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Memoirs of Amir Temur – Part 1

Memoirs of Amir Temur – Part 1: The Rise of a Legendary Conqueror

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

May it be known to all the fortunate children, the powerful relatives, the honourable confidants and viziers that it pleased the Almighty to make me the guardian of the people, to put a royal crown on me and to place me on the throne. I owe all this to the twelve qualities that are inherent in me.

1. I consider impartiality to be the first of these qualities. I have treated everyone equally strictly and justly, without making any distinction and without favouring the rich over the poor.

2. I have always strictly adhered to the covenants of faith and treated the people honoured by the power of Allah with due respect.

3. I have generously given alms to the poor and patiently attended to every case and endeavoured to resolve it as best I could.

4. I have directed all my actions towards the common good, not causing unnecessary trouble to anyone and not rejecting those who approached me on various occasions. The text of the Qur’an that Allah’s servants should only obey His commands and receive benefits from Him was internalised by me and in all my deeds I was guided by it.

5. I always gave priority to the matters of faith over the worldly matters, and only after I had fulfilled exactly all that religion requires of man and what is owed to Allah did I concern myself with the worldly matters.

6. I was always truthful in my speeches and could distinguish the truth from what I heard about the present and future life. Among other things, I heard the story that when the Almighty created the first man – Adam – the angels complained to Allah about his first creation that this work of Almighty God would not have good consequences. The angels assured Allah that the man he had created would undoubtedly deceive his peers, fail to keep the promises he had made to others, commit murder and, in general, bring his Creator to repentance through his unlawful life. Allah replied to the angels that he had foreseen the instances of human wickedness and that when he created the human race he intended to send down a sword that would punish wicked people for their evil deeds. After reflecting on the content of this story, I came to the conclusion that by this punishing sword of injustice Allah meant the rulers of the human race He had created, and I strove to act justly in all things and to judge rightly everything I encountered in my life.

7. I have never made a promise that I could not keep. I have never made a promise that I could not keep, nor have I harmed anyone through my unrighteousness.

8. I considered myself the first and most diligent servant of Allah on earth, and without the command of Allah or a prophet I did nothing. I did not harm any of the peoples of the earth without the will of Allah, I did good to persons of rank as well as to common people. I have never had any desire to appropriate the property of others, and I have never cared to accumulate more material wealth. I have never felt envious of anyone. In this respect, the example of Amir Husayn was very instructive for me, whose downfall was due to his greed for the property of his subjects.

9. I had the same faith and tried to follow closely both the commandments of Allah and the revelations of the Prophet. In all my actions I was guided only by the instructions of the Shari’ah and avoided evil deeds by all means. I considered the Prophet and his followers as my only and best friends.

(10) I have upheld the banner of Islam on earth, and in the spread of faith I have always seen a mighty pledge of my own greatness. I have heard that faith and greatness are born as from the same womb, and therefore only the strength that rests on firm faith is strong.

11. I always treated the Sayyids with due respect and revered the Ulama and the Sheikhs. These people always took part in my consultations and everything they told me in matters of faith I listened to attentively and fulfilled exactly. For this, people liked me very much and all were grateful to me. In my dealings with these people, I was guided by the example of Constantine, who on one occasion had gathered an army to wage war against King Rai. While moving with the army into the latter’s country, Constantine suddenly discovered that Said, Ulama and Sheikhs were sitting in King Rai’s council. When Constantine learned this, he abandoned the idea of conquering Paradise and hurried back with his army. The king justified his decision to his courtiers and commanders by saying that according to the Samauwi Qigah, it was important that the royal council included honourable men of spiritual rank. “If clerics are in the king’s council, it is said, no one is able to defeat such a king.” Constantine wrote on his way to Sultan Rai that his rule was that of a king of kings and that he therefore had no reason to go to war against a king whom he could not defeat.

