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Monday, June 27, 2022

Heroic Hindu Resistance: when Arabs hid behind a murti to stop the march of Hindus

Even though the Islamist Arabs succeeded in capturing Sindh, they failed both to make an impression on other contemporary Bharatiya kings and Islamize the captured people. The kind of resistance they faced here was one that they had never seen before. In country-after-country, their conquest had been accompanied by wholesale conversions of the conquered people, wiping out of local cultures, and replacing local institutions with Islamic ones. This experiment failed dismally in Bharat and the Islamists were actually forced to go on the defensive and change their policies in Bharat.

After his victory Muhammad bin Kasim sent an envoy to Kannauj ruler Rai Harchander with the message “from the sea to the limit of Kashmir, every king and every prince has come under the sway of Islam and Amir Kasim is the most powerful conqueror of infidels”. In reply, Raja Rai Harchander said “What fear have we of your absurd vaporings? Go back to your Amir and tell him that we must meet once and measure each other’s strength and prowess”.

This strength of test, however, never took place as Kasim was recalled to Iraq by the new Caliph Sulaiman who had a grudge against Hajjaj and his relatives. Dr. Mishra believes Baladhuri’s account of Kasim being imprisoned and tortured to death on the orders of the Caliph is more authentic than the one by Chachnama and repeated by Mir Masum Shah in his Tarikh-i-Maasumi narrating a story of romance with Raja Dahir’s daughter.

Following Kasim’s recall and subsequent death, Hindu power in Sindh was revived around 715 CE. Rai Jaisiah returned to Brahmanabad and the people rebelled throwing off the yoke of the Arabs. Although the country from Debalpur to the salt sea remained under the dominions of the Khalifa, it practically brought them no gains.

According to Haig the Arab conquest of Sindh was merely an episode in the history of Bharat affecting only a fringe of the vast country. “The tide of Islam, having overflowed Sind and the lower Punjab, ebbed leaving some jetsam on the strand”, he writes.

There was no dearth of efforts on the part of the governors sent by the Caliph to extend their sphere of influence beyond Sindh. In fact, Hajjaj himself had instructed Kasim to penetrate up to China instead of being satisfied with the conquest of Sindh. Sindh governor Junaid under Caliph Hisham (724-43 CE) pursued an aggressive forward policy. Baladhuri says that those Sindh rulers including Jaisiah had accepted Islam during Umar Ibn Abdul’s Caliphate around 718 CE returned to their faith.  Junaid’s advance into Sindh was opposed by Jaisiah who engaged the former in a naval battle. Unfortunately, Jaisiah was defeated and killed.

Available information points out that Junaid’s armies advanced through Rajputana to reach Ujjain in the east and Broach in the south. The Arab army is believed to have conquered Marmad, Mandal, Dahnaj, Barwas (Broach), al-Bailaman, Uzain, Maliba, and Jurz. RC Majumdar identifies these places as follows – Maru Mara (corresponding to Jaisalmer and Jodhpur Fort) referred to Marmad, Mandor was possibly Mandor, al-Bailaman were the states mentioned as Vallamandala in the Ghatiyala inscription (including parts of Rajputana, Malwa, and Gujarat), Maliba stands for Malwa and Uzain is Malwa’s capital Ujjayini. Their success, was, however, short-lived.         

Their southward advance was single-handedly checked by Avanijanashraya Pulakesin and Kashmir’s famed ruler Lalitaditya Muktapida brought their northward march to a grinding halt. Gurjara-Pratihara (known as Jurz by Arabs) Bhoja I’s Gwalior inscription talks of the success of the dynasty’s founder Nagabhata I’s success over a powerful Mleccha army who invaded his kingdom.

Lalitaditya is believed to have freed Punjab from Arab control in addition to having allied with Yasovarman to resist the Arab advance. His attempts to enlist the support of the Chinese didn’t yield any positive result as the latter didn’t offer any military assistance despite receiving Lalitaditya’s embassy with honor. However, this hardly made any difference as Lalitaditya achieved success over kingdoms surrounding Kashmir such as Kambojas, Turks, Dards, and Tibetans. Chinese traveler Ou Kong notes that Lalitaditya and Yasovarman together blocked five passes leading from Tibet.

