Arab Conquest of Sindh 711 AD
Imaad-ud-Din Mohammad bin Qasim Yousaf Thaqifi (December 695-July 18,715) is the name of the turn of civilization in the history of Sub-Continent when he came to Sindh to emancipate the prisoners of war under the custody of Indian pirates in the age of Raja Dahar, the then ruler of Sindh.
A wounded call from a lady prisoner shook the foundations of the rule of Raja Dahar and initiated the Muslim civilization in this region. (Some historians disagree with the tale of pirates and claim that the real reason behind the invasion was the asylum of Sassanians who were defeated by the Muslims and escaped to Raja Dahar who sheltered them. On demanding those Sassanians, Raja refused to hand over them to Hajjaj who was afraid of their counter attack either from India or supported by Indian ruler. As a pre-emptive measure, he attacked Sindh).
Before Mohammad bin Qasim’s arrival, Hajjaj Bin Yousaf Thaqifi (Administrator of Taif, the paternal uncle and father-in-law of Mohammad Bin Qasim) had sent two expeditions which met with failure due to the fierce resistance of the local warriors. It infuriated Hajjaj Bin Yousaf and he sent the more concentrated expedition to Sindh under his seventeen years old nephew Mohammad Bin Qasim in 711 A.D. Sindh was being ruled by a tyrant Raja Dahar who was inhumanly cruel to his masses consisting of Budhists and the Shooders (a class in Hinduism which is deprived of almost all human rights enjoyed by the High-Status Brahmans and other two strata). The poor Shooders and Budhists were not allowed to wear shoes and turbans and ride horses.
Raja Dahar patronized the pirates of Sindh who plundered in the coastal areas. Some traders from Baghdad died in Ceylon and the King of Ceylon sent their widows and orphans to Baghdad along with precious gifts for Walid (the Caliph) and Hajjaj. The convoy was looted by the Sindhi pirates and the ladies along with children were imprisoned. Getting this news, Hajjaj asked Raja Dahar to take action against the pirates and release the prisoners but Raja did not pay heed to him which led to the perish of Raja’s empire and inception of Muslim rule in India. Hajjaj sent 6000 soldiers, 3000 camels loaded with commodities in 711 A.D under the supervision of Bin Qasim, his nephew. Enhancing the military muscle of Mohammad Bin Qasim the army was equipped with Manjnique which made the real difference in the battle. Mohammad Haroon, the governor of Makran enjoined him with his military men and five Manjniques. Besides them, the Shooders and the down trodden strata of the local population saw a liberator in the person of Mohammad Bin Qasim and joined his force later.
Mohammad Bin Qasim captured Daibul, having a temple with a flag hoisted on its summit and the flag was considered ominous for Hindus. Mohammad bin Qasim hit that flag with “Aroos” (his special Manjnique) dropping the flag down. It dispirited the Hindus and they surrendered. A mosque was built in front of Daibal Temple and 4000 soldiers were appointed in the city. Nirun, inhabited by Budhists, and Haidarabad were occupied when Raja Dahar came out to combat Mohammad Bin Qasim at Raor.
Raja Dahar gathered 50,000 men with horses at Raor and confronted Mohammad bin Qasim on the eastern bank of River Indus. Mohammad Bin Qasim urged his men to fight against Raja Dahar saying, “O men of Arabia! These crowds of infidels have come prepared to fight with us. You must use all your strength, for they will put up a furious resistance for the sake of their wealth and families. Ride against them. With the help of God, we hope to make them all food for our sharp swords, take away their wealth and their families, and obtain large booty. Do not show weakness, and remember that God makes the end of the pious happy”. The words of Mohammad bin Qasim provoked the audience and they fought with a marvelous valor. During the war Raja’s elephant slipped into water of River Indus however, he secured himself and rode a horse. But his army, mistakenly taking him dead, retreated and the battle finally went into the favor of Muslim army. Raja was killed with the death toll of 6,000 men of his army. Alore and Uchh were occupied after the death of Raja Dahar. In Brahmanabad (Sindh), Jai Singh, the son of Raja Dahar faced Muslim forces but was defeated with 8,000 dead bodies in the end. Suraj Devi and Permal Devi, the daughters of Jai Singh were arrested. Aror, Multan (714) and some other towns of Sindh came under Mohammad Bin Qasim. The people suppressed by the atrocities of Raja Dahar took a sigh of relief, Shooders and Budhists converted to Islam seeing its equality in the society. Social stratification among the masses became the social glue after Mohammad Bin Qasim captured these areas.
