Collaborative timeline: Dunes of the Desert, a Timeline without Islam

I think that without Islam, and the existence of a Christian elite in the Mongol empire, much more of the world would be conquered. While I'm not sure about the fate of India or Japan, I do know that much more of Europe would fall to Mongol rule, due to the lack of an incentive to fight against anti-Christian forces.
I think that without Islam, and the existence of a Christian elite in the Mongol empire, much more of the world would be conquered. While I'm not sure about the fate of India or Japan, I do know that much more of Europe would fall to Mongol rule, due to the lack of an incentive to fight against anti-Christian forces.
But at the same time they are still not catholic and a lack of Islam could mean less Christian Unity without having to Justify itself against the force of Islam
But at the same time they are still not catholic and a lack of Islam could mean less Christian Unity without having to Justify itself against the force of Islam
Still, even in OTL, with the Protestant-Catholic west considering the Orthodox east a backwater, all nations in Europe still saw Islamic forces (the Andalusians, the Ottomans, etc) as threats. The fact that there were so many diverse and varied religions in the OTL Mongol Empire, with the ruling khans not enforcing their Tengrist practices, was one of the reasons for its dissolution. An upper class closely tied to a universalizing religion could possibly mean stricter law codes and a call for greater unity.
Well, I know that it's still WAY too early to make any reasonable estimates, but I'm still curious if some equivalent of Protestantism or a reformation of some kind will pop up down the line? Given the existence of various gnostic faiths in both OTL and TTL and how they had at least some influence on the later Protestant branches in the early modern era, theologically or otherwise. Then there's the factor of how powerful the catholic church is in this timeline, in ours, its power fluctuated throughout the 1000 years following Italy's fall. So I suppose it has to be seen in the next coming centuries if religious strife within western Europe will outweigh conflict with the east and south.
I am inclined to think that in a world without islam, you have more energy to have theological arguments (see Byzantium). On the other hand, the Church as well will most likely be more powerful, so should there be any tensions, the resulting conflict is likely to be of a higher intensity
Chapter 94: Roshblani Manicheism in Multan
The Indian Subcontinent was shielded by the Himalayas and other natural barriers from the Naiman invasions. Moreover, the Subcontinent itself was culturally and more importantly, climatically distinct, which was also one of the reasons why the Naimans did not invade the area.

Similarly to what was happening elsewhere in Eurasian, the Indian Subcontinet itself saw also some political consolidation. This has not resulted in the full unification of the entire Subcontinent, but powerful regional empires did emerge.

Political map of India
Especially powerful was the Shahdom of Hind, the political heirs of the Mandeshi dynasty, who have established their grip over the Indo-Gangetic plain. The concentration of such power saw a renewal in India´s urban civilization. [1] Previously, the centre of power had been Pataliputra in the lower half of the Gangetic plains, however the Mandeshis have shifted the capital to the Upper Ganges, not far from the Indus valley either. Until now, India was experiencing medieval period very similarly to Europe, with the local power residing in the hands of the military aristocracy; such conditions have been favourable to Hinduism; however under the Shahdom of Hind, which has united much of northern India, power again came to be concentrated and cities attract more and more people from the countryside. Buddhism has become the religion of the city-folk, as well as the religion of the military elites. While a considerable number of the nobility could trace their descent from Mandesh and Zabulistan and other regions of the eastern Iranian plateau, they have adopted the Indian culture relatively fast, leaving few traces of their Persianate heritage[2]. While the Iranian languages of the conquerors did leave behind them some linguistic heritage, the few Pakhtun loanwords were mostly related to military terminology.

The conquerors relied on the light cavalry, which held the empire together, greatly reducing the number of polities and autonomous rulers which had existed in the place before. Effective and centralized administration has allowed the maintenance of monasteries, and Buddhism was again gaining ground in the Ganges valley at the expense of Hinduism. In the rural areas and backwaters, of course the population remained largely unaffected and continued to practice a form of folk devoutness, which can be labelled as Hinduism.

