Jalaluddin Khwarazm

Published: January 27, 2012
The writer is author, most recently of, The Apricot Road to Yarkand (Sang-e-Meel, 2011) and a member of the Royal Geographical Society 

The writer is author, most recently of, The Apricot Road to Yarkand (Sang-e-Meel, 2011) and a member of the Royal Geographical Society [email protected]

Whenever I refer to Jalaluddin, the fugitive king of Khwarazm, as a coward, I draw flak. It seems everyone has read the spurious history of Nasim Hijazi and since, we are mostly undiscerning readers, we have failed to sift through Hijazi’s hash of fiction that hides real history. Moreover, since Jalaluddin is a Muslim name, subcontinental Muslims simply cannot come to grips with the fact that he could be anything but a hero.

Alauddin (aka Ata Malik) Juvaini wrote his masterful Tarikh-e-Jahan Kusha (History of the World Conqueror, circa 1255) and preserved the real history of the shameless Jalaluddin.

It was the beginning of the 13th century and Chengez Khan was on the ascendant. Having subdued and united the many free-ranging Mongol tribes, he was reaching westward. As he neared the valley of the Syr Darya, the Khan sent an embassy to Mohammad, Jalaluddin’s father. Besides court officials, there were over four hundred Muslim traders with merchandise of great value. The message to the Sultan was to take this overture as an invitation to friendship and opening up of trade and travel between the two dominions.

Disturbed by the Mongols unbroken string of victories, Mohammad, who called himself Alexander, was clearly bereft of reason. The merchants were ruthlessly murdered, their goods confiscated and the ambassadors expelled. Chengez Khan promptly sent another embassy seeking redress. One of the three officials was beheaded. The beards of the remaining officials were shaved and they were expelled in humiliation.

Changez Khan then came down on Khwarazm like an all-destroying tempest. Mohammad fled and died on an island in the Caspian, his son hard put to procure even a shroud for the fugitive. Taking up the banner, with the Mongols hard on his heels, Jalaluddin fled first to Afghanistan and then across the Suleman Mountains into the Peshawar valley.

Outside the village of Nizampur (Nowshera), by the banks of the Sindhu River, a great battle was fought in February 1221. Changez Khan’s Mongols prevailed. When Jalaluddin knew defeat was certain, he madly galloped his horse to the river’s edge and made it leap off into the cold blue eddies below. Fraudsters like Hijazi bill him a hero because, Juvaini writes that the Khan called up his sons and pointing to the fleeing coward said that a father should hope to have a son as courageous as him.

Safe on the Punjab side, Jalaluddin stuck his spear in the ground and hung his wet clothes on it to dry. He watched the ransacking of camp and the rape of the women of his family on the far side. What Hijazi does not tell his readers is that Changez Khan also told his sons that the greatest pleasure for a man was to warm his bed with the women of his defeated foe’s family.

By the time Jalaluddin was facing the Khan in battle, he well knew that rape was a Mongol instrument of war. He would surely have known how Samarkand and Bokhara suffered because of his father’s foolishness. And he would have known, too, what the Pakhtuns of Bamian and the Kabul valley faced. It is not for nothing that we today know that the Mongol gene pool is the widest spread in the entire world.

Had he been anything but a coward, Jalaluddin would have fought to the bitter but glorious end. He fled and watched his family being raped. And we are told he was a Muslim hero! He had surely not known of the Rajput way of Johar. When defeat is imminent, the Rajputs burn their families alive and go into battle without head or footgear. Not one man returns alive. That is the essence of true courage, as we, the people of the great and wonderful lands of the subcontinent have forever known it.

In the Attock district, not far from the village of Sojhanda, there is a place on the banks of the Sindhu they call Ghora Trup — the Horse’s Leap. Here a natural stony ramp extends into the river. On the far bank, a couple of hundred metres upstream is a high, sharp verge. Standing there I have seen Jalaluddin Khwarazm’s leap into the river and the languid flow of the February current carry him to the ramp they call Ghora Trup.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2012.


