Al-‘Adil Muhammad (btw. 1143and 1145–1218): Al-Malikal-‘Adil Muhammad ibn Ayyub was Saladin’s brother and one of his closest supporters. He was entrusted with major responsibilities, including governing Egypt from 1174 to 1183 while Saladin was conquering Syria, and acting as Saladin’s principal ambassador to Richard the Lionheart. After Saladin’s death he inherited territories in the northern and eastern frontier regions of the Ayyubid state but soon outmanoeuvred Saladin’s sons to take control of the family confederation. He died on 31 August 1218 while en route to fight against the forces of the Fifth Crusade at Damietta.
Al-Afdal Shahanshah (1066–1121): Al-Afdal was the son and successor of the Fatimid vizier Badr al-Jamali (d. 1094), reigning as vizier from 1094 until his death. He initially sought to establish an alliance with the forces of the First Crusade against the Seljuks, but when this failed he attempted to oppose them, only to be defeated in battle at Ascalon on 12 August 1099. He subsequently sought to reform the army, but was himself assassinated on the orders of the Fatimid caliph al-Amir (r. 1101–30) in December 1121.
Alp-Arslan (c. 1030–73): Alp-Arslan became the Great Seljuk sultan in 1063. While he actually spent more time fighting against members of his own family or pursuing his own territorial ambitions in Armenia and Georgia, he is probably best known for defeating the Byzantine emperor Romanus Diogenes (r. 1068–71) at the Battle at Manzikert (Malasjird) in 1071, an event that opened Asia Minor to Turkmen invaders and spurred Byzantine appeals for aid to the powers of western Europe.
Al-Ashraf Khalil (c. 1262–93): Al-Malik al-Ashraf Khalil ibn Qalawun was the Mamluk sultan of Egypt and Syria from 1290 to 1293. Al-Ashraf only became the heir apparent in 1288, when his older, more popular brother ‘Ali died, and apparently Qalawun himself had been reluctant to appoint his younger son to succeed him. However, he ascended smoothly to the throne, and one of his first major acts as sultan was to conduct the conquest of Acre that his father had been planning, taking the city by storm on 18 May 1291, something that gave him great prestige. However, by 1293 he had alienated a number of important emirs, including his deputy, and he was killed by a group of conspirators on 14 December while out hunting.
Aybak (d. 1257): ‘Izz al-Din Aybak al-Turkumani was a mamluk emir who became sultan of Egypt after the abdication of Shajar al-Durr in July 1250, whom he then married. Forced by other mamluk emirs to abdicate in favour of a puppet Ayyubid child prince five days later, he became strong enough to depose the Ayyubid sultan and take power into his own hands again in 1254, ruling for three years. However, his jealous wife Shajar al-Durr, hearing that he planned to marry another woman who would replace her as his chief wife, had him murdered by slaves while he was in a bath-house in April 1257.
Baha’ al-Din ibn Shaddad (1145–1234): Baha’ al-Din Yusuf ibn Shaddad was born and educated in Mosul. He spent time as a teacher in Baghdad and then back in Mosul, and also served the Zangid rulers of the latter as an ambassador. In 1188 he performed thehajj, and on the way home he was recruited into the retinue of Saladin, who made him the qadi of his army. Thereafter the two men were close friends. After Saladin’s death Baha’ al-Din served a number of the sultan’s descendants before retiring. He wrote a number of works, of which the best known is his important biography of Saladin, al-Nawadir al-Sultaniyya wa-l-Mahasin al-Yusufiyya (The Rare Qualities of the Sultan and the Merits of Yusuf).
Baldwin of Boulogne (btw. 1061 and 1070–1118): Baldwin took part in the First Crusade, including founding the County of Edessa in March 1098. After the death of his brother Godfrey de Bouillon in 1100 he became the first Frankish King of Jerusalem, reigning until his own death. In the years that followed he secured and expanded the holdings of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. He died while on campaign in Egypt on 2 April 1118.
