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Biography of Turan Shah

Biography of Turan Shah

Name, Birth, and Lineage

Turanshah, whose full name is Shamsuddin Turanshah Ibn Ayyub Malikul Muazzam Shamsud Dawla Fakhruddin, played a pivotal role in consolidating the power of his younger brother, Sultan Salahuddin (Saladin), in Egypt. He is celebrated for his instrumental role in the Ayyubid conquests of Nubia and Yemen. Despite occasional tensions between the brothers, Turanshah remained a steadfast ally and supporter of Salahuddin.

Arrival in Egypt

In 1171, when Salahuddin served as the vizier of the Fatimid Caliphs, the Syrian sultan Nur al-Din Zengi allowed Turanshah to join his brother in Egypt. This decision came at a time when tensions between Nur al-Din and Salahuddin were escalating. Nur al-Din’s intention was to create a rift between the siblings by empowering Turanshah under Salahuddin’s oversight.

Before rising to power as Saladin’s vizier in 1169, Turanshah developed a close relationship with the poet and courtier Umara Yamani, a significant figure in Fatimid politics. On September 11, 1171, the last Fatimid caliph, al-Adid, died, and the Ayyubid dynasty officially took control of Egypt. After the caliph’s death, Turanshah was accused of his murder and subsequently settled in a camp in Cairo that had been previously occupied by Fatimid emirs.

Military Campaigns of Turan Shah

Throughout his life, Turanshah was actively involved in various military campaigns and conflicts. Two of his most notable campaigns are detailed below.

The Conquest of Nubia

The conflict between the Nubians and Egyptians had a long history, with numerous skirmishes in the border regions of Upper Egypt. Following the fall of the Fatimid dynasty, tensions heightened, and Nubian raids on Egyptian border towns became more daring. In late 1172 to early 1173, ex-Black Fatimid troops besieged the crucial city of Aswan. A former Fatimid loyalist appealed to Salahuddin, then the governor of Aswan, for assistance.

Salahuddin dispatched Turanshah with Kurdish troops to liberate Aswan, but by the time they arrived, the Nubian forces had already retreated. Undeterred, Turanshah launched a successful campaign, capturing the Nubian city of Ibrim and conducting raids deep into Nubian territory. His military successes prompted the Nubian king at Dongola to seek a truce. Although Turanshah was eager for a swift victory and initially reluctant to accept, his emissary’s report on Nubia’s poverty and unconquerability led to a reconsideration. Despite this, the Ayyubids had to address the Nubian threat again later. Turanshah’s campaign against Nubia brought substantial wealth to Egypt and resulted in the capture of many Nubian and Christian slaves.

The Conquest of Yemen

Following his success in Nubia, Turanshah sought to secure a personal domain. Bahauddin ibn Shaddad, an associate of Salahuddin, noted that an apostate leader in Yemen, claiming to be the “Messiah,” was the primary reason for Salahuddin’s decision to send Turanshah to conquer the region.

In 1174, Turanshah marched into Yemen, quickly capturing the city of Zabid and the important port city of Aden by the end of May. In 1175, he drove the Hamdani Sultan Ali ibn Hatim from the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, after the latter’s army had been weakened by constant raids from the Zaydi tribes of Sa’dah.

Turanshah then focused on consolidating control over southern Yemen, bringing the region under Ayyubid rule. Although Wahid, a local leader, managed to escape through northern Yemen’s highlands, Yasir, the head of the Shiite Banu Karam tribe ruling Aden, was arrested and executed on Turanshah’s orders. Similarly, the rulers of Zabid who claimed to be the “Mahdi” were also executed. Turanshah’s conquests were significant, uniting Yemen under Ayyubid control, which had previously been divided into three kingdoms: Sana’a, Zabid, and Aden.

Transfer of Power

Despite his successes in Yemen, Turanshah was uncomfortable there and repeatedly requested his brother to transfer him to another region. In 1176, he got the opportunity to migrate to Syria, where he governed from Damascus. In 1178, he also received his father’s old estate around Baalbek. In 1179, he was transferred to rule Alexandria.

Turan Shah died shortly thereafter on June 27, 1180. His body was buried by his sister next to a madrasa he had built in Damascus.

Summary of Reign

Turan Shah ruled various states and cities throughout his career. His notable positions included:

  • Yemen from 1174 to 1176
  • Damascus from 1176 to 1179
  • Baalbek from 1178 to 1179

He finally passed away in Alexandria in 1180. Read More

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