In this article we will discuss about the invasions of Arabs on India and its effects.
The Arabs in Sindh:
The rise and growth of Islam has been regarded as one of the most important events of world history. Islam grew up in the desert of Arabia and its first converts, the Arabs, made it a powerful force in the politics of Asia.
Afterwards, the Persians took up the cause of Islam and strengthened it and, then, the Turks extended it towards both the West and the East and made it one of the foremost religions of the world. Prophet Muhammad (570-632 A.D.), the founder of Islam, propagated Islam, both by peace and war, and therefore, Islam was propagated by his followers both by propaganda and force from its very beginning.
Islam inspired a war-like spirit and national consciousness among the Arabs who decided to spread their new religion and carry on military conquests all over the world. Within less than a century, the Arabs established a vast empire which extended from the Atlantic Sea in the west to the banks of the river Indus in the east and from the Caspian Sea in the north to the valley of the river Nile in the south. The successors of Prophet Muhammad were called Khalifas (Caliphs).
Abu Bakr was the first Khalifa who, after the death of Prophet Muhammad, was elected as head of the Islamic faith and also that of the state. His family was called the Umayyad. In 750 A.D., the Abbasids replaced the Umayyad family of the Khalifas.
The Khalifa continued to be the nominal head of the Islamic faith till the abolition of the title by the British Government after the World War I. It was under the Umayyad Khalifas that the Arabs succeeded in conquering Sindh.
The Condition of India at the Time of Arab Invasion:
Politically, India was divided into rival states. However, the division of India was not its primary weakness. India is a sub-continent and it was not possible to keep it under one rule at that time.
Besides, even after its division, there had been quite a few extensive kingdoms at that time which were powerful enough to meet the challenge of foreign aggressors. The weakness of India was not its division into many states but constant fighting among them for power and glory.
At that time, Afghanistan was ruled by Hindu kings. Politically and culturally it had been a part of India since the period of the mighty Mauryas. Afterwards it was divided into two kingdoms, viz., the kingdoms of Jabul and Kabul. The kingdom of Kabul extended up to the borders of Kashmir in the north-east and touched the borders of Persia in the west.
The kingdom of Jabul was between the territories of Baluchistan and the kingdom of Kabul. Being situated in the northwest of India, these kingdoms had to meet the challenge of the Muslims first. However, the Hindu rulers of these kingdoms succeeded in maintaining their independence till the end of ninth century A.D. Kashmir was also an independent state.
It became a powerful state during the reign of Lalitaditva (725-755 A.D.) who even succeeded in defeating Yaso Varman, the powerful Pratihara ruler of Kannauj. Yaso Varman was also a powerful ruler of north India whose empire extended from east Punjab in the west to Bengal in the east and from the Himalayas in the north to the banks of the river Narmada in the south.
The Pala dynasty ruled over Bengal. Thus, there were powerful states in north India at that time. The same way, the Vakatakas, the Pallavas, the Pandyas and the Cholas had strong kingdoms in the South. Even Sindh was an extensive kingdom whose boundary touched the border of Kashmir in the North, the state of Kannauj in the east and the Arabian Sea in the South.
Baluchistan was also a part of its territories. Sindh was ruled by Dahar, a brahmana by caste. His family had captured the throne of Sindh quite recently and Dahar himself had captured the throne after a contest against his cousin.
Thus, he got little time to consolidate his position when the invasion of the Arabs took place. Besides, his policy remained somewhat oppressive towards the Sudras from whom his family had snatched away the throne of Sindh and also towards the Jats of Sindh.
Thus, Sindh suffered from internal dissensions and unstable rule and. thus, was comparatively a weak state of India at that time. But beyond the border of Sindh there were powerful kingdoms in India, both in the North and the South, which though fought among themselves, were yet powerful enough to resist foreign invaders.
The Indian society was divided into castes and sub-castes and generally interdining and intercaste marriages were not permitted. Yet, the caste system had not grown very much rigid. Intercaste marriages, change of caste and absorption of foreigners among Hindus was possible. Women did not enjoy equal rights with men, yet they occupied a respectable place in society.
There was no Purdah system. Women received education, participated in social and religious functions and even in administration and had the right to choose their husbands. However, while a man could marry several women, the women enjoyed no such right. Besides, the practice of Sati was getting popular among the ruling class. The people observed high morality and the common people led a simple life.
Education was also widely prevalent and besides religious education all other subjects of study were also taught to the students. Nalanda, Vallabhi, Kashi, Kanchi etc. were the great centres of learning at that time. Hinduism was the most popular religion, though Buddhism was also fairly widespread.