Baybars al-Bunduqdari (1220s–1277): Al-Malik al-Zahir Baybars al-Bunduqdari was the Mamluk sultan of Egypt and Syria from 1260 to 1277. A member of the Bahri Mamluk regiment, he was chosen to rule after the assassination of his predecessor Qutuz (r. 1259–60) in the wake of the Battle of ‘Ayn Jalut. Baybars spent much of his reign fighting multiple enemies; he subdued the Syrian Assassins, fended off the Mongols and waged yearly campaigns against the Franks that included the conquest of Antioch in May 1268. He is also credited with putting many of the political, military and religious structures of the Mamluk state in place.
Chingiz Khan (d. 1227): Temujin, better known by his title Chingiz Khan (or Genghis Khan [‘Universal King’]), was a Mongol chieftain who in 1206 forged a confederation of tribes on the steppes of eastern Asia. He entertained visions of world conquest, launching campaigns into northern China (1211), Central Asia (1215) and the empire of the Khwarazm-Shahs (in present-day Iran and Turkmenistan ). By his death he ruled an empire stretching from the east coast of China to Rey, Nishapur and Georgia in the west. His empire would be further expanded by his successors over the course of the thirteenth century.
Conrad III (1093–1152): Conrad III was the King of Germany from 1138 until his death, and was a leader of the Second Crusade. Conrad initially sought to take his armies overland to the east, but Turkish attacks and shortages of supplies depleted his forces, and he eventually travelled with his remaining troops from Constantinople to Acre by sea. In June 1148 he, Louis VII of France (r. 1137–80) and Baldwin III of Jerusalem (r. 1143–63) decided to mount an attack on Damascus, which failed in the face of both the inhabitants’ resistance and the approach of Muslim reinforcements (July 1148). Conrad left for Germany the following September.
Frederick I Barbarossa (1122–90): King of Germany from 1152 and Holy Roman Emperor from 1155, Frederick Barbarossa (‘red-beard’) went on both the Second (as a deputy for his uncle Conrad III) and Third Crusades. Despite his attempts to prepare the way ahead of his departure on the Third Crusade, Frederick’s journey to the east was difficult, with his forces coming into conflict with both the Byzantines and the Seljuks of Rum, as well as suffering from food shortages and problems crossing difficult terrain. Frederick himself drowned in the River Saleph (Silifke) in Cilicia (Southern Turkey) on 10 June 1190, and his army subsequently broke up after reaching Antioch.
Frederick II (1194–1250): Frederick II was King of Germany from 1211, and Holy Roman Emperor from 1220, until his death. Frederick took the cross in 1215, but problems in his own lands forced him to postpone his departure for the Holy Land, and in September 1227 he was excommunicated by the pope for delaying. Frederick went east nonetheless, and there he negotiated with al-Kamil Muhammad the return of Jerusalem to Christian hands but with the Temple Mount and some nearby territories remaining under Muslim control, an agreement that angered both Christians and Muslims alike (February 1229). Even after returning home in May, Frederick remained involved in the crusading movement, providing support in particular in the form of diplomatic activity.
Genghis Khan See Chintz Khan.
Guy of Lusignan (c. 1150–94): The son of a southern French nobleman, Guy of Lusignan became the King of Jerusalem, after the death of King Baldwin V (r. 1185–6), by virtue of his being married to the king’s mother Sibyl, who seized the throne after the death of her son. In July 1187 Guy led the army of the Kingdom of Jerusalem to its defeat at the hands of Saladin, himself being captured. Released in 1188, he gathered his forces and besieged Acre the following year, the arrival of the forces of the Third Crusade providing reinforcements. By the time that the city fell to the crusaders Sibyl had died, and Guy’s claim to the throne with her, but Guy was able to buy Cyprus from Richard I of England, establishing a dynasty there that would rule until 1489.
Hülegü (c. 1217–65): Hülegü was the brother of the Mongol Great Khan Möngke (r. 1251–9). In 1253 his brother sent him to lead the ongoing Mongol campaigns in Persia and Iraq. Hülegü destroyed Alamut in 1256, effectively ending the Persian branch of the Assassins, and then took Baghdad on 12 February 1258, killing the caliph and temporarily ending the ‘Abbasid caliphate. He went on to conquer northern Syria, but returned home in the spring of 1260 to take part in the selection of the next Great Khan after Möngke’s death. The small army that he left in Syria was defeated by the Mongols at ‘Ayn Jalut in September 1260, and the Mongol advance stalled. In the meantime, the Mongol Empire broke up, and Hülegü established a largely independent state in Iraq and Persia known as the Ilkhanate.
