History

SULTAN MAHMOOD OF GHAZNI Biography

A formidable force of Hindu warriors drawn from different parts of India had arrayed themselves on the plains of Kathiawar against a small Muslim army led by Mahmood of Ghazni. The large Hindu army led by hundreds of war elephants was characterized by massive pomp and pageantry. On the other hand, Mahmood’s troops hardly one-tenth of the opposing force, who trekked through a trackless desert, were too tired and, therefore, hesitated to meet such a powerful enemy. But Mahmood was too steadfast and valiant to lose heart. He prayed for Divine assistance against the infidels who, in the past, had broken many pledges and treaties made with the Muslims and he had come to punish them for their treachery. He made a memorable speech before his weary soldiers which steeled their determination to crush the enemy. A loud cry of Allah-o-Akbar (God is Great) rent the air, and the Muslims, led by Mahmood, made a desperate charge on the serried ranks of the perfidious infidels. They fought like heroes in a sea of men, which swarmed and closed in upon them from all sides to devour them. The occasional cries of “Allah-o-Akbar” raised by them above the din of the battle proclaimed their existence.

At last, an irresistible charge by Mahmood won him the day; the Hindus were routed with terrible losses. They fled, leaving behind a large number of dead on the battlefield. They had to pay a heavy price for their treachery and broken pledges.

The famous temple of Somnath lay before the Conqueror from Ghazni. The inmates of the temple offered an extremely high price to save their idols but Mahmood declined their offer, saying: “I want to be known in history as the destroyer of idols and not an idol seller”. He struck the biggest idol with his staff. Its interior was found filled with invaluable precious stones which gushed forth and strewed the floor.

Sultan Mahmood was a great conqueror, builder, and patron of art and literature. According to the noted chronicler, Farishta, “he was endowed with all the qualities of a great prince”. “The real source of his glory”, says Elphinstone, “lay in his combining the qualities of a warrior and a conqueror with a zeal for the encouragement of literature and arts, which was rare in his time, and has not yet been surpassed”.

Mahmood, the eldest son of Subuktagin, was born in 969 A.C. His father, posted as Governor of Khorasan by King Nuh Il of Bukhara, appointed Mahmood as his Deputy. He took Neshapur from the Ismails and made it his Capital. On the death of his father in 997 A.C. Mahmood seized Ghazni from his brother and ascended its throne in 999 A.C.

Sultan Mahmood proved himself a capable and enlightened ruler, who was great both in war and peace. He was an invincible conqueror, a successful administrator, and a great builder. The Abbaside Caliph of Baghdad, Al-Kadir Billah, recognized Mahmood as the ruler of Ghazni and Khorasan and conferred on him the title of “Amir-al-Millat“ and later “Yameen-ud-Dawala”.

During the last 30 years of his life, he made 17 invasions of India. In 1001, he defeated and captured Raja Jaipal I of Punjab. He was later released on the promise of paying tribute. But he soon broke it and was later punished by the Sultan. Mahmood invaded Multan and besieged its ruler Dawood who had adopted the Carmathian creed. Later he captured Ghur.

The Princes of India made a confederacy against Mahmood. A number of Rajas who had promised to pay tribute to him also joined them. When he crossed the Indus in 1008 he was met at Und by a great Hindu army composed of the troops of Anand Pal and the Rajas of Ujjain, Gwalior, Kalanjar, Kanauj, Delhi, and Ajmer. The Sultan routed the Hindus after a hotly contested battle. The Hindus fled from the battlefield littered with their dead bodies. The Rajas later lost faith in each other and the confederacy was dissolved. Mahmood pressed on and the fortress of Bhavan and the temple of Kangra fell to him.

In 1009, the Sultan again invaded Punjab to punish Anand Pal who had broken his pledge to pay tribute. In 1011, he captured the temple of Thanesar. In 1014 Mahmood defeated the Hindu Princes in the Mangla Pass, captured the fortress of Naudana, and pursued them into Kashmir.

In 1018 the Sultan set out on an expedition to punish the treacherous Hindu Rajas who had broken their pledges and taken up arms against him. He crossed the Jamuna, received the submission of the Raja of Basan, defeated Raja Kulchand of Mahaban, and captured Mathura and Bindraban. He marched with his picked force on Kanauj, guarded by seven forts built on the Ganges. The Raja of Kanauj fled, leaving behind his Capital city to Mahmood.

The Rajas of Kalanjar and Gwalior murdered the Raja of Kanauj for his cowardice and formed a confederacy against the Sultan who broke it by inflicting a crushing defeat on them in 1022. The Rajas promised to pay him an annual tribute.

