Alp Arslan, the lion of Manzikert

Updated 18 June 2015

Alp Arslan, the lion of Manzikert

Battle of Manzikert is one of the top ten battles that changed the face of the world’s history. Mohammed bin Dawood, the Seljuq ruler, who had earned the Turkish title, Alp Arslan (courageous lion), was the figure behind that. He carved out a kingdom from Hindu Kush in the east to the Anatolia in the west and from Central Asia to the Arabian Gulf in the south. He opened the gates of Anatolia for the Muslim conquest and paved the way for the Ottomans to subdue eastern Europe. He was the first Muslim warrior who defeated a large enemy and arrested the ruling Byzantine emperor.
What Alp Arslan achieved in his short age of 44 years is a long story of valor, courage and firm faith in divine help. Mohammed bin Dawood was the second Sultan of the Seljuq empire and the great-grandson of the founder of the dynasty. His ancestors migrated to Khwarezm where they embraced Islam.
The Seljuq empire was a medieval Turko Persian Sunni Muslim empire founded by Tughril Beg in 1037. It controlled a vast area stretching from the Hindu Kush to eastern Anatolia and from Central Asia to the Arabian Gulf. They united the fractured political scene of the eastern Islamic world and played a key role in the first and second crusades.
Tughril was the uncle of Alp Arslan. After the death of Tughril Beg, Alp Arslan ascended the throne on April 27, 1064 A.D. as Sultan of Great Seljuq, thus becoming the sole monarch of Persia from river Oxus to the Tigris.
The dominion of Alp Arslan now extended over the fairest part of Asia; 1,200 princes or sons of princes surrounded his throne and 200,000 warriors were at his command. To expand the influence of Islam in the neighboring territory, he marched into Armenia and Georgia, and finally subdued them in 1064 AD. Alp Arslan invaded the Roman empire in 1068 AD. During the first three campaigns, the Turks were defeated in 1070 and driven across the Euphrates.
Alp Arslan learned that the Byzantine emperor Romanos IV, with a large army of 30,000, was planning to attack his rear army in Armenia. Arslan marched quickly with about 15,000 soldiers and reached Manzikert (modern Malazgirt in the eastern province of Mus in Turkey) on the Murat river, north of Lake Van. The sultan proposed terms of peace, which were scornfully rejected by Romanos, and the two forces waged the Battle of Manzikert.
On August 26, 1071, Romanos deployed his army for battle, with himself commanding the troops. After attending the Friday prayer, Alp Arslan delivered a speech. He told his troops: “We are all equal in the service of Islam. I desire martyrdom.” He donned white dress and said, “If I die in the battle, bury me at the same place and continue jihad under the leadership of my son, Malik Shah.”
Commanding from a nearby hill, Alp Arslan directed his army to form a crescent-shaped line and began a series of heavy assaults on the Byzantine flanks and shattered the rear wing. The Byzantine army, powerful in numbers but weak in morale, fell before the dedicated Turks. By evening the Byzantine army was defeated, Romanos was taken prisoner. For the first time in history, a Byzantine emperor had become the prisoner of a Muslim commander.
Alp Arslan asked Romanos: “What would you do if I was brought before you as a prisoner?”
Romanos replied: “Perhaps I’d kill you or exhibit you in the streets of Constantinople.”
Alp Arslan: “My punishment is far more severe. I forgive you, and set you free.”
Romanos was moved with these words. Further Alp Arslan treated him with generosity, discussed the terms of peace, gave him royal presents and kept him in a tent near him respectfully, attended by military guards. A ransom of 1,500,000 gold coins was agreed but when Romanos returned to his capital he was deposed.
He wrote to Arslan, “As emperor, I promised you a ransom of a million and a half. Dethroned, and about to become dependent upon others, I send you all I possess as proof of my gratitude.”He could collect only 300,000 coins, which he sent to Alp Arslan with a humble request to accept it. King Alp Arslan pardoned the rest with his symbolic generosity. When Emperor Romanos returned to his territory with the good sense of Islam, his courtiers deposed him, cruelly blinded him on June 29, 1072, and exiled him to Prote where he died of his wounds.
Sultan Alp Arslan met with an accident. It so happened that about 11 months after the battle, he arrested a hostile chief named Yousuf. When he was brought to be executed, he suddenly attacked Alp Arslan with his dagger.
Sultan was seriously wounded and died after a few hours on Nov. 25, 1072 at the young age of 44. He was buried at Merv next to his father Dawood Chaghri Beg. He was succeeded by his 17-year-old son Malik Shah.

Gospels lead us to the Qur’an

Updated 23 September 2016

Gospels lead us to the Qur’an

Brandon Yusuf Toropov gives a vivid account of his personal quest to study the most authentic verses of the Bible — the Q verses — and his coming into the fold of Islam. Thhis is the concluding part of his story.

