“This is damn powerful stuff and needs to be read by anyone who still believes that a rapprochement with religio-political Islam is possible. Readers will be in for a few surprises, too, as some heretofore immaculate scholarly figures come in for their lumps. It is no blurb-like cliché to say that Sharia versus Freedom is a work of critical importance in today’s turbulent political climate and goes a long way toward dispelling the myopia with which the Sharia is generally viewed. With this, his third book in an ‘encylopedic’ series, Bostom has taken his place beside such major scholars of Islam as Ibn Warraq, Robert Irwin, and Bat Ye’or.” –David Solway, poet, literary critic and author of The Big Lie: On Terror, Antisemitism, and Identity
“Regarding the subject of Islam, apologists frequently vilify and marginalize truth seekers. Yet Dr. Andrew Bostom is fearless and now provides a third scholarly historical compendium of valuable articles on Islam’s totalitarian nature and its harsh Sharia—all of which unfortunately validate my life experience as a Muslim growing up in a Muslim country. With undeniable chronological data, Bostom covers much of what too many Western leaders and journalists willfully ignore: from the dhimmi status of non-Muslims to the combined effects of jihadism, and the Antisemitic Islamic motifs, all distressing realities with which I am, through life experiences, intimately familiar. Those who dodge Islam’s intolerable and discriminatory doctrine—whether for political reasons, professional expediency or naked fear—also choose, to their own detriment, to facilitate the decline of Western civilization.” –Wafa Sultan, author of A God Who Hates
“It would be a source of great joy if some of the reports on the contemporary application of the Sharia, Islamic law, Dr. Andrew Bostom describes in this book, are inaccurate. His meticulous documentation of this phenomenon, however, will prove sobering to even staunch optimists—and should be obligatory reading for all who care about Western freedom, and Western understanding of the rule of law.” –Johannes J. G. Jansen, Houtsma Professor for Contemporary Islamic Thought Emeritus, Utrecht University, and author of The Dual Nature of Islamic Fundamentalism
“Indefatigable Andrew Bostom ventures anew into the field of Islam, in which he is supposedly not a specialist, only to accomplish what devoted and committed lifetime professionals did not. After Jihad and Antisemitism in Islam, which have engendered the international terrorism of the past two decades, Bostom now finds that the issue most urgently provocative to deal with is the challenge that Sharia Law has been posing to the countries in the West where Muslim minorities have taken asylum, and where their demands have been ever pressing to adopt the Sharia on a par with the local legal systems. Everyone understands, perhaps save the Archbishop of Canterbury, what a subversive and destructive effect this might have on the legal traditions of those host societies which have accorded the Muslims shelter out of human compassion, and are now asked pitilessly and arrogantly to forego their own civilization in order to accommodate that of their guest.” –Raphael Israeli, professor of Islamic, Middle Eastern, and Chinese Studies Emeritus, and author of Islamikaze: Manifestations of Islamic Martyrology, and Muslim Minorities in Modern States: The Challenge of Assimilation
“In his new book, Sharia Versus Freedom: The Legacy of Islamic Totalitarianism, Andrew Bostom has once again given us an impeccably researched, authoritative study of the impact of Islam on the non-Islamic world. Instead of the misleading assurances of Islam’s peaceful nature, Bostom has demonstrated how, from its inception, Islam has used both subversion and conquest to achieve its goal of universal global dominion and the humiliating subordination of those non-Muslims who surrendered to it. This book is indispensable reading for all leaders, both public and private, committed to the survival of Western civilization.” –Richard Rubenstein, Lawton Distinguished Professor of Religion Emeritus, Florida State University, and author of The Cunning of History, and Jihad and Genocide
“Andrew Bostom has already edited two highly valuable, extended anthologies on Islam. This new monumental collection of his own essays, Sharia versus Freedom, boldly addresses the most important topic of the twenty-first century, and should be widely read, and heeded.” –Bat Ye’or, author of The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam, and Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis
“It is a sine qua non of good medical practice that unpleasant symptoms must first be acknowledged and brought into the light before an effective treatment plan can be developed. In Sharia Versus Freedom, Andrew Bostom exposes to the light the condition known as ‘sharia,’ in all its profuse diversity. This treasure trove is a stirring antidote to the epidemic of ill-founded wishful thinking about Islam that plagues our age. From female genital mutilation to restrictions on freedom of speech, Bostom’s relentless forensic analyses will disturb those whose minds are drugged by the mirage of wishful, eyes-closed thinking. To be real, hope must speak the truth: it is for this reason that Bostom’s collection of essays makes a major contribution to forging a better future for us all.” –Mark Durie, theologian, and author of The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom
