Today is Saturday; 29th of the Iranian month of Khordad 1400 solar hijri; corresponding to 8th of the Islamic month of Zil-Qa’dah 1442 lunar hijri; and June 19, 2021, of the Christian Gregorian Calendar.
2261 solar years ago, on this day in 240 BC, Greek astronomer and mathematician, Eratosthenes, estimated the circumference of the earth. As director of the library of Alexandria in Ptolemaic Egypt, he read in a papyrus book that in the city of Syene (present day Aswan) as noon approaches on the summer solstice (longest day of the year), shadows of temple columns grow shorter, disappearing completely at noon when the sun is directly overhead. While at the same time, 843 km away to the north in Rhacotis (the ancient Egyptian city on which Alexandria was founded), where because of the time difference, a rod could cast a pronounced shadow. Thus, he realized that the surface of the Earth could not be flat. It must be curved. Using the length of the rod, and the length of the shadow, as the legs of a triangle, he calculated the angle of the sun’s rays. This turned out to be about 7°, or 1/50th the circumference of a circle. Taking the Earth as spherical, and knowing both the distance and direction of Syene, he concluded that the Earth’s circumference was fifty times that distance.
1063 lunar years ago, on this day in 379 AH, the Iranian Islamic astronomer, mathematician, and historian of science, Abu Hamed Ahmad Ibn Mohammed as-Saghani al-Asturlabi, passed away in Baghdad. He was from the town of Saghan in Khorasan near the city of Merv, which is presently in Turkmenistan, and lived most of his life in Baghdad. As is evident from his last surname “al-Asturlabi”, he was a maker of astrolabes and invented many other instruments, while working in the observatory built by Sharaf od-Dowla Daylami, the Iranian Buwaiyhid ruler of Iraq. He worked on the trisection of the angle. He wrote some of the earliest comments on the history of science. These included comparison between the “ancients” that is, the Babylonians, Egyptians, Persians, Greeks and Indians, and the “modern scholars”, that is, the Muslim scientists of his time.
1057 lunar years ago, on this day in 385 AH, the Shafei hadith scholar Ali Ibn Omar Dar Qutni, passed away in his hometown Baghdad. After basic studies in Baghdad, Kufa, Waset and Basra, he traveled to Egypt and Greater Syria, in search of hadith. He was an authority on poetry and literature as well. Among his works, mention can be made of the book known as “Sunan Dar Qutni”, in which he has collected the hadith through different sources, and has mentioned some of the merits of the Infallible Ahl al-Bayt of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA).
754 lunar years ago, on this day in 688 AH, Iranian philosopher, Sufi writer, and Persian poet, Fakhr od-Din Ibrahim bin Bozorgmehr Iraqi, passed away in Damascus at the age of 80, and was laid to rest beside the tomb of the famous Spanish Muslim Gnostic, Sheikh Mohy od-Din ibn al-Arabi. Born in Hamadan, western Iran, he spent many years in Multan, (present day Pakistan) as well as in Konya and Toqat in present day Turkey. He was highly educated in both theology and literary disciplines and not only knew the Holy Qur’an, hadith and its exegesis, but also Persian and Arabic literature. In Multan he became a disciple of the Head of the Suhrawardi Sufi Order, Shaikh Baha od-Din Zakariyya, married his daughter, and stayed for twenty-five years. He then traveled first to Mecca and Medina, and later visited Konya, where he became a good friend of the famous Persian mystical poet, Mowlana Jalal od-Din Rumi. He also met Sadr od-Din Qunawi, who helped to shape him intellectually, as Shaikh Baha od-Din Zakariyya had shaped him spiritually. After Rumi’s death, he moved to Toqat, at a time when there was much upheaval on the Byzantine border. The local ruler did not like him because of his influence over the people; so he fled to Cairo in Egypt. Later he settled in Damascus. His writings include “Lama’at” (Divine Flashes). His Diwan has been published in Iran under the title of “Kulliyaat-e Iraqi”. Another of his works is “Ushshaq-Namah” written during his stay in Multan and dedicated to the vizier Shams od-Din Juwayni.
