Mongol Invasion of Iran and Concepts of Warfare and Destiny in Historians’ Viewpoints

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 The article addresses particular insights of the Iranian medieval historians with respect to the Mongol invasion. The insights of Nasawi Khorandezi (d.6471249) and Ata Malek Juvayni (623-681/1226-1283), two outstanding historians that served in the courts of forces on both sides (Khwarazshah and Mongols) examined to clarify their understanding of the correlation of warfare and destiny. The sudden conquests by the Mongols and the vast territories overrun by them, the historians underscored. Analysis of the viewpoints of these two historians suggests that the concepts of destiny and warfare as two undeniable facts in people’s lives. They hint at God’s will as the shared core of these concepts. Nasavi and Juvayni consider the shortcomings of the main agents in the Khwarazmi dynasty as the sins that led the Mongols to invade; however, the role of destiny, the massive outcomes of the conquests are inevitable.

Keywords: Mongol Invasion, Khwarazmshah dynasty, Warfare, Destiny.

Warfare is one of the main topics attracting the attention of historians in that era. Steady battles and numerous invasions led to social and political transformations. The overthrowing of former dynasties and the establishment of new regimes are the most distinctive changes narrated by these historians.

The Mongol invasion of Iran (616-656/1219-1258) involved some of the most destructive warfare in medieval history and made crucially impacted the direction of Iranian history. The devastation of cultivated territories, massacres of a large number of ordinary people, the genocide of remarkable scholars as well as the migration of many others, developed as a result of the massive Mongol conquests. Furthermore, their relentless onslaughts left profound traces on the minds of Iranian historians.

The quest of historians to understand the past and ongoing events helped successive generations to reconstruct their history. The historians of Iran played an outstanding role in conveying the reasons for the Mongol conquests to future generations. They persistently attempted to portray what had occurred in those unforgettable years.

Nasavi Khorandezi (d.647/1249) and Ata Malek Juvayni (623-681/1226-1283) were the first two Iranian historians to immortalize the memories of these destructive changes. They served in the court of the Khwarazmshah and Mongols, respectively, and witnessed the circumstances leading to the decline of the Khwarazmshah dynasty and the establishment of the Mongolian regime.

The reasons for the battles and the vastness of the areas overrun by the Mongols focus on critical issues. The reasons they have considered for the unexpected invasion of the Mongols and circumstances they recognized for the acceleration of the conquests have not yet been explored. Moreover, the impact of the Mongol invasion on the understandings of historians has not yet been the subject of independent research.

One of the main concepts applied by these two historians in the examination of the Mongol invasion is destiny taghdir or sarnevesht. From ancient times, the enigma of destiny has remained an incomprehensible riddle. In the mythology of various people, destiny is commonly perceived as an unknowable force that determines not only individual events but the direction of people’s lives as well. Destiny was viewed by the Muslim historians as the share allotted to man by God’s will, in the secular view, by supreme forces at birth (Zarinkoub, 1999, 267; Hassanzadeh, 2002, 134-137; Razavi, 2008, p. 8; Tsydenova, 2008, 113).

Nasavi and Juvayni used a rich set of terminology to refer to destiny whenever they addressed the Mongol invasion. Destiny stood out in the understanding of Muslim historians in the medieval era; however, its particular correlation with the concept of warfare in general, and the Mongol invasion in particular, has not received serious attention.

Review of Related Research

The Introduction of Muhammad Qazvini to the Tarikh-i Jahan gosha-ye Juvayni as well as David O. Morgan and J. A. Boyle's introductions to the English translation of Genghiz Khan, The History of the World-Conqueror provide us with brief biographies of Ata Malek Juvayni. Information brought into the work is based on the works of Juvayni and certain great medieval historians such as Rashid al-Din Fadlollah, Vassaf, and Hamdollah Mostowfi.