12. With my kind attention I have won the gratitude of people of the lowest social status – the beggars who have no fixed abode. I made every effort to improve the situation of these people. I have been lenient with Muslims and have not punished them too harshly for every small offence. I always treated the Prophet’s descendants with respect. I avoided listening to people who told the untruth. I heard that the glory of kings depends on their merciful attitude towards their subjects, and the Qur’an says that the ruler shows mercy to all people by forgiving the fault of a guilty person. The example of such merciful kings has guided me in all my actions. I have heard that if Allah elevates someone and that person is guided by justice in all his deeds and is merciful to his citizens, his power will increase, but if such a person is inclined to injustice and cruelty, his power will also fall. So, in order to maintain my power, I took in one hand the candle of justice and in the other the candle of impartiality, and with these two candles I always illuminated my path in life, that is, I let myself be guided by these rules in all my deeds. I have chosen four ministers who are inspired by the same ideas; among them Mahmud Shahab of Khorasan and Nasreddin Mahmud-ul-Aramyr. I have ordered these servants to watch me closely and stop me every time I get the idea of acting unjustly, believing someone else’s false words or taking advantage of someone else’s property. I have heard that when Allah exalts a person, He shows him great mercy and that the Creator’s pleasure obliges the exalted person to be just and merciful in turn. I was constantly reminded of this, and I learned these qualities.

My strong army, encamped in Erzrum, took up the whole steppe around the city; I looked at my troops and thought: Here I am alone and seem to possess no special power, but this whole army and every single soldier – all obey my will unconditionally. As soon as I give an order, it is carried out. So I thought and thanked the Creator who had raised me so high among His servants, and asked the wise higher clerics what was the reason for the obedience of the whole mass of this people to my will. The ulama explained my influence by saying that the power of Allah has enlightened me and therefore I am strong in the power and will of Allah. They quoted a text from the Qur’an which says that a ruler who is guided by justice in all his actions, all his fellow citizens will obey without hesitation and his enemies will tremble before him. The loyalty of such a king towards his citizens is explained by the fact that there is no reason not to be grateful and obedient to such a ruler.

When I was twenty-one years old, I decided to go on a journey. First I asked Sheikh Zainuddin Abubekr of Taybad for a farewell blessing. The old man blessed me with a belt, gave me a cap and a coral ring with the inscription “grow-grow”. The Sheikh wished me success in my affairs and told me, among other things, that he had learned from a revelation he had received before him that there was a man on earth who supported me in everything and called me the Nayb of the Prophet, that I could not see this man now, but that one day he himself would look at me with a happy gaze….

We both performed ablutions, then Sayyid Ali-ata began to pray and I followed his example. I prayed diligently and the prayer gave me great joy. After praying, the Qutb said to me, “You are a guest of Allah, and therefore Allah is ready in the name of hospitality to fulfil whatever you ask of Him now. I started asking for a confirmation of faith (Iman). Then my former groom said, “Faith belongs to the Prophet; faith is the city which some pronounce, “There is no god but Allah”; others in it say that there is no god but Allah; the name of that city is ‘bab-ul-abwab’, there dwells the one who pronounces the auspicious words, “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”.

Thereupon the stable boy bowed again, and I followed his example. When I looked up after bowing, I found that the Qutb was already dead.

In desperation, I returned to the sheikh I had left behind and told him in detail what had happened to me since we parted.

The Sheikh told me: “The rule belongs to a Qutb, the viceroy of Allah, who assists the Sultan by order of the Qutb of the Qutb; after the death of the Qutb, all power passes to the Sultan. The power of Kaišar was maintained by a man of Allah; that people has disappeared and its power has passed to you”.

These words of the venerable old man made me think that my power and glory had also reached the highest point, but I hoped that a righteous king would take my place. To accomplish the godly deed, I freed 4000 prisoners from Rumis and protected Turan from Uzbek raids. I succeeded in preventing robberies in that country and took possession of the land of Mawara’unnahr. The Imams in the high places (minbar) of all the mosques prayed for my welfare, the Prophet’s descendants and high clergymen began to offer prayers to Allah for me.

