Blessings of Islam

What is Islam

Purpose of Religion

Concept of Allah

Qur'an: A Divine Book

The Sunnah: Traditions

The Ideal Prophet

Spirit of Islam

Cardinal Principles

Islam, A Western View

Injunctions of Islam

Khalifat & Early History

Spread of Islam

Virtues of Islam

Chishtis and Islam










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Khilafat & Its Early History

Rise and Fall of Ommayyad, Abbassi and Saluki Kingdoms.

A peep into the early history of Khilafat and Islam is essentially necessary at this stage specially to enable our non-Muslim brothers and sisters to have a thorough understanding of the unique Divine Mission of Hazrat Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti.

   This section is therefore devoted to the early history of Khilafat and the deviation of the Bani Ommayya from the true path of Islam, fired by the greed and love of unbridled materialism under the influence of their appetitive soul (Nafs). It was this deviation which caused the tragedy of Kerbala.

   After the death of the Holy Prophet Muhammad , the question of succession became a difficult problem as no successor was nominated. The Muhajerins (those who followed the Prophet from Mecca to Medina in Hijrat) wanted Hazrat Abu Bakr to be the Caliph. But the Ansars wanted two Imams, one for themselves and another for the Quraish and the Muhajerins.

Hazrat ‘Umar, however, handled the dispute most tactfully and Hazrat Abu Bakr was elected to be the first Caliph of Islam. This decision excluded Hazrat Ali, the Prophet's cousin and son-in-law, who, according to some, should have been the rightful successor of the Prophet. But the principle of free election in Islam was held high which even the magnanimous Ali himself did not grudge. This dispute, however, has been the cause of some differences between the Shia and Sunni sects of Muslims.

   Hazrat Abu Bakr lived a very pious life following in the footsteps of the Holy Prophe t. During his Caliphate, Mesopotamia and Syria came under Islamic dominion. Before his death, he nominated Hazrat ‘Umar as his successor, a decision which was again unanimously hailed by all Muslims including the family of the Prophet .

   During Hazrat ‘Umar's Caliphate, two of the most powerful Empires of the Persians and the Romans came under Islamic sovereignty. He made Khilafat a very powerful institution and was one of the greatest administrative geniuses Islam has ever produced. He founded many useful systems and institutions for a truly benevolent government. He strictly followed the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and the traditions of the Holy Prophet and never swerved from the tenets of Islam. He lived a strictly austere life and took special pains in administering love and justice to the people strictly in accordance with the Laws of Islam.

   Hazrat ‘Umar was, however, fatally wounded by a fanatic disbeliever while he was in prayers, but, before he succumbed to his injuries, he nominated a Council of Regency discriminantly omitting his son Abdullah from the Khilafat. Subsequently Hazrat Usman Ghani, who is reputed for his philanthropy and magnanimity, was unanimously installed as the third Caliph of Islam. For six years during his Caliphate, propagation of Islam in foreign countries continued successfully but once more the fatal hand of mischief-mongers fell on this Caliph also and he was assassinated.

Hazrat Ali

   Hazrat Ali now succeeded as the fourth Caliph of Islam. The Shias maintain that Hazrat Ali, being the son-in-law of the Prophet , was the rightful heir to the Caliphate and should have been proclaimed Caliph indisputably after the death of the Prophet . Dissensions on this point had been continuing and some disgruntled persons stirred up feelings against Hazrat Ali.

   Muawiya, the ambitious governor of Syria, did not recognize Hazrat Ali's election and refused to pay homage to him. Civil war followed and this glorious son of Islam, while in prayers in a mosque in Kufa (Iraq), was attacked by an assassin who struck him a serious blow with the sword from which he could not survive. This was another fatal blow to Islam in its early history.

After Hazrat Ali's untimely death, unfortunately, greed and materialism entered the portals of the Islamic community. The ambitious Muawiya had his chance and was successful in securing the consent of Hazrat Imam Hassan (the elder son of Hazrat Ali) to waive his right to the Caliphate and, in 661 A.D., the people of Kufa were influenced to elect Muawiya for this high office. The short-lived period of the patriarchal Khilafat had thus ended with the death of Hazrat Ali. The well-known tragedy of Kerbala in which Hazrat Imam Husain (the younger son of Hazrat Ali) died as one of the greatest martyrs of the world, sealed the fate of Khilafat in the Prophet's family.

   The nefarious idea behind this tragedy was to destroy all the legitimate and legal claimants or successors to this office of Khilafat from the blood of the Holy Prophet. But this was not to be, as the blood-heritage of the Holy Prophet did survive even after this gruesome tragedy, by the grace of God. Many Muslim saints were born of this sacred heritage to carry on the torch of Islam in the world and Hazrat Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti of Ajmer was one of them to played such a glorious role in preaching Islam.

