"His path was paved by death." A saying that has been said about a few people in history, but none more obvious than the case of Yusuf ibn Ayyub ibn Shadi, also known as Salah al-Din. When Allah wants something to happen, it's going to happen. Yusuf was a qualified lieutenant in the Zenki Army of Syria. In a few short years, paved by deaths, he became the legend the world now knows.
First his uncle Shirku captured Egypt while he was second in command. Two weeks later, Shirku, still young, up and dies from too much festivities. He literally ate to death. Suddenly Yusuf was ruler of Egypt. He never returned to serving his Zenki sultan, Nurideen, who as I will show below, is the real hero.
Nurideen kept writing to him: "We now have the Egyptian forces. You must report to me so that we can turn our attention to the Crusader invaders. The time is now." But Yusuf ignored him so that he would not lose his new kingdom, Egypt. Then suddenly, Nurideen died. Yusuf marched to Syria and claimed authority. In a span of a few years, both Shirku and Nurideen, died while still in their prime. Yusuf became sultan of Egypt and Syria. Head of a massive force, he turned to Jerusalem.
But in Jerusalem was an amazing young king: Baldwin the Leper. The man in the silver mask, he was mere youth in his early 20's, he defied all the odds, galvanized his army and attacked Saladin, routing him at the Battle of Montgisard even though he was out-numbered by 20,000 men. On some days, Baldwin could not even stand. On this day, he fought on the front lines. The year was 1185.
Seeing that Jerusalem was guarded by the Leper King, Saladin agreed to terms with Bladwin and returned to Syria. Then Baldwin died. A third death that opened the path for Saladin. Less than two years later, in 1187, Jerusalem fell. Saladin waited until 27 Rajab (date of the Night Journey) to make his symbolic entry into the city.
But what I look is the opposite. Who had it worse? Who had more challenges? Who is it that moved mountains? That was Nurideen al-Zenki. When the whole world was going one way, Nurideen went the other way, and pulled a nation with him. He was the king-scholar who woke up his people and whipped them into shape, striking fear in the hearts of his rivals, the Fatimids and the Crusaders. Saladin had a peaceful upbringing and a prince's education in both the Quran and the arts of war, only due to the work of Nurideen.
Sometimes you wonder why the one who did all the work, gets none of the credit. It may simply be that Allah is saving his glory until the Akhira.