pictured him as an incredible man with amazing capabilities, but he was a normal man like anybody else. What made him different than anybody else that he took that extra step to complete his faith.
Slaughter, Gertrude. Saladin (1138-1193). New York:
New York, 1955.