Rewriting history to whitewash all Muslim misdeeds is a big business, and an important component of the effort to Islamize the West. The jihad warrior Saladin has accordingly been elevated to near-Gandhi status, despite the trail of blood he left in his wake — and as Egyptian scholar Youssef Zeidan has discovered, one must not question such canonizations.
In our age Saladin has become the prototype of the tolerant, magnanimous Muslim warrior, historical proof of the nobility of Islam and even of its superiority to wicked, Western, colonialist Christianity. In The Crusades Through Arab Eyes, Amin Maalouf portrays the Crusaders as little more than savages, even gorging themselves on the flesh of those they have murdered. But Saladin! “He was always affable with visitors, insisting that they stay to eat, treating them with full honours, even if they were infidels, and satisfying all their requests. He could not bear to let someone who had come to him depart disappointed, and there were those who did not hesitate to take advantage of this quality. One day, during a truce with the Franj [Franks], the ‘Brins,’ lord of Antioch, arrived unexpectedly at Saladin’s tent and asked him to return a district that the sultan had taken four years earlier. And he agreed!”
In one sense it’s true: Saladin set out to conquer Jerusalem in 1187 because Crusaders under the command of Reynald of Chatillon were taking a page from Muhammad’s book and raiding caravans — in this case, Muslim caravans. The Christian rulers of Jerusalem ordered Reynald to stop because they knew that his actions endangered the very survival of their Kingdom. Yet he persisted; finally, Saladin, who had been looking for a reason to go to war with the Christians, found one in Reynald’s raids.
A lot is made of the fact that when Saladin recaptured Jerusalem for the Muslims in October 1187, he treated the Christians with magnanimity — in sharp contrast to the behavior of the Crusaders in 1099. However, the real Saladin was not the proto-multiculturalist and early version of Nelson Mandela that he is made out to be today. When his forces decisively defeated the Crusaders at Hattin on July 4, 1187, he ordered the mass execution of his Christian opponents. According to his secretary, Imad ed-Din, Saladin “ordered that they should be beheaded [in accordance with Qur’an 47:4, “When you meet the unbelievers, strike their necks”], choosing to have them dead rather than in prison. With him was a whole band of scholars and Sufis and a certain number of devout men and ascetics; each begged to be allowed to kill one of them, and drew his sword and rolled back his sleeve. Saladin, his face joyful, was sitting on his dais; the unbelievers showed black despair.”
Also, when Saladin and his men entered Jerusalem later that year, their magnanimity was actually pragmatism. He had initially planned to put to death all the Christians in the city. However, when the Christian commander inside Jerusalem, Balian of Ibelin, threatened in turn to destroy the city and kill all the Muslims there before Saladin could get inside, Saladin relented — although once inside the city he did enslave many of the Christians who could not afford to buy their way out. Despicable indeed.
“Egypt scholar in hot water for calling Muslim leader Saladin ‘despicable,’” Al Arabiya, May 14, 2017:
Notorious Egyptian scholar Youssef Zeidan has stirred another controversy by going against mainstream Islamic history, this time by calling the famed Muslim military leader Saladin “one of the most despicable figures in human history.”
Salahuddin Ayyubi (or Saladin) is known as one of the most esteemed Muslim figures of the medieval Islamic world, most importantly for reclaiming Jerusalem from the Crusaders during the 12th Century.
But recent statements on Saladin by Egyptian philosopher Zedian, an expert on Arabic and Islamic studies, have ignited a heated debate on social media and in Egyptian newspapers.
The storm broke out when Zeidan replied to a question on a night talk show about older Egyptian films on Islamic history.
He claimed that such films included “historic fallacies” about Islam.
In comments on one of these films, Zedian said the way Saladin was portrayed in current Islamic history did not reflect “his brutality against the Fatamids,” the founders of the Shia Islamic Caliphate that ruled Egypt and Syria back then….
“Salahuddin is one of the most despicable figures in human history,” Zeidan told interviewer Amr Adeeb. “He committed crimes against the Fatimids.”…