575-640 A.H.   /   1180-1242 A.D.

Nasir, 575-622 A.H. 1180-1225 A.D.

WE now reach an attempt to restore the Caliphate to its ancient rôle among the nations; it was but the flicker of an expiring flame. An-Nasir, "Defender of the Faith," not only held the Capital in strength, but extended his sway into Mesopotamia on the one hand, and into Persia on the other. Ambitious in his foreign policy, he looked to further conquest; selfish and cruel at home, he caused his first two Wazirs in fits of jealousy to he put to death.

Relations with the court of Khwarizm, 576-590 A.H.

The grand object of his earlier years was to crush the Seljuk power, and on its ruins build up his own. For this, he fomented rebellion, and took the part, from time to time, of discontented branches of the Sultan's house. At last, the Khwarizm Shah, Takash, at his instigation attacked the Seljuk forces, and defeated them, leaving Toghril, last of his race upon the field. The head of the fallen monarch was despatched to the Caliph to be exposed in front of the palace at Bagdad. Takash, recognised now as supreme ruler of the East, conferred on the Caliph certain provinces of Persia, heretofore held by the Seljuks.

591 A.H.

In token of his loyalty, An-Nasir sent by the hand of his Wazir to the conqueror a patent of rule and a dress of honour. But by a stupid want of tact, the Wazir so irritated the churlish Turk, that he attacked the Caliph's troops and routed them, Thereafter hostile relations, or at best hollow truce, prevailed between the two for many years. The Caliph, to be rid of an obnoxious governor of the Shah, against whom he dared not levy open war, had him assassinated by an emissary of the Ismailians, who having dropped their 'Alid tenets, but


not the dagger, were now in favour at the court of Bagdad. The Shah retaliated by having the body of An-Nasir's Wazir, who died on a campaign against him, exhumed, and the head stuck up at Khwarizm. Irritated at this and other hostile acts, the Caliph showed his vexation by treating with indignity the pilgrims who came from the East under the Khwarizm flag. But beyond such poor revenge, he was powerless for any open enmity against a Potentate whose rule stretched unopposed from the Jaxartes to the Persian Gulf.

Khwarizm Shah’s advance on Bagdad, 612-614 A.H. 1216-1217 A.D.

Mohammad son of Takash, exasperated at these pro­ceedings, now aimed not simply to crush the temporal rule of the Caliph, but by setting up an anti-Caliph of the house of 'Ali, to paralyse his spiritual power as well. A council of learned doctors assembled at Khwarizm accord­ingly deposed An-Nasir as an assassin and enemy of the Faith and nominated a descendant of 'Ali to the Caliphate, who was prayed for in public and his name struck on the coinage of the Eastern empire. Following up this act, Mohammad turned his resistless arms upon Bagdad. An-Nasir in alarm sent a distinguished envoy to plead his cause, but he was haughtily rejected, with the assurance that the conqueror was about to instal the worthier scion of a worthier house upon his master's throne.

Nasir invites Jenghiz Khan.

On this, An-Nasir bethought him of an appeal to Jenghiz Khan the rising Mongol chief, to check Mohammad's progress; and against the pious reclamations of his court, sent an embassy to him; — the Defender of the Faith appealing for help to the pagan head of a pagan horde! It would have been all too late, for Mohammad, the Khwarizm Shah, had already taken Eastern 'Irak and Bagdad lay at his mercy, when, by the opportune inclemency of an early winter, he was forced to return to Khorasan. The Caliph soon after found his diplomacy bearing evil fruit. The steppes of Central Asia were set in motion by Jenghiz Khan, and his hordes put to flight the Khwarizm Shah, who died an exile in an island of the Caspian. But it had been well for the Caliph (as we shall see) if he had left these Mongol hosts in their native wilds alone.

Turning now to the Holy Land, we find that Saladin, ever and again, when hard pressed by the Crusaders


urgently appealed for help to An-Nasir who, caring for little beyond his own aggrandisement, contented himself with sending a store of naphtha, with men to use it against the invaders in the field.

Nasir leaves Crusaders alone, 577-589 A.H. 1181-1193 A.D.

To 'Ali, one of Saladin's sons, who in the dissensions of the family sought to recover Damascus, he promised help, but it ended in an idle play upon the name; — "'Ali," he said, "on the Prophet's death had no defender; whilst now the Caliph himself is AN-NASIR, that is the Defender of 'Ali."1

Nasir’s Caliphate.

There is little more to tell of An-Nasir. Besides his occasional conquests, he held uninterruptedly 'Irak al-'Arabi from Tekrit to the Gulf, of which he is described as having been a severe and oppressive ruler. There are instances, however, in which when appealed to, he interposed in favour of the weaker party, — though partly, no doubt, from the fear of too powerful antagonists. His long reign of forty-seven years is chiefly marked by ambitious and unscrupulous dealings with the Tartar chiefs, and by his hazardous invocation of the Mongol hordes, which so soon brought his own dynasty to an end. But in his day, there was comparative peace at Bagdad; learning flourished; schools and libraries were patronised; while refuges for the poor, and other works of public interest, were encouraged.

Zahir and Mustansir, the two succeeding Caliphs, 622-640 A.H. 1225-1242 A.D.

His son and grandson succeeded An-Nasir during the next eighteen years; but there is little said of them beyond that they were mild and virtuous. The Crusades still dragged on their weary course, while the heirs of Saladin were contending bitterly among themselves. The Caliphate, however, concerned itself little with the wars in Syria. It was kept in frequent alarm by the Tartar inroads. The Mongols came on one occasion as near as Holwan and Khanikin, and on another even to Samarra, so that the terrified inhabitants of Bagdad hastened to put their defences in order. But the danger for the moment passed off, and peace still reigned in the city. It was but the lull before the fatal storm.

1 The Wazir of this prince was brother of our Annalist, Ibn al-Athir.

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