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The Turks in Pre-Islamic times

Sacrificer           unknown
Sacrifice code       wfor0400
Sacrifice date       25 march 2009

The Turks in Pre-Islamic times

Today we read in history that the Turks carried the Jihad into Europe, China and India. The Turks besieged and sacked Constantinople. To many of us, the Turks before Ataturk reformed Turkey into becoming the Muslim world's first secular republic, were ruthless Jihadis, whose king was the Caliph till 1924, when Ataturk abolished the Caliphate. But we know little of the bloodied struggle that the Turks waged against Islam for three hundred years from 650 up to 1050. The first clash of the Turks with the Islamic Jihad took place when the Muslims I their surge through Persia reached the borders of the Sassanid Empire in Khorasan, near Central Asia. In those days the Turks lived and ruled Central Asia. They have been referred to as Turanians by the ancient Persians of Zoroaster's time. The Turks were so to say multi-ethnic tribal cluster who were united with the bond of language. Since ancient times the Turks used to attack settled people.

The Huns, Bulgars, Ughirs, Seljuks, Qarluqs were some of the different tribes that made up the vast Turkish nation. Of these the Huns and the Bulgars embraced Christianity and the rest of the Turkish clans embraced Islam. Before embracing Islam or Christianity, in the 3rd and 4th centuries the Turks (Huns, also called White Huns) had attacked the Roman empire, the Sassanid and Achemenian empires in Persia and had also invaded India. They were a warlike race, who would not easily be subjugated and led a nomadic life. They were hardy tribal race who had strains of Caucasoid and Mongoloid blood.

Khan is a typical Turkish royal title and is, by default today, considered to be a Muslim name. But Genghis Khan and Hulagu Khan were not Muslims, they were non-Muslims and in fact were inveterate enemies of the Muslims. They laid waste a large swathe of the Islamic crescent in the 13th century, till their descendants were ultimately defeated by the Muslims and were forced to convert to Islam. After this conversion, till today we have come to believe that the name Khan ia Muslim name and that the Turks and the Mughals (Mongols) have always been Muslims. Deep in history neither the Mongols nor the Turks were Muslims, but in fact had waged a bloodied struggle against Islam. The Turks and Mongols were neighbors since antiquity and both held Central Asia between them when the Arab Muslim invaders appeared on the scene, after over-running the Persian Sassanid Empire in the year 751.

The Defeat of Sassanid Persia, opened up the Turkish domains of Central Asia to the Jihadis

After clearing these pockets of Persian resistance, the Arabs made the main Persian town of Merv the target of attack. Merv was the capital of Khurasan and here the last Sassnid king Yazdjurd held sought refuge with his courtiers who had being fleeing before the advancing Arab Muslims, since they ha d invaded Persia in 637 at Qadisiyyah. The Persian army was now in tatters and in no position to put up any effective resistance to the invading Arabs. On hearing of the Muslim advance, Yazdjurd left for Balkh. No resistance was offered at Merv, and the Muslims occupied the capital of Khurasan without ligtin their swords.

The Arab commander Ahnaf stayed at Merv for some time to reorganize the administration and to await further reinforcements from Kufa. In the meantime the Persian forces gathered in considerable strength at Balkh. Yazdjurd sought aid from the neighboring Turksih state Farghana and the Khan of Farghana personally led a Turkish contingent to Balkh.

Having received reinforcements, Ahnaf led the Muslim forces to Balkh. The Muslims had experience of battling with the Persians but they had little experience of war with the Turks. Ahnaf wanted to avoid war with the Turks, and in this connection he thought of devious ways whereby the Turks should abandon the cause of Yazdjurd. It was reported to Ahnaf that the practice with the Turks were that in the morning three heralds blew bugles and then the Turkish force marched to the battle.

One night Ahnaf hid himself in a safe place outside the Turkish camp. As soon as the Turkish herald came out of the Turkish camp to blow the bugle, Ahnaf overpowered him and killed with his sword. When the second herald came he met the same fate. The third herald also met the same fate. That day the bugles did not blow for the Turkish army. When the bugles did not blow the Khan of Farghana came out of the camp to see what had happened to the heralds. When he saw that all of them were dead he regarded this as a bad omen. At the spur of the moment he decided that the Turks should not involve themselves with the Muslims. He ordered his force to withdraw and march back to Farghana.

This is how the Arab Muslims deceived the Turks into retreating. The Islamic Jihad had drawn the first Turkish blood thru subterfuge. The next three hundred years witnessed the untold story of the Turkish resistance to Islam. Ironically the Turks had to struggle with Islam which came to them through the medium of the Muslim Persians who had been newly converted to Islam at the point of the sword by the Arabs.

