Jalāl al-Dīn Expands the Khwārizmian Empire Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

During the Mongol invasions of the Khwārizmian Empire, Jalāl al-Dīn Mingburnu resisted the armies of the Mongols until Genghis Khan defeated him at the Indus River in 1231. Although much of the empire of his father, Muḥammad Khwārizmshāh II, had fallen to the Mongols, Jalāl al-Dīn still sought to carve a new empire.

Summary of Event

Following his defeat by Genghis Khan Genghis Khan at the Indus River in 1231, Jalāl al-Dīn Mingburnu spent three years in India. After a number of failed endeavors to make an alliance with the sultanate of Delhi, Jalāl al-Dīn went west to ՙIraq-i-ՙAjam. After the death of his father, Muḥammad II Muḥammad II (Khwārizm ruler) , during the Mongol invasion, Jalāl al-Dīn had been named sultan. In spite of his title, Jalāl al-Dīn was a king without a kingdom. Thus, he sought to establish a new one on the ruins of his father’s empire. [kw]Expansionism of Jalāl al-Dīn Mingburnu of Khwārizmian Empire (1225-1231) [kw]Jalāl al-Dīn Mingburnu of Khwārizmian Empire, Expansionism of (1225-1231) [kw]Khwārizmian Empire, Expansionism of Jalāl al-Dīn Mingburnu of (1225-1231) Khwārizmian Empire[Khwarizmian Empire] Jalāl al-Dīn Mingburnu Iran;1225-1231: Expansionism of Jalāl al-Dīn Mingburnu of Khwārizmian Empire[2320] Central Asia;1225-1231: Expansionism of Jalāl al-Dīn Mingburnu of Khwārizmian Empire[2320] Turkey;1225-1231: Expansionism of Jalāl al-Dīn Mingburnu of Khwārizmian Empire[2320] Expansion and land acquisition;1225-1231: Expansionism of Jalāl al-Dīn Mingburnu of Khwārizmian Empire[2320] Government and politics;1225-1231: Expansionism of Jalāl al-Dīn Mingburnu of Khwārizmian Empire[2320] Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;1225-1231: Expansionism of Jalāl al-Dīn Mingburnu of Khwārizmian Empire[2320] Jalāl al-Dīn Mingburnu Genghis Khan Ghiyāth al-Dīn al-Ashrāf Keykubād Chormaqān Taimas

En route to ՙIraq-i-ՙAjam in 1224, he confirmed vassals in Kermān and Fārs (both in Iran). The rulers of these cities were former generals under his father. Rather than attempt to establish new kingdoms, they accepted his suzerainty in exchange for maintaining their governorship of their regions.

Once in ՙIraq-i-ՙAjam, Jalāl al-Dīn quickly deposed his brother Ghiyāth al-Dīn Ghiyāth al-Dīn , who had established himself as ruler in the region. Jalāl al-Dīn then began to expand his new empire by invading Azerbaijan (now in Azerbaijan and Iran) in the winter of 1224-1225. By the middle of summer, he had successfully captured the capital, Tabrīz (now in Iran), on July 25, 1225. The following year, Jalāl al-Dīn invaded the Christian kingdom of Georgia and sacked Tbilisi in March, 1226.

Further conquests were placed on hold because of a rebellion in that same year. Rebellions and expansion, however, were the least of Jalāl al-Dīn’s concerns in 1227, for the Mongols reappeared. After an absence of six years, the Mongols again invaded Iran Khwārizmian Empire[Khwarizmian Empire];Mongol invasion of . The invasion force, however, was small compared to the force that defeated Jalāl al-Dīn in 1221. Jalāl al-Dīn’s army encountered the Mongols near the city of Eşfahān Eşfahān, Battle of (1221)[Esfahan, Battle of (1221)] (now in Iran). Sources vary in the accounts of the battle, with some granting victory to the Mongols and others to Jalāl al-Dīn. In any case, because of heavy losses, the Mongols retired back to Central Asia.