In 1023, the Sultan invaded Transoxiana to establish his authority there. In 1025, he set out on his expedition against Somnath, and there in January 1026, he defeated and routed a combined force of Hindu Rajas.

In 1027, the Sultan launched his last expedition to India to punish the rebellious and treacherous Jats. He collected a flotilla of boats at Multan and defeated them in a bloody naval battle fought on river Indus.

In the remaining period of his life, he devoted his attention to consolidating the Western provinces of his vası Empire. He wrested Iraq, Rayy, and Isfahan from the Buwayhids and invested his son Masood with the Government of the newly conquered territories.

Great in war, Mahmood was greater in peace. Whenever he got a respite from his long-drawn-out campaigns, he devoted himself to the peace and prosperity of his people.

He built Ghazni into a magnificent Capital, the Queen of the East. The Grant Mosque of Ghazni, known as the “Bride of Heaven”, built by him, was a wonder of the East in those times. Besides this, Mahmood adorned his Capital with a museum, a library, and a university as well as beautiful mosques, porches, fountains, reservoirs, aqueducts, and cisterns.

The Sultan also constructed many dykes and aqueducts for his subjects which gave an unprecedented impetus to agriculture. His far-flung dominions were connected with good roads, dotted with caravansarais, and protected under a strict Administration which ensured a flourishing trade in his Empire. Among his great public works, the Sultan’s dyke is still extant and is used even up to the present day. The dyke was constructed at the mouth of a pass, 18 miles from Ghazni, 25 feet above the water level of the Nawar. It is 200 yards long.

Historians are all praise for Mahmood’s Capital, Ghazni. “The civilization and grandeur possessed by the Samianids of North-Western Persia”, says Sir John Marshal, “were handed down to Ghaznavids, as if by right of inheritance ….. Under Malinood the Great, and his immediate successor, Ghazni became famous among all the cities of the Caliphate for the splendor of its architecture (Cambridge History of India)”. “The splendor of its courtiers’ palaces“, writes Lane Poole in his Mediaeral India “vying with his own, testified to the liberal encouragement of the arts which raised Ghazni — from a barrack of outlaws to the first rank among the many stately cities of the Caliphate”. Another historian, Marshman has described it as “the grandest in Asia” (Cambridge History of India).

Sultan Mahmood was one of the greatest patrons of art and learning that the world has seen. He gathered around him in his Court a galaxy of intellectual luminaries hardly ever seen in a Royal court of the Medieval times. The Sultan loved the society of learned men. “This restless adventurer“, says Lane Polle, “after sweeping like a pestilence for hundreds of miles across India, or pouncing like a hawk coursing south to Hamadan almost within call of Baghdad itself, would settle down to listen to the songs of poets and the wise conversation of divines”.

The Sultan stands unrivaled even up to the present times in his munificence and expenditure to the cause of education and learning. He founded a university equipped with a vast collection of books on different subjects and in different languages. A museum of natural curiosities was attached to the university.

“He showed so much munificence to individuals of eminence”, says Elphinstone, “that his Court exhibited a greater assemblage of literary geniuses than any other monarch in Asia has ever been able to produce” (Cambridge History of India). The number of poets alone attached to his Court was more than 400.

The Sultan, himself being a poet and scholar of repute, enjoyed the Company of intellectual luminaries who adorned his Court. Iran immensely benefited from Mahmood’s patronage of learning. “It is to Sultan Mahmood,” writes Elphinstone, “that the (Iran) is indebted for the full expansion of her national literature”. According to Professor M. Habib “among the patrons of Persian renaissance, he (Mahmood) is the most remarkable”.

Amongst the brightest intellectual luminaries which illuminated the Court of the Sultan was the encyclopaedist Abu Rehan Biruni, the philosopher, musical theorist Farabi, the philosopher-linguist Ansari, the witty poet Manuchehri, the celebrated poet Asjadi and the great epic poet Firdausi, whose Shahnama ranks amongst the greatest epic poems of the world.

The Sultan’s boundless generosity to these men of letters has been recorded in history. The story of his paying sixty thousand silver coins instead of the gold ones to Firdausi as settled with him is a fiction that has been contradicted by modern historical research.

The great Sultan breathed his last at Ghazni on April 30, 1030, A.C. at the age of 63, being worn out by the labors of 40 years rule.

NIZAMUL MULK TOOSI Biography

Abu Ali Hasan ibn Ali ibn Ishaq, better known as Nizamul Mulk Toosi, was the celebrated Grand Vizier of the Seljuk ruler, Malik Shah. Being one of the ablest and most talented Prime Ministers that the Muslim world has produced, Nizamul Mulk ranks high among the greatest administrators and statesmen of the world. The celebrated historian Phillip K. Hitti calls him “one of the ornaments of the political history of Islam”, and another well-known orientalist, Ameer Ali says: “Nizamul Mulk was probably, after Yahya Barmaki, the ablest Minister and Administrator Asia has ever produced”.

