Jalaluddin — the other side of the coin

Published: March 10, 2012
The writer is a poet and freelance journalist and was awarded the Pride of Performance in literature in 2009. He retired from the civil service in 2008 as additional auditor-general

The writer is a poet and freelance journalist and was awarded the Pride of Performance in literature in 2009. He retired from the civil service in 2008 as additional auditor-general

“Whenever I refer to Jalaluddin, the fugitive king of Khwarazm, as a coward, I draw flak”, bewails Salman Rashid on these pages in his article titled “Jalaluddin Khwarazm” of January 27, 2012. The tragic paradox is that Salman Rashid’s own article is generously punctuated with insulting jibes and scornful reproaches. He may be a prolific travel writer but history demands sensibilities of a different kind. Here, a graceful impartiality and a controlled fairness is the basic prerequisite for credibility. Getting carried away, while narrating a piece of history, by a normative attitude may be condoned but heaping abuses on characters of history does deprive a writer of trustworthiness. Conferring titles like ‘fugitive’, ‘coward’ and ‘shameless’ on Jalaluddin gives an impression that perhaps Salman Rashid has a personal vendetta against the poor man. The background of this intriguing vendetta, however, remains unknown to readers.

A strategic retreat is the key to survival for a warrior. Salman Rashid calls Jalaluddin a fugitive and hence a coward. Babar, Humayun and Dara Shikoh, all were fugitives. Some, like Babar and Humayun were lucky as their flights into wilderness led to their fortunate rehabilitations. Some like Jalaluddin and Dara came to naught. Salman Rashid calls Naseem Hijazi a fraudster and ridicules his “spurious history”. The fact of the matter is that Naseem Hijazi is not a historian and nor did he ever claim to be one — he was a novelist.

The most unfortunate is the writer’s reliance on Tareekh-e-Jahan Kusha. The author of this “real” history of Jalaluddin, Ata Malik Juvaini, was an important functionary of the Mongol Empire and was with Hulagu Khan when the latter conquered the famous fortress of Almout. From Almout, Juvaini accompanied Hulagu to the sack of Baghdad in 1258 after which he was appointed governor of Baghdad. His jurisdiction included part of Mesopotamia and Khuzistan. His real brother, Shams al Din was Hulagu’s minister of finance. So much for the impartiality of the writer’s mentioning of this “real” history. His only other source to describe the “loot and plunder” by Jalaluddin on this side of the Indus is Tabqat-e-Nasiri. The author of this book, Minhaj-e-Siraj, was also a king’s man. Nasiruddin Qabach had appointed him qazi in his court at Uch. Later on, he moved to Delhi where Sultan Nasiruddin Mahmood made him qazi. It was this Nasiruddin to whom he dedicated his book the Tabqat-e-Nasiri. As well-known historian Dr Mubarak Ali keeps on emphasising, pro-establishment historians give only subjective and distorted versions of history.

Mr Rashid then tells his readers that a “great battle” was fought at the western bank of the Indus between Jalaluddin and Changez Khan in February 1221. Here a question arises: do ‘cowards’ fight great battles? But there is something more intriguing: all the historians, old and contemporary, say unequivocally that the only battle in which Changez Khan was defeated in his life time, after he rose as Khaqan, was the battle of Parwan fought in 1221 by Jalaluddin. It took place in the vicinity of Ghazni. With the help of Pakhtuns of present-day south Afghanistan, Jalaluddin inflicted a crushing defeat on the Mongols who were fighting under the command of Shegi Tutu, Changez Khan’s son-in-law. It was a day-long war and Tutu was killed at the end. Unfortunately, the victory was followed by a row between the Pakhtuns and Jalaluddin’s relations over the distribution of booty after which the former deserted. Thus, Jalaluddin lost more than half of his fighting strength. The disastrous battle at the western bank of Indus soon followed. So, it can be fairly said that the writer quite conveniently omitted to mention the battle of Parwan.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2012.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (22)

  • Babloo
    Mar 11, 2012 - 12:05AM

    Whats good about Jalaluddin ? He was not a king who ruled for the benefit of his subjects. He was a plunderer, looter and a thug. You can call him an immoral bandit. Is that not clear to you ?


  • Falcon
    Mar 11, 2012 - 12:27AM

    Good information. Well at least it settles the record somewhat straight. As a whole, I think all historians as well as commentators draw from history based on their own aptitude, whether it be for a protagonist or against him / her. Human beings in general have a tendency to over-estimate their neutrality and objectivity in pursuit of truth. Unless you can mention all sides of the story and reconcile the differences, you will most likely end up taking one person’s truth as the only version of truth, which is an informational suicide.


  • Khattak
    Mar 11, 2012 - 12:58AM

    I remember some of the quotes from Salmans Rashid article like “Rajputs would burn their own children, women & houses”, while going to battle. It is quite clear from his article that he wants to prove that Rajputs are a superior & marshal race by hook or crook. Or his another golden statement that most Pashtoons have the DNA of Mughals, because Pashtun women were raped by Mughals. As if he has set up a labortry in Peshawar, Kandahar or Ghazni to collect DNA samples. I agree with the writer that Salmans language & thinkings are quite derugatory & insulting.


  • Zauq-e-Aagahee
    Mar 11, 2012 - 1:33AM

    Dear Mr. Muhammad Izhar Ul Haq,
    Your piece is most refreshing and enlightening. Thank you.
    I really enjoyed the approach as well as the information.


  • Marziyya
    Mar 11, 2012 - 1:36AM

    Glad to see someone can still keep a check on historical facts and save people from the distorted version of history the likes of which Salman Rashid had provided.


