Islam Under Scrutiny by Ex-Muslims

Genghis Khan Meets Islam


It is by means of this article that I shall try and bring out a few of these facts before condemning Genghis khan Hence it is for this purpose that we see the events which eventually lead to the Mongol invasion into the Muslim territories. While Genghis Khan was a military genius is still a sort of cult figure amongst his people, he never misguided people into believing that he was a Prophet of God. Hence we can easily see the actions of this man in the context of the society that he was born and brought up into. Let us begin with a brief chronology of events that took place in the life of Genghis Khan.

Chronology of life and death of Genghis Khan

c. 1167
Birth of Temujin future Genghis/Chingis Khan
The Khuriltai (assembly) give the title of "Chingis Khan"
Campaign against the Xi Xia.
1211, 1213, 1215
Campaigns against the Jin Empire.
Mongols lay siege to the Jin capital of Zhongdu (modern day Beijing), which falls in 1215. Areas north of the Huang He becomes under Mongol control. Jin capital is moved south to Kai-feng.
Conquest of the Kara Kitai. Mongols raid Korea.

Mongol caravan and ambassadors are murdered by the Khwarazmians. War against Khwarazm (Persia) begins. Capture of Bokhara and Samarkand.

Subedei begins expedition around the Caspian Sea and into Russia. Jalal ad-Din rises in Persia and challenges the Mongols. Jalal ad-Din defeated at the battle of Indus. War with the Kwarazmian Empire concludes.
Final campaign against the Xia Xia.
Genghis Khan dies. War with the Xi Xia concludes.

Early years

Born to the noble family of Yesugei and Ho'elun, Genghis Khan was first called Temuchin. During the period from late 12th to early 13th century, Temudjin, consolidated all the Mongol tribes and placed under his leadership a centralized empire which brought the Mongols to a new stage of development. In 1206, he had a clan meeting held on the bank of the Onon river, at which he was proclaimed the Great Khan, with the reign title of Genghis Khan. He was later known as Emperor Tai Zu of the Yuan Dynasty.

When Temujin was nine years old, his father was poisoned by Tartar chiefs. Since he was much too young to rule, his clansmen deserted him. Temujin and his family (7 people total) moved to the most desolate areas of the steppes, eating roots and rodents for living. He had many great adventures, ranging from chasing horse thieves to being captured by enemies. When Temujin was 16, the Merkid Tribe attacked his family and captured his wife. With an army of five men, Temujin could not retaliate on his own, so he turned to one of his father's old friends, Toghrul Khan of the Kereyid Tribe, who in turn, also enlisted a Mongol coalition leader, Jamugha.

Together they defeated the Merkids and Temujin recovered his wife. Temujin quickly took advantage of his powerful allies, particularly Jamugha, who was also happened to be a Mongol and a childhood friend of his, and became a notable figure on the steppes. Temujin and Jamugha took control over most of the Mongol Clans, but that was not enough for Temujin.

According to the Secret History of the Yuan Dynasty, one day while Temujin and Jamugha were riding at the front of the Mongols, Temujin decided to "keep going" while Jamugha stopped to pitch tent. Temujin broke up with Jamugha and the Mongols were split into two groups. Hostilities soon broke out between the two parties. In a clash over a minor event, Temujin was defeated and was forced into exile. However, Temujin returned ten years later and reestablished his position. From there, he embarked on a conquest of the Mongolia that lasted several years. Unfortunately, the details are too great to be perused in this article. In short, by 1204 Temujin had subjugated all that opposed him. He defeated the Tartars, the Kereyids tribe under Toghrul Khan (who Eventually betrayed him), the Naimans the Merkids, and Jamugha's Mongol clans.

