Berke Khan: The Savior of the Muslim Civilization

"...when zombies of death and destruction were devouring the entire Islamic world, and no Muslim ruler or state was able to withstand the scourge of Hulagu there appeared a mighty savior for the Muslims. And this savior was not from anywhere else but from the ranks of Mongols whose name was Berke Khan..."

Muslim Civilization

Waters of river Tigris (Dajla) had become red with the blood of slaughtered Muslims of Baghdad. Nearly all residents of the city were either put to the sword or sold into slavery. It was 1258 AD, when Mongol army under command of Hulagu Khan conquered and destroyed Baghdad – the glorious centre of Islamic culture and the capital of Abbasid Caliphate. Hulagu ordered the execution Abbasid Caliph Al-Musta’sim Billah and with this a golden age of Muslim Civilization met its end.

The end of the golden age of Muslim Civilization?

Ferocious Hulagu was preparing to go further for subjugating and destroying the remaining Muslim world including Egypt, Syria, Mecca, Madina, and Jerusalem. But here he got the news of the death of Great Khan in Karakorum – the epicenter and principal seat of Mongol empire, and hence had to postpone his march for returning to Mongolia for settlement of succession issues. After settling the succession issue, in 1262, Hulagu Khan marched his armies again to conquer, destroy, and subjugate the remaining Muslim World including holy cities of Islam.

Berke Khan – savior of Muslims 

At this critical juncture of Muslim history, when zombies of death and destruction were devouring the entire Islamic world, and no Muslim ruler or state was able to withstand the scourge of Hulagu there appeared a mighty savior for the Muslims. And this savior was not from anywhere else but from the ranks of Mongols whose name was Berke Khan – the mighty ruler of Golden Horde -a faction of the Mongol Empire. Berke Khan was the direct grandson of great Genghis Khan. Berke Khan was offended by the cruelty of Hulagu, especially the destruction of Baghdad, and hence ordered his brilliant General Nogai Khan to attack the empire of Hulagu.

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In 1263, Nogai Khan inflicted a crushing defeat on Hulagu Khan and killed several thousand of his soldiers with arms, and pushed many thousands to finally get drowned in the frozen Terek River. Actually, in 1252 AD, Berke Khan had embraced Islam, and being a Muslim he was in rage on knowing the cruelties and destruction unleashed upon Muslim world by Hulagu, and hence wanted to avenge the spilling of innocent blood. However the series of events which resulted in conversion of Berke Khan to Islam are not so simple, and are spanning over a period of 100 years around.

Temujin and Börte Hatun

Nearly 100 years earlier, in 1178 AD, in rugged and difficult steppes of Mongolia, a tender looking young shepherd boy (age 16) named Temujin married a girl named Börte Hatun (17 years age). However, soon after marriage Börte Hatun was abducted by a rival nomadic clan due to an old inter-clan enmity.

The bride of newlywed poor Temujin was made wife to one of the abducting tribal warriors. Actually, the father of Temujin, during his youth times, had abducted a woman from the same nomadic clan and made that woman his wife, who later became the mother of Temujin. However this act of abduction started an inter-clan enmity which ultimately resulted in retributive abduction of poor Temujin’s bride.

Hulagu Khan was the first Ilkhan of Ilkhanate-the portion of Mongol Empire covering modern day Iran and the surrounding areas

After several months of agony and struggle Temujin managed to get back his wife Börte Hatun through a raid with assistance of his blood brother Jamukha. However this abduction of Börte Hatun, and the consequent preparations made by Temugin for rescuing Börte put the young Temugin on a path which shaped this poor tender boy into a warrior commander and finally into the person of magnificent Genghis Khan – the unmatched Warrior, General. Genghis and his posterity established the largest contiguous empire of human history.

Temugin becomes Genghis Khan 

Soon after her rescue Börte Hatun gave birth to a baby boy who was named Jochi. Though Temujin (Genghis Khan) accepted the baby boy as his first son but many people remained suspicious whether Jochi was the son of Genghis Khan or the son of that abductor tribal warrior who kept Börte Hatun as concubine for a few months. Börte Hatun, who remained the Grand Empress of Mongol Empire as first wife of Genghis Khan till her death, gave birth to three (03) more sons who were named as Chagatai, Ögedei, and Tolui.

