मध्ययुगीन काल में इस्तेमाल की गई दुनिया मे उस वक्त की सबसे बड़ी तोप ‘मालिक-ए-मैदान तोप’

क्या कभी आपने ऐसी तोप के बारे में सुना है जिसे खींचने में 10 हाथी, 400 बैल और सैकड़ों लोगों की ताकत लगी हो। यह बात जरुर हैरान करने वाली है, लेकिन ऐसी एक तोप भारत में मौजूद है। जिसकी गिनती दुनिया के सबसे भारी तोपों में होती है।

इस तोप का नाम है मालिक- ए- मैदान, जो कर्नाटक के एतिहासिक नगर बीजापुर में मौजूद है। – मध्ययुगीन काल में इस्तेमाल की गई यह उस वक्त की सबसे बड़ी तोप है। इसका वजन 55 टन, जबकि लम्बाई 14.6 फीट (4.45 मीटर), बाहरी डायामीटर 4.9 फीट (1.5 मीटर) है। इसे बीजापुर के शासक #इब्राहिम_आदिल_शाह II ने तालीकोट युद्ध की जीत के बाद 16 वीं शताब्दी में स्थापित करवाया था।

बीजापुर में बुर्ज- ए- शरीफ नाम के टावर पर यह तोप आज भी मौजूद है। बुर्ज- ए- शरीफ का मतलब है शेरों का टावर। यह टावर आदिल शाही सल्तनत के दौरान बनवाया गया था। इस तोप पर इस प्रकार के डि़जाइन किए गए हैं जैसे शेर अपना जबड़ा खोले हुऐ हो।

इस तोप पर मौजूद अभिलेखों (इन्सक्रिप्शन) से यह पता चलता है कि 
1) एक तुर्क हसन रूमी के पुत्र मोहम्मद ने इसका निर्माण करवाया था l
2) दूसरा अभिलेख बताता है कि सन् 1549 में इसकी ढलाई की गई थी।
3) तीसरे अभिलेख में औरंगज़ेब ने लिखा है कि मैंने मालिक-ए-मैदान को अपने कब्जे में कर लिया है।

सन् 1886 में कैप्टन टेलर एवं जेम्स फर्ग्यूसन की एक पुस्तक प्रकाशित हुई थी। इसमें लिखा था कि मालिक-ए-मैदान विश्व की सबसे भारी तोप है। इस तोप की विशेषता यह है कि धधकते सूरज की गर्मी में भी यह शांत रहती है ।

Malik-e-Maidan or ‘Lord of the Battlefield’, which is a huge cannon set up by Muhammad Adil Shah I in 1549 on the top of Sherzah Burj in Bijapur. It faces towards the west at the plains outside the city of Bijapur.

Located 3 km from the district of Bijapur, this cannon is believed to be the largest warhead of the medieval era. The nozzle of the weapon is designed into the shape of a lion with open jaws. There is a small elephant between the two large fangs of l a on being crushed to death.

There is also an inscription made by Aurangzeb on the top of the cannon. This 55 tons heavy cannon has a diameter of 1.5 m and its length is 4.45 m. This legendary cannon has a unique feature that is even in the blazing sun it remains cool.It is believed that the legendary cannon always remains cool and tinkles like a bell on tapping. On top of the cannon is present an inscription commissioned by Aurangzeb.

HALA SULTAN: THE HIDDEN JEWEL OF CYPRUS

Umm Haram bint Milhan (Hala Sultan) was a female companion of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who fell martyr in Cyprus

The religion of Islam is today the fastest growing religion in the world with around 1.5 billion followers from many places and backgrounds. Although the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was an Arab based in the cities of Mecca and Medina in the Hejaz region of the Arabian peninsula, his message was intended to reach the ears and hearts of all people.

Even though the the message of Islam attracted many converts from different parts of the world during the lifetime of the Prophet, due to the socio-geographical starting point of this call, the responsibility to carry this message to the rest of the world mainly fell upon the Arab companions of the Prophet after his death.

