Saladin by Nina Prentice

Saladin by Nina Prentice

The 12th century was a difficult period for the Middle East. The Franks owned the Holy Land. They did not always get along with the local people. In 1138 a child was born in the city of Tikrit. The boy was named Yusuf. At the age of fourteen, he went to Aleppo to be trained as a soldier. The boy wanted to join the army of his uncle. Despite being small and weak, Yusuf learned quickly. His ambition and hard work helped him to achieve this goal. Yusuf took part in many military campaigns and won lots of battles. The young man took the name Saladin when he became vizier of Egypt and commander of the Syrian and Egyptian armies. He managed to take Jerusalem back from the Franks. Nowadays Saladin is remembered both as a strong ruler and a good man.

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Saladin by Nina Prentice

Tikrit – 1138

‘Help! Help! He’s going to kill me!’

Hearing the screams, Shirkuh ran through the dark streets of the town. Suddenly he came around the corner of a building. A soldier was holding a knife to a woman’s neck. Her eyes were wild and afraid. Shirkuh didn’t stop to think. In a minute, the two men were fighting for the knife. In another minute, the soldier was dead, his blood bright red on the ground.

Late that night, Ayyub heard a soft knock at the door. It was his brother Shirkuh asking for news.

‘The baby hasn’t come yet. The mother’s having a bad time.’ The father looked at his brother. ‘Why are you hurrying?’

‘Ayyub. I’ve just killed a man by mistake, but I was angry.’

Saladin by Nina Prentice

‘Shirkuh! Why did you do this? It’ll be difficult for us here in Tikrit. The man’s family will make trouble.’

‘I couldn’t stop myself. While I was coming home, a woman called out for help. A soldier was going to kill her. I didn’t want to hurt him. It was an accident. But now Governor Zengi says that all our family must leave at once or we’ll be in danger.’

‘Oh, Shirkuh! You’re a lighter. You’re stronger than most men. But when you’re angry, you stop thinking. It’s always been this way, but I can’t leave until the child arrives.’ just then they heard a cry. Ayyub hurried away to the women’s side of the house. ‘What news?’ he asked his sister.

‘Good news, thank God! The child is born. But look at him. He’s very small and weak. I don’t think that he’ll live through the night. The mother too is very ill,’ she said.

‘There’s nothing to be done. We must go now!’ Ayyub held his new son. ‘I’ll call you Yusuf because you must find a new life away from where you were born, like the Prophet Yusuf did in Egypt long, long ago.’

Baalbek – 1145

‘Please, please tell us the story again! Please!’ The three brothers were with their father, Ayyub, in the garden of his fine house in the old town. Turan Shah, the oldest boy, was next to his father. Yusuf, now seven years old, held Al-Adil, the baby, in his arms and sat as near as he could to listen.

Ayyub smiled and began…

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