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Social Studies Biographies
|edHelper's suggested reading level:||grades 8 to 10|
|Flesch-Kincaid grade level:||9.14|
By Vickie Chao
1 At the turn of the 12th century, the Middle East was in crisis. Just a few years before, on November 27, 1095, Pope Urban II made a public speech at the Council of Clermont. As he addressed the gathering crowd, he urged his fellow countrymen to forsake whatever they had and march on to the Holy Land. He wanted them to free Jerusalem from the Turks and restore it as a Christian city. Pope Urban's passionate pleas and powerful closing remark ("God wills it!") moved the audience and initiated the First Crusade. In no time, more than sixty thousand Christian warriors signed away their lives, ready to fight the Islamic Turks. After enduring years of hardship, they finally achieved what they had set out to do in the first place. They captured Jerusalem on July 15, 1099. Immediately following the success, the Crusaders began a killing rampage, slaughtering as many as thirty thousand Jerusalem residents, regardless of their faiths. They killed not only Muslims, but also Jews, and even Christians!
2 The fall of Jerusalem was a cruel wake-up call to Muslims. They desperately wanted it back. To attain that goal, they needed a strong leader who could unite the rival factions. At the time, there was simply no such candidate available. So they had to wait -- for eighty-eight years! On October 2, 1187, a sultan named Saladin conquered Jerusalem and brought the Holy Land back into the hands of Muslims.
3 Saladin was born into a prominent Kurdish Sunnite family in Tikrit in 1137 or 1138. His full Arabic name was Salah ad-Din Yusuf Ibn Ayyub, which means "The Righteousness of the Faith, Joseph, Son of Job."
4 When Saladin was a mere boy, his parents sent him to study in Damascus, Syria. There, he joined his uncle Shirkuh, a famous military commander under the emir Nur al-Din, on an expedition into Egypt. That mission was, by all accounts, very difficult. At the time, Egypt was at the center of a three-way struggle. To assert Nur al-Din's authority, Shirkuh and Saladin were responsible for both fending off the incursion of Amalric I (the king of Jerusalem) and suppressing Shawar (a powerful vizier of the Egyptian Fatimid caliph). The uncle and the nephew spent a considerable amount of time in Egypt and managed to keep things under control. After Shirkuh died in 1169, Saladin ordered the assassination of Shawar and became the vizier of the Fatimid caliph.
5 In September 1171, the last Fatmid caliph (Al-Adid) died. Upon his demise, Saladin proclaimed Egypt should return to Sunnite Islam (from Shiite) and renewed his allegiance to Nur al-Din. As an ambitious young man, Saladin wanted to build his own empire. But he did not want to have any conflict with his overlord. So he put his dream on hold for three years. When Nur al-Din died in 1174, Saladin founded the Ayyubid dynasty and began a series of military aggressions. His first target was Syria. From 1174 to 1186, Saladin worked zealously in consolidating his power. Over the short span of twelve years, he enlarged his empire from the original holding of Egypt to include Syria, northern Mesopotamia, and Palestine. Throughout the expansion, he tried to stay out of the Crusaders' way. He did that, not because he was afraid of his enemies, but because the time was not yet right. Despite his best efforts, Saladin could not avoid every skirmish. When a conflict became inevitable, he and his men fought bravely and often emerged victorious. During this period, he had only one major setback. On November 25, 1177, the combined forces of Baldwin IV (the king of Jerusalem), Raynald of Chatillon (the prince of Antioch; also spelled as Reginald or Reynald), and the Knights Templar ambushed the overconfident Saladin at Montgisard and nearly wiped out his entire army. Only one tenth of his forces made it back to Egypt.
Paragraphs 6 to 11:
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