However, there was one who did not agree with this attitude of people towards me. Khazret Ubaidullah, the most famous of the higher clerics, spoke out loudly, “Timur is a bloodthirsty Turk: he has killed many people; you cannot pray for him.”

Shortly after expressing his protest against praying for me in this way, Ubaidullah saw the Prophet himself in a dream one night and me sitting next to him. Ubaydullah bowed reverently three times to the Prophet, but the latter paid no attention to him and did not even think it necessary to respond to the greeting addressed to him. Ubaydullah, angered by this attitude, turned to the Prophet, “O Messenger of Allah, I am a servant of your Shariah, Temur is a bloodsucker who has slain many people, yet you accept him and reject me.” The Prophet, who had heard Ubaydullah, objected that although many people are killed by my will, this sin of mine is entirely made up for by my consideration for the Prophet’s progeny on earth, and therefore people should undoubtedly pray for such a ruler.

When Ubaydullah heard this opinion of the Prophet, he awoke and hastened to me to ask forgiveness for the mischief he had caused by his ignorance. All the people quickly learned this and were convinced that they should pray for me. My subjects said, “God help him,” and understood that I was indeed enjoying the special grace of Allah.

When I was convinced that the Prophet did not refuse to help me out of mercy, I became even more respectful of his progeny.

One of the graces of Allah was that I marched with 400,000 men army to Erzrum in 1398. While I was moving with my army towards that city, I was closely observing what was happening at the edges of the road on which we were travelling. Soon I noticed that a large crowd was approaching from the Iraqi side. After an hour, the soldiers guarding the movement of my army reported to me that another group of Arabs was coming from the direction of Iraq. Another hour passed and I received new information that a large crowd of Bedouins and Saidis from Kerbella and Pejef had arrived in my search. All these men were led by Said Pattah and carried a white flag in front of them.

I was overjoyed at the arrival of these reinforcements and decided that it was probably the will of Allah that these men had come to my aid. Syed Pattah approached me and said, “In a dream, the fourth Khalif Ali appeared to me and ordered me to hand over the white banner to my brother Temur. The people of Nedjef, on their part, said that the white banner will be handed over to me as an aid in the realisation of the business I have devised as a means of realising my desire to possess Erzrum. Hearing this, I fell down, thanked Allah for the help and ordered that the event be recorded in the history of my deeds. At the same time, the scholars in my entourage discovered a saying in the Qur’an that Rum had to fall that year; at that time, Ingi Temur came from his place of refuge and congratulated me on my victory; I took the word ‘victory’ as a good omen and gave him the white banner. He looked at the white banner and began the battle.

Allah also helped me on other occasions; so when I was about to march towards the capital of Rum, I wanted to know beforehand if my intention was destined to be fulfilled. So I went to the tomb of the holy Sheikh Yassawi and asked him to pray for me. The fortune teller told me that if I got into trouble during the war, all I had to do was recite the following quatrain and success would be beyond doubt. The verse which was to be such a help to me in the time of trouble is as follows:

“Thou who, at thy will, canst turn the dark night into day.

You who can turn the whole earth into a fragrant flower garden.

Help me in the difficult work that lies before me and make it easy.

You who make all difficult things easy.

I firmly remembered these verses, and during the battle with Kaisar, I recited them to myself 70 times and was victorious.

The following year too, in 1399, Allah helped me. Tughluq Timurkhan, a descendant of Genghis Khan, gathered an army to conquer Mawara’unnahr and crossed the Syr Darya River at Khodzhent. The Mawara’unnahr Amirs and Hadji Barlas fled in fear to Khorasan and crossed the Saihun (Syr).

I myself was undecided whether to follow the general example and seek salvation in Khorasan or voluntarily join the army of Tughluq Timurkhan.

