SALADIN ° (Salah al-Dīn, Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb ; 1138–1193),founder of the dynasty of *Ayyubid sultans, of Kurdish origin. In 1169 he was elevated to the rank of vizier in Egypt, which was then still under the weak dominion of the *Fatimids.
In 1171 he removed the last Fatimid sultan, al-ʿĀḍid, from his throne, thus returning Egypt to the nominal rule of the *Abbasid caliphs by mentioning the name of al-Mustaḍī, the caliph who then ruled in Baghdad, in the Khuṭba (the sermon of the festive Friday prayer), and on coins. For a while, Saladin considered himself to be a vassal of Nūr al-Dīn, the Seljuqid atabek (maior domus) and ruler of Syria who lived in Damascus and had established the state which was a serious challenge to the crusaders in Ereẓ Israel and Syria. Immediately after the death of Nūr al-Dīn in 1174, however, Saladin seized control of Syria. In a brilliant and rapid campaign, in 1187, at the head of 12,000 horsemen, Saladin conquered Tiberias, Hattin, and Jerusalem, and almost the whole of Ereẓ Israel fell into his hands. These victories prompted Christian Europe to organize the Third Crusade (1189–92). In the meantime, Saladin's treasury had become empty and his troops were halted before Tyre, where some of them deserted him. The crusaders succeeded in occupying Acre after a siege which lasted two years (1189–91), and Saladin was compelled to sign a peace treaty with the king of England, Richard the Lionhearted, according to which the Ereẓ Israel coastal region from Jaffa to Tyre remained in the hands of the crusaders. Saladin died a short while later.
The attitude of Saladin toward the Jews, the Christians, and even the defeated Christians who lived under his rule, was most tolerant. According to Judah *Al-Ḥarizi, he issued a manifesto in 1190 in which he called upon the Jews to settle in Jerusalem (their presence in the town had been prohibited during its occupation by the Crusaders). Indeed, when Al-Ḥarizi visited Jerusalem in 1216, he found an important community which was composed of immigrants from France, the Maghreb, and former inhabitants of Ashkelon. Ibn Abi Uṣaybiʿa, a friend of *Abraham ben Moses b. Maimon, relates that *Maimonides was the court physician of Saladin and of his son al-Malik al-Afḍal, and that both greatly honored the Jewish physician and scholar. It appears, however, that there is no historical basis to this information.
Ashtor, in: huca, 27 (1956), 305–26; Lewis, in: Eretz Israel, 7 (1964), 70–75 (Eng. pt.); Prawer, Ẓalbanim, index. add. bibliography: eis2; M.C. Lyons and D.E.P. Jackson, Saladin the Politics of the Holy War (1982); Y. Lev, Saladin in Egypt (1999), ch. 6.
[Haïm Z'ew Hirschberg]