ISLAM IN INDIA: HISTORY
It is a daunting task to compress the history of thirteen hundred years into a few pages and so we have highlighted only some important but less known events of this period. Simply put by Leftist (and also some British) historians it appears that Muslim invaders simply walked into India and held it tightly for over a thousand years until the British in turn conquered it from them. This is contrary to facts which we have highlighted in this essay. The period has been covered objectively by Dr. S. D. Kulkarni in “Encounter with Islam”1 of the BHISHMA series.
Common Historical Misconceptions
It will be a surprise to most readers who have been fed on the establishment history books to know that it is the Hindus who resisted the onslaught of Arabs for over two centuries unlike the regions west and north of Arabia which succumbed immediately. It took over five hundred years for the Arabs and Turks to lay a foundation for their empire in India and another two centuries before a stable Empire could be formed after Akbar’s reign (1556-1605 AD) which also perished after a century.
It is also a mistake to assume that the Arabs ruled India2. Actually the Arabs did not rule India except Sindh for 150 years and a small kingdom in Madura for a few years, although many Arab families settled in the country. The rulers were mostly Turks and Afghans (several Turk families had settled in Afghanistan from where they came into India) and senior officers apart from them also included those from Iran.
It should be noted that the Turkish race originated in Central Asia which was mostly a part of the erstwhile Soviet Union. In fact the Turks were initially imported as slaves, both domestic and military, from beyond the eastern borders of Islam in the ninth century. They gradually rose to high ranks in the military and ultimately took over the Muslim world as empire builders. From 960 AD onwards whole Turkish tribes got converted and these converts moved to the Middle-East in waves and changed the whole demography of the region including the present day Turkey3. The Turks accepted Islam without any reservations, sank their national identity in it and became its greatest champions even pushing the Arabs to the background. Later on they were joined by another central Asian tribe, the mostly (formerly & nominally) Buddhist Mongols.
Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar (1891-1956), a Hindu apostate who converted to Buddhism and has written a lot against Hinduism and was the architect of India’s Constitution, states in his book on Pakistan 4: “These invasions of India by Muslims were as much invasions of India as they were wars among the Muslims themselves. This fact has remained hidden because the invaders are all lumped together as Muslims without distinction. But as a matter of fact, they were Tartars, Afghans and Mongols. … They were not a loving family cemented by the feeling of Islamic brotherhood. They were deadly rivals of one another and their wars were often wars of mutual extermination. What is, however, important to bear in mind is that with all their internecine conflicts they were all united by one common objective and that was to destroy the Hindu Faith.” It should also be noted that these rulers considered the local converted Muslims as second class Muslims. Aurangzeb (1617-1707, who ruled from 1658-1707), for instance, has often remarked ‘We Turks, you Hindusthanis’ to both Indian Hindus and Muslims. Even in the ‘enlightened’ Moghul period (mostly from 1526-1707), over seventy percent of the senior administrative and military posts were in the hands of Muslim foreigners. There are only a few instances of local Indian Muslims establishing kingdoms like the Sultans of Gujarat and the Nizamshahi of Ahmednagar. Hence there is no substance to the claim by Indian Muslims that they ruled over India for over a thousand years. That even this claim is not true can be seen from the Table given below. It will also be noted that the local Muslims along with their Hindu brethren could not live in peace and tranquility in these tumultuous times in spite of receiving a more favourable treatment from their rulers.
