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Jalal al-Din Mangburni

Jalal al-Din Mangburni
25 soʻm coin commemorating the 800th anniversay of Mangburni's birth, 1999
PredecessorMuhammad II
SuccessorÖgedei Khan (Mongol Empire)
Died1231 (aged 31–32)
Silvan, Diyarbakır
SpouseMelika Khatun
Terken Khatun
Fulana Khatun
Sulafa Khatun
DynastyAnushtegin dynasty
FatherMuhammad II
ReligionSunni Islam

Jalal al-Din Mangburni (Persian: جلال الدین مِنکُبِرنی), also known as Jalal al-Din Khwarazmshah (جلالالدین خوارزمشاه), Minkubirni or Mengu-Berdi (c.1199 – August 1231), was the last Khwarazmshah of the Anushteginid dynasty. The eldest son and successor of Ala ad-Din Muhammad II of the Khwarazmian Empire, Jalal al-Din was brought up at Gurganj, the wealthy capital of the Khwarazmid homeland. An able general, he served as second-in-command to his father in at least one battle; however, since he was the son of a concubine, he was challenged as successor by a younger brother, whose cause was supported by the powerful Queen Mother, Turken Khatun. Nevertheless, after the Mongol conquest of the Khwarazmian Empire led to his father's flight and death on an island in the Caspian Sea, Jalal-al Din gained the loyalty of the majority of Khwarazmian loyalists.

The new Shah moved to Gurganj, but departed eastwards after Terken Khatun moved against him; evading Mongol patrols, he gathered a substantial army at Ghazni. He managed to inflict an excellent defeat on Shigi Qutuqu at the Battle of Parwan, but soon lost a good portion of his army in a dispute over spoils. He was defeated by a vengeful Genghis Khan at the Battle of the Indus, and fled across the river. Now essentially a warlord, Jalal al-Din managed to establish a succession of short-lived states: first in the Punjab, from 1222–24, and then in northwest Iran and Georgia, after 1225. In politics, Jalal al-Din did not have the ability which underpinned his martial exploits, and he was forced to combat several large revolts and increasing pressure from Mongol forces. Eventually, he was killed by a Kurd in August 1231. The army he had gathered would continue to terrorize the Levant as the mercenary Khwarazmiyya until its final defeat in 1246.

Name and early life

His name Menguberti means God Gave in Turkic Languages. Mengu means Eternal and is used for God. Berti is the old form of "verdi" gave. Even though his Turkic personal name was recorded as Manguburti in older Persian sources, the spelling of the name changed over time in Persian sources and several Persian meanings were affiliated with the name. Spelling and meaning of his name in Persian sources are obscure. Early scholarship spelled it as Manguburti (or similar variants), whilst the most common variant today is Mangburni ("with a birthmark on the nose") or Mingirini ("valiant fighter worth one thousand men"; cf. Persian hazarmard).: 142 

Jalal al-Din was reportedly the eldest son of the Khwarazmshah Ala ad-Din Muhammad II (r. 1200–1220), while his mother was a concubine of Turkmen origin, whose name was Ay-Chichek. Due to the low status of Jalal al-Din's mother, his powerful grandmother and Qipchaq princess Terken Khatun refused to support him as heir to the throne, and instead favored his half-brother Uzlagh-Shah, whose mother was also a Qipchaq. Jalal al-Din first appears in historical records in 1215, when Muhammad II divided his empire among his sons, giving the southwestern part (part of the former Ghurid Empire) to Jalal al-Din.: 142 

