Mongols conquered Baghdad
Wrecking Machine: When the Pagan Mongols Nearly Wiped Out Islam

Had the Mongols invaded India, they would have performed a surgical strike, taking out the Muslim elites, while sparing the Hindus, who would have welcomed the polytheistic Mongols as liberators.

There is a clear polarization among Hindus and Muslims when it comes to the history of Muslim rule in India. It doesn’t matter how barbaric a Muslim ruler was, in the eye of the Muslim he had some redeeming qualities. Muslims will argue that Hindus were not singled out for barbarity because even Muslims suffered in that day and age. Using this line of logic, the Indian Muslim will point to some isolated – and historically unproven – instance of heroism to redeem brutal tyrants such as Aurangzeb, Tipu Sultan and most recently Alauddin Khilji.

While Hindus will point to Khilji’s sacking of numerous Hindu cities and the enslavement of their populations, Muslims will argue, “Well, he defeated the Mongols and defended India, and therefore he saved Hindus from a greater disaster.” Leftists and liberals, who are Islam’s useful idiots, will support such a view, encouraging Indian Muslims to keep up the refrain that Muslim rulers were cultured individuals who did not commit genocide. This sort of negationism persists despite ample literary evidence, including the chronicles of Muslim sultans and emperors as well their court poets and companions who have faithfully – and triumphantly – recorded every barbaric act in sickening detail. The attitude of many Muslims is to take delight in the hate speech of these texts in private, but label them as exaggerated in public.

The Khilji episode isn’t the first time the left-liberal-Muslim coalition is using the Mongols as a prop to glorify Islam. While in Khilji’s case the Mongols are shown as the enemy, back in 1946 when the Pakistan Movement was in its most virulent phase, they were touted as Islam’s pride. At rallies calling for a separate Muslim homeland, Muslim League leaders would threaten to revive the days of “Changez Khan” (Genghis Khan) and “Halaku Khan” (Hulagu Khan). (1)

Cheered by tens of thousands of Muslims and motivated by demagogues such as Maulana Maududi of the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Muslim League would threaten Hindus with a fate similar to what they had met at the hands of the Mongols. Their hatred was matched only by their ignorance. First up, they wrongly believed that the Mongols were the ancestors of India’s Mughal Dynasty. Babar, the founder of the Mughal Dynasty, was the great great grandson of the barbaric ruler of Samarkand, Timur, who had killed hundreds of thousands of Hindus (and millions of Muslims in Central Asia) in the 14th century. The Mughals were Turks from Uzbekistan and spoke a Turkic language, which continued to be the language of the Mughal family until the dying days of this accursed dynasty. This pedigree of the Mughals is often elided from Indian history books and instead a tenuous link to the Mongols is mentioned. In fact, European historians have usually referred to the Mughal Dynasty as the House of Timur – a more accurate appellation.

Secondly, Indian Muslims believe Genghis Khan was a Muslim. This confusion springs from the name Khan, which has nothing Islamic about it and means ‘leader’ or ‘chief’ in Mongolia. It carries the same connotation as ‘sardar’ does in India.

And finally, Indian Muslims exult over Genghis Khan’s massacre of Hindus, which is impossible because he did no such thing. In fact, it was Muslims that he massacred in India. In 1221, after destroying the Khawarizm Empire, Genghis chased its prince Jalal ad-Din to the Indus, sending tremors down the spine of the Delhi sultan Iltutmish. Jalal asked Iltutmish for help but the sultan declined – perhaps the first instance in history when a Muslim ruler declined to assist a fellow faithful against a non-Muslim. The Mongols and Persians clashed in the Battle of Indus in which the Muslim army was wiped out; Jalal leapt into the river and escaped towards Delhi. The Great Khan – arguably the greatest military genius in history – decided Jalal was no more a threat and turned back, never to return to this part of the world. In 1231, Jalal was murdered in India.

The truth is the Mongols were the scourge of Muslims and Islam’s greatest enemy. Wave upon wave of Mongol attacks flattened many Islamic strongholds across Central Asia, Persia and Arabia, killing millions of Muslims. Genghis Khan was a Shamianistic sky worshiper who wanted to conquer Islamic lands and wipe out all traces of Islam from the world. The number of Muslims he killed is estimated at six million.

His grandson Hulagu Khan nearly completed what Genghis set out to do. Under him, the great Mongol Horde rolled across the steppes, poured into Persia and then Arabia, destroying thriving cities. It was only the unexpected death of their leader Mongke Khan in Mongolia that stopped the juggernaut from rolling into Egypt, Mecca and Medina. His compulsory attendance at the funeral stopped the Mongols from wiping out Islam forever.

To illustrate how deeply the Mongol invasions are imprinted in the collective consciousness of the Muslims of the Middle East, in one of his broadcasts to the world, Osama bin Laden claimed that the American bombing of Baghdad during the Second Gulf War had caused greater destruction than Hulagu’s raid in 1258. The terrorist leader did not even bother to explain who Hulagu was because the destroyer of Baghdad is still remembered in the Middle East. In Arabic a proverb sprang up which meant that if someone tells you the Mongols have suffered a defeat don’t believe him. It is only the Indian Muslim who is ignorant of history.

Genghis Khan: Disproportionate retaliation

In 1218 CE, Genghis Khan, the ruler of Mongolia, sent a trade delegation to Shah Ala ad-Din Mohammad, the ruler of the neighboring Khawarizm Empire of Iran. The caravan comprised 100 Mongol escorts, 450 merchants and 500 camels laden with silk, fur, gold, silver and other luxurious goods, including gifts for the Persians. The caravan was on its way to the shah’s palace in Bokhara but was stopped at the border town of Otrar, where the governor, Inalchuq, under orders from Mohammad, slaughtered every one of them and buried their bodies to hide the dastardly act.

With the mile-long caravan seemingly disappearing into thin air, the Mongols were left confounded. However, Genghis did not suspect Mohammad had anything to with the delegation’s disappearance. Since Mongol law treated ambassadors as inviolable, he gave the benefit of the doubt to the shah.

Genghis despatched another embassy comprising two Mongols and a Muslim. They arrived in Bokhara and presented a letter from the Great Khan, politely enquiring about the fate of their caravan. Mohammed executed the Muslim ambassador, branding him a traitor, and sent his head back with the two Mongol companions with their heads shaved. It was the greatest diplomatic blunder in history.

