Post “Third Crusade” 820th Anniversary Series: Saladin Passes Away March 4, 2013Posted by rwf1954 in crusades, history, medieval period, Middle Ages, Richard the Lionheart, Saladin, the crusades, third crusade.
Tags: Crusades, medieval history, Middle Ages, Richard the Lionheart, Saladin, Third Crusade
(This is the final bonus post following the series of 820th anniversary highlights of what history now calls the “Third Crusade.” My novel, The Swords of Faith, tells the story of this legendary clash between Richard the Lionheart and Saladin.)
820 years ago today the great Muslim Sultan al-Malik al Nasir Salah al-Din Abu ’l Muzaffer Yusuf ibn Ayyub ibn Shadi, commonly known as Saladin, passed away quietly in his bed after just under two weeks of severe illness. He was fifty-five years old. This followed his greeting of returning pilgrims from Mecca (Post “Third Crusade” 820th Anniversary Series: “But for the Lack of a Cloak”). The imam Abu Ja’far was reciting the Koran. Saladin’s faithful adviser al-Fadil was at his side. Reports say that when Abu Ja’far reached the words “there is no God but God and in Him do I put my trust,” Saladin smiled and his life ended.
Saladin’s funeral was modest. He accumulated no personal wealth; all resources that came to him were utilized for the benefit of the empire he ruled and the religion he devoutly followed and fought for.
Saladin is honored by Muslims and Christians. This is not a result of revisionism or rose-colored glasses. Contemporary chroniclers, both Muslim and Christian, offer descriptions of this great man’s compassionate nature. This includes Christians who fought bitter wars against forces under Saladin’s command. Was Saladin perfect? No. Of course not. No human being ever is. Was he always gentle and forgiving? Again, no. But in the context of his times, he was extraordinary, even inspirational. He ruled during a time of vicious religious wars. He brought as much magnanimity to this set of circumstances as he could. He believed in the tenets of his faith as he understood them. No slaughter of defenseless innocents. Look for peace when it is available. He remained true to these ideals during most of his life.
Yes, I find Saladin inspirational and relevant today. We live at a time when these old religious divides have been exploited by much lesser humans than Saladin, with people on both sides of the divides willing to demonize others based on their religious faiths. (I write at length about this in “Demonizing Islam is Both Wrong and Foolish”.) Saladin shows us that Muslim leaders can act with moderation and compassion, and that when they take the Saladin approach, they need not be feared. It is my opinion that Saladin would have been disgusted by the actions of suicide bombers who deliberately set out to kill innocents. They are an affront to Islam, to humanity itself. It is also my opinion that Saladin would have been disgusted with Muslim leaders who use their religion to create scapegoats to mask their own ineffectiveness and greed. Billionaire terrorist Yasir Arafat, his family living in comfort in Europe, stands as a prime example. As a citizen of the United States, aligned by nationality with the Christian point-of-view, I see the Saladin inspiration as a call, a reminder, to reach out to moderate Muslims and enlist them in a righteous fight against religious fanaticism of any group. We need to reach out to honorable people of all faiths to unite against shedding innocent blood as a means to terrorize enemies. I hope one day that a united front against fanaticism can embrace the “more-then-one-path-to-God” concept I have written about before . Until then, Saladin’s life can serve as an inspiration for living together in peace, with compassion and empathy for our fellow humans regardless of what spiritual faiths they choose.
There is an ironic footnote to what history now calls the “third crusade.” Saladin fought fellow Muslims to gain power, and then fought Christians on behalf of Islam to remove Christians from Jerusalem and the eastern Mediterranean. His death shortly after negotiating a truce on this all-consuming conflict meant he never had time to complete one of the five essential pillars of his faith—a pilgrimage to Mecca. His chief Christian opponent in the “Third Crusade,” Richard the Lionheart, also never visited the city most sacred to his faith, Jerusalem. He came within twelve miles, and actually shielded his eyes when he saw Jerusalem in the distance—he vowed not to enter the city or even look upon it unless he had conquered it for Christendom. For those who consider God as a force that directly intervenes in our lives, could it be God had a message for these two warriors of their faiths? Was the fact that neither of these icons of this period reached their holy cities a Divine message that killing in the name of religion is not considered a Divine activity? Yes, there are lessons still available from this history for us today.
This will be the last 820th anniversary post, following the progress of the “Third Crusade,” including the two Saladin epilogue posts. My novel, The Swords of Faith, tells this story through the eyes of Saladin, Richard, and two fictional characters, a Christian and a Muslim.
Links to every single one of the 820th anniversary posts concerning the “Third Crusade”:
To review a comprehensive catalog of historical fiction set during the medieval time period, go to http://www.medieval-novels.com:80/.