Sultan Shahab-ud-Din Ghori

Rawalpindi is usually associated with Taxila when it comes to historical sites. But if one draws a circle of 100 kms (01:30 hour drive) around Rawalpindi, it is startling to find that there are many sites with echoes of history spread over thousands of years. Choha Saidan Shah, Sat Garha Mandar, Mirpur Fort and Rohtas Fort are few of the most famous. Yet another is the tomb of famous Sultan Shahab-ud-Din Ghori, whose name is as associated with Raja Pirthviraj and conquest of India as Alexander the Great's name is with Raja Porus for near similar reasons. The tomb itself is located at an hour and thirty minutes drive from Rawalpindi near the town of Sohawa, District Jhelum. A narrow but metalled road meanders off east to the village Dhamik at 12 kms from the GT Road.

On 15 Dec 2013, I along with my wife decided to visit the tomb and spend some time there, a kind of picnic cum history refresher. On reaching there, we found a four sided tomb majestically perched in a tranquil beauty of broken country side, next to the village Dhamik. Thanks to personal efforts of Dr Qadeer Khan, the architecture of tomb is fairly successful in reflecting the stature attributed to Sultan Shahab-ud-Din Ghori. The combined effect of architecture, isolation of the tomb from its surroundings and a feeling of proximity to such an imposing personality tends to captivate one’s thoughts, especially the one who draws pleasure through indulgence in history. The whirlwind of unstoppable thoughts seems agitating and exciting, throwing images and intriguing questions. One starts to ask oneself, what happened to the Ghori rule in India after his death? Where did he come from and what enabled him to accomplish which could not be achieved by Alexander, 1400 years ago and arguably by Sultan Mehmud Ghaznavi, 150 years before him, etc? And above all, what was the Muslim World elsewhere when he was conquering India?

A little research back home together with chronological arrangement of events lifted the cloak of mystery revealing some interesting history. Which, I thought, I am obligated to share, besides urging the reader to visit the tomb with children.

Shahab-ud-Din Ghori was born as Mu`izz-ud-Din in 1162 AD into a Persian-Turk family in Ghor – an isolated and desolate region located east of Herat. This remote and seemingly landlocked area is known to have been Islamized by Sultan Mehmud Ghaznavi in 1010 AD. At the time of Sultan Shahab-ud-Din's birth, his father, Sultan Baha-ud-Din Suri, was the local ruler of Ghors who were now challenging the then Ghaznavi Kingdom. Muhammad Ghori began his career as a General who assisted his brother in his conquests in the west against the expanding Khwarezimid Empire. It was also the prince, Mu`izz-ud-Din, who was destined to finally take the city of Ghazni in 1173, while his brother, Sultan Ghyias-ud-Din Ghori, succeeded his father as king of Ghors. It was after the successful takeover of Ghazni when he was bestowed upon the title of Shahab-ud-Din. Soon after the consolidation of his rule in Ghazni, his lashkars rode towards the Muslim states of Multan and the fortress of Uch; 1175-76. In 1179, similar attempts towards Gujrat proved unsuccessful but three years later, Sultan Shahab-ud-Din was back to take Peshawar and Sialkot, where he built a fort. In 1187, in alliance with the

Hindu Raja of Jammu, Vijaya Dev, he attacked Lahore and brought an eventual end to Ghaznavids' rule in India. He returned after 10 years to extend his rule beyond Bias River and faced the powerful Raja Prithviraj Chauhan, the ruler of Delhi, Ajmer and its allies. Ghori was injured and defeated in this battle i.e first battle of Tarain, 1191. The resilient and undaunted Sultan Ghori returned the very next year with vengeance and thoroughly defeated isolated Prithviraj Chauhan in 2nd battle of Tarain, 1192. This decisive victory came as a result of his unparallel speed in preparation and then returning to India i.e in merely one year, delay of other Hindu Rajas in joining Pirthviraj before the battle and an unconventional pre-dawn attack by Ghorid Army on orthodox Hindu Rajputs on the day of battle. He took the captured Prithviraj back with him to Ghazni, where he was executed the same year.

