This Day in History (29-03-1396)
Today is Monday; 29th of the Iranian month of Khordad 1396 solar hijri; corresponding to 24th of the Islamic month of Ramadhan 1438 lunar hijri; and June 19, 2017, of the Christian Gregorian Calendar.
2257 solar years ago, on this day in 240 BC, Greek astronomer and mathematician, Eratosthenes, estimated the circumference of the earth. As director of the library of Alexandria in Ptolemaic Egypt, he read in a papyrus book that in Syene, approaching noon on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, shadows of temple columns grew shorter. At noon, they were gone. The sun was directly overhead. However, a stick in Alexandria, far to the north, could cast a pronounced shadow. Thus, he realized that the surface of the Earth could not be flat. It must be curved. Not only that, but the greater the curvature, the greater the difference in the shadow lengths.
1436 lunar years ago, on this day in 2 AH, the avowed enemy of Islam, Abu Lahab, died after a blow to his head as a result of rage and anger on learning of the victory of Muslims over the pagan Arabs of Mecca at Badr – the first-ever armed encounter the polytheists imposed on Prophet Mohammad (SAWA). Notorious for his rough manners, he was a step uncle of the Prophet and was married to the equally treacherous Arwa Omm Jameel, the sister of Abu Sufyan, the other archenemy of Islam. On the Prophet’s public proclamation of the message of Islam, he became a sworn enemy of his nephew, and along with his wife, left no stone unturned to harm him. He joined the other infidel Arabs in imposing the 3-year social-economic boycott of the neo Muslim community, and was part of the conspirators, who plotted to murder the Prophet on the Night of Hijrah (migration). Abu Lahab used to raise his hands to curse the Prophet while his wife who took great pride in wearing an ostentatious necklace, would at night strew thorns and prickly plants in the Prophet’s path to injure his feet. God Almighty revealed Surah al-Masad meaning Palm Fibre in condemnation of the wicked husband-and-wife pair. It reads: “Perish the hands of Abu Lahab, and perish he! Neither his wealth availed him, nor what he had earned. Soon he will enter the blazing fire; And his wife [too], the firewood carrier (the informer); With a rope of palm fibre around her neck.”
1084 lunar years ago, on this day in 354 AH, the famous Arabic poet, Ahmad bin Hassan Kufi, known by his penname “Mutanabbi”, was killed near Baghdad during an encounter with highway brigands at the age of 51. Gifted with sharp intelligence and wittiness, he started writing poetry as a nine-year old. Among the topics he versified were courage, the philosophy of life, and the description of battles. Many of his poems were and still are widely read by Arabic speakers. His great talent earned him respect from many political leaders of his time, and he praised kings and emirs in return for money and gifts. He joined the court of Sayf od-Dowla in Aleppo and during his 9-year stay in Syria versified his most famous poems. There was great rivalry between him and many of the scholars and poets at Sayf od-Dowla's court, including the latter’s cousin and brother-in-law, Abu Firas al-Hamdani. Mutanabbi lost Sayf od-Dowla's favour because of his political ambition to be a governor. He had no other choice but to leave Aleppo for Egypt to join the court of Abu’l-Misk Kafur. Here also he failed in his political ambitions and after his ridiculing of Kafur in satirical odes, he left for Iraq, where he was killed.
748 solar years ago, on this day in 1269 AD, King Louis IX of France ordered all Jews found in public without an identifying yellow badge of “shame” to be fined ten livres of silver. The Jews were subjected to persecution and humiliation in Christian Europe that often resulted in the burning of their localities and mass massacres, at a time when they enjoyed all rights in Muslim lands and rose to prominent positions. Louis IX was also an avowed enemy of and Muslims, and suffered a humiliating defeat in 1250 in the Battle of Fareskur in Egypt which he had invaded as head of the 7th crusade, in league with the Buddhist Mongols, who were ravaging Iran and the Muslim World from the east. While trying to flee, he was captured along with his brothers, and later procured released by paying a huge ransom. In 1270 he mobilised the 8th Crusade and invaded Tunis along with Prince Edward of England, to use it as a base for attacking other Muslim lands, especially Palestine. However, disease and dysentery broke out in the camps of the Christians, and many died including the French king himself in August the same year, thereby aborting the Crusade.
