One historian has used the term “manifest destiny” to describe Saladin’s conquest Jerusalem in 1187 as seen by his contemporaries. This is because Saladin’s phenomenal rise to the top, from a simple Kurdish general to the successor of Nur ad-Din as premiere Islamic leader in the Levant was the last thing anyone could expect. The Battle of Hattin was cast in his biography by Imad ad Din as a crashing of the tide of Jihad against Frankish invaders although the carrier of Saladin was at stake every moment.

He fought his way to power by bullying, manipulating and killing his opponents. In 1174, at Nur ad-Dini’s death. Saladin’s ambition was to become the premiere Islamic leader in the East by the unification of all Muslim land and forces under his own rule and banner.  The problem was Saladin was not the natural heir to Nur ad-Din’s throne, there was an eleven year old son as Crown Prince.

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Contemporary historians account of the passing of power along to the next leader from Zangi to Nur ad-Din to Saladin description as “the torch of leadership passing along as smoothly and almost inevitably from one Muslim hero to the next”. However this was an illusion, Saladin’s path to the throne was less than clear, an eleven year old prince and other blood relations keen on perpetuating the Zengi dynasty.At that time, Saladin was an overlord of Egypt but his personal interest was to seize the place of Nur ad-Din and possibly his achievements. Historians have tried to probe into his motives – unfortunately his personal character is surrounded by the panegyrics of his own historians and contemporary accounts of his grand deeds. It is a debatable question to ask whether he sought power for it’s own sake, because of his unbounded ambition and greed for power or his aspirations were much more noble.

His purpose might have been  to unite the muslim world to rally all their combined forces as Jihad against the Christian foes.It is the task of historiography to denude Saladin of his legendary status as supreme Muslim hero of the Crusading era and show the man with his flaws and good traits. Contemporary sources were written by Saladin’s secretary, named Imad al-Din al-Isfahani (from 1174) and his adviser Baha al-Din Ibn Shaddad (from 1188). Both of their accounts are “sanitised” versions of the events – after the custom of the time they sought to present their master in only the best possible colours. Saladin is described as a sincere religious devotee to Islam and dedicated to Jihad against the Franks. This is known as the lesser Jihad in Islam, but in the Greater Jihad, the struggle for oneself, he also improved, foregoing wine-drinking in 1169 when he became leader of Egypt, as reported by Baha al-Din: Saladin was very diligent and zealous for the jihad.

If anyone were to swear that, since his embarking upon the jihad, he had not expended a single dinar or dirham on anything but the iihad or support for it, he would be telling the truth and true in his oath. The jihad, his love and passion for it, had taken a mighty hold of his heart and all his being, so much so that he talked of nothing else ( and) thought of nothing but the means to pursue it.This extremely advantageous account of his zeal is balanced by other sources from the time, for example al-Athir, an Iraqi chronicler at the hire of the opposing Zengid dynasty, who offers a less passionate description of Saladin.Another source of interest is Saladin;s personal letters to his own scribe al-Fadil which offer a wealth of material giving us a look into Saladin’s thought processes and motives and also his interest in creating an ideal image of himself through widespread use of propaganda.

Furthermore, as Saladin is known for his justice and clemency, to write about any medieval ruler it is important to remember the sanguinary and violent environment they operate in and to sometimes commit deeds less than ideal was necessary to advance into that climate. That he possessed such noble qualities and in this period of history, it is no small feat to accomplish. In fact, when Saladin sought to seize power from Nur ad-Din’s natural heirs he could have used brutality and mass murder as was done by Zengy before, but he combined military might with skilled political maneuvration of his adversaries to conquer Damascus, Aleppo and Mosul after 1174. He appealed to the call of Jihad throughout the period to justify his role as an “upstart outsider” as a Kurdish mercenary in a Persian and Arab dominated world. He also cast himself as a willing servant of the Abbasid Caliphate and as defender of Islam. His approach to use Jihad as a means to unite the Muslim world has been likened by Thomas Asbridge to Pope Urban II using the threat of Muslims to unite the Christian world against them. Besides his defence of Islam, his aspiration was to create a lasting dynasty of his family and already in the 1170s he presented himself as Sultan or King. while at the same time busy in securing future heirs to the throne by his wives and slave girls.

By a stroke of fate at the same time of Nur ad-Din’s death in 1174, King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem also died, both leaving behind heirs in the minority and thus clearing a smoother path for Saladin’s dominance in Syria, which was better base to launch a Jihad from against Jerusalem than Egypt. As he was invited to Aleppo to become al-Salih, the young heir’s guardian, his career was a constant fight in removing his ward from power and fighting to remove the Zengid dynasty from Mosul. As Saladin was an outsider, his legitimacy to the throne was harder to prove and his claim to unite all Muslims still harder to achieve, but his genius tactics to use Jihad against the Franks proved to be a better motive.

He married Nur ad-Din’s widow to secure his hold over Syria and sent letters constantly to the Abbasid Caliphate to gain their approval and beg for troops and money. Saladin’s biographers clothed him as the ideal Muslim warrior and ruler, highlighting his piety as when he died his only fortune was that of 47 dirhams which has been explained by al-Fadil that “Saladin spent his fortune gained from Egypt to conquer Syria and that of Syria to gain Mesopotamia and that one for Palestine”.Historians have questioned Saladin’s religious ardour and piety and have ascribed it to the incessant stream of propaganda from his chroniclers. However Andrew Jotischky has listed a number of facts which support that Saladin’s personal qualities of mercy and religiousness were at least sincere.