However, in the west, in the region of Multan, it remained Manicheism, which was the popular religion.

The Manichean faith, as it has established a foothold in Multan, it adapted to the local customs, as the Manicheans have been doing anywhere they went. Contact with Samarqand, the seat of the Denawar denomination in Central Asia has weakened; and in the region known to Greeks as Pentapotamia or Pantzab, a new denomination called Roshblani
[3]. The Roshblani sect of Manichaeism has incorporated a number of elements from Hindu and Buddhist practices[4]. The original Gnostic nature of the faith appears to be rediscovered, as the Manichean religion has entered the caste-based society of the Subcontinent. Some early Manichean texts have never made into Pantzab, and as a result the Roshblani denomination has partially diverged from the remaining Manichean denominations[5], although Mazouni merchants travelling the Indus River upstream did recognize the religion as Manichean.


Religion in India. Notice the Roshblani Mancheism in Pantzab
As for the writing systems used in India, we may mention a handful of them. The scripts employed in the Indian subcontinent are descendants of Brahmic, which itself descended from Aramaic. The Brahmic script was later adapted to the individual languages of India, and by the 12th century there are numerous abugidas. Firstly there was the Gupta script, from which the Sharadi[6] script of northern India and Kashmir descended, itself being the ancestor of the Landa script used in the region of Punjab. In the east, in the Brahmaputra and Lower Ganges, the Siddham script developed[7]. Most of northern India would be writing in the Nagari script, however.

Writing systems used in India

The western coast of India was in close contact with Mazoun and Arabia, and trade existed between the Konkani and Malabar Coasts and southern Arabia, resulting in the development of a stronger, more confident merchant class, perhaps a small bourgeoisie in the western coast, where cultures and religions met. While caste distinctions remained in this region as well, they were not as pronounced as in the rest of the Subcontinent.

The northeastern edges of the Deccan Plateau have remained still largely tribal; the Tamil regions in the south of the Subcontinent were the second centre of civilization in India, still maintaining ties to Southeast Asia. In fact, the Tamil regions continued to extend a degree of influence across the *Bay of Bengal*.

With Buddhism rooted in the Gangetic plain, the Indian Subcontinent remains the heart of the Buddhist world, maintaining ties with Tibet and the Khmer regions and Nusantara, as well as the highland regions of the eastern Iranian plateau, being part of the Greater Indosphere.

[1] Buddhism will remain the religion of this urban elite of the Gangetic state. Unlike islam in OTL, Buddhism is not going to be perceived as foreign to the same degree as was islam considered in OTL. Moreover, there will be a considerably higher number of native Indian converts to Buddhism again.

[2] Without islam as the religion of the conquerors, it is much more likely that they would adapt to Indian customs, as the Indian civilization appears to be way more civilized that the highlands of Afghanistan. Of course, some cultural aspects from Afghanistan will be introduced, but not that many as in OTL.

href="#_ftnref3" name="_ftn3" title="">style='mso-special-character:footnote'>class=MsoFootnoteReference>font-family:"Courier New";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-ansi-language:
SK;mso-fareast-language:SK;mso-bidi-language:AR-SA'>[3] style='font-family:"Times New Roman",serif;mso-ascii-theme-font:major-bidi;
mso-hansi-theme-font:major-bidi;mso-bidi-theme-font:major-bidi'>From the Punjabi „Rōśanī bhālaṇa vālē“, meaning light-seekers.

[4] Interestingly enough, the Roshblani are located in the same geographic area as the Sikhs would emerge a few centuries later in OTL. I can imagine this Manichean group to survive in the long-term. You may also consider the fact that as Sikhism was actually intentionally created as a syncretic religion, combining the elements of Islam and Hinduism; Manicheism could also be considered a syncretic religion accpeting the authority of Christianity, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism.