728 lunar years ago, on this day in 710 AH, the prominent Iranian physician, mathematician, physicist, astronomer, poet and philosopher, Qotb od-Din Mahmoud Ibn Zia od-Din Masoud Kazerouni, known as Mullah Qotb Shirazi, was born in the southern city of Kazeroun. He studied medicine under his father, who practiced and taught medicine at the Mozaffari Hospital in Shiraz. He studied the “al-Qanoun fi’t-Tibb” (The Canon of Medicine) of the Iranian-Islamic genius, Abu Ali ibn Sina, along with its commentaries. In particular he read the commentary of Fakhr od-Din Razi on this book and raised questions, resulting in the writing of his own commentary, where he resolved many of the issues of this book, especially in the company of the famous genius of his age, Khwaja Naseer od-Din Tusi, who established the observatory at Maragha in northwestern Iran. In Maragha, he learned other branches of science under the guidance of Naseer od-Din Tusi, who taught him astronomy as well as Ibn Sina’s masterpiece on remarks and admonitions titled “al-Isharaat wa'l-Tanbihaat”. One of the important scientific projects was completion of a new “Zij” (astronomical table). Qotb od-Din Shirazi then traveled to Khorasan, where he stayed to study under Najm od-Din Katebi Qazvini in the town of Jovayn. Later he journeyed to Qazvin, Isfahan, Baghdad, and Qonya in Anatolia or modern day Turkey, where he studied the “Jam'e al-Osoul” of Ibn Atheer with Sadr od-Din Qonawi. The governor of Qonya made him judge of the cities of Sivas and Malatya, where he compiled “Miftah al-Meftah” on Arabic grammar and rhetoric, and “Ikhtiyaraat al-Mozaffariya” on astronomy. He was sent as envoy by the Ilkhanid ruler of Iran-Iraq, Ahmad Tekudar, to Sayf od-Din Qalawun, the Mamluk ruler of Egypt, where he collected various critiques and commentaries on Ibn Sina’s Qanoun and used them in his commentary on the “Kulliyaat”. The last part of Qotb ad-Din Shirazi's active career was teaching in Syria the “Qanoun” and the “Kitab ash-Shefa” – the philosophical magnum opus of Ibn Sina. He died while on a visit to Tabriz. He wrote in both Arabic and Persian on a wide variety of topics including medicine, astronomy, geography, mathematics, philosophy and religion. Among his works is “Nihayat al-Idraak fi Dirayaat al-Aflaak” on the movement of planets, and he identified observations by Ibn Sina on the transits of Venus and Mercury, centuries before European scientists.
394 solar years ago, on this day in 1623 AD, French author and mathematician and innovator of calculation devices, Blaise Pascal, was born. In hydrodynamics he formulated what came to be known as Pascal's law of pressure. He became religious in the waning years of his life and wrote a book on Christianity titled “Provincial Letters”. He died at the age of 39.
270 solar years ago, on this in 1747 AD, Nader Shah Afshar was assassinated in Quchan, Khorasan, at the age of 59, by the captain of his guards, Salah Beg, because of his increasing cruelty, after a 11-year reign as Emperor, following his usurpation of the Iranian throne by displacing the Safavid boy-king, Shah Abbas III, upon whom he had forced himself as regent by deposing his father, Shah Tahmasp II, in the aftermath of his victorious campaigns that liberated the country from the Afghan occupation and drove out the Ottomans from the northwestern provinces. Born as Nader Qoli into the Qereqlu clan of the Afshars, a Qizilbash tribe settled in northern Khorasan; following the death of his camel-driver father, Imam Qoli, he, along with his mother, was abducted as a young boy by marauding Uzbek tribesmen, from whom he managed to escape. He joined a band of brigands and eventually became their leader. Under the patronage of Afshar chieftains, he rose through the ranks to become a powerful military figure. During the chaos resulting from the defeat of Shah Sultan Hussain Safavi and the occupation of the Iranian capital, Isfahan, by the Hotaki Afghan rebels, Nader initially submitted to the local Afghan governor of Mashhad, Malek Mahmoud, but then rebelled and built up his own small army. Sultan Hussain's son had declared himself Shah Tahmasp II with the support of the Qajar tribe, with whom Nader Qoli joined ranks, but on discovering the treacherous correspondence of the Qajarid chief with the Afghans, he revealed the plot to Shah Tahmasp II, who executed the traitor and made Nader the chief of his army. Nader subsequently took the title Tahmasp Qoli (Servant of Tahmasp). In late 1726, he recaptured Mashhad. In May 1729 he took Herat. In September 1729 in the Battle of Damghan, he decisively defeated the usurper Ashraf Afghan Hotaki, and in December liberated the imperial capital Isfahan. In the spring of 1730, he attacked the Ottomans and regained most of the lost Iranian territory. His relations with the Shah, however, declined as the latter grew jealous of his general's military success. While Nader was in the east, Tahmasp II tried to assert himself by launching a campaign to liberate Yerevan but ended up losing Armenia and Georgia to the Ottomans. Nader denounced