The Persianized Muslims overthrow the Arab Umayyad Caliphs and replace them with the Persianized Abbasid Caliphs

In the space of 650-1050 AD a numbers of events of importance transpired in Central Asia. These one hundred years were the fiercest in the urksih struggle against the Jihad. The next two hundred years were to see their gradual transformations into Muslims. The Turks shed their blood fighting the Jihad for Three Hundred years and finally gave up and embraced Islam, to later become the tormentors to carry the bloodied tradition of Jihad into Anatolia (modern Turkey) and Balkans up to Austria.

In the year 750, an important event transformed Central Asia. This event ws the overthrow of the Umayyads Calphate and its replacement by the Abbasid Caliphate. While Umayyads of Damascus were Arabs who had descended from Abu Sufyan the Chieftain of Mecca at the time of Mohammed. The newly converted Zoroastrian Persians wanted to regain their pre-eminent power in Persia. They organized themselves and marched against the Umayyad army. The two armies met at a place called Zab. Here the Persianized Abbasids defeated the Umayyads and established a new caliphate near Ctesiphon the site of the ancient capital of the Sassanid Persians. They named this city Baghdad which was to be the capital of the Abbasids from 750 up to its sack by the Mongols in 1258.

A leading commander of the Abbasid army was a Zoroastrian convert to Islam who had assumed the name Abu Muslim. He played a leading role in the war and deposed the Umayyad caliph placing the Persianized Abbasids as Caliphs and as the head of the Moslem world. With this revolution the leadership of the uslim world had passed back from Arab hands into Persian hands, a leadership which they had lost a century earlier, when the Arabs had destroyed the Sassanid Persian empire. An important change now was that the Persians who as Zoroastrians a century earlier were victims of Islam had now embraced Islam and had become the new vanguard of the bloodied creed of Islam. Their victims were the Turks of Central Asia.

Persian Converts to Islam, Attacked and Islamized the Turks

Shortly after victory at the battle of Zab, and the establishment of the Abbasid Caliphate at Baghdad, Abu Muslim was commissioned to conduct Jihad in Central Asia to exterminate the Kaffirs once and for all. It was a great low point for the Western branch of the Blue Turks. Their great Khan Su'lu who was a bulwark against the Moslems and the Chinese in the wars of 720 and 723, was assassinated by the Arabs. The pagan Turkic rulers of Samarqand and Bokhara came under a heavy assault from the ghazis after the fall of Su'lu when the Arabs with 300 giant trebuchets stormed the cities and forcibly imposed Islam with the destruction of the pagan places of worship.

Defeat of the Chinese at the Battle of the Talas River with the invading Muslims sealed the fate of the Turkish resistance to Islam

Archaeological evidence shows that these Turkic cities were cosmopolitan with Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and the Tengri cults of the Altaics being practiced. The Arabs under Abu Muslim savagely crushed, the last attempt made by the populations of Samarqand and Bokhara to rid themselves of the murderous Muslim Ghazis. Abu Muslim sent his victorious commander of these wars, Ziyad ibn Salih, with a band of 40000 ghazis, to wage a Jihad on the Chinese. The Arab army marched from the south towards Talas. The Chinese general Kao (of Korean origin), decided to resist the Muslim invasion and marched towards Aulie-Ata on the Talas river with 100,000 Chinese troops in cavalry and infantry divisions.

In the Battle of the Talas river, the Qarluq Betrayal led to the defeat of the Chinese at Arab hands

On July 10th 751 AD the Arab and Chinese armies took to the field in Aulie-Ata on the backs of the Talas river. The Chinese cavalry seemed to initially overwhelm the Arab cavalry, but the Arabs had worked out a deal with one of the many Turkish contingents of the Chinese army viz., the Qarluq Turks, by promising them wealth and freedom in return for embracing Islam and betraying their Chinese masters. The Qarluqs who held a grudge against the Chinese for having reduced them to vassalage, viewed this as an opportunity to throw off the Chinese yoke by using the Arabs and had planned to later throwing off the Arab yoke as well and regaining their freedom from both the Chinese and the Arabs. The Qarluqs later played the main role in converting other Turkish tribes notably the Seljuks to Islam.

At the battle of the Talas river where the Arab and the Chinese armies clashed, the Qarluqs who were a part of the Chinese army, opened a breach in their own ranks and allowed the Arabs to ford the river and helped them to encircle a part of the Chinese infantry butchering it to man. The Qarluq archers then surrounded their paymaster the general of the Chinese army Kao and shot down. Now the Arabs followed their heinous practice of sticking the d\severe head of an enemy and parading it before the enemy army. The Chinese not being used to such grisly war tactics, fell into confusion and disarray, not knowing who had betrayed them, and their General Kao. They broke ranks and fell into confusion, shaking the Chinese center, which was rapidly assaulted by the Arab heavy cavalry and destroyed. Thus due to Muslim subterfuge and savagery the infallible Chinese war machine gave way under combined assault of the Arabs and the traitor Qarluqs, and they faced a heavy rout. From behind the treacherous Qarluqs fell upon the Chinese animals, baggage trains and supplies carrying away all they could and receded back into the steppe.

