What is True Greatness?
"I have become so great as I am because I have won men's hearts by gentleness and kindness." - Salah Al-Din (Saladin), Sultan of the Ayubbid Dynasty and Liberator of Jerusalem
If you know anything about Saladin, you'll know how much of a badass he was on the battlefield. His tactics and cunning strategy to unite his people against the invading Crusaders was nothing short of incredible.
There are countless things I can mention about him in regards to his military expeditions and career as a whole, but there's something else I'd like to shed light on. Truly, it is a rare characteristic in people with military backgrounds.
This characteristic of his not only made his people love him, but his enemies as well.
His enemies were baffled when they experienced Saladin's manifestation of this characteristic, and they deeply respected him for it.
We don't really associate this with any individual who was brought to fame because of war, but Saladin's mercy and kindness just couldn't go overlooked.
In 1099, before Saladin was born, Crusaders invaded his people's lands and took the holy city of Jerusalem.
When the Crusaders entered Jerusalem, they massacred anyone they could find. Men, women, children, and the elderly. No one was exempt from their brutality.
Years later, Saladin would hear stories of the massacre of Jerusalem at the hands of the Crusaders, and vowed himself to be its liberator, bringing peace and stability to the region.
For decades, Saladin would unite his people to fight the Crusaders.
And battle after battle, Saladin would beat them. Modern historians are still amazed at his choice of strategy and consistent victories.
But like I said, I'm here to tell you about his mercy and kindness.
On numerous occasions, Saladin would personally meet the captured Crusaders after these battles, and order for them to be respected and taken care of. Sometimes, he would even set them free with no ransom, baffling his enemies.
It must be understood that while Crusaders theologically were at war with Saladin, with Muslims, they would kill anyone who wasn't of European descent, even their own Christians. Therefore, whenever Saladin would win a battle, they would expect him to commit that same act of treason to humanity out of revenge.
But he didn't.
A captured crusader once said, "I am surprised to know that there is a non-white man(Saladin) with such mercy."
Saladin was at war, yes. But he valued life. He valued it so much so that even when the concept "an eye for an eye" seemed just, he would turn away from it, and let his most notorious enemies go.
What Saladin is best known for though, came in the year 1187.
Due to constant victories on the battlefield, Saladin felt it was the perfect time to take back Jerusalem. When the Crusaders heard of Saladin and his army marching towards Jerusalem, they froze in fear. They all remembered when they themselves were marching onto the holy city, committing acts of unprecedented violence. They knew Saladin was merciful, but surely such a huge victory of revenge for Saladin would not be overlooked?
The siege of Jerusalem lasted a few days. When the Crusaders surrendered, they were all preparing for what seemed to be inevitable. They all thought Saladin would commit the same acts they did in 1099, but they were wrong.
See, not only did Saladin and his army commit no massacre after the siege, but they rebuilt, restored, and protected all Christian structures in Jerusalem. On the contrary, when the Crusaders took Jerusalem, they burned Mosques and Synagogues, and used the remaining Mosques as stables for their horses.
Saladin went so far as to show his enemies that life is more important. That no matter what animosity stands between himself and his enemies, he will still cherish, love, and honor them.
He understood that most Crusaders were poor, had struggling families back in Europe, and just wanted to express their anger. He didn't necessarily see them as the enemy. He saw each and every one of them as people, as individual people. That's why he set them free.
That's why he was great.
Greatness is not only achieved through a mindset of sheer complete annihilation of your obstacles. You shouldn't have to think that if you don't brutally work on the task at hand, you won't become the greatest version of yourself.
Yes, achieve your goals. But don't let it ruin your character. Don't be so narrow minded to think solely about your goal, and not the people around you.
Too many people around us are fighting a hard battle. An internal battle. Some people can be like the Crusaders and bring that battle to the world and manifest it through violence, but others keep it huddled inside, and you won't have any clue as to how severe this battle they're having in their head is.
So be kind to one another. Be loving and merciful. Maybe that individual you hate so much, only acts resentful and hateful due to an internal battle of depression, and the cure for it is through your kindness; your good character. It'll make you become great.
Although Saladin and the Crusaders was quite an interesting story to tie into depression and internal battles, I think that Saladin's character can help us in realizing the value of life, and understand what people around you are going through, even if they may be your most notorious and bloodthirsty enemies.
I'd like to end this with my favorite quote by Steve Schultz:
"And remember. Be kind to yourself, be kind to each other. I love you all big, giant, much. Have a great day."