752 solar years ago, on this day in 1269 AD, King Louis IX of France ordered all Jews found in public without an identifying yellow badge of “shame” to be fined ten livres of silver. The Jews were subjected to persecution and humiliation in Christian Europe that often resulted in the burning of their localities and mass massacres, at a time when they enjoyed all rights in Muslim lands and rose to prominent positions. Louis IX was an avowed enemy of Muslims as well, and suffered a humiliating defeat in 1250 in the Battle of Fareskur in Egypt which he had invaded as head of the 7th crusade – in league with the Buddhist Mongols, who were ravaging Iran and the Muslim World from the east. While trying to flee, the French king was captured along with his brothers, and had to procure release by paying a huge ransom. In 1270 he mobilised the 8th Crusade and invaded Tunis along with Prince Edward of England, to use it as a base for attacking other Muslim lands, especially Palestine. Disease and dysentery struck the crusader camps as Divine Wrath, resulting in the death of many including Louis IX himself in August the same year, thereby aborting the Crusade.
398 solar years ago, on this day in 1623 AD, French author and mathematician and innovator of calculation devices, Blaise Pascal, was born. In hydrodynamics he formulated what came to be known as Pascal’s law of pressure. He became religious in the waning years of his life and wrote a book on Christianity titled “Provincial Letters”. He died at the age of 39.
274 solar years ago, on this in 1747 AD, Nader Shah Afshar was assassinated in Quchan, Khorasan, at the age of 59, by the captain of his guards, Salah Beg, because of his increasing cruelty, after a 11-year reign as Emperor. Born as Nader Qoli into the Qereqlu clan of the Afshars, a Qizilbash tribe settled in northern Khorasan; following the death of his camel-driver father, Imam Qoli, he, along with his mother, was abducted as a young boy by marauding Uzbek tribesmen, from whom Nader managed to escape. He joined a band of brigands and eventually became their leader. Under the patronage of Afshar chieftains, he rose through the ranks to become a powerful military figure. During the chaos resulting from the defeat of Shah Sultan Hussain Safavi and the occupation of the Iranian capital, Isfahan, by the Hotaki Afghan rebels, Nader initially submitted to the local Afghan governor of Mashhad, Malek Mahmoud, but then rebelled and built up his own small army. The martyred Sultan Hussain’s son had declared himself Shah Tahmasp II with the support of the Qajar tribe, with whom Nader Qoli joined ranks. He managed to discover the treacherous correspondence of the Qajarid chief with the Afghans, and promptly revealed the plot to Shah Tahmasp II, who executed the traitor and made Nader the chief of his army. Nader subsequently took the title Tahmasp Qoli (Servant of Tahmasp). In late 1726, he recaptured Mashhad. In May 1729 he took Herat. In September 1729 in the Battle of Damghan, he decisively defeated the usurper Ashraf Afghan Hotaki, and in December liberated the imperial capital Isfahan. In the spring of 1730, he attacked the Ottomans and regained most of the lost Iranian territory. His relations with the Shah, however, declined as the latter grew jealous of his general’s military success. While Nader was in the east, Tahmasp II tried to assert himself by launching a campaign to liberate Yerevan but ended up losing all of Armenia and Georgia to the Ottomans. Nader denounced the treaty with the Ottomans, and in 1732 forced Tahmasp II to abdicate the throne in favour of the infant, Abbas III, to whom Nader became regent. He now liberated Armenia and Georgia, as well as Baghdad from the Ottomans, and soon liberated the whole of the Caucasus by forcing Russia to return Daghestan to Iran. In January 1736, he held an assembly of leading political figures to suggest removal of Abbas III, and on March 8, 1736, crowned himself the new Shah, thereby ending the two centuries and thirty-five year rule of the Safavid Dynasty. In 1738, Nader liberated Qandahar, and when the Hotaki Afghan rebels fled into India, he asked for their surrender from the Moghal Emperor, Mohammad Shah, whose weakness provided him the pretext to cross the border into the Subcontinent to capture Ghazni, Kabul, Peshawar, Sindh and Lahore. He then advanced deeper into India crossing the River Indus and defeating the large Moghal army at the Battle of Karnal in 1739. Nader, along with the defeated Mohammad Shah entered Delhi in triumph. He forced the Moghal Emperor to hand over the keys of the royal treasury, from which he took the famous Peacock Throne, along with a trove of fabulous jewels, such as the fabulous diamonds Koh-e Noor (Mount of Light) and Darya-e Noor (Sea of Light). He also took with him thousands of elephants, horses and camels, loaded with the booty, which was so great that he stopped taxation in Iran for a period of three years following his return. In 1740 he launched the Central Asian campaign to conquer the Khanates of Bukhara and Kharazm. In the Persian Gulf, he liberated Bahrain, and in 1743 he conquered Oman and its capital Muscat. Then in the war against the Ottomans, he freed the holy city of Najaf in Iraq in 1746, a year before his death.
