He was born into a Kurdish family at Tikrit on the river Tigris. After an initial military education under the command of a Seljuk statesman and soldier, Saladin defended Egypt against Crusaders, abolished the Fatimid caliphate in 1171 and restored Sunni orthodoxy in Egypt. His fame reached its zenith when he recaptured Jerusalem on October 2 1187 after 88 years of Crusader rule and successfully defended the city against the Third Crusade.
Despite his fierce opposition to the Christian powers, Saladin achieved a great reputation in Europe as a chivalrous knight, so much so that there existed by the 14th century an epic poem about his exploits, and Dante included him among the virtuous pagan souls in Limbo. His relationship with King Richard I of England, who defeated him in battle in 1191, was one of mutual respect as well as military rivalry. When Richard was wounded, Saladin even offered the services of his personal physician.
Not long after Richard's departure, Saladin died at Damascus, where his tomb is now a major tourist attraction.
The name Salah ad Din means "Light of the Faith" or "Righteousness of the Faith", and through the times Saladin has been an inspiration for Muslims in many respects. A province centered around Tikrit in modern Iraq, Salah ad Din, is named after Saladin.