Chris Peers (2) writes in ‘Genghis Khan and the Mongol War Machine’: “Genghis obviously could not overlook such an insult, and immediately made preparations for war….the Khan made no secret of his plans, and even sent messengers to Mohammad to warn him that he was coming, so determined was he to be seen to have justice on his side.”

With an army numbering more than 150,000, battering rams, siege engines, Chinese mortars and machines that could hurl fire arrows and incendiary naphtha bombs, Genghis marched into the Khawarizm Empire to avenge his ambassadors.

Mohammad had taken refuge in Samarkand with a force estimated at 110,000 men, including 60,000 elite Qangli Turks and 20 war elephants supplied by his Ghurid allies in India. Genghis divided his armies, and sent one force solely to find and execute the shah – so that he was forced to run for his life in his own country. The divided Mongol forces destroyed the Shah’s forces piecemeal, and began the utter devastation of the country. (3)

In March 1220 Genghis descended on Bokhara, taking the Khawarizmians completely by surprise. After defeating and killing 20,000 soldiers, Genghis summoned Bokhara’s leading citizens, 280 in number, and proceeded to lecture them on the reasons for his coming: “Know that you have committed great sins, and that the great ones among you have committed these sins. If you ask me what proof I have for these words, I say it is because I am the punishment of God. If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.”

According to Peers, the citizens of Bokhara seem to have accepted the theory of divine punishment when they saw “the wooden receptacles that held the copies of the Koran in the great mosque were emptied and then filled with grain to feed the Mongol horses”.

Genghis then advanced towards Samarkand but Mohammad fled with his army. Giving chase, the Mongols crossed the Oxus and advanced on Balkh, which submitted at once. “Nevertheless, the people were driven out onto the plain, ostensibly for a census, then slaughtered, while their city was burned to the ground….So many bodies were left unburied that lions, wolves, vultures and eagles could all feed together without quarreling.” (2) The city never regained its importance as a Silk Route hub.

In April, the Mongols carried out another massacre at Nishapur, allegedly in revenge for the death of Toquchar, Genghis’ favourite son-in-law, who had been killed during an unsuccessful assault the previous autumn while he was pursuing the shah. On this occasion the city was completely destroyed, even the cats and dogs being killed.

At Bamiyan, the site of the famous stone Buddhas, now destroyed, in northern Afghanistan, Genghis’ favourite grandson Metiken was killed by a stray missile, and in retaliation every living thing in the town was slaughtered, just as had happened at Nishapur.

And the guy who started it all, Inalchuq, the caravan killer, was executed in the way the Mongols believed was appropriate – molten silver was poured through his mouth, ears and eyes. Otrar was razed to the ground.

The numbers of civilians and combatants killed in cities across the Muslim world are truly staggering and historians have long wondered whether the accounts of Muslim chroniclers are highly exaggerated.

In Samarkand they killed 1.2 million; in Nishapur an estimated 1.7 million (it took 12 days to count the dead); 70,000 people were killed in Sabzivar; the same number in Nisa. In Herat, Afghanistan, the first siege left 12,000 of the Shah’s forces dead but the townspeople were spared. In June of 1222, after a revolt, the Mongols lay siege again and an estimated 1.6 million were slaughtered, leaving 40 to mourn their country. (5)

Genghis reserved his worst for the city of Gurganj, the birth place of the Shah. The Persian scholar Juvayni states that 50,000 Mongol soldiers were given the task of executing 24 Gurganj citizens each, which would mean that 1.2 million people were killed. Once the town was devoid of human life, Genghis demolished the dams around the city that held back the Amu Darya, wiping the city off the face of the earth.

Genghis now turned his attention to Merv, an oasis city of mosques and mansions. Its ten libraries contained 150,000 volumes, the greatest collection in Central Asia. The Mongols entered the city and after separating 400 craftsmen and a crowd of children to act as slaves, drove the remaining population on to the plain. Then the killing started. The place was ransacked, the buildings mined, the books burned or buried. Merv lost almost everything and almost everyone. The Mongols ordered that no woman, man or child be spared… Most had their throats slit. Others were led out, 20 at a time, to be drowned in a trough of blood. (John Man, ‘The Mongol Empire’)

Mohammad was hunted into ignominy. The Mongol commanders Subedei and Jebei had been ordered to finish off the shah, and they pursued him up to the western shores of the Caspian Sea. “The Khawarizm Shah was eventually pursued to Astara on the shores of the Caspian, where he discarded his fine clothes, took up the rags of a beggar and with a small group of followers, attempted to slip out of the town unnoticed. Penniless and anonymous, he boarded a small fishing boat just as a Mongol troop raced to the shores, firing their arrows in vain after the little boat. The mighty Khawarizm Shah made it to the tiny island of Abeskim, where he finally died of pleurisy in January 1221. He had fallen from the greatest heights to utter poverty, and was buried in a torn shirt borrowed from one of his servants.”

Soon afterwards, a Mongol patrol captured the shah’s mother, Terken Khatun, and sent her back to
Mongolia, where she remained a prisoner for the rest of her life.

Muslim rulers were finally getting a taste of the treatment they had been giving to non-Muslim nations since they burst out from Arabia in the seventh century.

To sum up, the following cities bore the greatest casualties in terms of the total number of deaths.

Nishapur – 1,747,000

Herat – 1,600,000

Merv – 1,300,000 (or 2,100,000)

Samarkand – 1,200,000

Gurganj – 1,200,000

Sabzivar – 70,000

Nisa – 70,000

Hulagu Khan: Islam’s nightmare

The largest Mongol attack on the Middle East was the invasion of 1252-1260. Hulagu, who would later go on to establish the Mongol Il-Khanate (or subordinate khanate), led the attack. The official reason for the invasion was that the Nisari Ismailis, Shiite Assassins based in mountain castles, were giving the Mongols too much trouble, and the Caliphate of Baghdad, the official head of the Muslim world, refused to help.

In the 13th century, the Mongols faced a series of provocations from the Assassins. This Muslim sect was holed up in a hundred unconquered mountain fortresses stretching from Afghanistan to Syria, the most important of which was Alamut, the Eagle’s Nest, in northern Persia. Each fortress was a “cell” and instructions regarding who to assassinate were communicated to these cells from Alamut.

