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Chapter 22 : THE 13th TO THE 15th CENTURY CE

The first great Mongol raids of Muslim lands were launched around 1220 - 1231 CE in Azerbaijan and north-east Iran, causing enormous destruction to cities. The heirs of Genghis Khan ( d. 1127 CE ) continued their conquest and expansion which by 1256 CE culminated in the subjugation of Baghdad and the demise of the 'Abbasid Caliphate. They devastated and brought under their rule most of the Iranian and Arab lands, except Egypt and Anatolia, which were under the Ayyubids and Seljuqs respectively.

Commander of these conquests was Hulago, a grandson of Genghis Khan who assumed the title Il-khan which means "Lesser Khan" and subordinate of the Great ( Mongol ) Khan in China. Spectacularly, even the Mongols soon realized the truth of the faith of the conquered lands and became Muslims themselves and the first Mongol ruler to do so was Ghazan who reigned from 1295 to 1304 CE. Ghazan's brother and successor, Oljeytu who ruled from 1304 to 1316 also converted to Islam and consequently took the name Khudabundha. Khudabundha was later on succeded by his son Abu Sa'id.

The name Il-khan or Ilkhanid was used to describe the branch of the Mongol dynasty which ruled over Iraq, the Caucasus, parts of Asia Minor, all of Iran and as far east as Central Asia. From their capital at Tabriz, in northwestern Iran, the Ilkhanids maintained contact with such disparate cultures

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as China and Christian Europe. Following the death of the last Ilkhanid ruler in 1335 CE, their empire crumbled and was replaced by a number of local dynasties.

By the end of the 14th century, the minor principalities that had come to power in Iran were overcome by a new wave of Central Asiatic warriors, this time led by Timur (Tamerlane) who rivaled his ancestor, Genghis Khan. The Turko-Mongol embarked upon his conquests at around 1370 CE, becoming master of his home province of Transoxiana and established Samarkand as his capital.

Invading Iran, Timur took control of Shi'ites Muslim territories but although Timur himself was a Sunni, he was very sympathetic to the Shi'ites and allowed Shi'ite nobility to retain their power and lands as long as they became his vassals. This Timurid period (14th - 15th centuries CE / 8th - 9th centuries AH ), was therefore a period of relative calm which saw the growth of Islam due to Muslim unity regardless of their school of jurisprudence.

Before his death in 1405 CE, as he prepared to invade China, Timur had subjugated all of Central Asia as well as Iran and Iraq. His conquests also included southern Russia and the Indian subcontinent while towards the west, the Timurid forces had defeated the Mamluk army in Syria and subjugated the Ottomans at Ankara.

Under Timur's less militarily adept successors however, the Timurid territories in Iraq were slowly absorbed by two

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successive Turkman federations known as the Qara Quyunlu (Black Sheep) and Aq Quyunlu (White Sheep) tribes. By the end of the 15th century CE, only the provinces of Khurasan and Transoxiana remained and in the last years of the dynasty, these were ruled by separate branches of the Timurid family. Members of this dynasty were vigorous sponsors of Persian art and culture and although the dynasty came to an end in 1507 CE, one member of the Timurid house survived and went on to found the Mughal dynasty in India.

Towards the west meanwhile, in Egypt and Syria, the Mamluk dynasty had supplanted the Ayyubid. This came about because under the later Ayyubids, the army had been transformed into a corps whose highest offices were reserved for Turkish-speaking former military slaves, known as Mamluks. By the death of the last Ayyubid ruler, the Mamluks had become sufficiently powerful and in 1250 CE successfully raised one of their own members to the throne as Sultan and thereby inaugurated the period of Mamluk rule.

The Mamluks were first and foremost soldiers who constructed a powerful military machine formidable enough to halt the advance of the Mongols and to expel the last Crusaders who had long occupied the Syrian coast.

One of the most remarkable aspects of these Mamluks was their creation of a new, self-perpetuating ruling class composed of former military slaves. This excluded members of the indigenous population and they often prevented even their own heirs from succeeding to their position and property. So, in part

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as a means of allowing their offspring to benefit from their wealth, the Mamluks built and lavishly endowed innumerable religious foundations controlled by their descendants. Cairo, the Mamluk capital, became an enormously rich city as well as a center of intellectual and artistic activity marked by the characteristic Mamluk tall domes, stone facades and balconied minarets.

Further west in Spain, a coalition of Christian kings managed to force the Berber Almohads to retreat to North Africa. All Muslim lands in the south, with the exception of the province of Granada under the rule of the Nasrid, the last Muslim dynasty in Spain, fell to Christian hands. To preserve his kingdom, the Nasrid ruler consequently became a vassal of the Christian king in Castile, thereby staving off the dual threat from the Christians in the north and from the Muslims in North Africa, who sought to regain Spain. Despite its ultimately untenable political situation, the kingdom of Granada survived as a great cultural center in the Muslim West for more than two and a half centuries but it finally fell to the forces of Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492 CE. The capture of Granada brought an end not only to the Nasrid dynasty but also more than 700 years of Muslim presence on the Iberian peninsula.

Concurrently, in Anatolia, the long reign of the Seljuqs of Rum was also ending; they had survived under Mongol suzerainty until the turn of the 14th century when Anatolia was apportioned into several principalities under the rule of different Turkish dynasties. Foremost among these were the Ottomans who

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established themselves in the northwestern corner of Asia Minor.

Throughout the 15th century the Ottomans gradually consolidated their hold over Anatolia which culminated with the crowning military achievement in 1453 CE of the conquest of Constantinople and the final collapse of the Byzantine empire.

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