According to Andy Bostom, plenty:
However, in the end, there was even a more basic, profound warning sign of the Tsarnaev family’s dangerous Weltanschauung—the very name Anzor and Zubeidat Tsarnaev chose for their eldest son: Tamerlan(e).
The cover art for my recent book “Sharia Versus Freedom—The Legacy of Islamic Totalitarianism,” reproduces a miniature painting from a sixteenth century manuscript of the Zafarnama by Sharaf al-Din Ali-Yazdi. The image was housed in the British Library and originally published/produced in Shiraz, Iran, 1552. It depicts soldiers filing before the Islamized Mongol conqueror Amir Timur-i-lang, or “Tamerlane,” holding heads of their decapitated enemies which they used to build a tower shaped like the minaret of a mosque, in Baghdad (1401).
The upper inscription embedded within the painting reads,
How fate and destiny have cast awe in the minds of the “Tavaajis”! [king’s messengers, and herein, more generally, “traitors”]
In an orderly and numerical fashion,
They made minarets with the heads of the wretched “Tavaajis”
As a lesson to the inhabitants of the world.
While the lower embedded inscription states,
So that no subordinate would dare to challenge superiors and no fox acts like a lion, and threatens the kings; Under the temptation of the demon pride
Yazdi’s Zafarnama remains the best-known example of early Persian historiography of Tamerlane. John Woods 1988 review of this genre of “Timurid” biographical writings emphasizes the rapid, widespread praise Yazdi’s manuscript achieved, its source as an inspiration for artistic renditions of the themes described, and its subsequent translation into both French and English, which disseminated the contents well beyond Persian-speaking Muslim lands:
Immediately after its composition, the work was widely acclaimed as a model of elegance and style for historical writing in Iran, Central Asia, and India, and its themes frequently provided inspiration for the art of manuscript illumination in those regions. Its translation into French and English in the early eighteenth/ twelfth century, moreover, guaranteed its reputation as the most important source of information about Timur outside the persophone Islamic world.
A French translation of Yazdi’s Zafarnama by de la Croix was published in Paris in 1722, and this version was translated into English by J. Darby the next year. Darby’s 1723 translationcharacterizes the events surrounding Tamerlane’s summer 1401 capture of Baghdad—seized from the officers of sultan Ahmed Jelair, the latter having fled (once again), seeking refuge under the Mamelukes —as follows:
As there had been several Tartar soldiers slain in the general assault, each soldier was ordered to bring one head of the men of Baghdad; which they accordingly did, and spared neither old men of fourscore, nor children of eight years of age. No quarter was given either to rich or poor; no one could count them up…Towers were made of these heads, to serve as an example to posterity. Some learned men found means to cast themselves at the feet of the emperor, who granted them pardon and quarter, and even gave them vests and horses, with convoy to conduct them to what place of security they desired: all the rest of the inhabitants were exterminated. Afterwards Timur gave orders that there should not remain one single house in the city unrazed; but that the mosques, colleges, and hospitals should be spared. Accordingly they ruined the markets, caravanserais, hermitages, cells, monasteries, palaces, and other edifices. Thus says the Alcoran [Qur’an], “The houses of the impious are overthrown by the order of God.” [perhaps referring to Qur’an 59:2]. After the Tigris was grown red with the blood of the inhabitants of Baghdad, and the air began to be infected by the dead bodies, Timur decamped from that city…
Darby’s translation also includes the following note which refers to the Arabic writer Ahmad ibn Arabshah’s harshly critical contemporary biography of Timur, “Marvels of Destiny in the History of Timur” (Ajaibul-Maqdur fi akhbari Timur):
Arabshah says two [i.e., decapitated heads per soldier were to be presented to Timur, or his officers]; and that there were 90,000 inhabitants of Baghdad slain in cold blood. They flung away the bodies, and made trophies of the heads piled together. There were one hundred and twenty towers made of the heads for trophies.
Three modern summary historical accounts of Tamerlane’s 1401 ravages in Baghdad by E.G. Browne, Rene Grousset, and Jean Aubin, are quite uniform with regard to the salient details. Browne’s summary, first published in 1920, maintains
Timur next turned his attention to Baghdad, the capital of the recalcitrant Sultan Ahmad Jalair [Ahmed Jelair], and, having taken it, made on June 20, 1401, a great massacre, in revenge for the many notable officers of his army who had perished in the siege. Each soldier was ordered to bring a head [Browne includes a note here, that states “According to Ibn Arabshah the number of Timur’s soldiers on this occasion was 20,000, and each was ordered to bring two heads.”], and in the words of Sharafuddin Ali Yazdi, “the market of retribution became so brisk that the broker of death sold at one price the old man of eighty and the child of eight, while the oven of wrath was so enkindled that it consumed in like manner the corporeal vestiture of the wealthy plutocrat and the wretched pauper.” Having left Baghdad a smoking charnel house, Timur again turned his attention to the unfortunate Georgians…
Grousset’s assessment, originally published in 1939, described the ravages of Timur’s army once Baghdad had fallen, thusly:
The defenders had fought with the energy of despair, and Tamerlane’s vengeance was merciless. Whereas seven years before he had treated Baghdad with some moderation, he now ordered a general massacre. Each soldier had to bring the head of an inhabitant, says Sharif ad-Din [Ali Yazdi]; two heads says Ibn Arabshah. Amid all the carnage, the literary-minded Tamerlane spared certain men of letters and even offered them coats of honor. Apart from these men, the entire population was slaughtered, and all buildings except mosques demolished. Ibn Arabshah estimates the number of victims at 90,000. July heat under the sky of Iraq soon bred epidemics from the heaped corpses and forced the victor to withdraw.
