MONGOLS IN THE MIDDLE EAST
In effort to bring the entire Muslim world under his control, the Mongol ruler Mongke (1209-1259), who ruled from Mongolia, sent his brother Hulagu (d. 1265) to present-day Iraq to launch an attack against the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad. With one of the largest forces put together by the Mongols — the army of an estimated 150,000 men including Armenians, Georgians, Persians, Turks and a thousand expert artillerymen from China — the Mongols were able to capture Baghdad after a long siege and take control of much of the Middle East.
Stefano Carboni and Qamar Adamjee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: “The Mongol invasions of the Islamic world began in 1221 with the conquest of eastern Iran. A more devastating wave of conquest, however, came with Genghis Khan's grandson Hülegü, when Mongol forces subjugated all of Iran and by 1258 had also taken Baghdad, thus bringing to an end the Abbasid caliphate (750–1258). Establishing rule over most of West Asia, including Iraq, Iran, Khorasan, the Caucasus, and parts of Asia Minor, Hülegü (r. 1256–65) assumed the title of "Il-Khan," meaning lesser Khan, subordinate to the Great Khan ruling in China. This branch of the Mongol dynasty, which became known as the Ilkhanids (1256–1353), centered its power in northwest Iran. [Source: Department of Education,The Metropolitan Museum of Art Based on original work by Linda Komaroff metmuseum.org \^/]
The Mongols allied themselves with Eastern Christians in their military campaigns against Muslim kingdoms. "Despite the alarms of the Christian rulers," wrote Boorstin, "and the Tartar massacres of Poles and Hungarians, the Tartars would prove powerful allies against the Muslims and the Turks who blocked the eastward path”. The Mongols and Europeans squeezed the Muslims in the Middle East in the same way Stalin's Russia and the Western Allies squeezed Hitler in World War II. The Mongols-European alliance was not a match made in heaven but it served its purpose. As the Europeans held the Muslims and Turks at bay in west the Mongols advanced from the east. One Tartar general even sent a mission to France to ask King Louis IX for help in their fight against Muslim Turks who possessed the Holy Land. Some scholars believe that if the alliance was made much of the Middle East and Asia would probably be Christian today.
By 1258 Hulagu occupied Baghdad and put an end to the Abbasid caliphate.At the beginning of 1260 Mongol forces invaded Syria, and reached as far as Jerusalem, Hebron, and Gaza. Mongol advanced forces, however, were defeated by the Mamluks at the battle of ʿAyn Jalut in northern Palestine in August 1260, and the Euphrates River became the frontier between the Mongols and the Mamluks. The Mongols again reached Palestine, including Jerusalem, in 1300 after their defeat of the Mamluks near Homs at the end of 1299. In Western Asia, including the Middle East, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe the Mongols eventually underwent a process of Islamization and Turkification, a conversion to Islam and the replacement of Mongolian by Turkish, the language of many of their soldiers and officers. [Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica]
Hulagu’s wife was a Christian, and in his entourage Nestorian Christians exerted considerable influence. It was not until the time of Gazan Khan (d. 1304) that the Ilkhans finally adopted Islam. Their rule eventually collapsed under the attack of Timur (d. 1405) in 1393.