With the Mongols’s absence, Jalāl al-Dīn resumed his conquests and attempts to expand his new empire in Western Asia. In 1229, he again invaded Georgia and later laid siege to the city of Akhlāt (now in Turkey). The siege of Akhlāt, however, gained the attention of other Muslim powers in the Middle East, which began to view Jalāl al-Dīn as a threat to their own states. Thus, in August, 1230, Sultan al-Ashrāf Ashrāf, al- (sultan of Aleppo and Damascus) of Aleppo and Damascus (now Syria) and Sultan Keykubād Keykubād of Rum (now Turkey) defeated Jalāl al-Dīn at the Battle of Erzincan Erzincan, Battle of (1230) (now in Turkey) on August 10, 1230.

Jalāl al-Dīn’s defeat had significant repercussions. First, this was his first significant defeat since returning from India, as the battle with the Mongols at Eşfahān was indecisive. Second, the defeat ended Jalāl al-Dīn’s westward expansion. Although Jalāl al-Dīn had gained a reputation as a great warrior and had portrayed himself as the bulwark protecting the Islamic world from the Mongols, the defeat demonstrated that other Muslim leaders did not necessarily see a difference between his conquests and those of the Mongols. On hearing that a new and much larger Mongol army under the command of Chormaqān Chormaqān had entered Iran, Jalāl al-Dīn attempted to establish an alliance with al-Ashrāf and Keykubād, the very men whom he defeated earlier in the year. They declined his offer.

While Chormaqān consolidated Mongol gains in Iran, another force marched against Jalāl al-Dīn. He narrowly escaped capture and death while wintering in the Mughān plain (now in Azerbaijan). At the time, Jalāl al-Dīn thought the Mongols were still several hundred miles away, and thus he attempted to gather his forces in case of a Mongol attack in the Mughān plain, where there was plenty of pasture for his cavalry. The Mongols, however, surprised him there. He fled to the environs of Lake Urmia (now in Iran) while the Mongols shattered his army. He had eluded the Mongols.

After his forces returned without Jalāl al-Dīn, Chormaqān directed a lieutenant, Taimas Taimas , to track Jalāl al-Dīn. When Taimas returned to the Mughān, Jalāl al-Dīn again resumed his flight, first to Armenia and then to Akhlāt, again eluding the Mongols. Believing the Mongols had lost his trail, Jalāl al-Dīn then traveled to the city of Amida (now in Turkey) with the remainder of his forces. Even though his scouts found no trace of Taimas’s forces, the Mongols suddenly descended upon Jalāl al-Dīn’s army. Although he escaped while one of his generals, Orkhon, attempted to stave off and dispel the Mongol attack, the Mongols soon recovered and renewed their pursuit. Eventually, however, Jalāl al-Dīn again proved elusive and hid in the mountains of Kurdistan.

His success at avoiding capture, however, did not extend his career. The circumstances are unclear, but in 1231, Jalāl al-Dīn was murdered by Kurdish peasants either to avenge a past crime by Jalāl al-Dīn or simply for gain. Although the ruler of Amid recovered Jalāl al-Dīn’s body and gave it a proper burial, for several years rumors abounded concerning the disappearance of Jalāl al-Dīn. Pretenders occasionally appeared, claiming to be him; this was a risky career because the Mongols often would hunt the pretenders down as well.


The violent, ephemeral empire created by Jalāl al-Dīn had a significant impact on the medieval Islamic world. If not for the Mongols, Jalāl al-Dīn might have developed a stable empire consisting of northern Iraq, Transcaucasia, and western and southern Iran. However, considering that Jalāl al-Dīn’s character tended to focus more on martial exploits than administrative tasks, it can only be speculated whether or not such a state would have existed.

