This Day in History (16-11-1396)
Today is Monday; 16th of the Iranian month of Bahman 1396 solar hijri; corresponding to 18th of the Islamic month of Jamadi al-Awwal 1439 lunar hijri; and February 5, 2018, of the Christian Gregorian Calendar.
1956 solar years ago, on this day in 62 AD, a major earthquake, believed to be around 6 degrees on the Richter scale, devastated most of the Italian coastal city of Pompeii, the then vice-centre of the Roman Empire. Preceded over the past decades with small-scale tremblers, this severe earthquake was clearly a divine warning to the people to leave their sinful and erotic ways or else face the wrath of the All-Merciful God that finally descended on Pompeii 17 years later in 79 AD, as a result of the massive volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius that buried the city under tons of molten lava and hid it for almost 1,700 years until its rediscovery in 1748. On the day of the earthquake there were to be two pagan sacrifices, as it was the anniversary of Emperor Augustus being named "Father of the Nation" and also a feast day to honour the so-called guardian spirits of the city. Chaos followed the earthquake. Fires, caused by oil lamps that had fallen during the quake, added to the panic. The nearby cities of Herculaneum and Nuceria were also affected. Temples, houses, bridges, and roads were destroyed. It is believed that almost all buildings in Pompeii were affected. In the days after the earthquake, anarchy ruled the city, where theft and starvation plagued the survivors. In the time between 62 and the eruption that destroyed it in 79, rebuilding was done, but some of the damage had still not been repaired. It is said many inhabitants moved to other cities, fearing divine punishment, while others remained, rebuilt, and came from other cities in pursuit of carnal pleasures, when Mount Vesuvius gave to the 20,000 population the taste of the eternal inferno in life. Today, Pompeii, whose excavation has provided a detailed insight into the life of a Roman city, including the erotic and sinful ways of the pagans, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, attracting visitors from Italy and all over the world. Here it is necessary to recall the warnings of God Almighty in the holy Qur’an to mankind to travel around the world in order to reflect on the fate that befell unrepentant sinners.
1262 solar years ago, on this day in 756 AD, An Lushan, the Leader of the revolt against the Tang Dynasty, declared himself emperor and established the short-lived state of Yan. A general of Sogdian-Turkic ethnicity at the Tang court, An Lushan launched his revolt against Chancellor Yang Guozhong in Yanjing. The rebellion spanned the reigns of three Tang emperors before it was quashed in 763, and involved a wide range of regional powers, including Arab and Persian Muslims, Iranian Sogdian forces, and the pagan Gogturks. The rebellion and disorder resulted in a huge loss of life and large-scale destruction. It significantly weakened the Tang dynasty at a time when it was all set to defeat the Tibetan Empire, and led to the loss of the western regions. As a matter of fact, the western expansion of the Tang Empire was checked four years earlier in 751 by the victory of the Muslims over a large Chinese army in the Battle of Talas in the Ferghana Valley, following the defection of the Karluk Turks during the midst of the battle. An Lushan was given control over the entire area north of the lower reaches of the Yellow River, including garrisons about 164,000 strong. He took advantage of various circumstances, such as popular discontent with an extravagant Tang court, the Iranian-involved Abbasid Rebellion against the Omayyad Dynasty, and eventually the absence of strong troops guarding the palace. In 756, over 22,000 Arab-Iranian Muslims were sent by the Abbasid caliph to the aid of the Tang. They stayed in China after the war and intermarried with the Hui Chinese – who are predominantly Muslim till this day. During the rebellion the port of Canton (Guangzhou, near the mouth of the South China Sea) was pillaged in 758 by a sea-borne Arab-Persian force.
