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.

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  1. bekahanne79 says:

    Wow, a very interesting part of history that I was not aware of! It brings much of today into somewhat clearer focus.

  2. Ariel Burden says:

    The Mongols felt it necessary to demolish the Abbasid Caliph to conquer the Islamic world because it was the most powerful and recognized in the world.

  3. Nathan Chapman says:

    The fact that the Mongols took Baghdad, one of the largest cities of the time, is a testament to how strong they were.

  4. Casey Crow says:

    The mongols showed an amazing amount of brutality when they were taking over baghdad especially the way they killed the caliph.

  5. Sarah Boon says:

    The Mongols did anything and everything to take over Bagdad, and changed the Muslim world forever.

  6. Ariel Burden says:

    The Mongols felt that the demolition of the Abbasid Caliph was necessary to dominate the Islamic world because the caliph was the most powerful and recognized in the world. The sack of Baghdad was done brutally, as anything the Mongols did was.

  7. Nathan Chapman says:

    The capture of Baghdad, one of the largest cities of its time, by the Mongols is a testament to their strength.

  8. Taylor Escamilla says:

    This shows a different point of view and in more detail than our text books show us about what happened on this tragic day. It just goes to show you that people are extremely strong minded about their cultural and religous beliefs.

  9. Cassey Mier says:

    This blog gave a much better understanding about the Caliphs! A much better detail as to why there in no longer a certian authority in the islamic world. The crucial incident gave way of the head strong mongolian society.

  10. paige tignor says:

    A very important part of the muslim history was come to by this vicious act. It explains what the past was like and how it has affected the people of our time. It clearly states how the caliphs we killed and how certian battles were done and how some war lords over took the “capitol” or head of the kingdom in a way or just flat out destroyed it. More or less of the second option. This shows extreme religious reviews towards what these people nelieved. the illistrations clearly shows the war, the kingdom, a muslim, and how muslim is stated as to this day.

  11. Marcos Alvarado says:

    The Monglos were very unforgiving at war but yet were very welcoming to other religions and diidn’t care who you were just as long as you are useful.

  12. Todd Forbes says:

    This picture shows that the Mongols were very ruthless and unforgiving during war. But at the same it shows how they didnt care who you were or where you came from as long as you were useful

  13. Nathan Schmidt says:

    The Mongols were overpowering and would stop at nothing to claim Bagdad with brutal power, which would change the Muslims to the very core.

  14. Brooke Rottman says:

    The mongols were extremely strong, as if to prove this point they took over some of the strongest areas and left a large impresion in the religious world.

  15. Mark Carrillo says:

    The mongols were such a ruthless army at this time. They took over on of the largest cities in the world at this time and basically slayed everyone that lived there. I thought this was very cool and never put any thought to this time period in history and it is very interesting to learn about what this army has done!

    • barrycjacobsen says:

      The Mongols only slaughtered the inhabitants of cities that resisted; as an object lessen to other cities they would encounter in the future: surrender without a struggle, and become our subjects, you will be spared. Resist, and we will storm your city and slaughter everyone.

      Terror was a weapon of war, one they used very effectively.

  16. Jacob Jackson says:

    The Mongols were a very strong group of people, but I believe that they had no right what-so ever to take over Baghdad. Most of the time I believe that the Mongols were a very good group of people. But taking over Baghdad for no reason is uncalled for.

    • barrycjacobsen says:

      Then you don’t understand the Mongols, Jacob.

      First, the concept of “right” as you use it didn’t exist till the last century; when nations started to develop the concept of “International Law”. Throughout human history, humans have had a “right” to what they were strong enough to hold, and nothing more.
      Did the Mongols have “a right” to conquer and rule China? Or KWharizm? Russia, Hungary, or Poland? Their empire once stretched from the Pacific Ocean to the Danube. Did they have “a right” to all this, but not Baghdad?
      If so, why? Why not Baghdad?

  17. Kasey says:

    The Mongols, what a fascinating group of civilians. Even though they conquered half of the world, (Hint: the exaggeration) and destroyed cities in their path. The concept of their clan spread throughout China and over took Asia. Is such an amazing study, such as this story and their conqueror of Baghdad.

    • barrycjacobsen says:

      I don’t know if you meant to refer to the Mongols as “civilians”; but that connotes that they were not soldiers. In fact, the Mongol army that conquered this vast empire were all professional soldiers. Genghis Khan organized the various tribes and clans into the most “modern” fighting force of the Middle Ages (and the most advanced since the Roman Empire). Every man belonged to a squad of 10; which lived and fought together (and was punished together if on man committed an infraction, or showed cowardice in battle). These were organized into units of 100, 1,000, and divsions of 10,000 (tumans).
      No army in history traveled as far and conquered so wide a swath of territory as the Mongols.

  18. Emily says:

    The mongols a very powerful group that over took china, the where very interesting in the fact that they where able to do so, even tho they killed many people while they did so.

  19. Krysten says:

    This article explained why Caliph is no longer a large influence on the Islamic world. I find it interesting how strong The Mongols were when taking over places, especially Baghdad.

    • barrycjacobsen says:

      The Mongols had a very sophisticated and advanced siege train which accompanied their armies. The parts for the artillery were carried on the backs of pack animals; and were assembled once the army set down before a fortress to besiege it. Against really large, strong cities the Mongos would also employ earthen ramps; erected against the wall to the height of the battlements. When the ramp reached the level of the top of the walls, the Mongols would begin their assault.
      This was called the “Endless Storm”; during which the Mongols would attack, non-stop, in relays till the walls were taken. This could go on for hours or days, if necessary.
      To help close with the defenders, the Mongols would also round-up people from the surrounding countryside. Along with prisoners taken earlier in the campaign, these would be whipped and herded in front of the Mongol warriors; up the ramp or through a breach in the wall. The defenders would have to kill their own countrymen in mass before they could strike at the Mongols behind these human shields. This flood of innocent, terrified humanity was often too much for the defenders to stem, and would allow the Mongols to follow them into the fortress/city and capture the place.

  20. kayla hill says:

    what is really cool is that the end of the Abbassid Calphate ended any central authority in Islam. with doing so I find it interesting that the Mongols were so interested in taking over big places like Baghdad.

    • barrycjacobsen says:

      The Mongol army lived for conquest, and the pillaging of territories and cities. The large cities and prosperous countries (like China) were the ripest plums to be picked.

    • barrycjacobsen says:

      The end of the Abbasid Caliphate didn’t end any form of Caliphate; just the most legitimate and universally accepted one. The Turkish Sultans took up that title during the Ottoman period. The fall of the Ottoman state at the end of WWII saw the end of the last pretender to a Caliphate.

  21. Katie Mahone says:

    This is a very interesting blog because it talks about what happened when the mongol’s leader, Khan, killed the last Abbasid caliph, and what the results were when he killed him.

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