From Arabia, his companions spread across the world, covering a region from Portugal to Indonesia and from the northern Caucasus to the southern Sahara. Some of them arrived as conquerers whereas others arrived as merchants, migrants and governors, while some arrived simply to call people to faith in the one true diety. In doing so, some never returned home, and instead chose to be buried in foreign soil, serving as a reminder of their great sacrifice for generations afterwards.

One such companion is Umm Haram bint Milhan, who unlike what one would typically imagine these fearless companions to be, was not a dashing young man galloping through the desert on his horse. Rather, Umm Haram was an old woman, perhaps in her eighties or nineties. Nonetheless, that did not prevent her from accompanying the Muslim army in their first naval conquest of the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus.

Umm Haram was the sister of Umm Sulaym bint Milhan, which also made her the maternal aunt of one of the Prophet’s closest companions, Anas bin Malik. She was also a paternal relative of the Prophet via his great grandmother, who was from the Banu Najjar tribe. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would often visit her.

During one such visit, the Prophet was taking a nap in her home, upon which he woke up laughing. When Umm Haram asked the Prophet why he was laughing, the Prophet replied that he had seen a dream of his companions ‘sailing on the sea like kings’. Umm Haram, despite her age, had a very youthful character and was an adventurous woman who liked to travel. The concept of sailing on the sea was unknown to most Arabs at the time, who were bound to the rough and tough deserts of Arabia.

Umm Haram could not contain her glee on hearing this, and asked the Prophet to pray that she be among those companions. The Prophet made a supplication for her and went back to sleep, before he woke up again in the same manner. Again she asked the Prophet what he had seen, to which he gave the same answer, and then asked him to pray for her one more time. ‘You will be with the first group,’ the Prophet reassured.

Long after the Prophet passed away, during the reign of the third Caliph Uthman, the governorship of Shaam (modern day Syria, Lebanon and Palestine) decided to form the first Muslim naval fleet under the command of Umm Haram’s husband Ubadah bin al-Samit, who was the judge of Palestine. With the orders of Muawiyah, who was the governor of Syria at the time (later to become the first Umayyad Caliph), the fleet set sail in the year 647 to Cyprus, which was under Byzantine control at the time.

The fleet arrived at the eastern shores of Larnaca, where they sought to continue their expedition on land. Shortly after mounting their horses, however, they came under siege and in the chaos that unfolded, Umm Haram fell from her horse and suffered a fatal injury. As was custom for martyrs, she was buried on the spot she fell, by the beautiful Salt Lake of the city.

The Arabs continued their presence on the island of Cyprus for centuries afterwards. After the Ottomans conquered the island in 1570-1571 from the Venetians, they gave great importance to Umm Haram. In around 1760, a scholar by the name of Sheikh Hassan built a mosque close to her burial site, which became known as the Hala Sultan Tekke.

The mosque was, and still is, an important monument representing the 1,400-year history of Islam in Cyprus for all Muslims, especially the Turkish Cypriots. After the Cyprus war of 1974, which saw the island split with Turkish Cypriots forming the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in the north and Greek Cypriots maintaining control of the south, the mosque remained with the Greek Cypriot administation.

Turkish Cypriots were unable to access the mosque for thirty years until the borders were finally opened due to a breakthrough in negotiations. Today, Turkish Cypriots are campaigning for the Greek Cypriot administration to recognize the building’s status as a place of worship. As it is currently registered as a museum, it is subject to museum opening and closing times, restricting Muslims from visiting and performing their prayers outside opening hours.

Nonetheless, the glorious landscape around the mosque still draws visitors from all over the world, all coming to seek inspiration from the sacrifices Umm Haram made to leave Islam’s mark on Cyprus and to pray for her soul. Her story inspired the likes of the wife of Sharif Hussein, the ousted post-Ottoman leader of the Hejaz and founder of the Hashimite royal dynasty in Jordan, who insisted on being buried in the same soil as Umm Haram.

Upon entering the room in which Umm Haram’s grave is located, one is almost suffocated by the sweet smell of musk. Despite this, the caretakers of the mosque insist that they have never perfumed the room, and that it is a natural aroma emanating from the grave itself. In 2013, out of their respect to Umm Haram, the Turkish Cypriots named a new theology faculty in Lefkosa (Nicosia) after her.

