Wednesday, October 12, 2005

What the Mongols Thought About Looking Into People's Hearts

It is curious that in the decrees of Ghazan Khan (1271-1304), Mongol ruler of the Middle East, "looking into people's hearts" was a watchword for damaging, sentimental softness.

Ghazan Khan was the first Mongol khan in the Middle East to rule as a Muslim. At first, in 1295, as a young man under the influence of his Ahithophel, the Muslim Nawroz, he plundered and sacked Christian monasteries, and treated Buddhist temples even worse. Later on, after executing Nawroz as a threat to the throne, he became friends with the Catholicus of Baghdad (head of the Christian Church of the East) and his administrative reforms won praise even from Christian monks. Perhaps he was becoming Luther's "Wise Turk."

Trying to restrict the practice of plunder, he ordered:

Every evil that has happened to any army has happened mostly because of taking booty [yes, my students have told me this has a funny meaning today]. When the battle is over [i.e. and not before] you can see to where booty and plunder are to go. As for discipline, one must not look into people's hearts and restrain oneself from killing, for if two or three persons are not executed, ten or twenty thousand may perish instead, and the whole kingdom lost on that account (Rashiduddin, trans. W.M. Thackston, Compendium of Chronicles, vol. III, p. 679).

About the widespread abuse of written documents he ordered:

Great precaution should be exercised in cases pertaining to the writing of deeds, documents, various letters, and all kinds of written decisions and records, for few situations in which writing is involved are devoid of breaches of justice, and it often happens that the end result of the breach is upholding falsehood and deprivation of rights. These breaches of justice stem from the writers' ignorance of the conditions of writing, looking into people's hearts, or partiality (p. 696).

And dealing with the rampant breakdown in law and order throughout Mongol-ruled Iran and Iraq, he applied the following policy:

Next he ordered that if it was discovered that anyone -- Mongol or Muslim -- in a khaylkhana, village, or city had colluded with thieves, that person would be executed without remorse. To this task was assigned Amir Inqul, a confidant at court [there's that cronyism again!] who was renowned for not looking at faces or hearts and having absolutely no pity. He captured many of the robbers and executed most of them, although some were brought in under restraint (p. 719).

Now that's the Law in its full severity!