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The Khanates: Excerpts- The Tatar Invasions of Muslim Lands: From Islamic and secular perspectives

By Adan Makina

This is an excerpt from Author Adan Makina’s upcoming book: “The Tatar Invasions of Muslim Lands: from Islamic and secular perspectives.”

With the history of the Mongols or Tatars lopsided, twisted and written according to every historian’s whim, one could see a lot of misconceptions and deficiencies in the era incidents happened and the periods the khanates carried out specific military actions or their time of rule. History is replete with erroneous calculations and time constraints. Even the names or the spelling names for the khanates cause alarms because of the linguistic differences and misspellings.

Below is the succession of the most famous khans whose historical remains are still available for further elucidation by the modern researcher having the will to continue expounding regardless of the trivialities and malevolence of their global encounters or the adoration and high circumventions of their encounters with societies, communities or nations on a global scale. Reading through several research books and papers loaded with literary criticisms, the author of this book feels not all historians have the same opinions.

Genghis Khan

Under Genghis Khan, the Mongols conquered the largest land empire (oceans and seas excluded), notably from Eastern and Western Asia. From Korea to Hungary, Genghis Khan displayed the most strategic military operations never seen before in modern human history. Tough and resilient in their attempts to invade new lands, the Mongols fought with vigilance and valor. The Mongols not only restricted their incursions into other lands primarily to suppress their new subjects but instead benefited from commerce especially fabrics made from gold and silk.[1] Apart from being a barbaric, merciless killer and plunderer, Genghis Khan was, as “…one biographer put it, his was “a persistent cycle of pragmatic learning, experimental adaptation, and constant revision driven by his uniquely disciplined and focused will.” He was the greatest conqueror the world ever knew because he was more open to learning than any other conqueror has ever been…”[2]

Born in 1162 or 1167 along the Onon or Herlen rivers, his father was Yesukhei while his mother was called Hoelun.[3] After massively capturing his enemies and causing much destruction to their lands, Genghis Khan later created harmonious relationships with his new subjects. There are written records that state that he had a clot of blood on his right hand when he was conceived by his mother Hoelun–a sign that created much consternation among his people. Undoubtedly, he was perceived to become a great leader after growing up to adulthood–a sign that materialized in the end. “Genghis Khan by the help and leading of Mongol people captured the northwest of China in 1205 and Kin Empire in 1211, he later reached the coast of the yellow river and captured Beijing in 1215. Finally, he came through west in 1219 with a population of 700,000 people.” [4]

Chagatai Khan

 After the death of Genghis Khan, his sons inherited different lands and amalgamation of communities. For Chagatai Khan, he extended his dominion to as far as eastern and western Turkistan. Chagatai Khan who was an inspiring leader did not harm the communities he captured nor did he interfere with their religious beliefs. Transoxiana was mainly inhabited by Muslims while local nomadic communities in Mongolia continued with their practices of Shamanism.[5] It was in 1326 when Tarmashirin took over the leadership of the Chagatai Khanate, thus bringing a lot of changes to the areas that were under his control. Chagatai and Ogedei were brothers.

Ogedei Khan

The son of Genghis Khan, Ogedei had two sons whose names were Cityük and Godan. The elder brother Cityük was born the year of the Cow and at the age of 28 took over the khanate throne, even though, six months later, in the year of the Kui-Serpent, he died. His younger brother Godan ascended the throne in the year of the Ke-Horse even though he died of leprosy in the year of the Ji-Sheep.[6] In 1231, Ogedei ordered his commander Chormaghan Korchi to invade Iran, Azerbaijan, Anatolia and Georgia.[7] With 30-40 thousand well-armed troops, the defeat of Jamaluddin’s forces ended systematically. Batu became the successor of Ogedei Khan. It was during Ogedei’s rule when religious freedom was accepted with Daoism and Buddhism and Islam and Christianity given credence even though the Mongols opposed Halaal slaughter of livestock.

Mongke Khan

Mongke took the mantle of leadership after the death of his cousin Guyuk in 1248.[8] Despite Batu being exempted from the succession of the Khanate, he was not in good terms with Guyuk, however, he had the chance to work with Mongke as his viceroy of the West while Mongke concentrated on the East.[9] By 1242 the Kingdom of Hungary was in total wreckage and had to be abandoned by Batu, but despite encamping at the Steppes of the Volga, Batu’s focus was on the lower Volga Steppe where he built a capital he named Sarai. Batu was born to a concubine and that is why he was excluded by his father Jochai or Jochi who died early 1227 from the succession. The Mongols sent three envoys to Die Viet which is the current day Vietnam. By 1258, the Mongols defeated the Vietnamese.

Hulagu Khan

Whether Hulagu or Hulegu, he rose to prominence during Caliph Mansur’s reign. Hulagu was more inclined to Islam than Machiavellianism.[10] Baghdad, founded in A.D. 762 and destroyed in 1258, it was the most famous city during the succession of the Ayyubid Caliphs. A city that figured well during the reign of Harun Al-Rashid, Baghdad enjoyed historical place in the Arabian Nights and Sinbad the Sailor eras.[11] Since the Umayyad Caliphs of Damascus experienced unprecedented downfall due to their authoritarian leadership styles, Al-Mansur, the second Caliph of the Abbasids, embarked on the creation of Baghdad alongside the Tigris River with canal networks stretching 30 miles to the Euphrates.

