Saturday, March 6, 2010

Random thoughts

The history of the human race is full of seemingly small incidents that have led to catastrophic results.

This holds true both for the distant past and for more recent events.

The first episode relates to the most un-diplomatic and arrogant behaviour displayed by Alauddin Khwarizm Shah. The Khwarezmid Empire was a highly developed area with a well-developed civilisation and high standard of education. It had been conquered by the famous Muslim general Qatiba bin Muslim in 714 A.D. (93 A.H.) It had beautiful gardens, lakes, rivers and orchards, and included present-day Iran, Afghanistan, Punjab and the area east of Uzbekistan and north of the Amu River. The city of Gergania was adopted as the capital and renamed Khwarizm.

Visitors to the area in those days described Gergania as the largest, most beautiful, richest city in existence. The nearby city of Khiva was maintained in its original form by the Russians as a national heritage centre of historic significance. The country’s dynasty was founded by Khwarizm Shah and his kingdom extended all the way to the Indus River. However, all the wealth and grandeur caused him to become so arrogant that he humiliated the Caliph of Baghdad, the most revered figure in the Islamic world at that time. The result was that the Caliph encouraged Genghis Khan to reign him in and cut him down to size. Though possessing a large army, Alauddin avoided direct confrontation with Genghis Khan and stayed away from the Mongol army. In this manner the public became disheartened and lost all hope of facing up to the threat.

In the year1219 AD, while Alauddin was actively trying to destabilise the whole Muslim world by inciting neighbouring Muslim kingdoms and willing to attack even Baghdad, Genghis Khanthe valiant Mongol Emperor had extended his empire to northern China and eastern Europe. Their only common border was Utrar, a frontier town in Khwarizm. Realising that Alauddin had a vast empire and was a powerful King, Genghis Khan decided to cultivate friendly relations with him. He sent a letter and gifts suggesting trade and good-neighbourly relations. Alauddin was pleased by this and sent some expensive gifts in reciprocation. Genghis Khan then sent a caravan of about 400 Muslim traders to Khwarizm, which stopped at Utrar. The governor of Utrar, Ainalgaq, was Alauddin’s uncle. When he saw all the valuable goods and the beautiful horses, he lost all sense of reality and thought only of getting hold of the goods. He falsely informed Alauddin that the traders were actually spies in disguise and should not be allowed to proceed. Alauddin, stupidly and without thinking out the consequences, ordered all the traders to be killed. Ainalgaq complied and confiscated all the goods. One trader survived, as he had been away from the camp at the time. He went back and informed Genghis Khan. Nontheless the Mongol emperor still showed tolerance and sent an emissary to Alauddin, asking him to either punish the governor for his mischief or to hand him over for dispensing justice. Alauddin , in his arrogance, had the emissary murdered. Genghis Khan sent yet another emissary, who complained about violation of diplomatic norms and Khwarizm’s stooping to disgraceful acts. This emissary was also killed. When news of this reached Genghis Khan, he is reported to have gone to a nearby hill, raised his hands towards the sky and said: “O Creator of this world, Alauddin is not a king. He is a thief. He has violated all norms of diplomacy. Please give me the strength to destroy him.” Alauddin, possessing an army of almost 500,000 soldiers and horses, sent troops to Utrar, Bokhara and Samarqand to protect them but the Mongol army swept aside all resistance like a whirlwind and wiped out each and every living soul in these cities.

The most unfortunate aspect of this episode is the fact that the Caliph Al-Nasir was indulging in intrigues against Khwarizm Shah and encouraging the Mongols to attack Khwarizm. Instead of forming a united front with Khwarizm Shah and Shamsuddin Altamash, king of India, Al-Nasir refused to help Jalaluddin, Alauddin’s valiant son who had taken command of the available troops and put up stiff resistance to Genghis Khan for years. He was finally cornered on the bank of the river Indus and when he saw no way out, he and a few colleagues leapt into the river on horseback and swam to the other side. It is said that he was finally murdered by a Kurd whose brother had been slain by Khwarizmi soldiers. Thus were sown the seeds of the destruction of the Islamic Empire. Due to a last-minute change in plans by the Mongol emperor, Altamash of India was saved from Mongol wrath. In 1259 A.D. the last Caliph, Mustasim, was trampled to death by galloping horsemen on the orders of Genghis Khan’s grandson Hulagu Khan– history had taken its revenge. According to historians, the Mongols massacred more than 10 million Muslims in Bukhara, Merv, Samarqand, Bamiyan, Nishapur and Baghdad. Muslim disunity resulted in the total destruction of various kingdoms and subsequent colonialisation, first by the Mongols and then by the Russians and Europeans.

It seems people never learn from history. What happened almost 800 years ago seems to be repeating itself again. Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan would not be facing the situation they are in today if they had followed the Islamic religious edicts of mutual help, brotherhood, justice, kindness and avoidance of oppressive, unlawful wars. Jalaluddin Khwarizm Shah was a valiant warrior and fought bravely against the Mongols but was not helped by short-sighted Muslim rulers. Ultimately the Muslims faced the wrath of the Mongols and paid the price – more than 10 million dead, cities razed and a whole Muslim empire had disappeared. In 1260 the Mongols tasted their first defeat near Nazareth at the hands of the valiant Mameluk sultan Al-Zahir Baybars of Egypt and then, in 1277, at Van near the Syrian border.

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