Nizamul Mulk was born on April 10, 1018, A. C. at Radkhan, a village near Toos. His father was a revenue agent on behalf of the Ghaznavide King. He got proficiency in almost all sciences and arts at an early age. In 1054 he joined the service of Alp Arsalan, the Seljuk Prince. Later, when Alp Arsalan ascended the throne, Nizamul Mulk was made his Grand Vizier. Nizamul Mulk Toosi continued in office under two succeeding Saljuk Rulers. He held great sway over Alp Arsalan and accompanied him on all his campaigns and journeys. He was present at the famous battle of Manazgrid. He also undertook military operations on his own and was responsible for the capture of Istakhr citadel in 1076 A.C. For more than 20 years during the reign of Seljuk Monarch, Malik Shah, Nizamul Mulk was the real ruler of the Seljuk Empire, the entire authority vested in his capable hands.

Nizamul Mulk was the man behind the glorious reign of Malik Shah Saljuki. His wise Administration and the prestige of Seljuk arms had established such peace and prosperity in the vast Seljuk Empire that none dared to rebel against the State. “Nizamul Mulk was in all but name a Monarch”, adds the Encyclopaedia of Islam “and ruled his Empire with striking success”. He was kind and merciful in nature but firm and decisive in action.

His work on Administration and Government form enduring monuments of his genius and capacity. Peace reigned in his vast Empire. For twelve times he traversed his wide dominions and personally examined the conditions and requirements of each Province.

Nizamul Mulk paid much attention to the welfare of his people. Life became happy, safe, peaceful and cheap, resulting in the unwonted security of road and low cost of living in his dominions. He set up a network of colleges, madrassas, hospitals, mosques and palaces in the cities of Western Asia. He established resting places and guardhouses along the trade and pilgrim routes for protection of merchants and travellers. In peace and prosperity, good administration and pursuits of learning, the Seljuk Empire administrated by Nizamul Mulk rivalled the best Arab and Roman rule. He made the road leading to Makkah from Iraq safer and more comfortable for pilgrims.

Nizamul Mulk was one of the greatest patrons of learning that the world has seen. His Court was the meeting place of scholars, statesmen and poets, who flocked around him from all parts of the world. Being one of the greatest sponsors of Islamic learning in history, he founded a chain of great educational institutions all over his vast dominions. He founded the Nizamiya types of higher educational institutions at Neshapur, Baghdad, Khurasan, Iraq and Syria. The first great institution founded by him in 1066 A.C. was the Nizamiya University of Neshapur, which, in fact, was the first university of the Islamic world. According to Allama Ibn Khalikan, Nizamul Mulk Toosi was the first in Islamic history to lay the foundation of a regular educational institution.

The State Exchequer was enriched by the munificence of Nizamul Mulk Toosi for purposes of advancement of education. The Seljuk Sultan Malik Shah once called him and said: “Dear father, you can organise a big army with so much money”, The wise Minister replied: “My son, I have grown old, but you are young. If you are auctioned in a Bazaar, I doubt if you will fetch more than 30 dinars. In spite of this, God has made you the Monarch of such a vast Empire. Should you not be grateful to Him for the same? The arrows thrown by your archers will not have a range of more than 30 yards, but even the vast shield of the sky cannot check the arrow of prayers flung by the army which I have undertaken to produce”. Malik Shah was struck with the reply of his talented Vizier and cried out: “Excellent father, we must produce such an army without the least delay”.

Institutions of higher education sprang up all over the Seljuk Empire. The big cities of Khorasan, namely, Merv, Neshapur, Herat, Balkh and Isphahan had a chain of Nizamiya Institutions of higher education. But the greatest of these was the Nizamiya University of Baghdad set up in 1066 A.C. which stands as a landmark in the educational advancement of Muslims during the Mediaeval times. It was a model institution in the whole world of Islam, known for the high standard of teaching and great scholarship of its teachers, attracting students from all over the world. It was, in fact, the first Academy of Islam. Imam Ghazali, the well-known thinker of Islam, had been its Principal and the celebrated Persian poet, Sheikh Muslehuddin Sa’adi, a student of this institution.

Nizamul Mulk spent 1/10 of the State income on education, spending three million rupees on the building of higher educational institutions and one million on the Nizamiya University of Baghdad.

Nizamul Mulk was instrumental in the inauguration of Jalali Calendar, a much-improved one, formulated by a body of astronomers headed by Umar Khayyam.