1111 lunar years ago, on this day in 328 AH, the Spanish Muslim theologian and poet, Ahmad ibn Mohammad Ibn Abd Rabbihi, passed away. His great anthology, titled “al-Iqd al-Fareed” (The Unique Necklace), is a voluminous work divided into 25 sections. The 13th section is named the middle jewel of the necklace, and the chapters on either side are named after other jewels. It is a masterpiece of Arabic literature. Although he was descended from Spanish Christian converts to Islam, spent all his life in Spain and did not travel to the Islamic East like some other Spanish Muslim scholars, it is evident from the contents that he was well versed in the affairs of the Eastern Islamic world extending into Khorasan, Central Asia and present day Pakistan. He has also chronicled the merits of the Ahl al-Bayt or Infallible Household of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) and detailed the seditious events in the early days of Islam when the caliphate was hijacked from the Prophet’s family. His poems are found scattered in many books, and here is a translation from Arabic of one of his couplets titled “The White Complexion”
“Never have I seen or heard of such a thing; a pearl that for modesty transforms itself into a cornelian.
“So white is her face, that, when you contemplate her perfection, you see your own face submerged in its clarity.”
590 solar years ago, on this day in 1428 AD, King Alfonso V of Aragon, who had taken control of Sicily, ordered Sicilian Jews to convert to Catholicism. With the end of Muslim rule in Spain and the Mediterranean islands off the coast of Spain and Italy, the Jews who had enjoyed all basic rights under Islamic rule and rose to prominent positions, were severely persecuted by the Christians. There were periodic massacres and forced conversion. Finally in 1492, after the fall of the last Spanish Muslim kingdom of Granada, when the Inquisition launched by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel reached Sicily, 100,000 Sicilian Jews were ordered expelled, and by January 12 this island was cleared of all Jews – the remaining forcibly converted. Throughout history the Christians have intensely hated Jews, for the alleged crucifixion of Prophet Jesus, as well as for their continued slandering of the Virgin Mary.
278 solar years ago, on this day in 1840 AD, Christian priest, Father Thomas de Camangiano of Sardinia, who was head of the convent of the Franciscan sect in Damascus, Syria, disappeared with his servant on the eve of Passover in the Jewish quarter of Jobar. Syrian Christians, supported by the French consul in Damascus, Benoit-Ulysse de Ratti-Menton, charged 13 prominent Jews of the city of the ritual murder of the two, and subsequently imprisoned and tortured them. Four Jews died under torture, and the remaining 9 were released several months later when a group of influential European Jews led by Britain’s Jewish banker, Moses Haim Montefiore, visited Cairo and pleaded their case with Mohammad Ali Pasha the ruler of Egypt-Syria. The “Damascus Affair”, as it became known, made international news, as the Christians called for blood libel against the Jews. To prevent Christian-Jew feuds in the Ottoman Empire, a “farman” was issued from Istanbul by Sultan Abdul-Majid I that shows the rights enjoyed by the minorities in Muslim societies: “For the love we bear to our subjects, we cannot permit the Jewish people, whose innocence for the crime alleged against them (by the Christians) is evident, to be worried and tormented as a consequence of accusations which have not the least foundation in truth.” In 2001, the Egyptian daily al-Akhbar in an article titled “The Last Scene in the Life of Father Thomas”, said the French Christian priest was ritually slaughtered by the Jews. Earlier in 1983, Syria’s Minister of Defence, Mustafa Tlass, in his book titled “The Damascus Blood Libel”, shed light on the 1840 ritual murder of Christians by Jews. In 2007, Lebanese Christian poet, Marwan Chamoun, in an interview aired on Télé Liban, referred to the "slaughter of the priest Thomas de Camangiano in 1840 in the presence of two rabbis in the heart of Damascus, in the home of a close friend of this priest, Daud al-Harari, the head of the Jewish community of Damascus. After he was slaughtered, his blood was collected, and the two rabbis took it."
235 solar years ago, on this day in 1783 AD, a series of earthquakes ravaged Calabria that forms the "toe" of the Italian Peninsula. Over 30,000 people died and hundreds of thousands became homeless.