The other major power that stood rock solid in checking Arab inroad into Bharat was the Gurjara-Pratiharas. “Among the princes of India, there is no greater foe of the Muhammadan faith than he” opine Arab chroniclers in regard to the Gurjara-Pratihara ruler.

Furthermore, the Arabs were forced to abandon their holy war and enter into alliances with the ‘infidels’ such as the Rashtrakutas who were friendly towards the Arabs owing to their rivalry with the Gurjara-Pratiharas. In spite of their alliances, Arab power in Sindh declined under governor Hakim during whose governorship Bharatiyas returned to the Hindu fold and only the inhabitants of Qassah followed Islam. The Muslims built a city called al-Mafuzah on the borders of Hind as a place of refuge to which they could flee when needed in addition to a city named Al-Mansurah. Other than these two places, the Arabs practically lost control over all other parts of Sindh.

The tug-of-war continued and Hakim is said to have reconquered all that he had lost but his successors were faced with frequent rebellions. In the eighth century CE, Arabs controlled only a limited portion of Sindh. Sindh governor Sindh under Caliph Al-Mansur (754-775 CE) is credited with the reconquest of Multan. Arab control over Sindh further declined during the ninth and tenth centuries as the Abbasid Caliphs were unable to support the Sindh governors with money and men. All tenth-century Arab travelers to Bharat confirm that there were only two Arab principalities with Mansurah and Multan as their capitals.

Ironically, they had to seek shelter behind the very ‘budds’ they came to destroy. In this regard, Arab traveler Al-Masudi (915 CE) cites the famous murti of Multan and says “when the unbelievers march against Multan, and the faithful do not feel strong enough to oppose them, they threaten to break their idol, and their enemies immediately withdraw”.

Another Arab traveler, Al-Istakhri (951 CE) reiterates this when he writes “there is an idol held in great veneration by Hindus and every year people from the most distant parts undertake pilgrimages to it…when the Indians make war upon them and endeavor to seize the idol, the inhabitants bring it out, pretending that they will break it and burn it. Upon this, the Indians retire, otherwise, they would destroy Multan”.

Three centuries of unrelentless efforts brought them nothing but two petty states of Multan and Mansurah where too they were forced to give up their iconoclastic zeal and utilize for their survival the very murtis they came to destroy. Not just politically but even culturally and from the missionary standpoint, they hardly gained anything, and if anything, they were actually forced to change their Islamic policy to accommodate the ‘infidels’.

As per Islamic law while people of the book (Jews and Christians) were allowed to carry on with their way of life as long as they paid Jeziya, ‘idolators’ had to choose between Islam and death. Unlike Central Asia, in Bharat, the Muhammadan experiment to root out the idolaters failed miserably. Even at Debal, where temples were supplanted with mosques and a general massacre of the inhabitants continued for three whole days, the Arabs had to subsequently allow the locals to reconstruct their temples.

The political and cultural resistance faced by the Islamists stands out in sharp contrast to anything faced by them anywhere in the world. They were faced with a faith that though ‘idolatrous’ defied death and several dynasties and rulers, as we shall subsequently see, put up a stiff resistance to protect their country, culture, and faith.    

Read Part 1 and Part 2   

References:

  1. Heroic Hindu Resistance To Muslim Invaders 636 AD 1206 AD – Shri Sita Ram Goel (Source)
  2. Indian Resistance To Early Muslim Invaders upto 1206 AD – Dr. Ram Gopal Mishra

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Maitri
Maitri
A opinionated girl-next-door with an attitude. I'm certainly not afraid to call myself 'a proud Hindu' and am positively politically incorrect. A Bharatiya at heart who loves reading, music, sports and nature. Travelling and writing are my passions.

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