The Secular Conception of Greater Khorasan

Dr. G.M. Athar
December 27, 2017 OPINION 659 Views
The Secular Conception of Greater Khorasan

The ‘Khorasan’ as a geopolitical region was first established by the Sasnians in the 3rd century C.E. It included the current three provinces of Khorasan in Iran, parts of Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Khorasan in its proper sense comprised principally the cities of Balkh, Heart and Ghazni (Afghanistan), Nishapur and Tus ( Iran), Merv (Turkmenistan), Samarqand and Bukhara (Uzbekistan). However, the term Khorasan has been used by the Muslim geographers and historians in the past to cover a larger region that encompassed most of Transoxiana and Soghdiana in the north, extending westward to the Caspian Sea, southward to include the Sistan desert and eastward to the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan. Arab geographers even spoke of its extending to the boundaries of ancient India, possibly as far as the Indus valley, in what is now Pakistan. Sources from the 14th to the 16th century report that Kandahar, Ghazni and Kabulistan in Afghanistan formed the eastern part of Khorasan, overlapping with Hindustan.
The history of Khorasan stretches back to very ancient times. It was part of the Achaemenian Empire of the 6th to 4th century BC and the Parthian empire, which spanned from the 3rd century BC to the 3rd century CE. The Sasanians in the 3rd century CE, organized their empire into four quarters named from the cardinal points, Khorāsān being literally the “Land of the Sun.” After the Arab conquest in 651–652 CE, the name was retained both as the designation of a definite province and in a looser sense. At first the Arabs used the area as a march, or garrisoned frontier, but soon large colonies of Arabs moved in, especially around Merv, and melting of Islamic and eastern Iranian cultures ensued. Later Khorāsān regained virtual independence under the Tahirid, Saffarid and Samanid dynasties (821–999). Successively it formed part of the Ghaznavid, Seljuq and Khwarezm Shah kingdoms but was overrun by Genghis Khan in 1220 and again by Timur (Tamerlane) about 1383. The Iranian Safavid kings (1502–1736) fought over it against Uzbek invasions. It was occupied by the Afghans from 1722 to 1730. Nader Shah born in Khorāsān, broke the Afghan supremacy and made Mashhad the capital of his Iranian empire. Khorāsān’s current Iranian frontiers were defined in 1881 and in a convention of July 8, 1893. This gave form to the modern Iranian province of Khorāsān, which was split into three smaller provinces in 2004.
The geopolitical conception of Greater Khorasan as a non-Arab Muslim dominated geographical region surrounded by Russia in the north, China in east, India and Arabian Sea in the south and Arab World in the west is the cradle of Iranian and Central Asian civilization. The Turkic nations of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Eastern Turkestan as well as the Muslim dominated Greater Kashmir are also part of the Greater Khurasan. The Arabic speaking Muslim nations of the West Asia and North Africa have been deliberately excluded because of the historical Arab-Ajam cleavage. The Arab and non-Arab Muslim nations are the essential components of much larger Muslim World enjoying a higher order geopolitical mandate to safeguard interests of Muslims internationally. In this sense the conception and geopolitical mandate of Greater Khurasan is different from that of the Muslim World. Greater Khorasan is the expression of the Muslim supranational solidarity of relatively smaller ethnic groups to establish a multinational regional union to resist the hegemony and growing influence of major powers like United States, China, Russia, Europe, and Arab World etc. in the region. The Greater Khorasan is dominantly inhabited by Muslim population. The region has been significantly modernized during the 20th century. The Central Asian States, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Eastern Turkestan and Greater Kashmir have been transformed under the European, Russian and Chinese influence. The great secular leaders like, Kemal Ata Turk of Turkey and Raza Shah Pehlawi of Iran made their huge contribution in liberating their countries from traditionalism and religious orthodoxy.
The use of the term Greater Khorasan in a secular sense refers to the region dominated by the cultural Muslims. The Turkic countries like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Eastern Turkestan and Turkey are modernized whereas the modernization project in Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Greater Kashmir has received a huge setback due to the rise of Islamic political forces in these countries. The Cold War rivalry between the United States and the former Soviet Union has negatively impacted the process of emancipation and modernization in the Greater Khorasan region. The process of secularization of the society was to be achieved through the medium of education but it became a political enterprise in most of the countries in Greater Khurasan. The political opposition in response mobilized the clergy class to resist the process of emancipation in many countries of the region. The control over state apparatus by Islamic forces in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey has to a large extent reversed the process of modernization in these countries. The political aspiration of the Islamic State to establish Khilafat in the Muslim World can have serious negative consequences for the Greater Khorasan. The unity and solidarity among the Muslims of Greater Khorasan has to be achieved through secular political discourse. The modern educational establishments rather than political institutions can bring about social change in the Muslim dominated Greater Khorasan.
There is a serious need to popularize the Greater Khorasan regional consciousness in the non-Arab Muslim countries of Chahar Darya Region extending from Volga river in the northwest to Irtysh river in the northeast and from Tigris river in the southwest to Indus river in the southeast. The Economic Cooperation Organization can be used as a multinational forum to enhance social, cultural, economic, political and strategic cooperation in the Greater Khurasan. The establishment of a multi-campus University of Khorasan can be the first step towards deepening regional consciousness through academic interaction in the region. The revival of Persian language and its Nastaliq script can strengthen the emotional bonds among the people. Promotion of Persian as a link language among different lingual groups of Greater Khurasan can also help in enhancing the regional consciousness. The collaboration of print media, electronic media and cultural industry in Greater Khurasan can also help in deepening regional consciousness in the region. The establishment of Khurasan Parliament can take the regional solidarity to its full zenith provided the regional integration project is pursued through consensus.

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