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Month: May 2018

Osman Gazi and the Birth of the Ottoman Empire

In the summer heat in the year 1071, a history-changing battle was raging in the eastern part of Anatolia.

The Seljuk Turks from Central Asia, had built a powerful empire that was clashing with the mighty Byzantines Empire.

The result of the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 was a decisive Seljuk victory with the Byzantine army in tatters.

Turkish settlers created their own towns and cities, while intermarrying with the local populations, who were converting to Islam.

These states were known as “beyliks.” Each State had a leader who directed the Ghazi’s. By the 1200s, there were numerous beyliks.

One of these beyliks was that of ghazi by the name of Osman. He was born in 1258, the same year Baghdad was destroyed by the Mongols.

Legend has it that Osman once had a dream in which a tree grew out of his chest. It’s roots and branches grew to cover Asia, Europe, and Africa.

Osman’s Shaykh interpreted the dream as a sign that Osman’s descendants would have an empire that controlled the three continents.

The borders of Osman’s beylik in the town of Söğüt in northwestern Anatolia pressed right up against the Byzantine Empire.

This made being a ghazi vital and central to Osman’s life. As a result, his stature grew and ghazis rushed to join his growing state.

In addition to this, the Mongol armies were still wreaking havoc on Southwest Asia, and fleeing refugees found a new home in Osman’s beylik.

With a huge influx of warriors, Osman continued to press against the Byzantines who were at this point were in full decline.

As a result, Osman greatly expanded his territory throughout the opening decades of the 1300s. His beylik became an empire.

The Ottomans themselves called their state Devlet-i Osmaniyye, Turkish for “The State of Osman”. Known in English as “The Ottomans.”


Osman’s Dream – Book by Caroline Finkel
Hourani, Albert Habib. A History Of The Arab Peoples. New York: Mjf Books, 1997. Print.
Itzkowitz, Norman. Ottoman Empire And Islamic Tradition. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1981. Print.

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When the Mongols Destroyed Baghdad

For many historians, the arrival of the Mongols in Baghdad is the single most devastating moment in the history of the Muslim Middle East.

It’s easy to see why—and hard to argue otherwise—because the ransacking of Baghdad would mark the end of the Islamic Golden Age.

Baghdad had been established in 762 by the Abbasid Caliph al-Mansur. Throughout its history, it had been the capital of the Muslims, as well as the world in general.

The libraries of Baghdad were unrivaled. The House of Wisdom, established soon after the city was built, was a magnet for the most intelligent scientists, thinkers, mathematicians, and linguists of the world.

But by the mid-1200s, the Abbasid Caliphate was nothing but a shell of its former self, having no power outside of Baghdad.

Most of Persia was disunited as the Khwarazmian Empire had mostly deteriorated by then. The Ayyubid state established by Salah al-Din was only in control of small parts of Iraq and Syria.

The Abbasid army was effectively non-existent, and only served as bodyguards of the caliph. And the scientific achievements of the Muslim world were now centered in places such as Cairo, Muslim Spain, and India.

It was at this historic and landmark city that the Mongols arrived in 1258. Their army, estimated at over 150,000 soldiers, stood before the city that was just a shadow of the great capital of the Muslim world of the 800s.

The siege began in mid-January and only lasted two weeks. On February 10th, 1258, the Mongols entered the city of the caliphs.

A full week of pillage and destruction commenced. The Mongols showed no discretion, destroying mosques, hospitals, libraries, and palaces.

The books from Baghdad’s libraries were thrown into the Tigris River in such quantities that the river ran black with the ink from the books.

The loss of life is estimated that between 200,000 and 1,000,000 people were butchered in that one week of destruction.

Baghdad was left completely depopulated and uninhabitable. It would take centuries for Baghdad to regain any sort of prominence as an important city.

After Baghdad, the Mongols continued on westward. They conquered Syria from the Ayyubids, with help from the Armenians and neutrality from the Crusaders.

In Palestine they reached the extent of their conquests. The new Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt, under the leadership of Baibars defeated the Mongols at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260.

This prevented a Mongol invasion of the Holy Lands of Makkah, Madinah, and Jerusalem. This also ensured the safety of the only remaining powerful Muslim empire of the time, the Mamluks.

Despite ultimately being unsuccessful in their attempt to destroy Islam, the Mongols left a deep political, economic, and military scar in the heart of the Muslim world.

Entire regions were depopulated. Irrigation canals, fields of crops, and economic infrastructure were destroyed beyond repair.

The political institutions, such as the caliphate, that held the Muslim world together for centuries were simply abolished.

The Mongol Il-Khanate established by Hulagu’s descendants would rule …

Who Won the Indian-Pakistan War of 1965?

Who Won The 1965 Indo-Pak War

In 1965. Pakistan launched a secret mission to send 30,000 armed men into Indian-administered Kashmir to incite an insurgency and liberate Kashmir from India known as Operation Gibraltar.

By the time Indian forces realized this had happened, the fighters had reached the outskirts of Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir.
As the Indian military offensive seemed to gain success, the Indian Army captured the Haji Pir pass inside Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

To counter this, the Pakistani Army launched an attack in Akhnoor in Jammu. Suffering losses here, India called its air force.
The escalation of the war here made India open a front in Wagah in Punjab – to the surprise of the Pakistanis. The Pakistanis repelled this attack well.

Eventually, the international community forced a ceasefire and the two countries signed an agreement in Tashkent, whereby both returned to pre-1965 territorial positions.

Since the Indian attack across Wagah threatened Lahore and Sialkot, Pakistanis say the Indians lost the war and Pakistan won.
Since Pakistan’s plan to liberate Kashmir failed, and the year ended with Pakistan getting not a single inch of new territory, the Indians say they won.

Independent historians, however, are clear that it was a military stalemate and neither side won.

It is perhaps apt that both India and Pakistan say they won this war, showing up each other’s nationalism for what it is.

India’s own official history of the war, published only two years ago, is scathing in its review of how poorly the Indian army and air force performed.

Pakistan on the other hand does not even pretend that it provoked the war by trying to liberate Kashmir.

It is one thing to commemorate the soldiers who lost their lives, another to celebrate a war ‘victory.’ Truth is, both countries lost a lot in that war.

Firstly, the war made Kashmir an intractable issue forever. The Pakistanis tried to liberate Jammu & Kashmir in 1948 in a similar way.

That got them a chunk of the territory but not the prized Kashmir Valley itself. India took the issue to the United Nations.

The 1965 war should also be read as a failure of the UN, and of diplomatic negotiations between India and Pakistan. If war is a continuation of politics, diplomacy is war by other means.

The most important consequence of the 1965 war was that, for the first time, the India-Pakistan border became a Berlin Wall of sorts.

Until 1965, visas were easy, Indian and Pakistani films were screened in theatres across the border, trade ties were normal, books and journals went across easily.

India–Pakistan relations as we know them today, were formed more by 1965 than by the 1948 war, or arguably, by Partition itself.

In 1947, there were people who left their homes to go and live in the other country, thinking they could always return. 1965 ended that dream.

It is said that 1965 was the first real war between the two countries. Six year later, India …

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