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Reader Comments (30)

  • Ali Wali
    Jan 27, 2012 - 11:55PM

    Khan sahb the great :)Recommend

  • Pakiman
    Jan 28, 2012 - 1:03AM

    @Lala Salma ji
    Then what happend to changezis where they go we dont see any empire in indian sub continent and we also know how got defeated by Al Tuthmush son near the multan…


  • Muslim
    Jan 28, 2012 - 1:12AM

    Salman Rashid sahib’s tries unsuccessfully to create controversy by belittling some of the well known heroes of this land. The rajput’s were brave fighters, however, this strategy of killing themselves at the end of an unsuccessful battle proved to be their biggest folly. Muslims on the other hand are smart enough to distinguish between a battle & a war. You may lose a battle, but the war is what a smart people/individual should have their eyes on & win it. And yes Muslims were excellent at winning the wars! So was Jalaluddin. Khwarizm Shah who lost this battle to which Mr. Rashid refers to, but he came back & eventually won against the Mongols.

    Muslims of today with their suicide attacks have become the heroes of Mr Rashid like the Rajputs, however, it’s the war & not the battle which needs to be won. History remembers the wars & mostly forgets the battles.


  • Falcon
    Jan 28, 2012 - 1:44AM

    Damn that novel ‘Aakhri Chitaan’. I always thought Jalaluddin was the brave hero based on Hijazi’s narrative. Now I know. Makes me wonder what else was wrong in those history novels.


  • You Said It
    Jan 28, 2012 - 5:20AM

    Having rejected ourselves as people of the Indian subcontinent, we are left without any heroes to call our own. Some among us have taken to adopting Arab ancestors. And we look far and wide for heroes and put characters like Jalaluddin, bin Qasim and Ghaznavi up on pedestals.


  • Ak
    Jan 28, 2012 - 6:28AM

    @salman Saheb – someone has to tell these stories the way they were and not the way people imagine them. No one does that better than you. Loved reading this and waiting for the next one.


  • Ashok
    Jan 28, 2012 - 7:28AM

    One thing that needs to be added is that Changais Khan was never called either Changais or Khan during his life – he was given that title by his progeny – he was known as Temujin, which was his given name. Notice that Temujin has the prefix Temu, and his descendent, Temur, also has the same prefix – this is thought to have origins to the Sanksrit word for Iron – Chimara. This is a likely possibility due to Tibet’s strong influence on formerly Bhuddist East Turkestan and predominantly Bhuddist and Shamanist Mongolia. Tibet and the land it shares a border with, Kashmir, always housed vast scholarship in the Sanskrit language.


  • Atif
    Jan 28, 2012 - 9:35AM

    “When defeat is imminent, the Rajputs burn their families alive and go into battle without head or footgear. Not one man returns alive. That is the essence of true courage”

    what a definition of courage this author have, with this definition our Suicide Bombers are the most courageous in the world.

    this is not courage, this is stupidity..


  • Naveed
    Jan 28, 2012 - 10:29AM

    Great work Salman sb. I miss your documentaries on TV. hope to see you back in the fing someday.


  • Balma
    Jan 28, 2012 - 11:12AM

    If I remember correctly, Aakhri ChaTaan was based in Andalusia????

    Also, as someone else said above, Mongols were finally defeated in India and couldn’t make it to Dehli.
    Well, at least for the next 300 years.


  • Hulagu
    Jan 28, 2012 - 12:24PM

    Mongols were not defeated in South Asia by any army.

    “Due to the Mongol invasion, the sacking of Samarkand and being deserted by his Afghan alllies, Jalal was forced to flee to India.[2] At the river Indus however, the Mongols caught up with him and killed his forces and thousand’s of refugees at the Battle of Indus. He escaped and sought asylum in the Sultanate of Delhi. Iltumish however denied this to him in deference to the relationship with the Abassid caliphs.”

    This hero was actually a refugee in the court of another Muslim king who denied him refuge.

    The military objectives of Genghis Khan’s Khawarzem campaign, did not include India. When empire was destroyed, and Jalaluddins military might was finished ( after the battle, he was pretty much finished as a military commander), Genghis Khan saw no reason to continue further.
    Another oft ignored factor, is that both Mongol bows and Mongol horses, key elements of their military strategy, work well in cold and dry climates. The humidity cannot be borne by the horses and the rains make the fish glue holding composite bows together, weaken.
    In general Mongols preferred staying out of the tropics, where they found the climate unsuitable.
    No one defeated them.


