Sultan Malik Shah III receives Saladin and his father Khalid
It was early in winter when my father Khalid roused me from my bed before the rooster could make its morning call. I was 13 that day, and my father, a minor Kurd prince, was eager to let me meet with the mighty sultan Malik Shah, whom the Almighty hath ordained to rule all lands of the righteous. The Seljuk empire stretched from the borders of India to the gates of Constantinople, for Allah took favor in those who were faithful and disdained the infidel Byzantines.
My father served in wars for the Sultan in the past, but with no great distinction. He told me stories of Alexander the Great who ruled these lands before the Seljuks, but Alexander was an infidel who worshipped many an idol. Unlike us, who were blessed by the Almighty for our faith. My mother Aisha fussed over my dress and headband, for at this age, I would be recognized as a man, and no longer a child, and she would not have the heir to the Ayyubid clan look poorly before the monarch ordained by God.
I too was pious, but I really doubted if the great sultan would take notice of a minor prince like myself, for what were we in the greater scheme of things. As Aisha groomed my hair and sprayed priceless perfume on my shoulder, I made my scepticism clear in a way that would reflect only humility in my soul.
Sala-hu-din (I): “Come now, mother. What is all this fuss? It is not as though the Sultan who rules a land as vast as Iskander (Alexander the Great) would take notice of the minor Ayyubids. We are but small vassals to him, no more than the ants who crawl over his toilet, and we are Kurds at that, not even Turks like His Majesty.”
Aisha seemed concerned and looked me in the eye as she said, “This is unbecoming of you, Sala-hu-din, for you are the eldest of our clan, and you have a keen mind. An auspicious sign appeared at your birth, and all who know of it say that one day, the world will know you were made for greater things than any one of us can ever dream of.”
I remained sceptical of these signs. It was not that I had no faith in the Lord or the signs he gave, but I did study the non-religious aspects of the Greeks known as philosophy and logic of great men like Archimedes and Aristotle, infidels though they may be. And in my “logic”, it simply made no sense for a minor prince like myself, and a Kurd at that, to rise far above my father’s own humble station. Nevertheless, I nodded obediently and allowed myself to be groomed. Soon, I was on a horse with Father, heading for Baghdad, the jeweled city that ruled over all who were faithful to the Almighty One.
It was said that the Caliph of the Abbasids too resided here, and he was the representative of the Lord here on Earth. At one time, the Caliph ruled over all these lands before the time of the Seljuks, but as time passed by, they took their religious roles all too seriously and delegated all earthly powers to the more warlike Seljuks. Nevertheless, I was much interested to meet the Caliph.
The Sultan Malik Shah III was a tall man. I raised my eyes to his dais and could see the man who ruled all between the Mediterranean to the Persian Seas.
Sultan: “So this is the young son of Prince Khalid, heir to the noble Ayyubid clan. What is your name, young man?”
Sala-hu-din: “My name is Sala-hu-din, great Sultan, and one day, I wish nothing more than to serve your Majesty with my sword and loyalty.”
Sultan: “And indeed, you shall, for men say you are wise beyond your years, diligent in your studies, and quick with the sword. I am blessed to have subjects such as yourself and your father.”
Just then, the Caliph entered, and the Sultan bowed. For in his presence, we were all humble men, but this was the Great One who represented the Almighty above.
Caliph Abbas: “So this is the young man of the auspicious sign. He was made for greater things, Khalid, as you may be aware.”
Khalid: “It is so, as your Grace says.”
Sala-hu-din: “I am but a humble prince of a small clan, your Grace, but will do what I can to serve the Seljuk empire blessed by the Almighty.”
The Caliph looked at me, and he did not seem pleased to hear what seemed like lack of confidence, and so he spoke unto me, “Do not doubt Providence, young man. The auspicious signs were sent by the Almighty no doubt, for on the day, you were born. The seven flowers of Caspian bloomed in conjunction, and the Sun grew brighter than was normal even though it was late at night.”
Sala-hu-din: “Nevertheless, your Grace, I can not wonder why the Almighty would put His trust in a minor clan like the Ayyubids and a Kurd like myself at that? I do not possess the power to make a meaningful change.”
Caliph: “The Lord doth have his own reasons. For through His powers shall a child overpower a lion, and through His omniscience, anything is possible.”
And so I bowed down to the Caliph as my father and the Sultan nodded in agreement.