Websites and Resources: Mongols and Horsemen of the Steppe:
Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; The Mongol Empire web.archive.org/web ; The Mongols in World History afe.easia.columbia.edu/mongols ; William of Rubruck's Account of the Mongols washington.edu/silkroad/texts ; Mongol invasion of Rus (pictures) web.archive.org/web ; Encyclopædia Britannica article britannica.com ; Mongol Archives historyonthenet.com ; “The Horse, the Wheel and Language, How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes shaped the Modern World", David W Anthony, 2007 archive.org/details/horsewheelandlanguage ; The Scythians - Silk Road Foundation silkroadfoundation.org ; Scythians iranicaonline.org ; Encyclopaedia Britannica article on the Huns britannica.com ; Wikipedia article on Eurasian nomads Wikipedia
Mongol Invasions of Central Asia and Middle East
Ibn al-Athir wrote in “On The Tatars” (1220-1221): “For these were a people who emerged from the confines of China, and attacked the cities of Turkestan, like Kashghar and Balasaghun, and thence advanced on the cities of Transoxiana, such as Samarqand, Bukhara and the like, taking possession of them, and treating their inhabitants in such wise as we shall mention; and of them one division then passed on into Khurasan, until they had made an end of taking possession, and destroying, and slaying, and plundering, and thence passing on to Ray, Hamadan and the Highlands, and the cities contained therein, even to the limits of Iraq, whence they marched on the towns of Adharbayjan and Arraniyya, destroying them and slaying most of their inhabitants, of whom none escaped save a small remnant; and all this in less than a year; this is a thing whereof the like has not been heard. And when they had finished with Adharbayjan and Arraniyya, they passed on to Darband-i-Shirwan, and occupied its cities, none of which escaped save the fortress wherein was their King; wherefore they passed by it to the countries of the Lan and the Lakiz and the various nationalities which dwell in that region, and plundered, slew, and destroyed them to the full. And thence they made their way to the lands of Qipchaq, who are the most numerous of the Turks, and slew all such as withstood them, while the survivors fled to the fords and mountain-tops, and abandoned their country, which these Tatars overran. All this they did in the briefest space of time, remaining only for so long as their march required and no more. [Source: Edward G. Browne, “A Literary History of Persia,” (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1902), Vol. II, pp. 427-431]
“Another division, distinct from that mentioned above, marched on Ghazna and its dependencies, and those parts of India, Sistan and Kirman which border thereon, and wrought therein deeds like unto the other, nay, yet more grievous. Now this is a thing the like of which ear has not heard; for Alexander, concerning whom historians agree that he conquered the world, did not do so with such swiftness, but only in the space of about ten years; neither did he slay, but was satisfied that men should be subject to him. But these Tatars conquered most of the habitable globe, and the best, the most flourishing and most populous part thereof, and that whereof the inhabitants were the most advanced in character and conduct, in about a year; nor did any country escape their devastations which did not fearfully expect them and dread their arrival.
“Moreover they need no commissariat, nor the conveyance of supplies, for they have with them sheep, cows, horses, and the like quadrupeds, the flesh of which they eat, naught else. As for their beasts which they ride, these dig into the earth with their hoofs and eat the roots of plants, knowing naught of barley. And so, when they alight anywhere, they have need of nothing from without. As for their religion, they worship the sun when it rises, and regard nothing as unlawful, for they eat all beasts, even dogs, pigs, and the like; nor do they recognise the marriage-tie, for several men are in marital relations with one woman, and if a child is born, it knows not who is its father.”
Impact of the Mongol Invasions of Central Asia and Middle East
Ibn al-Athir wrote in “On The Tatars” (1220-1221): “Therefore Islam and the Muslims have been afflicted during this period with calamities wherewith no people hath been visited. These Tatars (may God confound them!) came from the East, and wrought deeds which horrify all who hear of them, and which you shall, please God, see set forth in full detail in their proper connection. And of these was the invasion of Syria by the Franks (may God curse them!) out of the West, and their attack on Egypt, and occupation of the port of Damietta therein, so that Egypt and Syria were like to be conquered by them, but for the grace of God and the help which He vouchsafed us against them, as we have mentioned under the year 614 (A.D. 1217-18). [Source: Edward G. Browne, “A Literary History of Persia,” (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1902), Vol. II, pp. 427-431]
“Of these, moreover, was that the sword was drawn between those who escaped from these two foes, and strife was rampant, as we have also mentioned: and verily unto God do we belong and unto Him do we return! We ask God to vouchsafe victory to Islam and the Muslims, for there is none other to aid, help, or defend the True Faith. But if God intends evil to any people, naught can avert it, nor have they any ruler save Him. As for these Tatars, their achievements were only rendered possible by the absence of any effective obstacle; and the cause of this absence was that Muhammad Khwarazmshah had overrun the lands, slaying and destroying their Kings, so that he remained alone ruling over all these countries; wherefore, when he was defeated by the Tatars, none was left in the lands to check those or protect these, that so God might accomplish a thing which was to be done.