Mongol campaigns

Mongol invasion and accession

Genghis Khan had chosen to ignore a skirmish between the Mongol general Jochi and the Shah, in which Jalal al-Din's military acumen had saved the Shah from a humiliating defeat.: 255  However, he could not ignore the seizure of a trade caravan in Otrar and subsequent execution of Mongol envoys in Gurganj. War between the two new neighbours was inevitable.: 111  The Khan commanded a skilled and disciplined army: the precise size of it is heavily disputed, but most agree on around 75,000 to 200,000 soldiers.: 404  The Khwarazmshah, meanwhile, faced many problems. His empire was vast and newly formed, with a still-developing administration.: 404  In addition, his mother Terken Khatun still wielded substantial power in the realm – one historian termed the relationship between the Shah and his mother as 'an uneasy diarchy', which often acted to Muhammad's disadvantage.: 14–15  The Shah also distrusted most of his commanders, with the only exception being Jalal al-Din. If he had sought open battle, as many of his commanders wished, he would certainly have been greatly outmatched in quantity of troops, let alone quality. The Shah thus made the decision to distribute his forces as garrison troops inside his most important towns, such as Samarkand, Merv and Nishapur.: 238  Meanwhile, the Shah raised taxes to raise a field army, with whom he would harass the besieging Mongol forces.: 113 

However, through a combination of excellent manoevering and planning, the Mongols managed to carve a path of destruction through Khwarazmia. Otrar fell, and Bukhara was taken, as was Samarkand. Genghis Khan then sent an army under his elite generals Jebe and Subutai specifically to pursue the Shah; although Muhammad, accompanied by Jalal-al Din and two other sons, managed to escape, but was prevented from gathering any forces as his empire collapsed around him.: 120  Fleeing to the loyal region of Khorasan, the Shah died destitute on an island in the Caspian Sea.: 419  Jalal al-Din would later claim that his father had appointed him as his successor on his deathbed. Meanwhile, the Mongols had occupied all of Transoxania, and had invaded Tocharistan, Guzgan and Gharchistan during the latter half of 1220.

Jalal ad-Din rode to Gurganj, a city reportedly housing 90,000 soldiers, and found the city in turmoil.: 432  The city's nobility, like Terken Khatun, were not prepared to accept Jalal ad-Din as Shah, preferring the more malleable Uzlaq, and planned a coup against al-Din.: 123  al-Din left the capital after being warned of the coup, accompanied by Timur Malik and 300 cavalry.: 432  Crossing the Karakum desert, he attacked the garrison of a Mongol detachment at Nesa, killing most of the force including two brothers of Toghachar, son in law of Genghis Khan.: 295  The Mongols pursued, past Nishapur and Herat, but lost the trail before Ghazni, where al-Din found 50,000 loyalists waiting for him. After a few days, he was joined by his maternal uncle Temur Malik, who brought an additional 30,000 veterans – al-Din now had a sizeable force with which to strike back at the Mongols.: 303–4  Meanwhile, back in Khwarazm, Gurganj, Merv, Balkh, and Nishapur had all been taken by the Mongol forces.: 150–2 

Battles at Parwan and the Indus

Battle of the Indus: Jalal al-Din Khwarazm-Shah crossing the rapid Indus River on horseback, escaping Genghis Khan and the Mongol army.

Jalal al-Din, who had just married Temur Malik's daughter to solidify ties, marched towards Kandahar which was under siege by a Mongol army and defeated them after a two-day battle.: 127  In autumn 1221, he then moved north to Parwan and attacked a besieging army north of Charikar; the numerically inferior Mongols lost 1,000 and retreated across the river, destroying the bridge.: 442  Genghis sent an army numbering between thirty and forty-five thousand under Shigi Qutuqu to confront the Shah. The Battle of Parwan was fought on a rock-strewn, narrow valley which was unsuitable for the Mongol cavalry, and the Muslims fought dismounted until the final charge led by Jalal ad-Din, who personally commanded the center, resulting in the repulsion of the Mongols. This battle made Jalal al-Din's reputation; however, he soon lost half of his army through infighting: the sources report a dispute over booty between Temur Malik and Ighrak, commander of the right flank.

Jalal al-Din had won several victories against the Mongols in 1221, and after the Battle of Parwan, independent insurgency groups emerged in multiple cities inspied by his deeds. Kushteghin Pahlawan launched a revolt in Merv and ousted the Mongol administration; he then made a successful attack on Bukhara, while Herat also rebelled. These revolts would be crushed by the Mongols, and many atrocities perpetuated as retribution.

