Islam’s Pyrite Age

June 30, 2020 Category: History


It is plain to see that the wane of the limited intellectual activity within the Ummah had nothing whatsoever to do with the Mongols.  If anything, the Mongols were known to have honored–nay, ENCOURAGED and ADOPTED–each newly-acquired community’s intellectual achievements.  There was no heresy in Tengri-ism.

Rapacious as he was, Genghis Khan was never inclined to burn a book or raze a library.  Ever.  Once.  In fact, he was renown for consulting local holy men in his newly acquired territories; and even appointing competent figures in subdued cities to administrative positions.  This modus operandi persisted until the Mongol-Turkic regimes of the world converted to Islam…at which point, ethnic affiliation was ALL that mattered.

So what happened to Baghdad after the Mongol seizure in 1258?  As it turns out, the city was promptly reconstructed; and it ended up flourishing under the Il-khanate.  In other words: Not only did some imagined heyday of Baghdad NOT exist right up until the day Hulagu arrived (and then suddenly end); the city actually underwent a revitalization thereafter.

If anything, we should be thanking the Mongols for what survived; rather than vilifying them for their (admittedly rapacious) conquests.  Unsurprisingly, Muslim historiographers typically fail to note that Baghdad was REVITALIZED under the Il-khanate, and soon became a thriving cosmopolitan center–though not quite to the extent that it had been centuries before, during the Mutazila epoch.

(Note: The Il-khanate remained a mixture of Tengri-ist, Tibetan Buddhist, Zoroastrian, and Nestorian Christian until Ghazan took power in 1295.)

By the time the Mongol imperium ruled the Middle East, they were ESTABLISHING schools.  This civic enterprise was not solely for the elite.  Mongol leaders were actively promoting universal literacy; and so instituted public education to that end.  In the late 13th century, under the direction of Kubilai Khan, the school of astronomy and medicine at Tabriz (Persia) was established, where Muslim luminaries like Rashid ad-Din ended up studying.  (I debunk other myths in Appendix 3.  For more on the positive role the Mongols played in the Middle East, see my essay: “The Universality Of Morality”.)

To Recapitulate: The Mongols were not engaged in a religious crusade; and they had no interest in eradicating the intellectual achievements of other cultures.  They were predominantly Tengri-ists–who were, incidentally, monotheists; and utterly unconcerned with evangelism. {11}  Mongols harbored no contempt for cultural / intellectual achievements of conquered peoples; and more often than not, actually EMBRACED those achievements.  This makes perfect sense, as Tengri-ism [“Boo Morgol”] was inherently pluralistic.  To be a Tengri-ist (worshipping the god of the eternal blue sky) was to NOT CARE what religion others happened to be.  Thus Keraite Empress [Khatun / Bekhi] Sorghaghtani was a renown intellectual and stateswoman; and her adoption of a “foreign” Faith in was in no way a problem for her husband, Tolui Khan (son of Genghis Khan).

In sum: The Mongols had no truck with other cultures’ sacred beliefs.  In fact, the Mongols had a long tradition of religious tolerance, prizing the scholars in conquered territories; and openly adopting the knowledge of other cultures. {18}  Naturally, this attitude included a toleration of alternate religious traditions. {12}  In fact, Hulagu’s mother–arguably the most revered woman in Mongol history–adopted Syriac Christianity with nary the bat of an eyelash from the Mongol rulers.

This conduct might be contrasted to what the (MUSLIM) Turkic-Mongol warlord, Timur of Kesh (a.k.a. “Tamerlane”) did to Baghdad when he sacked it in 1401 (the year after he committed genocide in Armenia and Georgia).  After massacring the populations of Aleppo and Damascus for EXPLICITLY RELIGIOUS reasons (revenge for the murder of Rashidun caliph, Ali’s sons: Hasan and Husayn), Tamerlane ordered a mass-beheading campaign in Baghdad–largely targeted at non-combatants, including women.  Such a measure clearly had no practical utility.

The point cannot be emphasized enough: There was no such thing as a Tengri theocracy.  Even with the most notorious instance of slaughter (Genghis Khan’s sacking of the Khwarezmian city of Urgench in 1221), the only casualties were PEOPLE; not culture, not infrastructure.  The slaughter–which was extensive and largely gratuitous in scope–occurred during the course of active battle.  That is to say, it was a military act, not a pogrom; undertaken as a military strategy (that is: to make a statement: We are not to be fucked with).  As mentioned earlier, soon after the Mongol take-over of [Old] Urgench, the city became more of a thriving–and pluralistic–cultural mecca than ever before.  Under Mongolian rule, it was even allowed to become a center for Sufism. (!)