“It is now time for us to describe how they first burst forth into the lands. Stories have been related to me, which the hearer can scarcely credit, as to the terror of the Tatars, which God Almighty cast into men's hearts; so that it is said that a single one of them would enter a village or a quarter wherein were many people, and would continue to slay them one after another, none daring to stretch forth his hand against this horseman. And I have heard that one of them took a man captive, but had not with him any weapon wherewith to kill him; and he said to his prisoner, "Lay your head on the ground and do not move," and he did so, and the Tatar went and fetched his sword and slew him therewith. Another man related to me as follows: "I was going," said he, "with seventeen others along a road, and there met us a Tatar horseman, and bade us bind one another's arms. My companions began to do as he bade them, but I said to them, "He is but one man; wherefore, then, should we not kill him and flee?' They replied, 'We are afraid.' I said, 'This man intends to kill you immediately; let us therefore rather kill him, that perhaps God may deliver us.' But I swear by God that not one of them dared to do this, so I took a knife and slew him, and we fled and escaped.' And such occurrences were many.”
Mongols Move Into the Middle East
In 1256, before striking at Baghdad, the Mongol army under Hualga made a detour to the Elburz mountains on the southern shores of the Caspian Sea in Iran to assault the Assassins, a violent, mystical sect of dagger-wielding fanatic which killed while under the influence of hashish. By some counts 12,000 assassins and their supporters were killed.
The Mongols hammered the remote Assassin fortress until their leader Rukn ad-Din surrendered. Rukn ad-Din was sent to Karokorum where he was, in Juvaii's words, "kicked to a pulp and put to the sword."
At the time of Hulaga's attack the Abbasid caliphate had withstood numerous attacks by Persians, Turks, and other invaders but was weakened by internal division and Baghdad's ruler, Caliph Mustasim was aloof and isolated. A division of caliph troops sent to engage the Mongols was trapped behind the flood waters of a dike broken by the Mongols and at least 12,000 Muslims were killed.
Abbasid rule came to an end in 1258 when the Mongols captured Baghdad. The Mongols not only destroyed cities and towns they also destroyed the Abbasid irrigation systems. The Arab economy never recovered from the destruction.
Mongols Attack the Assassin’s Fortress at Alamut
Attempts to capture the assassin's fortresses were unsuccessful until Genghis Khan captured it and butchered the last descendants of Hasan. Survivors of the sect fled to Syria. In 1256, before striking at Baghdad, the Mongol army under Hulagu made a detour to the Elburz mountains on the southern shores of the Caspian Sea in Iran to assault the Assassins. By some counts 12,000 assassins and their supporters were killed. The Mongols hammered the remote Assassin fortress until their leader Rukn ad-Din surrendered. Hulagu destroyed the caliphate and seized the fortress along with its subsidary castles in Persia. Rukn ad-Din was sent to Karokorum where he was, in Juvaii's words, "kicked to a pulp and put to the sword."