Nizamul Mulk wrote in 1091 A.C. for the guidance of Malik Shah, his monumental political treatise, Siyashit Nama, which stands as a landmark in the annal of political treatises, written during the Mediaeval times. He added 11 chapters to the book, the following year. It is a book on the Art of Administration for the benefit of Rulers. Being an able Administrator, he incorporated his personal experiences in this book, which can serve as Magna Charta for an ideal state. It deals with topics of kingship, judiciary, espionage, ambassadorship, the qualifications and functions of all classes of officers. He complained that a sound intelligence service was not being maintained in Mediaeval states whereby corruption may be revealed and rebellion forestalled. The book was written in Persian, containing 50 chapters of advice, illustrated by historical anecdotes. The last 11 chapters added to the book in 1092 A.C. deal with dangers that threatened the Empire, specially from the Ismailis.

In Siyasat Nama, he insisted on limiting the rights of fief holders to the collection of fixed dues.

His Administration greatly resembled the Buyid Administration of the golden days of the Abbasids. He had very successfully accomplished the maintenance of a large tribal army by abandoning partially the traditional tax framing system of revenue collection for that of the fief, whereby the Military Generals supported themselves and the army under their command, through the land allotted to them by the State for the purpose. Nizamul Mulk elaborately systematized it.

In the absence of regular intelligence service, he managed to intimidate the rebels through a judicious display of Saljukide might. He was a follower and champion of Shafu sect and had gained the support of famous and powerful Ulema. Among these were an Al-Ishaq, Al-Shirazi, and Al-Ghazali.

In 1091 the first challenge to his authority was made when Basra was captured by Carmatians and the citadel of Almut by Hasan bin Sabah.

Nizamul Mulk Toosi was assassinated by a follower of Hasan bin Sabah on October 4, 1092, near Sihna while on his way to Baghdad. The assassin had disguised himself as a Sufi. Thus died one of the greatest administrators and benefactors of the world of Islam.

MALIK FAISAL IBN ABD AL-AZIZ Biography

About 50 years ago, in 1926, when my mother, grandmother, and father had gone for a pilgrimage to the Holy cities of Makkah and Madina, they tredded on camelback in July Sun, reaching Madina, about 475 kilometers from Makkah in more than a fortnight. Today, this distance is covered in 3% to 5 hours by a first-class car, running at a speed of 120 K. M. per hour on a first-class metalled road.

Saudi Arabia is totally a changed country today. Its rise has been meteoric and its transformation so wonderful as if accomplished through the legendary Aladin’s Lamp of the famous Arabian Nights.

The factors responsible for this dramatic change have been the discovery of an enormous quantity of fluid gold beneath its arid surface which has made Saudi Arabia the greatest oil exporter in the world and the wise statesmanship of its dynamic and beloved ruler, Faisal bin Abd al-Aziz who united the oil-producing Middle East countries as never before and used this as a weapon against the Western Oil Exploiters.

Malik Faisal, born in 1906, was the third and the most talented, dynamic, and virtuous son of King Abd al-Aziz, Founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Abd al-Aziz, better known as Ibn Saud, had gradually regained the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in rolling battles that involved shifting tribal loyalties and finally British intrigue. He had roared out of Kuwait in 1902 accompanied by a handful of compatriots to capture Riyadh.

His favorite son, Malik Faisal, though not his Crown Prince, later served as the Commander-in-Chief of Saudi Forces and was greatly responsible for the capture of Makkah in 1925 and defeat of Yeman in 1934. Later, he was appointed the Foreign Minister of the Kingdom and his wise Foreign Policy was greatly instrumental in winning the friendship and recognition of progressive nations of the world.

On the death of his father, King Abd al-Aziz in 1953, the Crown Prince Saud ascended the throne of Saudi Arabia and Faisal became his Prime Minister. As against Faisal, Saud led an extremely luxurious and extravagant life. He had dozens of wives and more than 100 children. His extravagance had made Saudi Arabia, virtually a bankrupt state. Fortunately, he abdicated in favour of Faisal in 1964 due to ill health. Thus Faisal started with deficit finance.

The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Companies, under the able leadership of King Faisal, realised the importance of oil in the modern world, whose major profit was gulped by the Western Oil Companies. The OPEC, therefore, raised the price of oil from $1 per barrel in 1944 to $10 by the end of 1974. “This”, according to Time Magazine, “resulted in the greatest and swiftest transfer of wealth in all history; the 13 OPEC countries earned $112 Billion from the rest of the world last year (1974). This sudden shift of money shook the whole fragile structure of the international financial system, severely weakened the already troubled economies of the oil-importing nations and gave new political strength to the exporters. ….The new financial giant of the world, Saudi Arabia, in 1974 stood to accumulate a surplus of about $23 billion a potentially unsettling force in the Global finance”.