However Genghis Khan, now at Bamiyan, did not take this defeat lightly. After executing that fortress, he made his way eastwards to confront Jalal al-Din, using his powers of organisation to send detachments out to prevent the disparate Khwarazmid factions from uniting, one of whom al-Din managed to isolate and defeat.: 132 : 128  al-Din knew he had no chance of winning against Genghis in a pitched battle with his diminished army and after attempts to win back Ighrak and his men failed, he marched towards India.: 445 : 307  The Khan's army managed to surround al-Din's army on the banks of the River Indus and crushed them in the ensuing battle in November 1221.: 446  The Shah escaped the battle by jumping into the river fully armed, and reaching the other shore.: 309  This act of desperation is said to have drawn the admiration of Genghis Khan, who forbade Mongols to pursue the Shah or shoot him with arrows. The Shah's surviving troops were however slaughtered, along with his harem and children.: 133–4 

Later campaigns

Coinage of Jalal al-Din Mangubarni. AR Double Dirham. Qal 'a Nay mint

Indian subcontinent

After the battle of Indus, Jalal al-Din crossed the Indus and settled in India. A local prince, who had six thousand men attacked Jalal al-Din's makeshift forces of no more than four thousand, but al-Din still triumphed, greatly enhancing his Indian appeal.: chapter 35  He then sought asylum in the Sultanate of Delhi but Iltutmish denied this to him because of al-Din's poor relationship with the Abbasid caliphs; he did however give one of his daughters to al-Din as a peace offering.: 310  The Khan sent Dorbei Doqshin with two tumens to pursue al-Din, whom he still regarded as a threat, in early 1222; one account has Doqshin fail to secure al-Din, and return to the Khan in Samarkand, who was so infuriated Doqshin was sent out at once on the same task.: 141  Meanwhile, al-Din was quarrelling with local princes, but was mostly victorious when it came to battle.

Under Doqshin's leadership, the Mongol army took Nandana from Ghazi Khan, one of the lieutenants of Jalal ad-Din, sacked it, then proceeded to besiege the larger Multan. The Mongol army managed to breach the wall but the city was defended successfully by the Khwarezmians; due to the hot weather, the Mongols were forced to retreat after 42 days. Peter Jackson suggests that Doqshin, having been instructed not to return unsuccessfully, eventually converted to Islam and joined al-Din. The rest of al-Din's three years in exile in India were spent in taking large parts of Lahore and the Punjab; he returned to Persia at the behest of his brother Ghiyath al-Din Pirshah, who still controlled parts of Persia, in late 1223.

Persia and Georgia

Having gathered an army and entered Persia, Jalal ad-Din sought to re-establish the Khwarazm kingdom, but he never fully consolidated his power. In 1224, he confirmed Burak Hadjib, ruler of the Qara Khitai, in Kerman, and received the submission of his brother Ghiyath, who had established himself in Hamadan and Isfahan, and the province of Fars, and clashed with the Caliph An Nasser in Khuzestan, from whom he captured parts of Western Iran. The next year, he dethroned the Uzbek Muzaffar al-Din, ruler of the Eldiguzids, and set himself up in their capital of Tabriz on 25 July 1225. That same year, he attacked Georgia, defeating its forces in the battle of Garni, and conquered Tbilisi,: 260  after which a hundred thousand citizens were allegedly put to death for not renouncing Christianity.

Jalal ad-Din spent the rest of his days struggling against the Mongols, pretenders to the throne and the Seljuqs of Rûm. His dominance in the region required year-after-year campaigning. In 1226, Burak Hadjib, the governor of Kerman and al-Din's father-in-law, rebelled against him, but after al-Din marched against him he was subdued. Jalal ad-Din then had a brief victory over the Seljuqs and captured the town of Akhlat in Turkey from the Ayyubids. In 1227, after the death of Genghis Khan, a new Mongol army commanded by Chormagan was sent to invade al Din's lands; they were met near Dameghan and defeated. In August 1228, a new Mongol army under the leadership of Taymas Noyan invaded the re-established kingdom. Jalal al-Din met them near Isfahan and the two armies battled. The Mongols scored a pyrrhic victory in this battle, unable to exploit their victory as they had no power left to advance. The same year, his brother Ghiyath al-Din rebelled but was defeated. Ghiyath al-Din fled to Kerman where he and his mother were killed. The revived Khwarazmshah by this time controlled Kerman, Tabriz, Isfahan and Fars. Jalal ad-Din moved against Ahlat again in 1229. However, he was defeated in this campaign by Sultan Kayqubad I at the Battle of Yassıçemen in 1230, from whence he escaped to Diyarbakır.


