The Arabs had been the carriers of Indian trade to Europe for centuries. After conversion to Islam, they cast their covetous eyes on the fabulous wealth of India as well as they were eager to propagate their new religion in India.
However, the opportunity to invade Sind came to the Arabians in the beginning of the eighth century.
With the passage of time, the History of India, after the occupation of Sind had entered into its medieval phase.
The widespread political instability in India after the death of Harshavardhan, the last independent Hindu King had inspired the foreign elements once again to attack and enter India. The Arabs were no exception to it. After the rise of Islam, the Arabs having successfully implanting it in Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Persia had cast a covetous eye on Sind. In 712 A.D. they were successful in occupying Sind.
Several factors were responsible for the Arab invasion on Sind.
They are as follows:
(i) Propagation of Islam:
Propagation of Islam was one of the key factors behind the Arab invasion of Sind. After the spread of Islam in Egypt and Syria, the Caliph Walid 1 of Damascus had permitted the Arabs to go ahead with their Indian mission. Further the followers of Islam were dead against idolatry practice of the Hindus of India. So they thought the spoliation of the idolaters would be a means of earning.
(ii) Fabulous Wealth of India:
India was known to the world for her fabulous wealth and splendor. So like other invaders of the past, it had tempted the Arabs to grab her wealth.
(iii) Political Condition of India:
The then Political condition of India was also a major factor behind the Arab invasion of Sind. There was mutual rivalry and wars among the kings of petty provinces of India. Dahir, the ruler of Sind was unpopular and not liked by many. The Arabs took full advantage of it.
(iv) The Immediate Cause:
The immediate cause of the Arab invasion of Sind was the looting of the eight Arab ships which carried the gifts and treasures sent by the king of Ceylon to the Caliph, at the port of Debal near Sind. Some Historians have opined that the ships were also carrying some beautiful women as well as valuable articles for the khalifa. This unlawful act of piracy was strongly protested by Hajaj, the governor of Iraq.
He demanded compensation from Dahir, the king of Sind. But Dahir refuted Hajaj’s demands by saying that he had no control over pirates. This infuriated Hajaj who decided to send military expeditions to Sind. He also obtained permission from the Caliph in this regard.
However, the first two expeditions sent by Hajaj against Sind were beaten back by Dahir. Enraged at the repeated failures, Hajaj sent his nephew and Son-in-law Imaduddin Muhammad- bin-Qasim at the head of a huge army to Sind. Muhammad-bin- Qasim was an able and young commander-in-chief.
Invasion of Sind by Muhammad-bin-Qasim:
Muhammad-bin-Qasim was a young man of hardly seventeen years when he was entrusted with the work of invading Sind. He was very bold, courageous and ambitious. The story of his adventures, “Writes Stanley Lame-poole,” is one of the romances of history. Reflecting of his rise to power, his achievements and his fall, Ishwari Prasad writes, “His blooming youth, his dash and heroism, his noble deportment throughout the expedition and his tragic fall have invested his career with the halo of martyrdom.”
However towards the end of 711 A.D. Muhammad-bin-Qasim at the head of a huge army consisting of three thousand infantry, six thousand cavalry and six thousand Iraqian camelmen appeared at the north western border near Makran.
Capture of Debal:
Muhammad-bin-Qasim led his army towards Debal, a famous seaport, where the Arab’s ships were looted by some pirates. The port town Debal was well protected by strong fortifications, and it was not easy on the part of the Qasim’s army to penetrate into it so easily. A nephew of Dahir was the governor of Debal. Though he had an army of very small size with him, he tried to resist Qasim. But it became futile, when a treacherous Brahmin deserted the fortress and gave Qasim all the information’s regarding the secrets of its defence.
He also came to know from the Brahman that the strength of the Sind army lay in the massive Hindu temple inside the fort of Debal and as long as the red flag fluttered atop the temple, he could not defeat the Hindus. The temple was also garrisoned by 4000 Rajput’s and 3000 Brahmins serving at the temple. However, after a fierce battle Qasim brought down the red flag and the Arabian army resorted to a massacre. Despite a bold fight, the Hindus of Debal were defeated by the Arabs.
The nephew of Dahir who was the governor fled away. Debal was captured and a huge booty with a large number of women fell into the hands of the Arabs. The people were given the option of accepting Islam or death. Many thousands of Hindus including Brahmans were mercilessly killed on their refusal to embrace Islam. The massacre continued for three days. It was very unfortunate that Dahir who had prior information of the Arabian attack, did not care at all.
Fall of Nirun:
Flushed with success, Muhammad-bin-Qasim marched towards Nirun, which was under the charge of Dahir’s Son Jai Sindh. With the approach of the Arabs, Jai Sindh fled away after handing over the fort to a priest. Qasim captured it without a fight. It is said Nirun fell because of the treachery of some Buddhist citizens. Whatever may be the fact; Dahir had taken the matter lightly and did not attempt to check the further advances of the Arabs.
