Monday, January 9, 2012


I come across the city of Samarkand while doing the study on the Silk Road. Samarkand is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, prospering from its location on the trade route between China and the Mediterranean (Silk Road). It was one of the greatest city in Central Asia. It is also the city of Daniel where his tomb was located. Samarkand is located in Uzbekistan, one of former Russian republic in Central Asia.

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Samarkand - The city of Daniel

Daniel (Hebrew: דָּנִיֵּאל, Modern Daniyyel Tiberian Dāniyyêl, meaning "God is my Judge") is the protagonist in the Book of Daniel of the Hebrew Bible. In the narrative, when Daniel was a young man, he was taken into Babylonian captivity where he was educated in Chaldean thought. However, he never converted to Neo-Babylonian ways. By Divine Wisdom from his God, YHVH, he interpreted dreams and visions of kings, thus becoming a prominent figure in the court of Babylon. Eventually, he had apocalyptic visions of his own that have been interpreted as the Four monarchies. Some of the most famous tales of Daniel are: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, The writing on the wall and Daniel in the lions' den.

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim (BC 606), Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were among the young Jewish nobility carried off to Babylon. The four were chosen for their intellect and beauty to be trained as advisors to the Babylonian court,(Daniel 1) Daniel was given the name Belteshazzar, i.e., prince of Bel, or Bel protect the king!(not to be confused with the neo-Babylonian king, Belshazzar). Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were given the Babylonian names, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, respectively.

After the Persian conquest of Babylon, Daniel held the office of the first of the "three presidents" of the empire under the reign of Darius the Mede, and was thus practically at the head of state affairs, with the ability to influence the prospects of the captive Jews (Daniel 9), whom he had at last the happiness of seeing restored to their own land; although he did not return with them, but remained still in Babylon.

Daniel's fidelity to God exposed him to persecution by jealous rivals within the king's administration. The fact that he had just interpreted the emperors' dream had resulted in his promotion and that of his companions. Being favored by the King, Darius the Mede, he was untouchable. His companions were vulnerable to the accusation that had them thrown into the furnace for refusing to worship the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar as a god; but they were miraculously saved, and Daniel would years later be cast into a den of lions (for continuing to practice his faith in YHWH), but was miraculously delivered; after which Darius issued a decree enjoining reverence for "the God of Daniel" (Daniel 6:26). He "prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Great," whom he probably greatly influenced in the decree which put an end to the Jewish Captivity (BC 536).

Muslims traditionally consider Daniel (Arabic: دانيال, Danyal) as an Islamic prophet, alongside the other major prophets(Nabi) of the Old Testament like Adem (Adam), Nuh (Noah), Idris (Enoch),Ibrahim (Abraham),Is'haq (Isaac), Yaq'ub (Jacob),Yusuf (Joseph), and Musa (Moses), Dawud (David)and others.

There are six different locations claiming to be the site of the tomb of the biblical figure Daniel: Babylon, Kirkuk and Muqdadiyah in Iraq, Susa and Malamir in Iran, and Samarkand in Uzbekistan.

The time and circumstances of Daniel's death have not been recorded. However, tradition maintains that Daniel was still alive in the third year of Cyrus according to the Tanakh (Daniel 10:1). He would have been almost 100 years old at that point, having been brought to Babylon when he was in his teens, more than 80 years previously. Many posit that he possibly died at Susa in Iran. Tradition holds that his tomb is located in Susa at a site known as Shush-e Daniyal. Other locations have been claimed as the site of his burial, including Daniel's Tomb in Kirkuk, Iraq, as well as Babylon, Egypt, Tarsus and, notably, Samarkand, which claims a tomb of Daniel, with some traditions suggesting that his remains were removed, perhaps by Tamerlane, from Susa to Samarkand. the tomb of prophet Daniel is situated on the outskirts of the settlement Afrasiab that is in the north-east of Samarkand. On a high bluff of the hill there stretched a long 5-domed building of the mausoleum, and at the foot of the hill there is the river Siab. The sprawl of the building is directly connected with the tomb, whose length is equal to 18 meters.

You can read about the story of Daniel in the The Book of Daniel (Hebrew: דניאל), which is a book in the Hebrew Bible. The book tells of how Daniel, and his Judean companions, were inducted into Babylon during Jewish exile, and how their positions elevated in the court of Nebuchadnezzar. The court tales span events that occur during the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius the Mede. The book concludes with four Divine prophetic visions.

The introduction of the Book of Daniel is written in Hebrew, the body is written in Biblical Aramaic, then the Masoretic text concludes the book with a return to Hebrew. The book consists of a series of six third-person narratives (chapters 1-6) followed by four apocalyptic visions in the first-person (chapters 7-12)

The prophet Ezekiel, with whom Daniel was a contemporary, describes a Daniel as a "pattern of righteousness" in the Book of Ezekiel 14:14, 20 and "wisdom" (28:3).