The Hindu kingdoms put up a sustained and valorous resistance to the invaders. It should be remembered that many of the accounts of the Muslim period have been written by Muslim and some British historians and are both distorted and exaggerated in their favour. But ultimately the Hindus in spite of their valour, could not prevent the Muslim invaders from running over India. Many reasons can be given for this. The greatest fault lies in them not studying the scriptures and psychology of the invaders which would have given a clue to their behaviour. Their standards of dharmic i.e. ethical warfare were not reciprocated by the invaders. When they (invaders) lost, they were magnanimously pardoned and allowed to go back. But they used the reprieve only to regroup and attack treacherously again. The Hindus never understood that treachery was an intrinsic feature of their religion practiced by no less a person than their prophet. [“Who is willing to kill Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf who has hurt Allâh and His Apostle?” Thereupon Muhammad bin Maslama got up saying, ‘O Allâh’s Apostle! Would you like that I kill him?’ The Prophet said, ‘Yes.’ Muhammad bin Maslama said, ‘Then allow me to say a (false) thing (i.e. to deceive Ka’b).” The Prophet said, ‘You may say it.’” Then Muhammad bin Maslama went to Ka’b, pretended to be have left Muhammad, and even maligned him and as soon as Ashraf lowered his guard and came down to meet him, he stabbed him and killed him. [Bukhari, 5.59.369]]
Unfortunately this lacunae still persists even today. The Hindus also always fought defensively that is only when they were attacked and then too it was each king for himself. Their intelligence was inadequate if not absent and the enemy could always spring an element of surprise leaving no time for the rulers to equip themselves adequately (except during the time of Shivaji who ruled from 1664 to 1680 and kept a very good intelligence, and some of his successors of the Maratha empire). The Hindus also lacked skills of military organisation, a forte of Muslims. Never did the Hindu rulers, even after convincing victories adopt an aggressive posture and take the trouble of uniting their forces and drive out the invaders once for all from the subcontinent (i.e. the boundaries of today’s India, Pakistan & Bangladesh which was all a part of India before Partition in 1947) and then fortifying the borders. Other shortcomings were excess of superstition, lack of adequate espionage and not keeping the military machine up-to-date.
It may not be farfetched to describe these Islamic invasions as asuric i.e. demonic. Ambedkar quoted above states in his book on Pakistan, “Muhammad of Ghazni ‘demolished idol temples and established Islam. He captured…cities, killed the polluted wretches, destroying the idolaters, and gratifying Muslims’. ..Muhammad bin Qasim’s first act of religious zeal was forcibly to circumcise the Brahmins of the captured city of Debul…. Muhammad of Ghazni from the first adopted those plans that would strike terror into the heart of Hindus….Not infrequently the slaughter of the Hindus gave a great setback to the indigenous culture of the Hindus….Even in the reign of Shah Jahan, we read of the destruction of the temples that the Hindus had started to rebuild…it was left to Aurangzeb to make a final attempt to overthrow idolatry… Slavery was the fate of those Hindus who were captured in the holy war. But, when there was no war the systematic abasement of the Hindus played no unimportant part in the methods adopted by the Muslim invaders…all this was not the result of mere caprice or moral perversion. On the other hand, what was done was in accordance with the ruling ideas of the leaders of Islam in the broadest aspects.”
The British who ruled India later have called this period as the Muslim Period (instead of Turkish Period) and claimed that they captured power from them. By the same logic the European period should also have been called as the Christian Period! Again most of the important conquests of the British of the cities of Delhi, Agra, Lahore and Peshawar, and the bulk of the territory were from Marathas, Sikhs and other non-Muslim rulers. Only the regions in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Bengal, Bihar, Sindh and middle and eastern Uttar Pradesh in India were captured from the Muslim rulers.
EARLY HISTORY OF INVASIONS
Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam was born in 570 AD. From 622 AD when he went to Madina until his death in 632 AD i.e. in a short span of just ten years he consolidated Arabia into a single political and religious unit with his undoubted abilities as a proselytiser and General. The Caliphs who succeeded Muhammad, in spite of internal politicking and bickering, expanded the boundaries of the Muslim Empire within the next 10 – 12 years to cover the territories of the two great powers of the time, the Byzantine and the Sassanid empires. Between 637 and 651 AD Persia was conquered and the Islamic borders touched Afghanistan (Gandhara i.e. today’s Kandhahar) which was then a part of India. Egypt fell in 641 AD. By 718 AD Spain was conquered. Even Southern France was annexed for a few years. Within one hundred years of the Prophet’s death, the Arabs became the masters of a vast region extending from the Bay of Biscay to the Indus and the frontiers of China, and from the Aral sea to the Upper Nile.