[5] I was going to write „mainstream Manicheism“, but I realized there remains no such thing. Out of the original three denominations „Msadeqi of Middle East, Denawar of Central Asia and Toxoxian of the Uyghurs, only Denwar remains vibrant. Remaining Msadeqi communities of the Gulf have merged with the Mazdakis of Oman, and have diverged significantly as well (and as the Mazdakis are sometimes corrupted to Msadeqi, the confusion has grown. Anyhow, Mazdaki remains the sole Manichean denomination in the Gulf region). And lastly, the Toxoxian faith has submerged into Buddhism.

[6] Used in Kashmir. Today, mostly displaced by Perso-Arabic script.

[7] Used in modern day to write Assamese and Bengali



I've noticed that the footnote links in a lot of your updates appear to be broken, which is a shame. Regardless the situation in India is really interesting so I need to read up on the rest of this timeline so I can actually understand what's going on.
Chapter 95: Mazdaki Merchants in Mazoun
We are taking a look again at the realm of Mazoun to be found at the southern tip of Arabia. During the previous century, Mazoun itself has has been overshadowed by the city-state of Ormus, which controlled the strait of the same name, as well as lands on both the Persian and Arabic shore of the strait. The wealth of Ormus came from its dominance over the trade between India and Mesopotamia, and more frequently than not not have Ormusi merchants resorted to piracy.

Ormus and surrounding realms
The city of Ormus, shielded by its insular localtion, has acknowledged the authority of the Ilkhan, paying a yearly tribute. Despite the tribute, the city still maintains much of its wealth, and has become a place of luxury and lavishness. Indeed, the city has earned a reputation of being one of the morally most corrupt cities on the planet, where the existence of any moral code was largely ignored, be it Christians, Mandeans or Manicheans.
Nominally the majority of Ormusian citizens were of the Msadiqiyya (Mazdaki) Manichean denomination, speaking the Ormusi dialect of Aramaic. Ormus itslef was howeverhome also to a significant number of Baloch descended serfs and a great number of slaves. In fact, the total slave population of the city was estimated to be around twice the number of the free men - and slaves were either bought along the East African coast or were the captured crew of enemy ships.
Slaves were usually employed in doing the manual labour - also in vessels as rowmen and doing all sorts of tasks. As for the soldiers, Ormus employed mainly Baloch tribesmen, ready to fight for a nice sum of money.
Apart from slaves, another very valuable commodity was spices. Ormus commanded most of the spice trade with India.

Linguistic map: the Persian coast of the Ormusi realm has seen the area crowded by fleeing refugees from the rest of Persia, changing linguistic border.
Both Ormus and its rival, Mazoun have welcomed many Persian scholars, fleeing the plunder and havock caused by the ravaging hordes. Although many of them first arrive in Ormus, they were rather disgusted by the state of morale that was omnipresent in the city, as well as by the fact that the city was a liberatarian plutocracy. Many found much better conditions within the realm of Mazoun, where the Dapir created the Grand Academy of Wisdom, and personally funded all scholars. The result was that both Ormus and Mazoun to an even larger degree become centers of innovation

Forms of government in South Arabia

Ormus was ruling over the Emirate of Magan, which was very sparsely populated. The Maganese were also resorting to piracy for livelyhood, however after attacking a few Mazouni vessels, Magan was defeated by Ormus in a swift campaign. Ormus went to war also with Beth Qatriye, where they take over the peninsular and insular regions; the rump realm of Hasa remains independent for the time being. Meanwhile , the Sarlimian schism with Nestorians has ended, as many Sarlimians in the north return under the fold of the Church of the East. Further south, however they embrace Msadeqi Manicheism.

The realm of Mazoun has come under the shadow of Ormus, but still it was a nest of piracy, a base to attack the western coast of India ( although some profit of course came from honest trade). Compared to Ormus, Mazounis appear as "virtuous pirates", where with the doctrine of moderacy and generally the more conservative nature of the Mazouni society at this point makes Mazoun to be viewed as a good arrangement of the society.
The power of the Dapir remains rather strong, with the other institutions being mearly appendices or consultative organs of the Dapir, Therefore, Mazoun is regarded as a monarchy.