On the termination of the Arab-Israel War in 1973, when the Arab oil exporters, under the inspiring leadership of King Faisal of Saudi Arabia decided to enforce oil embargo against the advanced oil-importing countries, which had economic, financial and political relations with Israel, it looked doubtful if such an embargo would be effective and last long. The oil-importing countries of the West and Japan led by the U.S.A., tried to forge a united stand against the Arab oil exporters and attempted to divide the Arabs, but they miserably failed in this respect. The wise statesmanship of King Faisal, the greatest and most sagacious Muslim ruler of the present century, united the OPEC countries as never before, which resulted in the division in the ranks of the oil-importing countries, culminating in the formation of a very liberal policy towards the Arabs and hardening of their attitude towards Israel by three major industrial powers, namely Japan, France and West Germany. As opposed to the U.S.A., they lined up behind the Arabs in condemnation of Israel, asking for her total withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories. In this way, the Western countries led by the U.S.A. which had tried to divide the Arabs ultimately faced a division in their own ranks. This unexpected development which alarmed the U.S.A. resulted in paralysing the economy of the advanced countries and shifting the monetary balance in favour of the Arab oil exporters, especially Saudi Arabia. The emergence of Saudi Arabia under King Faisal, as the political as well as the spiritual leader of the Arab world, nay of the entire Muslim world, was a blessing to the Third World in general and Muslims in particular. Sincere and austere, unassuming and farsighted, courageous and virtuous, Faisal who was much respected by friends and foes alike throughout the world played a dominant role in international politics. His courageous and unbending stand against Israel emboldened the Arab world to stake their all for the liberation of the Holy City of Jerusalem from the hands of Israel and lined up the Third World behind the Arab demand for the evacuation of occupied Arab territories by Israel. The show of hands in favour of the Arab demand in the United Nations General Assembly during 1974 had alarmed the U.S.A., the principal supporter of Israel in the world today. The General Assembly Session had voted with an overwhelming majority for recognizing the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) as a party to the Palestine Dispute.

Saudi Arabia, a sparsely populated country is the greatest seller of oil in the world today. Ruled by Faisal, a “dour, ascetic and shrewd man”, according to Time Magazine, he had been mainly responsible for raising the oil prices in the world, much to the benefit of the oil-producing countries. He nationalized ARAMCO, the US oil-producing company in Saudi Arabia, thus bringing to an end an era in which the Western oil companies dominated and exploited the oil resources of Persian Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia, leaving only a nominal benefit to the oil-producing countries of the Middle East.

King Faisal was not only the richest of the OPEC leaders, he was one of the most respected persons in the world, and being the Custodian of the Holy cities of Makkah and Madina, he was the spiritual leader of the world’s 600 million Muslims. He had warned the U.S.A. that peace could not be established in the Middle East without the liberation of Jerusalem from Israel and unless he could pray freely in the Aqsa Mosque, without setting his foot on the Jewish territory. According to the ex-US-Secretary of the State, Mr. Henry Kissinger, “The King is a sort of moral conscience for many Arab leaders. By having great religious stature, he can act as a King of the pure representative of Arab nationalism. He has been able to maneuver Saudi Arabia from being a conservative state into a political bellwether”.

The West had under-estimated the power and sagacity of King Faisal, who united the oil-producing countries to teach a lesson to the friends of Israel. This enormously added to the prosperity and prestige of the Arab countries and paralyzed the Western economy. This new success gave new pride and political power to the Arabs and brought King Faisal widespread respect in the Arab World. His emphasis on the unity of the Islamic world instead of the narrow Arab nationalism earlier preached by late President Nasser of Egypt endeared him to the Muslims throughout the world. He was reorganized as the greatest Champion of the Muslim’s cause in the world. His heart bled on the miseries and misfortunes of Muslims and his eyes glittered with joy on their success in any part of the world. He was rightly acclaimed by the Muslims all over the world as their greatest spiritual and political leader.

Malik Faisal was a true Muslim. Like the Pious Caliphs of early Islam, he believed in simplicity, piety and service to mankind. He never compromised on principles and his life was free from all sorts of human weaknesses. He was a quiet sort of person. Once questioned that he seldom spoke even in the meetings of Arab Heads of States, Faisal replied: “God has given us two ears and one tongue, meaning that we should listen twice as much as we talk”. Although the richest ruler of his time, he disliked gorgeous dress, pomp and show, ate coarse food, neither drank nor smoked. He disliked obeisance which, according to him, was meant for Almighty God. His personal life was more simple than that of most of his subjects. He usually shared the seat with his driver while going out in his old car, when many of the Princes in Riyadh drive in gold plated Cadillacs. He disliked opulence. Succeeding King Saud, he declared that his brother’s Alhamra Palace in Jeddah was 100 ornate for me”, and decreed it to be used for visiting foreign dignitaries. He disliked kissing of hand and preferred to be addressed as Malik Faisal or Brother Faisal, instead of Your Mąjesty or Jalalat-ul-Malik, which he said were attributes meant for God only.

