Salahuddin Ayubi (c. 1138 – March 4, 1193), better known in the Western world as Saladin, was a Kurdish Muslim, who became the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria, and founded the Ayyubid dynasty. He led Muslim and Arab opposition to the Franks and other European Crusaders in the Levant. At the height of his power, his sultanate included Egypt, Syria,Mesopotamia, Kurdistan, Hejaz, and Yemen.
Sultan Salahuddin Ayubi, the hero of hundreds of battles, was the person who for twenty years braved the storm of the Crusaders and ultimately pushed back the combined forces of Europe which had come to swarm the Holy Land. The world has hardly witnessed a more chivalrous and humane conqueror. The Crusades represent the maddest and the longest war in the history of mankind, in which the storm of savage fanaticism of the Christian West burst in all its fury over western Asia.
The Crusades form’, says a Western writer, `one of the maddest episodes in history. Under his personal leadership, his forces defeated the Crusaders at the Battle of Hattin, leading the way to his re-capture of Palestine, which had been seized from the Fatimid Egyptians by the Crusaders 88 years earlier. Though the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem would continue to exist for a period, its defeat at Hattin marked a turning point in its conflict with the Muslims and Arabs. As such, Saladin is a prominent figure in Kurdish, Arab, and Muslim culture.
Saladin was a strict adherent of Sunni Islam His chivalrous behavior was noted by Christian chroniclers, especially in the accounts of the Siege of Kerak, and despite being the nemesis of the Crusaders, he won the respect of many of them, including Richard the Lionheart; rather than becoming a hated figure in Europe, he became a celebrated example of the principles of chivalry. Saladin’s military career began under the tutelage of his uncle Asad al-Din Shirkuh, an importantmilitary commander under Nur ad-Din.
In 1163, the vizier to the Fatimid caliph al-Adid, Shawar, had been driven out of Egypt by rival Dirgham, a member of the powerful Banu Ruzzaik tribe. He asked for military backing from Nur ad-Din, who complied and in 1164, sent Shirkuh to aid Shawar in his expedition against Dirgham. Saladin, at age 26, went along with them.  After Shawar was successfully reinstated as vizier, he demanded that Shirkuh withdraw his army from Egypt for a sum of 30,000 dinars, but he refused insisting it was Nur ad-Din’s will that he remain.
Saladin’s role in this expedition was minor, and it is known that he was ordered by Shirkuh to collect stores from Bilbais prior to its siege by a combined force of Crusaders and Shawar’s troops.  After the sacking of Bilbais, the Crusader-Egyptian force and Shirkuh’s army were to engage in a battle on the desert border of the Nile River, just west of Giza. Saladin played a major role, commanding the right wing of the Zengid army, while a force of Kurds commanded the left, and Shirkuh stationed in the center.
Muslim sources at the time, however, put Saladin in the “baggage of the center” with orders to lure the enemy into a trap by staging a false retreat. The Crusader force enjoyed early success against Shirkuh’s troops, but the terrain was too steep and sandy for their horses, and commander Hugh of Caesarea was captured while attacking Saladin’s unit. After scattered fighting in little valleys to the south of the main position, the Zengid central force returned to the offensive; Saladin joined in from the rear.
The battle ended in a Zengid victory, and Saladin is credited to have helped Shirkuh in one of the “most remarkable victories in recorded history”, according to Ibn al-Athir, although more of Shirkuh’s men were killed and the battle is considered by most sources as not a total victory. Saladin and Shirkuh moved towards Alexandria where they were welcomed, given money, arms, and provided a base.  Faced by a superior Crusader-Egyptian force who attempted to besiege the city, Shirkuh split his army. He and the bulk of his force withdrew from Alexandria, while Saladin was left with the task of guarding the city.