Samarkand, the former capital city of powerful Timurleng.

The fifth century B.C. Jerusalem has been destroyed and sacked by Babylon King Nebuchadnessar. Among the Jewish young men seized and enslaved by the Babylonians there was the would-be great Biblical prophet Daniel. It was he who wrote the famous Book of Prophecies, sacred for three world religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

600 years ago the fearful Emperor Timurleng brought the prophet's remains to this city from Babylon. Nowadays, life is at its large around them.
In Samarkand, the former capital city of powerful Timurleng, there has since time unknown existed three religious communities: the Moslems, the Jews, and the Christians. For them all, the Prophet's tomb is sacred.

However, the prophet's tomb has not become an object of violent disagreements, unlike the holy places in Palestine. How was it possible that this "oasis of peace" was formed in Samarkand? How can the three communities support the fragile balance of benevolent relations? For the first time in history, on the threshold of the third millennium, we are diving into the closest secrets of the three Samarkand communities and discovering the way in which this peaceful island has existed. We reveal enigma of this magnificent city and it's great people.

(source: CORONA FILMS, 2006)

Samarkand - where Muslim, Christian and Jew come to pray

There is hardly any place in the world is where Muslim, Christian and Jew come to pray, the mausoleum of Khoja Daniyar, also known as Daniiel, or Daniel, Samarkand, is the place where Christian, Muslim and Jews come to pray.

Samarkand is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, prospering from its location on the trade route between China and the Mediterranean (Silk Road). At times Samarkand has been one of the greatest cities of Central Asia.

Founded circa 700 BC by the Sogdians, Samarkand has been one of the main centres of Iranian civilization from its early days. It was already the capital of the Sogdian satrapy under the Achaemenid dynasty of Persia when Alexander the Great conquered it in 329 BC. The Greeks referred to Samarkand as Maracanda.

The Travels of Marco Polo, where Polo records his journey along the Silk Road, describes Samarkand as a "a very large and splendid city..." Here also is related the story of a Christian church in Samarkand, which miraculously remained standing after a portion of its central supporting column was removed.

In the mid-seventh century AD, Sa-mo-kien, as the Chinese called it, was visited by the Buddhist monk Hsuan-tsang (602-649 AD), whose memoirs give us a good idea of what life was like in the area prior to the advent of Islam. At this time, the residents of the city were mostly Zoroastrians, although Buddhism was known and Nestorian Christianity had also been introduced into the area.

Christianity came to Central Asia from Persia in the 1st Century. According to legend, the Apostle Thomas went to Samarkand (now a city in Uzbekistan) by the Great Silk Road and appointed several bishops there. Documents confirmed that in the 2nd & 3rd Centuries there were Christian churches in that region and Christianity spread mainly through Nestorian Christians.

The Nestorian patriarch had raised it to the rank of metropolitan see, possibly as early as the beginning of the fifth century and certainly by the early seventh century. Different authorities give different dates, although it was certainly in existence by the patriarchate of Theodosius (852-858) and probably by the time of Saliba-Zakha (712-728). Various historical documents, both Christian and Muslim, give evidence of the continuing status of Christianity in Samarkand from the time of the Arab invasion up to the establishment of Mongol power in the area. (“Nestorian Christianity in Central Asia”, by Mark Dickens)

However, around the 14th Century Christianity started to be wiped out by Islam and Buddhism and practically disappeared for several centuries. Tamerlane engaged in a fierce campaign to externimate Chrisitanity within his empire. The last Christian churches in Samarkand and Central Asia were destroyed by his grandson, Ulugh Beg.

Samarkand, Uzbekistan - the crossroad of cultures

Samarkand (Greek: Marakanda) is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, prospering from its location on the (Silk Road) trade route between China and Europe. At times Samarkand has been the greatest city of Central Asia, and for much of its history it has been under Persian rule. Founded circa 700 BCE it was already the capital of the Sogdian satrapy under the Achaemenid dynasty of Persia when Alexander the Great conquered it in 329 BCE . Under Sassanid Empire of Persia, Samarkand flourished and became one of the most important cities of the Persian empire.

Under Abbasid rule, the secret of paper making was obtained from two Chinese prisoners from the Battle of Talas in 751, which led to the first paper mill in the Islamic world to be founded in Samarkand. The invention then spread to the rest of the Islamic world, and from there to Europe (either through Spain or through crusaders).