For 200 years the Assassins unleashed their terror in the Middle East, killing numerous rulers and two Caliphs. But then they made a fatal mistake – they sent a 300 member peace delegation to Mongolia but in fact many members of this delegation were killers tasked with eliminating key Mongol khans. When the wily Mongols discovered the plot, the obituaries of the Ismailies were well and truly written. Hulagu Khan decided to go for the final solution.

Edwin Black writes in ‘Banking on Baghdad’ that Hulagu’s invasion wasn’t because of a personal sense of wrong. “Hulagu did not hate Islam. He just refused to bow to Islam or to any belief system other than his own. Hulagu felt that Islam was an affront to monotheistic Mongol beliefs about an omnipotent god of nature that was present in all things.”

Hulagu’s army was an amazing military machine. It comprised soldiers, spies, conspirators, astrologers, a thousand Chinese engineers, agents to construct bridges and clear roads, and was reinforced with Christian and Sunni contingents. His trebuchets could hurl huge rocks, and smaller stones covered in flaming naphtha, and his arbalesters could shoot bolts dipped in burning pitch a distance of twenty-five hundred paces. (8)

One by one, Hulagu stormed the 100 supposedly impenetrable Assassin castles, relentlessly killing the masters, soldiers, recruits and even infants in their cradles. The Imam himself was allowed to beg for mercy. It was denied and the Imam’s Mongol escorts kicked him mercilessly to his death. Historians unanimously agree that the Mongols did the world a favour by eliminating the Assassin scourge.

The Mongols rolled on to Baghdad – the city that represented the surge of Islam. The caliph — Islam’s spiritual leader, comparable to the Pope — had founded it in 762 and finished its construction in 766. His name was Jaffar al-Mansour, and he belonged to the Abbassid line of caliphs, who descended from the Prophet’s paternal uncle, Abbas. (8)

Almost everybody in ninth-century Baghdad could read and write. While Europe still moiled in its Dark Ages, Baghdad was a city of booksellers, bathhouses, gardens, game parks, libraries….The palaces of the caliphs were of marble, rare woods, jade, and alabaster, with fountains and interior gardens, and carpets and wall hangings by the thousand. Servants sprinkled guests with sprinklers of rosewater and powdered musk and ambergris….Arts and sciences flourished—literature, music, calligraphy, philosophy, mathematics, chemistry, history. (8)

Preceding the majority of the Mongol army, scouts went ahead and broke the dykes on the Tigris River, flooding the Muslim camp. More than 20,000 soldiers who sallied out were drowned or cut down by Mongol arrows. Only their commander was able to stagger back into the city.

The Tigris was blocked with check points and pontoon bridges upon which were placed siege machines. From all points, Chinese auxiliaries, experts at artillery, proceeded to pound the ancient walls with heavy stones and ballista. No city in the world could have survived the fierce bombardment. Section by section, street by street, the ancient city was claimed by the tenacious invader.

Once the Mongols controlled the city, they started an orgy of violence that lasted seven days. Persian historian Abdullah Wassaf narrates: “They swept through the city like hungry falcons attacking a flight of doves, or like raging wolves attacking sheep, with loose reins and shameless faces, murdering and spreading terror…beds and cushions made of gold and encrusted with jewels were cut to pieces with knives and torn to shreds. Those hiding behind the veils of the great Harem were dragged…through the streets and alleys, each of them becoming a plaything…as the population died at the hands of the invaders.” (Mortimer Rush, ‘Loot’).

The caliph Mustasim was captured and forced to watch as his citizens were murdered and his treasury was plundered. The Mongols looted and then destroyed mosques, palaces and hospitals. Grand buildings that had been the work of generations were burned to the ground. The massive library, which housed three million books, was ruined. It is rumoured that when all the books were thrown into the Tigris River, it ran black with ink for days.

Depending on the source, the Mongol warriors killed 200,000 to one million people. What the Muslims had done to Hindu places such as Sindh, Mathura, Somnath and Nalanda (and later, Vijayanagara), the Mongols did to Baghdad.

When Mustasim was brought before him, Hulagu had the caliph wrapped in a carpet and then trodden to death by horses. He also killed everyone in the caliph’s family, except for his youngest son and a daughter. The daughter was shipped off to Mongolia to be a slave in the harem of Mongke Khan.

In the end it took less than two months for the mighty capital of the Abbasid Caliphate to fall to the Mongol onslaught.

Narrow escape

With Mesopotamia defeated, all that was left of Islamic rule in the Middle East was Syria and Egypt. Syria was quickly overrun and the Mongols next planned to move on to the Mamluks in Egypt. But just when it seemed like Islam was in mortal danger, news arrived that Mongke Khan had died.

As swiftly as they had arrived, in mid-1260 Hulagu and the majority of the Mongol army withdrew to Mongolia to elect a new khan. The remaining force engaged the Mamluks at Ayn Jalut, in Israel. The Mongols were decisively defeated. Had the Mongols won, it would have placed them in a position from they would have gone on to take Egypt and then control Mecca and Medina. If the Mongols had controlled the two most important religious cities of Islam, it would have boxed-in the Muslim resistance.

Epic disaster

For the Islamic world, the Mongol invasions proved to be a disaster on an unparalleled scale. It broke the spirit of the Muslims. 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. The political institutions, such as the caliphate, that held the Muslim world together for centuries, were abolished.

The Mongol armies devastated the agriculture of Persia and Central Asia, which was reliant on the qanat, a system of water management in which the water is brought from a mountain water source and then flows to feed multiple wells using only gravity. Without the qanat, Central Asia and much of Persia reverted to their natural desert state, inhospitable to agriculture. Many areas have not recovered to this day. (6) Some irrigation systems the Mongol army destroyed were not repaired until Iraq began to get money from its oil in the twentieth century.

