“Today, we cross the Rubicon!”…Julius Caesar
The mighty Seljuk Empire that Saladin challenged
However, my successes were not enough for the Sultan…or perhaps, they were too much. By then, the Sultan had listened to bad counsel by the Grand Vizier Mustafa, and through those poisons, he believed that I was amassing the army to betray him and seize the throne for myself. Obviously, I had no such plans. I was not a royal Seljuk like the Sultan (who was my brother-in-law, of all things) or even Nassur. Certainly, I had no claim to the throne of Bagdhad.
That day, I consulted my wife Fatimah, and we were of a mind that Sultan Ahmed and the Grand Vizier had to be stopped. They had suddenly demanded that I give up my control of the army and resign immediately to prove my loyalty, or face the death penalty. This was sheer madness! I could not believe that after fighting the Crusaders in three wars and winning back the Holy Land, this was how I am being repaid.
So I walked forth before all the men, and said, “I am Ayyubid, not Seljuk, and I am a Kurd. But I had led you through many wars against the Crusaders. Today, Sultan Ahmed asks me to relinquish my command and return to an almost certain death. Those of you who will follow me as friends, I welcome, but know that the Sultan has a bigger army than this, and that he will declare me a rebel against the Empire despite all I have done for him.”
But the men chose to follow me, as they had for many years against the largely untested Sultan Ahmed. They knew that with Sala-hu-din, they could overcome a larger force, and if they had to be Ayyubids rather than Seljuks, then they would. So they gave a standing ovation to me and vowed to follow me to the ends of the Earth, as the Greeks followed Alexander the Great before me.
I told them I was not rebelling against Sultan Ahmed, but it was important to put him in his place and to remove the effects of bad counsel. The Grand Vizier would most definitely have to die for this treachery.
Then, I turned to face Prince Nassur, my second-in-command, “You are a royal prince of the Seljuk Empire and a cousin of Sultan Ahmed. If you so chose to serve him, I will understand and give you safe conduct back to Bagdhad.”
But Nassur looked at me with a hurt and disappointed eyes, “I am brother of Sala-hu-din and soldier of Ayyubid first, and Seljuk prince second. Do not cast me away, Sala-hu-din, for I will be of much help to you in this just cause.”
And so, we marched against the imperial armies of Bagdhad in this manner. Ahmed mustered a larger army than me. They were well-equipped with catapults, and the men were rested and well-supplied.
Ahmed came forth and challenged me, “I am the Annointed of Allah, whereas you are a rebel, Sala-hu-din. Repent and submit, Sala-hu-din, and I shall be merciful. For God is on my side and I shall be victorious.”
Sala-hu-din: “God is always on the side of the faithful, and yet, we have lost to the Crusaders at Nicaea before me. For the Lord doth helps those who help themselves first, and logistics, water, and good supplies are all equally important, Sultan Ahmed.”
Ahmed: “Do not presume to lecture me, Kurd.” Then, he ordered the Seljuk army to march out against us.
That day, we feigned defeat at the hands of Ahmed and retreated from the gates of Bagdhad all the way to Damascus, which was my main stronghold. The Seljuks were complacent. They had always thought they were the cream of the army, but they did not have the battle experience of my Ayyubid warriors who had toughed it out over three Crusades. So we prevailed, and Ahmed’s large army was decimated when arrows suddenly hit them on all side. Their supply lines were cut by Nassur who sneaked in from behind and occupied Bagdhad itself.
After two months of chasing the Sultan in the forest, we finally captured Ahmed. In a time less than one year, I was virtually the ruler of the once mighty Seljuk Empire, and Ahmed was at my mercy. But I did not resort to treachery. I allowed him to rule in Bagdhad over the vast Seljuk Empire, but I refused to serve him anymore.
After this magnificent war, the Seljuks ceded the Holy Land and Syria to us, and I founded the Ayyubid Empire with Damascus as my capital. I appointed Nassur as Viceroy and Grand Vizier. At the same time, I demanded that the Grand Vizier who had pushed poison into Ahmed’s ears and turned him against me be beheaded. After that war, Sultan Ahmed once again acknowledged me as his brother before Fatimah, and we pledged that Ayyubids and Seljuks should not wage war on each other in the future.
Ahmed: “I return thee thy freedom and acknowledge you as my equal, Sala-hu-din, for many in this land would say you are my better in combat, which I wholeheartedly agree with. This I give you with no grudge in return for the life which you have restored to me.”
Sala-hu-din: “Thank you, brother Ahmed. May Seljuks and Ayyubids be allies till the end of time.”
And then, we hugged, and I was sultan of a great empire.