The spread of the Msadeqiyya religion

As mentioned, the Msadeqiyya religion has become already widespread in the Indian Ocean trade network - from Mazoun, to the coast of Makrat and Gujarat, also on the islands of Lakshawdeep and Maldives, and making inroads also into Sumatra and Champa. Quite naturally, the Msadeqiyya sect of Manicheism has made inroads also into parts of the African Continent, around the city of Berbera and the Azanian coast. With this said, Msadeqiyya has become the most widespread sect of Manicheism, although heavily divergent.


Mazoun has slightly altered the East Syriac script to better suit their South Arabic language.


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Chapter 96: First Global Empire
The Naimans have managed to do what yet has not been achieved in world history. They have created the world´s largest contiguous empire, larger than the Roman Empire controlling the entire Mediterranean Basin, larger than the Tang empire at its hayday or the empire of Alexander the Great. By conquering the Cuman, Bolghar and Bashkir realms in the northwest, the Naimans took over the Pontic-Caspian Steppe; in the east they conquer the kingdom of Dali and the southern Song dynasty of China as well as Korea. Even mountainous Tibet submits to the Naiman rule, as well as the hill-tribes of the Caucasus (Imereti becomes a tributary as well).

The Naiman Empire stretches from Danube to Korea
In the west, the border is set at the Gorge of the Danube near Vidin. The Rhomaic Empire itself feels threatened and sought peace with the invading horsemen. The Rhomaic forces are defeated at the Battle of Kelezene (1), resulting in the Naimans conquering much of the inland Anatolian plateau, as well as the Syrian interior. The coastal strip in Anatolia and Syria however remains under Rhomaic control, as they can be supplied from the sea (as the Rhomaic fleet is unmatched for the Naimans lack a fleet in the Mediterranean basin).

The sole fact that the entire length of the Silk Road has found itself within the borders of one state, meaning the unification of over a half of the Eurasian landmass (the exceptions being Europe, India, Indochina and the frozen barrens of Siberia) means a connection yet unprecedented. Apart from armies, also merchants and ideas travel from one end of Eurasia to another - with the high progress made in sciences such as astronomy, mathematics and chemistry in Persia and Mesopotamia reaching China; Chinese invention of gunpowder on the other hand revolutionizes the way wars are to be fought across Eurasia. Ironically, it was the widespread dispersal of gunpowder by the Naimans , that would prevent the steppe riders to ever pose such a threat to civilized sedentary realms, as the nomadic steppe tribes lack the technology needed to build canons.

In administering such a vast empire, with many subject peoples, the Naimans needed the empire to be connected and roads to be safe. The Yassa or Great Law greatly punishes banditry and theft; allowing caravans and long-distance trade to prosper. Ports such as Kaffa or Tanais on the Black Sea offered silk and spices to the Europeans, who came to be accustomed to such exotic products. The safety of the trade allowed also that these luxury goods be affordable to larger ammount of people. The Naiman administration inspired itself by the Nestorian Church - and similarly to the already established network of Nestorian monasteries, the Naiman empire established their own network of karavanserays, a functioning postal service called yam. Each station had a sufficient number of horses and riders; and messengers would only ride with a message from one station to the next, with a fresh horse and giving the name of the destination where the letter was supposed to be sent. The messenger would then be given a good meal, a bed and wait for another message to be sent.

One could argue that the Naimans were the first to attempt to establish a form of civic nationalism, as the Naimans army itself was multiethnic and ope to subject peoples from all corners of the empire, organized by a decimal system. While the vast majority of the peoples were Nestorian Christians, the Naiman state was religiously tolerant and allowed for all creeds to exist within the empire , although their preference for Nestorianism was difficult to hide. With almost all Nestorians inside the borders of the Empire, the struggle between Church and State again comes to power. For its part, the Church of the East used to supplement many functions of the state in the Inner Asia regions, especially as the realms in the area were rather weak. With the establishment of such a large empire, the Naimans sought to get the Catholicos of Qtespon under their control, and use to their advantage the already widespread network of monasteries, libraries and hospitals.

