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Timur's portrait in Gur-e Ami

Timur (9 April 1336 – 18 February 1405), historically known as Amir Timur Gurkani and Tamerlane, was a Turco-Mongol conqueror. He founded Timurid Empire in Persia and Central Asia, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest military commanders in history. Referred to himself as the "Sword of Islam" and son-in-law of Genghis Khan, Timur patronized educational and Islamic institutions. He converted nearly all the Borjigin leaders to Islam during his lifetime. He was the ancestor of Sultan Ulugh Begh, an astronomer and mathematician, and Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire.

Quotes about Timur

  • In the same manner, God, who was pleased to purge the world, made use of a medicine which was both sweet and bitter, to wit the clemency and the wrath of the incomparable Temur; and to that effect inspired in him an ambition to conquer all Asia and to expel the several tyrants thereof. He established peace and security in this part of the world so that a single man might carry a silver basin filled with gold from the east of Asia to the west. But yet he could not accomplish this great affair without bringing in some measure upon the places he conquered destruction, captivity and plunder, which are the concomitants of victory.119
    • Tamerlane’s biographer Yazdi in Marozzi, Tamerlane, 396, quoted from Robert Spencer, The History of Jihad. ch 6
  • Their first conqueror was Tamerlane himself—more properly Timur-i-lang—a Turk who had accepted Islam as an admirable weapon, and had given himself a pedigree going back to Genghis Khan, in order to win the support of his Mongol horde. Having attained the throne of Samarkand and feeling the need of more gold, it dawned upon him that India was still full of infidels. His generals, mindful of Moslem courage, demurred, pointing out that the infidels who could be reached from Samarkand were already under Mohammedan rule. Mullahs learned in the Koran decided the matter by quoting an inspiring verse: “Oh Prophet, make war upon infidels and unbelievers, and treat them with severity.”83 Thereupon Timur crossed the Indus (1398), massacred or enslaved such of the inhabitants as could not flee from him, defeated the forces of Sultan Mahmud Tughlak, occupied Delhi, slew a hundred thousand prisoners in cold blood, plundered the city of all the wealth that the Afghan dynasty had gathered there, and carried it off to Samarkand with a multitude of women and slaves, leaving anarchy, famine and pestilence in his wake.
  • Srivastava describes what transpired after Timur's forces occupied Delhi on December 18, 1398: The citizens of the capital, headed by the ulema, waited on the conqueror and begged quarter. Timur agreed to spare the citizens; but, owing to the oppressive conduct of the soldiers of the invading force, the people of the city were obliged to offer resistance. Timur now ordered a general plunder and massacre which lasted for several days. Thousands of the citizens of Delhi were murdered and thousands were made prisoners. A historian writes: “High towers were built with the head of the Hindus, and their bodies became the food of ravenous beasts and birds…such of the inhabitants who escaped alive were made prisoners.”... He then proceeded along the Sivalik Hills to Kangara , plundering and sacking that town and Jammu - everywhere the inhabitants being slaughtered like cattle.
    • A.L. Srivastava quoted in Bostom, A. G. (2015). Sharia versus freedom: The legacy of Islamic totalitarianism.
  • Srivastava summarizes India's devastated condition following Timur's departure: Timur left [India] prostrate and bleeding. There was utter confusion and misery throughout northern India. [India's] northwestern provinces, including northern tracts of Rajasthan and Delhi, were so thoroughly ravaged, plundered and even burnt that it took these parts many years, indeed, to recover their prosperity. Lakhs [hundreds of thousands] of men, and in some cases, many women and children, too, were butchered in cold blood. The rabi crops [grown in October–November, harvested around March, including barley, mustard, and wheat] standing in the field were completely destroyed for many miles on both sides of the invader's long and double route from the Indus to Delhi and back. Stores of grain were looted or destroyed. Trade, commerce and other signs of material prosperity disappeared. The city of Delhi was depopulated and ruined. It was without a master or a caretaker. There was scarcity and virulent famine in the capital and its suburbs. This was followed by a pestilence caused by the pollution of the air and water by thousands of uncared-for dead bodies. In the words of the historian Badaoni, “those of the inhabitants who were left died (of famines and pestilence), while for two months not a bird moved wing in Delhi.”
    • Srivastava quoted in Bostom, A. G. (2015). Sharia versus freedom: The legacy of Islamic totalitarianism.
  • It has been noted that the Jenghiz-Khanite Mongol invasion of the thirteenth century was less cruel, for the Mongols were mere barbarians who killed simply because for centuries this had been the instinctive behavior of nomad herdsmen toward sedentary farmers. To this ferocity Tamerlane [Timur] added a taste for religious murder. He killed from Qur'anic piety. He represents a synthesis, probably unprecedented in history, of Mongol barbarity and Muslim fanaticism, and symbolizes that advanced form of primitive slaughter which is murder committed for the sake of an abstract ideology, as a duty and a sacred mission.4
    • Grousset. The Empire of the Steppes, quoted in Bostom, A. G. (2015). Sharia versus freedom: The legacy of Islamic totalitarianism.