Husayn, Saddam (1937 or 1939–2006): Saddam Husayn was the President of Iraq from 1979 to 2003. Originally of peasant origins, Husayn rose through the ranks of the socialist Ba’th Party, which took a firm grip on power in Iraq in 1968. In 1979 he took over the presidency and engaged in a programme of political repression and military action within the country to secure his position and remove his opponents. He also engaged in foreign conflicts, including a war with Iran in 1980–8 and an invasion of Kuwait in 1990 that was driven back by a UN coalition force. Further conflict with the UN, and especially the USA, resulted in a US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, in the course of which Husayn was captured. He was convicted of crimes against humanity by an Iraqi court in November 2006 and executed on 30 December.
Ibn ‘Asakir (1105–76): ‘Ali ibn al-Hasan ibn ‘Asakir was born into a family of Shafi’i scholars and began his study of religious texts at the age of 6. In 1126 he began to travel for the sake of learning, studying with religious scholars in major centres across the Muslim world, including Baghdad, Mecca, Medina, Kufa, Merv, Nishapur and Herat, before settling back in Damascus. After Nur al-Din took the city in 1154 Ibn ‘Asakir became a propagandist for the sultan, preaching the jihad on his patron’s behalf. Ibn ‘Asakir wrote several works, including his immense and famous biographical dictionary of the notables of Damascus, entitled Ta’rikh Madinat Dimashq (The History of the City of Damascus), and a collection of hadiths on the jihad, entitled al-Arba’in Hadithan fil-Hathth ‘ala al-Jihad (The Forty Hadiths for Inciting Jihad).
Ibn al-Athir (1160–1233): ‘Izz al-Din Abu’l-Hasan ‘Ali, known by his family name of Ibn al-Athir, was an Iraqi scholar and historian. While he spent most of his life in Mosul, he also travelled repeatedly to Baghdad and also in Syria, including serving for a time in the army of Saladin. He wrote a number of works but is best known for his Ta’rikh al-Bahir fi’l-Dawla al-Atabakiyya (The Dazzling History of the Atabeg State), which is a rather partisan history of the Zangids of Mosul; and especially his Kama fi’l-Ta’rikh (The Complete History), a chronicle of the world from the Creation to his own time. Ibn al-Athir’s works are based on a mixture of other historical chronicles, some archival documents and eyewitness accounts, including those of family members who served the Zangid regime in various capacities.
Ibn al-Qalanisi (1073–1160): Abu Ya’la Hamza ibn Asad al-Tamimi, better known by his family name of Ibn al-Qalanisi (‘the son of the hatter’) was the author of Dhayî Ta’rikh Dimashq (The Continuation of the History of Damascus), a chronicle of the city that is one of the earliest Muslim sources for the crusading period. Ibn al-Qalanisi himself was both an educated scholar and an important figure in the city’s administration; among other posts, he was twice head of the urban militia. In writing his history, Ibn al-Qalanisi made use of a wide range of sources including earlier histories, official documents and correspondence, eyewitness accounts and his own personal experiences of the dramatic events that unfolded in and around Damascus during his lifetime. His own work then became a major source for other historians such as Ibn al-Athir and Sibt ibn al-Jawzi.
Ibn Shaddad See Baha’ al-Din ibn Shaddad.
Ibn Taymiyya (1263–1328): Taqi al-Din Ahmad ibn Taymiyya was a Hanbali religious scholar. He was born in Harran, and in 1268–9 his family fled before the Mongol advance to Damascus. There his father became the head of a madrasa, and in 1284 Ibn Taymiyya succeeded him in this position. In 1293 he became involved in a political conflict, which led to the first of a number of spells in prison, yet at other times he served the Mamluk sultans preaching the jihad, especially against the Mongols. He was a staunch advocate of the jihad in all its forms, whose ideas were highly influential in his own time and continue to be today.