Nonetheless, Jalāl al-Dīn’s five-year expansion changed the face of the medieval world dramatically. The most immediate impact was that his presence and activities attracted the attention of the Mongols. Prior to his return from India, the Mongols had focused their attention on conquering China and made no moves into the Middle East, despite having raided extensively through Iran as well as Transcaucasia in 1220-1221. Indeed, in the years preceding Jalāl al-Dīn’s return, the Mongols expressed very little interest in the area. Chormaqān’s invasion was specifically meant to destroy the last remnant of Khwārizmian power, and to end any threat from Jalāl al-Dīn.

Connected with this, yet directly tied to Jalāl al-Dīn’s conquest, was that the Georgian and Armenian principalities were not in position to make a determined resistance against the Mongols. Jalāl al-Dīn’s efforts against them had been destructive, and the efforts were often repeated. Indeed, he often demonstrated more interest in plunder than achieving a stable empire.

Jalāl al-Dīn’s ultimate defeat and the collapse of his brief empire had further ramifications in the Middle East. After the Mongols defeated him near Amid, his army dispersed across Syria and Turkey. Some entered the service of the Keykubād; others he destroyed as marauders. Still other forces drifted into Syria and served as mercenary bands. They played prominent roles in dynastic struggles among the Ayyūbids, the successors of Sultan Saladin (r. 1174-1193). In addition, one such force of Khwārizmian troops sacked Jerusalem in 1244 while in the pay of Sultan al-Ṣāliḥ Ayyūb Ayyūb of Egypt (r. 1239 and 1245-1249), thus taking the holy city from the rule of the Crusaders for the final time.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Amitai-Preiss, Reuven, and David O. Morgan, eds. The Mongol Empire and Its Legacy. Boston: Brill, 1999. A wide-ranging examination of the Mongol Empire and its historical significance. Includes chapters on the making of the Mongol states, Mongol nomadism, and imperial ideology. Genealogical tables, maps, bibliography, index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Barthold, W. Turkestan down to the Mongol Invasion. Translated by T. Minorsky and edited by C. E. Bosworth. 4th ed. Philadelphia: Porcupine Press, 1977. This classic work remains among the best accounts of the rise and fall of the Khwārizmian Empire. Bibliography, index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bosworth, C. E. “The Eastern Seljuq Sultanate, 1118-1157” and “The Rise and Florescence of the Khwarazm Shahs of Anushtegin’s Line up to the Appearance of the Mongols, 1097-1219.” In History of Civilizations of Central Asia. Vol. 4. The Age of Achievement: A.D. 750 to the End of the Fifteenth Century, edited by M. S. Asimov and C. E. Bosworth. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, 1998. Provides good background to the events just prior to Jalāl al-Dīn’s rise. Bibliography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Fitzherbert, T. “Portrait of a Lost Leader: Jalāl al-Din Khwarazmshah and Juvaini.” In The Court of the Il-Khans, 1290-1340. Edited by Julian Raby and Teresa Fitzherbert. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. Published proceedings of a special conference on Jalāl al-Dīn, with a solid paper on Jalāl al-Dīn by Fitzherbert. Bibliography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Grousset, René. The Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia. Translated by Naomi Walford. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1970. A general history of Central Asia, with a lengthy section on the Mongols, including the activities of Jalāl al-Dīn. Maps, bibliography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Juvayni, Ala al-Din Ata Malik. Genghis Khan: The History of the World-Conqueror. Translated by J. A. Boyle. 2 vols. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1997. An annotated translation of a thirteenth century Arabic source on Genghis Khan, with a long section on not only Jalāl al-Dīn but also the Khwārizmian Empire prior to the Mongols.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Juzjani, Minhaj Siraj. ՙAbakīt-i-Nārī: A General History of the Muhammadan Dynasties of Asia. Translated by H. G. Raverty. 2 vols. New Delhi: Oriental Books, 1970. Written by a witness of the Mongol invasion of Central Asia. Contains several sections on the activities on Jalāl al-Dīn and anti-Mongol in tone.

Categories: History