Monday, May 13, 2013

Sunday, May 12, 2013


(b. c. 600, Mecca; d. Jan. 661, Kufah, Iraq), in full Ali Ibn Abu Talib , son-in-law of -Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, and fourth caliph (successor to Muhammad), reigning from 656 to 661. The question of his right to the caliphate resulted in the only major split in Islam (into Sunni and Shiah branches). He is revered by the Shiahs as the only true successor to the Prophet.

Ali was the son of Abu Talib, uncle of Mohammad. Muhammad took Ali under his care when Abu Talib was greatly improvised following a drought. When Muhammad felt God's call to become his Prophet, Ali, though only 10 years old was one of the first to convert to Islam and remained his lifelong devoted follower. According to legend Ali risked his life by sleeping in the Prophet's bed to impersonate him the night that Muhammad fled from Mecca to Medina in 622 to escape from enemies who were plotting to assassinate him. Ali also carried out Muhammad's request to restore all the properties that had been entrusted to him as a merchant to their owners in Mecca. Thereafter reaching Medina he married Muhammad's daughter Fatimah, who bore him two sons, Hasan and Husain.

Ali always displayed rare courage in battle during the military expeditions Muhammad undertook to consolidate Islam and obtained a lion's share of the booty. Also one of Muhammad's scribes, Ali was chosen to lead several important missions. When the hostile inhabitants of Mecca finally accepted Islam without battle, it was Ali who smashed the pagan idols in the Kabah (holy shrine). Muhammad died on June 8, 632. Some say he had unequivocally nominated Ali as his successor while he was returning from his "farewell pilgrimage" to Mecca. Others reject this claim, maintaining that Muhammad died without naming a successor. While attending the last rites of the Prophet, Ali was confronted by the fact that Abu Bakr, Muhammad's closest friend and father of Aishah (one of the Prophet's wives), had been chosen caliph. Not wanting a bloody tribal strife, Ali did not actively assert his own rights. He retired to a quiet life, during which religious work became his chief occupation. He is credited with the chronologically arranged version of the Quran. His excellent knowledge of the Quran and Hadith (sayings and deeds of Muhammad) aided the caliphs in various legal problems.  

Following the murder of the third caliph Uthman, Ali was invited by the Muslims of Medina to accept the caliphate, to which he reluctantly agreed. His brief reign was beset by difficulties due mostly to the corrupt state of affairs he inherited. Acutely aware of the neglect of the Quran and the traditions of Muhammad that his predecessors had allowed to develop, he based his rule on the Islamic ideals of social justice and equality. His policy was a blow to the interests of the Quraish aristocracy of Mecca who had grown rich in the wake of the Muslim conquests. In order to embarrass Ali, they demanded that he bring Uthman's murderers to trial, and when he rejected their request, a rebellion against him was instigated in which two prominent Meccans along with Aishah, Muhammad's widow and the daughter of Abu Bakr, the first caliph, took a leading part. This rebellion, known as the Battle of the Camel (the camel ridden by Aishah), was quelled. A second rebellion was on the point of being crushed when its leader, Muawiyah, a kinsman of Uthman and the governor of Syria, averted defeat by proposing arbitration. Ali saw through the stratagem but was forced by his army to accept the arbitration, which greatly weakened his position. Soon, he had to fight some of the very people who had earlier forced him to accept arbitration but now denounced it. Known as Khawarij (Seceders), they were defeated by Ali in the Battle of Nahrawan. Meanwhile, Muawiyah followed an aggressive policy, and by the end of 660 Ali had lost control of Egypt and of the Hejaz. While praying in a mosque at Kufah in Iraq, Ali was struck with a poisoned sword by a Kharijite, intent on avenging the men slain at Nahrawan. Two days later Ali died and was buried near Kufah.

Ali's political discourses, sermons, letters, and sayings, collected by Ash Sharif ar-Radi (d. 1015) in a book entitled Nahj al-balaghah (The Road of Eloquence) with commentary by Ibn Abi al-Hadid (d. 1258), are well known in Arabic literature.


   (b. 356 BC, Pella, Macedonia; d. June 13, 323 BC, Babylon), also known as Alexander III or Alexander of Macedonia , king of Macedonia (336?323 BC). He overthrew the Persian empire, carried Macedonian arms to India, and laid the foundations for the Hellenistic world of territorial kingdoms. Between the ages of 13 and 16, he was taught by Aristotle, who inspired his interest in philosophy, medicine, and scientific investigation. He would later advance beyond his teacher's narrow precept that non-Greeks should be treated as slaves. In 336 BC, on the assassination of his father and reigning monarch Philip II, Alexander was acclaimed by the army and succeeded without opposition. A dynamic personality, he immediately executed the princes of Lyncestis, alleged to be behind Philip's murder, along with all possible rivals, and the whole of the faction opposed to him. Marching south, he recovered a wavering Thessaly, and at an assembly of the Greek League at Corinth was appointed generalissimo for the forthcoming invasion of Asia, already planned and initiated by Philip.