  • Muslim
    Mar 11, 2012 - 1:58AM

    Very balanced article and an excellent response to Salman Rashid’s earlier article. Two Thumbs up!!


  • S
    Mar 11, 2012 - 3:38AM

    “Here, a graceful impartiality and a controlled fairness is the basic prerequisite for credibility. Getting carried away, while narrating a piece of history, by a normative attitude may be condoned but heaping abuses on characters of history does deprive a writer of trustworthiness.”

    It is ironic to hear a Pakistani author talk about controlled fairness. Pakistani history textbooks are littered with references to the Hindu cruelties and Jewish machinations. About false victories in the 1965 war. Conspiracy theorists like Zaid Hamid and Hamid Gul are allowed a free rein of the press and tv coverage. They never apologized for falsely claiming that Osama was not killed in Abottabad. His wives and kids were found there and prosecuted by Pakistan govt.

    Jalaldin was brought down by Salman Rashid because he was among other things a false hero used by these very same historians to exaggerate and glorify actions of mere warlords.


  • Muhammad Karim
    Mar 11, 2012 - 5:24AM

    Wow…what a turnaround. So little do we ordinary people know about historical facts that every narrative seems true,.,,,first Hijazi;s then Salman;s and now yours; the truth lying somewhere in the between I suppose. Either way I have a great respect for all three of you… as it is to scholars like you that we should be proud of, and not the talkshow participants or tin soldiers. I guess a response from Salman Rashid should be coming soon


  • Wasil Arien
    Mar 11, 2012 - 7:07AM

    It is weird that some writers like Mohammad Azhar-ul-Haq having undue reverence for past Muslim rulers can not digest the appropriate epithets given to them. I can not see any solid or valid testimony put forward by the author to vindicate Jalaluddin as some one other than what shown by Rashid a coward, shameless and fugitive. Even the aftermath of battle of Parwan manifests the low grade of the quality of his character.


  • naif sultan
    Mar 11, 2012 - 8:55AM

    good article so here is the other side i have great respect for salman sahab and i hope he would have an answer to this and hope there would be a positive discussion in these pages between him and you and we will be enlightened


  • Naheed
    Mar 11, 2012 - 9:13AM

    Well said Izhar ul Haq sahib . God bless you.


  • Raw is War
    Mar 11, 2012 - 9:38AM

    @ Muhammad Izhar Ul Haq

    what a pathetic commentry. Jalaluddin was a thief and a plunderer and Muslims should look at it that way. Praising him will make young muslims ape him- the very problem Islam is facing today in the world.

    Most Islamic generals who attacked India had only two things in Mind . Plunder and Kill. Pakistanis should learn the noble Sikh religion which ruled them for so many centuries- without the bigotry and looting associated with Islamic culture. They were secular and also very wealthy. They never looted from anybody.

    The culture of loot, rape and plunder came in from middle-east- Jalaluddin, Ghaznvi, Ghowri, Temur Lung, Nadir Shah etc. being the live examples.


  • Mar 11, 2012 - 9:55AM

    Good analysis based on supportive facts. I am not much aware of the historical references quoted but know that in Uzbekistan he is adored as national hero. Jalaudin must be having some great talents otherwise he will not be able to have his name and controversies in history. As mr Rashid opined i think Mr Rashid was wrong and after reading his article a person can agree that he has some personal vendetta.


  • ayaz
    Mar 11, 2012 - 1:25PM

    Very objective and a good piece of historical facts. While trying to be novel and learned usually we get such articles as was written by Salman Rashid.Recommend

  • Jahaan aara
    Mar 11, 2012 - 2:53PM

    @Wasil Arien
    I dont think Mr.Izhar has given any undue reverenvce to Jalauddin. There are two important points in this context which I can see. Using words like” shameless, coward, fraudster” for any person,whosoever he is, is below dignity of af a creative writer. Secondly,the record must be set straight even if some people do not like it. isn’t it a fact that Mr.Salman Rashid skipped mention of battle of Parwan?


  • Mar 11, 2012 - 5:34PM

    An objective discussion on historical events betters our knowledge, one must however concede that a truly scientific description of past events is rather difficult. There will always be more than one interpretation. Recommend

  • Hussain Saqib
    Mar 11, 2012 - 6:47PM

    Jalal-ud-Din has a rare distinction of standing upto and fighting the Tartars inspite of the treachery of the ghayyur Patahns. The Muslim Caliph, instead of helping Khawarzamshah opted to undermine his military might and had to pay the price for his lack of courage and the palace intrigues of the NGOs of those days, namely his cronies and courtesans. Thank you very much Izhar sahib for trying to save the image of this great and valiant warrior.Recommend

  • Abhi
    Mar 11, 2012 - 8:55PM

    I still do not understand what author is trying to say! so Jalaluddin wanted to keep all th booty to himself after winning the battle. Does it make himself some great warrior!


  • Cynical
    Mar 12, 2012 - 4:35AM


    Now that you have restored his honour,Jalaluddin will breathe a sigh of relief in his grave.


  • Hafeez
    Mar 12, 2012 - 11:27AM

    BY the way, Was there any bigger plunderer and looter than Changez Khan? Come on, Jalaludin was fighting mongols.


  • Mar 13, 2012 - 12:08AM

    Very Impressive


  • Mansoor
    Mar 13, 2012 - 2:40PM

    @ Muhammad Izhar Ul Haq Sire, i couldn’t wish for a more befitting answer to the earlier column . so correct in the historical facts. thanks


More in Opinion