It was ten thousand years before Al-Mansur laid the groundwork for the foundations of the new Baghdad in 762 that was preceded by the decayed Sumer cities of Ctesiphon, Babylon, Ur and Agade that were between the two major rivers of Tigris and Euphrates when agriculture began in the Crescent. Almost 100,000 workers comprising of masons, construction workers, architectural engineers, carpenters and smiths took to the strenuous work of rebuilding work of a new Baghdad. According to the accountants of that time, the general construction cost was a staggering 4, 883, 000 Dirhams. The Abbasid Caliphate under al-Mutawakkil (847-61) was experiencing the decline of Muslim philosophy and the persecution of Shia Muslims, Jews and Christians.

Despite the Mongol army ravaging Bukhara and Samarkand, it was Hulagu, the grandson of Genghis Khan who totally destroyed Baghdad and its occupants of 700,000 including the Caliph and the Abbasid family, court officials, religious leaders and street goers when the gates of the city were opened February 10, 1258 A.D. They torched libraries, beautiful buildings and houses while those books that could not burn were disposed into the Tigris River whose waters turned blackish for days. The desecration of the city was so astounding that the stench from the dead forced the Mongol forces to retreat to a different place for two weeks. Upon their return when the stench subsided, the Mongols removed the dead and discarded them to a different destination outside the city.

Berke Khan

Berke Khan of the Great Horde was the grandson of Genghis Khan and the first of the khans to accept Islam despite Chinggis Khan and Ögedai showing no attachment to any other religion other than native animist-tengriism.[12] It is common for historians to narrate the congenial defining relationships between leaders and how they at times become avowed enemies due to differences of thoughts and ideas. Berke Khan was a formidable leader during the reign of the Muslim leader Mamluk Sultan Al-Zahir Baibars (ruled between 658 AH/ 1260 CE and 676 AH/ 1277 CE).[13]

Friendship between Al-Zahir Baibar and the Mongol Berke Khan flourished to the extent Berke reverted to Islam while Al-Zahir named his eldest son after Berke. With the Mamluks dynasty that ruled Egypt and Syria from 1250 until 1517 when the Ottoman occupation rose to prominence (1517-1798), did the Mamluks vanish from the scene. The term Mamluk was an amalgamation of slaves drawn from Turkmen, Arabs, Turkish and others from various regions. The two leaders enjoyed cordial relations with Berke hosting guests and clerics from Al-Zahir’s domain especially from Hijaz. He has been noted to have built mosques after reverting to Islam and abandoning his shamanistic beliefs. It was Hulagu Khan’s conquering of Baghdad in 656 AH (1258 CE) and his deliberate killing of Caliph Al Musta’sim that caused outcries in the Muslim world. Hulagu and Berke were cousins with Berke being the son of Chinggis Khan.[14] After the death of Berke Khan in 676 AH (1266 CE), his son Abgha Khan succeeded him.

Read more: The Khanates: Excerpts- The Tatar Invasions of Muslim Lands: From Islamic and secular perspectives

Adan Makina
Email: [email protected]

[1] Komaroff, L. (Ed.). (2012). Beyond the legacy of Genghis Khan (Vol. 64). Brill.

[2] Holiday, R. (2019). Ego is the Enemy. Elex media komputindo.

[3] Khan, G. (1971). Genghis Khan. Birth100, 1162.

[4] Soltani, G., & Rezaei, D. (2019). The Effects of Interactions Within Communal Conditions in Iran and Anatolia With Il Kh Nids Over 13th and 14th Centuries. Turkish Online Journal of Design Art and Communication9(2), 159-177.

[5] Dr. Yunus Emre TANSÜ & Baran GÜVENÇ (2019). “A Brief Overview of The Era of The Chagatai Khan Tarmashirin.” International Social Sciences Journal.

[6] Tsendina, A. (1999). Godan Khan in Mongolian and Tibetan historical works. Studia Orientalia Electronica85, 245-248.

[7] Nasirov, N. P. Scientific Bulletin, № 1, 2021, pages 79-90.

[8] May, T. (2018), The Mongol Empire, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University press: 135.

[9] Dawson, C. The Reign of Nogai Khan. Retrieved August 13, 2022.

[10] Siddiq, S. A. (2016). Caliph Al-Mansur and Hulagu Khan and analysis of their political strategies in the light of Machiavellianism (Master’s thesis, Gombak, Selangor: International Islamic University Malaysia, 2016).

[11] Goodwin, J. (2003). The glory that was Baghdad. The Wilson Quarterly (1976-)27(2), 24-28.

[12] Wilson, J. The Conversion of Berke Khan.

[13] Al Asfour, S. (2019). The nature of the relation between Sultan Al-Zahir Baibars and Berke Khan. Journal of Al-Tamaddun14(1), 117-128.

[14] Wilson, J. The Conversion of Berke Khan.

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