Today is Sunday; 1st of the Iranian month of Khordad 1400 solar hijri; corresponding to 10th of the Islamic month of Shawwal 1442 lunar hijri; and May 22, 2021, of the Christian Gregorian Calendar.
2355 solar years ago, on this day in 334 BC, Persian generals, proud of their might and scoffing at the ragtag force a young Macedonian had assembled for what appeared to be a raid on the western fringes of the vast Achaemenid Empire that overlapped the continents of Asia, Africa, and Europe, suffered the first defeat at the hands of Alexander in the Battle of Granicus. The battle took place between Abydos and Dascylium (near modern day Ergili in Turkey), at the crossing of the Granicus River, which the Turks today call Biga Jayi. It was fought in northwestern Asia Minor, near the site of ancient Troy. The defeat shocked the Persians; and Alexander who was almost killed in the battle and was saved from certain death by Cleitus, savagely slew not just the retreating forces but as many as 18,000 Greeks led by Memnon of Rhodes Island, who as allies of the Persians sought to broker peace. This unexpected success encouraged Alexander to advance into the interior of the Persian Empire. The pride and laxity of Emperor Darius III, allowed Alexander a whole year’s time to strengthen his forces, win over Greeks to his side, and ravage the countryside. And when Darius III at last decided to personally confront the upstart invader, he suffered a stunning defeat in 333 BC at the Battle Issus, close to the present-day Turkish city of Iskenderun. The collapse of the Achaemenid Empire set in as the Persians suffered defeat after defeat and retreated from Anatolia, Syria, Egypt, and Iraq, where in 331 BC Darius lost the decisive Battle of Gaugamela (near Arbil), despite fielding an awesome force assembled from all over the empire, including war elephants from his Indian satraps. Finally the capital Persepolis in the heart of Persia was conquered and destroyed by Alexander. In 330 BC the 220-year old Achaemenid Empire ceased to exist after Darius III was killed by his own general in Bactria, Central Asia, where Alexander sealed his series of victories, before marching three years later to the River Indus and Punjab, the easternmost limits of the Persian Empire. Although, Alexander, who died in 323 BC, styled himself “Shahanshah” (king of kings) and adopted elements of Persian dress and customs, he destroyed the cultural heritage of Persia, and terrorized the whole empire – at times slaughtering all males and selling into slavery women and children of cities that resisted his assaults. He was so ruthless and cruel that during a drinking bout in Samarqand, he killed, Cleitus, his close companion and saver of his life at the Battle of Granicus. Seven decades later, the Parthians rose up from northeastern Iran to cleanse the land of Hellenistic influence by establishing the second great Iranian empire, which lasted 471 years, and which checked the eastward expansion of the Roman Empire, by establishing the capital at Ctesiphon (Madaen) in Iraq near modern day Baghdad.
1684 solar years ago, on this day in 337 AD, Constantine I, the Emperor who imposed the Pauline Creed on the Roman Empire, died in Bythynia in what is now Turkey at the age of 65 after a reign of 31 years, while planning to invade the Persian Empire, following rejection of his peace proposal from Iran’s Sassanid Emperor Shapur II. Born in Dardania in the Balkans to army officer Flavius Valerius Constantius, it is not known whether his mother Helena was a wife or a concubine. When his father became deputy emperor of the Roman west in 293, Constantine was sent to the Roman east, where he became a military tribune under the emperors Diocletian and Galerius – notorious for their persecution of the monotheist followers of Prophet Jesus, and those who later came to be known as Christians. In 305, his father was raised to the rank of Augustus, or senior western emperor, and Constantine was recalled west to campaign in Britain. Acclaimed as emperor by the army after his father’s death in 306, Constantine emerged victorious in a series of civil wars against the emperors Maxentius and Licinius to become sole ruler of both west and east by 324. He built a new imperial residence at Byzantium and named it New Rome, but it was called Constantinople in his honour. Later the city served as capital of Byzantine or the Eastern Roman Empire for over a thousand years, before falling in 1453 to the Ottoman Turks, who renamed the city Islambol (Istanbul), and made it the capital of their empire for the next 470 years. Constantine has earned lasting notoriety for persecuting Arianism and the purely monotheistic followers of Prophet Jesus. The form of Christianity he imposed is actually the innovation of Paul the Hellenized Jew, who was a fierce opponent of Prophet Jesus, but after him, claimed to be his follower in order to distort the monotheistic message of the Messiah, by coining the weird concept of Trinity that was more closer to the Roman pantheon of deities.