Charles Melville in “Jahan-gosha-ye Juvayni” and Lane in “Ala al-Din Juvayni”  have provided brief biographies of Ata-Malek Juvayni drawing on original resources as well as prior research done about Juvayni. Regarding the viewpoints of Juvayni, Esami’el Hasanzadeh elaborated on the determinist viewpoints in the case study of Juvayni in the Islamic Historiography. Hassanzadeh explores traces of Fatalism in Islamic theology in the ideas of the Sunni sect, particularly the Ash’ari school. He refers to Juvayni as the heir of this theology who believes that man has no power to create things and that the world is managed absolutely by God.

Houshang Khosrobeigi narrated the life of Nasawi in “Khwaterenegari-ye Shahab al-Din Nasawi” and “Shahab al-Din Nasawi va Sirat-i Ou”, based on the autobiography of Nasawi in his books.


The Khwarazmshah dynasty (491-616/1098-1219) was one of the main regimes in medieval history. They defeated other powerful dynasties such as the Saljuqs, Ghourids, and the Qara-Khitais to establish a vast empire from Transoxiana to Mesopotamia. Eventually, the Mongols overran their territories in the reigns of Sultan Muhammad (r.596-617/1220-1231) and Sultan Jalal al-Din (r.617-628/1220-1231) to put an abrupt end to this dynasty. 

The Khwarazmshah collapsed just at the peak of their reign. The sudden Mongol invasion, the brutal massacres, the unprecedentedly widespread destruction of cultivated territories, and the widespread regions invaded in a relatively short period of time gave rise to many questions in the minds of historians in that era. Nasavi Khorandezi and Ata Malek Juvayni were the first Iranian historians to narrate those tremendous circumstances.

Shahab al-Din Muhammad Nasawi Khorandezi (d. 647/1249) was born in a prominent family in Khorandez, which had a vast castle called Khorandez in Nesa located near Ashgabat (the capital of present Turkmenistan). He spent his youth learning the Persian and Arabic languages, as well as Islamic sciences (Nasawi, b, 1990, pp. 94-95).

Regarding his presence in Khurasan as one of the first provinces invaded by Mongols, Nasawi witnessed the genocide of a large number of his compatriots and devastation of his homeland (Nasavi, a pp. 94-96; Khosrobeigi, a, 2006, p.34). For six years, he served as a chancellor (622-628/1225-1331) for Jalal al-din in Mayyafariqin (near Diyarbakir in Turkey), Nasawi went to Halab (in north Syria) and gained high official rank in the court of the local dynasty. There he wrote Sirat-i Jalal al-Din Mingeberni and Nafsat al-Masdour.

As his name implies, Juvayni (623-681/1226-1283) was born in the district of Juvayn in Khurasan. The family from which he sprang was one of the most distinguished in Iran. Ata Malek Juvayni’s family had produced high officials for Saljuq, Khwarazmshah and Mongol dynasties. His father, Baha al-Din Muhammad (d. 651/1253), and his brother Shams al-Din Muhammad (d.683/1285) were two powerful people in this family (Boyle, 1958, xxvi; Lambton, 305). Ata Malek spent his life traveling and serving continually in the Mongol and Il-Khanid empires. Although he experienced numerous vicissitudes in his political life, he attracted the esteem of the Mongol officials, particularly Hulegu Khan (615-663/1217-1265).

Following the capture of Baghdad in 1258, Hulegu appointed Juvayni the governor of all the territories that had been directly held by the Abbasid Caliphs, i.e. Baghdad itself and Arab Iraq, as well as Lower Mesopotamia and Khurasan (Qazvini, 1952, pp. 54; Juvayni, tr. Boyle’s, intro., pp. xxx-xxxvii). During the rule of Abaqa Khan (629-880/1234–1282) Ata Malek was accused of having a covert connection with the Mamluks in Egypt and of taking advantage of Abagha Khan’s properties to overthrow the Il-Khanid Empire (Rashid al-Din Fadlollah, 1994, pp.1111-12; Vassaf al-Hazra, 1960, pp.119-120; Ebn al-Ebri, 1999, p.405). Even though he was acquitted, he never experienced immunity from the attacks of his competitors and opponents.

