One of the most well-known historical figures is still Saladin. He is regarded as the greatest hero in the Islamic world for uniting the Arabs and defending Islam against Christian crusaders in the 12th century. He was ruthless in defending his beliefs and a superb commander, qualities that garnered the adoration of his Christian adversaries. He understood when to use violence and demonstrated such kindness and compassion that many Europeans who were horrified by the savagery of their people looked to him as the epitome of their knightly virtues. But Saladin is much more than just a legendary figure. He is a man for all times and a symbol of hope for an Arab world that is once more divided. He is a builder, literary patron, and theologian. Saladin is still a very effective symbol of religious and military opposition to the West centuries after his death in towns from Damascus to Cairo and beyond, as well as in the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf. He is essential to Arab memories, sensibilities, and the idea of an Islamic state that is cohesive. Saladin explores the life and enduring legacy of this champion of Islam and considers his significance for the modern world by tracing his rise to power, his battles to expel Christian influence from Arab lands and reunite the warring factions of his faith, as well as his battles to retake Jerusalem.
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