“Where Is the Salahuddeen of Today?”

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Published June 26, 2024

By Sh. Suleiman Hani

Salahuddeen is one of the most revered figures in the Muslim world. As the legendary general who liberated Al-Aqsa from the Crusaders after 88 years of rule, his achievements are monumental. Often, Muslims ask, “Where is the Salahuddeen of today?” without considering two crucial points.

First, every era has its own leaders and followers, supporters and facilitators. Each Muslim is responsible for contributing to the collective benefit of the world and the facilitation of universal justice and peace. The Salahuddeen of our times will not mirror the Salahuddeen of the 11th century; every era has its unique needs and challenges.

Second, rather than waiting for others to initiate and rescue us from oppression, we must take action ourselves. Our efforts should be wise, strategic, pleasing to Allah, and suitable for our circumstances to effect meaningful change. In other words, we must strive to be the “Salahuddeen” of our times. This involves raising righteous children, using our jobs, income, skills, and time to serve noble causes, and staying connected to our communities. It also means emulating the praiseworthy traits of those whom Allah used for victories in the past, like Salahuddeen and others.

Therefore, I share here some timeless lessons from the legacy of Salahuddeen that can be emulated by Muslims worldwide.

Religious knowledge

Salahuddeen believed deeply in the importance of religious knowledge, encompassing Islamic governance, politics, spirituality, jurisprudence, creed, and other matters. To Salahuddeen, scholars were vital to the ummah. Today, we see scholars who stand against tyranny, facing oppression, imprisonment, or even death for their bravery. Conversely, there are scholars who blindly serve rulers driven by personal interests and political ambitions, indifferent to the well-being of Islam and Muslims. In lands where freedom of speech and religion prevail, some scholars remain silent in the face of widespread injustice, prioritizing their careers over the suffering of the ummah. Silence is not an option when men, women, and children are pulverized by bombs while the total population is driven from their homes and denied food, water, and medicine, all this after decades of occupation. Unfortunately, some scholars and people of influence have betrayed the world.

Knowledge is essential for every Muslim, and we must elevate the standards and accessibility of knowledge for all who seek it, emphasizing depth over breadth. Every Muslim graduating from a college in a Western nation should possess an equivalent level of Islamic knowledge to intertwine their field with benefits to the world. Scholars and councils in lands with established freedom of speech bear an even greater responsibility to address the ummah’s needs, focusing on relevant issues and actions beyond basic rituals.

While not all scholars and students of knowledge have the same responsibilities, and generalizations are unwise, each must strive to do what they can within their circumstances. We must raise the bar for Islamic knowledge and its integration into every aspect of life, ensuring it serves the greater good and fosters a just and compassionate world.

Seeking the truth intra-Islam and still maintaining unity

While differences exist among Sunni Muslims in creed (aqida) and fiqh (jurisprudence), the overwhelming majority of Muslims do not know what these differences are or why they exist. While we teach what we believe to be true about Ahlus-Sunnah (the majority of the 2 billion Muslims worldwide), we also emphasize the importance of prioritizing correctly. There is a time and place to discuss creedal differences in a manner that does not cause greater divisions, and a time to emphasize unity among Muslims.

The creed of Sunni Islam is not restricted to some modern-day movement, it is simple and straightforward, it does not require any knowledge of philosophy, logic, or complicated terms and jargon. Belief in the six pillars, in the Qur’an, in Prophet Muhammad, in God’s attributes, are simple and straightforward. Seeking the truth within Islam is important, but it is equally crucial to maintain unity among Muslims and not allow different beliefs (within the scope and boundaries of Ahlus-Sunnah) to cause harmful divisions.

Remembering our commitment and loyalty to Allah and to the truth

Countless U.S. presidents have explicitly stated their loyalty to Israel since 1948, and it has held a special place in the hearts of many Americans for a long time. It is deeply embedded in the American political system, influencing the highest levels of office. And through ongoing lobbying efforts (often perceived as legal bribery), this loyalty permeates all political levels, transcending party lines. Israel holds significant importance to America in numerous ways, and many American politicians have found political success through their loyalty to AIPAC and other pro-Zionist lobby groups.

For Muslims, loyalty is to the truth. We believe in justice regardless of who is on the other side— Muslim, Jew, Christian, atheist, etc.— and we uphold universal justice, irrespective of political ambitions or personal agendas. This is a fundamental difference between the politics of most settler-colonial entities today and the principles of Muslims who truly understand loyalty to Allah’s command. For an honest, moral American politician or administration, genocide could never be justified, nor could the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the bombings of countless innocent people worldwide, the blackmail and economic control of other nations, or the numerous historical examples of American imperialism and the military-industrial complex.

While our commitment is to the truth, we also believe in the importance of diplomacy, strategy, political philosophy, practical proficiency, and wisdom in all matters, particularly when structures of injustice are so severe and strongly intertwined.


Trusting in Allah and taking all measures

Salahuddeen was a man of hard work, and with a strategic intelligence, he relentlessly pursued great achievements for the ummah, but he continuously emphasized trust in Allah, and was devoted to prayer and earnest du’a.

The liberation of many lands and cities, including Al-Aqsa, did not happen overnight. These victories required long-term planning, perseverance, patience, and true tawakkul— trusting in and seeking Allah’s reward for one’s efforts regardless of the outcome. This calls for Muslims around the world to individually and collectively strive for universal justice by trusting in Allah, strategizing within their political ecosystems, engaging more with policymaking and foreign policy, consolidating their skills, resources, and investments economically, and uniting for great causes. Efforts are needed at the grassroots level and beyond, all while maintaining hope in Allah’s divine support.

At the end of his life, Richard the Lionheart attempted once again to invade Jerusalem with a subsequent Crusader army, but Salahuddeen fortified the city and took proper measures. He made du’a to Allah, as witnessed by the historian Ibn Shaddad, on numerous occasions and in a sincere manner. Eventually, news reached Salahuddeen that the Crusader army had halted their march to Jerusalem. Ibn al-Atheer reported that Richard supposedly said, “This is a city that cannot be besieged so long as Salah ad-Deen is still alive and the Muslims are united.”

In one of the letters of Al Qadi al-Fadil, on the night the Sultan died, he saw in a dream someone saying to him: “Yusuf has left the prison tonight.” That was the day Salahuddeen (whose full name is Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub) passed away. The idea that he “left the prison” may relate to the hadith, “This world is a prison for the believer and paradise for the disbeliever” (Sahih Muslim).

Avatar photo Sh. Suleiman HaniAuthor Imam Suleiman Hani is the Director of Academic Affairs at AlMaghrib Institute and a research scholar for Yaqeen Institute. He has master’s degree from the University of Jordan’s College of Shari’ah and a master’s degree from Harvard University.

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