After the first Arab naval expedition aimed at Thana was repulsed, two successive expeditions were sent aimed at Broach and Debal in Sindh. The Chachnama confirms that the first Arab raid on Sindh failed. At the time of early Arab raids, Sindh was under the rule of Chachrai (Chach) whose kingdom extended on the east to the boundary of Kashmir, to Makran on the west, up to the seacoast and Debal on the south, and the Kikanan and Kurdan mountains on the north.
Arab raids on Sindh
The Arab army was led by Mughairah who was defeated and killed by Samah who was governing Debal on behalf of Chach. The defeat of Mughairah at a time when Arab armies were scoring victories elsewhere certainly came as a shock to Caliph Umar who decided to send an army by land against Makran. However, Abu Musa, governor of Iraq, advised against undertaking a land attack against Sindh. He also urged Umar that “he should think no more of Hind”.
The next Caliph, Usman (644-656 CE) was determined to send Abdullah to invade Sindh but had to drop his project after receiving a report from Hakim, who he had sent to gather information, that read “Its water is dark; its fruit is bitter and poisonous; its land is stony and its earth is selfish. A small army will soon be annihilated there and a large army will soon die of hunger”.
The first Arab land expedition against Sindh was undertaken during Ali’s Caliphate in 660 CE. It was led by Haras who advanced up to Kikan or Kikanan but the Muslim army was repulsed due to the brave resistance of the Hindus who inflicted heavy losses on the former. “Haras and those who were with him, saving a few, were slain in the land of Kikan in the year 42 A.H. (662 CE)”, writes Baladhuri.
The Arabs, however, didn’t simply give up after the defeat and death of Haras. Under Caliph Muawiyah (661-680 CE) as many as six attempts were made to capture Kikan that served as the frontier post of Sindh. However, all of them ended up in failures as they were repulsed with vigor. Dr. Mishra quotes the Chachnama as saying about one such expedition “Muawiyah despatched an expedition of 4000 men under Abdullah. When Abdullah arrived at Kikanan, the enemy assaulted him…by which the army of Islam was ultimately put to flight. The whole mountainous region became alive with fighting men and the Mussalmans beat a hasty retreat”. The only success achieved by the Arabs during this period was the conquest of Makran in 680 CE that too after a fierce conquest.
The end of Muawiyah’s caliphate brought respite to Sindh for about two decades until Al-Hajjaj, governor of Iraq, renewed aggression against Bharat in 695 CE. He turned his attention towards Sindh in 708 CE after his attempts to capture Zabul and Kabul ended in dismal failures. Hajjaj sought permission from Caliph Walid who hesitated but eventually gave his assent.
After receiving clearance from the Caliph, Ubaidullah was sent by Hajjaj to raid Debal. However, Ubaidullah was killed following which Hajjaj ordered Budail stationed at Oman to proceed to Debal. Budail reached the Sindh coast and proceeded towards Debal after receiving a “huge army” as reinforcement at Nerun from Muhammad Hanm. The message of Budail’s arrival was conveyed to Raja Dahir at Alor who rushed 4000 soldiers on horses and camels under the command of his son Prince Jaisiah. In the ensuing pitched battle that lasted from early morning up to the close of the day, the Muslim army was routed and Budail was killed.
This crushing defeat of the Arabs weighed so heavily on the Caliph that when Hajjaj sought permission for another expedition the former wrote back to him saying “This affair will be a source of great anxiety and so we must put it off; for every time the army goes (on such an expedition) (vast) numbers of Mussalmans are killed. So think no more of such a design”.
Expedition of Muhammad bin Kasim, Hindu resistance, & fall of Sindh
Hajjaj, however, wanted to avenge his humiliating defeat, and hence despatched his cousin and son-in-law, Muhammad bin Kasim, to lead a well-organized Arab army against Sindh. The extent of preparation can be estimated from the fact that Hajjaj wanted to ensure that not even the minutest of Kasim’s requirements were omitted.
6000 Syrian warriors were ordered to join Muhammad in addition to providing him with everything he required. In addition to 6000 select cavalries, there were 6000 armed camel-riders thoroughly equipped for military operations, and a baggage train of 3000 Bactrian camels. Kasim was joined by Muhammad Harun with other reinforcements. Five catapults, each requiring no less than 500 men to work it and the necessary ammunition were transported by sea to Debal.
It is, however, not the extensive preparations by Kasim but the desertions that aided the Arabs in capturing Sindh. Dr. Mishra says “In spite of all these military preparations, it is extremely doubtful if Sindh could have been conquered by Mohammad bin Kasim in 712 A.D., had all the people and chiefs of Sindh remained true to their king”.
Despite the desertions, Raja Dahir, his queens Rani Bai and Ladi, and son prince Jaisiah put up stiff resistance. After the fall of Debal, Raja Dahir wrote to Muhammad “Be it known to you that the fortified town of Debal, which you have taken is an insignificant town where only traders and artisans reside. If I had sent against you Rai Jaisiah, who can wreak vengeance on the strongest man of his age, you could not have done the slightest harm to them”.
To his Wazir’s suggestion to move to other parts of Hind with his followers and property, Raja Dahir replied “I plan to meet the Arabs in open battle and fight them with all possible vigor. If I overpower them, I shall crush them to death. But if I am killed honorably the event will be recorded in the books of Arabia and Hind, and it will be said that such and such a king sacrificed his precious life for the sake of his country, in fighting the enemy”.
A fierce fight lasting for several days ensued between Raja Dahir and Kasim. According to the Chachnama, the Muslim army was almost routed on the second day of the battle. “The infidels made a rush on the Arabs from all sides and fought so bravely and steadily that the army of Islam became irresolute and their lines were broken up in great confusion”, notes the Chachnama.
However, the tide turned in favor of Kasim after Raja Dahir became an easy target as he was seated on an elephant and an arrow struck him in the chest killing him leaving the army in disarray thereby leading to their rout. Rai Jaisiah and Rani Bai vowed to defend the Raor Fort. On Wazir Sisakar’s advice, Jaisiah moved to the Brahmanabad Fort to defend the rest of his dominions. The Wazir subsequently switched sides and joined the Arabs.
Rani Bai along with some of the generals prepared for battle. The queen had 15,000 warriors who resolved to fight to the death. The queen and other ladies committed Jauhar after finding themselves in a hard-pressed situation. Rani Ladi encouraged the soldiers to continue fighting by distributing all her wealth and treasures among the warriors. Rai Jaisiah also continued to offer resistance from the stronghold of Brahmanabad. It was only after a courageous fight of six months that Brahmanabad fell.
Despite the extraordinary courage displayed by Raja Dahir’s son and queens, the unequal contest couldn’t last long and the entire Sindh including Multan passed into the hands of Muslims by 713 CE. It must be noted that it took seven decades of relentless efforts on the part of Arabs to merely secure a foothold in Sindh.
Even though Sindh passed into the hands of Arabs, this was by no means the end of Hindu resistance as we shall see in the subsequent part of this series how Hindu power was revived in Sindh, the failure of Islamists to progress further into Bharat, and how the conquest was only a minor affair from both political and missionary affair.
To borrow the words of Dr. Mishra “unlike Centra Asia where the idolaters had been rooted out, in Sindh Islam was confronted with a faith which though idolatrous, defied death”.
Read Part 1
- Heroic Hindu Resistance To Muslim Invaders 636 AD 1206 AD – Shri Sita Ram Goel (Source)
- Indian Resistance To Early Muslim Invaders upto 1206 AD – Dr. Ram Gopal Mishra