Economically, India was prosperous. Agriculture, trade and commerce, handicrafts and industries were all in a progressive stage which had brought all- round prosperity to India. Of course, the major share of this prosperity was enjoyed by the rich minority class, yet, the common people did not suffer economic hardships.
Thus, politically, economically and culturally India did not suffer from any weakness at the time of the invasion of the Arabs. Yet, the rivalry and constant fighting of different rulers among themselves, indifference to improvement of their arms and fighting skill as compared to foreigners and lack of emotional unity for the country as a whole were the weaknesses which were slowly coming up and, when these were not attended to properly, it weakened India in the coming centuries and, finally, led to her defeat and disgrace by foreigners.
The Causes of the Invasion:
The Arabs had contacts with India prior to their attack on Sindh. They used to come for trade, particularly, in the south-west coast of India. Afterwards, with the growth of their military power their ambition also grew and they desired to capture territories in India. Their first attack took place in 636 A.D. when they tried to capture Thana near Bombay.
The attempt did not succeed. Afterwards, they made frequent attempts to get some foothold in India through both sea and land. But mostly, they desired to capture the north-west territories in the border of Sindh, particularly Makarana. After a few unsuccessful attempts, the Arabs, ultimately succeeded in capturing Makarana (modem Baluchistan) in the beginning of the eighth century A.D. which paved the way for the conquest of Sindh.
The one cause of the attack of the Arabs was their religious zeal. The propagation of Islam by force and conquest had been the aim of all the Khalifas. The attack on Sindh was also a part of that policy. Secondly, the Khalifas were not only heads of Islamic faith but also heads of the Islamic state.
Therefore, like all powerful rulers they also desired to extend their empire. The attack on Sindh was also a part of their expansionist policy. Thirdly, the Arabs, having trade relations with India, knew that India was a rich country. Therefore, the lure of wealth through conquest was also one of the reasons of their attack on Sindh. However, the immediate cause of their attack was the activity of sea-pirates of Sindh who looted certain Arab ships.
Historians have expressed different opinions regarding this incident. Sir Wolseley Haig has observed that the king of Ceylon sent to Hajjaj, the Muslim governor of Iraq, some Muslim women whose fathers had died and therefore, there was nobody to look after them. But the ship in which they were sailing was captured by pirates of Debal, a sea-port of Sindh.
Some other scholars have expressed the view that the pirates looted the presents and carried off women who were offered by the king of Ceylon to the Khalifa. Some others have said that the king of Ceylon had embraced Islam and he had sent some women and other presents to the Khalifa and those presents were looted by sea-pirates.
There is no conclusive evidence to prove that the king of Ceylon had embraced Islam but it is accepted by all historians that certain women, whosoever they might be, and some articles sent by the king of Ceylon to Hajjaj were captured by the sea-pirates of Sindh. Hajjaj demanded from Dahar, the then ruler of Sindh, to set free those women or to pay compensation.
Dahar refused to do anything and replied that he had no control over those sea-pirates who had captured those women. Hajjaj felt very angry, decided to conquer Sindh and sought permission for the attack from Khalifa Walid, which was granted somewhat reluctantly.
The first attack under Ubaidullah failed. He was defeated and killed. Another army sent under Budail met the same fate. Then Hajjaj made elaborate preparations for the attack on Sindh and sent a powerful army under the command of his nephew and son-in-law, Muhammad-bin-Qasim, in 711 A.D. Muhammad proceeded towards Sindh through Makarana and first conquered Debal where he received fresh reinforcement sent by Hajjaj through the sea.
Then he conquered Nerun, Siwistan and a few other strongholds. By then Dahar offered no resistance to the Arabs. He left his fate and the fate of Sindh to be decided by one pitched battle against the Arabs. Ultimately, he came out of the fort of Brahamanabad and proceeded towards Raor to face the enemy. The Hindus and the Arabs remained facing each other for a few days without any battle.
The battle took place on 20 June, 712 A.D. Dahar fought gallantly but just when the Muslim army was on the verge of collapse, his elephant, who got wounded, rushed away from the battlefield which created panic and confusion in the Hindu army. Still Dahar returned to the battlefield, fought with desperate courage and ultimately fell fighting in the midst of his enemies.
The fort of Raor was then defended by the widowed queen of Dahar. But when the provisions of the fort failed, the women performed Jauhar and the men came out of the fort to fight till death. The fort was, ultimately, captured by the Arabs. Jaisingha, the son of Dahar, offered resistance to the Arabs at the fort of Brahamanabad but had to leave it to the Arabs.
Here Muhammad captured the entire treasury of Dahar and also one of his queens, Ladi, and her daughters. Suryadevi and Parmaldevi. He himself married Ladi and sent her virgin daughters to the Khalifa as presents. The Arabs also captured Alor and a few other forts which completed their conquest of Sindh. In 713 A.D., Muhammad proceeded to attack Multan.