For example, as Baha ad-Din reports. parts of hadith as custom of the Prophet were recited to the army as an injunction from Saladin and he also conducted a religious along on battles which he preferred to fight on Fridays so as to benefit from the special prayer of the day. In 1185 he escaped an attempt on his life by Shiite Assassins, which culminated in his strengthened devotion to to Jihad. Other historians such as Kohler, are sceptical about his religious motives and cite the treaties struck with the Franks and from 1183 onward with the Byzantines to emphasise his collusion with Christians. Carole Hillenbrand is much less skeptical, in fact she maintains “the public image presented by the ruler was much more important than his personal piety. And Jotischky further that in the modern world its is much easier the Jihad professed by a medieval Muslim ruler to spring from sincere motives in the light of recent events. The background of Jihad was the fundamental drive that Saladin justified as his motive for Ayyubid authority and expansionism. It was his unique purpose that attracted soldiers under his banner to liberate the Holy Land from Frankish rulers.

After his illness, his devotion to religions and his cause increased and it became a political necessity to wage war against the Franks or his carefully forged empire could have come crashing down to it’s Jihadi roots. For his contemporaries, religious fanaticism was increasing and Saladin was seen as the ruler who could assault the infidels and drive them out of their lands. Al-Athir, thus commentated on the Sultan: One of Saladin’s emirs said to him: The best plan in my opinion is to invade their territory and if any Frankish force stands against us, we should meet it. People in the east curse us and say, “He has given up fighting the infidels and has turned his attention to fighting Muslims.” We should take a course of action that will vindicate us and stop people’s tongues.

Saladin declared his determination to go out to war as the pressure on him was building as well as bourne out of a more personal realisation of his mortality. IN fact, al-Athir reported Saladin to say “affairs do not proceed from man’s decisions (and) we do not know how much do we have of our lives).Despite ws his intentions were between 1169 and 1186, in this latter year the impulse to was triggered and Saladin mustered the full brunt of this forces from all Muslim land under his unique banner to bear against the Frankish armies. The Sultan of Islam was fortunate in his timing as his determination to battle with the Kingdom of Jerusalem coincided with a crisis at the upper levels of power. In 1186, King Baldwin V, the minor heir to the throne died and this event very nearly ignited a civil war. Succession to the throne was coveted by the Count Raymond of  Tripoli but after a series of maneuvers, Sybilla, Baldwin’s mother, seized the throne together with her husband, Guy of Lusignan, supported by the Patriarch Heraclius and other nobles. King Guy’s plan was to renew a treaty with Saladin until April 1187 while his personal animosity against Count Raimond made him seize his lordship of Galilee. However, this move of his triggered Count Raimond to seek the protection of Saladin in addition to Muslim troops, in exchange of Muslims warriors to pass undisturbed through the land of Galilee.

On the onset of war, a Christian lord, in an act of treason, was a friend of the Saracen leader determined to seize the Holy Land. This fundamental division between frankish rulers  and the proved to be fatal for the results of  the Battle of Hattin.Finally in 1187, Reynald of Chatillon, lord of Kerak committed the ultimate act of war by breaking the terms of the treaty by his attack on Muslim caravans going to Mecca in a fit of greed. This provoked Saladin intensely as he demanded the stolen goods be returned but he was refused.

Reynald of Chatillon’s manifest motive was to go on to war and for Saladin this was a good reason as any to begin the campaign as he also did not renew the truce with the Franks.Chatillon became Saladin’s personal enemy as he vowed to slay him himself as he later did. {insert Battle of Hattin x200max}After the Battle of Hattin, which saw Saladin’s resounding victory against the Franks, he turned his attention to the Holy Land, the ultimate goal of his Jihad. Fervour for the liberation of Jerusalem, the most important Holy Site outside of Arabia, among the Muslim ranks. Jerusalem was spiritually significant for Muslims as it was eloquently exposed by Saladin in a letter to Richard the Lionheart: “Jerusalem belongs to us just as much as to you, and is more precious in our eyes than in yours. It was the place of our Prophet’s journey, and the place where the angels gathered.

Therefore, do not imagine that we shall give the city up to you, or that you will convince us in the matter. As regards the land, it belonged originally to us, and you came to attack us; if you succeeded in taking it, it was only because you came unexpectedly and also because the Muslims there were weak; as long as the war lasts, God will not allow you to build anything in this country. Lastly, as concerns the Cross, its possession is very useful to us, and we cannot give it up except if we could gain from it some advantage to Islam.” Excerpted from “The Life of Saladin” by Baha’ ad-Din.On 20th September of 1187, Saladin’s armies moved to conquer Jerusalem amounting to tens of thousands of troops, more than those afforded by the defenders of Jerusalem, who were desperately short of manpower. The only remaining commander was Balian of Ibelin who had committed an oath with Saladin not to bear arms against him. In the desperate situation before the provision of the long siege awaiting them, he was convinced to renege his oath and fight. He was forced to knight every male citizen over sixteen because of the shortage of knights but  even then Muslim numerical superiority was evident.

Saladin’s army lay siege for five days on the Tower of David on the walls of Jerusalem, then shifting the focus to where the first crusaders had breached the wall as that was the weakest point.