A CLOSE LOOK AT ALLAH OF THE QURAN
The one name which Muslims hate and fear most is that of Chengiz Khan. He is a spectre which has haunted Muslim historians for centuries. He swept like a tornado over the then most powerful and extensive Islamic empire of Khwarazm. In a short span of five years (1219-1224 CE), he slaughtered millions of Muslims, forced many others including women and children into slavery, and razed to the ground quite a few of the most populous and prosperous cities of the Muslim world at that time.
Muslim and Mongol historians have preserved a record of Chengiz Khan’s doings in region after region and city after city. We present some of that record in order to point out how closely it resembles the record of jihAds waged by Muslim swordsmen in India and elsewhere.
Cities on the Jaxartes Frontier
‘There was no army to dispute the passage of the Jaxartes with Chengiz. He despatched Juji against Jund, his second and third sons, Chaghatai and Ogtai, against Otrar; and his other officers against Khojend, Fanakat, etc.; while he personally proceeded against Samarqand and Bukhara. Otrar was defended by Ghayir Khan with an army of 60,000; the city resisted for five months after which Ghayir’s subordinate, Qaracha, surrendered with his men in the hope of mercy but was put to death. The inhabitants, ‘both wearers of the veil and those who wore kulah (hat) and turbans’ were taken out of the city, while the Mongols plundered their houses. Young men were picked up for the levy (hashr) and the artisans for service. Ghayir Khan retreated into the ark with 20,000 soldiers. They held out for another month and died fighting. No other city in Trans-Oxiana was able to hold out for so long. Juji sent a Muslim merchant, Haji Hasan, who had long been in Chengiz’s service, to ask the citizens of Sughnaq to submit. But some persons attacked Haji with cries of Allah-O-Akbar and put him to death. In retaliation for this, the Mongols slaughtered the whole population in seven days.1
‘Fanakat: The garrison led by Iltegu Malik fought for three days and then asked for quarter. All soldiers were put to death but the civil population, apart from the artisans and the young men required for the levy, was spared. Khojend: Timur Malik, the commander, fortified himself in an island and then escaped to the Khwarazm Shah after a series of heroic exploits, but Khojend shared the fate of other cities and its young men were drafted into the hashr (levy). Here the number of the levy is given as 50,000 while the Mongol army was 20,000.2
Bukhara and Samarqand
‘Though Samarqand was nearer, Chengiz decided to proceed first against Bukhara by way of Zarnaq and Nur. Both cities surrendered and were treated in the usual Mongol manner The citadel of Bukhara was in charge of Kok Khan, a Mongol who had fled from Chengiz and taken service with the Sultan. Kok decided to fight to the bitter end, but the citizens preferred to submit and sent their religious representatives to invite Chengiz into the town 3
‘But the problem of Kok Khan and the garrison in the ark remained. They were fighting to sell their lives as dear as possible and sallied forth against the Mongols both day and night. Now the houses of Bukhara were made entirely of wood, apart from the Juma mosque and a few palaces; consequently, when Chengiz ordered the houses near the ark to be set on fire, the whole city was consumed by the flames. Ultimately the ark was captured and all soldiers were put to death. Further, as to the Qanqali Turks, all male children who stood higher than the butt of a whip, were put to death, and more than thirty thousand corpses were counted, ‘while their smaller children and the children of their notables and their women-folk, slender as the cypress, were reduced to slavery.’ All the civil inhabitants of Bukhara, male and female, were brought out to the plain of Musalla, outside the city; the young and the middle-aged, who were fit for service in the levy against Samarqand were picked up, and the rest were spared. When Chengiz left the place, ‘Bukhara was level plain.’4
‘The Sultan had thrown a garrison of 60,000 Turks and 50,000 Tajiks into Samarqand and strengthened its defence. It was thought that ‘Samarqand could stand a siege of some years’; so Chengiz decided to subdue the country round Samarqand first, and when he had finished doing so, the fate of Samarqand was sealed. Chengiz did not fight for two days after he had encircled the city; on the third and fourth day there was some fighting; on the fifth day the civil population sent its Qazi and Shaikhul Islam to offer its submission. The city-ramparts were pulled down and next day the citadel was captured between the morning and afternoon prayers. About thirty thousand Qanqalis and Turks with some twenty high amirs of the Sultan were put to death; but some fifty thousand people whom the Qazi and the Shikhul Islam had taken under their protection were left unmolested. The rest of the population was taken out and counted, while their houses were plundered. Some thirty thousand men were selected for their craftsmanship and an equal number for the levy
