The Man Behind the Armor
He defied the odds in an era of darkness, setting aside the criticism of those who called him crazy for defying the impossible: uniting the Ummah, standing up to the Crusaders, and returning honor where it belonged.
In the Name of Allâh, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful
Salah El Deen El Ayoubi
He defied the odds in an era of darkness, setting aside the criticism of those who called him crazy for defying the impossible: uniting the Ummah, standing up to the Crusaders, and returning honor where it belonged. He was respected by both friends and foes, and is perhaps one of the few whose name evokes feelings of honor and pride in the minds of many at every place and time, including the American film industry which could not help but portray the honor and righteousness that Salah El Deen was known for.
We all know how he lay waste to the Crusaders and had them chasing their tails in the battles of Alexandria, Hittin, Acre, Tyre, Beirut, Nablus, Haifa, Tiberius, Gaza, ‘Asqalan, Jerusalem, and dozens of other cities and towns across Sham and North Africa.
We have all heard of Salah El Deen the warrior; but who was the man behind the armor? What was he like as a person? What was he like as a Muslim? What personality does it take to carry out such heroic feats and achieve such status?
In Al-Bidaya Wan Nihayah (13/5-6), Ibn Kathir says that at the time of his death, Salah El Deen hardly possessed any money owing to, “… the immense amount of gifts, charity and kindness he used to show the leaders and ministers under his command- including his enemies! I already described this previously: and he was very simple in his clothing, food, drink, and transportation. He would only wear cotton, linen, and wool. It is not known that he ever approached anything forbidden or discouraged, especially after Allah blessed him with his kingdom. Rather, his greatest concern and goal was to aid Islam.”
Ibn Kathir continues, “...this is all in addition to the virtues and unique skills he possessed in the Arabic language, poetry, and history, such that it was said he had memorized ‘al-Hamasah’ (a book of poetry compiled by Abu Tammam at-Ta’i) in its entirety. He was also very strict regarding praying on time and in jama’ah. It is said that he never missed a single prayer in jama’ah for a great part of his life, even during the illness that killed him. The imam would enter and lead him in prayer, and he would struggle to get up and pray despite his weakness.”
He continues: “…and he loved to hear the recitation of the Qur’an and the reading of ahadith and knowledge. He was constant and habitual in listening to ahadith being read to him, to the point that he would hear a section read to him while he was standing between the ranks of soldiers! He would enjoy doing this and say, “Nobody listens to ahadith in a situation like this.”"
He also mentions, “He had a soft heart, and was easily swayed to tears upon hearing ahadith.”
He continues, “…and Salah El Deen was among the bravest of people, and the strongest in body and heart despite the illnesses he suffered. This was mostly evident during the Siege of Acre, where despite the massive numbers of the enemy, he only increased in power and bravery. They had as many as 500,000 soldiers – some say 600,000 – and he killed 100,000 of them.”
He also says, “He was generous and well-rounded, always laughing and smiling. He would never slack off in any good that he did. He was extremely patient when doing good and worshipping Allah.”
In ‘Siyar A’lam an-Nubala' (15/436), it is mentioned that al-Muwaffaq ‘Abd al-Latif said, “I went to Salah El Deen while he was in Jerusalem, and I saw a king who filled eyes with amazement and hearts with love, whether they were near or far. He was an easygoing person, likeable, and his companions used to try to imitate him, racing towards good actions, as Allah Said (interpretation of the meaning) : 'And We will remove whatever is in their breasts of resentment, [so they will be] brothers, on thrones facing each other'. [Al-Hijr: 47]
Transliteration: Wa Nazanā Mā Fī Şudūrihim Min Ghillin 'Ikhwānāan Alá Sururin Mutaqābilīna
The first night I spent with him, I found his gatherings filled with scholars engaged in knowledge. He would listen intently and participate in their discussions. He would learn how to build walls and dig trenches, and he would then do this himself, carrying the rocks on his own shoulders.”
al-’Imad said in ‘as-Siyar’ (15/440):
“He would only wear what was permissible to wear, such as linen and cotton. His gatherings were free of vain talk, and they were only attended by the most virtuous people. He loved to hear ahadith being read with their chains of narration. He was forebearing, honest, pious, pure, and trustworthy. He would contain himself and not become angry. He would never turn back someone in need or embarrass someone who spoke in front of him. He was extremely kind and charitable; he reprimanded me for decorating my utensils in silver, and I replied that Abu Muhammad al-Juwayni mentioned a point of view of it being permissible. And I never saw him praying except in jama’ah.”
Also on the same page, Abu Ja’far al-Qurtubi said that when Salah El Deen was on his deathbed:
“I finished reciting the Qur’an at the verse: (interpretation of the meaning) 'He is Allah, other than whom there is no deity, Knower of the unseen and the witnessed. He is the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.' [Al-Hashr: 22]
Transliteration: Huwa Allāhu Al-Ladhī Lā 'Ilāha 'Illā Huwa Ālimu Al-Ghaybi Wa Ash-Shahādati Huwa Ar-Raĥmānu Ar-Raĥīmu
I heard Salah El Deen saying: “This is true,” and he was in a coma before this. He then died, and al-Khatib ad-Dawla’i washed his body. He was brought out in a coffin, and Muhi ad-Din bin az-Zinki prayed over him. He was then returned to the room in the garden where he had been sick and was buried in a kiosk. Voices were raised in crying, and it became so loud that even the smart one would think that the whole world was screaming in a single voice. The people were so overwhelmed that some of them were distracted from praying over him. People expressed their remorse at his passing - including the Crusaders, because of how truthful and trustworthy he was.”
“And I never saw a king for whose death people were sad except for him. This is because he was loved by everyone: the righteous and the wicked, the Muslim and the kafir.”
The above descriptions speak for themselves.
This was Salah El Deen: the man behind the armor. This was his lifestyle and character, and it was nothing other than this that served as the platform for the amazing feats across the lands that we remember him for today. It was nothing other than his lifestyle and character that made him the one chosen by Allah out of all his contemporaries to have the vision and do the deeds that would make him such a legend.
It is this lifestyle and character that you find in common between all the legends of Islam, be they scholars or Mujahedeen. You always find them paying great attention to the following: daily recitation of the Qur’an, studying of the Shari’ah, giving tons of charity, not uttering a single useless word (let alone harmful or obscene), and living simple lives free of luxury and excessive comfort. Believe it or not, some of us actually look at these things as difficult, boring, and lacking excitement, and we ignore them out of an inability to comprehend how these would be linked to the heroic deeds that those legendary figures were renowned for. However, there is no way around it: it was this lifestyle alone that made it possible for those people to live for something greater than themselves – for Islam. There is no way you can dream of defending the Shari’ah if you don’t even have the willpower to implement it on a daily basis in your own life.
One more thing should be mentioned: Salah El Deen had not always been as such- adh-Dhahabi says in ‘as-Siyar’ (15/434 and 436):
“Since his time as a ruler, he had abandoned alcohol and worldly pleasures.”
“He used to drink alcohol, and then repented from it.”
That’s right. Salah El Deen El Ayoubi – this righteous man who singlehandedly changed the course of history – loved to drink and indulge in the 'dunya' before he decided to take on the Crusaders. This small fact teaches us a mighty lesson: not everyone is born into a life of taqwa. The great people we love and admire out there were not always so great- which gives you hope no matter how insignificant or lost you think you are that you can become something truly great one day!
Courtesy of Iskandrani