On February 15, 1258 a Mongol army sacked Baghdad, holy city of the Abbasid Caliphate. Shortly after, the Khan ordered the death of the last Abbasid Caliph, Al-Musta’sim. Though hardly remembered, it was an event that rocked the Muslim world in its days; the repercussions of which are still felt today.
Hulago Khan, commander of the Mongols in the Middle East and founder of the Persia-based Il-Khanate, was the grandson of Genghis Khan. At its peak, Hulago’s kingdom included Iran, Iraq, Kurdistan; and parts of Turkey, Syria, and Jordan.
The sack of Baghdad culminated the initial phase of the Mongol operations into the Middle East. Hulago opened the campaign with the storming of the Assassin stronghold of Alamut, about 60 miles from modern Tehran; and the destruction of that cult, one of the world’s first international terrorist organization.
Baghdad was then the seat of the Abbassid Caliphate; a secular and religious authority within Islam that dated back to the 9th century. Though schismatic Caliphates existed at the time in Morocco and Egypt, the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad was the most recognized throughout the world. And though secular power had long been in the hands of Turkish Sultans; the Caliph (which name means “Successor”, as in the successor to Mohammed) was still the ultimate religious authority within Islam.
Once the Mongols took Baghdad, one of the largest cities in the world in its day, they put much of the population to the sword.
The last Caliph was put to death. Because many of Hulago’s soldiers were, themselves, Muslims, and because it was sacrilege to shed the Caliph’s “holy” blood; Hulago had the Caliph wrapped in a Persian rug and thrown into the street. The Khan then marched his army on horseback over the rug, crushing the Caliph to pulp within!
The end of the Abbassid Calphate ended any central authority in Islam (though Muslim leaders from time-to-time have claimed such authority; most notably the Ottoman Turkish Sultans). To this day, no such central authority exists. In dealing with the Islamic world, we face this problem daily; as every Imam has the right to issue fatwas as his own conscience dictates, without reference or recourse to a higher authority.
The stated goal of our foes, the Jihadists, is to recreate the lost Caliphate; that jihad against the West can continue under a united Islamic World.