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The Successors of Mahmud Ghaznavi

The Successors of Mahmud Ghaznavi

The Ghaznavid Dynasty which lasted for 175 years on Indo-Pakistan, left irremovable imprints on the history as it provided a milestone of a separate Muslim state in the years to come.  Eleventh century saw the prime of the Muslim rule when Mahmud Ghaznavi dominated over northern areas of Pakistan defeating Jai Pal and Anand Pal, his son.

Multan and Sindh, which were fused together later, came under his decree and his power sprawled over the whole of current Pakistan and from Khurasan and Balkh to the River Satlej. He did not seize any area beyond Ravi River though he shipped his artillery to Gwalior, Kanauj, Muthra, and Baran. Lahore served as the outer post and logistic capital of Mahmud’s empire from where he launched his expeditions to the nearby areas.

Masud, the son of Mehmud (1030-1041)

Masud, the son of Mehmud (1030-1041) held the vast empire left by his father after a tussle with his brother Mohammad who was enthroned by the elites in the court of Mehmud. Masud was in Hamadan when he got the news of his father’s demise. Succession of Mohammad thrived him mad and he rushed to Ghazni and conspired with Ayaz, the famous salve of Mehmud Ghaznavi. Ayaz plotted against Mohammad and helped Masud occupy the throne. Mohammad was arrested in Herat and was blinded while Hasanak, Masud’s minister was brutally beheaded as the sentence of rebellion against Masud. His head was presented in a feast by Masud to the courtiers in order to show his valor and warn them in the future. Khawaja Ahmad Mohmandi was appointed as Vazir (second to the King).


After patching up the warfare and revolts, Masud turned his face to the affairs of Punjab where Ayariq, the governor was reported of his atrocities on the masses. Masud called him to the court and the later was imprisoned and killed. Masud ran his administration very well in the beginning but later he drowned himself into wine and luxuries which took a heavy toll from him. Punjab was made a no man’s land after the dismissal and murder of Ayariq. To fill the vacancy, Masud appointed Ahmad Niyalitgin (the treasurer of Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi) the new governor of Punjab. But Ahmad was an unfair person in his dealings and had no administrative experience which led to the deterioration of situations in Punjab. Ahmad (who claimed to be the offspring of Mahmud Ghaznavi) rose against Masud. Sultan Masud sent Tilak, a Hindu general to curb Ahmad Nayalitgin. Tilak found Ahmad Niyalitgin confining the royal army to the fort. He cut the hands of the enthusiasts of Ahmad and bribed some of his followers who brought about a ruthless death for Ahmad. They beheaded him for five lac dirhams and Masud sent his son to Punjab as the governor.

Saljok Turks were growing as an impending peril against Masud Ghaznavi in the north and east of the empire. He left for these areas on October 5, 1037 AD but seriously fell ill when reached Jehlum on October 8. He stayed at Jehlum for two weeks and reached Hansi in December 1037. He impounded the Saljoks in Hansi Fort on December 20 1037 resulting in the conquest of the Fort on 1st January 1038. Sultan came back to Ghazna and got the news of the Saljok advancement towards Ray (near Tehran, Iran) and an attack on Khurasan. But Sultan Masud did not pay heed to this news and stayed for the whole year in the very lap of his magnificence. This negligence worked and Chaghar Baig Dawood, the Saljok leader occupied Naishapur. Masud marched to combat him but was defeated by Dawood at Talikan near Mru in 1040 AD. He lost Khawarism and Balkh was seized by the Saljoks. His inability as a ruler has been quoted by Will Durant, the writer of “The History of Civilization” in these words:

“Mas’ud was unable to preserve the empire and following a disastrous defeat at the Battle of Dandanaqan (in 1040) lost all the Ghaznavid lands in Iran and Central Asia to the Seljuks and plunged the realm into a “time of troubles”. His last act was to collect all treasures from all his forts in hope to assemble an army and rule from India but his own forces plundered the wealth and he proclaimed his blind brother as king again. The two brothers now exchanged situations. Mohammed from a prison was elevated to the throne and Mas’ud from a throne was consigned to a dungeon where he was assassinated AD 1040 after a reign of ten years”.

