Effects of the Khwajah's Presence Among the Mongols

It is a fact that the Khwajah joined the Mongols and remained with them till the time of his death. After him, his son too lived among them. [^64] In this context some points deserve attention.

The first point is that Khwajah Nasir al-Din was an Imami Shi'i. He was heir to a legacy and tradition in which taqiyyah played an important role. It was taqiyyah which had safeguarded Shi'ism at critical historical junctures and preserved it in extremely straitened conditions created for it by such tyrants as Ziyad, Ibn Ziyad, al-Hajjaj, al-Mansur, al-Rashid, al-Mutawakkil and others. Taqiyyah was considered so important that one who did not take recourse to it was considered faithless.

On the other hand, when in captivity at Alamut he had seen with his; own eyes that the Mongol attack accomplished what had not been possible during the preceding one hundred and seventy years for the Seljuq and other rulers. In a short period they had destroyed all the strongholds of the Ismailis, which was something unbelievable for many.

The Khwajah had seen that during the nearly thirty years of their onslaughts the invaders had razed to the ground all the cities of the Islamic world on their way and massacred their entire populace. All its cultural heritage, including libraries, was being destroyed mercilessly. He saw that none could resist the invaders, and history has testified to this fact.

The other notable point is that the Mongol invaders, unlike the Arabs, did not invade a country in order to guide its people and to liberate them from paganism and misguidance. On the contrary, they themselves were an uncivilized people with nothing for guidance except the Yasa of Ghengis and hundreds of superstitions and vain polytheistic beliefs.

While the Mongol invasions progressed, the Khwajah might have thought that if one delays co-operation with the new rulers, it would mean letting them carry on with their destruction. Since they showed respect, albeit nominal, toward scholars, why shouldn't he take the opportunity and try to save Islam and Muslims? And once the Islamic culture is rescued from ruination by the barbarian hordes, perhaps the conversion of some of them would make them into propagators of knowledge, thought, and religion. The Khwajah must have thought that the only way to protect Islam and Muslims and the religious culture of the society was to associate himself with the Mongol khan. He set out to do so and became Hulagu's associate.

The foregoing is not a mere claim, for history has confirmed the Khwajah's farsighted judgement. It has also proved that the Khwajah and others like him from among Shi'i and Sunni ulama' could accomplish this task fruitfully. However, the caliph, who lacked their wisdom and farsightedness paid no attention to them. [^66] It will be seen subsequently herein that Ibn al-Alqami, the last minister of the Abbasid caliph too had offered a similar suggestion, but others, like the Dawatdar', with their eagerness to remain in their posts, eventually threw all into the abyss of death, drowing Baghdad in blood.

However, the Khwajah and others like him did not have so much influence in the beginning as to control Hulagu's decision. In course of time, however, Hulagu did come under such influence in political matters. After him, many Mongol khans embraced Islam and, as rulers, strived for the expansion of Islamic justice and culture - at least to an extent greater than the Umayyads and the Abbasids whose fall is lamented by Ibn Taymiyyah. This does not mean, of course, that we should not recognize the worthy efforts of those who resisted the Mongols and bravely fought them to the extent of becoming martyrs. However, a scholar's grasp of the realities of his world and his exercise of wisdom and farsightedness in acquiring influence among the Mongols are not things that sound reason would regard as unacceptable.

Moreover, it was in the character of the Shi'is that they could protect themselves in the course of their own struggles. Even when they accepted the Abbasid caliphs for a time - as in the case of the Alawid leaders like al-Sayyid al-Radi and al-Sayyid al-Murtada in Baghdad - they chose to do so in the interest of propagating Shi'ism and the authentic Islamic teachings. Thus, in the Baghdad founded by al-Mansur they could attract nearly half of the city's population to Shiism over the centuries which appropriated its western part.

Herein some examples may be cited of the use the Khwajah made of his influence in the Mongol court for promoting Islam and Islamic culture, as well as for saving the lives of ulama' and thinkers. This will show that the Khwajah chose a correct path in those difficult conditions. The Khwajah's Influence Over Hulagu:

As stated earlier, the Khwajah had not acquired any considerable influence over Hulagu in the beginning; this fact has been noted by some researchers. [^67] For when the Mongols attacked Baghdad, both the Shiis and the Sunnis were equally adversely affected. [^68] Dr. Shaybi has also remarked that the common fate of the Shiis and the Sunnis in the sack of Baghdad refutes any charges of a prior arrangement. [^69] It is notable that the shrine of al-'Imam Musa al Kadim (A) was also burnt down. [^70]

However, gradually over a length of time, the Khwajah won the favour of the Mongol khan who assigned him several duties, including the supervision of the awqaf (endowments). [^71]

Furthermore, administration of the affairs of the city of Tus were also entrusted to him. [^72] For a time he was appointed as yarguchi (prosecutor) at the sole court of the Mongol regime. [^73] During the siege of Baghdad, the Khwajah was once sent by Hulagu as an emissary to the caliph. [^74] Later, he became responsible for the construction of an observatory for Hidagu. [^75]

Finally, the Khwajah's influence became so much that, according to Ibn Shakir: "Khwajah Nasir held an exalted position and was held in; high esteem by Hulagu, inasmuch as whatever he asked of the latter was carried out and the requisite expenditure was provided." [^76] The Khwajah was a trustworthy man and, as such, was naturally relied upon to a great extent by Hulagu Khan.