The only way to clear my doubts was to consult my spiritual adviser, and so I hastened to send a letter to Sheikh Zainuddin Abubekr asking him what I should do in this case. The Sheikh replied:

“The fourth Khalif Ali quoted this saying of Plato: ‘If the sky is a bow and destiny is an arrow, then the arrow is Almighty Allah; where are you running? Retreat and join Tughluq-Timurkhan, for he is the shadow of Allah.”

I understood the Sheikh’s reply to mean that it pleased God that I acted in concert with Tughluq-Timurkhan, so I hastened to join him near Khojent on the banks of the Syr-Darya River.

Khan was very pleased that I joined him voluntarily and, according to the will of Allah, put his full trust in me. Khan did not implement any of his suggestions without consulting me first. Thus, one day, the Khan came to know that his emirs had started a revolt in the steppe of Kypchak. The Khan asked me for advice on how to act in this case: whether he should go after Kypchaks himself to punish culprits, for example, or whether he should just send an army? I said:

“If you send someone, there are two dangers; if you go alone, there is one danger; a wise man is he who prefers one danger to two dangers. Another time the Khan asked my stitcher about a matter, and I answered him, “Your power is like a huge tent stretched over the whole of Mawara’unnahr. The pillars that support the tent are justice, the ropes that support the roof are impartiality, and the stakes that support the tent are truth; with these three qualities you support your power, just as the pillars, the stakes and the ropes support the tent. Everyone who stands under the shadow of this tent will find salvation, and whoever flees from it will perish. The Sheikhs, the Ulema and the Sayyids are to be honoured with the respect due to their high dignity, and all are to be treated justly in general. The good men are to be encouraged by gifts, the bad by punishments; the army is to be supplied with all necessaries, and your servants are to be paid their wages in due order; a warrior may be killed, but he must receive his reward.

Once the king’s retainers robbed the people; the victims complained. The khan asked my advice, and I replied that the Turks’ minds are as narrow as their eyes; therefore, to win their loyalty, one must satiate their eyes and their hearts. Tughluq Timur was well pleased with my answer. Soon the Khan set off at the head of his own army for the Kipshaks and entrusted me with the leadership of Mawara’unnahr for the period of his absence.

Tughluq Timurkhan, who entrusted me with the rule of the country, handed me a letter saying that Tughluq Timur handed over Mawara’unnahr to his brother Timur. This was done to avoid the feuds and claims of Tughluq Timur’s enemies….

Since Ilyas-Hoja did not possess the necessary qualities of a ruler, the emirs and Uzbeks did not obey him. One day the people of Mawara’unnahr complained to me that the Uzbeks were demanding 1,000 girls to be given to them. I reported this to Ilyas Khoja. He forbade the Uzbeks to use such force, but they did not heed his order in the least. At that time, some of the Persian Sayyids complained that the Uzbeks had captured 70 descendants of the Prophet, the Sayyids. This outrageous impertinence finally broke my patience; I quickly went after them and freed the Sayyids from captivity. The Uzbeks resented this, and to hurt me in the eyes of Tughluq Timur, they sent him a denunciation that I intended to secede and rebel against him. Tughluq Timur sent a letter that I should be executed for treason, but by chance this order fell into my hands and I took all precautions to protect myself from a punishment I did not deserve. Just at that time a prophet appeared to me in a dream and announced that for my release from captivity seventy Sayyids, seventy generations of my progeny, would reign.

When I woke up, I hurried to inform my patron and teacher, Sheikh Zainuddin Abubekr, about the dream. The holy man soon replied that, in his opinion, the dream foretold countless victories for me. The Sheikh gave me the example of a woman, the mother of Sabuktakin, who, because she saved a goat from death, was promised that her offspring would rule. The woman saved a goat from death,” wrote Sheikh Zainuddin Abubekr, “and you have freed 70 of the Prophet’s descendants from captivity, so you can be sure that there will be a great reward in the future for your good deed. The prophetic dream has come true: While I was still alive, I gave the thrones to my six sons.