One Persian chronicler described the parlous state of the country in these words: “As a result of the eruption of the Mongols and the general massacre of people which took place in those days, there can be no doubt that if for a thousand years to come no evil befalls the country, yet it will not be possible to repair the damage, and bring back into the state it was formerly.” (Robert Marshall, ‘Storm From the East: From Ghengis Khan to Khubilai Khan’, page 66)

According to Steven Dutch of the University of Wisconsin, “The Mongol destruction of Baghdad was a psychological blow from which Islam never recovered. With the sack of Baghdad, the intellectual flowering of Islam was snuffed out. Imagining the Athens of Pericles and Aristotle obliterated by a nuclear weapon begins to suggest the enormity of the blow. The Mongols filled in the irrigation canals and left Iraq too depopulated to restore them.” (7)

Traditionalist Muslims at the time, including the polymath Ibn al-Nafis, believed the Mongol invasions may have been a divine punishment from God against Muslims deviating from the Sunnah. The Mongols, therefore, may have contributed to the rise of Islamic radicals, but that is debatable as religious fundamentalism as always been an integral element of life in the Middle East.

Fighting fire with fire

In Western and Muslim imagination and literature, the Mongols – and in particular Genghis Khan – are depicted as barbarians, as the ultimate killing machine, as the scourge of god. No doubt the Mongols were fierce and brutal, and their way of fighting was total war. At the same time, unlike Timur, Mahmud Ghazni, Feroz Shah Tughlak, the Spanish Conquistadors, the British settlers of America or Adolf Hitler, none of their rulers killed for fun. The Mongols knew that to defeat Islam they had to fight fire with fire. Above all, they fought for honour.

Marshall writes in ‘Storm From the East’ that it is too simple to dismiss the huge degree of carnage as unbridled barbarism. “In his favour it has to be said that Genghis never employed murder as a political weapon, as Timur and other recent tyrants did, and indeed the death penalty was used for very few crimes. During Genghis’ reign, conquered subjects were immediately emancipated, and there was never any form of political or racial tyranny. The Mongols were extraordinarily tolerant of other religions and this was a tradition they maintained for most of the history of the empire – a rare quality in a world where Christians and Muslims had been at war with each other for nearly 500 years.”

In the words of historian David Morgan, “Assuming you survived your first encounter with the Mongol armies, it was highly improbable you would be subsequently persecuted for your religious beliefs.”

The Mongols were in some ways the polar opposite of Hindus, who ignored the Islamic threat to their ultimate peril. Genghis and Hulagu would have been scandalised at the pardon of Mohammad Ghori by the Rajput ruler Prithviraj Chauhan in 1191 (only for Ghori to return in 1192 and kill Chauhan). No Mongol khan would have accepted a truce while he was winning as Lal Bahadur Shastri did in the 1965 war with Pakistan. No Mongol leader would done what an Indian prime minister did after the 1971 War, when Indira Gandhi fed, housed and secured 97,000 Pakistani prisoners of war in Indian camps and then let them go without trying them for war crimes in Bangladesh.

Even Mongol women had remarkable killer instinct that would make a Maratha or Rajput envious. In Nishapur, when Genghis’ favourite son-in-law Toquchar was killed by an arrow shot by an enemy soldier, the Great Khan’s daughter was heartbroken at the news of her husband’s death, and requested that every last person in Nishapur be killed. The Khan’s troops, led by his youngest son Tolui, undertook the gruesome task. Women, children, infants, and even dogs and cats were all killed. Worried that some of the inhabitants were wounded but still alive, the Khan’s daughter asked that each Nishapuran be beheaded, their skulls piled in pyramids. Ten days later, the pyramids were complete.

The most remarkable fact about the Mongol invasion of the Middle East was that the entire population of Mongolia wasn’t more than 1 million. And yet they destroyed the political power of their two prime enemies – the Chinese and the Muslims.

Making an example

The Mongol invasion of the Middle East was conducted as a sort of forward policy. The Mongol leaders decided it was better to fight Islam in the Middle East rather than in Mongolia. In this aspect, they again offer a stark contrast to the Indian kingdoms, the vast majority of which did not bother to destroy the enemy in his own lair. For instance, the first Arab invasion of India was against Sindh in 653 CE which was repelled. For the next six decades the Arabs launched a series of attacks but suffered huge losses before they tasted success against Raja Dahir in 712 CE, opening the floodgates to the Islamic conquest of India. Had the powerful Hindu kings united and destroyed the Arabs in Iraq and Syria, caliphs like the tyrant Hajjaj could scarcely have been able to mount successive invasions against India.

Again, the large scale killings were a defence mechanism for Mongol self-preservation. They did not have the numbers required to garrison the conquered cities. If their opponents were not sufficiently subdued, they could rise again and attack the Mongols when the Mongols left to deal with another city. This would have resulted in the Mongols endlessly returning to quell rebellions, preventing them from pursuing their final goals.

Mongol attitude towards Hindus

And finally, would the Mongols have visited the same level destruction on India? The ifs and buts of history are merely an academic exercise, but the reality is that it never happened. Genghis and Hulagu did not invade India because they had no reason to. They launched wars with clear political objectives, and certainly not with the iconoclastic fervour of Muslims. Arabs, Afghans and Turks invaded India primarily for its wealth – a lot of which was in unguarded temples – but killing infidel Hindus in order to gain the favour of Allah was also one of the fringe benefits (along with rape and slaves). But the sky worshiping Mongols shared a religious code like the Hindus.

In Baghdad, the Mongols asked the Nestorian Christians to remain inside a church while they carried out the killings. The discipline of the Mongolian soldiers is ascertained by the fact that even during the frenzy of pillage, not one Christian was harmed. Similarly, the Shias of Baghdad were not touched either as they had helped the Mongols.

In the prelude to the advance on Baghdad, in the first attack on Merv, the Mongols had killed 1.3 million people. When it became repopulated in a few months, the city rose in revolt and the Mongols returned to kill 100,000, leaving only four survivors. Several months later, Merv again revolted. This time the Mongols returned with a massive force of 100,000 men and carried out widespread torture for 40 days. Here’s what Charles P. Melville of Cambridge University says: “At the end of it all there are only 10 or a dozen Indians left residing in the city, I don t know how they managed to get away with it.”

The 10 Indians at Merv may have been Hindu Khatri merchants who conducted trade between India, Central Asia, China and Russia.

Clearly, the Mongols’ ire was directed at Muslims, especially the ones they deemed dangerous and likely to stab them in the back. Like the Nestorians of Central Asia, the Hindus posed no threat to them. Had the Mongols invaded India, they would have performed a surgical strike, taking out the Muslim elites, while sparing the Hindus, who would have welcomed the pluralistic Mongols as liberators.