The Arabs rounded up tens of thousands of Chinese and their non-Qarluq Turk allies and took them to Samarqand from where Abu Muslim sent them to Baghdad and Damascus to be sold as slaves, each worth a dirham. One Chinese survivor mentions being kept as cattle in the Arab prison camps. Abu Muslim and Ziyad made huge financial gains out of this slave trade and used it to pay their armies. More importantly the Arabs forced the Turk and Chinese prisoners to teach them the art of making siege trains and catapult machines, which the Islamized Turks were to use successfully in their attacks on the Byzantine cities.

The Qarluq Turks aimed at playing the Chinese and the Muslims against each other to gain their own independence

The Qarluq Turks wanted independence from the Chinese so they made a pretence of embracing Islam to obtain Arab support to defeat the Chinese. The Qarluqs had planned to later throw off the Arab yoke as well by repudiating Islam and regaining their freedom from both the Chinese and the Arabs. But little did the Qarluqs realize that in working out a deal with the Arabs, while they would succeed in throwing off the Chinese yoke, they would have to bring themselves into the fold of Islam, from which there was no escape. The Qarluqs were forced to remain Muslim and whenever any of them reneged their Islamic faith, they were put to death while the luckier among them were enslaved by the Arabs and Persian Muslims.

The later history of the Qarluqs was as Muslims who resigned themselves to remaining as satellites of the Arabs after having thrown off the Chinese yoke and with it also the only possibility of liberating themselves from the grip of Islam. It was this devious conversion of the Quarluqs that was actually a pretense to throw off the Chinese yoke on the Turks, that led to the conversion of the greater Turkish nation to Islam in the next three centuries from 750 to 1050.

The Turks who had retained aggressively their freedom from their neighbors the Chinese, and the Zoroastrian Persians for more than a millennium, finally began succumbing to Islam due to a tactical pretense of the Qarluqs, one of their important clans to pretend to embrace Islam for securing Arabs support and throwing off Chinese suzerainty. A deal that proved costly for Turkish independence that was now permanently enslaved into the prison of Islam. The Turks henceforth would remain satellites of the Arabs, a position they sought to reverse, by themselves becoming more aggressive champions of Islam, and reducing their Arabs masters to vassalage status when they established their Seljuk and later Uthman (Ottoman) dynasties.

Turkish Resistance to Islam

But before they would finally resign to their fate as Muslims the Turks waged a bloodied war against the Muslim incursion of their homeland in Central Asia. After the Battle of the Talas river, the Arabs captured many of the non-Qarluq Turks who were allies of the Chinese and deported them as salves to Baghdad. They are reported to have totaled up to seventy thousand. Not only were these enslaved Turks were forced to become Muslims, but enslavement was the tactic used by the Islamized Turks to convert the non-Muslim Turks to Islam. The next Turkish clan to be converted to Islam was the Seljuks. They were a proud imperial clan among the Turks, and after the conversion of the Qarluqs to Islam, it was the Seljuks who held the banner of Turkish resistance to Islam. The Seljuks remain unsubdued for another century and half . But the Arabs, Persian and Islamized Turks mounted many bloodied campaigns against them and other non-Muslim Turks who were allied to the Seljuks. In this series of battles the fortunes fluctuated from one side to the other, at times the Muslims were victorious and at others the Turks emerged victorious.

Tactics used by the Muslim to convert the Turks to Islam

In this unwritten chapter of the Turkish resistance to Islam, the Muslims (who in this case were mainly the Zoroastrian Persian converts to Islam), devised new tactics and subterfuge to enslave a proud and fiercely independent people which characterized the Turkish clan. In this battle the Turks did not lack in bravery, as they were born warriors and spent a large part of their lives on horseback. But whenever the non-Muslim Turks were victorious, they destroyed the Muslim camps, slaughtered their armies, destroyed their cities, and torched their fields, but it did not cross their minds, to enforce any religion on the defeated Muslims. Those of the Muslims that the Turks set free, either went back to the Muslim controlled cities, or stayed on in the Turkish areas and attempted to spread Islam. A mindset that was totally absent among the non-Muslim Turks. (It was only when the Christians of Europe liberated Muslim lands, did they attempt to re-convert the Muslims to Christianity.) But the pre-Islamic Turks knew of no such tactic and they made no attempt to roll back the tide of Islam. So while the Christens of Europe succeed in turning back the tide of Islam in the middle ages, the Turks failed to resist Islam. Herein lies an important factor in defeating Islam, seeking reconversion of the defeated Muslims out of Islam. If the defeated Muslims are allowed to retain their faith (which is nothing but a cult of death and murder), they poison of Islam will become powerful once again to overwhelm the non-Muslim victors and ultimately defeat the, So whenever the Muslims are defeated and subjugated they need to made to give up Islam, at the pain of death if necessary. But Islam has to be wiped out of peoples minds. A Muslim is an ever present danger to any non-Islamic (civilized) way of life.