As for India, Caliph Umar had sent a naval expedition in 636 AD itself to capture the port of Thane (now a suburb of Mumbai), but the attack was successfully repulsed. Immediately thereafter the ports of Broach in Gujarat and Debal in Sindh were unsuccessfully attacked. Umar wanted to avenge these defeats by attacking Makran (Baluchistan), but the Governer of Iran, Abu Musa, realising that it will be futile in view of the strength of the ruler of Sindh, Chachrai, advised him that ‘.. .he should no more think of Hind (i.e. India)’. It should be noted that this happened at the time when the Arab armies were marching victoriously in the west. Umar wisely decided to concentrate on expanding his sway over Turkish speaking territories of outer Mongolia, Bukhara, Tashkand, Samarkand etc.
During Ali’s reign (656 – 661 AD), his army invaded Sindh again under the leadership of General Heras, which advanced upto Kikan where it was routed with severe losses incurred by them. During the Caliphate of Muwahiyah, six expeditions were lead by the Arabs to capture Sindh but without success. It was only in 680 AD after many attempts and a fierce campaign that Makran or Baluchistan (in today’s Pakistan, then a part of India) was finally subjugated.
Thereafter, no attempt was made for the next thirty years to extend the rule to Sindh proper. In 708 AD, 4000 soldiers under the command of Budial attacked Debal but their army was routed. A larger well equipped force was sent under the leadership of Muhammad bin Kasim. With treachery they captured Debal and advanced to Fort Raor with the help of some Buddhists. Here Dahir, the king of Sindh proved to be an easy target on his elephant. In spite of stiff resistance from his wife and son, Muhammad captured Sindh including Multan after a year in 713 AD. At this stage Muhammad was recalled and there was again a revival of Hindu power and the Arabs were able to retain only a toehold of land along the coastal strip. In 718 AD, Junaid the then Governor of Sindh again defeated Dahir’s son and pressed forward into Gujarat and Kashmir, where their advances were checked by Pulakesin and Lalitaditya respectively and thus the Arabs were again confined only to Sindh.
Conversions to Islam through political pressure began with the conquest of Sindh and Multan by Muhammad bin Qasim between 711 and 713. There was a stiff resistance from Hindus unlike in the West. The Hindus reverted to their old faith as soon as the Arabs turned their back! Hence Muhammad bin Kasim, according to the ruling Ulema of Damascus, accorded Hindus and Buddhists the status of dhimmis (protected subjects) following the precedent set with regard to Zoroastrians. The dhimmis’ willingness to pay Jizyah (poll tax) in addition to other taxes, collectively known as khiraj, meant that they were permitted to repair their places of worship. They were allowed to retain the high offices they had held previously and to worship the gods in their temples. Thus the former Hindu and Buddhist governing classes became the counterpart of dihqan (hereditary village leader) class of Iran and Transoxonia. They acted as intermediaries between the Cultivators and the conquerors who belonged to the military class and had little administrative experience. Muslims became friendly with their Hindu neighboring states and entered into alliances with them. Muslim travelers, merchants and saints freely roamed all over India and later proved to be spies for the Muslim rulers. The liberal Muslim policy lulled the Hindus into complacence and weakened their spirit of resistance.
Coming to Afghanistan, there were two kingdoms, Kabul (then known as Kapisha) and Zabul, ruling the region. The kingdom of Zabul lay south of present day Kabul and was ruled by the Hindu dynasty called Shahs or Shahias. Afghanistan, as late as the seventh century, formed part of India both politically and culturally and constituted the borders of India. Immediately after the fall of Persia, the Muslims turned their attention to it. After initial attacks which were repulsed, the province of Seistan was annexed in 653 AD. They lost it for a while in 683 AD. Attempts to annex the rest of the kingdom were made repeatedly but Ranbal, the ruler repulsed them with bravery. Ultimately, by deceit both kingdoms were captured by the Turk Yakub in 870 AD thus ending the glorious resistance of this border state against mighty hordes for over two hundred years. Even then the kingdom was not fully subjugated and the Shahis continued to rule Kabul until the ruler of Ghazni, Subuktigin, finally conquered Kabul in 987AD.