After Hulaku (Hulagu) received the command of the army destined for Persia and Syria, according to the footnotes of “Travels of Marco Polo”: “The complaints that came from the Mongol officers already in Persia determined him to commence with the reduction of the Ismailites, and Hulaku set out from Karakorum in February, 1254. He proceeded with great deliberation, and the Oxus was not crossed till January, 1256. But an army had been sent long in advance under "one of his Barons," Kitubuka Noyan, and in 1253 it was already actively engaged in besieging the Ismailite fortresses. In 1255, during the progress of the war, ALA'UDDIN MAHOMED, the reigning Prince of the Assassins (mentioned by Polo as Alaodin), was murdered at the instigation of his son Ruknuddin Khurshah, who succeeded to the authority. A year later (November, 1256) Ruknuddin surrendered to Hulaku. [Source: “Travels of Marco Polo,” Book 1, Chapter 25, by Marco Polo, translated by Henry Yule]
“The fortresses given up, all well furnished with provisions and artillery engines, were 100 in number. Two of them, however, Lembeser and Girdkuh, refused to surrender. The former fell after a year; the latter is stated to have held out for twenty years — actually, as it would seem, about fourteen, or till December, 1270. Ruknuddin was well treated by Hulaku, and despatched to the Court of the Kaan. The accounts of his death differ, but that most commonly alleged, according to Rashiduddin, is that Mangku Kaan was irritated at hearing of his approach, asking why his post-horses should be fagged to no purpose, and sent executioners to put Ruknuddin to death on the road. Alamut had been surrendered without any substantial resistance. Some survivors of the sect got hold of it again in 1275-1276, and held out for a time. The dominion was extinguished, but the sect remained, though scattered indeed and obscure.” [Ibid]
There is some account of the rock of Alamut and its exceedingly slender traces of occupancy, by Colonel Monteith, in J. R. G. S. III. 15, and again by Sir Justin Sheil in vol. viii. p. 431. There does not seem to be any specific authority for assigning the Paradise of the Shaikh to Alamut; and it is at least worthy of note that another of the castles of the Mulahidah, destroyed by Hulaku, was called Firdus, i.e. Paradise. In any case, I see no reason to suppose that Polo visited Alamut, which would have been quite out of the road that he is following.
It is possible that "the Castle," to which Colonel Monteith alludes in J. R. G. S. III. 15, is the Assassins castle was Girdkuh, 10 or 12 west or north-west miles of Damghan, but is more likely the Tigado of Hayton: "The Assassins had an impregnable castle called Tigado, which was furnished with all necessaries, and was so strong that it had no fear of attack on any side. Howbeit, Halooen commanded a certain captain of his that he should take 10,000 Tartars who had been left in garrison in Persia, and with them lay siege to the said castle, and not leave it till he had taken it. Wherefore the said Tartars continued besieging it for seven whole years, winter and summer, without being able to take it. At last the Assassins surrendered, from sheer want of clothing, but not of victuals or other necessaries." This attack endured until 1270 by some accounts placing it relatively close to the time of Marco Polo’s visit to the area.
Philip K. Hitti wrote in “The Book of Grass: An Anthology on Indian Hemp:” “After the capture of Masyad in 1260 by the Mongols, the Mamluk Sultan Baybars in 1272 dealt the Syrian Assassins the final blow. Since then the Assassins have been sparsely scattered through northern Syria, Persia, 'Uman, Zanzibar, and especially India, where they number about 150,000 and go by the name of Thojas or Mowlas. They all acknowledge as titular head the Aga Khan of Bombay, who claims descent through the last grand master of Alamut from Isma'il, the seventh imam, receives over a tenth of the revenues of his followers, even in Syria, and spends most of his time as a sportsman between Paris and London. [Source: Philip K. Hitti, “The Book of Grass: An Anthology on Indian Hemp,” edited by George Andrews and Simon Vinkenoog]
Siege of Baghdad
In 1258, with token support from Shiites, the Mongols advanced on Baghdad in several columns that were able to overwhelm anything thrown at them because of their superior mobility and firepower and easily reached the outskirts of the city. Once there, they besieged Baghdad with palm stumps hurled from catapults (carts with stone missiles were late in arriving) and were able to breach the walls and take the city after seven days.
The Mongols sacked Baghdad, destroyed irrigation works and built pyramids of skulls. All the inhabitants of the city except for the Christians were slaughtered (Hualga's mother was a convert to the Nestorian Christian faith). One Persian writer said two million people were killed. Others said 800,000 people were slaughtered. Both of these are is probably wild exaggerations. A Chinese envoy wrote that "many tens of thousands were killed." The slaughter was particularly nasty because Christian Georgians and Armenians in the Mongol army sought revenge against the Muslims who had brought so much suffering to their homelands.