Ilghazi (c. 1062–1122): Najm al-Din Ilghazi ibn Artuk was a Turkmen chieftain. He initially served the Great Seljuks, but in 1108 or 1109 he took control of Mardin in what is now Turkey, establishing himself as effectively independent. In 1118 he expanded his influence over Aleppo, after its citizens appealed to him for protection from Roger of Salerno, the regent of Antioch (r. 1113–19). The following year he destroyed Roger’s army at the Battle of Balat/Ager Sanguinis, the regent himself being among the slain. Ilghazi did not then follow up his victory with the conquest of Antioch itself, something that chroniclers of the time blamed on drunkenness, but which was more likely a result of strategic concerns.
‘Imad al-Din al-Isfahani (1125–1201): ‘Imad al-Din Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Isfahani was born in Persia but educated at Baghdad. He initially worked for the vizier of the ‘Abbasid caliph, then Nur al-Din, before passing into Saladin’s service in 1175. He soon became Saladin’s personal secretary and almost constant companion until the latter’s death in 1193, after which he retired to Damascus and devoted himself to literary activity. Both a historian and a literary enthusiast, he has left us, in addition to an anthology of twelfth-century Arabic poetry, an autobiographical account of the campaigns of Saladin entitled al-Barq al-Shami (the Syrian Lightning), and an account of the years 1187 to 1193 entitled al-Fath al-Qussi fi’l-Fath al-Qudsi (Qussian Eloquence on the Conquest of Jerusalem).
Kalavun See Qalawun.
Al-Kamil Muhammad (btw. 1177 and 1180–1238): The son of the Ayyubid sultan al-‘Adil Muhammad, al-Malik al-Kamil Muhammad ibn Muhammad (r. 1218–38) succeeded his father in Egypt while the forces of the Fifth Crusade were besieging Damietta. In the wake of the fall of the city al-Kamil Muhammad, with the acquiescence of his brother al-Mu’azzam ‘Isa of Damascus (r. 1218–27), offered to return the old Kingdom of Jerusalem to the crusaders in exchange for their evacuation from Egypt, but the offer was refused. The crusader advance on Cairo was unsuccessful, however, and eventually they were forced to negotiate a safe withdrawal. Al-Kamil Muhammad did later negotiate the return of Jerusalem to Frederick II in 1229, though retaining the Temple Mount and other surrounding territories, a move that proved immensely unpopular among Christians and Muslims alike.
Louis IX (1214–70): Louis IX was King of France from 1226 until his death. He was a pious man from an early age, and in 1244 he took his first vow to go on crusade. After seeking to set his affairs in order at home he set out in 1248, but despite initial success in capturing Damietta his crusade against Egypt was a failure, with Louis himself being captured by the Mamluks in 1250. Louis was released in exchange for Damietta and the evacuation of the crusaders from Egypt, and after four years spent improving the defences of the Kingdom of Jerusalem he returned home. He sought to promote further piety and justice in both his own personal behaviour and the administration of his realm, then in 1267 resolved to go on crusade again, this time in North Africa. He landed at Tunis in July 1270 but fell ill soon after, dying on 25 August. He was canonized in 1297.
Malik-Shah (1055–92): Malik-Shah was a son of Alp-Arslan, who appointed him as his heir to the Great Seljuk Sultanate in 1066. While he had to face some initial rebellions from other members of his family when his father died in 1073, by 1084 he had secured his position and was able to embark on campaigns of expansion to both the east and the west; in the west, he mounted expeditions against the Fatimids, Georgia and the Byzantine Empire, which included the successful conquest of northern Syria. Malik-Shah died in murky circumstances during a hunting expedition in November 1092, a month after the killing of his vizier Nizam al-Mulk by the Nizari Assassins, and the Great Seljuk Sultanate fragmented as various claimants fought over his legacy.
