Umayyad conquest of Sindh

Umayyad conquest of Sindh in 711

The Umayyad conquest of Sindh took place in 711 AD against the ruling Brahmin dynasty of Sindh and resulted in Sindh being incorporated as a province into the Umayyad Caliphate. The conquest resulted in the overthrow of the last Hindu dynasty of Sindh, the Brahman dynasty, after the death of Raja Dahir.

Quotes edit

  • The Arabs had to fight hard. They turned their attention to Sind at some time between 634 and 644, during the reign of the second caliph or successor to the Prophet, and in the next sixty or seventy years made ten attempts at conquest. The aim of the final invasion, as the Chachnama makes clear, was not the propagation of the faith. The invasion was a commercial-imperial enterprise; it had to show a profit. Revenge was a subsidiary motive, but what was required from the conquered people was not conversion to Islam, but tribute and taxes, treasure, slaves, and women.
    • Naipaul, V.S. - Among the Believers (Vintage, 1982)
  • The invasion was superintended from Kufa by Hajjaj, the governor of Iraq. When, in the middle of the campaign, he received the head of the defeated king of Sind, together with sixty thousand slaves and the royal one-fifth of the loot of Sind, Hajjaj “placed his forehead on the ground and offered prayers of thanksgiving, by two genuflections to God, and praised him, saying: ‘Now have I got all the treasures, whether open or buried, as well as other wealth and the kingdom of the world.’ ” He summoned the people of Kufa to the famous mosque of that town, and from the pulpit told them, “Good news and good luck to the people of Syria and Arabia, whom I congratulate on the conquest of Hind and on the possession of immense wealth … which the great and omnipotent God has kindly bestowed on them.” It was open to the conquered people to accept Islam. But the conquerors were Arabs, and the kingdom of the world was theirs.
    • Naipaul, V.S. - Among the Believers (Vintage, 1982)
  • There are resemblances to the Spanish conquest of Mexico and Peru, and they are not accidental. The Arab conquest of Spain, occurring at the same time as the conquest of Sind, marked Spain. Eight hundred years later, in the New World, the Spanish conquistadores were like Arabs in their faith, fanaticism, toughness, poverty, and greed. The Chachnama is in many ways like The Conquest of New Spain by Bernal Díaz del Castillo, the Spanish soldier who in his old age wrote of his campaigns in Mexico with Cortés in 1519 and after. The theme of both works is the same: the destruction, by an imperialist power with a strong sense of mission and a wide knowledge of the world, of a remote culture that knows only itself and doesn’t begin to understand what it is fighting. The world conquerors, the establishers of long-lived systems, have a wider view; men are bound together by a larger idea. The people to be conquered see less, know less; their stratified or fragmented societies are ready to be taken over. And, interestingly, both in Mexico in 1519 and in Sind in 710 people were weakened by prophecies of conquest.
    • Naipaul, V.S. - Among the Believers (Vintage, 1982)
  • Attention shifts now to the Arabs. The narrative alters, becomes more historical, begins to depend on the narrator-chains of Arab history (“It is related by Hazli, who heard it from Tibui son of Musa, who again heard it from his father …”). We are at once in a more organized, more disciplined, and less arbitrary world, a world of law, where men, however anxious for power, fame, and wealth, also serve a cause above themselves. The soldier obeys the general, the general the governor, the governor the caliph; and all serve the Prophet, Islam, and God.
    • Naipaul, V.S. - Among the Believers (Vintage, 1982)
  • The war is far from over. Sind is big, and has many fortified towns. But Debal sets the pattern: the siege, the betrayal by nobles or Brahmins or Buddhist priests who do not believe in killing; the entry by the Arabs; the killing; the checking and distribution of the booty, after the caliph’s fifth has been deducted (and in one place the sharing out of the booty takes as long as the killing).
    • Naipaul, V.S. - Among the Believers (Vintage, 1982)
  • After the massacre at Debal the killing is more selective. Traders, artisans, and peasants are allowed to continue in their occupations and practise their religion; Brahmins continue to be administrators. All that is required of unbelievers is the tribute and the special tax. But Hajjaj insists on the killing of the warrior class and the enslaving of their dependents. When he gets Dahar’s head and Bin Qasim’s report of victory he writes sternly: “My dear cousin, I have received your life-augmenting letter. On its receipt my gladness and joy knew no bounds.… But the way of granting pardon prescribed by the law is different from the one adopted by you.… The Great God says in the Koran: ‘O true believers, when you encounter the unbelievers, strike off their heads.’ The above command of the Great God is a great command and must be respected and followed.… Concluded with compliments. Written by Nafia in the year 93.” And he returns to this point even later in the campaign. “My distinct orders are that all those who are fighting men should be assassinated, and their sons and daughters imprisoned and retained as hostages.”
  • So at the big town of Brahminabad, after his entry, Bin Qasim “next came to the place of execution and in his presence ordered all the men belonging to the military classes to be beheaded with swords. It is said that about six thousand fighting men were massacred on this occasion; some say sixteen thousand.”
    • Naipaul, V.S. - Among the Believers (Vintage, 1982)
  • And King Dahar never understood the nature of the war, never understood that more than his throne was at stake. There was for him, in war, an element of chivalry and deadly play. He could have prevented Bin Qasim from crossing the Indus River; it was what he was advised to do. But he thought that undignified. He could have retreated even then, and left the desert to deal with the invaders; it was again what he was advised to do. But again he thought that undignified. He died in battle. Naphtha arrows set the litter on his elephant alight. There were two women servants in the litter, one preparing betel leaves for the king to chew, one passing him arrows; there was also a Brahmin. The elephant, frightened by the fire on its back, plunged into the shallow lake beside the Indus; and mounted Arab archers killed King Dahar while he was still in the litter. Like a warrior, Dahar had gone into battle prepared for death and the funeral pyre. His body, when it was found (betrayed by the Brahmin who had been in the litter), smelled of musk and attar of roses. The women servants were captured; they later identified the king’s severed head for Bin Qasim.
    • Naipaul, V.S. - Among the Believers (Vintage, 1982)
  • The sister Dahar had nominally married for the sake of his kingship burned herself to death with other women of her household. Dahar’s real wife (now the property of the Arab caliph and state) was bought by Bin Qasim with part of the loot of Sind. And Dahar’s two daughters were sent in the charge of Abyssinian slaves to the caliph.
    • Naipaul, V.S. - Among the Believers (Vintage, 1982)
  • They were admitted into the caliph’s harem. He allowed them to rest for a few days. Then he asked for them to be brought to him at night. He wanted to know who was the elder; he wished to take her first. He found out through an interpreter. The elder was called Surijdew. When the caliph tried to embrace her she jumped up and said: “May the king live long! I, a humble slave, am not fit for your majesty’s bedroom, because the just amir, Imaduddin Mohammed Bin Qasim, kept us both with him for three days and then sent us to the caliph. Perhaps your custom is such, or else this disgrace should not be permitted by kings.” The caliph bit his hand. He immediately ordered a letter to be sent to Bin Qasim, ordering him to “put himself in raw leather and come back to the chief seat of the caliph.”
    • Naipaul, V.S. - Among the Believers (Vintage, 1982)
  • THE Arab conquest of Sind is distinct from the Muslim invasions of India proper, which began about three centuries later. But the Sind conquered by Bin Qasim was a big country, roughly the area of present-day southern Pakistan and southern Afghanistan; and the Chachnama might be said to be an account of the Islamic beginnings of the state. But it is a bloody story, and the parts that get into the schoolbooks are the fairy tales. An Arab ship was taking gifts to the caliph; the ship was seized by King Dahar, and Muslims were made captives. The women among them called out, “Hajjaj, save us!” To rescue them (rather than the soldiers captured during the previous Arab expedition), Hajjaj invaded Sind.
    • Naipaul, V.S. - Among the Believers (Vintage, 1982)

