Critical Review of Saladin’s Achievements in the Era of the Crusaders

Saladin was a prominent figure in the Medieval history. He was the most famous of the Muslim military heroes. His achievements were not limited to the military sphere alone, but transgressed across the political, diplomatic and administrative arenas. He succeeded to unite the Muslims and defeated the Crusaders and recapture Jerusalem.

His Youth

Saladin was born in Tikrit (present Iraq) in the year of 1138. His father, Najmuddin, was a Kurdish from Azarbaijan. On the night of his birth, his father, Najmudin, decided to move to Aleppo and worked for Imaddin Zangi, the powerful Turkish governor in northern Syria.

He received a taste of military life under the guided eyes of his uncle, Asaddin, and the academic and religious elements from his father. Following the tradition in those days, Saladin was trained to be expert horse rider and handled various weapons of combat, such as the sword in and archery. While growing up, Saladin was an ordinary undistinguished youth, with a greater interest in religious studies, rather than military achievement.

Uniting the Muslims.

Egypt became the stepping stone for Saladin’s ambition to recapture Jerusalem. This opportunity came when he was part of the triumphant army sent to Egypt by the Emir of Damascus to face the onslaught of the Crusaders. Upon the death of the vizier and his uncle, (army commander Asaddin), he was appointed as the Vizier of Egypt, keeping alliance to the emir in Damascus. When the Emir in Damascus died, Saladin proceeded in his plan to unite the fractional Muslims states with single minded intention to stage a holy war.

Battle of Hattin.

This is the beginning of the downfall of the crusaders. The exhausted army was trapped. So great were the losses in the ranks of the crusaders in this single battle that the Muslims were able to overrun over nearly the entire Kingdom of Jerusalem. One by one their stronghold fell under the power of Saladin, Acre, Toron, Beirut, Sidon, Nazareth, Caesarea, Nabulus, Jaffa (Yafo), and Ascalon (Ashqelon) within three months.

Saladin’s main achievement was the capture of Jerusalem (1187). In stark contrast to the Christians who captured the city 87 years earlier, the Muslim reconquest was marked by the civilized and courteous behavior of Saladin and his troops. By 1189 the crusaders occupied only three cities in the entire Middle East. Saladin’s conquest sparked the Third Crusade, which was led by the famed military leader Richard I (the Lion-Hearted). The clash between these two great powers ended in a draw, but a treaty was drawn up that allowed Christians to visit holy sites in the area. Saladin died a peaceful death in Damascus in 1193.


Saladin’s every act was inspired by an intense and undivided mindset to the idea of jihad, or holy war, taking the example from the struggle of the prophet and the companions. He opened colleges and mosque and created a system to support the quest of knowledge. He invited scholars and commissioned them to write edifying works both in religious topics as well as academics’ interest. Through religious principle, which was a genuine part of his own way of life, he tried to re-create in his own realm some of the same zeal and enthusiasm that had proved so valuable to the first generations of Muslims when, five centuries before, they had conquered half the known world.

In wars against the Christian crusaders, he achieved final success with the disciplined capture of Jerusalem (Oct. 2, 1187), ending its 88-year occupation by the Franks. He demonstrated his high standard of moral value by offering chance for the Christian Troops to leave within 40 days.

His chivalrous behavior was noted by Christian writers, especially in the accounts of the siege of Kerak in Moab, and despite being the enemies of the Crusaders he won the respect of many of them, including Richard the Lionheart; rather than becoming a hated figure in Europe, he became a celebrated example of the principled leader.