Al-Mas‘udi (before 893–956): Abu’l-Hasan ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn al-Mas‘udi was a Muslim scholar, traveller and geographer. He journeyed throughout and beyond the Muslim world, including in China, India, Africa, the Byzantine Empire and eastern and central Europe. He has left us two geographical works, Muruj al-Dhahab wa-Ma‘adin al-Jawhar (Meadows of Gold and Mines of Gemstone) and the shorter Kitab al-Tanbih wa-l-hhraf (The Book of Instruction and Supervision), which contain important accounts of Europeans dating from before the Crusades.
Muhammad (c. 570–632): The Prophet Muhammad was born in the Arabian city of Mecca. Orphaned at an early age, he was brought up in the house of his uncle and pursued a successful career as a merchant. According to Muslim belief, in 610 Muhammad started receiving revelations from God, which would eventually be compiled, after his death, into the Muslim scripture known as the Qur’an. Muhammad gathered a group of followers but was forced to emigrate from Mecca in 622, after his teachings encountered opposition from the pagan authorities there. He settled at Medina, from which he fought an eight-year war with Mecca, finally taking the city in 630 and demonstrating that the Ka‘ba, its holiest site, was meant to be devoted to worship of the one true God. Muhammad died two years later, on 8 June 632, but the Muslim world expanded dramatically over the decades that followed his death.
Mu‘in al-Din (d. 1149): Mu‘in al-Din Unur was a Turkmen mamluk of Tughtigin, who took power in Damascus through a military coup in April 1138, although without deposing its leaders. Instead, Mu’in al-Din ruled as atabeg and commander of the army, thus wielding effective power while maintaining the Burid dynasty in place. He thereafter maintained Damascus’ independence through a mixture of warfare and alliances with the Franks and the Zangids, including defending the city successfully against the Second Crusade. He died of dysentery on 28 August 1149.
Al-Nasir Dawud (1207–58): Al-Nasir Dawud was the son of the Ayyubid sultan of Damascus, al-Mu‘azzam ‘Isa (r. 1218–27). Al-Nasir Dawud succeeded to his father’s throne in 1228 but was driven out the following year by other members of his family. He received lands in Palestine and Transjordan as compensation, and made his capital at Kerak. As a result of family politics he lost further territories, even being forced to hand back Jerusalem after he took it from the Franks in 1239. Forced out of Kerak in 1249, he spent the following years unsuccessfully trying to find a new state to rule, and eventually died in May 1258 after a failed attempt to assist Baghdad against the Mongols.
Nur al-Din (1118–74): Nur al-Din Mahmud ibn Zangi inherited the western half of his father’s territories, including Aleppo and Edessa, when the latter died in 1146. From there he pursued a policy of expansion into Muslim Syria while simultaneously fighting against the Franks, including advancing on Damascus with a relief force when the Second Crusade attacked it in 1148. Thereafter he himself made several attempts to take the city, citing the need for Muslim unity against the Franks, and finally achieving its handover to him in April 1154. In the 1160s he sent forces to intervene in Egypt, which resulted in it coming under the control of his deputies Shirkuh and then Saladin. When the latter proved unco-operative Nur al-Din prepared an army with which to take direct control of Egypt, but became ill and died before the expedition could be launched.
Osama bin Laden See Usama ibn Ladin.
Al-Qadi al-Fadil (1135–1200): ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Ali al-‘Asqalani al-Qadi al-Fadil was the director of the Fatimid chancery when he came to Saladin’s attention. Saladin, at the time the Fatimid vizier, took him into his service in 1171, and the two men soon became close friends and collaborators. Saladin appointed al-Fadil to run the administration of Egypt, which included providing the greater portion of the finances that enabled the sultan to conquer Syria. Al-Fadil, despite poor health, outlived Saladin, serving two of the latter’s sons before his own death in 1200. The official documents and letters that al-Fadil composed are a major source for the life and career of the sultan.