1168 solar years ago, on this day in 853 AD, a Byzantine fleet sacked and destroyed the undefended port city of Damietta in Abbasid-ruled Egypt, killing hundreds of people, abducting at least 600 Arab and Coptic Christian women, and seizing large quantities of weapons and supplies intended for the Muslim Emirate of the island of Crete, while the garrison was absent, attending a feast in the capital Fustat. The Christian Greek fleet of 85 ships and 5,000 ruthless pirates, led by a turncoat Arab admiral named “Ibn Qatuna”, then sailed east and attacked the fortress of Ushtun, where the many artillery and siege engines were burned. According to Muslim historians, the surprise raid, while the self-styled caliphs in Baghdad were sunk in pleasures and oppression of the people, especially the followers of the Prophet’s Ahl al-Bayt, jolted the conscience of the Egyptian people to the urgent need of strengthening of maritime defences. As a result ships were constructed, new crews conscripted, and Damietta and other coastal sites fortified. This was the birth of the Egyptian navy that reached its peak later under the Shi’ia Muslim Fatemid dynasty.
1114 lunar years ago, on this day in 328 AH, the famous calligrapher, Abu Ali Mohammad Ibn Ali Ibn Muqlah Shirazi, was torturously executed by the usurper Abbasid regime in his hometown Baghdad at the age of 59 years. He is regarded as inventor of the “thuluth” script, the first cursive style of Arabic, though none of his original work remains. Ibn Muqlah was also a government official. By age 22 he was a scribe as well as holding two other important jobs. He was the vizier three times under the Abbasid caliph in Baghdad. After years of fighting for causes he believed in, he was publicly disgraced and imprisoned. After four years of maltreatment, he was executed, with his tongue chopped off and right hand amputated by the executioners. Along with Ibn al-Bawwab and Yaqut al-Musta’simi, he is considered the founder of the modern style. Among his valuable books, mention can be made of “Risalah fi Ilm al-Khat wa’l-Qalam”.
794 lunar years ago, on the eve of this day in 648 AH, the celebrated scholar, Hassan Ibn Yusuf Ibn Ali Ibn Mohammad Ibn Mutahhar, was born in Hillah, Iraq. Renowned as “Allamah Hilli”, he was a child prodigy, and after initial education under his qualified father, and acquiring of fiqh from his famous maternal uncle “Muhaqqiq Hilli”, he proceeded to study from other masters of his era, including the celebrated scholars of Iraq Seyyed Ali bin Tawous and Seyyed Ahmad bin Tawous, as well as Maytham al-Bahrani of Bahrain and the Iranian Islamic genius, Khwaja Naseer od-Din Tusi, who taught him philosophy and logic. Later, he held debates with scholars of the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence – Hanbali, Hanafi, Maleki, and Shafei. During one such debate in the Ilkhanid court, his rationality convinced the Buddhist-born and Christian-baptized Mongol Emperor of Iran-Iraq, Oljeitu Khodabanda, to become a Muslim and a staunch follower of the Ahl al-Bayt. Allamah Hilli’s works include at least a hundred books and treatises on various subjects such as jurisprudence, theology, logic, philosophy, hadith, exegesis of the holy Qur’an and Rijal or evaluation of hadith narrators. Each book of this great mujtahid is enough to portray his precocity and genius. Among the noteworthy works are “Ma’arej al-Fahm”, “Qawa’ed al-Ahkaam”, “Tadhkirat ul-Fuqaha” and “Tabsirat ul-Mutallimeen”, the last being studied by seminary students till this day. He also wrote on proofs from the holy Qur’an, the hadith, and the intellect, on the right to caliphate of Imam Ali (AS) after the passing away of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA). This famous book is titled “Nahj al-Haq wa Kashf as-Sidq”. Allamah Hilli was succeeded by his worthy son, Mohammad, who is acclaimed as “Fakhr al-Muhaqqiqeen” (Pride of Researchers).