the treaty with the Ottomans, and in 1732 forced Tahmasp II to abdicate the throne in favour of the infant, Abbas III, to whom Nader became regent. He now liberated Armenia and Georgia as well as Baghdad from the Ottomans, and soon liberated the whole of the Caucasus by forcing the Russians to return Daghestan to Iran. In January 1736, he held an assembly of leading political figures to suggest removal of Abbas III, and on March 8, 1736, crowned himself the new Shah, thereby ending the two centuries and thirty-five year rule of the Safavid Dynasty. In 1738, he liberated Qandahar, and when the Hotaki Afghan rebels fled into India, he asked for their surrender from the Mughal Emperor, Mohammad Shah, whose weakness provided him the pretext to cross the border into the Subcontinent to capture Ghazni, Kabul, Peshawar, Sindh and Lahore. He then advanced deeper into India crossing the River Indus and defeating the large Mughal army at the Battle of Karnal on 13 February 1739. Nader, along with the defeated Mohammad Shah entered Delhi in triumph. He forced the Mughal Emperor to hand over the keys of the royal treasury, from which he took the famous Peacock Throne, along with a trove of fabulous jewels, such as the fabulous diamonds Koh-e Noor (Mount of Light) and Darya-e Noor (Sea of Light). He also took with him thousands of elephants, horses and camels, loaded with the booty, which was so great that he stopped taxation in Iran for a period of three years following his return. In 1740 he launched the Central Asian campaign to conquer the Khanates of Bukhara and Kharazm. In the Persian Gulf, he liberated Bahrain, and in 1743 he conquered Oman and its capital Muscat. Then after a war with the Ottomans, he freed the holy city of Najaf in 1746 in Iraq, a year before his death.
238 solar years ago, on this day in 1779 AD, Mohammad Ali Khan, the 2nd ruler of the Zand Dynasty and son of its Founder, Karim Khan, died of heart attack, after some 5 months in power. His brother Abu’l- Fath succeeded him, only to be deposed two months later by his uncle, Sadeq Khan. During his almost 30-year rule, Karim Khan Zand held sway over almost all of Iran, along with Basra in Iraq and parts of the Caucasus, except for Greater Khorasan. To legitimize his rule, he had placed the Safavid prince, Ismail III, as a figurehead, and never took the title of Shah, contenting himself with the honourary epithet “Wakil ar-Re’aya” (Representative of the People). He based his administration on social justice, and is regarded as one of the most able rulers in Iranian history. On his death, infighting weakened the dynasty, and for the next 15 years that it lasted, none of the seven rulers who followed him could ensure public welfare and security, oblivious of the danger posed by the Qajar warlord, Agha Mohammad Khan, who overthrew the Zands in 1794 to establish the Qajarid Dynasty – which the British replaced in 1925 with the Pahlavi potentate, Reza Khan.
150 solar years ago, on this day in 1867 AD, Austrian prince, Maximilian, who had occupied Mexico a year-and-a-half earlier, was executed by freedom fighters. In 1855 President Benito Juarez of Mexico, as part of his nationalistic policies, had curtailed the undue privileges of the White minority and the power of the Catholic Church – measures that angered European powers, which led by France, invaded Mexico and imposed Maximilian as king. Juarez, however, continued his struggles against the French forces and the monarchists, and after crushing them and executing the imposed king, once again was instated as the president.
140 solar years ago, on this day in 1877 AD, the first flying object that did not need a tarmac and could vertically take off and touchdown, or remain stationary in air, was tested. Named Helicopter, it was tested by Italian inventor, Enrico Forlanini, in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. This primary model of the helicopter was later perfected by Polish expert, Igor Sikorsky, and patented in his name.
68 solar years ago, on this day in 1949 AD, prominent philosopher of the Subcontinent, Seyyed Zafar ul-Hassan, passed away in Lahore, Pakistan, at the age of 64. Educated at Allahabad, he obtained doctorates from the universities of Erlangen and Heidelberg in Germany, before becoming the first Muslim Scholar of the Subcontinent to obtain a PhD from Oxford University in Philosophy. He started teaching at Aligarh Muslim University, India in 1911, and in 1913 became professor of philosophy at Islamia College, Peshawar in what is now Pakistan. From 1924 to 1945 he was professor of philosophy at the Aligarh Muslim University, where he also served as Chairman of the Department of Philosophy. In 1939, he put forward the 'Aligarh Scheme' along with Dr Afzaal Hussain Qaderi, titled "The Problem of Indian Muslims" proposing three independent states in the Subcontinent. From 1945 to 1947, he served as Emeritus Professor at Aligarh. In 1947, he migrated to Pakistan on its creation. He wrote many books including "Revelation and Prophet", "Message of Iqbal", and "Philosophy of Islam".