   After the death of Hazrat Ali, the aristocracy of Mecca seized all political power and the seat of Khilafat was also transferred from Medina to Damascus. The first four Caliphs of Islam lived a very humble life. They wore clothes with patches and never permitted any pomp and show of royalty in their courts. They performed their duties in the spirit of piety and benevolence and maintained no elaborate machinery for government. They personally looked after the affairs of administration.

   This short period of 30 years, during which the first four Caliphs ruled, is called the Khilafat-ul-Kamila, (the perfect Caliphate), for in each case their title to the rulership of Islam was confirmed by the entire Muslim nation. They rendered meritorious services to the cause of Islam. They propagated Islam with all humility, presenting it in its true spirit before the world. In short, they lived and died for Islam.

Muawiya, The First Muslim King

   Muawiya was the first Caliph of the House of Ommayads who seized power in 661 A.D. and whose house ruled till 749 A.D. He was the first king in Islam, though he retained and used officially the title of Khalifa and "Commander of the faithful." Now the Khilafat ceased to be elected and the hereditary principle was introduced.

Even after the fall of the Ommayyads hereditary succession became a general rule. Religion was no longer the determining factor in the politics of the Khilafat and the Ommayyads developed imperialistic fashions. From this period the secular and spiritual functions of Islam were separated. They built up a very big empire the boundaries of which reached its farthest limits in the West and in the East.

   The African Burbars were subdued; Spain was conquered; and in 712 A.D. Mohammed-bin-Qasim annexed Sind in India also. While the Ommayyads by their military exploits extended the Muslim Empire far and wide, they crushed the real spirit of Islam. They loved pomp and pageantry of power and built up a brilliant court. They cultivated the royal ways and customs like other monarchs though they were predominantly Arabian in their habits.

The Abbasides

   The later Ommayyads thus lost both the character and the spiritual valor of Islam. There were internal rebellions and external wars which weakened and destroyed their power. In 132 A.H. Abul Abbas conquered Iraq, declared himself Khalifa in the mosque of Kufa and, wiping off the last remnants of Ommayyads, laid the foundation for the rule of Bani Abbas at Baghdad.

   The Abbassides ruled from 749 to 1256 A.D. at Baghdad, which was their capital for about 500 years, during which period it was the center of all intellectual, political and social activities of Islam. At one time it was considered to be the largest city of the world.

With the accession of tile Abbassides to power, the Arab element receded into background and Iranian influences became predominant. Persian ways and manners were adopted by the court and the Caliphs tried to imitate the glories of the old kings of Persia. Power corrupted them and with the passage of time, the Abbasside Caliphs became mere puppets in the hands of the Turks who were employed in their military commands.

   Their political authority declined and ultimately in 1256 A.D. Halaku Khan, the grandson of Gengiz Khan, invaded Baghdad and killed Al-Mustasim, the then-ruling Caliph, which tragedy dropped the curtain on Abbasside rule for ever. The best period of the Abbasside rule was from 170 A.H. to 218 A., when Caliphs Haroon-ul-Rashid and Mamcon reigned.

   Both of them were highly intelligent and able rulers. During their regimes, peace prevailed and the country flourished both intellectually and materially. The pomp and pageantry of their courts have been proverbially famous throughout the world and their wealth knew no bounds. The well-known publication Arabian Nights is based in this period.

Rise of the Saljuks

   With the decline of the Abbassides, whose suzerainty was now confined to Baghdad, a Suljuki tribe of Turkistan gradually rose to power in Khorasan whose exploits in the cause of Islam deserve a special mention here. Its defender was a brave son of the Ghuz dynasty. He had some trouble with the king of Turkistan and migrated with 100 sowars, 1000 camels and 50,000 sheep to Jand, near Bokhara, where he embraced Islam. Islam by that time had not fully spread among the tribes of Ghuz and Turkistan.

   This leader often fought to repel the occasional invasions of the barbarous tribes from surrounding districts. He also used to help the Sosant kings from time to time and ultimately formed a small kingdom of his own in the neighborhood of Mawar-un Nahar (Transoxiana). On his death, his grandsons Tughral Beg and Chaqar Beg succeeded him and played a most brilliant part in the history of Islam. They collected a large army by enlisting a considerable number of the Ghuz tribes from, Central Asia and for years continued to fight successfully against the rulers of Bokhara and Kashghar and the governors of Sultan Mahmood of Ghazni.

They consolidated and spread their power gradually and, at last captured Moro, at one time the capital of Afghanistan. Masood, son of Sultan Mahmood of Ghazni, was thus compelled to raid their territory with a big army of 70,000 Sowars and 30,000 troops supported by a large number of elephants. But the Saljukis cleverly avoided a direct battle. But when Masood had taken Balkh and Nishapur, both Tugbrai Beg and Chaqar Beg fought and defeated him, he had to run for his life back to Ghazni where he died soon after this defeat.