By 1194 his forces had captured areas beyond Delhi. Shahab-ud-Din Ghori became Sultan of the Ghorid Empire upon the death of his brother, Ghiyas-ud-Din, in 1202. This was the zenith of Ghorid Empire which now included areas from Herat to Ajmer. Their initial capital was in Firuzkuh in Ghor which was later replaced with Herat while Ghazni and Lahore served as regional / seasonal capitals. Besides being a strategic warrior, Shahab-ud-Din also had a lot of interest in art and culture, where he patronised scholars like Fakhr-ud-Din Razi and Nizami Uruzi. In 1204, Shahab-ud-Din Ghori had to repulse the advance of Muhammad II of Khwarzim close to Amu Darya; an evidence of his reach and resilience. However, his greatest success was the establishment of the Turkish Empire in India which added a fresh chapter in the Indian history. He himself chose to stay away from India and distributed conquered lands among his able Turkik Slaves; a common practice in that era among Turks.

Just four years after his takingover Ghorid Empire, on 25 March 1206, he was mysteriously killed at Dhamik while returning to Ghazni after crushing a revolt in Punjab. At the time of his regretful and untimely assassination, the Sultan was only 44 years old. Allegedly, his killers were Hindu Ghakhar or Hindu Khokher tribesmen of Pothohar or even radical Muslim Ismailies of Multan (to avenge the loss of their stronghold). Since he didn't have any offspring, Qutb-ud-Din Aibak, his loyal Mamluk Slave, became his successor and ruled over Delhi, who later not only broke away from main Empire in Ghaznavi, establishing independent Sultanate in Dehli, but also extended the rule east upto Bihar. By 1212 Ghorids' empire was reduced and marginalised, though, short-lived and petty, its remnant states remained in power until the arrival of Timurids in late 14th Century. In regional perspective, Ghorids mainly succeeded Ghaznavids, a hard fact that in the wars of conquest, both interfaith and intra-faith clashes are inevitable. Unfortunately, it was Ghazni which bore the brunt of Ghorid expansion when it was burnt by Ghorids for seven days. Ghaznavi - Ghori rivalry mainly meant that no restive regions of Khorasan and Ghazni.

But in all of this, what were the happenings in the contemporary Muslim World elsewhere? In 1192, when Sultan Ghori finally defeated Raja Pirthviraj, the seat of Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad had become insignificant. Broke-away Kingdom of Khwarzim was expanding like many other petty states at the expense of the Caliph's authority. Sultan Salah-ud-Din had defeated the Crusaders and liberated Jerusalem ending the Christian occupation of 100 years, but his successors were unable to keep order. Fatimids, who challenged Abbasids, ruled Eygpt and the remnants of Umayyads who survived Abbasid persecution in Iraq were established far away in Spain. Internally, the Shia-Sunni divide was at its maximum, while externally, the entire northern portions of Islamic regions were under constant attacks of various tribes of Turks.

As a strange coincidence of history it was the year 1206, i.e Shahab-ud-Din's assassination near Jhelum, far away in Eastern Steppes of Mongolia, an unknown warrior adopted the title "Genghis Khan" by solidifying his authority over other tribes when he finally tamed the Kara Khatians, his last opponents in west. Mongols were now not only neighbours of Muslim lands but the Mongol horde was boiling to explode with all its ferocity and lightening speed. When it finally came in 1219, Indian Sultanate under Iltumash, a legacy of Ghorids chose to lay back in safety of Central India while a reduced Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad adopted the strategy of self denial and watched the decimation of Khwarzim cities of Samarkand and Bukhara. In the next 50 years, Mongols would devour all Muslim lands one by one from Lahore to Aleppo via Baghdad. The last Abbasid Caliph was killed by Halagu Khan in 1258.

One cannot help but ponder: had history taken the same path if the brave and untiring Sultan Shahab-ud-Din was not stabbed at the age of 44 while offering prayers at the village of Dhamik? Genghis Khan died at the approximate age of 70 i.e 22 years after Sultan Shahab-ud-Din. The Mongol hordes later rode through the lands of opposing Ghorid and Khwarzim Empires towards heartlands of Muslim World. Alas! the Muslims were united

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