149 solar years ago, on this day in 1869 AD, the largest gold nugget in history, called the "Welcome Stranger", was found in Moliagul, Victoria, Australia. Discovered by John Deason and Richard Oates it weighed 71.018 kg and measured 61 by 31 centimeters. It was melted and sent as gold ingots to the Bank of England in London. If intact, its present value would have been more than four million US dollars.
137 solar years ago, on this day in 1881 AD, the Scottish essayist, historian and orientalist, Thomas Carlyle, died at the age of 86. He mastered German and Arabic languages, and taught Arabic at Cambridge University. During trips to Muslim lands, he became familiar with Islamic culture and civilization, and was highly influenced by Islam. On the Holy Qur’an, he calls it a direct voice from the heart of the universe for mankind. He has hailed Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) as a person of deep and a great spirit, far from worldly ambitions, saying: “It is a great shame for anyone to listen to the accusation that Islam is a lie and that Mohammad was a fabricator and a deceiver. We saw that he remained steadfast upon his principles, with firm determination; kind and generous, compassionate, pious, virtuous, with real manhood, hardworking and sincere. Besides all these qualities, he was lenient with others, tolerant, kind, cheerful and praiseworthy and perhaps he would joke and tease his companions. He was just, truthful, smart, pure, magnanimous and present-minded; his face was radiant as if he had lights within him to illuminate the darkest of nights; he was a great man by nature who was not educated in a school nor nurtured by a teacher as he was not in need of any of this.”
On the Prophet’s Vicegerent Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS), Carlyle wrote: "As for this young Ali, one cannot but like him. A noble minded creature, as he shows himself, now and always afterwards, full of affection, of fiery daring something chivalrous in him, brave as a lion, yet with a grace, truth and affection… He died by assassination in the mosque at Kufa, death occasioned by his own generous fairness, confidence in the fairness of others. He said: if the wound proved not unto death, they must pardon the assassin, but if it did, they must slay him straightaway, so that the two of them in the same our might appear before God, and see which side of that quarrel was the just one."
On the martyrdom of Imam Husain (AS), Carlyle has written: "The best lesson which we get from the tragedy of Karbala is that Husain and his companions were the steadfast believers of God. They illustrated that numerical superiority does not count when it comes to truth and falsehood. The victory of Husain despite his minority marvels me!"
Carlyle authored several books, including “The French Revolution”, “Past and Present”, and “On Heroes and Hero Worship and the Heroic in History.”
60 solar years ago, on this day in 1958 AD, a highly lethal 3,400 kg hydrogen bomb, was lost by the US Air Force off the Savannah coast of Georgia, near Tybee Island when a B-47 bomber jettisoned it, on midair collision with an F-86 fighter plane. It has never been found, and if detonated, it would be means of mass destruction.
39 solar years ago, on this day in 1979 AD, air force officers came to the Father of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeini (RA) in Tehran to swear allegiance to him five days after his historic return to Iran from 15 years of exile. The Imam welcomed them and issued orders for forming of a provisional government, defining its duties and instructing that a nationwide referendum be held to determine the form of the post-revolutionary system as well as voting for the new parliament. The remnants of the fugitive Shah's army tried to create chaos over the next days but were overcome by the people's power and finally on February 11 the Islamic Revolution triumphed.
24 solar years ago, on this day in 1994 AD, Iranian journalist and translator, Ali Akbar Kasmai, passed away at the age of 73. After graduation from Tehran University he left for Egypt to pursue journalism, and his acquaintance with famous journalists like Taha Hussain, Abbas Aqqad and Towfiq al-Hakim, greatly benefitted his natural flair for writing. He mastered Arabic and French languages, and on return to Iran, involved himself in the media, serving for fifty years as Editor of the Persian newspaper “Ettela’at”. A prolific writer he translated several books.
12 solar years ago, on this day in 2006 AD, thousands of Muslims demonstrated in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon against publication of anti-Islamic cartoons by a Danish newspaper, and set fire to the Danish Embassy, burning Danish flags.