“The brave and stalwart Andrew Bostom will change the way you look at our future. Every citizen interested in Western survival should read this book.” –Giulio Meotti, journalist with Il Foglio, and author of A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel’s Victims of Terrorism
“Beltway elites, pseudoscholars, and mainstream media mavens would have us believe that Islamic doctrine and Islamic terrorism have no correlation. Andrew Bostom knows better. For the better part of a decade, Bostom has shown, through a series of brilliant essays, that the driving force behind Islamic jihad is not poverty or occupation, but core Islamic teachings. In Sharia versus Freedom, Bostom, a true ‘Watchman on the Wall’, fearlessly dissects the end game after all the terror: the totalitarian system known as Islamic sharia law. America, you ve been warned.” –Erick Stakelbeck, Host, CBN’s Stakelbeck on Terror, and author of The Terrorist Next Door: How the Government Is Deceiving You about the Islamist Threat
“In the years since 9/11, while Islamic Studies professors have continued to whitewash the religion of peace, responsible-minded men and women outside of the Islamic Studies racket have taken up the job of truth-telling, publishing a number of substantial, and in some cases encyclopedic, volumes about Islam. One thinks, for example, of Andrew Bostom, a physician and professor of medicine at Brown University, who in the last few years has somehow found the time to produce massive, definitive books about the history of jihad and the legacy of Islamic Antisemitism.” –Bruce Bawer, author of While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West from Within, and Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom
“This unique collection of essays on Sharia, Islamic Law, contains the most brilliant dissection of exactly what constitutes the meaning and practice of Sharia relative to all previous books written on the same subject. Because of a broad disinformation campaign waged by members of Muslim Brotherhood front groups in the United States and abetted by the collusion of the elite leftwing mainstream media, the public is being subjected to a steady diet of deliberate disinformation that Sharia is democratic and nonauthoritarian. As this book so eloquently demonstrates, nothing could be further from the truth. As Muslim populations continue to burgeon in Europe and North America, there has been a corresponding effort to get judges and magistrates to allow the application of Sharia in intra-Muslim disputes instead of applying Western democratic law. Already in the United Kingdom, there are some 100 Sharia courts. Sharia versus Freedom exposes in incontrovertible detail the truth about Sharia, a draconian and authoritarian set of Muslim laws that was created following the death of Mohammed by his followers as Islam began to massively expand its domain throughout the world. The true nature of Sharia’s authoritarianism (which allows amputation of limbs, the stoning of women, and the execution of Muslims who convert to another religion) is explained and detailed (with abundant proof) like no other book before. This book is a ‘must-read’ for American policymakers, Congress, local and regional authorities from coast to coast, as well as for any member of the public who truly seeks the truth behind Sharia. It makes for fascinating reading for anyone interested in expanding their knowledge of the history and unfolding of the Islamic legal system. Once you pick up this book, you won’t put it down.” –Steven Emerson, journalist, and author of American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us, Jihad Incorporated: A Guide to Militant Islam in the US
About the Author
The cover art reproduces a miniature painting from a sixteenth century manuscript of the Zafarnama by Sharaf al-Din Ali-Yazdi. The image was housed in the British Library (shelfmark/page: Or. 1359, f.389v), and originally published/produced in Shiraz, Iran, 1552. It depicts soldiers filing before the Islamized Mongol conqueror Amir Timur-i-lang, or “Tamerlane,” holding heads of their decapitated enemies which they used to build a tower shaped like the minaret of a mosque, in Baghdad (1401).
The upper inscription embedded within the painting reads, *
How fate and destiny have cast awe in the minds of the “Tavaajis”! [king’s messengers, and herein, more generally, “traitors”]
In an orderly and numerical fashion,
They made minarets with the heads of the wretched “Tavaajis”
As a lesson to the inhabitants of the world.
While the lower embedded inscription states,
So that no subordinate would dare to challenge superiors and no fox acts like a lion, and threatens the kings; Under the temptation of the demon pride
Yazdi’s Zafarnama remains the best-known example of early Persian historiography of Tamerlane.1 John Woods 1988 review of this genre of “Timurid” biographical writings emphasizes the rapid, widespread praise Yazdi’s manuscript achieved, its source as an inspiration for artistic renditions of the themes described, and its subsequent translation into both French and English, which disseminated the contents well beyond Persian-speaking Muslim lands:2
Immediately after its composition, the work was widely acclaimed as a model of elegance and style for historical writing in Iran, Central Asia, and India, and its themes frequently provided inspiration for the art of manuscript illumination in those regions. Its translation into French and English in the early eighteenth/ twelfth century, moreover, guaranteed its reputation as the most important source of information about Timur outside the persophone Islamic world.