Qalawun (1222–90): Al-Malik al-Mansur Qalawun al-Alfi (‘of the thousand [dinars]’) was the Mamluk sultan of Egypt from 1279 to 1290. Qalawun was a Kipchak Turkish mamluk who became an emir in the Bahriyya under Baybars. He seized control of the sultanate during the extended struggle for power that followed Baybars’ death, and then once he had consolidated his position he directed his attention to external threats, turning back a second Mongol attempt to invade Syria at the Battle of Hims in 1281, and also conquering a number of Frankish strongholds, including Tripoli in 1289. He was preparing to take the last Latin capital, Acre, when he died on 10 November 1290.
Qutb, Sayyid (1906–66): An Egyptian member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Qutb has been seen by some as the most influential figure in the birth of modern Islamist extremist movements. Early in his life he was attracted to western ways, but he reportedly became disillusioned after the foundation of Israel and a visit to America in 1949–51 during which he came to see western society as decadent, materialist and anti-Arab. He sought to encourage his contemporaries to return to a pure form of Islam as laid out inQwr’an and Islamic law, rejecting modernization and materialism as forces drawing humans away from God. Anything contrary to Islam was evil and should be opposed, with force if necessary. Qutb was executed by the Egyptian government for treason on 29 Aug 1966, but his ideas were highly influential in the development of later organizations such as Hamas and al-Qa‘ida.
Qutuz (d. 1260): The mamluk al-Muzaffar Qutuz usurped the throne of the Mamluk Sultanate in 1259, deposing the young sultan al-Mansur ‘Ali (r. 1257–9). Qutuz justified his action on the grounds that a more experienced sultan was needed to defend the sultanate against the Mongol advance. He may also have claimed to be a descendant of the eastern Khwarazm-Shah dynasty that had been destroyed by the Mongols in the course of their campaigns, now seeking legitimate revenge. In any case, Qutuz led his army from Egypt into Syria, where it defeated the Mongol forces at the Battle of ‘Ayn Jalut in 1260. However, Qutuz himself was assassinated en route back to Egypt by a group of Mamluks, one of whom was Baybars, who became the new Mamluk sultan.
Raymond III of Tripoli (1140–87): Raymond III became Count of Tripoli in 1152 while still a minor, actually taking government into his own hands three years later. He spent ten years, from 1164 to 1174, as a captive of Nur al-Din, during which time he probably gained a greater familiarity with Islam and Muslims than did his contemporaries. He twice served as regent of the Kingdom of Jerusalem (1174–6 and 1185–6). Raymond opposed Guy of Lusignan’s appointment as King of Jerusalem in 1186, but was forced to accept him by his own vassals. During the Battle of Hattin in July 1187 Raymond attempted to break the cordon that the Muslims had cast around the Frankish army, but while he and his followers escaped, his effort did not save his co-religionists. He escaped to Tripoli, where he died in September, probably of pleurisy.
Reynald of Châtillon (c. 1125–87): A knight from central France, Reynald of Châtillon became Prince of Antioch in 1153, holding the principality for ten years. However, in 1160 or 1161 he was captured by Nur al-Din and imprisoned for over 15 years, and like Raymond of Tripoli this probably gave him a better knowledge of Islam and its followers than that of his contemporaries. By the time that Reynald was released his lands had passed into the hands of his stepson, but in 1176–7 he received Hebron and Transjordan. He took part in a number of military actions against the Muslims, including his notorious Red Sea expedition of 1183 that threatened Mecca and Medina, and in early 1187 captured a Muslim caravan during a period of truce, an act that Saladin used as a pretext to launch the campaign that culminated in the Battle of Hattin. At the battle Reynald was captured and personally executed by Saladin.
Richard I (1157–99): Richard the Lionheart was King of England from 1189 to 1199. Richard took a vow to go on crusade soon after the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187, but political concerns at home and a desire to set his realm in order before his departure prevented him from leaving until mid-1190. En route to the Holy Land, he took Cyprus from its Byzantine ruler (May–June 1191), an act that would provide Europeans with a foothold in the eastern Mediterranean for centuries. He finally arrived at Acre on 8 June 1191, and after its fall (12 July) began his efforts to take Jerusalem from Saladin. However, after over a year of inconclusive campaigning the two men, who apparently admired each other greatly, were forced to recognize a stalemate, and peace was made between them on 2 September 1192.