The last Abbasid caliph and his sons were rolled into a carpet and trampled to death with horses. Their other relatives retreated to Cairo. The great Baghdad library, the House of Wisdom, was destroyed.
The sacking of Baghdad brought an end to a Muslim dynasty that endured for 500 years and ended Baghdad’s run as being the largest and most powerful city in the Arab world. .The Mongols then captured Syria, sparing the life of the elderly Turan Sha, a Muslim leader that held out for month in the citadel of Aleppo after the rest of the city had fallen.
Mongols and Mamluks
The Mongol army lead by Hulagu advanced on Jerusalem, where a victory would have sealed up their grip on the Middle East. The only thing that stood in their was a division of Mamlukes (a Muslim caste of horse-mounted Arab slaves made up mainly of Mongol-like Turks) from Egypt.
Mamluks (or Mamelukes) were a self-perpetuating caste of non-Muslim slave soldiers used by Muslim states to fight wars against one another. The Mamluks were used by the Arabs to fight the Crusaders, the Seljuk and Ottoman Turks, and the Mongols.
Mamluks were mainly Turks from Central Asia. But some were also Circassians and other ethnic groups (Arabs were generally excluded because the were Muslims and Muslims were not allowed to be slaves). Their weapons were the composite bow and curved sword. Their horsemanship, mounted archery skills and swordsman ship made them the world's most formidable soldiers until gunpowder made their tactics obsolete.
Even though they were slaves, Mamluks were highly privileged and some became high-ranking government officials, governors and administrators. Some Mamluk groups became independent and founded their own dynasties, the most famous being the slave kings of Delhi and the Mamluk sultanate of Egypt. Mamluks established a self-perpetuating slave dynasty that ruled Egypt and much the Middle East from the 12th to 15th century, fought a monumental battle with Napoleon and endured until the 20th century.
Mamlukes Defeat the Mongols
Hulegu returned to Mongolia upon receiving news of Mongke's death. While he was gone, his forces were defeated by a larger, Mamluk, army at the Battle of Ain Jalut in Palestine in 1260. This was the first significant Mongol defeat in seventy years. The Mamluks had been led by a Turk named Baibars, a former Mongol warrior who used Mongol tactics. [Source: Library of Congress]
During the attack on Jerusalem a detachment of Crusaders was nearby. The question on everyone's minds was whether or not the Christian crusaders assist the Mongols in there assault on Muslim-occupied Jerusalem. Just as the battle was getting ready to take shape, Hulagu was informed of Khan Mongke's death and went back to Mongolia, leaving behind a force of 10,000 men.
The Mamlukes tried to enlist the Crusaders in their fight against the Mongols. “The Crusaders only offered token help by allowing the Mamlukes to cross their territory to attack the Mongols. The Mamlukes were also assisted by Berke — Batu's younger brother and khan of the Golden Horde — a recent convert to Islam.
In 1260, the Mamluk sultan Baibars defeated the Mongol Il-Khans at the Battle of Ain Jalut, where David reportedly killed Goliath in northern Palestine, and went on to destroy many of the Mongol strongholds on the Syrian coast. The Mamlukes employed a battle tactic the Mongols were famous for using: an attack after a feigned retreat and surrounding and slaughtering their pursuers. The Mongols were routed in a couple of hours and their advance into the Middle East was brought to a halt.
Impact of the Mamluke Defeat of the Mongols
The defeat by the Mamlukes kept the Mongols from moving into the Holy land and Egypt. The Mongols, however, are able to keep the territory they already had. The Mongols initially refused to accept the defeat as final and destroyed Damascus before finally giving up on other ambitions in the Middle East and later abandoning what is now Iraq and Iran and settling in Central Asia.