635 lunar years ago, on this day in 807 AH, the Egyptian Hanafi historian, Ibn al-Furat, passed away in his hometown Cairo at the age of 72. His history “Tarikh ad-Duwal wa’l-Muluk” focuses largely on the Crusades. The work remained unfinished and survives in fragments of the original autograph manuscript, mostly preserved in Vienna. Ibn al-Furat’s work is of particular importance for modern scholars due to its high level of detail and the mostly verbatim use of a wide variety of sources, including Christian and Shi’a authors. Some of these works survive only through Ibn al-Furat’s reuse of them.
398 solar years ago, on this day in 1623 AD, Hormuz Island in the Strait of the same name in the Persian Gulf was liberated by Iranian naval forces from the Portuguese occupiers after a 3-month siege. Iran took humanitarian measures to allow the entire Portuguese population of the island to leave for Muscat in Oman. Shah Abbas the Great granted certain commercial privileges to the English for their naval assistance against the Portuguese.
344 lunar years ago, on this day in 1098 AH, the prominent jurisprudent, Mohammad bin Hassan Shirwani, passed away in Isfahan at the age of 65, and his body was taken to Mashhad, Khorasan for burial in the mausoleum of Imam Reza (AS), the 8th Infallible Heir of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA). Born in Shirwan in the Caucasus, after preliminary studies under his scholarly father he came to the Safavid capital Isfahan for higher religious studies, and benefitted from such great scholars as Mohaqqeq Hussain Khwansari, and Mohammad Taqi Majliis, mastering a wide variety of sciences, such as jurisprudence, theology, exegesis of the holy Qur’an, mathematics, philosophy, and astronomy. He married the daughter of the Elder Majlisi (sister of the famous Allamah Mohammad Baqer Majlisi), and travelled to holy Najaf in Iraq, where he attained the status of Ijtehad. On his return to Iran after several years, during which he wrote many valuable books, he was welcomed in Isfahan by the Safavid monarch and the ulema, including his brother-in-law Allamah Majlisi. Shirwani groomed many prominent scholars and wrote several books.
180 lunar years ago, on this day in 1272 AH, the virtuous scholar Seyyed Hassan Sadr Ibn Seyyed Hadi as-Sadr was born in the holy city of Kazemain, near Baghdad in Iraq. At the age of 16 he went to holy Najaf to study under the leading ulema and nine years later moved to Samarra to study under the celebrated scholar, Ayatollah Mirza Hassan Shirazi (famous for his fatwa against tobacco consumption in Iran). He returned to Kazemain seventeen years later and soon became the leading mujtahed. He passed away in 1354 at the age of 82. He groomed many students and wrote several books such as the “Role of Shi’ite Scholars in Development of Islamic Sciences”, The Shi’ite Muslims and Promotion of Islamic Arts”, and a refutation of the absurd viewpoints of the pseudo scholar Ibn Taimiyya.
162 solar years ago, on this day in 1859 AD, Scottish author and physician, Arthur Conan Doyle, was born. He created the fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes.
136 solar years ago, on this day in 1885 AD, the French author and poet, Victor Hugo, died at the age of 83. He was involved in politics and as an advocate of civil rights, opposed the repressive rule of Napoleon III. Hugo is considered the pioneer of the Romanticism School. Among his famous novels, mention can be made of “Les Miserables”, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, “The Man Who Laughs”, and “Toilers of the Sea”.
109 solar years ago, on this day in 1912 AD, the American Chemist, Herbert Charles Brown, was born in London. His family immigrated to the US when he was two years old. He obtained PhD in chemistry from the University of Chicago. In 1979, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for discovering new combinations in Organic Chemistry, including different types of fertilizers and vegetable preservatives. He died in 2004.
61 solar years ago, on this day in 1960 AD, the Great Chilean earthquake measuring 9.5 on the moment magnitude scale, hit southern Chile. It is the most powerful earthquake ever recorded. It lasted approximately 10 minutes. The resulting tsunami affected southern Chile, Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, eastern New Zealand, southeast Australia and the Aleutian Islands. The main tsunami raced across the Pacific and devastated Hilo in Hawaii. Waves as high as 10.7 meters or 35 feet were recorded 10,000 kms from the epicenter and as far away as Japan and Philippines.