Invasion of India

Alexander crossed into India in 327 BC with a reinforced army consisting of 35,000 men under a reorganized command. After crossing the Hindu Kush, by the Bamian and Ghorband valleys, Alexander divided his forces into two. Half the army, led by Hephaestion and Perdiccas - both cavalry commanders - was sent through the Khyber Pass, while he himself led the rest through the hills to the north. Advancing through Swat and Gandhara he stormed the almost invincible pinnacle of Aornos (modern day Pir-Sar, Pakistan), a few kilometres west of the Indus and north of the Buner river. It was an impressive feat of siege craft. In the spring of 326 BC, he entered Taxila after crossing the Indus near Attock. Taxiles, the ruler of Taxila, furnished elephants and troops in return for support against his rival Porus, who ruled the lands between the Hydaspes (Jhelum) and the Acesines (Chenab) rivers. He founded two cities there, Alexandria Nicaea and Bucephala. In June, Alexander fought his last great battle on the left bank of the Hydaspes.

How much Alexander knew of India beyond the Hyphasis river (probably the modern Beas) is uncertain, but he was anxious to press on. On reaching the Hyphasis, his weary army mutinied, refusing to go further in the harsh tropical conditions. Finding the army adamant, Alexander was forced to turn back.

He erected 12 altars to the 12 Olympian gods on the Hyphasis, and on the Hydaspes he built a fleet of 800 to 1,000 ships. Nearchus and Onesicritus, commanders in Alexander's army later wrote accounts of the return march. The march was attended with much fighting and heavy, pitiless slaughter; at the storming of Malli near the Hydraotes (Ravi) river, Alexander received a severe wound that left him weakened. On reaching Patala, located at the head of the Indus delta, he built a harbour and docks and explored both arms of the Indus, which probably then ran into the Rann of Kutch (Kachchh). He planned to lead part of his forces back by land, while the rest in 100 to 150 ships. In September 325 BC, Alexander set out along the coast through Gedrosia (modern Baluchistan). He was forced to turn inland because of the mountainous country. Alexander's march through Gedrosia proved disastrous. The waterless desert and shortage of food and fuel caused great suffering, and many, especially women and children, perished in a sudden monsoon flood while encamped in a valley.

Returning to Susa, the capital of Elam and administrative centre of the Persian empire, Alexander carried out an expedition against the Cossaeans in the spring of 324. Suddenly, in Babylon, Alexander was taken ill after a prolonged feasting and drinking session. On June 13, 323 BC, he died in his 33rd year; he had ruled for 12 years and eight months. His body was diverted to Egypt by Ptolemy, a general in Alexander's army. (He later declared himself king and was known as Ptolemy I.) Alexander's final resting place is in Alexandria. He received divine honours both in Egypt and elsewhere in the Greek cities.  


  (Sanskrit: conversation), also spelt aalap , in Indian classical music, an improvised tune structured to reveal the melodic possibilities of a raga. Occurring principally in the introductory section of a performance without rhythmic accompaniment, an alapa is free and rhapsodic in character. With only a drone (sustained-tone) accompaniment, the musician gradually introduces the essential notes and melodic turns of the raga. Only when the soloist is satisfied that he has fully explored the raga and has established its unique mood and personality will he proceed, without interruption, to the metrically organized section of the piece. The first beats of the drum - usually included in a formal concert - serve as a signal that the alapa has concluded.  


  (b. June 6, 1699, Multan [now in Pakistan]; d. Nov. 29, 1759, Delhi), in full Aziz-ud-Din Alamgir II , Mughal emperor of India, a weak man with little regard for his subjects' -welfare. The son of Emperor Jahandar Shah (reigned 1712?13), Alamgir was placed on the throne by the imperial vizier (wazir) Imad ul-Mulk Ghazi-ud-Din, who had -deposed his predecessor. On ascending the throne, he took the title of Alamgir II and tried to follow the approach of Aurangzeb Alamgir. Provoked by the vizier's attempt to reassert control over the Punjab, the Afghan ruler Ahmad Shah Durrani had his agents occupy an "unprotected" Delhi in January 1757. After the city was secured, Alamgir was confirmed emperor of Hindustan but in name only . He was in effect Ahmad Shah's puppet.   Threatened in 1759 with another Afghan invasion and the possibility of Alamgir's being captured and used against him, Ghazi-ud-Din had the emperor murdered.  


 also spelt (Pinyin) Akesaiqin , isolated, inhospitable, and mostly uninhabitable plain on the northern tip of the Indian subcontinent, in the Hindu Kush and Karakoram mountain ranges. Geographically an extension of the Tibetan Plateau, it is Considered a part of Ladakh, India. The Chinese call it the White Stone Desert. Aksai Chin figured in the boundary discussions between India and China in 1960, and severe fighting took place in Ladakh during the 1962 Indo-China conflict. It concluded with China seizing about 38,000 sq km of Indian territory in Aksai Chin, in addition to another 5,180 sq km of northern Kashmir that Pakistan later relinquished to Beijing under the 1963 pact.  


(Sanskrit: doctrine denying the effect of deeds), set of beliefs held by heretic teachers in India who were contemporaries of the Buddha. The doctrine denied the orthodox karmic theory regarding the effect of former deeds on a person's present and future condition. But, consequently, it also denied the possibility of a person influencing his own destiny by preferring right conduct over bad conduct. The doctrine's teachers were therefore severely criticized for immorality by their religious opponents, including Buddhists. Their views are known only through uncomplimentary references in Buddhist and Jain literature. Among the heretic teachers whose names are known are Purana Kashyapa, Goshala Maskariputra, Ajita Keshakambalin, and Pa-kudha Katyayana. Goshala's followers formed the Ajivika sect, which enjoyed some acceptance during the Maurya period (third century BC) before dwindling into oblivion.