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al-Malik al-Afdal Najm ad-Din Ayyub ibn Shadhi ibn Marawan (Arabic: الملك ألأفضل نجم الدين أيوب بن شاﺬي بن مروان)) (died August 9, 1173) was a Kurdish soldier and politician from Dvinmarker, and the father of Saladin.

Life and career

Ayyub was the son of Shadhi ibn Marwan, a Kurdish ruler, and brother of Shirkuh. The family belonged to the Kurdish tribe of Rawadiya, itself a branch of the Hadhabani tribe. They were closely connected to the Shaddadid dynasty, and when the last Shaddadid was deposed in Dvin in 1130, Shadhi moved the family first to Baghdadmarker and then to Tikritmarker, where he was appointed governor by the regional administrator Bihruz. Ayyub succeeded his father as governor of Tikrit when Shadhi died soon after.

In 1132 Ayyub was in the service of Zengi, and participated in a battle against the Seljuk Sultan near Tikrit. Najm ad-Din saved Zengi's life when he assisted Zengi's retreat across the Tigrismarker. In 1136, Shirkuh killed a Christian with whom he was quarrelling in Tikrit, and the brothers were exiled (Ayyub's son Yusuf, later known as Saladin, was supposedly born the night they left). Zengi appointed Ayyub governor of Baalbekmarker, and when the town was besieged in 1146 by Mu'in ad-Din Unur, the atabeg of the Burid emir of Damascusmarker, Ayyub surrendered it and retired to Damascus. Shirkuh, meanwhile, entered the service of Zengi's son Nur ad-Din, who had designs on Damascus; when the Second Crusade besieged the city in 1148, Nur ad-Din forced Mu'in ad-Din and the Burids into a reluctant alliance. Soon Nur ad-Din demanded the city be handed over to him, and Ayyub and Shirkuh negotiated the surrender of the city in 1154. Ayyub remained governor of Damascus under Nur ad-Din's rule. He was held in such honour that he was the only one of Nur ad-Din's officials allowed to remain seated in his presence.

Ayyub's son Saladin also took up service with Nur ad-Din, and he was sent to Egyptmarker to take control in Nur ad-Din's name during the period of joint crusader-Byzantine invasions. In 1170 Ayyub joined him there, either summoned by Saladin himself, or sent by Nur ad-Din to convince Saladin to depose the last Fatimid caliph. Saladin offered the vizierate to him, but he refused, and instead was granted Alexandriamarker, Damiettamarker, and Al Buhayrah as personal fiefs. Many of Saladin's other relatives also joined him in Egypt. Nur ad-Din did not trust Saladin and his family, correctly assuming that they were consolidating power against him; Ayyub publicly supported Nur ad-Din, but privately warned his son that Nur ad-Din should never be allowed to take Egypt from him.


Najm ad-Din was injured in a horse riding accident on July 31, 1173, and died on August 9. His death exacerbated the tension between Saladin and Nur ad-Din; the latter had summoned the former to assist in an expedition against the Kingdom of Jerusalem, but Saladin returned home when he heard of his father's death. The expected confrontation between Nur ad-Din and Saladin did not occur, as Nur ad-Din died the next year, and Saladin eventually took control of the whole of Egypt and Syria.

According to Baha ad-Din, Ayyub was "a noble, generous man, mild and of excellent character." He was also "passionately fond of polo". Ibn al-Qalanisi calls him "a man of resolution, intelligence and knowledge of affairs", who prudently handed over Baalbek to a superior force in return for rewards and honours.

His given name was Ayyub (Job), from which comes the Ayyubid dynasty of Saladin and his successors. Najm ad-Din is an honorific meaning "star of the faith".

Family and children

Ayyub had several children with an unknown woman or women:


  • Baha ad-Din, The Rare and Excellent History of Saladin, ed. D. S. Richards, Ashgate, 2002.
  • The Damascus Chronicle of the Crusades, Extracted and Translated from the Chronicle of Ibn al-Qalanisi. H.A.R. Gibb, 1932 (reprint, Dover Publications, 2002)
  • Vladimir Minorsky, "The Prehistory of Saladin", in Studies in Caucasian History, Cambridge University Press, 1957, pp. 124-132. ( available online)
  • M. C. Lyons and D. E. P. Jackson, Saladin: the Politics of the Holy War, Cambridge University Press, 1982.
  • P. M. Holt, The Age of the Crusades: The Near East from the Eleventh Century to 1517, Longman, 1986.

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