A French translation of Yazdi’s Zafarnama by de la Croix was published in Paris in 1722,3 and this version was translated into English by J. Darby the next year. Darby’s 1723 translation4 characterizes the events surrounding Tamerlane’s summer 1401 capture of Baghdad—seized from the officers of sultan Ahmed Jelair, the latter having fled (once again), seeking refuge under the Mamelukes 4 —as follows: 5
As there had been several Tartar soldiers slain in the general assault, each soldier was ordered to bring one head of the men of Baghdad; which they accordingly did, and spared neither old men of fourscore, nor children of eight years of age. No quarter was given either to rich or poor; no one could count them up…Towers were made of these heads, to serve as an example to posterity. Some learned men found means to cast themselves at the feet of the emperor, who granted them pardon and quarter, and even gave them vests and horses, with convoy to conduct them to what place of security they desired: all the rest of the inhabitants were exterminated. Afterwards Timur gave orders that there should not remain one single house in the city unrazed; but that the mosques, colleges, and hospitals should be spared. Accordingly they ruined the markets, caravanserais, hermitages, cells, monasteries, palaces, and other edifices. Thus says the Alcoran [Qur’an], “The houses of the impious are overthrown by the order of God.” [perhaps referring to Qur’an 59:2]. After the Tigris was grown red with the blood of the inhabitants of Baghdad, and the air began to be infected by the dead bodies, Timur decamped from that city…
Darby’s translation also includes the following note which refers to the Arabic writer Ahmad ibn Arabshah’s harshly critical contemporary biography of Timur 6, “Marvels of Destiny in the History of Timur” (Ajaibul-Maqdur fi akhbari Timur): 7
Arabshah says two [i.e., decapitated heads per soldier were to be presented to Timur, or his officers]; and that there were 90,000 inhabitants of Baghdad slain in cold blood. They flung away the bodies, and made trophies of the heads piled together. There were one hundred and twenty towers made of the heads for trophies.
Three modern summary historical accounts of Tamerlane’s 1401 ravages in Baghdad by E.G. Browne, Rene Grousset, and Jean Aubin, are quite uniform with regard to the salient details. Browne’s summary, first published in 1920, maintains 8
Timur next turned his attention to Baghdad, the capital of the recalcitrant Sultan Ahmad Jalair [Ahmed Jelair], and, having taken it, made on June 20, 1401, a great massacre, in revenge for the many notable officers of his army who had perished in the siege. Each soldier was ordered to bring a head [Browne includes a note here, that states “According to Ibn Arabshah the number of Timur’s soldiers on this occasion was 20,000, and each was ordered to bring two heads.”], and in the words of Sharafuddin Ali Yazdi, “the market of retribution became so brisk that the broker of death sold at one price the old man of eighty and the child of eight, while the oven of wrath was so enkindled that it consumed in like manner the corporeal vestiture of the wealthy plutocrat and the wretched pauper.” Having left Baghdad a smoking charnel house, Timur again turned his attention to the unfortunate Georgians…
Grousset’s assessment, originally published in 1939, described the ravages of Timur’s army once Baghdad had fallen, thusly: 9
The defenders had fought with the energy of despair, and Tamerlane’s vengeance was merciless. Whereas seven years before he had treated Baghdad with some moderation, he now ordered a general massacre. Each soldier had to bring the head of an inhabitant, says Sharif ad-Din [Ali Yazdi]; two heads says Ibn Arabshah. Amid all the carnage, the literary-minded Tamerlane spared certain men of letters and even offered them coats of honor. Apart from these men, the entire population was slaughtered, and all buildings except mosques demolished. Ibn Arabshah estimates the number of victims at 90,000. July heat under the sky of Iraq soon bred epidemics from the heaped corpses and forced the victor to withdraw.
Jean Aubin’s 1962 analysis 10 notes that the Baghdad siege lasted nearly forty days, adding that the Zafarnama insists, “…in hopes of seeing the city surrender and conserve it intact, Tamerlane delayed several times the attack requested by his officers.” Ravaged by starvation, groups of soldiers and residents fled the city, “…by jumping from the summit of the ramparts.” When Tamerlane’s forces launched their final assault, escape from Baghdad was prevented by archers who were arranged on both riverbanks of the Tigris. Consistent with the earlier accounts of Browne 11 and Grousset, 12 Aubin summarizes the fate of Baghdad’s hapless population, as follows: 13
The entire population remaining in Baghdad, including children, was methodically massacred. Every soldier had to present one head to the officer where the officers kept an accounting. Piles of severed heads were built up in different places in the city. The number of victims varies according to the source; it was on the order of several tens of thousands. The rare survivors—approximately one person out of a hundred, according to the Zafar-nama—were sold into slavery. The only ones spared were theologians, sheiks, and dervishes who managed to reach Tamerlane’s pavilion. They were given food and clothes, and sent to a safe place.
