Today is Sunday; 2nd of the Iranian month of Khordad 1400 solar hijri; corresponding to 11th of the Islamic month of Shawwal 1442 lunar hijri; and May 23, 2021, of the Christian Gregorian Calendar.
1445 lunar years ago, on this day, a couple of years before Hijrah or migration to Medina, Prophet Mohammad (SAWA), left the persecuted atmosphere of Mecca for the fertile resort of Ta’ef to preach the message of Islam. The people of this city, including the influential clan of Thaqif, refused to believe in monotheism and subjected the Prophet to taunts including physical injury, as a result of which he returned to his hometown.
1319 solar years ago, on this day in 702 AD, Kinich Kan Bahlam II, also known as Chan Bahlum II, ruler of the Maya city-state of Palenque in what is now southern Mexico, was born to Kinich Janaab Pakal I. He succeeded his father in 684 and died in 702 at the age of 67 after a reign of 18-years, during which he continued the ambitious project of adorning his dominion with fine arts and architecture. His most important addition to the city of Palenque was the Temple of the Cross which is the centre piece of the Temple of the Cross Complex, and the largest and most significant pyramid within a complex of temples in present state of Chiapas in Mexico. He was succeeded by his younger brother, Kinich Kan Joy Chitam I.
1177 solar years ago, on this day in 844 AD is the spurious date of the fictional Battle of Clavijo in northern Spain between Muslims and Christian that never took place. Stories invented centuries later claimed it saw the victory of Ramiro I of Asturias over the Emir of Cordoba. In this myth, Saint James Matamoros, suddenly appeared and helped a vastly outnumbered Christian army to gain victory. Aspects of the historical Battle of Monte Laturce (in 859) were incorporated into this fiction. The myth, as it survives, was first fabricated about 300 years after the supposed battle on a spurious charter. A forged grant to the Church of Santiago de Compostela by which Ramiro reportedly surrendered a part of the annual tribute owed him by all the Christians of Spain also dates from the mid-twelfth century. The history of the cult of Saint James is rich in such frauds. Such myths were coined to instill a false sense of religiosity amongst the Spanish Christians to make them rise against Spanish Muslims. Modern Spanish scholarship has noted the heavy borrowings from the historical Battle of Monte Laturce that led to the defeat of Musa Ibn Musa, of the Islamicized Bani Qasi (descendants of the Hispano-Visigoth nobleman Cassius). After Monte Laturce, which was the result of family feud between Spanish Christians and Spanish Muslims, Musa was forced to fully submit to the Emir of Cordoba, who taking advantage of his weakness, removed him as Wali or Governor of the Upper March, initiating a decade-long eclipse of the Banu Qasi.
955 lunar years ago, on this day in 487 AH, the Spanish Muslim lexicographer, geographer and historian, Abu Obayd Abdullah ibn Abdul-Aziz al-Bakri, passed away at the age of 82. Born in Huelva, the son of the ruler of the short-lived principality of the same name, he was a polymath in most of the sciences of the day. When his father was deposed he shifted to Qurtuba (Cordoba) where he studied with the geographer Ahmad Ibn Omar al-Udhri and the historian Hayyán Ibn Khalaf Ibn Hayyan al-Qurtubi. He spent all his life in his native Spain, mostly in Seville and Almeria, writing about Europe, North Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula. Only two of his works have survived – the “Mu’jam ma Ista’jam” and “Kitab al-Masalek wa’l-Mamalek” (Book of Ways and Lands). The latter work was based on writings and the reports of merchants and travellers, including Mohammad Ibn Yusuf al-Warraq and the Arabicized Jew, Abraham ben Jacob. It is an important source for the history of West Africa and gives crucial information on the Ghana Empire, the Almoravid Dynasty and the trans-Saharan trade. He also updated information. Al-Bakri mentions the earliest urban centers in the trans-Saharan trade to embrace Islam such as Gao along the River Niger which had native Muslim inhabitants. Soon other kingdoms along the serpentine bends of River Niger eventually embraced Islam, such as Takrur (today’s Senegal); Songhay (present day Mali); Kanem-Bornu (currently Chad); and Hausa-territories (of what is now called Nigeria). His works are noted for the objectiveness with which they are presented. For each area, he described the people, their customs, as well as the geography, climate, and main cities. He also included anecdotes about each area. Unfortunately, parts of his main work have been lost, and of the surviving parts, some have never been published. In lexicography al-Bakri wrote the book “Amsaal al-Obayd”.