  1. Amiya Chatterji and Amiya Cattopadhyay, “Constitutional Development of India” (page 141)
  2. Chris Peers, “Genghis Khan and the Mongol War Machine”
  3. J.J. Saunders, “The History of the Mongol Conquests”
  4. Robert Marshall, “Storm From the East: From Ghengis Khan to Khubilai Khan” (page 56)
  5. Charles P. Melville, Cambridge University, “The Impact of the Mongol invasions on Iran, Iraq and Central Asia; A Revaluation”
  6. Peter Jackson, Mongols and the West
  7. Steven Dutch, University of Wisconsin,
  8. Ian Frazier,
  9. John Man,

Featured Image: Youtube

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. IndiaFacts does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.
Rakesh is a journalist at New Zealand’s leading media house. He mostly writes on defence and foreign affairs.
His articles have been quoted extensively by universities and in books on diplomacy, counter terrorism, warfare, and development of the global south; and by international defence journals.
Rakesh’s work has been cited by leading think tanks and organisations that include the Naval Postgraduate School, California; US Army War College, Pennsylvania; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC; State University of New Jersey; Institute of International and Strategic Relations, Paris; BBC Vietnam; Siberian Federal University, Krasnoyarsk; Centre for Air Power Studies, New Delhi; Institute for Defense Analyses, Virginia; International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, Washington DC; Stimson Centre, Washington DC; Foreign Policy Research Institute, Philadelphia; and Institute for Strategic, Political, Security and Economic Consultancy, Berlin.
His articles have been published by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi; Foundation Institute for Eastern Studies, Warsaw; and the Research Institute for European and American Studies, Greece, among others.

    I love your opening statement after first paragraph, leftist and liberals are Islam’s useful idiots, wow, I couldn’t have said it any better.

    I like your article and your analysis on it. I only wish…………………………..😊

  • No Mist

    Mongols were God’s punishment upon Islam.

    After that last punishment, they have done plenty sins … and now needs the third eye of Shiva. Islam is a cancer of civilization … must be cauterized without mercy


    Revisionist history 101
    This is terrible history… seriously. We all get this guy has a political agenda, it’s so obvious it’s painful… smh. He could easily have said the same thing w/out basically putting shit on Muslims…Notice how the Muslims were slaughtered yet Hindus were noble? lol. Whatever… if u want to see two cultural neighbours who hate each more than Indians and Pakistanis then let me know (aside from Jews and Muslims)

    • R. Singh

      Please give 1 example of where ” muslims were slaughtered by Hindus”

      • ZARDOZ

        I didn’t say that. Learn to read.

        • R. Singh

          We do know how to read.

          You write :

          “Notice how the Muslims were slaughtered yet Hindus were noble?”

          Why would you include ‘ Hindus’ in the sentence?

          Do you really think we are dumb?

          Then too- Tell us where ” Muslims were slaughtered”?

          • Shridas

            Read the article. He’s talking about the millions of muslims killed by Ghengis Khan. The article claims 10 or 12 Indians were spared and that had Khan entered India he would have spared hindus.

          • R. Singh


            The author uses the term” Hindus” to the alleged slaughter of “Muslim”,

            Mr. Shridas, you are trying to muddy the issue, by using the term ” Indians” not ” Hindus”

            Do you really think we Bharat varshis are that dumb, not to undestand, what the author was conveying?

        • R. Singh

          Why have you changed your profile name?

    • R. Singh

      Jews do not hate muslims.

      They hate the anti -semitic behaviour and mindless persecution by some Muslims and Christians.

  • VarahaMihira Gopu

    The accounts of Muslim victories in India are written by victors. The accounts of Muslim defeats and Chinese defeats at the hands of the Mongols are written by the losers. I think some of the death tolls, as well as banding of Mongols only as barbarians, as opposed to civilized Chinese or Persians or Arabs, is somewhat biased writing, to paraphrase Jack Weatherford, whose book on Genghis Khan calls him a maker of the modern world.

    This is my blog on Genghis Khan, based on Weatherford book.

  • Rishikesh Shenoy

    Never heard of this.. Thanks a lot for this detailed research and write up.

  • Bhrigu Pandit

    rakesh ji your aritcle is eye opening

  • R. Singh

    Beyond some christian accounts, which are usuually distorted towards their own ends, there is no evidence that the Mongols converted to Christianity.

    • ZARDOZ

      But plenty they did Islam

      • R. Singh

        Yes, they did.

      • GG249

        Elements of Nestorianism certainly are close.

  • R. Singh

    Why does the author call them by the term ” Pagan”.

    Dharmic may be a better and more accurate term.

    if the author were to dig a little further, he may well find that the Vedic Dharam was spread all over that part of the world,.

    We should not use Wetern Abramhamic terms ot define our philosophy, our culture.

    Time to tak eback our heritage, one step at a time

    • ZARDOZ


      • R. Singh

        Not so..

        Dharam is a Philosophy ( not a Religion)

        It is the Righteous Path to Enlightenment. ( not to a Heaven or Hell).

        • ZARDOZ

          Wrong again. Mongols viewed mountains, rivers, sky etc etc as gods.
          The definition of animism.

          • R. Singh

            That is your interpretation.

            What is it based on?

          • ZARDOZ

            What? I’m a student archaeologist. I have read 20 books on Mongols. By the time of Kublai there were Muslim Mongols, but certainly not initially when Chingis was about.

          • R. Singh

            There is very little literature on the Mongols.

            What is your list?

          • R. Singh

            Why have you changed your profile name?

            You were Zardoz, now you clamm to be GG249.

            What are you trying to hide?

          • GG249

            Um… I change it all the time, this isn’t about u

          • R. Singh

            What is wrong?

            That our Philosophy is not a Religion?

          • ZARDOZ

            U said Mongol were animists…. sheesh – I don’t have all day.

          • R. Singh

            I have said no such thing.

            Stop making accusations.

          • ZARDOZ

            *weren’t – that’s my argument. Mongol is a term like Viking, or Christian. It can mean very different things at different times.

          • R. Singh

            Different things?

            There is still hope.

            Where do you study?

            What course is it?

            Undergraduate? Post graduate?

