Zulfiqar. Prophet’s sword in the Caucasus


Zulfiqar of Kubachi

According to legend, Zulfikar is the most famous sword of pre-Islamic Arabia. This unique sword belonged to one of the noble representatives of the Quraysh tribe from Mecca – Munabbih ibn Hajjaj. The Quraysh, who owned Mecca, but not all who converted to Islam, became natural opponents of Muhammad, who in Medina began to form an army. The first clashes were minor until March 624.

On March 17, 624, the Battle of Badr (western Saudi Arabia in the Medina region) took place. This battle was of little military importance, since on both sides the death toll did not exceed 7% of all participants in the battle. However, the political and religious significance of the Battle of Badr cannot be overestimated. The most amazing legends began to be composed about her. According to one of them, angels fought on the side of the Muslims. One way or another, but this was the first battle in which Muhammad showed his strength and his army.

Zulfiqar.  Prophet's sword in the Caucasus
Battle of Badr

At the same time, Muhammad was a passionate collector of weapons, in particular, swords. During the traditional division of trophies, a beautiful sword, Zulfikar, once belonged to Quraysh Munabbih, fell into the hands of the prophet. Due to the fact that Zulfiqar fell into the hands of the prophet himself, human rumor quickly endowed him with miraculous properties and unheard of impact force.

After the death of Muhammad, the sword fell into the hands of Caliph Ali ibn Abu Talib, who was considered a great warrior. Even then, the sword supposedly knew how to hang in the air, and the force of its blow increased every day until it became equal to the blow of a thousand warriors. And here comes the moment when folklore and religion finally erase the historical truth. According to the Sunni version, Zulfiqar went to the Ottoman sultans through the hands of Ali’s sons and is now kept in the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul. Shiites believe that the sword passed into the hands of the imams and is now hidden along with the twelfth imam al-Mahdi, who will appear to the world before the end of the world.

What did the sword look like?

The same legends and myths that surround Zulfiqar’s origins and history have completely obscured his appearance. There is a legend that one of the owners of the sword, Caliph Ali ibn Abu Talib, once made a mistake, taking it out of its scabbard, which caused the blade to split in half. At the same time, one side of the sword was endowed only with the ability to kill, and the other – to heal. From such a very vague legend, many views of Zulfiqar emerged.

Some believed that the sword was actually a two-edged saber. Others argued that the forked blade, due to inaccuracy in the retelling of legends, meant simply a double-edged sword. Some even saw Zulfiqar as a sword with a single, in fact, blade, but cut along the valley. There was also an opinion according to which Zulfikar took the form of a Turkish scimitar, despite the fact that the scimitars are much “younger” than the events of the early 7th century. Most likely, such views were formed due to the fact that the Ottomans claimed succession from Muhammad.

There is no need to talk about any exceptional fighting qualities of Zulfiqar, except in legends. However, the sword carried powerful political and ritual overtones. No wonder all the same Turkish janissaries decorated their banners with the image of Zulfikar, more precisely, the way they saw him. Zulfiqar was also placed on the graves of fallen soldiers. And on the blades one could often find such an engraving: “There is no sword but Zulfikar, there is no hero but Ali!”

The possession of such a sword among military leaders and nobility almost automatically created an aura of connection around them not with anyone, but with the prophet himself and his imams. And, of course, this increased the military spirit. Each battle became a battle not just for land and wealth, but for faith, and this is a powerful motivation factor.

Nadir Shah and his Zulfikar

Nadir Shah Afshar, the founder of the Afsharid dynasty and shahinshah of Iran, looked at the Caucasus as his fiefdom. Despite the internal fragmentation of his empire and endless intrigues, Nadir, being a military leader and leading a nomadic lifestyle, in 1736 conquered Eastern Transcaucasia from the Turks, annexing Shemakha, Baku and Derbent to the empire. During its heyday, the Nadir empire controlled not only Iran and Azerbaijan itself, but also Armenia, Georgia, Afghanistan, the Bukhara Khanate, and in 1739 Nadir took Delhi in India by storm.


Nadir Shah

According to legend, Nadir Shah was the owner of the graceful Zulfikar. Some believe that this may well be the sword of the prophet himself, but there is no reason to believe this in principle. However, this does not in the least detract from the legendary character of Zulfikar Nadir Shah. It was to this sword (saber) that the famous Avar poet Rasul Gamzatov dedicated his poems:

King of kings – the great Nadir
I glorified, sparkling and ringing,
And in twenty campaigns he is half the world
He was able to conquer with the help of me.

