(born 1137/38, Tikrit, Mesopotamiadied March 4, 1193, Damascus, Syria) Kurdish sultan of Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and Palestine and founder of the Ayyubid dynasty. Though as a youth he preferred religious to military studies, he began his military career under his uncle, a military commander of the Zangid dynasty. On his uncle's death, Saladin became vizier of the Fatimid dynasty of Egypt. In 1171 he abolished the Shi'ite Fatimid caliphate and announced a return to Sunnite Islam in Egypt. From 1174, as sultan of Egypt and Syria, he succeeded in uniting Egypt, Syria, northern Mesopotamia, and Palestine. His reputation as a generous and virtuous but firm ruler rekindled Muslim resistance to the Crusades. In 1187, turning his full strength against the Latin Crusader states, he captured Jerusalem, which had been in Christian hands for 88 years. Whereas the Christian conquest had been marked by slaughter, Saladin's troops demonstrated courteous and civilized behaviour. His victory deeply shocked the West and led to the call for the Third Crusade (1189–92), which matched him against Richard I (the Lionheart); their stalemate resulted in a peace that gave the Crusaders only a small strip of land from Tyre to Yafo (Jaffa). Many Muslims consider Saladin the paradigm of the pious and virtuous ruler.