08 August, 2013

In Memory Of Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub

Salah al-Din statue in Damascus
In the last couple or so of years, revolutions have been sweeping through the Arab world; the Arab world which is predominantly Muslim. Regimes that have ruled and shaped the Arab world for decades, have been toppled. New rulers with completely different agendas and programs have taken over. All promising extensive changes for the better and the benefit of their people. Have these revolutions and new rulers succeeded? Will they succeed? It is with these questions in mind that I can't help but fondly remember Islam's last Great leader and one of the Greatest Muslim leaders of all time: Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub (Arabic: صلاح الدين يوسف بن أيوب).

Placard at the gate of Al Ayyubi's Mausoleum in Damascus
How many modern day Muslim rulers have the humility, the simplicity, the gallantry, the statesmanship, the dignity, the strict principals and values; or are as honorable, humble, generous, forgiving, merciful, fair, just, reconciliatory, modest and restrained - as the Founder of Islam was? Or as Omar Al Khattab was? Or as Al Khattab's grandson, Omar ibn Abdul Aziz was? Or as Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub was? So far - none at all. Slah al-Din Al Ayybi was the last great Muslim ruler Muslims ever had.
Omayyad Mosque in Damascus
Salah al-Din's Tomb is located next to the northwestern corner of the Great Umayyad Mosque, in Damascus, Syria. Although Al Ayyubi died in AH 589 / AD 1193, he was initially interred at the Damascus Citadel until his son al-Malik al-Afdal Nur al-Din 'Ali, ruler of Damascus, completed the construction of the present mausoleum. Salah al-Din's body was transferred to its final resting place on the holy day of 'Ashura in AH 592 (AD 1195).

Salah al-Din's Mausoleum next to Umayyad Mosque in Damascus

Soon afterwards, Salah al-Din's other son, al-Malik al-Aziz ‘Uthman (‘Uthman II), ruler of Egypt, decided to construct a madrasa attached to his father's tomb. Al Ayybi's Mausoleum is also known as Al Madrasa al-'Aziziyya. Situated adjacent to the Umayyad Mosque, the Mausoleum is recognisable by it's distinctive red dome. When we visited the Mausoleum, some renovation was going on outside.

Al Ayyubi's Mausoleum next to the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus

The tomb chamber occupies the southwest corner of the building. A chamber used for Qur'anic recitation is accessible from its east side and a series of five smaller rooms are found along the north side. As for the building's exterior and its connection to the Al Madrasa al-'Aziziyya, little of its original architecture has survived to modern times.
Empty white marble sarcophagus was a gift from the German Emperor William II

In the middle of a domed chamber lie two coffins: a white marble sarcophagus - when you enter, on the left - was a gift from the German Emperor William II, on the occasion of his visit to Damascus in 1903. Next to it is the original wooden burial tomb, covered in green with inscriptions - where Salah Al Din's body is; a masterpiece of the linear interplay typical of Ayyubid woodworking. It is decorated with geometric and astral patterns as well as floral and vegetal motifs.

The real coffin of Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub next to the empty coffin
Inside the Mausoleum, below: a square chamber with ablaq walls and four arches capped by a cupola. The movement from square room to circular dome is achieved by a transitional drum in two zones: octagonal and 16-sided polygonal. The interior of the tomb chamber is mounted with blue and green Ottoman tiles of the AH 11th / AD 17th century known as qashani. More subtle decoration can be seen in the stone-paste floral and geometric designs above the arches. The unadorned white walls are partly decorated with 17th century blue and white Damascene tiles.

Inside Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub's Mausoleum
After the Founder of Islam's death, the four Khalifas lived and ruled very much like him; then Omar ibn Abdul Aziz, ruled very much like them during his reign. It took over 400 years for another great Muslim ruler to come: Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub. And since then, Muslims have been lost and hoping for leaders or leadership like of old.

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