Walter Scott, The Talisman, the Crusades, Richard I of England and Saladin: Myths, Legends and History
by Ibn Warraq
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B. ARABIC SOURCES
As Sir Hamilton Gibb points out, there are five contemporary sources in Arabic, in whole or in part, besides casual references in the writings of travelers and others.
1. BahÄ” ad-DÄ«n Ibn ShaddÄd [1145-1234] “entered Saladin’s service in 1188, was made Qadi to the army and remained a faithful member of the Sultan’s death. [His life of Saladin] is an excellent historical and biographical source, dictated by sincere devotion and admiration unmixed with servile flattery and based for the most part on personal observation”.  Work: al-Nawadir al-Sultaniyya wa”˜l-Mahasin al-Yusufiyya. Title translated by Francesco Gabrieli as “Sultanly Anecdotes and Josephly Virtues” (Joseph [Yusuf, in Arabic] being Saladin’s personal name). Translated by D. S. Richards as “The Rare and Excellent History of Saladin“. BahÄ” ad-DÄ«n’s work was translated into Latin by the Dutch orientalist Albert Schultens in 1732. It was very influential in forming the views held by European historians of Saladin. Gibbon cites him often, referring to him as Bohadin.
2. “˜ImÄd ad-DÄ«n al-Isfahani [1125-1200] was secretary to Nur ad-Din and then Saladin.Wrote in a most ornate and artificial style imaginable, full of “blank and rhyming verse, uninterrupted sequences of alliteration, metaphors and puns”. His history of the Fall of Jerusalem which extends as far as Saladin’s death, called al-Fath al-qussi fi l-fath al-qudsi — a punning title which Gabrieli translates as Ciceronian Eloquence on the Conquest of the Holy City. ImÄd ad-DÄ«n also wrote Barq ash-Shami or Lightning of Syria, which chronicles Saladin’s life from 1175. But style notwithstanding, he is an important source for events in Syria and Mesopotamia, which he “describes circumstantially, accurately and faithfully”. 
3. Ibn al-AthÄ«r [1160-1233] His most important work is al-Kamil fi”l-Ta”rikh [The Perfect or Complete Work of History]. Gibb was very critical indeed of Ibn al-Athir, especially in the use of his sources. Hardly surprising, since Al-Athir passed harsh judgements on Gibb’s hero Saladin. By contrast, Francesco Gabrieli [1904-1996], the late Professor of Arabic Language and Literature at the University of Rome, wrote, “One man stands out as a true historian from the ranks of more or less diligent chroniclers: Ibn al-Athir. His reputation among Orientalists has recently diminished, because of the free and tendentious use he makes of his sources, but the qualities that reduce his reliability as documentary evidence are those of an original thinker, outstanding among so many passive compilers of facts.”  Said to have favoured the Zangid dynasty (Zangi, Nur ad-Din and their successors). For the Crusades, Ibn al-Athir was “an eye-witness, although not always a sympathetic one, of Saladin’s career”. 
4. Ibn Abi at-Tayy [c.1160-1235] was a Shi”˜ite historian of Aleppo who wrote a biography of Saladin but which work is lost. He is quoted by Abu Shama and Ibn al-Furat [1334-1405].
 Francesco Gabrieli. Arab Historians of the Crusades, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1984 [Ist Italian Edn. 1957; Ist English Edn. 1969] pp.xxix.
 Ibid., p.xxx.
 Ibid., pp. xix-xx.
 Gabrieli, p.xxvii.
To be continued.