Faisal, according to the celebrated Maulana Maududi, had been the most versatile, virtuous, and universally respected Muslim Ruler since the time of Sultan Salahuddin Ayyubi. He was greatly responsible for modernizing and industrializing his Kingdom in a short period of 11 years of his regime. He established a network of good roads, magnificent buildings, schools, colleges, universities, libraries, hospitals, and modern factories; enlarged and renovated the Holy Shrines at Makkah and Madina; popularised female education and abolished slavery in his State which unfortunately have enormously increased in many of our advanced and developing countries today.

This benevolent, virtuous and sagacious Muslim Ruler was, alas assassinated on March 26, 1975, by one of his nephews. The entire Muslim world was stunned with grief on the assassination of the greatest Muslin leader of his time and the world mourned the loss of such a noble and farsighted ruler.

YAHYA BARMAKI Biography

The Barmakides have been one of the most talented and versatile families that have lived in the world of Islam. They have been, to a great extent, responsible for the glorious reign of the Abbaside Caliph, Haroon ar-Rashid, which has been immortalized by the famous Arabian Nights. The glory that was Baghdad, its cultural and literary life, was due to the Barmakides’ munificence and patronage, which has few parallels in living history.

Yahya bin Khalid Barmaki came into prominence during the reign of the Abbaside Caliph, Mansoor, who appointed him in 744–75 A.C., Governor of Azerbaijan. Three years later, he was appointed the tutor of young Haroon who later became the Viceroy of the Western half of the Empire, lying West of the Euphrates. Yahya was placed at the head of his Chancery.

After the death of Mehdi in August 785, Yahya gave his protege Haroon the wise advice to retire voluntarily in favor of his elder brother, whereupon Musa was acknowledged as Caliph with the title of Al Hadi. But relations between Yahya and the new Caliph who was extremely fickle-minded were strained. He suspected Yahya of supporting Haroon against his teen-aged son, Jafar, whom he wanted to make his successor against the will of his deceased father. Yahya refused to support this injustice to the highly talented Haroon as this was also against the interest of the Abbaside Caliphate. He was, therefore, put behind the bars and the night on which he was to be executed under the orders of the Caliph, Al Hadi died suddenly in September 786 A.C.

When Haroon ascended the throne of Baghdad in 786 A.C., Yahya Barmaki was appointed the Vizier and was entrusted with absolute power. He also associated his two sons Fazal and Jafar with the Government Administration. The glory of Haroon ar-Rashid’s Administration was mostly due to the Barmakide family who governed the State with undiminished glory for 17 years-786 to 803 A.C. The official seal initially withheld from him was soon placed under his control.

Yahya’s two sons Fazal and Jafar held important positions in the Government. Jafar was later appointed Vizier of the Caliph. Fazal was the foster brother of Haroon ar-Rashid who called Yahya “Father” as a mark of affection and regard for him.

Yahya’s Administration was wise, firm, and benevolent. He neglected no details and considered the well-being of the people as his primary duty.

His four sons, Fazal, Jafar, Musa, and Muhammad, possessed the administrative capacity of the highest order. Fazal held the post of Governor of Khurasan and Egypt and brought about the submission of Yahya bin Abdullah who had proclaimed himself the sovereign of Deilem. Jafar also held the post of Governor of several Provinces and was instrumental in bringing about peace between the rival tribes of Modhar and Himyar in Syria. Later on, when Yahya resigned due to old age, Jafar took his place.

Fazal was first to forfeit the favor of the Caliph whom he displeased and was deprived of all offices except his appointment as the tutor of Prince Ameen, the Heir Apparent. Jafar who was eloquent and legal minded was the tutor of Prince Mamoon, who later on succeeded Haroon ar-Rashid.