Tamerlane was born at Kash (Shahr-i-Sebz, the “Green City”) in Transoxiana (some 50 miles south of Samarkand, in modern Uzbekistan), on April 8 (or 11), 1336 A.D.. Amir Turghay, his father, was chief of the Gurgan or Chagtai branch of the Barlas Turks. By age 34 (1369/70), Timur had killed his major rival (Mir Husain), becoming the pre-eminent ruler of Transoxiana. He spent the next six to seven years consolidating his power in Transoxiana before launching the aggressive conquests of Persia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and then attacking Hindustan (India) under the tottering Delhi Sultanate. 14
Grousset 15 contrasts Jenghiz Khan’s “straightforward planning” and “clean sweeps” with the “higgledy-piggledy” order of Timur’s expeditions, and the often incomplete nature of the latter’s conquests:
Tamerlane’s [Timur’s] conquering activities were carried on from the Volga to Damascus, from Smyrna to the Ganges and the Yulduz, and his expeditions into these regions followed no geographical order. He sped from Tashkent to Shiraz, from Tabriz to Khodzhent, as enemy aggression dictated; a campaign in Russia occurred between two in Persia, an expedition into Central Asia between two raids into the Caucasus…[Timur] at the end of every successful campaign left the country without making any dispositions for its control except Khwarizm and Persia, and even there not until the very end. It is true that he slaughtered all his enemies as thoroughly and conscientiously as the great Mongol, and the pyramids of human heads left behind him as a warning example tell their own tale. Yet the survivors forgot the lesson given them and soon resumed secret or overt attempts at rebellion, so that it was all to do again. It appears too, that these blood soaked pyramids diverted [Timur] from the essential objective. Baghdad, Brussa (Bursa), Sarai, Kara Shahr, and Delhi were all sacked by him, but he did not overcome the Ottoman Empire, the Golden Horde, the khanate of Mogholistan, or the Indian Sultanate; and even the Jelairs of Iraq Arabi rose up again as soon as he had passed. Thus he had to conquer Khwarizm three times, the Ili six or seven times (without ever managing to hold it for longer than the duration of the campaign), eastern Persia twice, western Persia at least three times, in addition to waging two campaigns in Russia…[Timur’s] campaigns “always had to be fought again,” and fight them again he did.
Timur’s campaigns are infamous for their extensive massacres and emblematic “pyramids of heads.” Brown 16 cites “only a few” prominent examples, in addition to the graphic cover art illustration, resulting from the 1401 Baghdad carnage:
As specimens of those acts mention may be made of his massacre of the people of Sistan 1383-4, when he caused some two thousand prisoners to be built up into a wall; his cold-blooded slaughter of a hundred thousand captive Indians near Dihli [Delhi] (December, 1398); his burying alive of four thousand Armenians in 1400-1, and the twenty towers of skulls erected by him at Aleppo and Damascus in the same year; and his massacre of 70,000 of the inhabitants of Isfahan in (November, 1387)…
Timur defeated his major Muslim rivals, the Ottomans, under Bayezid, July 20, 1402, destroying the Ottoman army (at Cubuk), and holding the sultan captive. Bayezid died a few months later (March 9, 1403, at Aksehir), “..broken by disaster and humiliation. ” 16a With the Ottoman army’s decimation, the conquest of Western Anatolia (and beyond), as Grousset has noted, “was no more than a route march for Tamerlane. ” 16b Bursa, the Ottoman capital, was plundered, and Tamerlane’s surrogates continued their devastating advance further to Nicaea (Iznik). 16c
Ibn Arabshah and Sharif ad-Din describe the conquerors behaving like a horde of savages, and that lovely city was set on fire. Tamerlane’s grandson Abu Bakr galloped as far as Nicaea (Iznik), “slaying and looting everywhere,” as Sharif ad-Din tells with relish.
Christian Smyrna (later Izmir)—which had defied repeated Ottoman attempts at conquest—was besieged by Tamerland himself, after its governor, Brother Guillaume de Munte of the Knights of Rhodes refused to convert to Islam. 16d Following a two-week siege, which began in early December, 1402, the city was overwhelmed, and a general massacre ensued. 16e According to Ibn Arabshah, 16f
…[H]e slew the grown men and cast in bonds the women and children and from the corpses of the slain built mosques and from the skulls raised towers; then he despoiled that fort of its wealth and robbed it of its treasure and emptied it and desolated and plundered it and utterly drained its silver and gold and made the wings of glad news fly with these exploits, which news according to his presumption he sent through the world with propitious augury and swift flight.
A rather gruesome variant on the primary use of decapitated heads for skull towers occurred during the capture and destruction of Smyrna, as recorded by the Zafarnama. 16g
A few escaped slaughter by casting themselves into the sea, and swimming to the vessels; while others were drowned. After our soldiers had put the inhabitants of Smyrna to the sword, they razed the houses, as well of the city as of the cattle, casting their arms and movable goods into the sea. There were from certain parts of Europe great ships named Caraca, with two masts, and some with more, which brought over soldiers and arms to succor the inhabitants. When they came near the palace and beheld the town and castle in ruins, they were struck with fear and anchored. Timur ordered that some of the Christians heads should be thrown into these ships, which the slingers of wild-fire accordingly did. The mariners seeing their companions heads, returned in fear and frustrated of their hopes.