It is worth noting that Iranian medieval history is connected with numerous periods of warfare and the Mongol invasion is just one of them. Even during the time of the conquests beginning with the Chengiz Khan (c.1165-1227) invasion and ending with the seizure of Baghdad by Hulegu, several battles took place in Iran between the Kharazmshah and other centers of power such as the Abbasid Caliphate (132-656/ 750-1258), the Isma’ili dynasty (483-654/1090-1256), and the Seljuk Sultanate of Rome (485-707/1092-1307); however, the wide range for the conquests,  the brutal measures, and the collapse of the Kharzmshah dynasty just as it was consolidating its authority, distinguished the Mongol invasion from other periods of warfare.

These two historians, who served both sides, witnessed the collapse of the Kharazmshah as their rulers were consolidating the foundations of their regime. The following sections examine the reasons that they provide for the Mongol invasion and the wide range of Mongol conquests.

Sultan Muhammad’s Invasion of Baghdad

Sultan Muhammad’s rushing of his army to Baghdad is recognized as the first political mistake that indirectly deteriorated the foundations of the Kharazmshah dynasty. Juvayni indicates that this measure weakened the legitimacy of Sultan Muhammad, who wanted to displace the Shiite Ulama and subjugate the Abbasid Caliphate (Nasawi, b, p.19-21, Juvayni, vol.2, p.96 Ibn Athir, 1998, vol.10, p.313). Having left in winter to go to Baghdad, the Sultan was caught in the freezing weather and a large number of his troops perished in the snow: “And this was a buffet chashm–zakhm upon the face of his fortune eqbal and a scratch on the cheek of his cause, and from then onward the claims of Misfortune edbar came and the caravans of Disappointment herman arrived one after another” (Juvayni, vol2, p.97, Boyle, p.367). This incident resembles the abrupt alarm that raised the evil demon of destiny to divert the “lucky horse of the Khwarazmshah dynasty into darkness”.

It is worth noting that Sultan Muhammad’s dispatch to Baghdad was a reaction to the conspiracies made by Al-Nasser, the Abbasid Caliphate (585-622/1180-1225) against the Khwarazmshah. When Sultan Muhammad defeated the Ghourids (543-612/1185-1215), he found a large number of the letters in the Ghourid court written by Al-Nasser to stimulate the Ghourids against the Kharazmshah. However, historians indicate that the Sultan’s campaign to Baghdad damaged his legitimacy (Khemadi, 1949, p.113; Bayani, 1989, p.54; Khal’atbari & Sharafi, 2002 p.78-81).

Sultan Muhammad’s Ignorance of the Mongol Military Strength

Nasavi identifies the Sultan’s ignorance about the developed military organization of the Mongols as the main reason for his hasty measures. When Mahmoud Khwarazmi, the first ambassador of the Mongol dynasty, informed Sultan Muhammad about the massive Mongol conquests in China, the Sultan was furious that Mahmoud could not portray the real dimensions of the Mongol power: “When Mahmoud Khwarazmi found the effects of anger on his face,…refused to advise the Sultan and preferred to save his life, so he affirmed that his (Chengiz) army is like a single soldier in comparison to the huge number of troops serve under the Sultan’s reign” (Nasawi, b, p.50).

Moreover, the weak warfare strategies of the Khwarazmshah dynasty were recognized by these historians as the main reasons for the vast Mongol conquests. Sultan Muhammad divided his army and dispatched them to different cities of Transoxiana and Khurasan in order to delay the arrival of the Mongol troops in the central parts of Khwarazmshah’s territories. Juvayni shows his profound horror of encountering the powerful rival:

“The Sultan withdrew from the conflict, the control of the firmness having slipped from his hands and the attraction of constancy having been replaced by that of flight, while perplexity and doubt had taken abode in his nature, deputed the protection of most of his lands and territories to his generals and allies” (Juvayni, vol. 1, p. 91; Boyle, p.116). However, Nasavi laments Sultan Muhammad’s division of the army and concludes that his ultimate failure is because of destiny: “If he encountered the Tatars with all his armies before dispersing them, he would have grabbed them like a Falcon Shaheen, snatches a Sa’veh (A migratory bird) and eradicated them all, but there is no way to escape God’s fate mashiyat-e sobhani” (Nasawi, b, 54).