The Mongol defeat at Ain Jalut in 1260 led directly to the first important war between grandsons of Genghis. The Mamluk leader, Baibars, made an alliance with Berke Khan, Batu's brother and successor. Berke had converted to Islam, and he thus was sympathetic to the Mamluk for religious reasons, as well as because he was jealous of his nephew, Hulegu. When Hulegu sent an army to Syria to punish Baibars, he was attacked suddenly by Berke. Hulegu had to turn his army back to the Caucasus to meet this threat, and he made repeated attempts to ally himself with the kings of France and England and with the Pope in order to crush the Mamluks in Palestine. Berke withdrew, however, when Khublai sent 30,000 troops to aid the Ilkhans. This chain of events marked the end of the Mongol expansion in Southwest Asia. [Source: Library of Congress, June 1989 *]
Neither Khublai nor Hulegu made a serious effort to avenge the defeat of Ain Jalut. Both devoted their attention primarily to consolidating their conquests, to suppressing dissidence, and to reestablishing law and order. Like their uncle, Batu, and his Golden Horde successors, they limited their offensive moves to occasional raids or to attacks with limited objectives in unconquered neighboring regions.
Mongol Ilkhante in the Middle East
After Mongke's brother Hulagu conquered western Asia, he named himself the first Ilkhan (subordinate Khan) and remained loyal to Mongke. From his court in Maragheh (present-day western Iran) he ruled over an empire that included what is now Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Iraq, northern Syria and eastern Turkey.
The Mongols introduced military rule to the Muslim world and left a trail of ruined cities in their wake as they came and conquered but once they established themselves they rebuilt the cities and supported the arts and promoted trade. Arab, Persian and Muslim culture had a great influence on them.
Stefano Carboni and Qamar Adamjee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: “ Although Hulegu's successors did not exhibit the austere martial qualities of their forebears, they did bring a partial and brief economic revival to Iran. An increase in commerce and the expansion of trade routes brought a measure of cross culturization between Iran and China. The Mongol rulers devoted themselves to a more genteel life and let their provinces be governed by Turkish viziers. Finally these viziers seized control, and the Ilkhan khanate ended with the death of Abu Said in 1335. [Source: Department of Education,The Metropolitan Museum of Art Based on original work by Linda Komaroff metmuseum.org \^/]
The Western Mongols held together a Turkish-Persian empire for around 100 years, from 1256 to 1336. Many had converted to Islam by 1295 and eventually lost their identity through assimilation with indigenous cultures. By the 14th century all four of the Mongol empires had converted to Islam. The Mongols favored Shiite Islam over Sunni Islam, which helped Shiite Islam gain a hold in the region.
Ilkhanids: Mongol Rule in the Middle East
The Ilkhanids ruled Iran and Iraq from 1256 to 1336. The Mongols introduced military rule to the Muslim world and the Muslims introduced Islam to the Mongols. The Mongols left a trail of ruined cities in their wake as they came and conquered but once they established themselves they rebuilt the cities and supported the arts and promoted trade. They were greatly influenced by Arab, Persian and Muslim culture and by the 14th century all four of the Mongol empires had converted to Islam.
The “iqta” system, in which land was divided up into non-hereditary fiefs, was introduced by the Mongols many parts of the Middle East and endured in dynasties after the Mongols. These fiefs were granted by the sultan to a lord known as a pasha for various reasons, often by distinguishing oneself in war or by providing gifts or women for the sultan’s harem.
Compared to feudalism, the disadvantage of the “iqta” was that pashas were encouraged to get rich quick and hoard their loot since the land did not necessarily end up in the hands of their descendants. This lead to the overtaxation of subjects, "skimping" on military obligations, and negligence. The advantage was that land was granted to some degree by merit and intrigues and wars between pashas was minimized.
According to the Encyclopaedia Judaica: “The situation of the Jews in the Islamic countries conquered and ruled by the Mongols appears to have dramatically improved. Jews, as well as Christians, enjoyed relative religious freedom and the restrictive laws derived from the so-called Covenant of Omar were abolished for several decades. The activity of the free-thinking Jewish philosopher and scholar of comparative religion Ibn Kammūna (d. 1285) in Baghdad can be attributed to some degree to the relatively tolerant atmosphere in the realm of religion introduced by the Mongols. [Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica]
Hulagu's great grandson Ghazan (1295-1304) broke contact with great khans in China. When Abu-Said, the last of Hulagu's line died in 1335, the former Ilknate was fractured into small kingdoms ruled by competing princes until 1353.