Soon after, I received another letter from my teacher telling me that it had pleased Allah to make me the guardian (treasurer) of his kingdom and that the Prophet had given me the keys to it. When the Uzbeks became very angry with me, a second order came from Tughluq Timur to kill me; they wanted to kill me quietly and were waiting for an opportune moment to do away with me.

Fearing betrayal by my own entourage, I left Samarkand under the pretext of hunting and sought refuge in a cemetery. I laid my head on a rock and fell asleep. A bird had spread its wings over me and covered my head so that the sun did not disturb me. I was woken up by a shepherd who came over with the words: “Bez bek-you bek. I thought this sentence was a good omen and ventured back to Samarkand.

I received the following fatwa from the dignitaries of the city: “The world is in ruins because of the violence of the Uzbeks; honourable people are insulted, the property of Muslims is looted. We, the fakirs, sayyids and sheikhs, have unanimously decided to submit to you. If you strive to exterminate the Uzbeks, we will all stand up for you, but if you do not protect us from the violence of the Uzbeks, we will accuse you before the Almighty on the day of the terrible judgment.

I wrote a letter to Sheikh Zainuddin Abubekr, and soon I received his reply. My spiritual advisor congratulated me on the honour bestowed upon me by the sayyids and ulema and wrote: “This fatwa is a decisive argument; the righteous caliphs approve of your appointment.

Gradually I began to raise an army and prepare to march to punish the Uzbeks, but I had no friend to whom I would reveal my secret; although the people submitted to me, I did not dare to raise the flag of rebellion openly. As my secret spread among the people, the Uzbeks somehow became aware of the danger they faced and gathered in one place. At that time I received a letter from Sheikh Zainuddn Abubekr informing me that the Prophet would assist me in the scheme I had devised. This news reassured me.

At that time, Tughluq Timur again sent orders to execute me; therefore, Saint Amir Kulyal advised me to go to Khoresm immediately. “Amir Kulal told me that if I am outnumbered, I should always retreat and flee from an enemy I cannot defeat; the prophets have also said this.

Since I wanted to know what awaited me on the way, I made a riddle in the Qur’an and a saying was revealed to me: “The sun streams towards the appointed place; such is the order of the strong, the knowing. After these words, I realised that my journey would be quite safe, so I decided to set out.

Before leaving, I wrote a letter to Sheikh Zainuddin, and in 1362 I left Samarkand for Khorezm with 60 horsemen. On the way, I received the following reply from the Sheikh: “Timur, take into yourself four qualities:

1. the Prophet (AS) has said.

2. in your affairs, always be guided by the example of the holy Prophet Abraham and see to it that no adultery or other grave offences are committed during your reign in the lands under your authority. But your diligence and perseverance will not give way to the stork. A stork once found a little crow in his nest. For three days the stork paid no attention to the crow, and on the fourth day four hundred storks swooped down and killed the owner of the nest because he had found a crow in his nest.

3. any enterprise that follows the example of the Prophet must be started only after consulting others. There were kings who did everything of their own accord without consulting them, and the power of such rulers did not last long.

4. Imitate the four righteous caliphs. Be courageous, caring and generous, and do every job with special attention. Take the example of the birds who very carefully crack the eggs from which their little chicks are to hatch. When I was out one night, I was attacked quite unexpectedly by 1,000 horsemen. With my sixty bodyguards I overpowered the enemies. Six hundred men hung their heads in that bloody battle, then I fought the Tugul bogatyr alone and defeated him; the bogatyr regretted fighting me.

I went on to Khorasan, but was captured by Alibek Khan. For two months I had to languish in a prison teeming with insects. But finally I managed to choose an opportune moment and escape from prison. Armed with a sabre, I passed the guards and none of them dared to block my way out of fear. Straight from the prison, armed with a sabre, I went to Alibek Khan. Just at that time the Khan received the letter from Brother Mohammed-bek warning Alibek that if Timur was going to visit the country under Alibek’s control, he should be received with proper honours. The letter was read out, and seeing me before him, the Khan asked me to forgive him for treating me so harshly out of ignorance.

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