242 solar years ago, on this day in 1779 AD, Mohammad Ali Khan, the 2nd ruler of the Zand Dynasty and son of its Founder, Karim Khan, died of heart attack, after some 5 months in power. His brother Abu’l- Fath succeeded him, only to be deposed two months later by his uncle, Sadeq Khan. During his almost 30-year rule, Karim Khan Zand held sway over almost all of Iran, along with Basra in Iraq and parts of the Caucasus, except for Greater Khorasan. To legitimize his rule, he had placed the Safavid prince, Ismail III, as a figurehead, and never took the title of Shah, contenting himself with the honourary epithet “Wakil ar-Re’aya” (Representative of the People). He based his administration on social justice, and is regarded as one of the most able rulers in Iranian history. On his death, infighting weakened the dynasty, and for the next 15 years that it lasted, none of the seven rulers who followed him could ensure public welfare and security, oblivious of the danger posed by the Qajar warlord, Agha Mohammad Khan, who overthrew the Zands in 1794 to establish the Qajarid Dynasty – which the British replaced in 1925 with the Pahlavi potentate, Reza Khan.
154 solar years ago, on this day in 1867 AD, Austrian prince, Maximilian, who had occupied Mexico a year-and-a-half earlier, was executed by freedom fighters. In 1855 President Benito Juarez of Mexico, as part of his nationalistic policies, had curtailed the undue privileges of the White minority and the power of the Catholic Church – measures that angered European powers, which led by France, invaded Mexico and imposed Maximilian as king. Juarez, however, continued his struggles against the French forces and the monarchists, and after crushing them and executing the imposed king, once again was instated as the president.
144 solar years ago, on this day in 1877 AD, the first flying object that did not need a tarmac and could vertically take off and touchdown, or remain stationary in air, was tested. Named Helicopter, it was tested by Italian inventor, Enrico Forlanini, in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. This primary model of the helicopter was later perfected by Polish expert, Igor Sikorsky, and patented in his name.
89 lunar years ago, on this day in 1353 AH, the prominent jurisprudent Mullah Mohammad Hussain Fesharaki, passed away in his hometown Isfahan at the age of 87. After initial study under his elder brother Shaikh Mohammad Baqer Fesharaki, he left for Iraq for higher religious studies at the famous seminary of holy Najaf, where his teachers included Ayatollah Mirza Habibollah Rashti, Ayatollah Shaikh Zain al-Abedin Mazandarani, and Ayatollah Mirza Hassan Shirazi (famous for the fatwa against tobacco consumption in order to save Iranian economy from British exploitation). On his return to Iran, he served as teacher at the seminary of Isfahan, and was active both socially and politically, in order to counter un-Islamic trends and laws creeping into the Iranian society. He formed a council of ulema in Isfahan in support of the ulema of Tehran who were active against the despotic policies of the Qajarid monarchy, and in order to safeguard Iranian economy, issued a 5-point declaration specifying that the ulema will not attest any document written on imported paper, and will not perform the funeral prayer of any deceased person whose shroud is made of imported cloth instead of Iranian cloth. Even the British installed Pahlavi dictator, Reza Khan, despite his disdain and maltreatment of the ulema, was afraid of Ayatollah Mohammad Hussain Fesharaki.