The Barmakides who served Haroon ar-Rashid with unswerving fidelity and the extraordinary ability for 17 years fell from grace in 803 A.C. Their grandeur and magnificence, as also their benevolence and lavish charity which had made them the idol of the masses, created a host of enemies who were continuously plotting for their fall. A number of causes have been assigned to their sudden fall, including the romance between Jafar and the Caliph’s sister, Abbasa, which is a mere fib disproved by later historical research. The celebrated Muslim historian Ibn Khaldun says that the true cause of the fall of Barmakides is to be found in “the manner in which they seized upon all authority, and assumed absolute control over public revenue, so much so, that Rashid was often forced to the necessity of asking for and not obtaining from the Chancellor small sums of money. Their influence was unlimited, and their renown had spread in every direction. All the high offices of the State, civil as well as military, were held by functionaries chosen from their family, or from among their partisans. All faces were turned towards them; all heads inclined in their presence; on them alone rested the hopes of applicants and candidates; they showered their bounties on all sides, in every province of the Empire, in the cities as well as in the villages; their praises were sung by all, and they were far more popular than their master”. All this earned them the hatred and jealousy of their Arab colleagues and ultimately aroused the suspicion of the Caliph. Their most sworn enemy was Fazal bin-Rabi, the Arab Chamberlain of Rashid’s Court who ultimately succeeded Jafar after his fall. Fazal first incurred the displeasure of the Caliph for his pro-Allied Policy and was removed from power in 799. Jafar, too, was reproached at occasions for abusing his power.

Haroon ar-Rashid, while returning from his pilgrimage in 802 A.C., suddenly decided to put an end to the Barmakide domination. On the night of January 28/29, 803, A.C., Jafar was executed. His brothers were incarcerated and their aged father, Yahya, was put under surveillance. Their property was confiscated. The aged Yahya died in prison in November 805. He was 70. His able son, Fazal, followed him to the grave, some years later.

Thus ended the career of Yahya Barmaki and his two illustrious sons who were greatly instrumental in adding a golden chapter to the history of Islam. Their proverbial generosity and patronage of art and learning had made Baghdad the Makkah of learned and talented persons who flocked there from all corners of the world. “They seem primarily to have served”, writes a Western writer, “the Caliphate effectively and loyally, pacifying Eastern Iran, repressing the risings in Syria and even Ifrikiya, obtaining the submission of rebels, even Alids, directing the Administration in an orderly fashion, guaranteeing to the State important resources, undertaking works of public interest (Canals of Katul and Şihan), setting wrong aright with equity and in accordance with the requirements of Islamic law and reinforcing the judicial institution of the office of the Great Qazi”.

The Barmakides activity was not confined merely to political and administrative spheres only. They were great patrons of art and culture science and learning. Their munificence to the persons possessing talents, including poets and writers, artists and musicians, scholars and theologians, philosophers, and scientists, was unbounded. Their assemblies were distinguished for the attendance of the most talented men of Baghdad who wrote and sung their praises long after their fall. The Arabian Nights have immortalized the figure of Jafar the Vizier and intimate companion of Haroon ar-Rashid.

WALEED-THE UMAYYAD CALIPH Biography

On the death of the Umayyad Caliph, Abdul Malik, known as the Charlemagne of the Arabs, in 705 A.C., his highly talented son, Waleed, succeeded him. In Waleed’s reign, the Arab rule was extended to its farthest limits which included Spain and Southern France in the West, Sind, Baluchistan, and Southern Punjab in the East and Transoxjana and Turkistan in the North. Three of the greatest Muslim conquerors, namely, Tariq, Qasim, and Qutaiba, swept away all resistance encountered in these lands.

Waleed was born in 651 A.C. He was brought up amidst the growing luxury and aristocracy of the House of Umayyad. He had developed an artistic taste from his childhood which led him to become the greatest builder of the Umayyad dynasty that ruled in Damascus.

Hardly 54 at the time, he brought to his high office the aristocratic outlook and religious fervor scarcely known among his predecessors.

Waleed’s reign is known as the golden period of the Umayyad Caliphate distinguished for its all-round progress. He embarked upon an unprecedented career of conquest in three directions which extended the Arab rule to its widest limits. He established a wise and firm administration which enabled him to devote himself to social and public welfare works.

Waleed appointed his saintly cousin Umar bin Abdul Aziz, as Governor of Hejaz. The new Governor set up a council of jurists and notables of Madina, which was consulted on all administrative matters. He beautified Makkah and Madina, rebuilt the Mosque of the Prophet, improved roads, and tried to erase signs of ravages committed in the Holy cities during the time of earlier Umayyad rulers. His just and generous administration in the Holy cities attracted many people who were groaning under the tyrannical rule of Hajjaj bin Yusuf, the Umayyad Viceroy of Iraq. The despot Hajjaj, who has become a legend of tyranny in the history of Islam, was an exceptionally capable Administrator who established firmly the Umayyad rule among the fickle-minded Iraqis. He was annoyed by the migration of a large number of Iraqis to Hejaz. At the instance of Hajjaj, Waleed removed Umar bin Abdul Aziz from his post amidst universal mourning.