In their struggle with the pre-Islamic Turks the tactic of the Muslims was to use every victory to press Islam on the defeated Turks. At every negotiation with the Turks, when the Turks faced a defeat, the Muslims would ask for custody of the princes and princesses of the Turkish royal family on the excise of holding them as a guarantee that the Turks would keep tjir word given during the negotiations. These royal captives would be brought up in the Islamic tradition and their minds jaundiced in favor of Islam. In many cases when their Muslim captors were satisfied that the royal captives had mentally accepted Islam, the Shahada (declaration of the acceptance of Islam) was pronounced to them, and they were released to go back to their kingdoms, whenever they had to ascend the throne in their clans and tribes. With a Muslim at the helm in a non-Muslim Turkish clan, the conversion of the rest of the clan to Islam was only a matter of time. This was one of the tactic used by the Muslims to infiltrate Islam into the Turkish nation. By the middle of the eleventh century, most of the Turks had embraced Islam, and thenceforth it was they who became the vanguard of the Jihad to carry the bloodied trial of Islam into Anatolia and the Balkans. It was these Islamized Seljuk Turks who kept up a constant pressure on the Byzantine Empire inflicting on the Byzantines a string of defeats starting from the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 in Eastern Anantolia. It was these steady attacks and migration of the Seljuk Turks into Anatolia which gave the present Turkish character to Anatolia making it the Turkey of today. The Seljuk (and later the Ottoman) Turks also carried with them the tradition of taking child hostages and bringing them up as Muslims, a tactic of which they had earlier been victims at the hands of the Arab and Persian Muslims. This led to the institution of the Turkish Jannisaries The Jannisaries (Mercenaries from Jani == Life and Nisar == given away) were Christian children taken captive by the Turks when they invaded Anatolia and the Balkans, is a practice derived by the Turks from the Arab and Persian Muslims tactics used against them (the Turks) during their pre-Islamic days.

But the irony of history is that the Islamization of the Turks and the Mongols also started their migration from the traditional homelands in the Steppes of Central Asia into Anatolia and onwards in the Balkans. Today the word Turk is not mainly identified with the Turkic peoples of Central Asia who make up the Kazakh, Uzbek, Khirgiz and Tajik people (all of whom were called the Turanians in ancient times). Today the word Turk implies an inhabitant of Anatolia which is called Turkey. But in ancient times the inhabitants of Anatolia were not the Turks, they were Hittites and later the Greek speaking inhabitants who built the Hellenized kingdoms of Sardis and Troy.

Hulagu's invasion - The Turko-Mongol attack on Muslim Iran and Middle East was similar to the Crusades, in that it was a Non-Muslim Counterattack on Islam

Returning to pre-Islamic Central Asia, we need to bring attention to another curious fact that today not many historians have pointed out that the subterfuge and other foul tactics which the Muslims used to convert the Turks to Islam, had led to a gradual accumulation of bitterness and a desire for revenge against the Muslims in the Turks and their related clans the Mongols. Over the centuries many Persian Zoroastrians, the Persian Nestorian Christians, the Turks, Chinese and the Mongols had nursed within themselves a grievance against the Muslims expansion into Persia and Central Asia. It is this accumulation of grievances that led to the burst of the Mongol attack on Islamdom from 1200 that culminated in the sack and slaughter of Baghdad in 1258 under Hulagu Khan who was egged on to this path by his Nestorian Persian Christian wife. Historians have failed to interpret the attack of the Mongols on Muslim Persia, and the Middle East as the Turko-Mongol counterattack on Islam as were the Crusades, which were the Christian counterattack against Islam in the 11th century, We shall examine in detail this chapter of the Mongol resistance to Islam, before some of the Mongols succumbed to the subterfuge and savagery of Islam. Suffice it to note here that Hulagu's attack on Islamdom was a collective expression of resistance to Islam from the pre-Islamic Persians who had settled in China and Mongolia, and the Turks who had been waging a struggle against Islam in the 8th to the 10th centuries. It was a result of historical wrongs committed by the Arab Muslims on the Zoroastrian Persians, and by the Arab Muslims along with the Islamized Persians on the Turks, and in turn, by the Arabs with the Islamized Persians and the Islamized Turks on non-Islamic Turks and Mongols and Chinese.


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