Nadir Shah, who was considered a great conqueror, began a campaign against Dagestan in 1741, led by an army of 100 to 150 thousand soldiers. The great army was divided and moved to conquer the scattered Dagestan in different ways. At the same time, the local khanates and their rulers were preparing for a long war, which Nadir did not expect. The war dragged on for years with varying success for both sides. As a result, the shahinshah’s campaign ended in failure.

Naturally, this war could not but find reflection in folklore. The Avar epic “The battle with Nadir Shah” and the Sheki song “The epic about the hero Murtazali” saw the light. There was also a place in the legends for Zulfikar Nadir. At the same time, the Zulfiqar of the conqueror was very different from those described above. It was a sword with two blades attached to one handle. There were legends about him, according to which the whistle of the wind in this sword, with a swing, stunned the enemy and plunged him into horror. The Shahinshah wielded the sword so skillfully that when struck, the blades closed in the victim’s body and pulled out a piece of meat at once. And with a blow to the head, Nadir could immediately cut off both ears of the unfortunate.

All the same legends say that the reason for the defeat of the shahinshah in Dagestan was the loss of the famous sword in battle. One way or another, but along with the war, Nadir Shah brought to the land of Dagestan a surge in fashion for Zulfikar. Famous Dagestan masters from Kubachi and now abandoned Amuzgi created real masterpieces of jewelry art. Despite the inapplicability in battle, until the beginning of the 20th century, small parties of elegant Zulfiqars from Kubachi and Amuzgi found their buyers.

Kubachinsky Zulfikar

Now in Dagestan museums there are two Zulfikars, the owner of which could have been Nadir Shah. One sword is kept in the village of Kubachi, and the second in the Dagestan State United Museum in Makhachkala. At the same time, some consider the Kubachin sword to be Nadir’s sword, while others consider the sword from Makhachkala. However, there is no clear historical evidence for either one or the other.


Kubachinsky Zulfikar

But the author is more interested in the Kubachi specimen. Kubachi, located in the mountains at an altitude of about 1700 meters above sea level, has long been famous for its craftsmen. In 1924, an artel “Craftsman” was organized in the village, which eventually grew into the Kubachinsky art plant. There is now a small museum at the plant. It is in it that Zulfiqar is kept with an unusually delicate engraving on the handle in the form of an animal head.

According to the deputy director of the plant, Alikhan Urganayev, there is no documentary evidence that the Kubachi Zulfikar belonged to Nadir Khan. But one of the main arguments for the apologists of the Kubachi theory of Nadir Shah and his sword is the fact that the museum of the plant has already been robbed several times. And each time the robbers hunted for Zulfikar.

For the first time in 1993, the robbery was aggravated by the murder of one of the watchmen. But the police worked quickly. From the helicopter, it was possible to find a car of criminals, which did not cope with the mountain “serpentine”. The sword returned to the museum, and the robbers were sent to prison. Then there was a rumor that one of the Iranian billionaires was the customer of the robbery, ready to pay a million dollars for a sword.

In 2000, when the Caucasus again flared up with war, the Kubachi Zulfikar was again under threat. Gangs of militants from the territory of Chechnya hoped to seize the sword, which, according to legend, endowed the owner with mighty power. Fortunately, the weaponry was not damaged.

The last time the robbers managed to steal the sword was in June 2017. The crime was straightforward. Taking advantage of the fact that the museum, like the plant, was guarded by only one watchman, who took a long time to get around the entire complex of buildings, the robbers got inside, breaking the door, and simply took out almost 30% of the exhibits. Among the six graceful sabers was Zulfikar.

Law enforcement agencies were raised on the ears. The national relic, which is the property of not only Dagestan, but all of Russia, could well have flown abroad. Moreover, its cost was estimated from three million rubles to two million euros. Therefore, the people of Kubach did not dream that the relic would ever be returned. Fortunately, they despaired early. Employees were able to contact the organizer of the theft and its participants under the guise of buyers. As a result, it turned out that the organizer (a native of Dagestan) and the performers met in places not so distant, then drawing up a crime plan.

Zulfiqar and all other stolen exhibits returned to their home museum.

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