48 lunar years ago, on this day in 1393 AH, Ayatollah Seyyed Ahmad Hussaini Zanjani passed away at the age of 85 and was laid to rest in the mausoleum of Hazrat Ma’souma (peace upon her). After initial Islamic studies in his hometown Zanjan, he moved to Qom on the revival of the Seminary of that holy city by Ayatollah Shaikh Abdul-Karim Ha’eri and mastered jurisprudence, theology, history, and literature. He was well aware of contemporary issues. Among his books is “Khayr al-Omour”.
45 solar years ago, in the year 1976 AD, the Afro-American poet, novelist and playwright, James Langston Hughes, died in New York at the age of 74. He was born in Missouri and his first novel “Not without Laughter” won him the Harmon gold medal in literature. He campaigned for the rights of Afro-Americans, and in his works portrayed the hardships of the black people in the US. Among his works, mention can be made of “One-Way Ticket”, and “Laughing to Keep from Crying”.
34 solar years ago, on this day in 1987 AD, the Hashempura Massacre occurred in Meerut in Uttar Pradesh state, India, when 19 personnel of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) rounded up 42 Muslim youth from the Hashempura Mohalla, took them to the outskirts near Murad Nagar in Ghaziabad District, where they were shot and their bodies were dumped in water canals. A few days later corpses were found floating in the canals. In May 2000, 16 of the 19 murderers surrendered, and were released on bail. In 2002 the Supreme Court transferred the trial of the case to a Sessions Court at the Tis Hazari complex in Delhi, where it is the oldest pending case. On 24 May 2007, twenty years after the massacre, two survivors and members of the victims’ families filed applications at the Lucknow court as per The Right to Information Act, seeking information of the case. The inquiry revealed that all police culprits remained in service, and none had any mention of the incident in their Annual Confidential Report (ACR)
31 solar years ago, on this day in 1990 AD, North Yemen and South Yemen decided to merge into a single state, after decades of separation, following the treaty of 1914 between the Ottomans and the British. The North’s president, Col. Ali Abdullah Saleh retained power as President of united Yemen. Yemen was ruled intermittently for almost a millennium by descendants of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA), who mostly belonged to the Zaydi Shi’a sect. The majority of Yemeni people are Shi’a Muslims, mostly Zaydis, followed by Ismailis and a minority of Ithna Ash’aris (Twelvers). Parts of Yemen, such as Najran, Jizaan, and Asir are under Saudi occupation, despite the long-expired treaty of 1934 calling for their return after a 40-year period.
Khordad 1st: is commemorated every year in the Islamic Republic of Iran as National Day for the celebrated Islamic scholar and philosopher, Sadr od-Din Mohammad bin Ibrahim Shirazi, popular as Mullah Sadra. He is arguably the most significant Islamic philosopher after Abu Ali ibn Sina (Avicenna to medieval Europe). He remains the single most important and influential philosopher in the Muslim world in the last four hundred years. Born in Shiraz in 979 AH or 1571 AD, he studied in Isfahan, the Safavid capital, under such famous luminaries as Mir Mohammad Baqer Damad and Shaikh Baha od-Din al-Ameli, before retiring for a number of years of spiritual solitude and discipline in the village of Kahak, near holy Qom. He was then invited by Allah-Werdi Khan, the governor of Fars Province, to return to Shiraz, where he taught for the remainder of his life. He passed away in Basra in 1050 AH (corresponding to 1640 AD), while on his seventh Hajj pilgrimage on foot to holy Mecca. He was later given the title of Sadr al-Muta’allihin or Master of Theosophists for his approach to philosophy that combined an interest in theology and drew upon insights from mystical intuition. The author of over forty works, his major philosophical work is the “Asfar al-Arba’a” (The Four Journeys). A keen thinker who wrote on a wide variety of topics such as philosophy, theology, mysticism, and Qur’anic exegesis, Mullah Sadra strove for a wide-ranging synthesis of approaches to Islamic thought and argued for the necessity of the method of understanding reality through logical reasoning, spiritual inspiration, and a deep meditation upon the key scriptural sources of the Twelver Shi‘a traditions in Islam.