Maudood Ghaznavi (1040-1049)

In 1040 AD the throne shifted to Maudood, the son of Mas’ud. Again to quote Will Durant:

“Mas’ud’s son Maudood was governor of Balkh and in 1040 AD, hearing of his father’s death came to Ghazni to claim his kingdom. He fought with sons of blind Mohammed and was victorious, the empire soon disintegrated and most kings did not submit to this king. In a span of nine years, 4 more kings claimed the throne of Ghazni. In the year 1058 AD, Ibrahim, a great calligrapher, who wrote Koran with his own pen, became king”. Maudood died on December 22, 1049 AD.

Maudood’s Three Years Old Son

At the death of Maudood, the slaves of the palace crowned the three-year old son of Maudood but on the strong throngs of protest from the elites of Ghazni, Ali Abu-al-Hasan, the paternal uncle of Mas’ud was made the king December 29, 1049. In 1052 AD Izz-ud-Daula, the sixth son of Sultan Mehmud dismissed Ali and sent Tughral, the slave of Sultan Mehmud to conquer Sistan. Tughral occupied Sistan but revolted against the center. He killed Abdul Rashid and nine others and ruled only for 40 days. Farrukh Zad and Ibrahim was selected as the king but was replaced by his brother Farrukh Zad whose rule lasted for 1059 AD when he died and was followed by Ibrahim.


Ibrahim, the son of Mas’ud ruled for 42 years which comprised of his reconciliatory policy towards Seljuk Turks, expedition to India, conquest of Ajodhan (Pak Patan, Pakistan). He was succeeded by Ala-ud-Din Mas’ud who died in 1115 AD. Sher Zad, his son succeeded him but his empire was snatched by Arsalasn Abdul Malik, his brother after one year. Behram, the step brother of Arsalan attacked Ghazni and forced Arsalan to flee and captured the throne of Ghazna. But after Sultan Sanjar returned to Khurasan, Arsalan dethroned Behram and got his empire back. But in 1117 AD Sultan Sanjar, the brother of Mohammed attacked Ghazni and arrested Arsalan who was later assassinated.

Bahlam, the governor of Punjab who was appointed by Arsalan rose against Behram but was arrested on January 22, 1119 AD. Behram pardoned him and reappointed him as the governor of Punjab but the later again revolted against Behram. Behram led an expedition against him and defeated him. Bahlam fled along with his two sons but died on the way. Ghauri princes also stood against Behram. Qutab-ud-Din Mohammad Ghauri took shelter in Ghazna but his adversary brother Saif-ud-Din Ghauri fell upon Behram and occupied Ghazni and Behram fled to Punjab. Behram came back to Ghazni in 1149 AD and captured Ghazni Saif-ud-Din. Alaa-ud-Din, to revenge the death of his brother, defeated Behram and burnt Ghazni turning it into ashes. Flames and smoke rose up for seven days. The graves of the Ghaznavids were dishonored and their dead bodied were burnt down by Ala-ud-Din which was titled as “the burner of the world” in history. Behram was succeeded by Khusrau Shah, his son who could not stand against the Turkamans of Khurasan and came to Punjab. Turkamanis ruled over Ghazni for ten years and after it fell into the hands of Ghauris. Khusrau Shah died in Lahore in 1160 AD.

Ghazni Dynasty lasted for 175 years is a remarkable phase in the history of Indo-Pakistan as it provided the sound basis of Muslim rule in the region. The Muslim invaders brought the message of Islam with them and replaced the Hinduism of this area with Islam. Sufis and saints, who came with them, spread the light of Islam among the hearts of the Hindu and Sikh communities of India. No doubt, they plundered the captured areas but they did not force the natives to leave their religion. The Muslim chroniclers have focused the Ghaznavids only as the idol-breakers and Hindu-killers which have been misinterpreted by the Hindu writers and historians.