Story of when Emperor Mahmood Ghaznavi left his throne to his slave Ayaz

 

Story of when Emperor Mahmood Ghaznavi left his throne to his slave Ayaz, from Fariduddin Attar’s book ‘The Conference of Birds’

The affections and reverence that Mahmood Ghaznavi had for his slave Ayaaz is legendary.

One day Mamood called him in court and said, “You are no longer my slave, Ayaz. You can take all my Kingdom. Be the ruler of my entire empire as I retire from worldly duties. Tear off your slavery collar and bury it forever”.

Such reward and graciousness made all the courtiers red with envy.

However, Ayaz started crying when he heard such gracious honour from the king.

“Are you insane, Ayaz, as you should be happy over such amazing prize”, exclaimed the courtiers.

Ayaz replied, “You don’t understand that by giving me throne, King Mahmood Ghaznavi will make me separate from himself. All I ever wished was to br with my master. How can I be happy with all Kingdom when it detaches with my beloved master”.

 

The Mazhub and the Pregnant Lady

This final installment- for now at least- in this series of texts dealing with Ottoman women’s lives in the context of sainthood comes from the life of ‘Abd al-Ghanī al-Nābulusī (1621-1731), arguably the most important early modern saint of the Arab provinces, who combined the practice of sanctity with a vast scope of scholarship and literary endeavors  The following account comes from a massive hagio-biography treating his life, Wird al-unsī wa-al-warid al-qudsiī fī tarjamat al-ʻārif ʻAbd al-Ghanī al-Nābulusī, which was compiled by the saint’s great-grandson, Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Ghazzī (1760-1799). Al-Ghazzī’s account covers almost every aspect of his great-grandfather’s life, including ‘Abd al-Ghanī’s mother’s ‘foretokens’ of her unborn son’s future saintly greatness. In introducing the section from which the below accounts are taken, al-Ghazzī says: ‘Just as there are foretokens for the prophets before [the manifestation of their] prophethood, so the saints of God have miracles occur for them even before the coming to light of their manifestation [as saints], and before they even have capacity for that.’

While, then, these stories are ultimately meant to be understood as signs of ‘Abd al-Ghanī’s sainthood- which was at work, as it were, and evident even while he was in his mother’s womb- they also reveal quite a bit about ‘Abd al-Ghanī’s mother and the relationship between holy men in early modern Damascus  Here the holy man in question is a majdhūb, a ‘divinely drawn one’ akin to a ‘holy fool,’ a ‘mode’ of saint that I have dealt with repeatedly on this site (and which will feature prominently in my forthcoming dissertation and, God willing, eventual book project). The majādhīb(the plural of majdhūb) had a central presence in ‘Abd al-Ghanī’s life, from before birth and even after his death (one of his daughters would become a majdhūba), a relationship that his mother clearly contributed towards forging. The practices and the sacred presence of the majdhūb saint tended to result in the temporary breakdown of social expectations and protocol, both in terms of gendered relations but also in more fundamental ways (such as the strictures against throwing rocks at guests!). That women in Damascus would particularly numbered among Shaykh Maḥmūd’s devotees is not surprising- but neither is ‘Abd al-Ghanī’s ongoing devotion to the saint, an example of which I have also included in this translated excerpt.

Besides the accounts of ‘Abd al-Ghanī’s mother’s relationship with the saint Maḥmūd translated here, we are also learn from ‘Abd al-Ghanī’s own writings that his mother’s death and burial saw the miraculous intervention of another majdhūb,‘Alī al-Nabkī, who walked from his village to the city just as ‘Abd al-Ghanī’s mother’s body was being washed. We are meant to understand by all of this, I think, that ‘Abd al-Ghanī’s own sanctity was not entirely unique to him- his mother, in her own way, was a holy woman, numbered in the ranks of the friends of God, male and female.