   After this brilliant victory, the Saljukis now ruled over all the cities of Khorasan and established two centers of their government--Balkh in the East and Nishapur in the West. Both Tughral and Chaqar were excellent administrators. They divided their duties wisely between themselves. Tughral Beg assumed charge of the administration while Chaqar Beg took over command of the army. Tughral Beg then left his brother in charge of Khorasan and himself proceeded towards Kirman, Hamdan, Jarjan and Azerbaijan, all of which he conquered. He then turned towards Syria and returned only after annexing the whole of the surrounding lands of the Roman Empire. Chaqar Beg, however, died during his brother's absence and was succeeded by his son Alap Arsalaan.

   When Tughral Beg also died after some time Alap Arsalaan took over full command of this vast kingdom from the River Joehun (Bactrus) to the Euphrates. During his reign there was another decisive war with the Romans who carried an injured feeling against Tughral's attacks and had been longing for a vengeance ever since their defeat. They thought that after Tughral's death they had a splendid opportunity to capture Baghdad. When this news reached Alap Arsalaan he lost no time to run to the help of Baghdad, conquering Armenia and Girjistan on his way.

Kaiser Armanus, king of the Romans, met him with a mighty army of more than 100,000 that included French, Normans, Macedonians, Bulgarians and some Turkish soldiers. This big force was also reinforced by more Christian battalions on the way. Alap Arsalaan had only 40,000 troops. When both the armies faced each other, he offered to make a treaty of peace to avoid bloodshed, but Kaiser Armanus rejected the offer, as he was too proud and confident of his victory. His condition for peace was that Alap Arsalaan must surrender the city of Ray, the Muslim seat of government in their central region, to which the Sultan did not agree. At last a bloody war took place in which brave Alap Arsalaan personally led his army with the sacred vow of not to return alive from the battlefield, setting an example to his army to fight desperately to the bitter end. He then arranged his troops so carefully that after a full day's battle, he succeeded in routing the enemy.

   Kaiser Armanus was wounded and taken prisoner. When he was presented before the Sultan, he was treated royally and was provided with a separate furnished tent attended by Muslim Sardars according to his royal dignity. During the course of conversation, the following questions and answers were exchanged:

Sultan: "How would you like to be treated now?"

Kaiser: "If you are a cruel king, then behead me; if you are liberal then make me your slave, but it is in your interest to free me after taking a ransom."

Sultan: "Suppose if I would have been your prisoner, what treatment would you have given me?"

Kaiser: "I would have lashed you." The Sultan smiled and with an air of magnanimity replied: "Anyway, I shall not treat you like this."

A treaty was then signed on the conditions that the Kaiser would pay 1,000,000 sovereigns as war damage with 360,000 sovereigns as annual tribute; that all Muslim prisoners shall be freed; and that the Kaiser shall marry his daughter to the son of the Sultan.

Alap Arsalaan, after this great victory, returned to conquer Turkistan which was one of his ancestor's ambitions. This was the priming period of Sultan Alap Arsalaan's reign which spread into the farthest of the Caspian coast. But a severe tragedy awaited him. Soon after his return from the southern front, he was obliged to embark upon another military campaign against an ordinary chief named Yusuf who had rebelled in Turkistan. Yusuf was too poor a match for the Sultan's army. He was arrested and brought before him. While under interrogation, Yusuf insulted the Sultan who ordered his beheading. This infuriated Yusuf, and he drew out his dagger to attack the Sultan. When the courtiers intervened, the Sultan instructed them: "Let him come. I will make him the target of my own arrow." Alap Arsalan was an excellent archer but this time his foot slipped and he missed the aim. Before he could recover, Yusuf's dagger plunged into him, and thus one of Islam's most brilliant sons left this world in 465 A.H.


   It must be remembered that all the brilliant achievements of Alap Arsalaan were in a great measure due to the very able support of his Wazeer, Nizam-ul-Mulk, who was a genius in political and administrative affairs. Islamic history has produced very few able statesmen of his caliber. Apart from his military exploits, Alap's short reign of 12 years was a period of all-round prosperity for his subjects.

Malik Shah

   On the death of Alap Arsalaan, his son Malik Shah succeeded him at the early age of 19. Aided by the guidance of his father's Wazeer, Nizam-ul-Mulk, he also undertook many new conquests and spread his dominions in the East right up to the borders of China, subduing the rebellious Tartars by consecutive defeats. On his return from this campaign, he turned to the Western and Southern countries and reached Girjistan after annexing all the intervening Roman lands. The Kaisar had stopped payment of his annual tribute so he attacked the Roman Empire and conquered the whole country from Antakia to Constantinople forcing the Kaiser to a treaty on the promise of paying his tribute regularly in future.