The Massacre of the Mongol Merchants and Envoys

Chengiz Khan began his political relationship with Iran through commerce. He dispatched messages with the merchants assembled to develop an official relation with Iran: “Your glorious majesty is obvious to us, I know about the vast regions under your reign and I heard about the influence of your commands in many territories, so I understand the necessity of possessing pacific relations and courtesy with you… If you are in compliance with me let’s open the commercial routes to make benefits for all our people” (Nasavi, b, p. 49).

Commercial relations had already been inaugurated by Muslim merchants, and they had even converted some Mongols to Islam. Juvayni narrates the message of Chengiz Khan and emphasizes that the Mongols regarded the Muslims with respect (Juvayni, vol 1, p. 79). Then Chengiz Khan dispatched a caravan of Muslim Merchants to establish commercial ties with the Khwarazmshah. However, in Utrar, the governor of Kharazm murdered all of them, claiming that they had conspired against the Khwarazmshah dynasty.

It’s frequently claimed that the Mongols intended to invade Iran after their consistent victories in China and the dispatch of a large number of merchants was just a veil for the hostile plots of Chengiz Khan; however, the injudicious measures of Sultan Muhammad and his agents led to the Mongol invasions. With respect to the circumstances, it seems unlikely that the merchants were spies of Mongols or that Chengiz intended to provoke a conflict with the Kharazmid dynasty, considering that he was still dealing with the Jins in northern China (Eqbal, 1963, p. 254; Soucek, 2000, p. 86).

Nasavi states that the Mongol invasion of Iran was resistible, particularly when Chengiz Khan sent a second group of envoys to demand the caravan’s properties were delivered back to Chengiz and the governor of Utrar handed over for punishment. But Sultan Muhammad was very suspicious of the Mongol regime, so he ordered the second envoy to be executed (Nasawi, b, p. 53; Juvayni, vol. 1, p. 99; Boyle, p. 82).

Destiny through the Perspectives of Historians

Ata Malek Juvayni and Nasavi Khorandezi appear to be conflicted over whether the will of human beings or destiny predominates in history. Besides the tangible reasons demonstrated by the historians for the Mongol invasion, they refer to the hidden hands of destiny leading to the battles. The presence of the heavy shadow of destiny in their justifications of the Mongol invasion is partly a result of the great speed of Mongol conquests:

“Who has ever heard that a tribe from the east where the sun rises has emerged to stampede the vast territories to Bab al-Abvab {a city near Mazandaran Sea}… and by the sharp bloody swords demolish the cultivated regions and settled territories. They left no strict, non-ravaged, and no cities undestroyed…they have done all these measures with God’s determination taghdir in less than two years. Whose mind can perceive this fact and which historian can narrate it? (Nasavi, b, p. 65) The historians’ unawareness of the real reasons for the invasion affects the form of their justification of the Khwarazmshah’s failure. However, the more territories the Mongols seized, the more frequently the historians refer to destiny to justify the invasions. The application of a rich terminology taghdir, ghaza wa ghadar and sarnevesht, bakht, eghbal and mashiyat-i elahi to convey their understanding of the concept of destiny.