66 solar years ago, on this day in 1951 AD, following the ratification of the act for nationalization of Iran’s oil industry on March 20, 1951, a board comprised of Iranian experts took charge of the executive affairs of the National Iranian Oil Company this day, as per the recommendations of Ayatollah Seyyed Abu’l-Qassem Kashani and Iranian premier, Dr. Mohammad Mosaddeq, thereby dissolving the British controlled Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and dismissing the 450-odd foreign staff. The Iranian people achieved a landmark victory this day against domestic despotism and foreign hegemony in the face of British plots and threats.
56 solar years ago, on this day in 1961 AD, Britain granted independence to the tiny Persian Gulf emirate of Kuwait, which throughout history, was part of the Iranian Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanid Empires. With the advent of Islam, this area was classified with Iraq and was subsequently ruled by the Iranian Buwaiyhid dynasty of Baghdad, followed by the vast Iran-based empires of the Seljuqids, the Ilkhanids, the Qara Qoyunlu, and the Safavids. The Ottoman Turks briefly took over this mostly deserted land, which in the 18th century saw an influx of nomads from Najd in the desert interior of the Arabian Peninsula who occupied it and began to call it Kuwait. In 1756, they chose a certain Sabah bin Jaber as the tribal chief, whose descendants have continued to rule Kuwait. In 1899, British colonialists, as part of their policy to curtail the power and influence of the Ottoman Turks, declared Kuwait as a protectorate. With the discovery of oil, tiny Kuwait became rich overnight, and even after independence from Britain, it's foreign and defence policies are virtually controlled by the West, especially the US, in view of persistent claims by neighbouring Iraq. From August 1990 to March 1991, Kuwait was occupied by Saddam, the Ba'thist dictator of Baghdad, who was forced to evacuate it as a result of the First Persian Gulf War launched by the US-led multinational alliance. Kuwait covers an area of 18,000 sq km and shares land borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
40 solar years ago, on this day in 1977 AD, the Iranian author and thinker, Dr. Ali Shariati, passed away at the age of 44 in London, and his body was brought to Syria and buried in Damascus in the mausoleum of Hazrat Zainab (SA) – the granddaughter of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA). Born in a religious and academic family in Mazinan village near the northeastern city of Sabzevar, Khorasan, during his academic years he started his political activities against the despotic Pahlavi regime. After obtaining PhD in Sociology of Religions from France's Sorbonne University, he returned to Iran and established himself as an influential orator at Tehran’s Husseiniyeh Irshaad, alongside prominent lecturers and thinkers such as Ayatollah Morteza Motahhari and Hojjat al-Islam Dr. Mohammad Javad Bahonar. Shariati was a prolific writer and has left behind more than 200 works in books, journals, and tapes of his speeches. Among his valuable books, mention can be made of “Islam and Mankind”, "Hajj", "Marxism and Other Western Fallacies: An Islamic Critique", "Martyrdom", "A Visage of Prophet Mohammad", and "Fatemah is Fatemah."
39 lunar years ago, on this day in 1399 AH, the Father of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeini (RA), took the decisive step of designating the last Friday of the fasting month of Ramadhan as the Qods International Day in order to mobilize Muslims for liberation of Bayt al-Moqaddas and Palestine. Since then, every year, millions of people in Iran and world countries stage rallies demanding the end of the illegal Zionist entity.
19 solar years ago, on this day in 1998 AD, Ayatollah Ali Gharavi Tabrizi was martyred at the age of 68, along with his companions, while returning to holy Najaf from pilgrimage to the holy shrine of Imam Husain (AS) in Karbala. He was gunned down by agents of the repressive Ba’th minority regime, which two months earlier had martyred another prominent scholar of the Najaf seminary, Ayatollah Morteza Boroujerdi. Born in the northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz, after initial studies at holy Qom, Ayatollah Gharavi had left for Najaf at the age of 19 for higher studies. On attaining the status of Ijtehad was involved in grooming students and writing books.
10 solar years ago, on this day in 2007 AD, Takfiri terrorists, as part of their campaign to desecrate holy Islamic sites, triggered a deadly bomb blast at Baghdad’s al-Khilani Mosque, resulting in the martyrdom of some hundred men, women, and children, and injury of 218 others.