 

As for the good tidings his mother received about him, they were many. Among them is that which she herself related, saying, “The saints and majādhīb used to give me good tidings concerning him, and about his elevated status, and the majesty of his power, before his birth.” From among that was that the pious Shaykh Maḥmūd the Majdhūb—who is buried by the tomb of Shaykh Yusuf al-Qamīnī atop Jabal Qāsiyūn [1]—gave her good tidings of him while she was pregnant with him. He gave her a silver coin and said to her: “Name him ‘Abd al-Ghanī for he will be victorious.” He said to her another time, “Give good tidings to ‘Abd al-Ghanī concerning the divine abundance (al-fayḍ)!” Shaykh Maḥmūd died one day before the master was born. He had said to her: “When you give birth to him, bring him to my tomb, and rub him with dust from it before you bestow his name upon him [2].” Whenever he saw her he would honor her greatly, and say to her, “I venerate the one whom you bear, for by God he will possess greatness and immense power!”

My father the shaykh al-Islām, the master’s grandson, related to me from his father the shaykh al-Islām, my grandfather: “One day the mother of the exalted master, while she was pregnant with him, went out to visit Shaykh Maḥmūd [the Majdhūb] with a group of other women, including another woman who was bearing some cooked chicken, bringing it as a gift for him. But as they came upon him he saw them from afar, and began throwing rocks at them, so they withdrew because of that. He began calling out, ‘O mother of ‘Abd al-Ghanī, you are exalted (ta’ālā) [3]! I didn’t want to hit you!’ So the women thought that he meant the woman bringing him the chicken, so they told her: ‘Go up to his presence by yourself!’

But when he saw her he began throwing rocks at her, and said to her: ‘I didn’t mean you, I meant the mother of ‘Abd al-Ghanī!’ So they said to the mother of the master: ‘They shaykh wants you, so go to him!’ When he saw her he said: ‘Welcome mother of ‘Abd al-Ghanī, ‘Abd al-Ghanī is with you!’

He had her sit down next to him, and honored her with utmost honor, and gave her food and drink from what he had with him. Then he took out a silver miṣrī coin and gave it to her, saying to her: ‘When ‘Abd al-Ghanī is born, give this to him, from me.’ So she took it and kept it safe until after ‘Abd al-Ghanī’s birth, growth, and intellectual maturing, at which point she passed it on to him and informed him about it. He received it from her and placed it with himself, and it remained with him till the day of his departing this life, God be pleased with both of them…”

The mother of the master followed the instructions of Shaykh Maḥmūd, going out with [‘Abd al-Ghanī] to his tomb before naming him, rubbing him in the dust of the tomb. The shaykh, the master, God sanctify his spirit, related that once a grievous sickness befell him, and with it constriction of the throat, to the point that he was unable to swallow his own saliva, bringing him to precipice of death. When things had reached this intensity, he beheld, in waking life, Shaykh Maḥmūd before him. He said to [‘Abd al-Ghanī], “Don’t worry!” He reached with his hand into his throat, and broke up the ulcer. Then the shaykh sought out the metal washing basin (ṭasht)and expelled blood from his throat, and was so restored to health. The master after that would say, “From that time up to the present, truly, I will find the scent and taste of musk in my mouth, sensing them directly.”

Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazzī, Intimate Invocations: Al-Ghazzi’s Biography of ʻAbd Al-Ghani Al-Nabulusi (1641-1731), edited by Samer Akkach (Leiden ; Brill, 2012), 75-78. Translated by Jonathan Parkes Allen, 2018.

[1] Jabal Qāsiyūn is the low mountain that rises to the northwest of Damascus, and historically featured numerous holy places- especially caves- and saints’ shrines. In more recent years it has been a major front in the ongoing battle for Damascus in Syria’s civil wars.

[2] The practice of rubbing oneself or another in the ‘dust’ of a holy person’s tomb or shrine is quite old in the Middle East, going back at least to Syriac Christianity, and tending to replace- though not exclusively, as this very story indicates (‘Abd al-Ghanī would come to have a handful of saints’ relics on or close to her person by the end of his life)- the use of relics disconnected from the burial place of the saint.

[3] It is difficult to replicate in English, but Shaykh Maḥmūd’s use of this phrase is highly significant as it is the honorific that traditionally follows mention of God, as in ‘God, exalted is He!’ Majādhīb were known to often play with language, sometimes to almost seemingly blasphemous or at least ‘problematic’ ends, such as here.