  • Tamerlane's [Timur's] conquering activities were carried on from the Volga to Damascus, from Smyrna to the Ganges and the Yulduz, and his expeditions into these regions followed no geographical order. He sped from Tashkent to Shiraz, from Tabriz to Khodzhent, as enemy aggression dictated; a campaign in Russia occurred between two in Persia, an expedition into Central Asia between two raids into the Caucasus.…[Timur] at the end of every successful campaign left the country without making any dispositions for its control except Khwarizm and Persia, and even there not until the very end. It is true that he slaughtered all his enemies as thoroughly and conscientiously as the great Mongol, and the pyramids of human heads left behind him as a warning example tell their own tale. Yet the survivors forgot the lesson given them and soon resumed secret or overt attempts at rebellion, so that it was all to do again. It appears too, that these blood soaked pyramids diverted [Timur] from the essential objective. Baghdad, Brussa (Bursa), Sarai, Kara Shahr, and Delhi were all sacked by him, but he did not overcome the Ottoman Empire, the Golden Horde, the khanate of Mogholistan, or the Indian Sultanate; and even the Jelairs of Iraq Arabi rose up again as soon as he had passed. Thus he had to conquer Khwarizm three times, the Ili six or seven times (without ever managing to hold it for longer than the duration of the campaign), eastern Persia twice, western Persia at least three times, in addition to waging two campaigns in Russia.…[Timur's] campaigns “always had to be fought again,” and fight them again he did.
    • Rene Grousset. The Empire of the Steppes quoted in Bostom, A. G. (2015). Sharia versus freedom: The legacy of Islamic totalitarianism.
  • As specimens of those acts mention may be made of his massacre of the people of Sistan 1383–4, when he caused some two thousand prisoners to be built up into a wall; his cold-blooded slaughter of a hundred thousand captive Indians near Dihli [Delhi] (December, 1398); his burying alive of four thousand Armenians in 1400–1, and the twenty towers of skulls erected by him at Aleppo and Damascus in the same year; and his massacre of 70,000 of the inhabitants of Isfahan (November, 1387).
    • E.G. Browne. A Literary History of Persia. quoted in Bostom, A. G. (2015). Sharia versus freedom: The legacy of Islamic totalitarianism.
  • It is the Qur'an to which he continually appeals, the imams and [Sufi] dervishes who prophesy his success [emphasis added]. His wars were to influence the character of the jihad, the Holy War, even when—as was almost always the case—he was fighting Muslims. He had only to accuse these Muslims of lukewarmness, whether the Jagataites of the Ili and Uiguria, whose conversion was so recent, or the Sultans of Delhi who…refrained from massacring their millions of Hindu subjects.
    • Rene Grousset. The Empire of the Steppes, quoted in Bostom, A. G. (2015). Sharia versus freedom: The legacy of Islamic totalitarianism.
  • Timur undertook many of his campaigns in the interest of religious order, and we find that almost all mentions of Sharia in [Nizan al-Dim] Shami's Zafarnameh occur as justification for Timur's conquests. His campaigns against the kings of Georgia, the Shi'ite sayyids of Amul in Mazandaran [a province in northern Iran], and the non-Muslim populations on his route to India were all ostensibly taken for the preservation of Sharia; and Shami even invoked the sanctions of religion in explaining Timur's campaigns against the Ottomans. Before beginning his campaigns in the Middle East, Timur took care to get the blessing of Muslim men of religion.
    • Manz. “Tamerlane and the Symbolism of Sovereignty, quoted in Bostom, A. G. (2015). Sharia versus freedom: The legacy of Islamic totalitarianism.
  • ...In vain, I see, men worship Mahomet:
    My sword hath sent millions of Turks to hell,
    Slew all his priests, his kinsmen, and his friends,
    And yet I live untouch'd by Mahomet.
    There is a God, full of revenging wrath,
    From whom the thunder and the lightning breaks,
    Whose scourge I am, and him will I obey.
  • My passions, from that hapless hour,
    Usurp’d a tyranny, which men
    Have deem’d, since I have reach’d to power
    My innate nature — be it so...
  • The riches of India tempted him, and the weakness of the Delhi government provided him with a favorable opportunity. By invoking the propagation of the Islamic faith, he obtained the consent of his nobles. His invasion of India was the most ferocious that the country had ever known up to then.
    • A Brief History of India by Alain Daniélou
  • The Alcoran [Qur’an] says the highest dignity man can attain is that of making war in person against the enemies of his religion. Mahomet [Muhammad] advises the same thing, according to the tradition of the mussulman [Muslim] doctors: wherefore the great Temur always strove to exterminate the infidels, as much to acquire that glory, as to signalise himself by the greatness of his conquests.
    • Sharaf ad-Din Ali Yazdi, a fifteenth-century Persian who wrote a biography of Tamerlane. Marozzi, Tamerlane, 394. Quoted from Spencer, Robert (2018). The history of Jihad: From Muhammad to ISIS.