After a few serious engagements with the enemies, he reached Multan and besieged the fort. The people offered resistance for two months but, then, a traitor pointed out to Muhammad the source of water-supply to the town. Muhammad cut it off and Multan was forced to surrender. Muhammad got a vast quantity of gold in Multan and therefore, named it the city of gold. Multan, however, was the last city which was conquered by Muhammad.
Muhammad, the conqueror of Sindh, could not live long after his successful campaigns. He met a tragic end. According to Chahnama, Suryadevi and Parmaldevi, daughters of Dahar. who were sent as presents to the Khalifa, accused Muhammad of having outraged them and of keeping them in his harem for three days before sending them to the Khalifa. The Khalifa was enraged and ordered that Muhammad should be brought before him after sewing him in the skin of an ox.
Muhammad obeyed the orders of the Khalifa and sewed himself in the skin of an ox and died. However, the daughters of Dahar afterwards accepted that their charge against Muhammad was false and therefore, they too were killed by the orders of the Khalifa. Mir Masum has also accepted this story of Chahnama. But, modern historians have refused to accept this story. They claim that the cause of the downfall of Muhammad was political.
According to them, Khalifa Walid was succeeded by his brother, Sulaiman, in 715 A.D. Khalifa Sulaiman and his governor of Iraq were enemies of Hajjaj. But then, Hajjaj had died by that time. So their wrath fell on his son-in-law, Muhammad, who was recalled from India and put to death along with several other adherents of Hajjaj.
The Causes of the Success of the Arabs:
The Arabs succeeded in conquering Sindh and Multan due to several reasons. Primarily, the internal weaknesses of Sindh were responsible for its fall. Sindh was a weak state of India. It was thinly populated, its economic resources were meagre and it was not strong militarily. There were sharp social divisions in Sindh.
Besides, the usual distinctions of Hindu society of being higher and lower castes, the rule of Brahamana kings had been oppressive towards war-like people like Jats and Meds which alienated them from their rulers. Sindh, of course, was not poor and it had good foreign trade. Yet, it was not so prosperous as to provide the means to develop itself into a strong state militarily.
The family of Dahar had captured the throne quite recently and neither his family nor he had succeeded in providing a stable, strong and popular government in Sindh. His provincial governors were virtually semi-independent and quite a large section of the populace was not loyal to him, particularly, the Buddhists and the trading class who did not cooperate with him.
Therefore, Dahar could not utilise complete resources of Sindh against the Arabs. Sindh was located at the extreme west corner of India and therefore, other Indian rulers remained indifferent to its fate. The Arabs possessed superior arms, cavalry, military tactics and were inspired by religious zeal as well. As compared to them, the Hindus lacked not only the military resources but also emotional unity.
The Hindus failed to develop that sense of unity even on the basis of their religion and culture which could inspire them to fight the Arabs with emotional zeal to protect their country. Therefore, their ideal remained limited and their conflict with the Arabs remained only a struggle against an aggressor to save their kingdom.
Dahar committed many tactical mistakes from the very beginning He could not foresee the danger of the Arab invasion, once they had conquered Makarana. He remained totally inactive when Muhammad was conquering Debal, Nerun and other places at lower Sindh. It was a fatal mistake on his part that he left his fate to be decided by a single, pitched battle against the Arabs.
He failed to divide the strength of his enemy which he could do if he had chosen to attack him from different directions and at different places, and he did not exploit the difficulties of Muhammad in his favour when sickness prevailed in the Arab camp before the battle of Raor. Of course, Dahar was a brave and courageous fighter and he fought gallantly but it was absolutely wrong on his part to risk his life in the battle as a common soldier.
Muhammad was certainly a more capable commander than him and that was fairly responsible for the success of the Arabs. The Arabs could get traitors also from the Indian side.
At the battle of Raor, one Indian suggested to Muhammad some ways and means to bring down the morale of the Indian army; Nerun was surrendered to the Arabs without fighting; the Jats supported the Arabs after the battle of Sesam; and a traitor showed to the Arabs the source of water-supply to the fort of Multan.
The treachery from the Indian side certainly helped in the success of the Arabs. Besides, the superior commandership of Muhammad, the religious zeal of the Arabs and their better arms and military tactics were certainly responsible for their success.
The Arabs in Sindh after Muhammad:
The Arabs failed to penetrate further into India. When the Abbasids replaced Umayyads as Khalifas, the Arabs in Sindh were divided and they fought against each other. Ultimately, the powers of the Khalifas weakened and they failed to keep control over their distant provinces.
