Saladin: The Sultan Who Vanquished the Crusaders and Built an Islamic Empire
By John Man
Da Capo Press
I received a copy of this book in the mail for my review. I did not receive any payment for this review.
That out of the way, let me tell you why I recommend this book to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of the forces operating in the Middle East today, especially those trying to recreate an Islamic empire.
Saladin was born a Kurd in the city of Tikrit (modern Iraq) in 1138n(died 1171).. In his lifetime he extended his military dominance and political control to Egypt and then Syria where he ran most of his operations against the crusades from. He was a master tactician and his very name inspired fear among the Crusaders—and respect. It is not simply an invention of the movies that he was more respected (even by the Christians ) than some of the crusading knights from Europe. In fact at some points in his career, his Christian opponents held him in higher esteem than did his co-religionists of other factions
Although he united disparate Muslim regions and factions into a unified force to fight the crusaders, he was not a universally beloved character. He was definitely a part of the sectarian struggles that were already roiling Islam in that era. Furthermore, he was not all goodness and light and honorable intentions. He could be as cruel and heartless as his goals necessitated (very Machiavellian.
This book took me a long time to read. It is well-written, but the biographical subject and large amount of material that was new to me on the historic front, made it slow-going.
This is a book for someone who wants a better understanding of the Middle East by learning about one of the heroes of the Islamic forces in the time of the Crusades. Hopefully by better understanding the motives of this man we can learn how to understand (and combat!) the leaders who are trying to emulate his successful hegemony.