Wednesday, March 9, 2016


Khwarazm Shah Dynasty  (c. 1077–1231) was a Sunni Muslim dynasty of Turkic mamluk origin. The dynasty ruled large parts of Central Asian during the high Middle Ages first as vassals of the Seljuqs and Kara-Khitanand and later as independent rulers, up until the Mongol invasion of Khwarezmia in the 13th century.

Mahmud of Ghazni

The dynasty dates from a revolt in 1017 where Khwarezmian rebels murdered the ruler of Khwarezm Abu'l-Abbas Ma'munand and his wife, Hurra-ji, sister of the Ghaznavid sultan Mahmud. In response, Mahmud invaded and occupied the region of Khwarezm, which included Nasa and the ribat of Farawa.

As a result, Khwarezm became a province of the Ghaznavid Empire from 1017 until it fell to the Seljuqs in 1034. In 1077 the governorship of the province passed to  a former Turkic slave of the Seljuq sultan Anush Tigin Gharchai. During his governorship, he assured his family's place in the region and after his death in 1128, his son Atsiz was appointed as the new governor by the Seljuk Sultan Sanjar. Ala ad-Din Atsiz was a ruthless ruler; he laid heavy taxes on the people and began expansion his territories and Sanjar soon moved against him, however let him to continue to govern the region, because a new danger was coming from the Steppes. In 1141, the Seljuq Sultan Ahmed Sanjar was defeated by the Kara Khitay at the battle of Qatwan, and he became a vassal to Yelü Dashi of the Kara Khitan. 

Ala ad-Din Atisz

After Atsiz died in 1156, he was succeeded by his son Il-Arslan who in 1157 proclaimed Kharwarezms independence and successfully defeated both the Kara-Khitai and neighbouring Qarakhanids and captured important Transoxiana towns Bukhara and Samarkand. On his death in 1172 his son Ala ad-Din Tekish became the new Khwarezm Shah.

As the Seljuk state fell into chaos, the Khwarezm-Shahs continues to expand their territories southward. Tekish invaded Khorasan in 1183 and in 1194 defeated and killed the last Sultan of the Great Seljuq Empire, Toghril III the new empire gaining parts of Khorasan and western Iran. In 1200, Tekish died and was succeeded by his son, Ala ad-Din Muhammad, who soon initiated conflict with the Ghurids (from Afghanistan) however was defeated by them at the battle of Amu Darya (1204).

Following their sack of Khwarizm, Muhammad appealed for aid from their former suzerain, the Kara Khitai who sent him an army. With this reinforcement, Muhammad won a victory over the Ghurids at Hezarasp (1204) and forced them out of Khwarizm. Muhammad's gratitude towards them was however short-lived. He again initiated a conflict, this time with the aid of the Kara-Khanids, and defeated a Kara-Khitai army at Talas (1210), but allowed Samarkand (1210) to be occupied by the Kara-Khitai. In 1212 he overthrew the Kara-khanids and by 1215 also defeated his old adversary the Ghurids. In the year 1212, Muhammad II shifted capital from Gurganj (now known as "Urgench") to Samarkand.
In a few short years Muhammad II had incorporated nearly the whole of Transoxiana and present-day Afghanistan into his empire, which after further conquests in western Persia (by 1217) stretched from the borders of India to Anatolia. By 1218, the empire had an area of 3,600,000 km2.and a population of 5 million people.
In 1219 the leader of the Mongols Genghis Khan sent a trade mission of 500 merchants to the state, but at the town of Otrar the governor, suspecting the Khan's ambassadors to be spies, confiscated their goods and executed them. Genghis Khan demanded reparations, which the Shah refused to pay. Genghis retaliated with a force of 200,000 men, launching a multi-pronged invasion.

Mongol Siege

In February 1220 the Mongolian army crossed the Syr Darya and soon stormed Bukhara, Gurganj and the Khwarezmid capital Samarkand. They moved on Gurganj, the Shah fled westward and died some weeks later of pleurisy on an island in the Caspian Sea.
His son Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu became the new Sultan (he rejected the title Shah) soon retreated into the mountains with his remaining Khwarazm forces, while pursued by a Mongol army. However his forces and local allies regrouped and defeated the Mongols at the battle of Parwan, north of Kabul. However another Mongol army soon moved against them (and after being abandoned by his Afghan allies) forcing the Khwarazm forces to flee towards India.
Jalal al-Din Khwarazm-Shah crossing the rapid Indus River, escaping Genghis Khan and the Mongol army.

Unable to move fast enough the Mongols caught up with them and at a disastrous clash known as the battle of the Indus slaughtered much of his army along with thousands of refugees. He & other survivors however famously escaped across the Indus and sought asylum in the Sultanate of Delhi. However the Sultan of Delhi Iltumish refused, not wishing to get into a conflict with Genghis Khan, and  marched towards Lahore at the head of a large army. Mingburnu retreated and moved towards Uchch inflicting a heavy defeat on its ruler Nasir-ud-Din Qabacha then plundered Sindh and northern Gujarat before returning to Persia in 1224. Once in Persia he once again regathered an army and re-established a short lived kingdom.
However he was unable to consolidated his power and had to struggling against the Mongols, the Seljuks of Rum, and pretenders to his own throne. In less than a year he lost control of Persia after being defeated in a major battle against the Mongols in the Alborz Mountains. Escaping to the north through the Caucasus, his army captured Azerbaijan in 1225, setting up his capital at Tabriz. In 1226 he attacked Georgia and sacked Tbilisi. Following on through the Armenian highlands he clashed with the Ayyubids, capturing the town Ahlat along the western shores of the Lake Van, who sought the aid of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rûm. Sultan Kayqubad I forces defeated his at Arzinjan on the Upper Euphrates at the Battle of Yassıçemen in 1230. He escaped to Diyarbakir, while the Mongols conquered Azerbaijan in the ensuing confusion. He was murdered in 1231 allegedly by Kurdish assassins. (Even then the Kurds were fiercely independent - nothing has changed).

Sultan Jalal ad-Din's followers remained loyal to him even after his death and from 1231 raided the Seljuk lands of Jazira and Syria for the next several years, calling themselves the Khwarezmiyya. Ayyubid Sultan as-Salih Ayyub, in Egypt, later hired their services against his uncle as-Salih Ismail. The Khwarezmiyya, heading south from Iraq towards Egypt, invaded Crusader Christian-held Jerusalem along the way, on July 11, 1244. The city's citadel, the Tower of David, surrendered on August 23, 1244 and the Crusaders expelled. This triggered a call from Europe for the Seventh Crusade, but the Crusaders would never again be successful in retaking Jerusalem. After being conquered by the Khwarezmian forces, the city would stay under Muslim control right until 1917 when it was taken from the Ottomans by British and Commonwealth forces in WW1 with the help of their Arab allies.
  • Altun Tash 1017-1032
  • Harun 1032-1034
  • Ismail Khandan 1034-1041
Under the Oghuz (Seljuq)
  • Shah Malik 1041-1042
Anushtiginid (Seljuq Vassals)
  • Anush Tigin Garchai 1077-1097 
  • Ekinchi 1097 
  • Qutb ad-Din Muhammad I 1097-1127
  • Ala ad-Din Aziz 1127-1156
  • Il-Arslan 1156-1172
  • Sultan Shah 1172-1193
  • Ala ad-Din Tekish 1172-1200
  • Ala ad-Din Muhammad II 1200-1220
  • Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu 1220-1231


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