Nasavi describes the huge number of troops having proceeded towards the Sultan to accompany him in the battle, the abrupt withdrawal of Sultan Muhammad from Oxus of Transoxiana and Khurasan, and his refusal to encounter Chengiz Khan, all of which accelerated the failure of the Sultan. But Nasavi justifies the Sultan’s non-resistance as the fate predetermined by God: “The troops from all over the Khwarazmshah territories flowed like the tremendous floods toward the centers had been specified by the Sultan as the fronts of battles, but before their arrival, they heard that the Sultan had gone away from the shores of Oxus. If he resisted, these huge troops would have made an attack against the Mongols, but God’s destiny ghaza wa ghadar-i elahi is more dominant and his commands are more strongly practiced” (Nasawi, b, 53-54). Not only do the historians refer to the role of destiny in the time of failure but they also believe in destiny when they attain a victory. Juvayni points to the life of Sultan Muhammad as revealing the mysteries of destiny:

“For as long as the humpbacked circle Charkh-i goujposht and blinded-heart heavens falak-i kourdel and the base wheel gardoun-i doun and the chameleon world alam-i bouqalamoun and unkindly fate rouzegar-i nasazegar endeavor on his part all the marvels of Fortune eqbal came out to meet the vanguards of his ambitions…But when his luck bakht fails and the side-wind of adversity extinguished the fire of prosperity atash-i eqbal, the water of success ab-i kamrani muddied with the dust of disappointment khak-i namoradi and the guides of his counsels and deliberations avoided the pathway of righteousness and stayed from the station of rectitude” (Juvayni, vol2, 95; Boyle, 363-364).

Juvayni’s words and expressions conveying the grave meaning of destiny are varied and numerous. He specifies that the hand of destiny has determined the results of the war and the people are just an actor of this theater.

Chengiz as the Fury of God

This was seen as an intolerable affront to the Khan, who considered his envoys “as sacred and inviolable” (Prawdin, 2009, p.104). The murder of the messengers constituted the throwing of the first dart in the battle. Consequently, Chengiz Khan, as the commander for the most destructive invasions of Iran is not recognized as the initiator of the battle by these two historians. They reiterate that the Mongol invasion was initiated by the irrational proceedings of Khwarazmshah officials.

Juvayni refers to the furies of Chengiz Khan after learning about the murder of the merchants as well as his envoys, “In this fever Chengiz Khan climbed alone the summit of a hill, bared his head, turned his face towards the earth and for three days and nights offered up a prayer, saying: I was not the author of this trouble, grant me strength to exact vengeance” (Juvayni, vol 2, p.100; Boyle, pp. 80-81). Chengiz Khan enumerates the injudicious measures as the sole factor lighting the flames of the battle. When he occupied Bukhara and desecrated Muslim’s holy places like the Friday mosque, he called himself the fury of God Khashm-i Khoda, “O people, know that you have committed great sins gonah and that the great ones among you have committed great sins. If you ask me what proof I have for these words, I say it is because I am the punishment of God; if you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you” (Juvayni, vol. p. 88; Boyle, p. 105).

The impressive point is that both sides of the battles, winners, and losers, found the will of God at the outset of battle and so the massive outcomes. Chengiz asks God to help him to take revenge on the Khwarazmshah regime for all of the sins they have committed; on the other hand, the Khwarazmshah justified all their shortcomings as God’s determination mashiate elahi. Chengiz applied the expression sin gunah, the meaning of which is profoundly religious. He asserts that heavy punishment is the outcome of great sins committed by the great agents.

On the other hand, Sultan Muhammad refers to his failures as God’s determination, “He resigned himself to inexorable Destiny and yielded to impotence and failure, surrendering to evil fortune and compiled with the words, “We submitted to the will of God razian be qazay-i allah” (Juvayni, vol2, p. 105; Boyle, p, 374).

The historians apply the word mistake khata or eshtebah when they intend to recount the mistakes leading to the Mongol invasion. But the word sin used by Khan indicates that those mistakes have a religious basis as well. So the will of God overshadows the narrations of historians. Chengiz calls himself “the punishment of God” for the innocent people who were charged for their ruler’s sins. Even though the people played no role in initiating the war, they were the inevitable victims of the Mongol invasion.