‘The citizens refused to submit. ‘They opposed the Mongols in all the streets and quarters of the town; in every lane they engaged in battle and in every cul-de-sac they resisted stoutly… The greater part of the town was destroyed; the houses with their goods and treasures were but mounds of earth and the Mongols despaired of benefiting from the stores of their wealth.’ When the Mongols succeeded in capturing the town, which now lay in shambles, they drove the people into the open; more than a hundred thousand craftsmen were selected and sent to the countries of the east; the children and young women were taken away as captives. Order was given for the rest to be slaughtered; every Mongol soldier had to execute twenty-four persons 5
Campaign by Yeme and Subetai
‘The mission of these two brothers was to capture the Sultan [of Khwarazm] alive; in this they failed. But Subetai succeeded in capturing Turkan Khatun and the Sultan’s haram in the Mazendaran castle of llal along with his wazir, Nasiruddin. When they were brought before Chengiz at Taliqan, he had Nasiruddin tortured and all the male sons of the Sultan put to death Their army of 30,000 was really insufficient for the conquest of the region, and very often Yeme and Subetai had to march separately. They resorted to massacres wherever they could, in order to create an atmosphere of terror in which provisions may be forthcoming 6
‘All the inhabitants of Merv, both men and women, were brought out, kept on the plain for four days and nights and then ordered to be put to death. Every Mongol soldier had to execute three to four hundred persons. One Saiyyid Izzuddin Nasseba, along with some friends who had escaped the massacre, passed thirteen days and nights in counting such corpses as they could easily discover. The total came to one million and three hundred thousand (February 1221). This does not seem to be an exaggerated figure in view of the fertility of the Merv valley. But people collected in the city again and again and were repeatedly destroyed 7
‘While Tului was attacking Merv, Toghachar Kurgen, a son-in-law of Chengiz, appeared before Naishapur with an army of 10,000. He was shot dead by a stray arrow and apologists for Mongol misdeeds have found in this a justification for the complete destruction of Naishapur. While waiting for Tului’s arrival, Toghachar’s army withdrew to attack smaller towns. Sabzwar (also called Baihaq) was captured after three days of severe fighting, a general massacre was ordered and 70,000 corpses were counted. Two other cities, Nuqan and Qar, were also conquered and their inhabitants slaughtered. Tului on his arrival refused to accept the submission of Naishapur. So the battle commenced on Wednesday (7 April 1221) and by Saturday the city-ramparts were in Mongol hands. All the inhabitants were brought out and slaughtered; Toghachar’s wife then entered the city with her escort and slew those who had survived. Even cats and dogs were not spared. ‘The only inhabitants of Naishapur left alive were forty artisans, who were taken to Turkistan on account of their skill. For seven days and nights water was flown into the city so that barley may be sown there. It is said in some histories that the dead were counted for twelve days and that there were one million and forty thousand corpses, apart from the corpses of women and children 8
‘Ilchikdai succeeded in reducing Herat after a siege of six months and seventeen days and forced his way into the city on a Friday morning (AD 1222). ‘For seven days the Mongols devoted themselves exclusively to killing, burning and destroying the buildings. A little less than one million and six hundred thousand of the inhabitants were martyred.’ Ilchikdai then proceeded against the fort of Kaliwayan, but he sent back a Mongol contingent of 10,000, who put to death about a hundred thousand Musalmans who had collected at Herat again.’9
Commandments of Tengiri
We are not mentioning here the horrors heaped by Halaku Khan, the grandson and successor of Chengiz, who inherited the Mongol empire west of the Jaxartes. He sacked many more cities in Iran, Iraq and Syria, destroyed the hideout of the assassins at Almut, killed the last Abbasid Caliph in the most cruel manner, and levelled with the ground the holy city of Baghdad which had been the capital of Islamdom for five hundred years. The story is far more blood-soaked than that enacted by Chengiz Khan.