Bin Qasim was thinking of marching towards other states and cities but the pages of history turned and Suleman Bin Abdul Malik came into throne (it was no more Caliphate in the true sense and spirit and had converted into kingdom) when Walid, the Caliph died. Prior to this, Hajjaj, the governor of Iraq had died and Saleh Bin Abd-ur-Rehman became the new governor of Iraq. Hajjaj Bin Yousaf earned a bad name due to his strict rule. His enemies numbered in thousands who were imprisoned by him. Sueman released 20,000 prisoners arrested by Hajjaj who demanded their compensation from Suleman. Mohammad Bin Qasim, being the son-in-law of Hajjaj and his favorite general was targeted by them. Suleman called Mohammad Bin Qasim back and handed him over to Saleh Bin Abd-ur-Rehman who was malicious towards Hajjaj because the later had had Adam Bin Abd-ur-Rehman, the brother of Saleh killed. Saleh tortured Mohammad Bin Qasim to death in prison on July 18, 715 A.D. According to some chroniclers, he was sacked into the skin of a cow as a sentence of an allegation lodged by Suraj Devi and Permal Devi, the daughters of Jai Singh who claimed (in the court) their molestation of the Caliph by Mohammad Bin Qasim. After the death penalty of Bin Qasim, they admitted before the Caliph that it was merely an accusation with no reality embedded in it. Knowing the reality told by the claimants, the Caliph got them killed by dragging them through the streets of Baghdad. The history does not support this event with a reliable source.
Whatever might be the reason, the world of Islam lost one of the greatest generals of history. Suleman had been called “Miftah-ul-Khair” (the key to virtue) by the historians but his wrong decision of calling Bin Qasim back to the capital delayed the conquest of South Asia for next three hundred years. Had the Caliph not called him back, the later would have conquered the whole of South Asia, say the chroniclers. (Reference: Pakistan Chand Tarikhi Isharay by Doctor Anwar Rooman) He was one of the most junior in age generals of the world who proved himself as a skilled warrior, competent administrator, just ruler, and a reformer. He was adored by the people of Sindh due to his personality traits. They made his statues as the emancipator from the cruelty of Raja Dahar and started idolizing him in their temples after his departure. (Some chroniclers do not accept that there was any tyranny or oppression in the society when Mohammad Bin Qasim invaded. They maintain that there was a perfect harmony on religious basis and the masses enjoyed the religious liberty. One such reference is G.M. Sayyed from Sindh, Pakistan who was jailed in 1964 to interpret or misinterpret the reality. No Brahmanism prevailed over the society, they claim. This viewpoint is supported by the Hindu writers as well. If it is true, why did only the Shooders and low-caste people embraced Islam? Majority of them turned towards Islam if not all. Mohammad Bin Qasim came to Sindh with 15,000 men and the number was added with another 5,000 personnel but how did he get this number multiplied when he went back to Baghdad? Was it out of Bin Qasim’s tyranny? If yes, where were the local warriors and why did they not step forward to redeem their country men? Why did the local population welcome him if they were contended with their lives and there was a perfect harmony in the society?)
History leaves us with some burning questions. Why was Bin Qasim chastised in such a brutal way by Saleh Bin Abd-ur-Rehman? His military and administrative prowess was beyond any doubts, why did the Caliph call him back to the capital? Only to pacify the wounded emotions of the people who were affected by the atrocities of Hajjaj? Prior to Mohammad Bin Qasim’ arrival in Sindh, two voyages had badly failed but he succeeded in conquering Sindh. He should have been hailed by the Caliphate instead of such an atrocious end leading to a heavy toll in the form of a delayed access to the South Asia. He sent all the booty to the center and obeyed the directions from the capital Baghdad despite knowing the enmity between Saleh and Hajjaj Bin Yousaf while he could have revolted against the order of Suleman, the Caliph. He made no mistake on military or administrative side to come to such end. His army obeyed him in an ideal way and the subjects under him breathed a sigh of relief. Non-Muslim communities were declared “Zimmis” which bound the Arab administration to shoulder the full-fledged responsibility of these communities. Was his return to the capital merely out of vengeance? Was it enough to be the nephew of a person with whom Suleman Bin Abdul Malik, the Governor of Iraq was not on good terms? History unfurls the cruel ploys of the Muslim premiers like Suleman and Saleh who focused on their individual eminence instead of working on the collective cause of the Muslim Ummah.
According to Sir William Muir, Bin Qasim enslaved the prisoners in the beginning but later he changed his policy and initiated tolerance and synchronization. Sindhis were given military and civil jobs and Hindus were employed even in the treasury. The new Muslim government was abounding in wealth and gold taken from the temples. According to Chach Nama, a chronology, Bin Qasim looted 52,000 kilogram gold from only one temple. The aggregate revenue from Sindh and Multan reached 270,000 pounds per annum collected in the form of Zakat (an Islamic tax) and Jiziya (tax levied on non-Muslims). In the Judiciary, Qazis were responsible to give its verdicts according to Sharia. But in civil cases, Hindus enjoyed liberty to have their decisions according to their Punchaiyats (the conference of their chiefs). Army was given regular salary and the 1/5th of the “Maal-e-Ghaneemat” (the booty) after winning a war. Sir Wellesley Haig admits that Hajjaj was such a strict ruler who could not accept Idolism in return for Jiziya. But he had to adopt a reconciliatory policy towards the people of Brahmanabad when the later requested to show tolerance after being defeated.