Saladin remains one of the most iconic figures of his age. As the man who united the Arabs and saved Islam from Christian crusaders in the 12th century, he is the Islamic world’s preeminent hero. Ruthless in defence of his faith, brilliant in leadership, he also possessed qualities that won admiration from his Christian foes. He knew the limits of violence, showing such tolerance and generosity that many Europeans, appalled at the brutality of their own people, saw him as the exemplar of their own knightly ideals.
But Saladin is far more than a historical hero. Builder, literary patron and theologian, he is a man for all times, and a symbol of hope for an Arab world once again divided. Centuries after his death, in cities from Damascus to Cairo and beyond, to the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf, Saladin continues to be an immensely potent symbol of religious and military resistance to the West. He is central to Arab memories, sensibilities and the ideal of a unified Islamic state.
I proposed this book years ago, to explore an interest in charismatic leadership. I planned to research in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and, of course, Syria, Saladin’s heartland. But stuff happened. I was told that I could go to Damascus –under Assad’s protection. I backed off, and wrote in London while Syria collapsed and Islam imploded. I doubt if even Saladin would be much help.
Man leads us through it all, a jovial guide full of quips and modern parallels
In this succinct and often thrilling account, Man sees Saladin as ‘an exemplar of modern leadership’ for his judicious deployment of hard and soft power