The Empire by 1204

In 1206, Temujin held a great Khuriltai (assembly) on the banks of the Onon River. There, he took the title Genghis Khan. The name Genghis Khan is commonly referred to as Genghis Khan. However, "Genghis" is actually a corrupted variation, and thus for accuracy reason, he will be referred to as "Genghis " Khan. During the Khuriltai of 1206, Genghis Khan decreed the structure and laws for his new Empire. To ensure stability and cooperation between people of the tribes that he united, Genghis Khan installed a military superstructure to integrate all the peoples of his Empire. The population was divided into units responsible for maintaining a certain amount of warriors ready at any given time, thus overriding previous tribal organizations. Furthermore, he decreed many specific laws and created an efficient administrative hierarchy. Genghis Khan created the most advanced government of any steppe nation up to that time. His horde would soon prove to be the most disciplined, the most powerful and the most feared army to ride from the steppes.

The War in Northern China

Genghis Khan became emperor of "all who lived in felt tents," but his dreams was to conquer the world. First, he led his men in a series of campaigns against the Xi Xia Empire in western China. In 1209, the Xi Xia capital was threatened, but the Mongols were satisfied with tribute after their camp was unexpectedly flooded. It must be understood that the Mongols were still more interested in and tribute plunder rather than to capture cities. However, as the Empires in China discontinued to pay tribute once the Mongols withdraw, the raids soon turned into conquest. In 1211, Genghis Khan took 65,000 men and marched against the Jin Empire of Northern China. With the help of the Ongguts, a people who lived on the Jin's northern border, Chingis Khan easily passed through the defenses and marched into Jin territory. He continued a trail of plunder until he met a large force of around 150,000 men, which he defeated. Chingis split his army and launched a multiple pronged attack on the Jin. He and his generals dealt several blows against the Jin, including capturing the strategic Juyong pass. Unfortunately, Genghis was wounded during a siege and withdrew to Mongolia. Subsequently, Jin forces began to recapture territories loss to the Mongols.

In 1213, the Mongols returned after learning that the Jin had refortified their locations. Genghis divided his army into three parts, one under command by himself and the other two, under his sons. The three Mongol armies devastated the Jin Empire, and by 1214, most of the area north of the Huang He (Yellow river) was in Mongol hands. One exception was the city of Chungdu, capital of the Jin Empire. Like other nomadic armies, Genghis Khan's Mongol hordes were entirely cavalry, and the weakness of cavalry forces was the lack of ability to capture fortifications. Genghis realized this weakness and was quick to capture Chinese siege engineers to learn siege tactics. Despite so, Chungdu withstood the Mongols' assaults. Chingis's men became short on supplies and were ravaged by plague, but he tenaciously continued the siege. Accounts describe that every tenth man was sacrificed to be fed to the others. But the siege went on for so long that Genghis had to personally abandon the campaign. He then placed his general Mukali in charge. The Mongols finally entered the city in 1215, but by then, the Jin capital had already been moved south to Kai-feng.

The First Move West - the Conquest of the Kwarazm-Shah Empire

Genghis lost interest in the war in China and instead, turned his attention towards the west. He got interested in trading especially with the countries due west from Mongolia. Thus he began sending trade caravans to those countries. However this did not last long. As the once Free Silk Route, extending from Korea going through Tibet and Kashmir right into Central Asia and Arabia, was after the advent of Islam taken over by Warlords. These very the same people who once used to be peaceful Buddhists. However now with their conversion to Islam they began to follow the footsteps of their Prophet and were thus encouraged to loot caravans which passed through their lands. All said the real issue was with the huge Kwarazmian Empire in Persia. Hostilities broke out when the Kwarazm Shah (a Muslim king) attacked a Mongol caravan and humiliated Chingis's ambassadors by burning their beards. Since Genghis had sent the ambassadors for the purpose of making peace, he was outraged. Chingis prepared for the largest operation he had yet performed and assembled a force that totaled around 90-110,000 men. The total numerical strength of the Kwarazm shah was two to three times greater, but Chingis' army was better disciplined, and most of all, better led.

