Tag Archives: Genghis Khan

Buddhism and Islam in Termez

This morning began with a visit to the Termez Archaeological Museum whose collections are all artifacts excavated around Termez and thus the collection spans the Stone Age, the Bronze Age as well as the time of Alexander the Great and subsequent periods up to the modern era. The main focus of interest for me was the collection of Buddhist artifacts from the 3rd to the 4th century.

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The Buddhist presence was strong in the pre-Christian era. In fact in the museum you can see Greek influence on Buddhist art.

Right after the museum there is a stone outcropping in a field: the ruin of a Buddhist stupa

The ruins are of a third century AD Buddhist monastery. Genghis Khan leveled the Buddhist shrines and monastery. I found the ruins very fascinating in that you can understand how mission-minded Buddhism was in those days and was spread along the Silk Road as far west as Merv. The ruins give evidence of the rich cultural interchange.

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The mausoleum of Al Hakim is a sacred place of pilgrimage for Muslims who come to venerate this 9th century Sufi philosopher. In front of the sarcophagus you see a copy of the Koran wrapped in fabric.

The Muslim who comes to venerate the holy man will pick up the book and touch their forhead and kiss it three times. It reminds me of how Christians venerate icons. They touch the tomb and open their hands in prayer. Then they go to a room where the imam chants a portion of the Koran in Arabic then recites a prayer. The practice is done with such  devotion.

As I was walking away from the shrine it struck me how for almost 70 yeas Islam was brutally suppressed by the Soviets and people according to my guide forgot their religion. As she said they are rediscovering their religion and I am amazed how in less than 20 years the society is being re-Islamized for want of a better word: restoration of mosques and new mosques and pilgrimages where they can rediscover their religion the Soviets suppressed. I thought how quickly my country has become de-Christianized and yet perhaps there is the hope that there can be a revitalization of faith that could bring such joy to our secular society.

Walking through ruins of cities and fortresses give me a deep desire to learn more about the history of central Asia but also what role central Asia will play in the future. Central Asia is a vast territory rich in natural resources and wonderful people.

After a long day I had such a great time in the market. People are so friendly and are so happy when I tell them I am from America. They want to take pictures of us! When walking through the market I encounter smile after smile and hello after hello.  There is a feeling of security in the midst of the friendliness and respect that I have found among the people on the streets.

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And the food on the street is great.  And the ice cream is very good which offers some relief from the heat.

Bukhara: the Home of Avicenna

In the 9th and 10th century, Bukhara was the capital of the Samanid state as well as a leader in religious and cultural affairs. One of its famous residents that would have an impact on the development of medieval theology and philosophy was Avicenna, that is Ibn Sini. He is thought to be one of the figures in Raphael’s painting of the philosophers in the Vatican Palace.

Although the old center has developed in such a way to attract tourists, the center remains an architectural maze of madrassas, Islamic theological schools and minarets, mosques, caravanserai and covered markets and the royal palace. These remants of the old city give an impression of the vitality of the city on the silk road.

Genghis Khan in 1220 destroyed the city and in 1370 it fell under the domination of Timur Samarkand.

In the morning I set out to enjoy the Mir Arab Madrassa and mosque from the 16th century.

Although most of the madrassas today are markets and hotels, this one is a functioning school. The tile work and double domes are striking.

The minaret built in 1127 was one of the tallest structures in central Asia at a height of 47 meters. Genhgis Kahn spared it. Notice the beautiful oramental brick work with blue tiles that would soon dominate Islamic art of Central Asia. Next to the minaret is a mosque built after Genghis Khan destroyed the earlier one. The Soviets turned it into a warehouse however in 1991 it became a functioning mosque.

These are doors to a caravanserai, that is a hotel for merchants and their carsvan animals and goods for trade

Bukhara005233The Ismail Samani mausoleum is the oldest monument in the city. It was covered with dirt so it escaped the destruction of Genghis Kahn.

This is the Chashma Ayub mausoleum built over a spring. The legend is that Job struck his staff on the gtound and a spring appeared. There is so much religious folklore which creates many places of pilgrimage.


From the market:

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