The same happened with Sindh which became free from the control of the Khalifas in 871 A.D. But the Arabs failed to unite themselves. Their kingdom of Sindh was divided into two parts, viz., lower and upper Sindh. Thus, there remained two Arab kingdoms in Sindh till the invasion of Sultan Mahmud.
The Arabs failed not only in keeping their kingdom in Sindh intact but also to administer it well. Their administration in Sindh was like a military Jagir. The Arabs simply collected taxes and maintained their position with the force of arms. However, as their number was limited, they took help from the local people in administering Sindh and refrained from interfering in the local administration.
The administration of the Arabs brought forward only one novelty. Islam divided all non-Muslims into two parts. The one set of people were called Zimmis (like Christian and Jews) who shared the knowledge of true religion, viz., Islam and therefore, were allowed to live under the protection of an Islamic ruler after payment of a religious tax called the Jaziya.
The other set of people who engaged themselves in image-worship were called the Kafirs. The Kafirs were not allowed to live in an Islamic state and therefore, had to choose between the two alternatives, viz., conversion or death. The Hindus came under the category of the Kafirs. When Muhammad conquered Sindh, he found it absolutely impossible to convert all Hindus to Islam or put them to death.
Therefore, he accepted Hindus as Zimmis and sought the permission of Hajjaj for the same, which was granted. The Turks, who followed the Arabs in India afterwards, thus, could find a ready-made solution and the Hindus were allowed to live in an Islamic state after the payment of Jaziya. This was a novelty in the history of Islam, as comments Sir William Muir. The conquest of Sindh, thus, began a new age in the policy of Islam.
The Effects of the Arab Invasion:
Colonel Tod, the famous historian of the history of Rajasthan, described that the invasion of the Arabs had a tremendous effect and the entire north India was terrorised by it. Now, no historian accepts his view. It had a very limited effect on the politics of India. Lane-Poole writes, “It was simply an episode in the history of India.” Wolseley Haig also writes. “It was a mere episode in the history of India and affected only a small portion of the fringe of that vast country.”
The Arabs did not break the military strength of India and therefore, did not pave the way for the conquest of India by Islam. They simply drew closer the contacts of Indians with the Arabs and the Islamic world. Besides, they were the first who established the rule of Islam in India and converted Hindus to Islam in quite large numbers.
The Arabs did not impress Indians culturally. Instead, they themselves were influenced by the culture of India. The Arabs learnt much from fine arts, astrology, science of medicines and literature of India. They employed Hindu artists and architects to construct their buildings. They also learnt from Buddhist and Hindu philosophy, literature and religious ideals.
The Sanskrit texts, the Brahma Siddhanta and the Khanda-Khadhyak were translated into Arabic language during the period of Khalifa Al-Mansur. The Arabs learnt the philosophy of Sanyas and Tapa from the Indians.
The Arabs also gained the knowledge of numericals and profited from the science of medicine of Indians. Dr A.L. Srivastava has expressed the view that not only the Arabs but Europeans also drew advantage from the knowledge of the Indians in the eighth and ninth centuries A.D. because of their contacts with them through the Arabs.
Thus, though the Arabs came to India as conquerors they failed to influence Indian politics and culture in any way. Instead they themselves and through them the western world also drew advantage in many fields by coming in contact with the Indians, which also justifies the view that by that time the Indian people and their culture had not lost their vigour and were in a position to contribute constructively to the culture and knowledge of the world.
The Arabs and the Turks in Hindu-Afghanistan:
At that time there were two Hindu kingdoms in Afghanistan. One was the kingdom of Kabul and the other that of Jabul. These Hindu kingdoms also had to face the challenge of the rising power of Islam. The Arabs conquered Iran by 643 A.D. and, since then, the boundaries of their empire touched the boundaries of these two kingdoms.
The Arabs tried to penetrate into Afghanistan and made repeated attempts for it. But, for nearly two centuries, these Hindu-kingdoms successfully met their challenges and the Arabs could succeed only partially. The Arabs first succeeded in capturing Siestan but then their progress was checked for the next fifty years.
Then Hajjaj, the governor of Iraq, attempted to conquer these kingdoms as he had attempted to conquer Sindh. But his attempts and all the attempts of the Arabs after him failed. Even their possession of Siestan proved to be instable.
Thus, the Hindu kingdoms of Afghanistan did not yield to the Arabs and did not permit them to enter India directly through Afghanistan for a long time. The kingdoms existed till 870 A.D., when finally they were conquered by the Turks. Thus, the Hindus successfully checked the rising power of Islam on its frontiers for nearly 225 years, which has been accepted as a creditable account of their power and valour.