Grousset maintained Timur was indeed a pious Muslim (who may well have belonged to the Naqshbandi Sufi order, according to Manz 17), while emphasizing the important Islamic motivation for Timur’s jihad campaigns: 18
It is the Qur’an to which he continually appeals, the imams and [Sufi] dervishes who prophesy his success. [emphasis added] His wars were to influence the character of the jihad, the Holy War, even when— as was almost always the case— he was fighting Muslims. He had only to accuse these Muslims of lukewarmness, whether the Jagataites of the Ili and Uiguria, whose conversion was so recent, or the Sultans of Delhi who…refrained from massacring their millions of Hindu subjects.
Beatrice Manz 19 concurs with Grousset’s assessment about the centrality of Islamic jihadism in motiviating Tamerlane’s conquests, although she also stresses his dual role as “restorer” of the Turco-Mongolian world order. Tamerlane patronized Muslim scholars, constructed Islamic religious buildings, and waged jihad campaigns for dissemination of the Muslim creed to establish his bona fides as a promoter of Islam. 20 The Zafarnama, Manz observes, 21 invokes promulgation of the Sharia, specifically, as a primary animating factor for many of Tamerlane’s campaigns:
Timur undertook many of his campaigns in the interest of religious order, and we fund that almost all mentions of Sharia in [Nizan al-Dim] Shami’s 21a Zafarnameh occur as justification for Timur’s conquests. His campaigns against the kings of Georgia, the Shi’ite sayyids of Amul in Mazandaran [a province in northern Iran], and the non-Muslim populations on his route to India were all ostensibly taken for the preservation of Sharia; and Shami even invoked the sanctions of religion in explaining Timur’s campaigns against the Ottomans. Before beginning his campaigns in the Middle East. Timur took care to get the blessing of Muslim men of religion.
The Turki chronicle Malfuzat-i-Timuri, another putative 22 autobiographical memoir of Timur, translated into Persian by Abu Talib Husaini, illustrates these driving Islamic sentiments, complete with a Qur’anic quotation: 23
About this time there arose in my heart the desire to lead an expedition against the infidels, and to become a ghazi; for it had reached my ears that the slayer of infidels is a ghazi, and if he is slain he becomes a martyr. It was on this account that I formed this resolution, but I was undetermined in my mind whether I should direct my expedition against the infidels of China or against the infidels and polytheists of India. In this matter I sought an omen from the Qur’an, and the verse I opened upon [Q66:9] was this, “O Prophet, make war upon infidels and unbelievers, and treat them with severity.” My great officers told me that the inhabitants of Hindustan were infidels and unbelievers. In obedience to the order of Almighty Allah I ordered an expedition against them.
Timur’s jihad campaigns against non-Muslims — whether Christians in Asia Minor and Georgia, or Hindus in India — seemed to intensify in brutality. Brown 24 highlights one particular episode which supports this contention, wherein Timur clearly distinguished between his vanquished Muslim and non-Muslim foes. After rampaging through (Christian) Georgia, where he “devastated the country, destroyed the churches, and slew great numbers of inhabitants,” in the winter of 1399-1400, Timur, in August 1400,
…began his march into Asia Minor by way of Avnik, Erzeroum, Erzinjan, and Sivas. The latter place offered a stubborn resistance, and when it finally capitulated Timur caused all the Armenian and Christian soldiers to be buried alive; but the Muhammadans he spared.
The unparalleled devastation Timur wrought upon predominantly Hindu India further bolsters the notion that Timur viewed his non-Muslim prey with particular animosity. Moreover, there are specific examples of selective brutality directed against Hindus, cited in the Malfuzat-i-Timuri, from which Muslims are deliberately spared:
My great object in invading Hindustan had been to wage a religious war against the infidel Hindus, and it now appeared to me that it was necessary for me to put down these Jats [Hindus]. On the 9th of the month I dispatched the baggage from Tohana, and on the same day I marched into the jungles and wilds, and slew 2,000 demon—like Jats. I made their wives and children captives, and plundered their cattle and property… On the same day a party of saiyids, who dwelt in the vicinity, came with courtesy and humility to wait upon me and were very graciously received. In my reverence for the race of the prophet, I treated their chiefs with great honour…On the 29th I again marched and reached the river Jumna. On the other side of the river I [viewed] a fort, and upon making inquiry about it, I was informed that it consisted of a town and fort, called Loni… I determined to take that fort at once… Many of the Rajputs placed their wives and children in their houses and burned them, then they rushed to the battle and were killed. Other men of the garrison fought and were slain, and a great many were taken prisoners. Next day I gave orders that the Musalman prisoners should be separated and saved, but that the infidels should all be despatched to hell with the proselyting sword. I also ordered that the houses of the saiyids, shaikhs and learned Musulmans should be preserved but that all the other houses should be plundered and the fort destroyed. It was done as I directed and a great booty was obtained… 25