In an article contributed by Rajiv Varma says on

“Islamic imperialism came with a different code-the Sunnah of the Prophet. It required its warriors to fall upon the helpless civil population after a decisive victory had been won on the battlefield. It required them to sack and burn down villages and towns after the defenders had died or had fled. The cows, the Brahmains, and the Bhikshus invited their special attention in mass murders of non-combatants. The temples and monasteries were their special targets in an orgy of pillage and arson. Those, whom they did not kill, were captured and sold as slaves. The magnitude of the boot looted even from the bodies of the dead, was a measure of the success of a military mission. And they did all this as mujahids (holy warriors) and ghazls (kafir-killers) in the service of Allah and his last Prophet”.

The scholarly article by Rajiv Varma lacks some historical facts and figures and has been written in an emotional flow. The Sunnah is the practice of the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon Him) and it does not require its warriors to fell upon the helpless civil population. Can the esteemed writer quote any Hadith (saying) or command or practice of the Prophet (Peace be upon Him) to do such things after conquering any area? Nor does the Sunnah command the warriors to burn down the cities conquered.  Again the citation is badly needed from the writer. Sunnah can be traced back either in his addresses while sending military campaigns to the other regions or what and how he behaved after the conquests of the non-Muslim areas and populations. These expeditions were either for self-defense or for the suppressed and oppressed people and they were ordered by Allah Almighty.

Can the writer go back to the conquest of Mekkah by the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon Him)? Is there any example of the Treaty of Hudaibiyya in the avenues of history? Can the world history bring the example of the advice of the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon Him) to Hazrat Muaz (May Allah be pleased with him) before sending him on a military campaign? The total casualties during his ten years of military command (622-632 AD) are reported to be 1200-1500. The founder of the vast empire which started from Medina and spread to the far off regions of the world did not kill anyone with His own hands. People, animals, and even gardens and trees were protected after the conquest of any city or area. Allah has strictly forbidden the idol-worship and the Prophet (Peace be upon Him) had been sent as the last Prophet to eliminate the idols.

As far as Ghaznavids are concerned, they should not be taken as the true representatives of Islam as they were military warriors who plundered the conquered areas because of their love for war or lust for booty. Since they were Muslims, all the non-Muslim historians pitched their annoyance by saying that they were Muslim dacoits and looters. The misconception is partly because of the Muslim chroniclers who have portrayed Sultan Mehmud as merely an idol-breaker who aimed only at looting the temples and killing the local population ruthlessly. Though he looted the temples and broke the idols but he also appointed the Hindus on high and esteemed positions. Sonday Rai, Nath, and Tilak the Hindu generals of Mehmud are the fine example to quote. Mehmud went to the extent that he imprinted the coins in his age with his name and picture at one side and the picture of the Hindu god on the other. How was he propagated as merely an idol-breaker or Hindu-killer? Historians claim that the decay of the Ghaznavids was brought about by a complete reliance of Mehmud and his successors on Hindus who made inroads into his empire.

Yes, they killed Brahmins. But why did the Shooders (the untouchable, the most deprived and negated class of Hindus) and other low strata embrace Islam on such a large scale and joined their army? If Sultan Mehmud and other Ghaznavids were only the looters, can anyone bring the name of a single conqueror in the non-Muslim heroes who did not plunder and showed ethical values in the battlefield and after the wars were over. Riots in Ahmad Abad (Gujrat, India) can be quoted as an example of how the “oppressor” acted against the oppressed in the 21st century where human rights rock or at least are preached. 9/11 took a heavy toll in Afghanistan in the form of fierce, brutal and even inhuman “plunders” in the presence of United Nations and the human rights’ awareness. It happened in the modern age, the age of awareness and enlightenment, and ethics. What about 1000 years ago when the might was the only right?


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