A Diligent Ruler

   Malik Shah lived a most strenuous life and spent all his time in personally looking after the administrative affairs of his kingdom. He seldom stayed in his capital and constantly toured over his vast empire which now extended from the borders of China in the East to the Roman Empire in the West. He toured through his big country twelve times during his reign, visited each province personally and ordered bridges, mosques, canals, schools, hospitals, roads and caravanserais equipped with amenities for travelers to be built for the benefit of his subjects. Like his father, he was the most benevolent king of the Saljuki dynasty. Wherever he traveled, he showered wealth upon his people. Historians have paid him illuminating tributes for his qualities of head and heart.

The Downfall

   Indeed, the secret of this Saljuki king's extraordinary success was due to Nizam-ul-Mulk who was as good and able a Wazeer as Malik Shah himself was a king. This combination worked miracles. Nizam-ul-Mulk has written a very authentic book on politics called Siyasat Nama which contains rules and policies for running a successful government. This able Wazeer had also solved many religious disputes among the Muslims.

   Certain tribes, like the Baatanis and the Qaraatmis used to utter disrespectful remarks against other Sunni sects after the Friday prayers. This injured the feelings of the Ulema so much that they were compelled to migrate to other lands. Nizam-ul-Mulk wisely solved this problem by discontinuing the practice and bringing back all the learned Ulema with due honor. He founded great universities in Baghdad and Nishapur known as Nizamia after his name, where thousands of scholars received education in Oriental learning and philosophy, art and other sciences.

The great Sheikh Hazrat Abdul Qadar Gilani (ra) of Baghdad, Hazrat Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti (ra), Imam Al-Ghazali (ra) and many other learned dervishes and Sufis had received their education in these Nizamia universities, which attracted students from distant countries also. Nizam-ul-Mulk also discontinued many old taxes for the well-being of his master's subjects and effected many beneficial changes in the old systems of revenue. He was a pious Muslim and never missed his prayers. In response to the call of the Azan, he left everything, however urgent, in order to offer his prayers first.

End of a Great Epoch

   In the concluding years of Malik Shah's life, many disputes arose about his successor and, due to the intrigues of Queen Turkan Khatoon (mother of Prince Mahmood, the youngest son of Malik Shah) and some shortsighted courtiers, the king was unavoidably obliged to remove Nizam-ul-Mulk from the office of Wizarat (premiership). Immediately after this, a Baatani Fidayee (member of a reactionary party that played havoc in the early history of Islam) killed this great Wazeer at the instance of Hasan bin Sabah who has a long story of his reactionary activities. Thirty three days after this heart-rending tragedy, king Malik Shah also died of a broken heart and thus the curtain rang down over one of the most illuminating chapters of the early history of Islam.

After Malik Shah

   Malik Shah had four sons: Barkiyarooq, Mohammed, Sanjar and Mahmood. In spite of Queen Turkan Khatoon's intrigues, her youngest son Mahmood failed to succeed the king against the claim of the eldest son Barkiyarooq. But Barkiyarooq had none of the qualities of either the late king or the late Wazeer to hold the kingdom together. Mahmood usurped Azerbaijan, Isfahan and Armania. Sanjar rebelled and took forcible possession of the territory from Jarjan to Maawar-un-Nahar, leaving only Khuzistan, Persia, Dayar Bakr and Ray to Barkiyarooq, who died in 498 A.H. after a short rule. Mutual wars between the remaining three brothers then started from which Sultan Sanjar emerged successful in securing sovereignty over the whole kingdom.

Ruinous Wars

   At the time of Hazrat Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti's birth, (536 - 537 A.H.) it was this very Sultan Sanjar who was ruling over Khorasan, Sistan and Iran. Although Sultan Sanjar was a wise and brave ruler, ill luck always dominated him and never allowed him to settle down in peace. Throughout his whole life he was fighting against his brothers and their sons. This continued warfare naturally weakened him and his government. His administrative machinery deteriorated beyond repair yet he never lost his courage and perseverance. Although he met conspicuous success in Iran, in the Western and Southern parts of his kingdom he could not maintain his authority for long. In the meantime, a long series of wars with Chughtayce Tartars and Karghezi tribes had also broken out which gave a death blow to Saljuki power after it had flourished for about 100 years.

If we glance over the vastness of the Saljuki kingdom, we find that except the Abbasside period of 500 years, such an extensive Muslim Empire had never existed. Even from the administrative point of view, such a vast kingdom had seldom enjoyed a better and peaceful organization with all-round tranquillity in the early history of Islamic rule in Central Asia. The names of Alap Arsalaan, Nizamul-Mulk and Malik Shah, who strengthened the foundations of their kingdom and successfully managed this great Empire will ever shine in the annals of Islamic history.

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