            What literature on so called Mongols have you read?

            20 books, as you state? Which ones?

  • Vijay Mishra

    Good article. Good learning. I thought mongols were Muslims. But Mughals were Turki + mangol.Todays china is very much anti Muslim.
    Todays China is very strict against Islamic Jihadism political system.

    • ZARDOZ

      Some Mongols eventually became Muslim. But not for 100 yrs after Genghis…

  • The essay reeks of blood-lust. Lovingly detailing things like “even dogs and cats were killed”, “1.7 million in Nishapur, 1.6 miilion in Herat”, “So many bodies were left unburied that lions, wolves, vultures and eagles could all feed together without quarreling.” and so on – shows Rambo-like fantasies. The irony of detailing the level of civilization in Baghdad, where everybody could read and write, and its total destruction (with such glee), makes me shake my head. It is a record of a civilization being destroyed by a barbarism. This is a frequent happening in human affairs.

    My enemy’s enemy is not always my friend. If Iltumush had proceeded protect Jalal, India would have been invaded. Millions of Muslims may have been killed, but so would millions of Hindus. Cities would have been laid to waste, never to recover. We would have our own Baghdads, Nishapurs, Balkhs and Herats to remember. Out of millions, perhaps 40 Hindus would have survived to mourn, as in Herat, and then “revive the glory of Hindus”. Perhaps not.

    We do remember what Nadir Shah did to Delhi. What Bahmani Sultans did to Vijayanagar. They are barbarians, just like the Mongols. Just the tag “Islamic” or “non-Islamic” separates them.

    The point is that wars may be required. but not endless annihilation. It is the nobility of Hindus that made them spread without the sword in South East Asia, China and even Central Asia, before the advent of Abrahamism. That’s what China remembers about India. And this essay remembers the Mongols for the opposite reason.

    It is as funny as hailing Genghis Khan as an eco-warrior (link).

    Fire cannot be fought with fire. The fire will only spread and engulf both sides. We need water, perhaps even CO2! An Agneyastra has to be countered with a Varunastra. A Nagastra with a Garudastra. Hate should be met with calm yet solid response. In fact, balance and self-control are the best offense. Neither aggression nor cowardice will do. This is the message of Lord Krishna to Arjuna. He tells him to fight without hatred. And Arjuna does. That’s his greatest victory.

    • No Mist

      That is what you get when Aurangzeb and Khilji are lionized. Somebody somewhere will lionize killers of Muslims too. Wait till Babu Bajangi starts getting lionized too.

      Tit for tat … good tactics. Islam needs no mercy anyway. Not from Hindus in any case.

  • Rajesh Chibba

    Very interesting, a brief history of Mongols ! But instead of the Mongols, I wish the author had done research on Hindu Kings & warriors ! Our history is so badly distorted that it needs a good research on Ranas of Mewar like, Rana Kumbha, Rana Pratap & Rana Sanga. Even the history of Maratha bravehearts like Sambhaji, Baji Rao 1 & Ahilyabai needs to be told in detail. Majority of the people in India think that Alexander defeated Porus, but in reality it was the other way around. Porus’s army had badly defeated Alexander and he asked for mercy ! Indian History is full of extraordinary brave Kings & warriors but sadly most of the research students have their attention on foreign subjects. Our history was first distorted by the Muslims rulers and then by the British. It’s time that the Indian people got to know their true history.

    • R. Singh

      Porus or rather Puru, was simply the leader of the Republican societies of the Punjab, chosed ot resist the invaders.

      Alexander and his rag tag horde,managed to penetrate into the Punjab and were trapped on all sides. They could not cross the Beas river

      They were driven south as they could not go back the way they came.

      They managed to reach the Sindhu River delta and steal a few boats.

      The rest of Alexander’s army and Alexander were driven into the Makran desert, where over 90 % perished.

      Alexander broke in body and spirit , seriously ill, managed to reach Basra, where he gave up his life.

      Which world conquerer goes into a hospitable desert willingly ?

      Hardly a triumphant victory march home?

      • R. Singh

        Ghazni too was driven nto the desert by the republican armies of the Punjab. He barely escaped with his life.

        There was no 17th expedition.

        • R. Singh

          Timur’s supposed slaughter of 100,000 hindus in 3 days and nights at Delhi does not agree with our desi versions.

          In our versions, Timur was opposed since he entered the Punjab by the citizen armies organized by the Republican Khaps., haeded by the Sarv Khap Panchayat at Shoram, now in District Muzzafarnagar, U.P.


          Timur managed to reach Delhi.

          The Sarv Khap raised an army led by Jograj Singh Gujar.

          He was driven out of Delhi. He escaped north towards Meerut, Saharanpur, and Haridwar.

          He was cornered in the jungles of Rishikesh and Haridwar,

          He was defeated and driven across the tiver Yamuna, to beyond Ambala.

          One fact is sure.

          He never, ever retured to Bharat.

          Google, Timur, Sarv Khap, Jograj Singh Gujar , Jats

          The internet and social media is a great equalizer.

        • JagoBharatVasiyo

          So there were 16 attacks by ghazni? There is lot of confusion about this. Some say he won in 2nd attack because of treason of Jaichand and Prithviraj was killed and his daughters taken into his harem.

          • R. Singh

            Most of the accounts were have wriiten by Muslims

            A famous collection is :.

            History of India As Told by Own Historians
            by H. M. Elliot (Author),‎ John Dowson (Editor) 1867.

            These are not Indian historians but Muslim versions.

            If you want our versions wherver you find them abusing non muslims, expect that there was solid resistance and life was not a bed of roses fpr the Jihadis.

            To get a balanced view, you need to explore the indigenous versions, i our languages, m=now being translated into English, which are now coming out.

            They had beenignored/ buried by the “eminent historians” of the Nehru Gandhi school, Brown coolies- Irafn Habib, Romila Thapar, Dutta et el.

            The Prithvi Raj story is that by a Court bard, and as usual the story grew exponentially in the telling and became ” cast in stone”

            Prthivi raj in other versions is seen as aunworthy , depraved little so and so, incapable of leadership.

            Ghazni was punished heavily by the Jats of the Punjab , and the so called 17th expedition, was ‘supposed’ to be his revenge.

