ONE MAN SAVED EUROPE FROM ISLAM, ONE MAN LOST INDIA TO ISLAM
ONE MAN SAVED EUROPE FROM ISLAM, ONE MAN LOST INDIA TO ISLAM
Charles Martel was one man who in history saved Europe from Islam. European nations,England not excluded, perhaps would have been Muslim countries today but for this single man Charles Martel. Christianity could have vanished from Europe from the 8th Century AD but for him! Fascinating, is it not?
How many of us know about it? Thanks to bland history writing, such facts of “macrohistorical” significance stay hidden from the common man. I should be expectingEurope to be running amok with the statues of Charles Martel, in every town and village, for having saved Christianity from Islam in Europe! Oddly, most Europeans themselves are not aware of Charles Martel and his critical deeds.
In contrast, one man in India is eminently responsible for the surrender of India to Islam, and to the beginning of Islamic rule which lasted nearly 800 years, and that is Prithviraj Chauhan.
We must study these two contrasting men.
Before talking about Martel, we must talk about Islam, and quickly trace its beginnings and history. We all know something about the life and teachings of Prophet Mohammad who died in 632 AD. His followers, the illiterate Arabic tribal hordes, made Islamic conquests, by the sheer power of the sword, of vast lands inhabited by men who belonged to very rich civilizations. Certainly the sword was mightier than the pen.
In less than a Century after the passing away of Prophet Mohammad, the Arab Islamic tribes, with the help of the sword, conquered what constitute parts of the present-day Iran,Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, and crossing the Gibraltar, took over nearly the whole of the Iberian peninsula, now consisting of Spain andPortugal. Thus Spain came under Islam, and the Islamic rule lasted nearly 700 years there, until the Reconquista (Restoration of Christianity) was complete in 1492 with the fall of Granada from Muslim rule.
Charles Martel’s fame consists in stopping the Islamic hordes from running into France and into the whole of Europe by his famous victory in 732 AD, exactly 100 years after the Prophet’s demise, at “the battle of Tours” ( also called “the battle of Poitiers”, since the fighting really took place in between Tours and Poitiers).
It is interesting to read Charles Martel’s life history. But a very brief sketch will do here. He was born around 688 AD in the then Frankish Realms, son of Pippin the Middle (lovely sounding, right?) and his concubine Alpaida (you can’t get closer to Al-qaida!). The boy Carolus (Charles) became a great soldier and a General in due course of time. He adopted a unique military strategy, unknown in those days. His strategy had three elements. One, attack where the enemies don’t expect you. Two, attack when the enemies do not expect you. Thirdly, pretend retreat (an Oriental tactic) and then make a surprise attack!
Leading the Frankish army, General Charles Martel hammered the Islamic forces lead by Abdul Rahman, the Emir of Cordoba (Incidentally, I have had the good fortune of visiting the lovely town of Cordoba in Spain.) Thus, the violent Islamic forces were stopped from crossing the Pyrenees mountain ranges. France and the rest of Western Europe were thus saved from Islam.
Charles got the cognomen Martel which means “hammer” due to the hammering he meted out to the Islamic forces. Charles Martel established the Carolingian dynasty, and his famous grandson Charlemagne (meaning Charles the Great) became the Emperor of Western Europe.
In my view, history text books do not do enough justice to the name of Charles Martel. His grandson Charlemagne consumes much more historical writing than him, most unfortunately.
Closer to home, we are very familiar with this Rajput hero, the second-last Hindu King (the last was Hemu, his son) to rule from Delhi.
Prithviraj (also known as Rai Pithora, hence Pithoragarh) was a powerful ruler from Delhi. His reign has been chronicled by his court poet Chand Bardoi. As per the latter’s account, Prithviraj was infatuated with Samyukta, the beautiful daughter of the rival king Raja Jaichand of Kannauj, and abducted her on horse-back (in cinematic fashion) further raising the utter enmity of Raja Jaichand. Samyukta was also party to it as she fancied Prithviraj. The intricacies of this love-lore should be read by each of us as they are so fascinating.
The Afghan ruler of Ghazni, known as Mohammad Ghori (who succeeded “Mahmud Ghazni”, the Gujerat invader and sacker of Somnath) invaded Punjab and conquered his way up to very close to Delhi. However, his forces were defeated by the forces of Prithviraj Chauhan in the first battle of Tarain in 1191 AD. Ghori was badly wounded and his army was thrashed. It is said that Raja Jaichand gave military support to the Chauhan king, and the combined forces were too strong for the Muslim enemy.
It is stated that Mohammad Ghori was brought in captivity to Delhi. King Chauhan’s advisors suggested that he be beheaded. But in the magnanimous Rajput tradition, Prithviraj allowed him to go away scot-free. The very next year, in 1192 AD, Ghori came back with an attack. This time Raja Jaichand refused to support Chauhan with his forces. (Hence, the clubbing of Jaichand and Mir Jaffar as our national traitors!).
Chauan lost to Ghori in the second battle of Tarain in 1192 AD. Delhi came under Islam. (It is stated that Chauhan was taken to Ghazni, his eyes were gouged out, and he was eventually buried there).
I would think that the naivety of Chauhan caused the downfall of Delhi which went under Islamic rule for nearly eight Centuries. His letting off of Ghori scot-free was a totally thoughtless action. If only Chauhan had beheaded Ghori or at least kept him incarcerated,India’s history could perhaps have been different. I will not accuse Raja Jaichand forIndia’s Islamic conquest. Not in any case as much as I would accuse Chauhan.
One man saved Europe from Islam. One man lost India to Islam.