Penetrating the Indian Heartland
Subuktigin’s son, the famous Muhammad (of Ghazni), also called as Mahmud of Ghazni, ascended the throne in 998 AD and ruled until his death in AD 1030. He invaded India 17 times between AD 1001 & AD 1027. He was a military genius of a high order. He first annexed large territories of Persia and then turned his attention towards India, the largest bastion of idolaters. The earlier attacks were mainly for loot and plunder and the powerful Hindu rulers like the Imperial Guptas of Magadh and Shahis of Afghanistan could contain these. But now Muhammad wanted to over run this ancient civilisation with the intention of wiping out Hindus and Hinduism.
Muhammad (or Mahmud) first attacked Jaipal of Peshawar. The latter was narrowly defeated and unable to bear that defeat, committed suicide. His son Anandpal who succeeded him was also defeated and had to escape to Kashmir. But instead of learning his lesson he offered help to Muhammad when the latter was attacked by another Turkish leader, expecting that he will win Muhammad’s lifelong friendship! This was obviously not reciprocated and Muhammad attacked him again in 1008 AD after quelling the rebellion. Anandpal sought the assistance of neighbouring Hindu rulers. The rival armies camped facing each other for forty days and then a bitter battle ensued. Unfortunately, just as the Hindu forces were about to win, the elephant carrying the king was scared with naphtha balls, and when the army saw it fleeing, lost its courage and fled. But Muhammad too had to return back to Ghazni at that time. After Anandpal’s death, Muhammad attacked again in 1013 AD and gradually eliminated his successors until 1026 AD. Thus the Shahi kingdom which guarded the borders of India for 1500 years since 500 BC came to an end.
Muhammad now turned his attention to other territories. He attacked the Chandellas in 1018 AD. When he saw the powerful enemy army facing him, he returned to Ghazni. The Chandella army at this stage could have decisively finished him, but as usual it was another instance of misplaced generosity. He again returned in 1022 AD but could not penetrate the fort of Kalinjar. Hence he made peace by giving costly gifts to the ruler. Having failed in these attempts he turned his attention to the famous Somnath temple on the western coast (in Gujarat, India). He chose a route via Multan and barren deserts so that he did not have to encounter opposition from the Hindu kings. The 20,000 strong army of the Chalukya king could not stop him and he reached Somnath. This was a well guarded fort and a siege was laid to it. After a bitter struggle lasting for several days, Muhammad penetrated the fort, broke the idol and looted all the temple treasure. He chose another infrequent and difficult route so that the neighbouring powerful Hindu kings could not avenge the desecration and recover the loot. But in the process he could barely manage to reach Ghazni and enroute the Jats of Sindh looted (i.e. got back) much of the wealth carried away from Somnath. It is obvious that the accounts of Muslim historians are highly exaggerated. It will be a surprise to many that he had a large Hindu army which he obviously did not use in India. Muhammad died in 1030 AD and there was a fratricidal struggle for the throne which ultimately resulted in the end of this dynasty.
Muhammad’s raids encouraged other Muslims also to carry out surprise raids and one such party even reached Banaras i.e. Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. The Hindu chiefs got together and decided to meet the challenge. They joined forces and attacked the Muslim army at Kahsala and convincingly defeated it. The Ghaznavides were completely routed from all areas except Multan and Lahore. This was in June 1033 AD at Behraich near Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, India when Salar Masood Ghazni, nephew of Mahmud Ghazni (son of Mahmud’s sister) was killed with his entire Army with not a single Muslim soldier of Masood’s Army left alive. Raja Bhoj who ruled for around 50 years from 1000 to 1050 AD played a big role in this defeat of Masood. The tomb of Salar Masood Ghazni is still there in Behraich, Uttar Pradesh. It was an alliance of about 17 Hindu kings. The statue of Raja Suhel Dev, who was one of those 17 and who played a big role in this rout of Salar Masood Ghazni along with Raja Bhoj is also still there in Behraich. After this, it must have seemed to the Indians that Islam was a settled matter, a problem of the past. This victory gave India freedom from Islamic invasions for the next century and a half. For the next few decades the Hindus lived in peace but they did not make any effort to eliminate the marauders from the subcontinent. In fact many Muslim merchants, Sufis and Mullahs settled in various parts of the country and later acted as spies. But this glorious episode of Indian history, of the victory over Salar Masood in 1033 AD has been completely suppressed by Leftist historians in India.