On the 16th of the month some incidents occurred which led to the sack of the city of Delhi, and to the slaughter of many of the infidel inhabitants…On that day, Thursday, and all the night of Friday, nearly 15,000 Turks were engaged in slaying, plundering, and destroying… The following day, Saturday, the 17th, all passed in the same way, and the spoil was so great that each man secured from fifty to a hundred prisoners — men, women, and children. There was no man who took less than twenty. The other booty was immense in rubies, diamonds, pearls and other gems; jewels of gold and silver, ashrafis, tankas of gold and silver of the celebrated Alai coinage; vessels of gold and silver; and brocades and silks of great value. Gold and silver ornaments of the Hindu women were obtained in such quantities as to exceed all account. Excepting the quarter of the saiyids, the ulama and the other Musulmans, the whole city was sacked. 26
Timur left Samarkand with a large, powerful expeditionary force destined for India in April, 1398. By October he had besieged Talamba, 75 miles northeast of Multan, subsequently plundering the town and massacring its inhabitants. He reached the vicinity of Delhi during the first week of December having forged a path of destruction— pillaging, razing, and massacring— en route through Pak Patan, Dipalpur, Bhatnar, Sirsa, and Kaithal. Prior to fighting and defeating an army under Sultan Nasiruddin Mahmud Tughluq on December 17, 1398, Timur had his forces butcher in cold blood 100,000 Hindu prisoners accumulated while advancing toward Delhi. 27 Srivastava describes what transpired after Timur’s forces occupied Delhi on December 18, 1398: 28
The citizens of the capital, headed by the ulema, waited on the conqueror and begged quarter. Timur agreed to spare the citizens; but, owing to the oppressive conduct of the soldiers of the invading force, the people of the city were obliged to offer resistance. Timur now ordered a general plunder and massacre which lasted for several days. Thousands of the citizens of Delhi were murdered and thousands were made prisoners. A historian writes: “High towers were built with the head of the Hindus, and their bodies became the food of ravenous beasts and birds…..such of the inhabitants who escaped alive were made prisoners.”
Timur acquired immense booty, as well as Delhi’s best (surviving) artisans, who were conscripted and sent to Samarkand to construct for him the famous Friday mosque. Leaving Delhi on January 1, 1399 for their return march to Samarkand, Timur’s forces stormed Meerut on January 19th, before encountering and defeating two Hindu armies near Hardwar. 29 The Malfuza-i-Timuri 30 indicates that at Hardwar, Timur’s army
…displayed great courage and daring; they made their swords their banners, and exerted themselves in slaying the foe (during a bathing festival on the bank of the Ganges). They slaughtered many of the infidels, and pursued those who fled to the mountains. So many of them were killed that their blood ran down the mountains and plain, and thus (nearly) all were sent to hell. The few who escaped, wounded, weary, and half dead, sought refuge in the defiles of the hills. Their property and goods, which exceeded all computation, and their countless cows and buffaloes, fell as spoil into the hands of my victorious soldiers.
Timur then traversed the Sivalik Hills to Kanra, which was pillaged and sacked, along with Jammu “…everywhere the inhabitants being slaughtered like cattle.” 31
Srivastava summarizes India’s devastated condition following Timur’s departure: 32
Timur left [India] prostrate and bleeding. There was utter confusion and misery throughout northern India. [India's] northwestern provinces, including northern tracts of Rajasthan and Delhi, were so thoroughly ravaged, plundered and even burnt that it took these parts many years, indeed, to recover their prosperity. Lakhs [hundreds of thousands] of men, and in some cases, many women and children, too, were butchered in cold blood. The rabi crops [grown in October—November, harvested around March, including barley, mustard, and wheat] standing in the field were completely destroyed for many miles on both sides of the invader’s long and double route from the Indus to Delhi and back. Stores of grain were looted or destroyed. Trade, commerce and other signs of material prosperity disappeared. The city of Delhi was depopulated and ruined. It was without a master or a caretaker. There was scarcity and virulent famine in the capital and its suburbs. This was followed by a pestilence caused by the pollution of the air and water by thousands of uncared—for dead bodies. In the words of the historian Badaoni, “those of the inhabitants who were left died (of famines and pestilence), while for two months not a bird moved wing in Delhi.
The late 13th century chronicler, Bar Hebraeus provided this contemporary assessment of how the adoption of Islam radically altered Mongol attitudes toward their Christian subjects:
And having seen very much modesty and other habits of this kind among Christian people, certainly the Mongols loved them greatly at the beginning of their kingdom, a time ago somewhat short. But their love hath turned to such intense hatred that they cannot even see them with their eyes approvingly, because they have all alike become Muslims, myriads of people and peoples. 33
Bar Hebraeus’ observations should be borne in mind when evaluating Grousset’s uncompromising overall assessment of Timur’s deeds and motivations. After recounting Timur’s 1403 A.D. ravages in Georgia, slaughtering the inhabitants, and destroying all the Christian churches of Tiflis, Grousset states : 34
It has been noted that the Jenghiz-Khanite Mongol invasion of the thirteenth century was less cruel, for the Mongols were mere barbarians who killed simply because for centuries this had been the instinctive behavior of nomad herdsmen toward sedentary farmers. To this ferocity Tamerlane [Timur] added a taste for religious murder. He killed from Qur’anic piety. He represents a synthesis, probably unprecedented in history, of Mongol barbarity and Muslim fanaticism, and symbolizes that advanced form of primitive slaughter which is murder committed for the sake of an abstract ideology, as a duty and a sacred mission.
