Why was Saladin considered to be the greatest Muslim leader during the Crusades?
Saladin is considered the great Muslim leader of the Crusades because he was successful in uniting Muslim forces and recapturing Jerusalem after its loss to Christian forces during the First Crusade. Despite the bitter animosity which characterized Christian/Muslim relations at the time, Saladin tended to be merciful and chivalrous in battle and in victory; so much so that he was admired and respected by both Christians and Muslims. Among his many admirers was Richard Lionheart who called him a true knight.
Saladin was ruthless when he believed it necessary. A Christian knight, Raynold of Chatillon, had tortured and murdered Islamic caravan drivers despite a truce between Muslims and Christians. When he was captured, Saladin personally oversaw his execution; but at the same time spared the life of another knight who had not participated in the atrocity. Saladin's words were:
It is not the wont of kings, to kill kings; but that man had transgressed all bounds, and therefore did I treat him thus.
At the same time, Saladin displayed chivalry at times which put European knights to shame. At a time when the Crusaders slaughtered Muslims with abandon, Saladin allowed the Christian residents of Jerusalem to be ransomed for a small fee. Those who were unable to pay the fee were released free of charge.