Saladin (1138–93) Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub was born in Tikrit in Iraq. After reaching adulthood he served in the army of Nur al-Din. He accompanied his uncle Shirkuh on his three expeditions to Egypt in the 1160s, and after his uncle’s death on 26 March 1169 became vizier to the Fatimid caliph. In September 1171 he abolished the Fatimid caliphate and in the years following extended his territories into the rest of Bilad al-Sham, mostly at the expense of his Muslim neighbours. He also directed periodic attacks against the Franks, and on 4 July 1187 scored a major victory against them at the Battle of Hattin, which enabled him subsequently to take much of their territory, including Jerusalem. The last years of his life were spent fighting the forces of the Third Crusade to a stalemate (1189–92). He died in Damascus on 4 March 1193.
Al-Salih Ayyub (1206 or 1207–49): Al-Salih Ayyub was the eldest son of the Ayyubid sultan al-Kamil Muhammad (r. 1218–38). Even though he had been removed from the succession, in 1240 he managed to seize control of Egypt. In summer of 1244 Khwarazmian Turkish warriors in his employ sacked Jerusalem, then allied with him to defeat other members of his family at the Battle of Harbiyya (La Forbie) the following October, a victory that assisted him in taking Damascus from his uncle in 1245. He thereafter ruled two major Ayyubid centres until his death, which took place on 21 November 1249 while he was defending Egypt from the forces of St Louis’ crusade. By now he had built up large contingents of mamluk troops in his armies, and it was left to them to save Egypt after his death.
Shajar al-Durr (d. 1257): Shajar (or Shajarat) al-Durr was a Turkish slave and concubine of the Ayyubid sultan al-Salih Ayyub. When she gave him a son, al-Salih Ayyub freed and married her, even though her son died while young. When al-Salih Ayyub died in 1249, while the crusaders were active in the Nile Delta, Shajar al-Durr was able, in collaboration with a senior mamluk emir, to ensure that resistance continued by concealing the sultan’s death. After the crusaders were defeated the sultanate was taken up by al-Salih Ayyub’s son Turan-Shah (r. 1250), but the new sultan alienated his father’s mamluks and was eventually murdered by them. Shajar al-Durr was then elected sultana, ruling for about 80 days before being replaced by the mamluk emir Aybak, whom she married. Threatened by her husband’s plans to take a second wife, she had him murdered, but was herself killed soon after, apparently by his vengeful concubines.
Shirkuh (d. 1169): Asad al-Din Shirkuh ibn Shadhi was a Kurd from Dvin, near Tiflis (Tbilisi, Georgia). In about 1138, after Shirkuh killed a man in an argument, he was expelled – along with his brother Ayyub (d. 1173) – from Tikrit, where Ayyub had been serving as castellan. The brothers passed into the service of Zangi and later Nur al-Din, and Shirkuh led the three expeditions that Nur al-Din sent to intervene in Egypt in the 1160s. In 1169 he was appointed as vizier by the Fatimid caliph, but died of unclear causes on 23 March. He was succeeded in his post by Saladin, his nephew and the son of Ayyub.
Sibt ibn al-Jawzi (1185 or 1186–1257): Shams al-Din Yusuf ibn Qizughli, known as Sibt ibn al-Jawzi (‘the grandson of Ibn al-Jawzi’, meaning the famous historian and jurisprudent ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Jawzi, c. 1116-1201), was a well-known religious scholar and preacher. He was initially brought up by his illustrious grandfather, and then after the latter died he moved to Damascus, where he spent most of his time teaching, writing and preaching. He also went on preaching tours in the Jazira and Syria, and is said to have moved his audiences to tears with his eloquence. He wrote a number of works, including a universal history entitled Mir’at al-Zaman fi Ta’rikh al-A‘yan (The Mirror of Time concerning the History of Important People).
