home > archive > 2002 > this article
Saddam Hussein: The next Saladin?
By Charles F. Wickwire
Saddam has decided that he will be the next Saladin. He even has an official postage stamp of himself and Saladin, side by side. But who was this Saladin and why does Saddam want to be him so badly?
Saladin is the western name given to the greatest Muslim general of the Crusades. His real name was Salah al-Din and he was born during the year 1138 C.E. in Tikrit, 100 miles northwest of Baghdad on the Tigris River. Coincidentally, Saddam Hussein was also born in Tikrit in 1937, just one year shy of 800 years between the two of them.
Saladin was a Kurdish warrior who worked himself up through the ranks in his uncle Nur ed-Din's army. Saladin gained control of Egypt and then expanded his influence until he controlled Damascus, Syria, Alleppo, Mawsil and Iraq.
Saladin united all these different races and sects of the Islamic world and hurled them against the Christian forces that held Jerusalem during the second Crusade. It took three months for Saladin's forces to retake the city which had been in Christian hands for 88 years.
King Richard the Lion Hearted launched a third Crusade to regain control of Jerusalem but despite defeating Saladin's forces on the way to the city, King Richard did not have the supplies to besiege it. He settled for a compromise, the Muslims would keep the city but Christians would be given free passage to the city for pilgrimages.
It is not surprising that Saddam Hussein would like to be considered a second Saladin. To this day professional storytellers in Arab and Turkish coffee houses tell the tales of Saladin's victories over the godless infidels of the Crusades as if they happened yesterday. He is the most famous and revered Muslim warrior in history. The stories of Saladin are second only to those of Muhammad himself.
But is Saddam a likely candidate for Saladin's legacy? If we take a closer look at Saladin, we see many things that Saddam may have trouble with.
Saladin was a Kurd but Saddam doesn't seem to have much respect for his hero's racial background. In 1971, Saddam's agents tried to have Mustafa Barzani, head of the Kurdish Democratic Party, assassinated. Between 1973 and 1975 when Kurdish rebels called the Peshmerga fought for an autonomous Kurdistan; Saddam crushed them. And who can forget the 1988 massacre of the Kurdish village of Halabja. Saddam wanted to test some of his chemical weapons, so thousands of men, women and children died to provide statistics. Strange way to treat the decedents of your hero.
Saladin was well known for being modest and compassionate. These qualities did not immediately earn him respect from his own people. Nasser Al-Aedin, a soldier in Saladin's army kept a journal and in it he called his leader a fool. He says that Saladin believed in respecting the Crusaders and that he was kind to them even though they were arrogant and refused to negotiate. Nasser also recorded an example of Saladin allowing a servant to talk back to him and give him orders. Nasser did not think this was very sultan like, maybe Nasser would have preferred to serve under Saddam.
Saladin kept his own diary and in it he wrote of a woman from the Crusaders camp who came to him weeping and saying that Muslim thieves had entered her tent and stolen her child. She put herself in Saladin's trust and begged for his mercy and the return of her child. The child was found and returned to her within an hour. She was then escorted back to the Crusaders camp. Saladin wrote that he hoped any of the men under his command would have done the same.
This is the person that Saddam Hussein is supposed to emulate? Saddam may long for the same adoration of the Arab people that Saladin receives, and he certainly desires the power that Saladin once held, but can he ever hope to replace Saladin's name with his own?
It is quite possible that stories of Saddam will be told in Arab and Turkish coffeehouses for the next several centuries, but those stories will not tell of a strategic genius who forced the infidel out of the Middle East. They will not tell of the kind and merciful Sultan who wept at the news of his nephew's death. Instead they will tell of a madman who thought to mimic the life of a hero. They will tell of a murderer who slew thousands of his own people to test the efficiency of his weapons of mass destruction. They will tell of a man who brought the wrath of the West down on all their heads.
Saddam will be remembered, but not as a great Muslim hero. He will be remembered as an enemy that was as dangerous to Islam as the Crusaders themselves.
Charles Wickwire is a Computer Specialist who likes to share his opinion
with those who are interested and even those who are not. He can be contacted
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!
© 1996-2018, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.