HE defied the odds in an era of darkness. He set aside the criticism of those who called him crazy for wanting to do the seemingly impossible: uniting the Ummah, standing up to the Crusaders, and returning honor where it belonged. He was respected by both his friends and foes, and is perhaps one of the few men whose name evokes feelings of honor and pride in the minds of so many people in every era and place.
He had the Crusaders 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. He is popularly known as Salah-ad-Din the warrior.
But, who was the man behind the armor? How was he as a person, and as a Muslim? What personality does it take to carry out such heroic feats and achieve such a status?
In Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah (13/5-6), Ibn Kathir said that at the time of his death, Salah-ad-Din hardly had any money in his possession, and this was because: “…of the immense amount of gifts and charity and kindness that he used to show the leaders and ministers under his command, and even to his enemies.
“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 continued: “He was very strict in praying on time in the jama’ah (congregation). 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 loved to hear the recitation of the Qur’an and the reading of hadith 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!”
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