Through the ruler of Alamut, the Mongols learned that Jalal ad-Din had recently been defeated; the Nizari Ismaili Assassins sent a letter to Ogedei Khan, proposing joint operation against Jalal al-Din.: 392–3  Ögedei Khan sent a new army of 30,000 – 50,000 men under the command of Chormagan and the remaining Khwarazmians, whose numbers were in hundreds, were swept away by the new Mongol army, which occupied Northern Iran. Jalal ad-Din took refuge in the Silvan mountains and there in August he was killed by a Kurd who claimed that he was avenging his brother, who had been killed in Ahlat.

Jalal al-Din's kingdom swiftly collapsed after his death; his nobles squabbled over territory and would be overcome easily by the Mongols. Several thousand, however, took up service with the princes of Anatolia and Syria to escape the Mongols. They continued to be a force in Syrian politics until their destruction in 1246. His daughter, Turkan, would grow up in the court of Ögedei Khan and then Hulagu Khan, who married her to the governor of Mosul.

Some pretenders to the name of Jalal al-Din arose after his death. In 1236, the founder and the leader of an insurgency in Mazandaran claimed he was Jalal al-Din. After he was defeated, the Mongols verified that his claim was false, and he was executed. In the year 1254, a leader of a merchant group claimed he was Jalal al-Din; detained and tortured, he asserted he was truthful until his death.

Legacy and assessment

Dirham of Jalal ad-Din, citing Abbasid caliph Al-Mustansir Bi'llah 623–628 AH (1226–1231 AD).

Jalal al-Din was considered by many to be a fearless commander and a great warrior. His biographer, Shihab al-Din Muhammad al-Nasawi, described him as follows:

He was swarthy (dark-skinned), small in stature, Turkic in "behavior" and speech, but he also spoke Persian. As for his courage, I have mentioned it many times when describing the battles he took part in. He was a lion among lions and the most fearless among his valiant horsemen. He was mild in his temper though, did not get easily provoked and never used bad language.

Juzjani described al-Din as "endowed with great heroism, valour and high talents and accomplishments" Yaqut al-Hamawi notes that Jalal al-Din was known as a bellicose warrior and Jalal al-Din's passiveness after the Battle of Yassıçemen was seen as unbelievable. Modern historians are also positive concerning his military talent. Carl Sverdrup described Jalal al-Din as "brave and energetic"; while Timothy May describes him as the most stalwart enemy of the Mongols in West Asia until the time of the Mamluk Sultanate. Due to his reputation for resisting the Mongols, Jalal al-Din is commonly depicted on artwork resembling that of the Persian epic Shahnameh, where he is associated with the mythological warrior Rostam.: 145 

Though considered a successful warrior and a general, Jalal al-Din is considered a poor ruler and the loss of his re-established empire to the Mongol has been attributed to his poor diplomacy and rulership; he was seen as untrustable and warmongering. His enmity with many neighbors resulted in his isolation against the Mongol army of Chormaqan. Vasily Bartold believed that Jalal al-Din executed more cruel and irrational brutality than Genghis Khan did. Even al-Nasawi was unable to justify the negative impact Jalal al-Din's rule and conduct of his soldiers had on his subjects.: 145  Jalal al-Din is represented as a hero valianty fighting for "Persian independence" by the Iranian bureaucrat and historian Ata-Malik Juvayni (died 1283), who, however, was in reality aware that Jalal al-Din was fighting for his own survival and selfish motives.

Cultural influence

Jalal al-Din was the subject of the Uzbek-Turkish TV series Mendirman Jaloliddin, created by Mehmet Bozdağ in collaboration with the Uzbek Ministry of Culture and Sports, where he was played by Emre Kıvılcım. A sculpture of him by Saragt Babaýew won a national competition in 2015, receiving a prize from the president of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow.

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