Fall of Sehwan:
After capturing Debal & Nirun, Muhammad-bin- Qasim marched against Sehwan, a town which was under the charge of the cousin of Dahir named Bajhra? The town was mostly inhabited by the merchant class and the priests. Bajhra could not defend the town in the face of the Arabian attack and fled away with panic. After his flight, the people of Sehwan surrendered to Muhammad-bin-Qasim. Sehwan fell because of poor defence.
Fall of Sisam and Victory over the Jats:
Sisam also met the same fate as had happened to Sehwan. It was the capital of the Jats of Budhiya and was ruled by Kaka, a jat king. Kaka had given shelter to Bajhra after his flight from Sehwan. Muhammad-bin-Qasim defeated the Jats who in turn surrendered to the Arabs. But during the encounter, Bajhra and his followers were killed. When so much had happened, yet Dahir did not raise his little finger to check the invader. Muhammad-bin-Qasim then reached the river Mihran where he was detained for some months because most of his horses of his army died of scurvy and he had to wait for fresh re-inforcement from home.
Dahir could have taken the full advantage of this opportunity to attack and destroy the Arabs. But he remained inactive. He also did not check the Arabs when they crossed the river Mihran. Probably, Dahir was confident to defeat his enemy in a Single encounter and that’s why he was waiting for it at Rawar on the bank of the Indus.
The Battle of Rawar:
Dahir, the powerful king of Sind was waiting for the Arab invader with a huge army of 50,000 sword men, horsemen and elephantry at a place called Rawar. He was determined to finish the enemy once for all. He did not know that the Arab army led by Muhammad-bin-Qasim was also equally strong to face any Challenge.
After waiting for some days, both the armies started fighting on 20th June, 712 A.D. It was a serious and severe battle. Dahir was a great warrior. He was fighting with a great spirit and was leading his army from the front. By riding on an elephant he was at the front and was attacking the opponent with great courage and valour.
In the mean while an arrow attached with burning cotton struck Dahir’s ‘howdah’ and set it flame. At this the elephant got frightened and rushed towards the river Indus. This made Dahir very much disturbed at the mid of the war. He became restless, inconsistent and inattentive. At this moment he was injured by an arrow and fell from his elephant.
Although the elephant was brought to control, Dahir did not wait for it. He immediately rode a horse and resumed fighting. But as he was not seen on the back of his elephant, his soldiers became panicky and fled away from the field of battle. However, Dahir gave a heroic fight and laid down his life after two days of his bloody battle. His widow Queen Ranibai refused to surrender the fort of Rawar and fought the invader to the bitter end.
She performed jouhar along with some besieged ladies of the fort. Muhammad-bin-Qasim became victorious. Nevertheless he took about eight months to acquire control over Sind because his army had to face tough resistance by the local people of many other towns and palaces including Alor and Brahmanabad.
Occupation of Multan:
After conquering Sind, Muhammad-bin-Qasim marched towards Multan, a major city situated in the upper Indus basin. On the way he had to encounter tough resistance by the local people but over powered them. On reaching Multan he found the city strongly fortified and people in full revolt. But at Multan he was also fortunate to get the help of a traitor who gave him the information regarding the source of water supply to the city.
Muhammad-bin-Qasim cut-off the source. The people of Multan surrendered at last after fighting bravely against the Arabs. Thus the city fell into the hands of the invader in 713 A.D. The Arabs massacred and plundered the city. Women and children were made captives and a large quantity of gold was collected by the Arabs. He obtained so much gold that they named the city as the ‘city of gold’.
After completing his mission in Sind and Multan, Muhammad-bin- Qasim was planning to proceed more into the interior of India. In the mean while there came a tragic end to his life. He was put to death by an order of Calipha, the religious head of the Islamic world.
Death of Muhammad-bin-Qasim:
The Death of Muhammad-bin-Qasim has been put to debate as there are two divergent views by different Historians. Historian Mir Massum in his “Tarik Sind’ has described an interesting story about the death of Muhammad-bin- Qasim. Muhammad- bin-Qasim during his campaign of Brahamanbad had captured the two virgin daughters of Dahir. They were Surya Devi and Parimal Devi. They were sent to the Calipha as gifts from Muhammad-bin-Qasim.
These two girls were determined to take revenge on Muhammad-bin-Qasim. So when they reached Calipha, they told him that they had been used and dishonored by Muhammad-bin-Qasim before they were sent to him. This made the Calipha so much angry that he at once ordered that Muhammad-bin-Qasim should be put to death and his body, being sewn up in the raw hide of an ox, should be despatched to him.
His order was immediately carried out. When Muhammad-bin-Qasim’s coffin was opened before the calipha, the two girls were delighted at having avenged on the enemy and killer of their father. Their mission was completed and so they declared that Qasim was innocent. This made the Calipha furious. At his order, the two sisters were tied to the tails of horses and were dragged to death.