When it comes to Muslim apologists blaming THE OTHER for the demise of their “Golden Age”, this is a crucial point.  It was the ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALIST conquerer, Tamerlane, who later persecuted people for their Faith in Urgench.  After Tamerlane seized the city in 1373, it was made clear that he saw Sufism as heretical.  Pursuant to a Sufi uprising, Tamerlane razed the city to the ground, massacring its entire population.  This was not a military act; it was a pogrom based entirely on a religious agenda.  This horrific event is often (retroactively) attributed to Genghis Khan in Islamic historiography–a case of mendacious revisionism.

Tellingly, Tamerlane also massacred the entire population (over 70,000; men women and children) of Isfahan AFTER he’d already conquered it.  Why?  The city’s citizens had the gall to protest the extortionate “jizya” taxes he levied upon them.  When he turned to India, he razed Delhi to the ground, massacring the entire population (over 100,000; men, women, and children).  Why?  They were Hindu; and it was the will of “Allah” that all had to die.

Being an Islamic fanatic, Tamerlane sought to depopulate Christian lands–notably Armenia (undertaking what would be the first of two Armenian genocides perpetrated by Turkic leaders).

Tamerlane slaughtered over 5% of the world’s population at the time: about 17 million people.  Such a percentage is especially jaw-dropping once we consider that he never even made it into Europe, Africa, or China…let alone the Americas.  It is reasonable to assume, then, that he ended up killing an unspeakable portion of the people within his vast dominion.  (For more on Tamerlane, see part two of my essay on the history of Salafism.)

Unfortunately, Tamerlane’s atrocities are often confused with the deeds of Genghis Khan and his immediate (non-Muslim) heirs.  The truth is that Tamerlane (who was Salafi) was the primary culprit for much of the horror misattributed to Genghis Khan (who was Tengi-ist).  Far far far more scholars fled that megalomaniacal Muslim tyrant (seeking refuge beyond his reach) than had fled the Mongols in 1258.  In fact, there is no record of ANY significant scholars fleeing Baghdad just prior to–or during–the Mongols’ siege.  This would have been odd if the Mongols had been known for massacring scholars.

One will search in vain for any record of a great scholar killed in the Baghdad during the siege.  The most significant institution the Mongols destroyed in Baghdad was the Abbasid caliphate.  Arresting intellectual activity–insofar as it even still existed in the city–had nothing to do with it.

One last thing to bear in mind: If we are to blame Hulagu Kahn (or the Mongols in general) for the dissolution of the Islamic “Golden Age” in the Middle East, how is it that–after Mongol hegemony across Asia–several Muslim luminaries ended up hailing from places that were within the Mongol-conquered domain?  Most notable was Jalal ad-Din Muhammad (later known as “Rumi”), who ended up spending most of his adult life in the (Seljuk) Sultanate of Rum.  Rumi grew up in the city of Balkh, in Khwarezmia (i.e. Bactria), which was taken over by Genghis Khan when the former was only twelve years old.  That was in 1220. {16}

When Rumi migrated to Anatolia eight years later (in 1228), he was not fleeing Mongol oppression; he was simply going to where “the action” was at that point in history (in Konya, which was the Sultanate’s capital at the time).  As legend has it, the Sultan himself (Kayqubad) extended a personal invitation to Rumi’s father.  Thus the decision to migrate was prompted more by an invitation than a pressing need to flee.  Ironically, just fifteen years later (1243), Konya came under control of the Mongols–becoming a vassalage of the Il-Khanate.  Nevertheless, Rumi spent the next three decades there, producing his most well-known works.  His followers were even able to found a new Sufi Order–in his name–upon his death.

Clearly, the Mongol presence in the region did not prevent thinkers–Muslim and otherwise–from rising to prominence…and flourishing.  (Again: This makes sense, as Tengri-ism was not an oppressive religion.)  In fact, potentates who happened to be ethnic Mongols only became oppressive AFTER converting to Islam (as most blatantly attested by Tamerlane–who, it might be noted–would raze Rumi’s native city to the ground in 1339).

The record is quite clear that pluralism was–and STILL IS–germane to Tengri-ism.  And the record is equally clear that pluralism is antithetical to unreconstructed Islam.  This stark juxtaposition tells us everything we need to know about what REALLY happened.  It is a sad commentary on the knowledge of world history TODAY that this is news to anyone.

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