One must however not forget the cost, at which the whole continent was unified. The invading armies left many millions dead. It has been written that the conquest of Central Asia and Persia was particularly bloody; the Southern Song dynasty offered heavy resistance (due to the terrain, with many mountain ranges and valleys), which resulted in a very high death toll. But most importantly, the interconnected world meant it easy for the Black Death, originating somewhere in southern China, to ravage the entire Eurasia and Africa. The high death toll in many communities meant that the societies would need start anew, this time allowing for a different mode of societal organization. In the case of Western Europe and Mazoun, it meant higher individualization of the society - as there were relatively fewer men to work, they were now in the position to demand their conditions.

The depopulation also meant that the agricultural area was reduced, allowing for wildlife to return to many parts of both Europe and China. Moreover, the destruction of many ricefields as well as the retreat of European fields results in climate change in the form of global cooling, having the side effects of the Norse in Vinland moving southwards and the rise of North Africa and the Middle East back to prominence...
(1) OTL Erzincan, Turkey
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What language does the Naiman empire use? You mentioned the religion, but with so many diverse peoples... there is a matter of not only the language, but also the script (Latin-Greek-based? Mongolian? Chinese characters?)
What language does the Naiman empire use? You mentioned the religion, but with so many diverse peoples... there is a matter of not only the language, but also the script (Latin-Greek-based? Mongolian? Chinese characters?)
Scholars disagree on what language OTL Naimans spoke, whether it was a Turkic one or Mongolic. The script used is practically the OTL Mongol script.
As for the ethnic makeup, more info will follow up
Chapter 97: Divisions of the Empire and the Yuan Dynasty
However, the long-term existence of such a vast empire was not sustainble- the empire was simply far to large to continue existing as a stable realm, and the major population centres were far apart from each other both geographically and culturally. Therefore, it is not a surprise that eventually the empire will be partitioned amongst the heirs of the Great Khan. The cores around which the successor realms are to emerge are based upon pre-existant centres of civilization (1).

The empire has thus come to be divided into four parts: firstly, the Empire of the Great Khan, in Chinese sources known as the Yuan dynasty, is to cover much of Eastern Asia, spanning from Yunnan to Korea and the Mongol steppes, as far north as Lake Baikal. Then the central parts of Eurasia, based around ancient Sogdia, sometimes known as Neymenistan, to span on both sides of the Tengri mountains. Thirdly, the Ilkhanate, centred upon ancient Persia, including Khorasan (Parthia) and Mesopotamia. and lastly, the Qipchak in the northwest, to include the Cuman and Bolghar realms of old.

In terms of population, the Empire of the Great Khan was clearly the most populous, with the largest part of the population being ethnic Chinese (Han). Other important groups included the Koreans, the Tibetans and the Mongols. (2) The nomadic conquerors were however heavily outnumbered by the ethnic Chinese; the relatively small number of Mongols, and had to hold together should they manage to rule over such a vast number of people - the total population of the Empire could be around 80 million.

The Emperors of the Yuan dynasty had to find a way to accomodate to the Chinese culture, whilst still retaining their nomadic heritage as well. This was not as demanding as one may think it be, as the Mongolian (Naiman) sciety was far less sophisticated, and concepts or ways of dealing with situations that did not exist in the steppe could be just adopted straightforward from the Chinese.