            The story has a number of discrepancies which when examined critically do not add up.
            Did Mahmud of Ghazni defeat the Jats in a naval battle ?

            See below for an analysis:

            Mahmud of Ghazni’s raids into India.

            The standard Indian history version based on Muslim historians about
            Ghazni is that Ghazni was able to at will, come and go in India,
            plunder, loot, at pleasure. He is supposed to have mounted no less
            than 17 expeditions to India from Afghanistan, the last to punish the
            Jats, who he is supposed to have routed in a major naval battle, and
            of course after having defeated them and put them to the sword, took
            their women and children captive to be sold into slavery back home.

            This version smacks of unreality.

            It is based on a late source, five centuries after the event, and is
            not recorded by the contemporary Muslim historians.

            The main source for this story is a Muslim history the Tabakat I
            Akbari, written by one Nizamud din Ahmad. He served in the Court of
            Akbar, in about 1600 AD.

            The other account is that of Ferista who lived between 1570 and died
            about 1612 AD.

            The only contemporary Historian at the time of Ghazni was at his
            court, a Muslim Historian Jabbru -L Utbi. His work covers the period
            of Mahmud of Ghazni to Ah 410(1020 AD).

            He is alive after that, for he mentions an event in AH 420(1030 AD),

            If this expedition had occurred as the other two describe it, he
            should have mentioned it, for the expedition supposedly took place in
            1027 AD. Utbi make no such mention.

            Sita Ram Goyal wrote a book ” Heroic Hindu Resistance to Muslim
            Invaders, (636 AD to 1206 AD) Voice of India, New Delhi (see the on
            line version at


            SR Goyal quoting Dr Misra talking of Ghazni


            The Jats of Sindh had “molested his army during his retreat from
            Somnath.” So Mahmud’s next expedition was organized against them. The
            Jats were very powerful and, according to one Muslim account, “They
            had invaded the principality of Mansura and forced its Musalman Amir
            to abjure his religion.”14 Mahmud is reported to have mobilized a
            large number of boats to fight the Jats who had taken to the river.
            But the whole account, says Dr. Misra, “smacks of unreality”. Girdizi
            mentions only “one camp “”””

            Elliot and Dowson have a similar problem, not being able to
            understand, basically two issues, the lateness of the source of the
            story, and the high improbability of assembling 1400, 4000, 8000
            boats, when that many boats probably never existed in the Punjab at
            that time.

            Comparing what Elliot and Dowson’s book, and
            what the original Muslim authorities wrote.

            Here is the Standard Version, reproduced from Elliot & Dowson, the
            account the account of his last and seventeenth expedition, this one
            to punish to Jats, The account is reproduced verbatim from P 477 of E
            & D

            “As the year 417 Hirji on 22 Feb, 1026, three was ample time for
            Mahmud to have returned to Ghazni to escape the heat and rains of
            Hindustan, and return again to Multan before the Ghazni winter, all
            within the same years.

            The following account is taken from the – Tabakat-I Akbari of
            Nizamud- din Ahmad: –

            ” In the same year (417AH), the Sultan, with a view to punish the
            Jats, who had molested his army on his return from Somnat, led a
            large force towards Multan, and when he arrived there he ordered
            fourteen hundred boats to be built, each of which was armed with
            three iron spikes, projecting one from the prow and two from the
            sides, so that anything which came in contact with them would
            infallibly be destroyed. (1) In each boat were twenty archers, with
            bows and arrows, grenades (2) and naphtha: and in this way they
            proceeded to attack the Jats, who having intelligence of the
            armaments sent their families into the islands and prepared
            themselves for the conflict. They launched, according to some for,
            and according to others, eight thousand boats, manned and armed,
            ready to engage the Muhammadan. Both fleets met, and a desperate
            conflict ensued.

            Every boat of the Jats that approached the Moslem Fleet, when it
            received the shock of the projecting spikes was broken and
            overturned. Thus the Jats were destroyed, and those who not so
            destroyed were put to the sword. (3). The Sultan’s army proceeded to
            the places where the families were concealed and took them all
            prisoners. The Sultan then returned victorious
            to Ghaznin.

            1. For a similar mode of Armament about the same period see
            Chronicles of the crusades p199
            2. Apparently some explosive or inflammable missile.
            3. Ferista adds that some of the Jat Boats were set on fire.”
            End of quote.

            Ferista follows this version, and is the standard version taught in
            the History textbooks.


            Most of the details available about the time of Mahmud of Ghazni come
            from a Muslim Historian Jabbru -L Utbi, who was a contemporary of
            Mahmud His work covers the period of Mahmud of Ghazni to Ah 410(1020

            He is alive after that, for he mentions an event in AH 420(1030 AD),
            so why he would not mention Ghazni’s expedition is a mystery.

            Eliot and Dowson also take him to be more reliable for Ghazni than
            Ferista, or Nizamud din, which he refers to as inferior authorities.
            Utbi does not mention any such expedition, though Nizamud din, and
            Ferista, five centuries later do.

            Here is what Elliot and Dowson have to say

            Note 1- PP 477 – quote;

            Seventeenth expedition – the Jats of Jud (AH 417- 1027 AD) (1)

            ” This expedition is recorded only by late authorities, but the
            attack on the Jats is not in itself improbable, though some of its
            attendant circumstances are. It is probable that, on the dissolution
            of the Kingdom of Lahore, the Jats of the Jud hills acquired
            considerable power, and by predatory incursions were able to harry
            their neighbors.

            Their advance so far from their own country to attack the Muhammadan
            army, and the strength of the force with which they opposed it, show
            they possessed no inconsiderable power.

            From a passage quoted by M. Reinaud from the Kamilu-I Tawarikh (416
            A.H.), it appears that they had invaded the principality of Mansuran
            and had forced the Musulman Amir to abjure his religion. It does not
            appear what portion of the hilly country is here meant, but most
            probably the Salt Range, on the part nearest to Multan. The Jats have
            now moved further to the north and east, but some of their clan’s
            point to the Salt range as their original state.

            The chief improbability, and it is almost insurmountable, consists in
            Mahmud’s being able to organize a powerful fleet of fourteen hundred
            boats at Multan, and in being opposed by at least four thousand boats
            manned by mountaineers.