See Separate Article MONGUL RULE, THE IQTA ADMINISTRATION AND THE SILK ROAD factsanddetails.com
Ilkhanid Mongols Rulers
Great Mongols: 603–1043: 1206–1634
Ilkhanid: 654–754: 1256–1353
Ruler, Muslim dates A.H., Christian dates A.D.
Hülegü: 654–63: 1256–65
Abaqa: 663–80: 1265–82
Ahmad Tegüder: 680–83: 1282–84
Arghun: 683–90: 1284–91
Gaykhatu: 690–94: 1291–95
Baydu: 694: 1295
Mahmud Ghazan: 694–703: 1295–1304
Muhammad Khudabanda Öljeytü (Uljaytu): 703–16: 1304–17
Abu Sacid: 716–36: 1317–35
Arpa: 736–37: 1335–36
Musa: 737: 1336
Rival khans: 736–54: 1336–53
[Source: Department of Islamic Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art]
Golden Horde: 621–760: 1224–1359
White Horde: 623–831: 1226–1428
Chaghatayid: 624–771: 1227–1370
Khans of Kazan: 841–959: 1438–1552
Khans of Kasimof: 854–1089: 1450–1678
Khans of Crimea: 823–1197: 1420–1783
Loathing Muslim View of the Mongols: Ibn al-Athir “On The Tatars” (1220)
Ibn al-Athir wrote in “On The Tatars” (1220-1221):“For some years I continued averse from mentioning this event, deeming it so horrible that I shrank from recording it and ever withdrawing one foot as I advanced the other. To whom, indeed, can it be easy to write the announcement of the death-blow of Islam and the Muslims, or who is he on whom the remembrance thereof can weigh lightly? O would that my mother had not born me or that I had died and become a forgotten thing ere this befell! Yet, withal a number of my friends urged me to set it down in writing, and I hesitated long, but at last came to the conclusion that to omit this matter could serve no useful purpose. [Source: Edward G. Browne, “A Literary History of Persia,” (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1902), Vol. II, pp. 427-431]
“I say, therefore, that this thing involves the description of the greatest catastrophe and the most dire calamity (of the like of which days and nights are innocent) which befell all men generally, and the Muslims in particular; so that, should one say that the world, since God Almighty created Adam until now, has not been afflicted with the like thereof, he would but speak the truth. For indeed history does not contain anything which approaches or comes near unto it. For of the most grievous calamities recorded was what Nebuchadnezzar inflicted on the children of Israel by his slaughter of them and his destruction of Jerusalem; and what was Jerusalem in comparison to the countries which these accursed miscreants destroyed, each city of which was double the size of Jerusalem? Or what were the children of Israel compared to those whom these slew? For verily those whom they massacred in a single city exceeded all the children of Israel. Nay, it is unlikely that mankind will see the like of this calamity, until the world comes to an end and perishes, except the final outbreak of Gog and Magog.
“For even Antichrist will spare such as follow him, though he destroy those who oppose him, but these Tatars spared none, slaying women and men and children, ripping open pregnant women and killing unborn babes. Verily to God do we belong, and unto Him do we return, and there is no strength and no power save in God, the High, the Almighty, in face of this catastrophe, whereof the sparks flew far and wide, and the hurt was universal; and which passed over the lands like clouds driven by the wind.”
Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons
Text Sources: Internet Islamic History Sourcebook: sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Arab News, Jeddah; "Islam, a Short History" by Karen Armstrong; "A History of the Arab Peoples" by Albert Hourani (Faber and Faber, 1991); Encyclopedia of the World Cultures edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994). Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, The Guardian, BBC, Al Jazeera, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Last updated October 2022