Siege of Debal edit

  • …The town was thus taken by assault, and the carnage endured for three days. The governor of the town, appointed by Dãhir, fled and the priests of the temple were massacred. Muhammad marked a place for the Musalmans to dwell in, built a mosque, and left four thousand Musalmans to garrison the place…
  • …‘Ambissa son of Ishãk Az Zabbî, the governor of Sindh, in the Khilafat of Mu’tasim billah knocked down the upper part of the minaret of the temple and converted it into a prison. At the same time he began to repair the ruined town with the stones of the minaret…

Battle of Aror edit

  • Muhammad Kãsim then entered and all the town people came to the temple of Nobhãr, and prostrated themselves before an idol. Muhammad Kãsim enquired: ‘Whose house is this, in which all the people high and low are respectfully kneeling and bowing down.’ They replied: ‘This is an idol-house called Nobhãr.’ Then, by Muhammad Kãsim’s order, the temple was opened. Entering it with his officers he saw an equestrian statue. The body of the idol was made of marble or alabaster, and it had on its arms golden bracelets, set with jewels and rubies. Muhammad Kãsim stretched his hand and took off a bracelet from one of the idol’s arms. Then he asked the keeper of the Budh temple Nobhãr: ‘Is this your idol?’ ‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘but it had two bracelets on, and one is missing.’ ‘Well’ said Muhammad Kãsim, ‘cannot your god know who has taken away his bracelet?’ The keeper bent his head down. Muhammad Kãsim laughed and returned the bracelet to him, and he fixed it again on the idol’s arm.
    • Alor (Sindh) The Chachnamah, translated into English by Mirza Kalichbeg Fredunbeg. Delhi Reprint, 1979, pp. 179-80.

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