The Emperor on a hunting expedition
The Yuan dynasty has chosen white as its imperial colour and metal as its dynastic metal. Metal succeeds, according to Chinese philosophy the element of earth, which had been chosen by the Jin dynasty of northern China (supposing that their rightful predecessors were the Jurchen conqerors, not the Song of the south). In comparison to the largely feudal Tang dynasty and the more meritocratic Song dynasty, the period of Yuan rule can be described as a time of "opening" of China to the world, a time of globalization. While keeping in place traditional imperial examinations, the Yuan dynasty recruited mainly the so-called Semu people in the administration. The Semu were not an ethnic group per se, rather they would be best described as a caste in the Yuan system.
There would be four castes:
  1. Naimans and Mongols (peoples from the Eastern Steppe, the core of the Naiman Empire)
  2. Semu (foreigners and people from western and central Asia; mostly Nestorian, to a lesser extent also Buddhist and Manichean)
  3. Han (not in an ethnic sense, but relating to all subjects of the later Jin Empire, including Jurchen and Koreans)
  4. Manzi (to decribe all subject peoples of the Song empire in Southern China).
Many Chinese were however sent to Central Asia to serve as administrators, while the Semu were employed to do many government task in China (3), in order to diminish the influence of the locals to prevent a coup. Most of the Emperors would not understand written Chinese; in order for the Naimans and the Semu to command the Chinese tongue, a special script called Phags-pa was devised, based upon the pre-existent Tibetan script. In contrast to the established Chinese script, it was based on a phonetic principle, while the Chinese characters were ideographic. Theoretically, it was thought to be used write down any language within the realm and has been declared the official script. In practice, the Mongols used their own script to write down the language; and outside Korea, it was also used rather scarcely, mainly by the Semu to communicate amongst themselves.

The adoption of a phonetically based script also meant a shift from Classical to vernacular Chinese (called Baihua)

The Semu have brought with them skills in cartography, astronomy, medicine and also plants such as carrots, turnips, sugar or cotton, as well as lemons arrive to Eastern Asia. Western medicine, such as humorist therapy, as well as Assyrian classics have been translated to Chinjese and Nestorian monks have opened hospitals in a number of Chinese cities.


The Church of the East has established four new metropolitan provinces in China: Shaanxi, Sechuan, Henan and Hebei, corresponding with the administriative divisions of the Yuan Empire. The Beth Tuptaye province (blue) was renamed to to Gansu
As for religion, at first it appears, that the Yuan Emperors were favoring all religions, which they labelled as "western" - Buddhism, Nestorianism and Manicheism; while favouring Nestorian Christianity the most. Christianity at this point in time would flourish particularly in the northwest, especially in the Gansu province; and Manicheism in China was concentrated primarily in the coastal areas of the Jiangzho province. However, the gross majority of Chinese maintained a mix of folk, Confucian and Daoist beliefs. Buddhism was present in two forms: Mahayana, a predominantly Chinese form and Vajrayana, favoured in Tibet and Dongbei (4).


Administrative division of Yuan China
Ultimately, however, the later Yuan Emperors took up Buddhism as the state religion, as it already had a large number of adherents, and has been in close contact with the Chinese for a couple of centuries. The Emperors have however chosen the Tibetan variant, and Tibet itself was set aside under the Bureau of Buddhist and Tibetan Affairs; as were all the monasteries; Tibet was thus established as a de facto theocracy. Given the established model of institutional hierarchy present in both Manicheism and Christianity, and the functioning bureaucratic apparatus of China, it has become rather implicit that should the Yuan declare a state church, it will copy the hierarchical precedent of Christianity. With imperial favour going to Buddhism, they have antagonized the Semu communities (5); with the Nestorians being a solid majority in the army and commerce, practically controlling much of the Silk Road trade, and the Manicheans, who have had a long history of bad relations with Buddhists, due to the chameleon nature of Manichean preachers; and Manicheans (controlling most of the maritime trade) have already high unrest...

(1) And yes, it is the same as in OTL, with a Yuan dynasty and *Chagatai realm, the Ilkhanate and the Golden Horde
(2) While the Turkic speaking peoples generally migrated westwards to the other successor realms, it was the Khamag Mongol, the Buryats and the other linguistically related tribes of the east to come and rule over the vast regions of China
(3) Historically, this may be the reason of the rise of Marco Polo to such a prominent position OTL.
(4) Manchuria
(5) Who will develop a specific identity based upon their religion, like the Hui OZL


I see someone got inspired by the Khitan script. And yes, it makes perfect sense that such a vast empire would be divided up ultimately.