Few people, Muslim or non-Muslim, apart from specialists of Mongol theology and history, suspect that Chengiz Khan did what he did not, ‘on his own’ but ‘on orders’ from his ‘One God whom they called Tengiri or Tengiri.’10 Professor Mohammad Habib, who has studied Mongolian lore on the subject, sums up the situation. ‘Chengiz Khan,’ he writes, ‘who sincerely believed that Il _ had given him and his family and his officers the commission to dominate the world for all time and that defiance of him was resistance to a clear order of _Tengiri, must have been delighted when he heard thaTengirit he would have to face no field-force and that the enormous Khwarazmian army had been divided and sealed up in the inner citadels of cities or put on the top of inaccessible hill forts.’11 We come across similar sentiments in medieval Muslim historians when they thank Allah for having bottled up the Hindu rajas in fortified cites or citadels.
Professor Habib adds: ‘Chengiz Khan was prepared to kill as many Musalmans as may be necessary and, to be on the safe side, a lot more. In any case, it was Tengiri’s order; consequently, Chengiz in clear conscience was not responsible. This reign of terror through wholesale massacres was warning to all mankind; there was nothing secret about it. Chengiz and his successors wanted it to be advertised to the whole world. Consequently, the official historians of the Mongols, like Juwayni and Rashiduddin, while justifying these massacres as due to ‘disobedience and revolt’, are careful in explaining their exact character and extent.’12 Chengiz Khan himself told the Muslim magnates of Bukhara that ‘I am the punishment of God; if you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.’13
Mongol Historians vis-a-vis Muslim Historians
It may be pointed out that medieval Muslim historians such as Al-Utbi, Hasan Nizami, Abdullah Wassaf, Amir Khusru and Muhammad Qasim Firishtah, from all of whom we have quoted, belong to the same blood-thirsty tribe as the Mongol historians. They wrote glowing accounts of jihAd, not so much out of admiration for their heroes as in order to proclaim to the world the fate that awaited those who did not worship Allah of the Quran. These historians also use expressions such as ‘disobedience and revolt (sarkashi)’ for which Allah was punishing the ‘accursed kAfirs‘ of Hindustan. We do not find a trace of pity or sorrow or sympathy in these historians while they dilate on stories of slaughter, pillage, plunder and the plight of women and children. On the contrary, they derive immense satisfaction from describing the most dreadful scenes of death and devastation. Timur and his lineal as well as spiritual descendant, Babur, were convinced that they could not leave to mere court scribes the sacred task of recording what the sweep of their swords did in the service of Allah. So they themselves took time from their crowded schedules and wrote or dictated the record with considerable relish. As one reads these royal historians describing the scenes of bloodshed and rapine they enacted, one can almost see them licking their lips as if after a hearty meal following upon a keen appetite.
