Walter Scott, The Talisman, the Crusades, Richard I of England and Saladin: Myths, Legends and History
by Ibn Warraq
Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5 / Part 6 / Part 7 / Part 8 / Part 9 / Part 10 / Part 11 / Part 12 / Part 13 / Part 14 / Part 15 / Part 16 / Part 17 / Part 18 / Part 19 / Part 20
3. THE AYYUBIDS.
Ayyubid is the name of the dynasty founded by Saladin. Saladin’s grandfather, Ayyub b.Shadi, was a Kurd from Armenia, and had been in the service of the Kurdish Shaddadid dynasty. However when the Kurdish princes and lords were slowly eliminated by the Seljuk Turks, Ayyub b. Shadi went to work for the Seljuk commander of Iraq, who made him governor of Takrit. His son Ayyub, the father of Saladin, succeeded him. “It was in this capacity that Ayyub earned the gratitude of the master of Mawsil [Mosul] and Aleppo, Zanki (Zangi), who after being defeated by the Caliph, was able, with the help of Ayyub, to cross the Euphrates and withdraw without a disaster. In the country behind Mawsil, Zanki first of all adopted a systematic policy of subduing and then of recruiting the Kurds. In 532/1138, Ayyub entered his service.
“He was at once used by him in Syria, being appointed governor of Baalbak, opposite Damascus. On Zanki’s death, Ayyub placed himself under the Burid prince of Damascus, who gave him the governorship of that town, whilst his brother Shirkuh, [Saladin’s uncle] followed Zanki’s son, Nur al-Din, the master of Northern Syria, who gave him Hims as an iqta. However, the trend of public opinion in Damascus finally led to the unification of Muslim Syria, with a view to the more effective prosecution of the war against the Franks, under the command of the prince with the most power and the greatest enthusiasm for the jihad, Nur al-Din; in the surrender of Damascus the activities of the two brothers Shirkuh and Ayyub played a major role, and Ayyub chose the side of Nur al-Din, the governor of the Syrian capital.” 
4. THE ACTORS IN EGYPT.
The Fatimids of Egypt. From 969 Egypt was ruled by the Shiite Fatimid dynasty, having broken free from the Sunni Abbasid rulers of Baghdad. The Fatimids constructed the new city of Cairo (“Conqueror” in Arabic) and established a rival Shiite caliph, challenging the universal authority of the Sunni caliph in Baghdad.
By the twelfth century, Egypt was governed by the caliph’s chief administrator, his vizier. By 1163, the nominal power lay in the hands of the eleven-year-old Caliph al-Adid, while the vizierate was held by the former governor of Upper Egypt, Shawar [executed 1169]. Shawar was overthrown and forced to flee to Syria, arriving in Damascus at the end 1163, and convinced Nur al-Din to help him regain his vizierate. Nur al-Din sent Shirkuh [died 1169], Saladin’s uncle, to Egypt, in April 1164, with a sizable and well-equipped force. Shirkuh won and re-installed Shawar, who, however, now wanted Shirkuh to leave. When the latter refused, Shawar invited the Franks to come to Egypt’s rescue.
Things went badly for Shawar, who was eventually forced to appeal to Nur al-Din once more, this time begging for assistance against Frankish attacks. Nur al-Din responded by sending Shirkuh and Saladin. The rest of the story is told in what follows on the life of Saladin. 
 E.I.2 s.v. “Ayyubids”.
 Ibid., pp. 266-274.
To be continued.