738 lunar years ago, on this day in 1304 AH, Mahmoud Ghazaan, the seventh ruler of the Mongol Empire’s Ilkhanate division that was based in modern-day Iran, and included Iraq and parts of Central Asia and the Caucasus, died. He was the son of Arghun and grandson of Abaqa, continuing a line of rulers who were direct descendants of Genghis Khan. Considered the most prominent of the Ilkhans, he is best known for accepting the truth of Islam in 1295 when he ascended the throne, although he was born a Buddhist, and because of his mother was baptized and raised as a Christian. On conversion to Islam at the hands of Ibrahim Ibn Mohammad Ibn Hamwayh Khorasani al-Juwaini, he changed his first name to Mahmoud, and Islam gained popularity within Mongol territories beyond Iran. His principal wife was Kokechin, a Mongol princess sent to Iran by his distant cousin Kublai Khan the ruler of China, and escorted by the famous Italian traveler Marco Polo. Military conflicts during Ghazaan’s reign included war with the Egyptian Mamluks for control of Syria, and battles with the Mongol Chaghatai Khanate of Central Asia. Ghazaan also pursued diplomatic contacts with Europe. The Mongol capital was Maragheh in today’s East Azarbaijan Province, west of Tehran.
497 solar years ago, on this day in 1524 AD, Shah Ismail I, the founder of the Safavid Dynasty of Iran, passed away at the age of 37 after a reign of 24 years, and was succeeded by his young son, Shah Tahmasp I. To Ismail and the Safavids goes the credit of giving Iran its present political, cultural, religious, and national identity, although in terms of geography many of the areas of the Safavid Empire were lost to the aggressors and colonialists by the subsequent dynasties. Ismail I was devoted to the teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA). Born in Ardabil to the head of the Safaviyya Sufi order, Shah Haidar, and his wife Martha, the daughter of the Aq Qoyounlu ruler, Uzun Hassan, by his Greek wife Theodora, better known as Despina Khatun, he was the direct descendant of the famous mystic, Safi od-Din Ardabeli, and hence traced lineage to the Prophet’s 7th Infallible Heir, Imam Musa Kazem (AS). At the age of 13, Ismail launched his campaign in Erzinjan (presently in Turkey), and with the help of a 7,000 force of Qizl-Bash (literally ‘Red-Heads’ from the colour of their caps) Turkic tribes of Rumlu, Shamlu, Ustajlu, Qajar, Afshar, Zul-Qadr, Tekulu, and Varsak, he defeated the Shirvan-Shah, took control of Baku (presently in the Republic of Azerbaijan) and crowned himself as King of Azarbaijan in Tabriz. By 1509, he unified all of Iran, Iraq, the Caucasus, parts of Central Asia, and western Afghanistan, and took the title of Shah of Persia. He was an adventurous personality and the dynasty founded by him lasted 235 years, reviving Iran’s Islamic glories in science, art, architecture, philosophy, culture, and literature. Hence he wielded spiritual influence outside Iran as well amongst the followers of the Ahl al-Bayt in Iraq, Syria, Anatolia (modern Turkey), the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Deccan Plateau of India. The Timurid prince, Babar, who later founded the Mughal Empire in northern India, regarded Shah Ismail as his suzerain, and so did the Deccan Sultanates of Yusuf Adil Shah of Bijapur and Sultan Quli Qutb Shah of Golconda. For this reason, the Ottomans and Uzbeks were his mortal enemies, whose political ambitions, he decisively checked despite the setback he suffered in the Battle of Chaldiran against the former. Shah Ismail I was an accomplished poet in both Persian and his native Azeri Turkish, and wrote under the penname of “Khatai”.