But the other view regarding the death of Muhammad-bin- Qasim has been ascribed to a political cause. Some modern historians believe that Muhammad had become a victim of the court intrigues of the Calipha. Calipha Walid died in 715 A.D. and was succeeded by his brother Sulaiman who had enmity with Hajaj, the governor of Iraq and father-in-law of Muhammad-bin-Qasim.
He could not tolerate the importance of Hajaj as a result of Muhammad’s victorious campaigns in India. To bring an end to this Calipha might have ordered to kill Muhammad-bin-Qasim. Whatever may be the fact? Mohammad-bin-Kasim got a tragic end of his life.
Causes of Arab Success in Sind:
Many factors have been ascribed to the success the Arabs in Sind and Multan. Sind had a heterogeneous population consisting of the Hindus, the Buddhists, the Jains, the Jats, the Meds etc. There was no good relation among them as the subjects of Dahir lack unity at social level. Instead there prevailed hatred among them. So at the time of Arab invasion of Sind, they could not be united for the cause of their motherland. Some historians have opined that it was due to lack of social solidarity among the people of Sind; the country had to face the rath of the Arabs.
Unpopularity of Dahir:
Dahir was not liked by some sections of his subjects as he was proud and arrogant and mainly as a son of an usurper. Dahir’s father was a minister who had murdered his king and married the widow queen. Thus Dahir, being the son of an usurper, was not liked by the people.
Besides Dahir had enimity with his cousin brothers for the throne which had led the kingdom to a stage of civil war. Further Dahir’s governors were almost semi-independent princes and did not co-operate him at the time of crises. Because of his personal nature he was also not liked by his subjects who were mostly non-Hindus. Owing to his unpopularity he did not get the support of the people of his own kingdom at the time of foreign invasion.
Betrayal and Treachery:
It was the betrayal and treachery of some Indian citizens that had contributed a lot for the success of the Arabs. Debal fell because of a Brahmin traitor who exposed secrecy of the Temple and flag which was inside fort of Debal. At Nirun the Buddhists played treacherous role by joining hands with the invader. At Multan, a traitor informed the invador the source of water supply to the city. Some historians have viewed this as the role of the Fifth column in bringing about the fall of their own country.
Poverty and Backwardness:
Sind was a poor, backward kingdom with a space population and limited resources. So it was not possible on the part of the Dahir to finance for a large army or to wage a protracted war. This also had tempted the Arabs to invade Sind.
Isolation of Sind:
Isolation of Sind from the rest of India was also a factor for the Arab’s success in Sind. Though there were powerful dynasties like the Pratiharas of Malwa and Kanauj they did not come to the help of Sind. None of them bothered or cared for this incident which marked the beginning of Muslim rule in India.
Religious Enthusiasm of Arabs:
The Arabs were inspired by a new religion and had become fanatic. They thought that they were the forces of God and were engaged in a mission to destroy the faiths of the infidel and spared the blessings of Islam. The Arabs had also a great sense of patriotic feelings. The Indians on the other hand had no such religious enthusiasm or patriotism. Rather they had an indifferent, tolerant and cosmopolitan attitude towards other faiths and other people. Undoubtedly this had resulted, the Arab’s success in Sind.
The Arab army under the leadership of Muhammad-bin-Qasim was superior to that of Sind of Dahir in strength and technique. They were also well-equipped. Dahir’s army only at Rawar was nearly on par in number with that of the invader. But they were very poorly equipped as the majority of them were hastily recruited on the eve of the war and had not sufficient military training. This had caused the defeat of Dahir.
Responsibility of Dahir:
Dahir was largely responsible for the success of the Arabs owing to his initial lethargy and foolishness. He had remained inactive while Muhammad-bin-Qasim was conquering Debal, Nirun and Sehwan one after another. Even he had remained inactive when Muhammad crossed the Mihran to enter into Rawar. It was foolishness on the part of Dahir to hope that he would finish the enemy in a Single stroke at Rawar. At Rawar also Dahir committed a blunder by not commanding the army as its leader. Instead of commanding the army, he fought like a soldier and died.
Effect of the Arab Conquest:
The Arab conquest of Sind had little effect so far as political factors were concerned. According to Stanley Lane-poole, “The Arab conquest of Sind was only an episode in the history of India and of Islam—a triumph without results.” Many scholars have shared their views with Lane-poole.
Wolsely Haig writes, “It was a mere episode in the history of India and affected only a small portion of the fringe of that vast country.” After the death of Muhammad-bin-Qasim, the Arabs were liable to penetrate more into India. Their rule which continued to last only one and half centuries was confined to Sind only.
But the task of the foundation of Muslim rule in India was done by the Turk Muslims much later. According to Prof. Habibullah, “The Arab was not destined to raise Islam to be a political force in India, politically the Sind affair led to a dead end. The Indian powers also did almost nothing to drive them out of Sind. Hence the Arab invasion of Sind is regarded as an episode.”