In 1219, Chingis's sons Chaghadai and Ogedei set out to attack the city of Utar located east of the Aral Sea. Meanwhile, Chingis' general, Chepe, marched southwestward to protect the left flank during the operation. The main attack, however, was led by Chingis Khan himself, who along with general Subedei, marched through the Kizil Kum desert and outflanked the Kwarazmiam forces. The plan was that the Kizil Kum desert was considered impractical to cross, which made it a great opportunity to surprise the enemy. Chingis and his army disappeared into the desert and suddenly, out of nowhere, he appeared at the city of Bokhara. The city garrison was stunned, and was quickly defeated. Next, Chingis marched towards Samarkand, capital of the Kwarazmian Empire. The magnificent city was heavily fortified and had a garrison of 110,000 men, which vastly outnumbered Chingis' besieging army. The city was expected to be able to hold out for months, but on March 19, 1220 its walls were breached in just ten days. After the fall of Samarkand, the Mongols overran much of the Empire. Devastation was so great that the Kwarazmian Empire itself was nearly wiped away from history. The conquest of the Kwarazm also created another remarkable event. After his defeat, the Kwarazm Shah fled west and Subedei followed in pursue with a force of 20,000 men. The Kwarazm Shah died, however, but Subedei went further. He brought his army north and defeated a heavily outnumbering Russian and Cuman army at the Khalka River. He went further and attacked the Volga Bulgars before returning back. As said by the famed history Gibbons, Subedei's expedition was one of the most daring expeditions in history, unlikely to be repeated ever again.

During the entire campaign, the Kwarazm Shah failed to assemble an army to fight the Mongols on the battlefield. The Kwarazm strategy relied on its extensive city garrisons that outnumbered the besieging Mongol armies. This of course, failed in every way. The only well organized resistance against the Mongols came from Jalal ad-Din (another muslim general), who after the fall of Samarkand, organized a resistance force in modern day Afghanistan. At Parwan, he defeated a Mongol force led by one of Chingis' adopted son, making it the only Mongol defeat in the entire campaign. Genghis chases after Jalal ad-Din and destroyed his army at the Indus River. The defeat of Jalal ad-Din meant the consolidation of rule of Transoxania. However, the southern parts of the Kwarazmian Empire were left unconquered and later turned into a collection of Independent states.

At the age approaching sixty, Chingis' health was at a decline. He sought the legendary Daoist monk Changchun for the elixir to Immortality. His wish did not come true, as Changchun had no magical elixir, but Genghis praised his wisdom and the two became good friends. Following the meeting with the Daoist monk, Genghis returned to the administration side of his objectives. Unlike Attila the Hun and Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan realized the importance of a smooth succession after his death. Before he completed his conquest of the Kwarazmian Empire, he had already carefully chosen his son Ogedei to be his successor. After Genghis returned to Mongolia to finish establish the administration structure of his empire, all the matters were in good order, except for the Tanguts. The Tangut Xi Xia Empire had long been defeated by the Mongols, but became more of a tributary rather than being annexed. However, the Tanguts had stopped complying with terms while Chingis was away. In 1226, Genghis Khan led his army against Xi Xia and captured its capital.

The Death of Chingis Khan

The campaign against the Xi Xia was his last campaign. Shortly afterward in August 1227, Chingis Khan died at the age of 60. The reason remains unsolved, with theories ranging from internal injuries after a hunting accident, to malaria, to prophecies of the Tanguts.

The Final Word

Genghis Khan was undoubtedly a conqueror of yore, a scourge of humanity, like many others including Muhammad. However, his legacy died within four generations of him. He never preached to people of his prophethood, nor did he ever say that God had given in triumphs in battles because the hand of God was behind his back. Unlike Muhammad, who was a coward, this man led his forces from the front. He gave respect to his generals and his army. So the next time you sit back and accuse this man of being a religious bigot do give a minute more and think about it.



1. Genghis Khan: Conqueror of the World - by Leo de Hartog - 244 pages
2. Genghis Khan: His Life and Legacy - by Paul Ratchnevsky

Ibrahim Lone is Kashmir-born ex-Muslim.

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