Islam in a land of shadows
14 March 2002
The Asian Age
Karachi: "You have committed great sins," Genghis Khan, sole superpower and tenor of the world in the 13th century, told the
people of Bukhara. "If you ask me what proof I have for these words," he said, "I say it is because I am the scourge of God."
The year was 1219 AD. The Mongol forces had burst upon the Islamic world, ransacking and devastating Khorasan, hwarizm
In Khorasan a refugee, asked to tell what had happened in Bukhara, replied with remarkable succinctness: "They came, mined,
burnt, killed, plundered and left" Jalal-ud-Din Khwarizm Shah, determined not to be captured alive by the Mongols, raced for
the edge of the low cliffs that overhung the Indus River. Without hesitation, the horse and the rider leapt into air. How high was
that famous leap, remembered over centuries? Some say twenty feet, some fifty, others seventy; it hardly matters. It was high
enough and the bravery of the escape was recognised at once by all who witnessed it, for Genghis Khan himself gave the
order to stop shooting. The year was 1220 AD.
The next Mongol blow on the world of Islam came m 1258 AD when Hulaku, the grandson of Genghis khan, attacked one of
the central pillars of Muslim ascendancy, the caliphate itself. When the siege of Baghdad ended, 80,000 people came out of the
great city. They were counted by the Mongols and then systematically killed. For six days and nights the massacre continued
an act of terrorism so thorough and so appalling that its memory has never left the Arab world. The skulls of the dead, as
legend has it, were stacked in a pyramid as a grim reminder of the Mongol savagery.
As for Caliph Musiassem, he was shackled, insulted, starved. When he was brought before Hulaku the Mongol prince offered
him some of his own gold to cat "How can one eat it? No one can eat gold." Hulaku nodded. "If you knew that, why didn't
you send it to me? If you had, you would still be in your palace, cating and drinking without a care." The Caliph was mocked
loo, for not having wed his riches to defend himself and his people. Finally, he was rolled in a carpet, then trampled to death by
galloping horses. The date was February 20,1258 AD.
The fall of Baghdad plunged the Muslim world into a state of shock and terror. For the first time a significant part of the Islamic
world had been subjected to the domination of a non-Muslim power — a fact that must have called into question the
assumption made by Muslims that God's favour for their community was revealed in its continuing political superiority. One
incident illustrates the degree of abasement to which Islam was reduced.
Kaikaus one of the Seljuk Sultans of Asia Minor, in order to pacify the Mongol prince, had his own portrait painted on the
holes of a pair of boots. He offered these to Hulaku saying, "Your slave dares to hope that his king will condescend to honour
his servant's head by placing upon it his august fool."
Once again the Islamic world faces its greatest threat. This is the darkest era in the history of Islam since the 13th century. The
independence and sovereignty of the Islamic world is a myth. Afghans paid a horrible price for not meeting US demands and
defying the world's sole superpower. Iran and Iraq are next on the hit list. US troops are already engaged in military operations
against Muslims in southern Philippines. Indonesia is threatened with similar treatment. So are Yemen and Somalia.
We are told that Pakistan would have ceased to exist if it had resisted US demands and not cooperated in the war against
Afghanistan. By succumbing to American pressure, we managed to secure a temporary reprieve. But at what price? Pakistan is
splattered with American fortresses, seriously compromising our internal and external sovereignty. Foreign troops stationed on
our soil move in and out of the country without any let or hindrance. Pakistan has become a launching pad for military
operations against neighbouring Muslim countries.
The illusion of victory in Afghanistan has put the US in sole command of the world and it reserves to itself the right to wage war
any where in the world and change any regime.
After the US President's State m. Union address of January 29, many Muslims, not connected with Osama Bin Laden,
consider the US to be on a moral par. with Gcoghis Khan and genuinely believe that the war on terrorism is simply a
euphemism for extending US control in the Islamic world.
Why doesn't America understand that Islam is not its enemy; that the war on terrorism can only be won by identifying and
eliminating the reasons that have brought about this menace; that it is not an honest broker in the Arab-Israeli conflict; that Israel
is a deadly symbol of the humiliation of Islam by America, close friend and ally of Israel; that to go on a crusade against evil is
one thing, to do so with evil at your side is another, that when young men turn themselves into suicide bombers, it is not because
they are evil, hut because they genuinely think that it is America which is evil?
With the second unsuccessful siege of Vienna in 1683 and the Turkish retreat that followed, a thousand years of Muslim threat
to Europe came to an end and centuries of western threat to Islam began. What has been the response of the Islamic world to
this threat? One was to learn from the enemy in the whole range of what has come to be known as modernisation
The other was religious revival, a return to the pure authentic Islam of the Prophet and his companions, a rejection and
elimination of the accretions and innovations that had debased and corrupted the faith and enfeebled the Islamic society making
it incapable of resisting its external enemies.
Kemal Allaiurk opted for modernisation. In the process he repealed Sharia and adopted European practices. In order to
understand what is happening in Turkey and elsewhere in the Islamic world there are two essential points that need to be
grasped. One is the universality of religion as a factor in the lives of Muslim people, and the other is its centrality.
The notion of church and state as distinct institutions, each with its own laws, hierarchy, and jurisdiction is characteristically
Christian and is alien to Islam. In Islam, religion is not, as it is in Christendom, one sector or segment of life regulating some
mailers and excluding others. It is concerned with the totality of life. In such a society, the very idea of separating
church and state is meaningless, since these are not two separate entities to be separated.
When Syria stood under the threat of Mongol invasion in the 13th century, Ibn Tamiyya, a towering figure in the history of
Islamic thought, exhorted his followers to fight the Mongol foe. Having identified America a threat to Islam equivalent or
Mongols. Osama using logic of Ibn Tamiyya, called on the Ummah 10 fight the Americans.
A cheaper and perhaps better option is to confront and fight the Munafiqin, the hypocrites and the apostates among us as the
Holy Prophet had done in the early seventh century before he fought the reigning Makkan oligarchy. The need of the hour is to
wage jihad against the oppressor, the exploiters and the corrupt.