Meanwhile the Ghoris replaced the Ghaznis in Kabul. Shahabuddin Ghori fortified Multan and attacked Gujarat in 1178 AD but his army was routed. He therefore captured southern Sindh and Lahore. Prithviraj Chauhan ruled Delhi then. Ghori attacked the Bhatinda fort in 1189 AD and captured it because of lax defense. Prithviraj was annoyed and with a large army laid a siege in 1191. In the fierce battle that ensued Shahabuddin’s army was completely routed and he had to flee. Prithviraj committed a big mistake by pardoning Ghori despite routing him, instead of doing what was done to Salar Masood in 1033 AD. But for this mistake, not only did Prithviraj Chauhan pay with his own life along with that of 100 thousand soldiers later, but India also suffered massively for many years, with massacres of Hindus & forced conversions and slavery.
After this defeat of Ghori in 1191 several more attacks were made but they were repulsed. But at no time did the Hindus wage an attack on enemy territory to eliminate the enemy from their soil. Their tactics were purely defensive. Shahabuddin now practiced deceit. He first sent a message asking Prithviraj to become a Muslim. When this was refused he asked for truce until he received his brother’s instructions. Prithviraj fell for the ruse and spent the night in revelry. The same night Ghori made a surprise attack from the rear. In the Fierce battle that ensued, Prithviraj lost his life along with 1 lakh i.e. 100 thousand Hindu soldiers and Delhi fell into the hands of the Muslims. Since Shahabuddin did not have enough resources to man such a vast territory he appointed Hindu governors. The other kings put up some resistance but since they did not fight unitedly they were eventually defeated. The chronology so far can be briefly stated as follows:
713-715 AD Sindh occupied
716 Hindu rule restored in Sindh
775 Cities of Multan and Mansurah and small regions around these captured
853 Capture of Seistan in Afghanistan
870 Capture of Kabul
1026 Muslims occupy Afghanistan
1030 Lahore captured by Muslims
1192 Fall of Delhi
1200 Bengal invaded
It will be seen that the initial political progress of Islam in the subcontinent was slow and halting. But now large parts of India were under their control from 1200 to 1800 AD i.e. for six centuries out of about twelve centuries of their presence in the subcontinent. The Table below indicates the approximate period for important territories under their control.
Region Period Duration (Years)
Sindh 700-1853AD One thousand one hundred and fifty
NWFP 1000-1812 Eight hundred
Punjab 1027-1800 Seven hundred seventy five
Delhi 1196-1784 Six hundred
Kashmir Valley 1326-1812 Five hundred
Ladaakh 1660-1820 One hundred seventy five
Himachal Pradesh 1650-1800 One hundred fifty
Uttar Pradesh 1200-1800 Six hundred
Bihar 1200-1757 Five hundred fifty
Bengal 1206-1757 Five hundred fifty
Orissa 1568-1750 One hundred seventy five
Assam 1660-1670 Ten
MP-Malwa 1300-1740 Four hundred fifty
MP-Chattisgarh 1640-1715 One hundred seventy five
Gujarat 1300-1740 Four hundred forty
Maharashtra 1318-1664 Three hundred fifty
North Karnataka 1320-1760 Four hundred forty
South Karnataka 1760-1800 Forty
West Andhra 1340-1800 Five hundred
South Andhra 1640-1800 One hundred fifty
East Andhra 1575-1752 One hundred seventy five
North Tamilnadu 1650-1775 One hundred twenty five
North Kerala 1764-1792 Twenty eight
South TN & Kerala Nil
Source : Bharatiya Musalman : Shodh ani Bodh by Setumadhavrao Pagadi (Pune, 1986), P.48Isa
[to be continued ]
[edited and collected from other sources and re written]