  • Falcon
    Jan 28, 2012 - 12:41PM

    I think the ones pertaining to Andalusia were Kaleesa aur Aug, Andheri Raat ke Musafir, and Yousaf Bin Tashfain…


  • Hulagu
    Jan 28, 2012 - 1:08PM

    If you read further on the link I pasted.
    Subsequent to his defeat in the Battle of Indus at it is called, Jalaldin never again fought the Mongols. Here is what happened next
    “Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu spent three years in exile in India before returning to Persia. He gathered an army and re-established a kingdom. He never consolidated his power however, and he spent the rest of his days struggling against Mongols, pretenders to the throne and the Seljuk Turks of Rum. He lost his power over Persia in a battle against the Mongols in the Alborz Mountains and fled to the Caucasus, to capture Azerbaijan in 1225, setting up their capital at Tabriz. In 1226 he attacked Georgia and sacked Tbilisi, destroying all the churches and massacring the city’s Christian population.[3]

    Jalal had a brief victory over the Seljuks and captured the town Akhlat from Ayyubids. However, he was later defeated by Sultan Kayqubad I at Erzincan on the Upper Euphrates at the Battle of Yassıçemen (Yassi Chemen) in 1230, from where he escaped to Diyarbakir while the Mongols captured Azerbaijan in the ensuing confusion. He was murdered in 1231 in Diyarbakir by a Kurdish assassin hired by the Seljuks or possibly by Kurdish highwaymen.”

    No heroic comeback, as you seem to believe. He did fight his fellow Muslims though, Persians, Sejluks, Ayubbids.
    So yes perhaps he did survive the Mongol chase, but I dont see him winning this war per se. He did not affect the Mongols one bit after he was defeated.


  • bmniac
    Jan 28, 2012 - 6:03PM

    Another scintillating revelation;each article removes a veil, exposes history and educates us.
    Thank you, Mr Rashid


  • Cynical
    Jan 28, 2012 - 6:44PM

    Since your last artcle where you mentioned Jalaluddin, I have been looking for information from different sources, but drew very little.Thanks for providing it here.


  • let there be peace
    Jan 28, 2012 - 7:12PM

    Changez Khan also told his sons that the greatest pleasure for a man was to warm his bed with the women of his defeated foe’s family

    I read somewhere many Muslims wrongly presume Changez Khan was Muslim (and hence a hero). Why?


  • Pakiman
    Jan 28, 2012 - 7:29PM

    @let there peace.
    Changez was not muslim his grand son converted to islam and then again they were the peoples who reached the mulims in glory and one more thing they came to baghdad and afpak
    area but never left most of them converted or got killed by locals.


  • naif sultan
    Jan 28, 2012 - 8:42PM

    great salman sahab keep it up break all the false idols we are worshiping so these are glorified in our history books great to see their real facesRecommend

  • Muslim
    Jan 28, 2012 - 8:53PM

    U seem or claim to be from the family of the Great Khans of Mongols (from your pen-name) that is & seem to be defending the Mongols all over & may very well be the source of Wikipedia as well. My source of information is not Wikipedia. It’s from this book called: The “Great Khans of Central Asia” & yes what I wrote above is maybe more authentic than The Great Wikipedia.
    It’s become a fad today to belittle our own history & to poke holes into some of the established historical facts. They say history is as it’s written & also that it’s written by the victors. If you & your likes are so critical of the history as it’s taught, should try writing a book on history & if it becomes a literay success, then controversial “corrections” of historical facts may carry weight.Recommend

  • Dr A K Khan
    Jan 28, 2012 - 8:58PM


    Try this link for the english translation by Ata Malik of “History of the World Conqueror”



  • Homa
    Jan 28, 2012 - 9:45PM

    @the author: you and a couple of other writers are the only reasons i periodically visit this otherwise uninteresting newspaper. Apart from the readers’ comments, there very little that is worth reading in this newspaper and also since my comments are often censored or excluded, i have even less of an incentive to frequent this website lately. However, in this mass of banal articles, your write-ups are a redeeming exception — i just wanted to let you know. I want to say to you that you will be doing a great service to all of humanity if your articles are translated into urdu/other pak languages for the readership of the vernacular press. It is the vernacular citizenry of pakistan that needs to hear your wise messages very urgently. Please do something to make sure you get publsihed in the urdu newspapers of pakistan.


