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HVK Archives: Why did Imran name his son after the bloodiest Islamic leader of all time?

Why did Imran name his son after the bloodiest Islamic leader of all time? - The Daily Mail, London

John Torode ()
Wed, 27 Nov 96 18:13:38 EST

Title : So why have Jemima and Imran named their son after the bloodiest Islamic leader of all time?
Author : John Torode
Publication : The Daily Mail, London
Date :

(This article was reproduced in The Afternoon, Mumbai,
November 26, 1996)

Why Sulaiman? The most famous of that name (though
spelled Sulaiman) was the most blood-stained Islamic
conquerer of all time.

Does this tell us something about the ambitions of Imran
Khan, the handsome former cricketer who aims to replace
the deposed Benazir Bhutto as prime minister of Pakitan,
and his young wife, daughter of Sir James Goldsmith? She
is now a Muslim convert who has taken the name Haiqa.

Could Sulaiman the Magnificent, the greatest warrior king
in the history of Islam, be a role model for their first-
born? What, indeed, does it tell us about Imran's
vaunting ambition for Pakistan and beyond?

To make a judgement, we must turn back the pages of
history to 1520 when Sulaiman ascended the throne of the
Ottoman Empire as sultan at the age of 26.

I was a period of intense religious conflict and doubt in
Europe. Christianity seemed to be tearing itself apart.

The Church was under pressure form reformers. In Britain,
Henry VII-still a loyal Catholic - had just been declared
Defender of the Faith by Pope Leo I for denouncing the
blasphemies of Martin Luther.

And on the rings of Europe, in the Balkans, the Muslims
were in seemingly endless advance towards Vienna.

The Ottoman empire that Sulaiman inherited from his
father Sultan Selim I, a ferociously cruel man, is
remembered with pride in the Muslim world.

It was Sulaiman who pushed back the bounds of Christendom
in a series of bloody conflicts and built the most
expansive Islamic state the world have ever seen. No
wonder Western rulers called him `the Magnificent' in
fear as much as in admiration.

So what did mightly Sulaiman do with the ramshackle
empire he inherited from his cruel and corrupt father?

First, he purged it of venal officials and politicians,
ruthlessly executing those who had `exploited the trust
of the people', and then set about extending his empire
at the expense of the Christian West. His success was
astounding and put fear into the hearts of Europe's

Consider the scale of his victories: Belgrade fell to him

in 1521 and Rhodes, long under the control of the Knights
Hospitallers, was conquered a year later - Sulaiman was
able to muster 100,000 soldiers and 10,000 sailors to lay
siege to the last great outpost of the crusading West.

When the island finally fell and the Grand Master and his
Knights withdrew, it was a shattering blow to the
European psyche and the end of almost 400 years of

Next, Sulaiman broke the military might of Hungary and
laid siege to Vienna. Had the city fallen, the soft
underbelly of Europe would have been exposed to the
Muslim hordes.

Up to their knees in frozen mud, 250,000 of Sulaiman's
terrifying soldiers, who had raped and pilaged, looted
and enslaved across almost 1,000 miles of Christian
territory to reach the gates of Vienna, died in the
hundreds. But not before they had breached the city gates
and fought pitched battles with the defendants. It was
Sulaiman's only failure.

Undeterred, he blockaded Malta, seized Tripoli, subdued
Egypt and even snatched settlements from the Portuguese
in India.

Having consolidated his empire Sulaiman made sure it was
truly Islamic. he destroyed the final vestiges of
Christian Constantinople and turned it into Islamic
Istanbul. He converted churches into mosques and build
his own memorial, the Great Sulaiman Mosque.

He introduced Sharia (Islamic) law with many of the
seemingly brutal punishments - amputation of hands for
theft and the stoning to death of adulterers - similar to
that which governs Saudi Arabia and Iran today.

He insisted that he was not worthy of the title The
Magnificent. Instead, he wanted to be known simply as The
Lawgiver, the religious title by which Turks still refer
to him.

We know relatively little of his private life, except
that it was - to put it politely - complex.

There is an Arabian Nights quality to the tragic story of
Sulaiman and his second wife, the beautiful Russian
Christian slave Roselana.

She took the name of Khurrem (the Joyous One) along with
the Muslim veil. She ruthlessly manipulated her besotted
husband, persuading him to have Mustafa, his much-loved
son by his first wife, murdered. She believed her son
Selim would never become Sultan while Mustafa was alive.
There was constant speculation about what would today be
described as Sulaiman's ambiguous `gender proclivities'.
In spite of his infatuation with his wife Khurrem, he
developed an extraordinary attachment to one Ibrahim, the
son of a Christian sailor who had been sold into slavery.

Sulaiman bought the boy and scandalised his father's
court by appointing him his Grand Falconer and then
insisting on sharing a bed-room with him.

`Sulyman (sic) loved this man more than a brother,'

according to the rather coy contemporary accounts. In
spite of the lovely Khurrem, the two men `lived together,
their meals were shared in common, even their beds were
in the same room'. Together, they read Persian, Greek and
Italian poetry.

Sulaiman's final gestures of affection were to give
Ibrahim his sister in forced marriage and to make him
Grand Vizier. Soon afterwards, on Khurrem's pressing,
Ibrahim was purged, to Sulaiman's eternal regret.

The greatest sultan Islam has known died in 1566, after
ruling for more than 46 years.

By then in Britain, Elizabeth I was on the throne and an
unprecedented period of grandeur was about to begin. But
it looked as if the British Isles migh collapse into
chaos. Ireland and Scotland were on the verge of revolt
and the Church of England riven. In apparent contrast,
the Islamic empire Sulaiman secure.

It survived him by 30 years, gradually collapsing in the
course of the 19th century as the Balkan states finally
achieved their freedom from the Ottoman yoke.

Young Sulaiman Khan will have his work cut out if he is
to live up to the achievements of one of Islam's most
flamboyant and ferocious figures.

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