Al-Sulami (1039 or 1040–1106): ‘Ali ibn Tahir al-Sulami was a Damascene religious scholar and grammarian, a member of a family of scholars who followed the Shafi’i school of law. He taught Arabic grammar in the Umayyad Great Mosque in Damascus. Over the course of 1105 al-Sulami publicly composed a treatise on jihad, Kitab al-Jihad (the Book of the Jihad) at the Mosque of Bayt Lihya in the agricultural suburbs of Damascus, aiming thereby to call on his fellow Muslims to oppose the crusaders. His call seems to have been mostly ignored by the political authorities of the day, but his ideas probably influenced later, more successful calls to the jihad against the Frankish invaders.
Tughtigin (d. 1128): Zahir al-Din Tughtigin began his career as a Turkish emir in the service of the Seljuk rulers Alp-Arslan and Tutush (r. 1078–95). The latter appointed him as atabeg of Damascus in 1093, and by 1105 he had established himself as an effectively independent ruler there. Tughtigin thereafter devoted most of his attention to securing and expanding his own territory, fighting or allying with other Muslim and Frankish powers as circumstances dictated. In 1115 he managed to be recognized by the Great Seljuk sultan Muhammad (r. 1105–18) as the emir of Damascus, with his family, the Burids, having right of inheritance of the title. He died in 1128 after a two-year illness, and was succeeded by his son Buri (r. 1128–32).
Turan-Shah (d. 1250): Al-Mu’azzam Turan-Shah ibn Ayyub was one of the last Ayyubid sultans of Egypt (r. 1249–50). Turan-Shah was governing Ayyubid territories in the northern Jazira when the first crusade of St Louis attacked Egypt, so when his father al-Salih Ayyub died in November 1249, his father’s wife Shajar al-Durr, in collaboration with a senior mamluk emir, concealed the sultan’s death, and resistance continued, with the crusaders being defeated in battle in February 1250. Turan-Shah arrived on 24 February, in time to take part in the last stages of the defeat of the crusade, but he soon alienated his father’s mamluks by promoting his own ahead of them. On 2 May, before St Louis had even left Egypt, Turan-Shah was murdered by a group of Bahri mamluks, who installed Shajar al-Durr as the new sultana.
Usama ibn Ladin (Osama bin Laden, 1957–2011): Usama ibn Ladin was born on 10 March, 1957 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and was the son of a rich businessman. At university he earned a degree in civil engineering, but he also developed a radical belief that Muslim nations needed to be liberated from interference by foreign powers. He became involved in the Afghan jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, using his wealth to support the resistance. Then in 1988 he founded al-Qa‘ida (al-Qaeda, ‘the Base’), which would in time become a world-spanning terrorist network. Ibn Ladin was outspoken in his criticism of the Saudi monarchy’s invitation of American forces onto Saudi soil in 1990, and was eventually banished. Soon after he began organizing operations against American targets, of which the most notorious was the attacks of 11 September 2001. He was eventually tracked down and killed by American special forces on 2 May 2011.
Usama ibn Munqidh (1095–1188): Usama ibn Murshid ibn ‘Ali, better known as Usama ibn Munqidh (his family name), was a Bedouin emir and man of letters. Born at his clan stronghold of Shayzar, he enjoyed a chequered career that included political entanglements and frequent journeys, as well as fighting in armies against the crusaders. He ended his days as a dependent of Saladin at the remarkable age of 93. Usama was famous in his own day as a poet, but he also wrote a number of other works, of which the best known to modern readers is his Kitab al-I‘tibar (Book of Contemplation), an account of his experiences that includes his lively observations on the Franks.
Zangi (c. 1084–1146): ‘Imad al-Din Zangi ibn Aq Sunqur was the son of a Turkish emir who served the Great Seljuk sultan Malik-Shah. He was appointed to the governorship of Mosul in 1127 and immediately began enlarging his territory, including negotiating the handover of Aleppo in 1128. He continued to expand his holdings to the west and east at the expense of Franks and Muslims alike, including repeated attempts to take Damascus. On 24 December 1144 he scored his most famous victory, taking Edessa and thus bringing the first Frankish capital under Muslim control, an act for which he was lauded as a mujahid by his contemporaries, despite the fact that he was unquestionably ruthless and primarily driven by political ambition. He died on 14 September 1146, allegedly stabbed by a Frankish slave after having drunk himself into unconsciousness.