  • harish
    Jan 28, 2012 - 10:01PM

    as a secular indian, i want to say hats off to the author for showing unbiased objectivity in reading history…


  • Hulagu
    Jan 28, 2012 - 10:39PM

    I tried to look up the book Great Khans of Central Asia. Nothing came up. It would be great if you could post some more information, e.g. author name and ISBN.
    Incidently wikipedia is merely a compilation of information from other sources. In this particular case, the article was sourced from three different books

    ^ John Man, Genghis Khan: Life, Death, and Resurrection, (St.Martin's Press, 1994), 181.
    ^ Trevor N. Dupuy and R. Ernest Dupuy, The Harpers Encyclopedia of Military History, (Harper Collins Publishers, 1993), 366.
    ^ Grousset, Rene, The Empire of the Steppes, (Rutgers University Press, 1991), 260

    As far as more trustworthy goes, you can definitely look up these books and authors online and see what their credibility is. Please do not belittle online information merely because it does not support your views. It is not less researched, just more conveniently located.
    If history is indeed written by victors, why would these authors who are third party in this conflict quote a Khawarezm defeat.
    Also the single book which can be accused of a victors or a losers bias in this case, is the ‘Secret History of the Mongols
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TheSecretHistoryofthe_Mongols. It was written for the Mongol royal family.
    But I am not referencing that am I? Anyway, please let us know more about this single book you mention so that you can justify your statement that the information it carries is more accurate.

    In general I have a recommendation for you. Your thirst for information is on the right path, but you need to read from a diverse set of sources. Preferably from opposing sides, opposing nations, third parties, so that you can see the big picture clearly. All writing has a tendency towards slight bias, but the more sources you read from, the more likely that the bias will cancel out.


  • Falcon
    Jan 29, 2012 - 1:47AM

    Couldn’t have agreed with your advice in general for all researchers. The risk of disinformation can only be addressed through source diversification.


  • Dr A K Khan
    Jan 29, 2012 - 9:24AM

    For some examples of Mongol barbarism here are a few extracts from ““History of the World Conqueror””

    “There were many prisoners with them in that place,
    had also captured Indian slaves in that region, so that in
    each house there were ten to twenty prisoners. All of
    were employed in preparing food by scouring rice, etc., and the
    climate agreed with their constitution. Chingiz-Khan gave
    orders that every slave in every house should scour four hundred
    maunds of rice. They accomplished this task with great speed
    within the space of one week ; upon which Chingtz-Khan
    commanded that all the prisoners in the army should be killed.
    The unhappy wretches had no idea of their fate ; one night,
    just before dawn, not a trace was left of the prisoners, and the

    “Upon arriving there he sent forward messengers to call upon the people
    to surrender and submit, and to destroy the fortress and citadel,
    But the Inhabitants, encouraged by the strength of the fortress,
    half of whose walls were raised up In the middle of the Oxus,
    and rendered proud by the multitude of their troops, gear and
    equipment, would not accept submission but sallied forth to do
    battle. Mangonels were set up on either side, and they rested
    neither day nor night from strife and warfare until upon the
    eleventh day the Mongols took the place by storm. All the
    people, both men and women, were driven out on to the plain
    and divided proportionately among the soldiers in accordance
    with their usual custom; then they were all slain, none being spared

    When the Mongols had finished the slaughter they caught
    sight of a woman who said to them : * Spare my life and I will
    give you a great pearl which I have/ But when they sought
    the pearl she said : * I have swallowed it* Whereupon they
    ripped open her belly and found several pearls. On this account
    Chingiz-Khan commanded that they should rip open the bellies
    of all the slain. “


  • Jan 29, 2012 - 1:18PM

    Another eye opener.


  • raw is war
    Jan 29, 2012 - 7:35PM

    Dear sir, hats-off to you. Great article. Will open up some closed eyes I hope.


  • SindHind
    Feb 3, 2012 - 11:21PM

    They say the Spirit of the dead Pharaoh was watching and laughing from a distance when the new Pharaoh was re-carving the Rock of the Lion’s Head by the Nile now to his own resemblance. He then set-up commissionaires to rewrite the history and belittle everything that was done or still in public mind. And so the history is re-written by the new winners every few hundred years. May be that’s why we don’t find the grave of the Great Khan, smart man. Maybe it’s God way of bringing the “Dead” back to life again after few hundred years or may be a thousand.


  • sudhir
    Feb 7, 2012 - 4:24AM

    I fully agree with you


  • Feb 7, 2012 - 12:11PM

    Some also point to the Kamikaze or dvinie wind leading directly to a Japanese culture of “dvinie right” — a feeling in Japan that they had been chosen or protected by Heaven. The dviniely inspired wind also guaranteed the next 600 years of Japanese cultural purity and isolation, without which we might never have seen arguably the world’s most refined culture develop.Nice post!Recommend

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