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Chagatai Khan was the second son of Genghis Khan. He was hot-headed, and had an attitude of non-acceptance toward Jochi Khan. On the demise of his father he got the part of Mongol empire termed as the Chagatai Khanate. Ögedei Khan was the third son of Genghis Khan who later became second Great Khan of Karakorum also.

He, being a capable General and sagacious Politician expanded the Mongol Empire in all directions including Iran, Afghanistan, Georgia, Armenia, Korea, Bulgharia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Austria and other parts of Europe. During his reign Mongol forces occupied Kashmir and besieged and butchered Lahore, Pakistan, which was part of Delhi Sultanate at that time. (In the famous Turkish T.V series Ertuğrul Ghazi the Ögedei Khan appears for a brief duration).

Jochi Khan was an accomplished military commander and the one of the principal builders of Mongol Empire as the great General of his “father” Genghis Khan

Tolui was the fourth son of Genghis Khan whose house gave an array of illustrious rulers to Mongol history in the form of three sons Möngke, Kublai and Hulagu. Möngke Khan became the Great Khan of Mongol Empire in Karakorum while Kublai Khan became the Great Khan of the magnificent Mongol Empire in China and the founding Emperor of the Yuan Dynasty of China.

Hulagu Khan was the first Ilkhan of Ilkhanate-the portion of Mongol Empire covering modern day Iran and the surrounding areas. Paradoxically, it was Hulagu, who in 1256 AD, rendered a service to Islam by destroying the famous mountain fortress of Alamut and put an end to the terror of Alamut by exterminating the Assassins or fedayeen forever.

Where the abduction of Börte Hatun fashioned the young tender lad Temugin into the person of Genghis Khan there it also produced a parallel character of history in the shape of Jochi Khan – the first son of Gengis Khan. Jochi Khan was an accomplished military commander and the one of the principal builders of Mongol Empire as the great General of his “father” Genghis Khan.

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However it’s a sad part of his life that this great warrior lived his entire life with an ever bleeding wound of identity crisis due to confusion about his paternity. Not only an identity crisis marred his internal peace but he faced discrimination on my events in various shapes.

Legitimacy to the throne

When Genghis Khan put the issue of succession for title of Great Khan (Genghis Khan was the 1st Great Khan) before “kurultai” (a mega Jirga-a parliament in medieval central Asia- a quasi-political quasi-military body empowered to make highest level decisions), Jochi Khan was tipped as next Great Khan. However, Chagatai Khan, second son of Genghis Khan, raised the issue of Jochi’s legitimacy due to confusion about his paternity, and hence succession issue could not be settled in favor of Jochi though he was deserving by all standards.

The identity crisis of Jochi Khan and the repulsive discrimination which Jochi Khan was facing became further complex when Genghis Khan got him married to a Muslim Princess named as Sultan Khatun who was captured during Mongol conquest of Khwarazmshahi Empire by Gengis Khan. Sultan Khatun, a Turk by ancestry, was the daughter of Shah of Khwarazmshahi empire named as Ala ad-Din Muhammad II, and she was the sister of legend in bravery to whom history remembers as Prince Jalal ad-Din Khwarazm Shah.

After taking reins of government in his hand Berke Khan consolidated the White Horde and Blue Horde as two wings of one empire called the Golden Horde, and became the first Mighty Khan of the Golden Horde

With marriage with a Muslim princess the house of Jochi was further alienated from the kitchen politics of Karakorum seat. This aggravated family alienation of Jochi Khan produced far reaching political results in the coming days of history when sons and grandsons of Genghis Khan finally reshaped the contours of the whole of the civilized world of that time.

[Some followers of Jalal ad-Din Khwarazm Shah settled in Jhang District when prince was on run, and name their settlement in Jhang as KHIVA-the name of capital of Khwarazmshahi Empire which still exists as a city in Uzbekistan]

Sultan Khatun, the wife of Jochi Khan, gave birth to three sons named as Orda, Batu and Berke. These all three were trained under the direct supervision of great Genghis Khan, and all of them, while fighting under the Shamanic Mongol banner, conquered and subjugated vast areas for inclusion into the Mongol Empire of their grandfather Genghis Khan in his lifetimes.

Read more: The resurgence of “Ghazwa-e-Hind”: Indian transgressions against Muslims (Part 2)

Unfortunately all sons of Jochi also inherited the same identity crisis and alienation as a compulsive baggage that their capable father struggled with in his life. However, the dynamics of this inherited baggage were relatively more complex for sons of Jochi due to Turkic-Muslim blood in their veins from mother-Sultan Khatun.

