|Saladin as Portrayed in the Hollywood Film "The Kingdom of Heaven"|
Then, having won the confidence and trust of the Fatimid Caliph, who appointed Saladin his vizier, Saladin worked systematically to undermine his regime and carried out a bloody coup d’etat against the Fatimid elite as soon as the Caliph conveniently died. While it might be argued that this was justified by repeated Fatimid conspiracies against Saladin or by Sunni orthodoxy’s hostility to Shiism, the same cannot be said of the slaughter of the unarmed women and children of the Sudanese guard that the “gentle and chivalrous” Saladin ordered burned alive in their homes. And if that weren’t enough, Saladin ended the rebellion of their men by agreeing to spare their lives if they left Cairo — only to break his word and slaughter them after they had laid down their arms.
Claiming a position he had been neither formally nor informally granted by Nur ad-Din, Saladin set out to gain control of Syria by force, using the resources he had accumulated by his seizure of power in Egypt. The young Sultan’s legal guardians fled to Aleppo and Saladin gained control of Damascus without bloodshed, but the Turkish commanders and lords around the young Sultan flatly refused to acknowledge Saladin’s bogus claims to be the “true” guardian of the young Sultan. So Saladin marched his army against Aleppo. In northern Syria, Saladin met with real resistance and was ultimately repelled — with a little help from the Christians, who attacked his lines of communication, and the assassins, who made an attempt on Saladin’s life. Saladin returned to Damascus, where he gave up his pretense of serving the interests of al-Salih, and demanded patents for his position as Sultan of Damascus from the Abbasid caliph of Baghdad. He also issued coins in his own name. He then spent the better part of the next ten years fighting bitter campaigns against the family of Nur al-Din and their supporters based in Aleppo and Mosul and all across northern Syria.