I WAS interested in the research being done that indicated that the oldest strata of the Gospels reflected an extremely early oral source known as Q (the Q source: Q from German, Quelle, meaning ‘source,’ is a hypothetical written collection of Jesus’s sayings) and that each of the individual sayings of Jesus (may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him) needed to be evaluated on its own merits, and not as part of the narrative material that surrounded it. This is because that narrative material was added many years later.

Wresting with the doctrine of the Trinity: The more I looked at these sayings, the more impossible it became for me to reconcile the notion of the Trinity with that which seemed most authentic to me in the Gospels. I found myself face-to-face with some very difficult questions. Where in the Gospels did Jesus use the word “Trinity”? If Jesus was God, as the doctrine of the Trinity claims, why did he worship God? And, if Jesus was God, why in the world would he say something like the following? “Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.” (Mark, 10:18) Did he somehow forget that he himself was God when he said this?

The Holy Qur’an: In November of 2002, I began to read a translation of the Qur’an. I had never read an English translation of the entire text of the Qur’an before. I had only read summaries of the Qur’an written by non-Muslims. (And very misleading summaries at that.)
Words do not adequately describe the extraordinary effect that this book had on me. Suffice to say that the very same magnetism that had drawn me to the Gospels at the age of 11 was present in a new and deeply imperative form. This book was telling me, just as I could tell Jesus had been telling me, about matters of ultimate concern. The Qur’an was offering authoritative guidance and compelling responses to the questions I had been asking for years about the Gospels.
“It is not (possible) for any human being to whom God has given the Book and wisdom and prophethood to say to the people: ‘Be my worshippers rather than God’s.’ On the contrary, (he would say): ‘Be devoted worshippers of your Lord, because you are teaching the Book and you are studying it.’ Nor would he order you to take angels and prophets for lords. Would he order you to disbelieve after you have submitted to God’s will?” (Qur’an, 3:79-80)
The Qur’an drew me to its message because it so powerfully confirmed the sayings of Jesus that I felt in my heart had to be authentic. Below, you will find just a few examples of the parallels that made my heart pliant to the worship of God. Each Gospel verse comes from the reconstructed text known as Q, a text that today’s scholars believe represents the earliest surviving strata of the teachings of the Messiah. Note how close this material is to the Qur’anic message.

On monotheism: In Q, Jesus endorses a rigorous monotheism. “Get thee behind me, Satan: For it is written, ‘Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.’” (Luke, 4:8) Compare: “Children of Adam, did We not command you not to worship Satan? He was your sworn enemy. Did We not command you to worship Me and tell you that this is the straight path?” (Qur’an, 36:60-61)

On Aqaba: Q identifies a right path that is often difficult, a path that unbelievers will choose not to follow. “Enter ye in through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction and many there are who go in there. Narrow is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew, 7:13-14) Compare: “The worldly life is made to seem attractive to the disbelievers who scoff at the faithful, but the pious, in the life Hereafter, will have a position far above them…” (Qur’an, 2:212)

On Taqwa: Q warns us to fear only the judgment of God. “And I say unto you, my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear. Fear Him, which after He hath killed, hath the power to cast into Hell. Yea, I say unto you, fear Him!” (Luke, 12:4-5) Compare: “To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth. God’s retribution is severe. Should you then have fear of anyone other than God?” (Qur’an, 16:52)

Earthly life: In Q, Jesus warns humanity plainly that earthly advantages and pleasures should not be the goal of our lives: “Woe unto you that are rich! For you have received your consolation. Woe unto you who are full! You shall be hungry. Woe unto you who laugh now! You shall weep and mourn.” (Luke, 6:24) Compare: “The desire to have increase of worldly gains has preoccupied you so much (that you have neglected the obligation of remembering God) – until you come to your graves! You shall know. You shall certainly know (about the consequences of your deeds.) You will certainly have the knowledge of your deeds beyond all doubt. You will be shown hell, and you will see it with your own eyes. Then, on that day, you shall be questioned about the bounties (of God).” (Qur’an, 102:1-8)

Crucifixion: We are left then with an amazing early Gospel, a Gospel that (non-Muslim) scholars believe is historically closest to Jesus, a Gospel that has the following characteristics: Agreement with the Qur’an’s uncompromising message of God’s Oneness; agreement with the Qur’an’s message of an afterlife of salvation or hellfire ... based on our earthly deeds; agreement with the Qur’an’s warning not to be misled by dunya, the attractions and pleasures of worldly life. A complete absence of any reference to Christ’s death on the cross, resurrection, or sacrifice for humanity! This is the Gospel that today’s most advanced non-Muslim scholars have identified for us ... and this Gospel is pointing us, if only we will listen to it, in precisely the same direction as the Qur’an! I became a Muslim on March 20, 2003. It became obvious to me that I had to share this message with as many thoughtful Christians as I could.