Orda son of Jochi Khan

On death of Jochi Khan (Ghengis Khan died two years later) a western portion of Mongol Empire termed as White Horde was assigned to eldest Orda son of Jochi Khan while another western part of Mongol empire termed as Blue Horde was assigned to Batu s/o Jochi Khan. The youngest Berke, started assisting his elder brother Orda son of Jochi Khan in conquests and administration and further established his reputation as an awesome warrior, general and statesman.

Just like father young Berke also met the same discrimination in larger circle of Mongol princes and princesses. And this feeling was even more intense as compared to his other brothers as he was not positioned on any throne whose dazzling colors could offset the darkening shadows of his identity crisis. However, luckily, he was not just faced with a situation but provided with a resolution window also in form of reshaping of his personality on the life pattern of his Muslim mother-Sultan Khatun. Hence, in 1252 AD, when Berke Khan was in forties he converted to Islam after having a discussion with a Muslim trader.

Ascendancy of Berke Khan to the throne

In 1255, when his eldest brother Batu Khan died, Berke Khan ascended the throne as successor. After taking reins of government in his hand Berke Khan consolidated the White Horde and Blue Horde as two wings of one empire called the Golden Horde, and became the first Mighty Khan of the Golden Horde.

 It’s equally amazing to see that Babur, the first Mughal Emperor in India, too had Muslim and Turkic blood in veins, and was a descendant of Jochi from mother side while mixed Turko-Mongol blood of Timur from father side

Annals of history have recorded that ascendancy of Berke Khan to the throne of Golden Horde Empire proved to be the first cataclysmic thunder which pierced the thick cover of despair hovering over the ravaged Muslim lands, and changed the political and strategic landscape of Muslim world decisively.

The conversion and ascendency of Berke Khan not only provided a life ventilator to the calamity struck Muslims but also provided a nourishing environment to the seedlings of future Muslim Empires like Ottoman Empire, Timurid Empire, Safavid Empire, and the Mughal Empire. A huge population of Tatars living in territories of Golden Horde and many Mongol nobles got converted to Islam.

Berke Khan extended support to Egyptian Mamluks against the onslaught of Hulagu Khan. In one of his letters sent to Egypt based Muslim Sultan Qutuz of Mamluks Berke Khan wrote… “With the help of Allah, I will call him (Hulagu Khan) to account for so much innocent blood (of muslims). Due to onslaughts of Berke Khan Hulagu could never materialize his designs of conquering Egypt, Syria, Mecca, Madina, and Jerusalem. (In Turkish T.V series Ertuğrul Ghazi the Berke Khan appears in the last episodes).

Read more: Ertugrul: Turkish Game of Thrones, An inspiration to rebuild the Islamic Empire

Alternate history

Had the father of Genghis Khan not abducted the woman the inter-clan rivalry would not have ensued, and as retribution the wife (Börte) of Temujin (Ghengiz) would not have got abducted. And as a result no Jochi, burdened with a baggage of suspicion about his paternity and consequent identity crisis and alienation, would have taken birth.

And had there been no marriage of Jochi with a Turkic Muslim Princess to further complicate the situation for children of Jochi no Berke, the future savior of Muslim world, with Muslim and Turkic blood in veins, would have taken birth. It’s equally amazing to see that Babur, the first Mughal Emperor in India, too had Muslim and Turkic blood in veins, and was a descendant of Jochi from mother side while mixed Turko-Mongol blood of Timur from father side.

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After studying all sequence of events which ultimately resulted in the rise of Muslim Berke Khan as savior of Muslim world including Mecca and Medina one gets convinced that Allah Almighty is the ultimate planner [They were plotting and Allah too was planning, and Allah is the Best of the planners: Surah Al-Anfal, 8:30, Quran]. HE can destroy the so called believers and can bestow the honor of HIS Person to a non-believer by showing him the light. HIS plans are way bigger and might not get comprehended by one generation but as True Believers one should have faith in HIS supremacy and control.

Dr. Shakir Ahmad Shahid, PhD, PSP, is a Postdoct Fulbright Alumnus in Criminology and Forensic Science, who has served in various fields like Policing, Investigation, Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism on policy and operational levels as a Senior Police Officer and Director (counter terrorism). He has also worked in fields of Education, Investment and Rural Development as a civil servant, and in the field of Agriculture as a farmer.  He can be reached at drsashahid@gmail.com; The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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