Jean Aubin’s 1962 analysis notes that the Baghdad siege lasted nearly forty days, adding that the Zafarnama insists, “…in hopes of seeing the city surrender and conserve it intact, Tamerlane delayed several times the attack requested by his officers.” Ravaged by starvation, groups of soldiers and residents fled the city, “…by jumping from the summit of the ramparts.” When Tamerlane’s forces launched their final assault, escape from Baghdad was prevented by archers who were arranged on both riverbanks of the Tigris. Consistent with the earlier accounts of Browne and Grousset, Aubin summarizes the fate of Baghdad’s hapless population, as follows:
The entire population remaining in Baghdad, including children, was methodically massacred. Every soldier had to present one head to the officer where the officers kept an accounting. Piles of severed heads were built up in different places in the city. The number of victims varies according to the source; it was on the order of several tens of thousands. The rare survivors—approximately one person out of a hundred, according to the Zafar-nama—were sold into slavery. The only ones spared were theologians, sheiks, and dervishes who managed to reach Tamerlane’s pavilion. They were given food and clothes, and sent to a safe place.
Tamerlane was born at Kash (Shahr-i-Sebz, the “Green City”) in Transoxiana (some 50 miles south of Samarkand, in modern Uzbekistan), on April 8 (or 11), 1336 A.D.. Amir Turghay, his father, was chief of the Gurgan or Chagtai branch of the Barlas Turks. By age 34 (1369/70), Timur had killed his major rival (Mir Husain), becoming the pre-eminent ruler of Transoxiana. He spent the next six to seven years consolidating his power in Transoxiana before launching the aggressive conquests of Persia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and then attacking Hindustan (India) under the tottering Delhi Sultanate.
Grousset contrasts Jenghiz Khan’s “straightforward planning” and “clean sweeps” with the “higgledy-piggledy” order of Timur’s expeditions, and the often incomplete nature of the latter’s conquests:
Tamerlane’s [Timur’s] conquering activities were carried on from the Volga to Damascus, from Smyrna to the Ganges and the Yulduz, and his expeditions into these regions followed no geographical order. He sped from Tashkent to Shiraz, from Tabriz to Khodzhent, as enemy aggression dictated; a campaign in Russia occurred between two in Persia, an expedition into Central Asia between two raids into the Caucasus…[Timur] at the end of every successful campaign left the country without making any dispositions for its control except Khwarizm and Persia, and even there not until the very end. It is true that he slaughtered all his enemies as thoroughly and conscientiously as the great Mongol, and the pyramids of human heads left behind him as a warning example tell their own tale. Yet the survivors forgot the lesson given them and soon resumed secret or overt attempts at rebellion, so that it was all to do again. It appears too, that these blood soaked pyramids diverted [Timur] from the essential objective. Baghdad, Brussa (Bursa), Sarai, Kara Shahr, and Delhi were all sacked by him, but he did not overcome the Ottoman Empire, the Golden Horde, the khanate of Mogholistan, or the Indian Sultanate; and even the Jelairs of Iraq Arabi rose up again as soon as he had passed. Thus he had to conquer Khwarizm three times, the Ili six or seven times (without ever managing to hold it for longer than the duration of the campaign), eastern Persia twice, western Persia at least three times, in addition to waging two campaigns in Russia…[Timur’s] campaigns “always had to be fought again,” and fight them again he did.
Timur’s campaigns are infamous for their extensive massacres and emblematic “pyramids of heads.” Brown cites “only a few” prominent examples, in addition to the graphic cover art illustration, resulting from the 1401 Baghdad carnage:
As specimens of those acts mention may be made of his massacre of the people of Sistan 1383-4, when he caused some two thousand prisoners to be built up into a wall; his cold-blooded slaughter of a hundred thousand captive Indians near Dihli [Delhi] (December, 1398); his burying alive of four thousand Armenians in 1400-1, and the twenty towers of skulls erected by him at Aleppo and Damascus in the same year; and his massacre of 70,000 of the inhabitants of Isfahan in (November, 1387)…
Timur defeated his major Muslim rivals, the Ottomans, under Bayezid, July 20, 1402, destroying the Ottoman army (at Cubuk), and holding the sultan captive. Bayezid died a few months later (March 9, 1403, at Aksehir), “..broken by disaster and humiliation.” With the Ottoman army’s decimation, the conquest of Western Anatolia (and beyond), as Grousset has noted, “was no more than a route march for Tamerlane. ”Bursa, the Ottoman capital, was plundered, and Tamerlane’s surrogates continued their devastating advance further to Nicaea (Iznik).