            Even in a time of briskest trade, fourteen hundred boats could not
            be collected in all the rivers of Punjab. It is also remarkable that
            Mahmud should choose to fight at all on the river, when his veteran
            troops would have been so much more effective on land than on water,

            If he could have equipped so large a fleet, on a sudden emergency, it
            adds to the surprise when Elphinstone invites us to entertain, that
            Mahmud, neither in going to or coming from availed himself of the
            Indus. On his return he does seem to have come for some way on the
            banks of the Indus” End of quote

            E & D add:

            Pp. 434 “The times places and numbers of Mahmud’s expeditions to
            India have offered great difficulties to those who have dealt with
            the histories of that ferocious and insatiable conqueror. We look in
            vain for any enquiry on the subject from native historians of this
            period, who, in their ignorance of Upper India, enter names and years
            without the scruples and hesitations which a better knowledge or a
            more critical spirit would have induced.”

            Pp. 435.

            ” It has been usual to consider the number of Mahmud’s expeditions to
            India to be twelve; the first authority for this number is s Nizamu-
            din Ahmad in the Tabakat-I Akbari. But he enumerates no less than
            sixteen. but Dow has numbered them as twelve and most English authors
            following him as standard, have entertained the same persuasion.”

            PP 435: First expedition- Frontier towns: AH 390(1000 AD) mentioned
            by Ferista (AD) and Nizamud din Ahmad (AD).

            ” The Tarikh Yamini (does not support these two authors). The author
            of this work, one Abu Muhammad, records the history of Mahmud to AH
            410(1020 AD), and is alive in AD 1030.In dates he is deficient and
            far from precise. ”


            The third expedition.

            The expedition to Bhera or Bhati-ia or Bhatnair, town on the northern
            extremity of the Bikaner Desert.

            The Bhatis resisted Mahmud. Jaipal is taken to be Brahman, but Elliot
            doubts this for no authority except Ferista, sixteenth
            century, which makes this suggestion.

            (Ravi’s note- The Bhatti-s are Jats though Elliot, writing some eight
            centuries later, treats them as Rajputs)

            PP 443.

            The sixth expedition to Waihind, Nagarkot. (AH 399, 1008-9 AD)
            ” Dr Bird writes if we believe Ferista, Mahmud at this time was
            marching into the mountains captured Nagarkot. According to the
            Tabakat -I Akbari and Habibu -I Siyar this was in AH 400.”

            Elliot writes ” I cannot trace in the Tabakat-I Akbari and the
            Habibu -I Siyar the assertion attributed to them; but let us leave
            these inferior authorities and refer to the `Yamini””

            Ferista’s version is ” that Mahmud decided to punish Anandpal.
            Anandpal gathered all the Indian Rajas- Ujjain, Gwalior, Kalinjar,
            Kana, Delhi and decided to resist.

            The infidel Gakkars also joined them.

            In the heat of battle 30,000 infidel Gakkars penetrated Mohammedan
            lines and in a matter of minutes slaughtered three of four thousand

            (Note: on E & D PP 232 from the “Tajul Ma- sir”, describing the war
            of Muhammad Ghori against the Gakkurs- the words Gakkar,
            Khokar, Ghakkur, Gakkurs, are used interchangeably-. The Khokar Jats
            first defeated Ghori, and on his next visit to their land, they beheaded

            Anandpal’s Elephant became unruly and fled. The Hindus; lost heart,
            and fled, and were, slaughtered.

            PP 448 ” The seventh expedition- Narain. The Tabakat-I Akbari and
            Ferista do not mention this expedition, but it is recorded in the

            Source Elliott and Dowson: History of India as told by its own
            Historians, Vol II.
            Notes om above:

            The Jats were guerilla warriors par excellence, not given to head on

            The story that they would allow Ghazni the time to assemble an
            armada, and they themselves do the same smacks of some unreality.

            What is more likely to have occurred, is that Ghazni decided to go
            on a plundering raid.

            He advanced `towards’ Multan with a large force. This would
            indicate he did not have a hold on Multan and the surrounding
            countryside, which was in the hands of the Jats.

            He led a couple of raids, could not track down the Jats, and was
            harried day and night.

            His camp would have never slept, and like Timur would be constantly
            short of food and water, for the Jats would follow send the women,
            children and elders into the jungles for safety, and follow a
            scorched earth policy.

            He subsequently withdrew back to the safety of Ghazni and
            Afghanistan, and never returned.

            In none of expeditions was he successful in establishing a hold on
            the countryside, and he was harried, and not allowed to rest on any
            plundering raid that he conducted.

            The records are lost, but if they were available they would read
            something like the records of raid of Timur and the resistance to him.

            See files section:


            A Mahapanchayat would have been called, an army raised, and Ghazni not allowed to get a grip.

            Significantly Ghazni never returned.

          • JagoBharatVasiyo

            Dhanyavad for such a detailed reply. Truly appreciate it. So much of our Itihaas is manipulated deliberately by the cunning Anti-National forces.

    • JagoBharatVasiyo

      There is a great serial going on Sambhaji now on ZeeMarathi if you wish to watch.
      Even if you don’t know Marathi, you will still understand most of it if you know Hindi.

      Swarajya Rakshak Sambhaji:

      Peshwa Bajiro Ep 1
      youtube. com/watch?v=3hsU7I0dHko

      • Rajesh Chibba

        Thank you, ” JagoBharatVasiyo ” ! I watched the first episode of Peshwa Bajirao and liked it very much. I was looking for something like this ! Will continue to watch. Jai Ho !

        • JagoBharatVasiyo

          It’s a great serial. Please share with all your friends and family. Also, the Sambhaji serial is fantastic. Please watch that as well.

  • Ramreddy s

    A riveting account, Thank you for so much information.

  • Kalavai Venkat

    Excellent article Rakesh! Factual, succinct, and racy.

  • Politeindian

    A well written article, resulting in an enjoyable read!

    History is full of unintended consequences, as Sanjeev Sanyal aptly describes. It is indeed unfortunate for the world that the Mongols had to return home, thus sparing Syria and Egypt, and thereby giving Islam a toehold. World history would be quite different today, but for this misfortune.

    As for India’s leftards and libtards, it shouldn’t matter what they think. All effort must be made to make ordinary Indians realise the truth and understand history from a neutral standpoint, which has the potential to render the useful idiots irrelevant.