Fatalism in the Thought of Sultan Muhammad

Nasavi and Jovayni historians present rational reasons for the Mongol invasion of Iran. Furthermore, they emphasize that the vast range of conquests and constant warfare has occurred because of the Sultan’s measures. The Sultan’s strong belief in determinism is severely criticized by the historians: “He found…vacillation and bewilderment taking possession of his mind and his inner uncertainty disturbing his external appearance. For when he thought of the power and might of that people and of the stirring up of the troubles that had gone before, and when he realized that he had brought this calamity upon himself by force, he was overcome with misery and disgust and repentance was manifest in his speech” (Juvayni, vol. 2, p. 104; Boyle, p. 373).

Jovayni and Nasawi criticize Sultan Muhammad for leaving vital affairs to fate. Nasavi describes the Sultan as a wondering timid king who has brought about the desolation of his country at the hands of brutal enemies and stood still just to know how far the Mongols have advanced:

“He {Sultan Muhammad} was waiting for the news in Keilaf and Andkhoud (the region near Marvroud in Transoxiana} when he heard about the Chengiz Khan’s domination on Utrar and the murder of Yanel Khan and his army. He expected to see what would be born of the pregnant night and what the invisible actor would perform out of the fatal curtain {pardey-i taqdir} (Nasawi, b, p. 63). The extreme awe of the Sultan led to the commanders of the Sultan joining with Khan, but he declares that “Therefore there was an end to any connection” (ibid).

The closer Sultan Muhammad approaches death, the more he surrenders to his fatalism. Juvayni describes the last days of the Sultan, told to him by his grandfather, who served the Khwarzmshahi dynasty, as the Sultan was “marveling at the tricks of destiny {zamaneh}”:  He heaved a sigh and said, “If old age and adversity join forces and attack, and youth, prosperity and health disperse and flee, how shall this pain be cured, which is the dregs of the cup of Fate “rouzegar”? And by whom shall this knot be unraveled which was tied by the revolving heavens “gonbad-i davvar” (Juvayni, vol2, p129; Boyle, p. 170)?

Lamenting his sorrowful life and his swift decline into the dark of destiny, the Sultan does not notice that there is a rational story for all of his mistakes. So failure in the battles was not as inevitable as the loss of youth and life. The striking point is that the Sultan wanted to learn more about his destiny through dreams and astrology. The astrologers describe the nightmare of Sultan Muhammad: “beneficent stars were cadent from the angles of the Ascendant “darajat-i taleh” and the Tenth House “a’sher” and the maleficent stars were in attendance” (Juvayni, vol2, p.105; Boyle, pp. 374-375).

The enigmatic horrors dominated his decisions that he made a tragedy out of a ridiculous incident: “At this time whilst going to visit the Shrine of Tus {Modern Mashhad}, he beheld two cats, one white and one black, fighting on the threshold. He determined to take an augury of his own fate and that of his enemy from the fight of these two cats. He stopped to watch; while the enemy’s cat was victorious and his own cat was defeated, he heaved a sign and departed”(Juvayni, vol. 1, p.134; Boyle, p. 170).

The Fruitless Battles of Jalal al-Din Khwarazmshah

In 1220, after the death of Sultan Muhammad on an island off the Caspian coast, Sultan Jalal al-Din tried to reign in his ancestral kingdom, but his dream did not materialize (Bosworth, 2008, p. 2). He is recognized as the symbol of the endeavor to revitalize the memory of the Khwarazmshah; however, his constant battles with rivals such as the Abbasid Caliphate, Shi’ite of Isma’ili, the Saljuqs of Rome, and even his brother Qiyas-al-Din did not let him focus his attention on the Mongols.