Ibn Arabshah and Sharif ad-Din describe the conquerors behaving like a horde of savages, and that lovely city was set on fire. Tamerlane’s grandson Abu Bakr galloped as far as Nicaea (Iznik), “slaying and looting everywhere,” as Sharif ad-Din tells with relish.
Christian Smyrna (later Izmir)—which had defied repeated Ottoman attempts at conquest—was besieged by Tamerlane himself, after its governor, Brother Guillaume de Munte of the Knights of Rhodes refused to convert to Islam. Following a two-week siege, which began in early December, 1402, the city was overwhelmed, and a general massacre ensued. According to Ibn Arabshah,
…[H]e slew the grown men and cast in bonds the women and children and from the corpses of the slain built mosques and from the skulls raised towers; then he despoiled that fort of its wealth and robbed it of its treasure and emptied it and desolated and plundered it and utterly drained its silver and gold and made the wings of glad news fly with these exploits, which news according to his presumption he sent through the world with propitious augury and swift flight.
A rather gruesome variant on the primary use of decapitated heads for skull towers occurred during the capture and destruction of Smyrna, as recorded by the Zafarnama.
A few escaped slaughter by casting themselves into the sea, and swimming to the vessels; while others were drowned. After our soldiers had put the inhabitants of Smyrna to the sword, they razed the houses, as well of the city as of the cattle, casting their arms and movable goods into the sea. There were from certain parts of Europe great ships named Caraca, with two masts, and some with more, which brought over soldiers and arms to succor the inhabitants. When they came near the palace and beheld the town and castle in ruins, they were struck with fear and anchored. Timur ordered that some of the Christians heads should be thrown into these ships, which the slingers of wild-fire accordingly did. The mariners seeing their companions heads, returned in fear and frustrated of their hopes.
Grousset maintained Timur was indeed a pious Muslim (who may well have belonged to the Naqshbandi Sufi order, according to Manz), while emphasizing the important Islamic motivation for Timur’s jihad campaigns:
It is the Qur’an to which he continually appeals, the imams and [Sufi] dervishes who prophesy his success. [emphasis added] His wars were to influence the character of the jihad, the Holy War, even when— as was almost always the case— he was fighting Muslims. He had only to accuse these Muslims of lukewarmness, whether the Jagataites of the Ili and Uiguria, whose conversion was so recent, or the Sultans of Delhi who…refrained from massacring their millions of Hindu subjects.
Beatrice Manz concurs with Grousset’s assessment about the centrality of Islamic jihadism in motiviating Tamerlane’s conquests, although she also stresses his dual role as “restorer” of the Turco-Mongolian world order. Tamerlane patronized Muslim scholars, constructed Islamic religious buildings, and waged jihad campaigns for dissemination of the Muslim creed to establish his bona fides as a promoter of Islam. The Zafarnama, Manz observes, invokes promulgation of the Sharia, specifically, as a primary animating factor for many of Tamerlane’s campaigns:
Timur undertook many of his campaigns in the interest of religious order, and we fund that almost all mentions of Sharia in [Nizan al-Dim] Shami’s Zafarnameh occur as justification for Timur’s conquests. His campaigns against the kings of Georgia, the Shi’ite sayyids of Amul in Mazandaran [a province in northern Iran], and the non-Muslim populations on his route to India were all ostensibly taken for the preservation of Sharia; and Shami even invoked the sanctions of religion in explaining Timur’s campaigns against the Ottomans. Before beginning his campaigns in the Middle East. Timur took care to get the blessing of Muslim men of religion.
The Turki chronicle Malfuzat-i-Timuri, another putative autobiographical memoir of Timur, translated into Persian by Abu Talib Husaini, illustrates these driving Islamic sentiments, complete with a Koranic quotation:
About this time there arose in my heart the desire to lead an expedition against the infidels, and to become a ghazi; for it had reached my ears that the slayer of infidels is a ghazi, and if he is slain he becomes a martyr. It was on this account that I formed this resolution, but I was undetermined in my mind whether I should direct my expedition against the infidels of China or against the infidels and polytheists of India. In this matter I sought an omen from the Qur’an, and the verse I opened upon [Q66:9] was this, “O Prophet, make war upon infidels and unbelievers, and treat them with severity.” My great officers told me that the inhabitants of Hindustan were infidels and unbelievers. In obedience to the order of Almighty Allah I ordered an expedition against them.
Timur’s jihad campaigns against non-Muslims — whether Christians in Asia Minor and Georgia, or Hindus in India — seemed to intensify in brutality. Brown highlights one particular episode which supports this contention, wherein Timur clearly distinguished between his vanquished Muslim and non-Muslim foes. After rampaging through (Christian) Georgia, where he “devastated the country, destroyed the churches, and slew great numbers of inhabitants,” in the winter of 1399-1400, Timur, in August 1400,
…began his march into Asia Minor by way of Avnik, Erzeroum, Erzinjan, and Sivas. The latter place offered a stubborn resistance, and when it finally capitulated Timur caused all the Armenian and Christian soldiers to be buried alive; but the Muhammadans he spared.