72 solar years ago, on this day in 1949 AD, prominent philosopher of the Subcontinent, Seyyed Zafar ul-Hassan, passed away in Lahore, Pakistan, at the age of 64. Educated at Allahabad, he obtained doctorates from the universities of Erlangen and Heidelberg in Germany, before becoming the first Muslim Scholar of the Subcontinent to obtain a PhD from Oxford University in Philosophy. He started teaching at Aligarh Muslim University, India in 1911, and in 1913 became professor of philosophy at Islamia College, Peshawar in what is now Pakistan. From 1924 to 1945 he was professor of philosophy at the Aligarh Muslim University, where he also served as Chairman of the Department of Philosophy. In 1939, he put forward the ‘Aligarh Scheme’ along with Dr Afzaal Hussain Qaderi, titled “The Problem of Indian Muslims” proposing three independent states in the Subcontinent. From 1945 to 1947, he served as Emeritus Professor at Aligarh. In 1947, he migrated to Pakistan on its creation. He wrote many books including “Revelation and Prophet”, “Message of Iqbal”, and “Philosophy of Islam”.
70 solar years ago, on this day in 1951 AD, following the ratification of the act for nationalization of Iran’s oil industry on March 20, 1951, a board comprised of Iranian experts took charge of the executive affairs of the National Iranian Oil Company, as per the recommendations of Ayatollah Seyyed Abu’l-Qassem Kashani and Prime Minister, Dr. Mohammad Mosaddeq, thereby dissolving the British controlled Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and dismissing the 450-odd foreign staff. The Iranian people achieved a landmark victory this day against domestic despotism and foreign hegemony.
60 solar years ago, on this day in 1961 AD, Britain granted independence to the tiny Persian Gulf emirate of Kuwait, which throughout history, was part of Iran’s Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanid Empires. With the advent of Islam, this area was classified with Iraq and was subsequently ruled by the Iranian Buwaiyhid dynasty of Baghdad, followed by the vast Iran-based empires of the Seljuqids, the Ilkhanids, the Qara Qoyunlus, and the Safavids. The Ottoman Turks briefly took over this mostly deserted land, which in the 18th century saw an influx of nomads from Najd in the desert interior of the Arabian Peninsula who occupied it and began to call it Kuwait. In 1756, they chose a certain Sabah bin Jaber as the tribal chief, whose descendants have continued to rule Kuwait. In 1899, British colonialists, as part of their policy to curtail the power and influence of the Ottoman Turks, declared Kuwait as a protectorate. With the discovery of oil, tiny Kuwait became rich overnight, and even after independence from Britain, it’s foreign and defence policies are virtually controlled by the West, especially the US, in view of persistent claims by neighbouring Iraq. From August 1990 to March 1991, Kuwait was occupied by Saddam, the Ba’thist dictator of Baghdad, who was forced to evacuate it as a result of the First Persian Gulf War launched by the US-led multinational alliance. Kuwait covers an area of 18,000 sq km and shares land borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
51 lunar years ago, on this day in 1391 AH, Ayatollah Mirza Ahmad Najafi Khorasani Kifayi, passed away in holy Mashhad at the age of 91 and was laid to rest in the mausoleum of Imam Reza (AS) beside the grave of his elder brother Mirza Mahdi Ayatollahzadeh. Born in holy Najaf in Iraq to the celebrated scholar Mohammad Kazem Akhound Khorasani – author of the famous jurisprudential work “Kifayat al-Osoul” – he attended the classes of leading scholars such as Ayatollah Seyyed Abu’l-Hassan Isfahani, and his own eldest brother, Mirza Mohammad Aqazadeh Khorasani, before studying for ten years under his father, and attaining the status of Ijtehad. Of good appearance and blessed with a sharp wit and keen insight, he was also active in politics, supporting the Constitutional Movement in Iran against the despotism of the Qajarid Dynasty, and participating in the 1920 Revolution in Iraq against the British as the trusted assistant of Ayatollah Mirza Mohammad Taqi Shirazi. When the British martyred Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Shirazi through poisoning and crushed the revolution, Ayatollah Mirza Ahmad Kifayi fled to Hijaz, staying for a year in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. He returned to Najaf, but a couple of years later in 1923 (1341 AH), along with several ulema of Iranian origin, was expelled to Iran by the imported dynasty of Faisal of Mecca, whom the British installed as king in Baghdad. He took up residence in holy Mashhad, where his eldest brother was already based, and besides teaching at the seminary, played a vital role in thwarting the Russian plot to seize Khorasan. He also opposed the British installation of the illiterate soldier, Reza Khan Pahlavi, as king of Iran. The new regime imprisoned in Tehran and martyred his eldest brother Ayatollah Mirza Mohammad Aqazadeh. He now took charge of the seminary of Mashhad, before being banished to Tabriz in Azarbaijan, where during World War 2, he spared no efforts to awaken the people against the plot of the Tudeh communist party to detach this northwestern part of Iran and turn it into a Soviet republic. He returned to Mashhad during the reign of Mohammad Reza and revived the seminary. He held in high esteem the young and aspiring Father of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeini (God bless him), hailing him during the 1963 Khordad 15 Uprising against the Pahlavi potentate, as “Iran’s Prime Personality” – a prediction that came true a decade and a half later.