Waleed’s fame rests on the marvelous Muslim victories which extended the boundaries of the Umayyad Empire from the mountains of the Pyrenees in the West to the walls of China in the East and from Kashgar in the North to the source of the Nile in the South.

The Modharite Chief Qutaiba bin Muslim Baheli who had been appointed as the Deputy Governor of Khurasan was an able strategist and General. He conquered Transoxiana and subjugated the whole of Central Asia up to the confines of Kashgar. He captured the important cities of Bukhara, Samarkand, and Farghana.

The territories of Baluchistan, Sind, and Southern Punjab were annexed by the youngest General in history, Muhammad bin Qasim, who through a glorious military campaign defeated the mightiest Indian ruler of the time, Raja Dahir of Debal. Through a lightning march along the Indus river valley, he swept away all resistance encountered in the way and in less than two years conquered the entire lower Indus valley up to Multan. Muhammad bin Qasim annexed a major portion of Southern Punjab and penetrated as far as the Beas. He set up a wise and benevolent Administration in the conquered territory which endeared him equally to Muslim and non-Muslim subjects.

Waleed’s brother, Maslamah who was the Captain-General of Muslim forces in Asia Minor, captured many important cities and annexed a large part of Asia Minor.

But the greatest military campaign in Waleed’s time was launched in NorthWestern Africa and Spain–under the able leadership of Musa bin Nusair, a Yemeni, and his able lieutenant Tariq bin Ziyad. Musa, son of Nusair, was the Umayyad Viceroy of Africa. He put down the Berber rebellion with a strong hand and pacified the entire North African territory. The Muslim settlements were harassed by the Byzantines from the Mediterranean. Musa, therefore, sent out expeditions, which captured the islands of Majorca, Minorca, and Ivica, which soon came to flourish under the Muslim rule.

Whilst Africa was enjoying peace and prosperity under the benevolent Muslim rule, Spain was groaning under the iron heels of the Goths. The Gothic King, Roderick, a debauchee, had dishonored his Governor Julian’s daughter, Florinda. The Governor invited Musa to liberate Spain from Roderick. Musa despatched his lieutenant, Tariq, with a small force for the purpose.

Tariq, son of Ziyad, an able lieutenant of Musa, landed on April 30, 711 A.C. with his small force at the Rock which now bears his name. He ordered his men to burn their boats and thus ended all hopes of their return. A fierce battle was fought in September 711 A.C., on the banks of the Guadalquivir, in which Roderick’s heavy forces were routed by the small Muslim force led by Tariq. Roderick was drowned in the Guadalquivir.

The moral effect of this memorable victory was immense. City after city of Gothic Spain threw open its gates to the Muslim Conqueror. Tariq divided his small army into four divisions which advanced in Spain in four directions. In June 712 A.C., Tariq was joined by Musa and the two Muslim conquerors reached as far as the Pyrenees. Leaving Tariq in Spain, Musa crossed into France and soon annexed a sizeable portion of Southern France. Standing on the Pyrenees, the dauntless Viceroy conceived the conquest of the whole of Europe and in all human probability he would have done so, had he not been recalled by Waleed. The West completely lay at his feet. The cautious and hesitant policy of the Umayyads deprived the Muslims of the glorious opportunity of conquering Europe. As a result, Europe remained enveloped in darkness for the next seven or eight centuries.

The recall of the two Muslim conquerors, Musa and Tariq, by Waleed, was, no doubt, most disastrous to the cause of Islam in the West.

The conquest of Spain by Muslims ushered there an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity which, in later years, gave birth to a glorious Muslim civilization that ultimately dispelled the darkness that had enveloped Mediaeval Europe.

Waleed is known as the greatest builder in the Umayyad dynasty. He built the Grand Mosque of Damascus, enlarged and beautified those of Madina and Jerusalem. Under his direction mosques were built in every city. He beautified the Capital city of Damascus with magnificent buildings, luxuriant gardens and refreshing fountains. The city bore broad roads lined with shady trees and aqueducts. He erected fortresses for the protection of frontiers and constructed roads and sank wells throughout the Empire. He established schools and hospitals, built orphanages and houses for the poor. He stopped promiscuous charity by granting allowances to the infirm and the poor from the State Treasury. He created asylums for the blind, the crippled and the insane where they were lodged and looked after by attendants appointed by the State. He himself visited the markets and noted the fluctuation in prices.

He was a great patron of art and learning; he granted pensions to poets and savants, legists, and Sufis. He was known for his generosity and benevolence.

His reign is known for its peace and prosperity. He is distinguished for giving the Arabian pattern to his Administration. He enjoyed undisputed popularity throughout the world of Islam, especially in Syria.

Waleed breathed his last on February 23, 715 A.C. at the age of 64 after a glorious reign of nine years and seven months.