403 solar years ago, on this day in 1618 AD, the 30-year sectarian war started in Europe between the Catholic and Protestant sects, and involved almost all major countries. Europe has a history of gory sectarian and ethnic wars among the various sects that make up Christianity. These senseless wars have claimed millions of life.
210 lunar years ago, on this day in 1232 AH, the jurisprudent and theologian, Mullah Ali Akbar Eiji Isfahani, passed away. He groomed many students and authored several books, including “Zubdat-al-Ma’aref”.
189 solar years ago, on this day in 1832 AD, Samuel Sharpe, of black African origin, was hanged in Jamaica by the British colonialists at the young age of 27 years for leading what they called a ‘slave rebellion’. His last words were: “I would rather die upon yonder gallows than live in slavery.” Born in a family of Africans enslaved and Christianized by the white men, he managed to educate himself and advocated freedom from forced labour for the so-called slaves. In the mistaken belief that the British parliament in London had initiated emancipation, Sharpe organised a peaceful general strike on 27 December 1831 in Kensington to protest working conditions that soon spread across western Jamaica. As this was harvest time at the sugarcane plantations, the owners forced the black men and women to work overtime, resulting in the burning of the crops by the enslaved people. Sharpe’s peaceful protest turned into Jamaica’s largest slave rebellion, and the British used the military forces to suppress it within two weeks, by massacring more than 200 black people. They arrested Sharpe and hundreds of others, and in the months that followed executed over 400 on trumped up charges including allegations of theft. In 1975, the government of independent Jamaica proclaimed Sharpe a National Hero. His image is used on the modern Jamaican $50 bill, and his statues have been erected in various cities.
76 solar years ago, on this day in 1945 AD, Heinrich Himmler, Chief of Nazi Germany’s notorious intelligence agency, Gestapo, committed suicide while being held in prison by the Allied Powers, a few hours prior to his execution.
63 solar years ago, on this day in 1958 AD, Chairman Mao Zedong of the People’s Republic of China launched his “Great Leap Forward” to modernize the economy by forcing factories and farms to meet impossible production targets. The result of the four-year campaign was the shrinking of the economy and the Great Famine of 1960 that killed an estimated 30 million people. The Great Leap also led to the greatest destruction of real estate in human history, outstripping any of the bombing campaigns of World War II, as private ownership was banned, religion prohibited, and people mercilessly prosecuted and killed, while their homes and hearths razed to the ground for resisting against communism. This proves the futility of any economic plan that fails to take into account the spiritual values, religious beliefs, and the cultural aspects of the people, and the right to own property by any individual.
30 solar years ago, on this day in 1991 AD, almost worldwide demonstrations were staged by Muslims against Saddam of the repressive Ba’th minority regime of Baghdad, in protest to his desecration of the holy shrines in Karbala and Najaf, coupled with the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Shi’a Muslims, on the orders of the US and Arab regimes, when the popular uprising of the people of Iraq was about to topple him.
24 solar years ago, on this day in 1997, Iranian botanist, Ahmad Parsa, died at the age of 90 in California, US. Born in Tafresh in central Iran, after completing his studies he left for France where he obtained his doctorate. In 1933 he returned to Iran and became the first modern professor of Botany at Tehran Unversity. He helped establish a natural history museum with a herbarium in Tehran in 1954. He wrote eight volumes on the flora of Iran published in the 1950s and 60s, in which he described over 250 new species.
10 solar years ago, on this day in 2011 AD, the Islamic Republic of Iran successfully test-fired and started mass production of the new surface-to-surface missile, Qiyam, as part of the country’s defence needs to safeguard peace in the region.
9 solar years ago, on this day in 2012 AD, Iran’s navy, as a humanitarian gesture and efforts to safeguard international waters, saved the US-flagged Maersk Texas cargo ship that was being attacked by pirates in the Gulf of Oman.