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HomeDEFENCEInvaders from far & wide— who looted India – 3

Invaders from far & wide— who looted India – 3

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Mohammed Bin Qasim – the first Muslim invader to attack India

Mohammed Bin Qasim – the first Muslim invader to attack India

Mohammed Bin Qasim was the first Muslim to invader who attacked India in 712 A.D. He was an Umayyad (Arab) General who conquered Sindh and Punjab at the age of 17. The rise of Islam in India began with Mohammed Bin Qasim’s conquest of Sind a province in present-day Pakistan, by the Arabs. Even today, Sind is known as “Bab-e-Islam”, meaning “The Gateway of Islam” and is considered a milestone in the spread of Islam and the Muslim community in India and South Asia.

Even today Yom-e Bab ul-Islam is observed in Pakistan in his memory. Apart from Port Qasim, Pakistan’s second major port, Bagh Ibne Qasim – the largest park in Karachi, Sindh; Ibn-e-Qasim Bagh Stadium, a stadium, Pakistan Naval Station (PNS) Qasim, an operations base for special amphibious forces in the Pakistan Navy; a Town and Road in Karachi, a Library in Sujawal, and a Company in Pakistan Army are named after Qasim.

Pakistan Naval Station (PNS) Qasim named after Mohammed Bin Qasim
Pakistan Naval Station (PNS) Qasim, an operations base for special amphibious forces in the Pakistan Navy

Mohammed Bin Qasim’s presence was very brief. Though he managed to kill king Dahir, a Pushkarna Brahmin, and the last Hindu ruler of Sindh and parts of Punjab in modern-day Pakistan he couldn’t advance further because of his death due to a politTomb of Qasimical conspiracy.

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Even before Muhammad-bin-Qasim, the Arabs had tried to attack India 14 times but were beaten back each time. The rationale behind each Arab invasion was to plunder the immense wealth of India. Another reason behind the attack was the religious zeal to spread Islam by force and conquest. The Khalifas of Arabia also wanted to extend their empire, and hence the conquest of Sindh was a part of their expansionist policy. However, the immediate cause of the Arab attack was the desire to subjugate the sea-pirates of Sindh who used to loot the Arab ships at sea.

The first Arab attack was led by Usman Bin Abbasi who returned with a lot of booties but swore never to attack Sindh by the sea route which was too dangerous. Deeply perturbed by repeated failures Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, the governor of Basra, called his nephew and son-in-law, Muhammad-bin-Qasim, and sent him to attack Sindh with a big army of horsemen, foot soldiers, and camels equipped with virtually everything from a needle to thread.

Muhammad bin an orphan was brought up by Hajjaj bin Yusuf who also taught him governance and the art of warfare. Hajjaj had full faith in Muhammad’s fighting capabilities and leadership as a general hence appointed the seventeen years old Qasim as the commander of the invasion on Sind. Muhammad-bin-Qasim marched toward Sindh by the same route by land which Alexender had taken on the way back to Babylon. On his way, Qasim reached Debal derived from the Sanskrit word devalaya meaning abode of God in Sanskrit — an important trading city and seaport near modern Karachi, Pakistan.

Muhammad-bin-Qasim’s army continued to surround the strong Debal fort for seven days without any success. Finally, on the eighth day, he met with a sudden stroke of luck when a Brahmin priest came out and advised them to take down the flag of a Hindu temple in the middle of the Debal fort. This helped and soon the fort walls were taken. What followed next was plunder and destruction of temples and the entire town of Debut. Thousands of men and women were looted, burnt, raped, and killed over the next three days. Muhammad-bin-Qasim also captured around 700 Devdasis from the temple and converted at least 4000 people to Islam.

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After the fall of Debal, Qasim captured Nirun – 75 miles north-east of Hyderabad, in modern Pakistan- without any resistance and proceeded towards Bahmanabad the summer capital of Sindh. He crossed the Indus river near Rawar. As soon as the news of his advance reached King Dahir who was sleeping he hurriedly summoned his cabinet to suggest ways to deal with the crisis. Dahir’s Chief Minister known his intelligence network and fighting capabilities suggested the option to engage Muhammad-bin-Qasim’s army in guerrilla warfare. King Dahir rejected the proposal and put together an army of over 20,000-foot soldiers, 5,000 horsemen, and elephants to fight the invaders. It was an unequal fight from the beginning as King Dahir’s army was almost half the size of the invading Arab forces. Both the armies stood facing each other and fought gallantly over four days. On the fourth day, King Dahir himself joined the battle in the front-mounted on a white elephant. This proved to be his greatest mistake because he became a tempting target for the Arab archers to practice their shooting skills.

Dahir and his army fought with valor but soon the Arabs succeeded in hitting Dahir’s elephant with a burning arrow. The terrified beastRai Dahir fled towards the river. Dahar returned to the battlefield and fought with courage once again inflicting heavy casualties on the Arabs. But soon Dahir himself was hit by an arrow and fell dead on the battlefield. Raja Dahir’s rule lasted 32 years in Sindh- one of the world’s most ancient civilized countries with Alor as its capital.

Hearing the news of his death Dahir’s wife Rani Bai tried to defend the Rawar fort. But when the provisions in the fort got over, she and other women in her household immolated themselves following the Hindu tradition of Jauhar and the men came out to fight until death. Dahir’s second wife Rani Ladi, and her two daughters fell into the Qasim’s hands. He married Rani Ladi and sent her daughters Suryadevi and Parmaldevi to the Caliph’s harem.