How Chengiz Khan communicated with Tengiri
Minhajus Siraj, the famous historian who wrote in the middle of the thirteenth century, was in his teens when Chengiz Khan let loose his blood-thirsty hordes on the Muslim world. Later in life, he met persons who had seen from close quarters the performance of the Mongol conqueror. His religious predisposition led Minhaj to believe that ‘some satans had become his [Chengiz Khan’s] friends.’14 But in spite of this strong prejudice, he has left for posterity a faithful pen-portrait of Chengiz Khan receiving ‘revelations’ from Tengiri. He writes in his TabqAt-i-NAsiri: ‘After every few days he would have a fit and during his unconsciousness he would say all sorts of things. It was like this. When he had his first fit and the satans, after overpowering his mind, informed him of his forthcoming victory, he put the clothes and the cloak he was then wearing in a sealed bag and carried it about with him. Whenever this fit was about to overpower him, (he would put on these clothes) and talk about every event, victory, campaign, the appearance of his enemies, and the conquest of the territories he wanted. Someone would write down all he said, put (the papers) in a bag and seal them. When Chengiz recovered consciousness, everything was read out to him and he acted accordingly. Generally, in fact always, his designs were successful.’15
Chengiz Khan’s ‘Fit‘ compared with Muhammad’s ‘Wahy‘
Chengiz Khan’s ‘fit‘ for getting into contact with Tengiri resembles, rather too closely to be missed, the ‘wahy‘ in which Allah communicated the Quran to the prophet of Islam. One wonders what it would have read like if Chengiz Khan or his followers had cared to compile in a Book all that Tengiri told him before he breathed his last in 1227 CE at the age of 63. For all we know, it might have been another version of the Quran, at least so far as it concerns aggression against other people’s lands, cutting the heads of those who resist the aggression, plundering their properties, destroying their dwelling places, and selling their women and children into concubinage and slavery.
Another Quran, but
It is only in one respect that the Quran revealed by Tengiri might have differed from the Quran revealed by Allah. It seems that, quite unlike Allah, Tengiri was not intolerant towards revelations other than his own. Professor Habib writes: ‘The Musalmans, whom Chengiz Khan murdered in such enormous numbers, were surprised at his belief in his God and at his undoubted tolerance in religious matters. Having no priests of their own, the leaders of steppe society were remarkably tolerant to the priests of all other cults - Muslim, Christian, Taoist, Buddhist they were expected to pray in their own way Lastly, the Mongols had no objection to intermarriage, and even Chengiz Khan gave one of his daughters in marriage to a Muslim chief, Arsalan Khan of Kayaliq.’16 Again: ‘In the precincts of Samarqand he [Chengiz Khan] is said to have had discussions with two Muslim scholars and expressed his agreement with the Islamic belief in Allah and all its four rites except the Haj. ‘God is everywhere, and you can find him everywhere’.’17
This was definitely an improvement on the decrees of Allah who has commanded his faithful to go out first for the priests and religious places of other people; who has forbidden on pain of death the marriage of a Muslim to a non-Muslim unless the latter is first converted to the ‘only true faith’, and who has stated in so many words his marked partiality for the mosque at Mecca (Ka’ba).
On the other hands, Tengiri was as particular as Allah that the mutual relations among the Mongols should be guided by a stem code of conduct. Minhajus Siraj records: ‘The justice of Chengiz Khan was so severe that no one except the owner had the courage to pick up a whip that had fallen by the road-side. Lying and theft were things quite unknown in his army and no one could find any trace of them.’18 We are reminded of the strict rules which Allah has laid down in the Quran regarding the conduct of one Muslim towards another.
And that brings us to the crucial and quintessential question.
Evaluation of Allah
Should we cite only the stem code which the Mongols observed among themselves and proclaim that Tengiri stood for stark honesty and straight truth in human relations? Should we ignore or overlook the gruesome fate which Tengiri had decreed for the Muslims, their lives, their honour, their women and children, their cities and their properties? Should we proclaim that Tengiri was something divine and that Chengiz Khan who carried out his commandments quite faithfully should be hailed as a hero?