Juvayni points to the conversation between Sultan Muhammad and Jalal al-Din, who persistently asked his father to defend the territories, but the Sultan was looking for a new haven farther away from the Mongols. Referring to the persistent attempts of Jalal-al-Din, Juvayni asserts, “However, those conversant with subtleties and those who dive into the sea of truths know that when Fortune “bakht” shies and shakes the load off its side, and turns the back of unkindness, a man can on no account expect that it will again show the cheek of fidelity” (Juvayni, vol. 2, p. 129; Boyle, 399).

Juvayni compares the measures of two Sultans i.e. Muhammad and Jalal al-Din and concludes that they share the responsibility for failure.  Even though he states that the fruitless attempts of Jalal al-Din rescued him from the arrows of reproach that had already hit his father (Juvayni, vol2, p. 130; Boyle, 400); however, he does note, in the era of Sultan Muhammad, they have more chance to succeed or at least reduce the range of the Mongol invasion (Eqbal, p. 269; Bayani, vol1, p. 154). Moreover, the plundering and looting of the innocent people’s properties by Khwarazmshah officials completed the sketchy picture already painted by the Mongols. Qiyas al-Din (d.627/1229), the younger brother of Jalal al-Din who was ruling in Kerman, could not fulfill the endless demands of their armies, mostly comprised Turks:

“Qiyas al-Din could not resist the Mongols in Kerman, so he escaped to the Jebal {central regions of Iran}, and when the Turks saw his weakness in policy, they engaged in the corruption and devastation of districts and the torture of people, and whatever had been left intact, they snatched away” (Nasavi, b, 132).

The situation was the same for Jalal al-Din when he was in Qafqaz. One of his entourage narrated ‘We settled for three months among the Gourjis. We were involved constantly in the plunder and destruction of buildings and the evacuation of those areas of trophies and cattle. Gorjian slaves and servants got so cheap that one slave cost just two dinars” (Nasawi, b, 146&212).

It is claimed that after the death of Chengiz Khan, the Mongols decided to halt the war and so suggested Jalal al-Din compromise. Approval of this significant historical event will not be further discussed in this article. However, the interesting point is the narration of Nasawi about the distress and rambling state of Jalal al-Din in the arena of politics: “[Jalal al-Din did not reply to their requests properly, he never knocked on the door of peace; he did not mention the keywords to close the window of battles. He was like a bird having abandoned her eggs, hatching the others’ instead”(Nasawi, p. 197). The fruitless attacks of Jalal al-Din on the territories of the Abbasids and the Saljuqs of Rome rather than the Mongols did not leave him sufficient opportunity to consolidate the foundations of his regime.


The constant battles and invasions constructed a crucial part of the medieval history of Iran. The Mongol conquests, as the most destructive invasions in this era, led to the vicissitudes of the dynasties and the introduction of new thoughts and attitudes in the minds of the historians. Fatalism was a concept occasionally applied by historians to justify the outcomes of the Mongol invasion. For both Nasawi Khorandezi and Ata Malek Juvayni the concepts of destiny and warfare are correlated in general and Mongol’s conquests in particular. Although fatalism had already been in the thoughts of medieval historians, it was institutionalized in the minds of the agents of both dynasties as well.

The historians elaborate on the shortcomings of the Khwarazmshah that stoked the flames of war. The massacre of the ambassadors and the merchants dispatched by Chengiz Khan, the Khwarazmshah unawareness of the Mongol’s military strength and their refusal to resist the Mongols, and the constant battles with rivals were the primary judicious measures leading to the Mongol sudden invasion. However, the role of destiny was underscored as well. Both sides of the battle, i.e. the Khwarazmshah and the Mongols, refer to destiny as the ultimate determiner of the outcomes. It seems that the Khwarazmshah had the authority to wake up dormant destiny, but when it has awakened, no one can make it dormant again. Inevitability and God’s will are two understandings for warfare and destiny in the thoughts of Nasawi and Juvayni. They are two sides of the same coin, which are not directed by human beings.

Maryam Kamali

Alamut1256 ahangushayi Juvaini

The source of pictures: National Library of France.Manuscripts Department. Eastern Division


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