Shams al-Din ibn Mu'ayyad al-'Ardi says: "The Khwajah carried out the work of the ministry for Hulagu without any embezzlement. He dominated the mind of Hulagu to such an extent that the latter would never ride a horse or go on a journey without his approval." [^77]

Among the most important tasks he took up were those which pertained to libraries, revival of Islamic sciences, and training of scholars, in which he accomplished his purpose to an extent unexpected by the side of the destruction brought about by the Mongols and amazing for the period of their supremacy. He collected and set up a library of four hundred thousand books, out of the destroyed libraries of Baghdad, Syria, al-Jazirah and elsewhere. [^78]

While he administered the awqaf properties, he spent a tenth of the income to cover the cost of construction of an observatory and the expenses of the scholars working there. Moreover, the benefits of the income reached all Muslims, especially the Alawids and Shiis. [^79] Among other deeds of the Khwajah was protection of the scholars and thinkers who for some reason became objects of the Mongol's wrath. In this context, it is very appropriate to cite two instances as recorded by historians.

The first is an episode reported by al-Nakhjawani, reckoned as a second generation historian of the era. He wrote his book in 724/1324. The episode is mentioned as follows: In the Baghdad episode, Izz al Din (Ibn Abi al-Hadid) and his brother, Muwaffaq al-Dan were brought out to be executed. When Ibn al Alqami heard about Izz al-Din, he became alarmed. Immediately he went up to Khwajah Nasir al-Din and beseeched him, saying, Two of the elect of Baghdad who have a great right upon me have been taken to be killed.

I implore you to hurry to the king' .... The Khwajah left forthwith, and kneeling, according to the Mongol custom, before the Khan, appealed for mercy. The Khwajah explained that the two persons were taken to be executed according to the Yasa, and he had come to offer himself to be killed instead. Hearing this, Hulagu laughed and remarked: "Had we wanted to kill you, we wouldn't have let you live until now." Then, benevolently Hulagu ordered that both the condemned men be handed over to him." [^80]

In a more interesting story, a successful strategem was used by the Khwajah to rescue another scholar. Ibn Shakir reports that once information reached the Khwajah that Hulagu intended to kill Ana' al-Din al-Juwayni. The Khwajah told the latter's brother that when the Khan gives an order, he was sure to implement it; it was necessary to think of a strategem. Then taking his staff, rosary and astrolabe, he set out with someone carrying an incense burner following him towards the Khan's tents. When Hulagus men saw him near the Khan's tent looking into the astrolabe and burning incense they informed him.

The Khwajah approached the Khan's men and enquired about the Khan's welfare. They replied that the Khan was alright. The Khwajah told them that he wanted to see the Khan with his own eyes. Hulagu Khan, who had refused to admit anyone at that time, permitted him in. The Khwajah told him that an evil event was expected to occur and that he had recited prayers, burnt incense and beseeched God to deflect the evil from the Khan. He recommended that the Khan too should as a good gesture of gratitude free prisoners in the different lands and grant them amnesty. Forthwith, the Khan ordered that the Khwajah's recommendation be carried out. Thus Ala' al-Din too was liberated, and without any specific request by the Khwajah. [^81]

The foregoing anecdote clearly shows the Khwajah's subtle dexterity in exercising his influence over Hulagu and in persuading the latter to comply with his wishes. Ibn Shakir, after quoting this anecdote, comments: The Khwajah displayed extreme cleverness in achieving his objective and thus saved people from harm. His bringing about the freedom of so many prisoners in all the places is indeed an incomparable achievement."

By relating instructive antecedents the Khwajah apprised Hulagu Khan, as and when opportune, of the need to show consideration to the people. Once while mentioning the evil treatment of the people of northern Iraq by the soldiers of Jalal al-Din Khwarazmshah, following their defeat, he suggested the principles of proper rule and statemanship (jahandari) to the Mongol ruler. In reply, Hulagu is reported to have told him: "Praise be to God Almighty, we are jahangir' (conqueror of the world) as well as jahandar. We are jahangir for the rebel and jahandar for the tribe - not like Jalal al-Din who was weak and incapable." [^82]

On the other hand, during Hulagu's campaigns the Khwajah's efforts were directed toward inviting the people to surrender and saving them from genocide by the Mongols. At the same time, by bringing about conciliation he would induce the Mongols to act with justice. A comparison of the two periods of Hulagu's life reveals the moderation brought about in him under the influence of likes of the Khwajah.

Hulagu Khan once sent Shaykh Sharif Tabrazi to spy among Mongol soldiers of Buqa'i, who was hostile to him. The spy was caught and brought to Buqa'i who questioned him about Hulagu. He asked him whether Hulagu still vengefully killed their noblemen, princes, ascetics, pious men and traders. Shaykh Sharif Tabrazi replied that that was true previously. However, now, he said, things had changed, and he recited these verses:

Because of his just rule, fire does not burn silk, The deer, too, suckles the lioness's milk The people are at peace due to his justice, And all the tyrants are wretched and weak. [^83]

That indeed may be an exaggeration, but to be sure it was due to a change of conduct that the Mongols could maintain their rule. For it is clear that if they had maintained the harsh ways of the earlier days of their rule, their sway would not have lasted for long. After the death of Hulagu (19 Rabi al-'Akhir, 663/1265), Abaqan, his son, succeeded him with the Khwajah's efforts. Thereafter too the influence of the Khwajah was instrumental in protecting learned men.

It is said that Abaqan "rewarded nearly a hundred learned men of standing who had been disciples