  • Do you know that the Barbican Center Theater of London has censored Tamburlaine the Great, the drama written in 1587 by Christopher Marlowe? At a certain point of the drama, remember, Christopher Marlowe makes Tamburlaine burn the Koran. While the Koran burns, he also makes him challenge the Prophet by shouting: «Now, if you have the power, come down and make a miracle!». And, given the fact that these words and the Koran burning infuriated local Muslims, the Barbican Theater has cut off the whole scene.
  • Tamerlane was a world conqueror, statesman and military commander of astonishing brilliance and brutal ferocity who built an empire stretching from India to Russia and the Mediterranean Sea. Never defeated in battle, the ultimate hero-monster, he ranks alongside Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great as one of the great conquerors of all time yet he left in his wake both pyramids of human skulls and the aesthetic beauty of his capital Samarkand.
  • A ruthless killer, whose armies were responsible for unrivalled pillage and brutality, Tamerlane was equally a shrewd statesman, brilliant general and sophisticated patron of the arts. Revered in Uzbekistan to this day — his monument in Tashkent standing where Marx’s statue once presided — Tamerlane was buried in a beautiful simple tomb in Samarkand. Legend said that the disturber of his tomb would be cursed: in June 1941, a Soviet historian opened the tomb. Days later, Hitler attacked Soviet Russia.
  • In the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, we have the terror spread by the infamous Timur the Lame, otherwise known as Tamerlane or the "bloody and insatiate Tamburlaine" of Marlowe's play... According to the "Zafer Nameh," our main source of information for Tamer- lane's campaigns, written at the beginning of the fifteenth century, Tamerlane set forth to conquer India solely to make war on the enemies of the Muslim faith. He considered the Muslim rulers of northern India far too lenient toward pagans, that is to say, the Hindus. The "Zafer Nameh" tells us that "The Koran emphasizes that the highest dignity to which man may attain is to wage war in person upon the enemies of the Faith. This is why the great Tamerlane was always concerned to exterminate the infidels, as much to acquire merit as from love of glory." Under the pretext that the hundred thousand Hindu prisoners at Delhi presented a grave risk to his army, Tamerlane ordered their execution in cold blood. He killed thousands, and had victory pillars built from the severed heads. On his way out of India, he sacked M i r a j , pulled down the monuments, and flayed the Hindu inhabitants alive, "an act by which he fulfilled his vow to wage the Holy War," This strange champion of Islam, as Grousset calls him, plundered and massacred "through blindness or closemindedness to a certain set of cultural values."
    • Ibn Warraq, Why I am not a Muslim, 1995. p 234-5
  • The rulers of India, whether Turks, Pathans, or Mughals, used Islamic vocabulary to legitimise their rule in the eyes of their Muslim chiefs and the ‘ulamā. Amīr Taimūr (1336–1405), the Turco-Mongol conqueror who attacked India in 1397–99 with legendary cruelty and devastation, uses purely religious language in defense of his action in his memoir Malfūẓāt-e-Taimūrī.
    • Tariq Rahman - Interpretations of Jihad in South Asia_ An Intellectual History-de Gruyter (2018) ch3
  • A careful study of Timur’s invasion leads to the conclusion that it symbolises little more than the fulfilment of an ambition without a distinct object. After all why did he invade India? If conquest of the country was his object, he had certainly not achieved it.
    • K.S. Lal, Twilight of the Sultanate (1963) p. 41
  • But even in the deepest darkness light persists. Timur’s gruesome invasion had a silver lining. Hindus and Muslims all stood up to a man to fight him wherever he went. The days of Mahmiid of Ghazni were a story of the past, and Timur met resistance everywhere. The people of India were known for their disunity in the face of a foreign invader. But they stood united against Timur. At Tulamba, Ajodhan, Deopalpur, Bhatnir, Meerut and Delhi—nay everywhere —the Hindus and Muslims fought shoulder to shoulder against the , invader. Shaikh Sa’iduddin interceded with Timur on behalf of the Hindu chief of Bhatnir. At Meerut, Ilyas Afghan, a Muslim, burnt his womenfolk in the fire of jawhar. During Timur’s visitation the Hindus and Muslims learnt to sink their differences and stand united.
    • About Timur. K.S. Lal, Twilight of the Sultanate (1963) p. 42-3
  • Tamerlane, who built the last great Empire in the Steppes of Central Asia, seems a worthy heir of Attila the Hun or Genghis Khan. He piled up the skulls of defeated enemies in monstrous pyramids and struck fear wherever he went. Yet he was a patron of learning who created an Empire that brought enormous benefits to his homeland. He made his capital Samarkand one of the greatest and most sophisticated cities in the Islamic world. He was a tyrant whos atrocities were carried out abroad rather than at home.
    • Clive Foss, The Tyrants: 2500 Years of Absolute Power and Corruption, London: Quercus Publishing, 2006, ISBN 1905204965, p. 66

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