44 solar years ago, on this day in 1977 AD, Iranian author and thinker, Dr. Ali Shariati, passed away at the age of 44 in London, and his body was brought to Syria and buried in Damascus in the mausoleum of Hazrat Zainab (SA) – the granddaughter of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA). Born in a religious and academic family in Mazinan village near the northeastern city of Sabzevar, Khorasan, during his academic years he started his political activities against the despotic Pahlavi regime. After obtaining PhD in Sociology of Religions from France’s Sorbonne University, he returned to Iran and established himself as an influential orator at Tehran’s Husseiniyeh Irshaad, alongside prominent lecturers and thinkers such as Ayatollah Morteza Motahhari and Hojjat al-Islam Dr. Mohammad Javad Bahonar. Shariati was a prolific writer and has left behind more than 200 works in books, journals, and tapes of his speeches. Among his valuable books, mention can be made of “Islam and Mankind”, “Hajj”, “Marxism and Other Western Fallacies: An Islamic Critique”, “Martyrdom”, “A Visage of Prophet Mohammad”, and “Fatemah is Fatemah.”
23 solar years ago, on this day in 1998 AD, Ayatollah Ali Gharavi Tabrizi was martyred at the age of 68, along with his companions, while returning to holy Najaf from pilgrimage to the holy shrine of Imam Husain (AS) in Karbala. He was gunned down by agents of the repressive Ba’th minority regime, which two months earlier had martyred another prominent scholar of the Najaf seminary, Ayatollah Morteza Boroujerdi. Born in the northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz, after initial studies at holy Qom, Ayatollah Gharavi had left for Najaf at the age of 19 for higher studies. On attaining the status of Ijtehad was involved in grooming students and writing books.
22 lunar years ago, on this day in 1420 AH, Ayatollah Mirza Rahim Samet passed away at the age of 99 in his hometown Qazvin. Born in an academic family to the Prayer Leader Mirza Hussain Qazvini, he traced his descent to the famous Safavid era scholar Rafi od-Din Mohammad Va’ez Qazvini (died 1089 AH), the author of “Abwaab al-Jenaan”. After preliminary religious education in Qazvin, he left for Qom for higher studies and for five years attended the classes of leading ulema, including Ayatollah Hojjat Koh-Kamarei. He then travelled to Iraq and during his ten years at the seminary in holy Najaf, where he attained the status of Ijtehad, he studied under such prominent ulema as Ayatollah Seyyed Abu’l-Hassan Isfahani, Ayatollah Zia od-Din Iraqi, and Ayatollah Mirza Hussain Na’ini. On his return to Iran, he took up teaching in his hometown, and for almost half-a-century was head of the Qazvin seminary. He groomed a large number of students and wrote several books.
14 solar years ago, on this day in 2007 AD, Takfiri terrorists, as part of their campaign to desecrate holy Islamic sites, triggered a deadly bomb blast at Baghdad’s al-Khilani Mosque, resulting in the martyrdom of some hundred men, women, and children, and injury to 218 others.