From the 6th to 13th centuries it grew larger and more populous than modern Samarkand and was controlled by the Western Turks, Arabs (who converted the area to Islam), Persian Samanids, Karakhan Turks, Seljuk Turks, Karakitay, and Khorezmshah before being sacked by the Mongols in 1220. A small part of the population survived, but Samarkand suffered at least another Mongol sack by Khan Baraq to get treasure he needed to pay an army with. The town took many decades to recover from these disasters.

Samarkand - the city of Tamerlane

In the 14th century Samarkand became the capital of the empire of Timur (Tamerlane) or Timurid dynasty(1370-1506), and it is the site of his mausoleum (the Gur-e Amir). The Bibi-Khanym Mosque remains one of the city's most notable landmarks.

In 1370, Timur the Lame, also known as Tamerlane(8 April 1336 – 18 February 1405), decided to make Samarkand the capital of his projected world empire, which extended from India to Turkey. For the next 35 years, he built a new city, populating it with artisans and craftsmen from all of the places he had captured. Timur gained a reputation for wisdom and generosity, and Samarkand grew to become the center of the region of Transoxiana. Timur was a 14th-century conqueror of West, South and Central Asia, and the founder of the Timurid dynasty in Central Asia, and great-great-grandfather of Babur, the founder of the Mughal Dynasty, which survived as the Mughal Empire in India until 1857.

While Central Asia blossomed under his reign, other places such as Baghdad, Damascus, Delhi and other Arab, Georgian, Persian and Indian cities were sacked and destroyed and their populations massacred. He was responsible for the effective destruction of the Christian Church in much of Asia. Thus, while Timur still retains a positive image in Muslim Central Asia, Persia, and Arab countries, he is vilified by many in India, where some of his greatest atrocities were carried out.

Timur died enroute during an uncharacteristic winter campaign against the ruling Chinese Ming Dynasty. It was one of the bitterest winters on record; his troops are recorded as having to dig through five feet of ice to reach drinking water. His body "was embalmed with musk and rose water, wrapped in linen, laid in an ebony coffin and sent to Samarkand, where it was buried." His tomb, the Gur-e Amir, still stands in Samarkand, though it has been heavily restored in recent years.

On his deathbed, Timur named his grandson,son of Jahangir, Pir Muhammad (b1374-d1407)as his successor. This by pass his other surviving sons, Miran Shah suffered from mental difficulties, and Shah Rukh was judged too pious to rule. Unfortunately for Pir Muhammad, he was not supported by any of his relatives following Timur's death. He was unable to assume command in Samarkand and was murdered by his vizier in 1407.

Because of mental difficulties caused by an accident, Miran Shah(b1366-d1408) was not a candidate for succeeding Timur.In the struggle that followed Timur's death in 1405, his son Aba Bakr managed to oust Jalayirid forces from Tabriz and Miran Shah reestablished himself in Azerbaijan. At the same time, Miran Shah supported another son, Khalil Sultan, in his claims the throne. Miran Shah was later killed in the battle in 1408.

Khalil Sultan(died in 1411), son of Miran Shah and a grandson of Timur, took over as ruler.Khalil Sultan's rule(1405-1409)in Samarkand finally ended when Shah Rukh entered the city unopposed on May 13, 1409. Shāh Rukh was the fourth and youngest son of Timur and child of one of his concubines. Transoxiana was then given to Shah Rukh's son Ulugh Beg. Khalil decided to surrender to Shah Rukh, who had captured his wife Shad Mulk. He received his wife back, and was appointed governor of Ray. He died there in 1411. His wife committed suicide shortly after his death.

Ulugh Beg(b 1394-d 1449), Timur's grandson,oldest son of Shah Rukh ruled the country for 40 years(1409-1449). In Samarkand, Ulugh Beg created a scientific school that united outstanding astronomers and mathematicians. He also ordered the construction of an observatory; it contained a gigantic but precision-made marble sextant with an arc length of 63 meters. Ulugh Beg is also founder of uzbek language and uzbek nation.

(source: wikipedia)

As Timurid power in Transoxiana faltered after the deaths of Shah Rukh and Ulugh Beg, the city ceased to be as important as it had been. In 1447, it was sacked by the Uzbeks, who were to return half a century later to set up yet another Turkic dynasty in the area. After the demise of Timurid rule in Central Asia, Samarkand came under a succession of Persian, Turkic, and even Chinese rulers.

In the 16th century,Shaybanids moved their capital to Bukhara, and Samarkand went into decline. After an assault by the Persian warlord Nadir Shah, the city was abandoned in the 18th century.

The city was eventually captured by the Russians in 1868 as this new power from the north expanded into Turkestan ("Land of the Turks"), as the area was known at that time. It is today a major city in the Republic of Uzbekistan, one of five Central Asian republics which emerged from the rubble of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In 2001, UNESCO added the city to its World Heritage List as Samarkand – Crossroads of Cultures.

Further readings
1. Book of Daniel, The Bible

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