This proved to be Muhammad bin Qasim’s biggest mistake as King Dahir’s daughters wanted to take revenge for their father’s death so they complained to the Khalifa that Qasim had defiled and kept them in his harem for three days before sending them to the Khalifa. The Khalifa was enraged and ordered that Muhammad be arrested and brought to him – wrapped in the skin of an ox. This subterfuge worked – Muhammad bin Qasim died from suffocation en route. The Khalifa was filled with remorse when he came to know the trick and ordered the sisters buried alive in a wall. But by the time Muhammad bin Qasim was already dead and gone.

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Qasim’s brief stay in India turned out to be “the darkest period in history”. There were massive forced conversions. Many temples including those at Nairun and Aror were demolished and converted into mosques and the people of Sindh were shamelessly looted, enslaved, or slaughtered. Anyone who even tried to resist was put to death. Property worth millions were forcibly confiscated and thousands of men and women were sold as slaves. Qasim and his troops killed all able-bodied men and took their minor sons and daughters into custody. After conquering Debal, in less than a year and a half Muhammad captured Sehwan, Nerun, Brahmanadabad, Alor, and Multan in quick succession one after the other. Who knows had he not been suddenly recalled by the Khalifa he would have conquered entire South Asia?

After the conquest of Sindh, Qasim adopted the Hanafi school of Sharia law which regards the Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains as “Dhimmis” and Muslims or “People of the Book”. The Dhimmis were treated as second-class citizens with more restrictions and lesser rights than Muslims. All non-Muslims who were called Zimmis or Kafirs – and asked to pay a religious tax called the Jaziya, while the Muslims had to pay a much lower amount as Zakat -one of the Five Pillars of Islam and a sacred duty for all Muslims to donate a certain portion of their wealth to the poor each year. The only options that people had been – pay Jaziya, convert, or die. As a result, a large number of Hindus converted to Islam. Qasim also sent Dahir’s severed head as a trophy to Hajjaj.

Significantly Muhammad’s siege of Multan fort lasted over two months without any result till a traitor came out of the fort and told them how to cut off of the town’s water supply. Muhammad got such a vast amount of gold in Multan that he named it the city of gold. Muhammad himself had no way of knowing that Multan was to be the last city conquered by him.

QasimThere are several reasons why the Arabs succeeded in conquering Sindh and Multan. First and foremost Sindh was a militarily weak and thinly populated state. There was no strong or popular government. And a large number of its inhabitants particularly the Jats, Buddhists and Meds did not like or support the Brahmin king. The trading class was isolated and did not cooperate with him. Another big reason why Sindh proved to be an easy target for the Arabs was that Sindh was located in a remote corner of India and hence what happened there did not concern the other Indian rulers. Apart from this Muhammad was any day a more capable commander than Dahar, and the Arabs had better arms, cavalry, and military tactics. The Arabs were highly motivated and truly believed that they were taking part in jihad while the Hindus lacked a sense of purpose or passion.

King Dahar committed several blunders from the beginning of the battle. His biggest mistake was that he failed to forecast the danger or offer any resistance when the Arabs conquered Makarana, Debal, Nerun, and other places at lower Sindh. He overestimated his strength and allowed himself to be cornered in the pitched battle against the Arabs, instead of encircling or ambushing them in guerrilla warfare. He was a brave and courageous fighter and he fought gallantly but it was foolish on his part to risk his life in the battlefield sitting on a white elephant and exposing himself as an easy and vulnerable target.

Above all, another factor that turned the tide in favor of the Arab invaders was the presence traitors on the Indian side who shared the battle plans and helped the enemy. It is worth mentioning that possibly the outcome of this battle might have been different in case:

  • The Hindu priest hadn’t revealed how to cut off the flag atop the temple to storm the Debal fort
  • King of Basil controlled the Bet Fort hadn’t turned traitor and helped the Arabs cross-river Indus
  • A member of the Ilahi family not shared layout of the Alor Fort with the Arabs by sending a letter tied to an arrow
  • A traitor hadn’t come out of the Multan Fort and told Muhammad bin Qasim how to cut off of the town’s water supply.

Significantly Nerun was surrendered to the Arabs without fighting while the Jats turned against King Dahir and supported the Arabs after the battle of Sesam and an Indian suggested to Muhammad how to penetrate the Indian defenses in the battle of Raor. Such treachery by the Indians helped the Arabs.

Ironically when King Dahir took the field sitting atop his elephant on the 4th day of the battle he had with two ladies – one to hand him arrows and another to supply him betel nuts.

The Arabs could conquer only a small portion of India and failed to expand their territories beyond Multan and Sind.

(To be concluded)

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Neeraj Mahajan
Neeraj Mahajanhttps://n2erajmahajan.wordpress.com/
Neeraj Mahajan is a hard-core, creative and dynamic media professional with over 35 years of proven competence and 360 degree experience in print, electronic, web and mobile journalism. He is an eminent investigative journalist, out of the box thinker, and a hard-core reporter who is always hungry for facts. Neeraj has worked in all kinds of daily/weekly/broadsheet/tabloid newspapers, magazines and television channels like Star TV, BBC, Patriot, Sunday Observer, Sunday Mail, Network Magazine, Verdict, and Gfiles Magazine.


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