Yet that is exactly what the votaries of Allah do themselves and want us to do. They cite certain rules which Allah had revealed regarding sharing of plunder among the Muslims or pertaining to their participation in congregational prayers, and want us to believe that Allah stands for social equality and human brotherhood! At the same time, we are advised not even to notice the barbarities which Allah wants the Muslims to heap on the non-Muslims. And if we fail to respond positively and try to judge Allah not in terms of isolated Ayats but on the basis of the Quran as a whole, we run the risk of being run down as bigots, as lacking in respect for the religion of a sister community! The logic which declares Tengiri to be a satan and denounces Chengiz Khan as an archcriminal but which, in the same breath, proclaims Allah as divine and hails the Ghaznavis, Ghuris, Timurs and Baburs as heroes, is, to the say the least, worse than casuistry.
The Quran can claim to be derived from a ‘divine source’ only if we concede Allah’s claim to be divine. But the Quran itself provides ample evidence that its Allah is quite a questionable character even by ordinary ethical standards, not to speak of spiritual standards. Theologians of Islam have got away with the plea that the Quran has a ‘divine source’ simply because its Allah has not yet been subjected to the scrutiny he deserves on account of his role in human history. He will continue to torment mankind till he is found out for what he is, and exorcised from minds on which he has acquired a stranglehold.
Failure in Finding Out Allah of the Quran
Christian scholars of Islam have failed to nail down Allah of the Quran because he is the re-incarnation, under another name, of Jehovah whom we meet in the Bible. They only reject Muhammad as a prophet and call him an impostor, which is quite dishonest if we keep in mind the biblical prophets, particularly Moses.
The scholars of European Enlightenment who were influenced by Hindu, Chinese, Greek and Roman traditions of spirituality and culture, have judged Jehovah quite correctly and identified him as the main source of darkness which prevailed in Europe during the Middle Ages. But they have so far neglected Allah of the Quran and not weighed him in the same balance of rationalism, humanism and universalism on which Jehovah was weighed and found wanting.
Hindus have been the worst in their neglect of Allah of the Quran who has plagued them for more than thirteen hundred years. Hindu scholars and saints have been equating him with ParamAtman, even with Parabrahma, without finding out, in the first place, whether Allah of the Quran is at all equal to the comparison. As a corollary, they have been hailing the Quran as a ‘divine revelation’ and Islam as a ‘dharma’. They feel perplexed only by the Muslim behaviour pattern which does not square with the expectations they have built round these eulogies. Hindu politicians have continued to cherish the fond belief that they can manage the Muslims and draw them into the national mainstream by fawning upon the Quran and glorifying its Allah. But that Allah has so far frustrated all their hopes.
The story of Tengiri we have cited may help Hindus in general and Hindu scholars, saints and politicians in particular, to see the prototype and start having a close look at Allah of the Quran. It may also help them to see the truth about revelatory or prophetic or biblical creeds. The biblical prophets have revealed nothing divine, nothing derived from a supracosmic or superhuman source. They have only revealed themselves, that is, the ordinary human nature which is brimful of dark drives. In fact, the ordinary man has always been more honest about his animal appetites. The biblical prophets, on the other hand, start by deceiving themselves and end by deceiving others when they dress up the same appetites in pretentious language and pass them off as impersonal revelations.
Mohammad Habib and Khaliq Ahmad Nizami (ed.), A Comprehensive History of India, New Delhi, 1970, Volume V, The Sultanat, First Reprint, 1982, p. 73. ↩
Ibid., pp. 73-74. ↩
Ibid., p. 74. ↩
Ibid., pp. 74-75. ↩
Ibid., p. 75. ↩
Ibid., p. 76. ↩
Ibid., pp. 76-77. ↩
Ibid., p. 77. ↩
Ibid., p. 78. ↩
Ibid., p. 56. ↩
Ibid., P. 69. ↩
Ibid., P. 70. ↩
Ibid., P. 74. ↩
Cited in Ibid., p. 68. ↩
Cited in Ibid., P. 69. ↩
Ibid., p. 57. ↩
Cited in Ibid., P. 81. ↩
Cited in Ibid., P. 69. ↩