Curiously, the 1970 Rutgers University Press English translation of Grousset’s L’Empire Des Steppes (p. 513) omits the word “coranique” in translating “Il tuait par piete coranique,” so that the phrase becomes, “He killed from piety,” as opposed to Grousset’s French original, “He killed from Qur’anic piety.” 35
Karl Wittfogel’s study of Oriental despotism, invokes Koran 4:59, appositely, as providing the ultimate Islamic legal basis for authoritarian rule, such as Timur’s. 36
The Koran exhorts believers to obey not only Allah and his prophet, but also “those in authority amongst you.” In the absolutist states established by Mohammed’s followers, this passage was invoked to emphasize the importance of obedience in maintaining governmental authority.
Law Professor Emile Tyan, one of the great modern scholars of Islamic governance, produced a monumental two-volume legal analysis of the Caliphate system. 37 Tyan expands upon Wittfogel’s apt characterization—which hinges, appropriately, upon Koran 4:59 (and its classical and modern exegeses38)—highlighting Islam’s natural predilection for despotic rule, and the “sacralized” impetus to universalize this despotism, via jihad. 39
The power of Muslim monocracy is an absolute, personal power. Personal because, outside the person of the caliph (Muslim leader), there is no organism with its own existence directly invested with any parcel of authority whatsoever. All organs of government, administration, and justice exercise their respective competence on the basis of a formal or tacit delegation from the caliph. Absolute in that there is no constitutional body that limits, oversees, or curbs the power of the caliph.
…[O]ne of the basic principles of Islam is that it must be extended to the whole world by conversion or at the least by submission to Islamic authority. The caliph has an obligation to promote and fulfill this universalism, if necessary by the force of arms. This is the meaning of holy war or jihad. From which it follows that Islamic sovereignty is at least potentially universal.
Timur, Tamerlane, epitomized these classical Islamic trends, still very much alive today.
*translation of the embedded Persian text by Amil Imani, and Dr. Noori Ala.
1. Sharaf al-Din Ali Yazdi. Zafar-name. Ed. M. Abbasi. 2 vols. Tehran, 1957/1336. Ed. A. Urunbaev. Tashkent, 1972.
2. John E. Woods, “The Rise of Timurid Historiography,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 46, No. 2 (Apr., 1987), pp. 81-108; extracts from pp. 99-100.
3. Sharaf al-Din Ali Yazdi; François Petis de la Croix the Younger. Histoire de Timur-Bec, connu sous le nom du grand Tamerlan; empereur des Mogols & Tartares … Ecrite en Persan par Cherefeddin Ali … traduite en François par … Petis de la Croix … Avec des notes historiques, et cartes géographiques. Paris, 1722.
4. Rene Grousset. L’Empire Des Steppes. Attila, Gengis-Khan, Tamerlan. Paris: Payot, 1952. [Translated as The Empire of the Steppes, by Naomi Walford, New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1970, p. 434.
5. Sharaf al-Din Ali Yazdi; John Darby, Translator.; François Petis de la Croix, the Younger. The History of Timur-Bec, known by the name of Tamerlain the Great, Emperor of the Moguls and Tartars ... Translated into French by ... Petis de la Croix ... with historical notes and maps. Now faithfully render'd into English [by John Darby], London, 1723, Vol. 2, pp. 216-217.
6. Ahmad Ibn Arabshah. Ajaib al-Maqdur Akhbar Timur. Cairo, 1868/ 1285.
7. Darby, History of Timur-Bec, p. 216, note 9.
8. E.G. Browne. A Literary History of Persia In Four Volumes, Vol. 3. The Tartar Domain (1265-1502), Cambridge University Press, 1928, reprinted Goodword Books, New Delhi, 2002, p. 197.
9. Grousset, Empire of the Steppes, pp. 434-435.
10. Jean Aubin. “Tamerlan à Bagdad” Arabica, T. 9, Fasc. 3, Volume Spécial: Publié à L’Occasion du Mille Deux Centième Anniversaire de la Fondation de Bagdad (Oct., 1962), pp. 303-309; extracts from p. 308.
11. Browne. A Literary History of Persia, p. 197.
12. Grousset, Empire of the Steppes, pp. 434-435.
13. Aubin. “Tamerlan à Bagdad”, p. 308.
14. E.G. Browne. A Literary History of Persia In Four Volumes, Vol. 3. The Tartar Domain (1265-1502), Cambridge University Press, 1928, pp. 180-206; Rene Grousset. L’Empire Des Steppes. Attila, Gengis-Khan, Tamerlan. Paris: Payot, 1952. [Translated as The Empire of the Steppes, by Naomi Walford, New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1970, pp. 409-465; A.L. Srivastava. The Sultanate of Delhi, Agra, 1950, p. 222.
15. Rene Grousset. The Empire of the Steppes, pp. 419-420.
16. E.G. Browne. A Literary History of Persia. p. 181.
16a. Rene Grousset. The Empire of the Steppes, p. 451
16f. Ahmed Ibn Arabshah. Tamerlane or Timur the Great Amir. Translated by J.H. Sanders, 1936, reprinted 2007, Martino Publishing, Mansfield Center, Connecticut, p. 192.
16g. Sharaf al-Din Ali Yazdi, Book V, Chapter 56, pp. 277-278.
17. Beatriz Forbes Manz. The Rise and Rule of Tamerlane, Cambridge University Press, 1989, p. 17. Also see my essay, “Sufi Jihad?” The American Thinker, May 15, 2005, for a discussion of Sufism and jihad
18. Rene Grousset. The Empire of the Steppes, pp. 416-417.
19. Beatrice Manz. “Tamerlane and the Symbolism of Sovereignty” Iranian Studies, Vol. 21, No. 1-2, 1988, pp. 105-122.; Temur and the Problem of a Conqueror’s Legacy,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. 8. No. 1, 1998; pp. 21-41.
20. Beatrice Manz. “Tamerlane’s Career and its Uses,” Journal of World History, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 1-25.
21. Manz. “Tamerlane and the Symbolism of Sovereignty,’ pp. 11-112.
21a. Woods describes how under the patronage of Timur’s descendants, “…in the 1420s A.D./820s A.H., Shami’s text underwent extensive revision at the hands of Mawlana Sharaf al-Din Ali Yazdi and Hafiz Abru working for Shahrukh's sons Ibrahim-Sultan (1394-1435 A.D. /796-838 A.H.) and Baysunghur (1397-1434 A.D. /799-837 A.H.) respectively. In 1419-20/821, Yazdi began to gather additional biographical material on Timur at Ibrahim-Sultan’s provincial court in Shiraz, finishing his compilation, also known as the Zafar-name (YZN), about five years later.” Woods, “The Rise of Timurid Historiography,” pp. 84-85.
22. For conflicting views regarding the apocryphal nature of this work, see E.G. Browne. A Literary History of Persia. pp. 183-184, and Elliot and Dowson, A History of India, Vol. 3, pp. 389-394.
23. Elliot and Dowson, A History of India, Vol. 3, pp. 394-395.
24. E.G. Browne. A Literary History of Persia. p. 196.
25. Elliot and Dowson, A History of India, Vol. 3, p. 429
26 Elliot and Dowson, A History of India, Vol. 3, pp. 432-433.
27. Elliot and Dowson, A History of India, Vol. 3, pp. 445-446.
28. Srivastava, The Sultanate of Delhi, pp. 222-223.
29. Ibid. p. 223.
30. Ibid. p. 223.
31. Elliot and Dowson, A History of India, Vol. 3, p. 459.
32. Srivastava, The Sultanate of Delhi, p. 223-24.
33. The Chronography of Bar Hebraeus. Translated from Syriac by Ernest A. Wallis Budge, Oxford University Press, Vol. 1, 1932, p. 354.
34. Grousset. The Empire of the Steppes, p. 434.; p. 513 of the original French, L’Empire Des Steppes.
35. I want to thank Ibn Warraq for pointing out the omission of the word “coranique”, i.e., Qur’anic, in the French to English translation by Walford.
36. Karl Wittfogel. Oriental Despotism. A Comparative Study of Total Power. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut, 1957, p. 150.
37. Emile Tyan. Institutions du droit public Musulman 1, Le califat. Paris, Rec. Sirey, 1954.;
Emile Tyan. Le califat en régime sultanien. Beirut, Université Saint Joseph de Beyrouth, Faculté de droit], 1956.
38. Ibn Kathir. Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Vol. 2, Darusslam, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 2000, pp. 495-498 ; Al-Mawardi. The Laws of Islamic Governance. Translated by Dr. Asadullah Yate. Ta-Ha Publishers, London, United Kingdom, pp. 1-11.; Sayyid Abul Ala Mawdudi. Towards Understanding the Qur’an. Vol. 11, The Islamic Foundation, Leicester, United Kingdom, 1989, pp. 50-53.
39. Emile Tyan. Recueil de la Société Jean Bodin, V. 20, 1970, pp 503ff. (English translation by Nidra Poller, as “The monocratic system in Sunni Islam”)