India & Pakistan History

Different Opinions about the motives of Mahmud:
Sultan Mahmud made seventeen expeditions into Indo-Pakistan and conquered a number of places in the sub-continent. But he didn’t establish his rule over them or annex any part of the conquered territories except the Punjab. Various opinions have been expressed by the historians about the motives of Sultan Mahmud’s invasions.
Dr. Ishwari Prasad in his book “Muslim Rule in India” says that, Mahmud came to India as religious zealot accompanied by men who were prepared to sacrifice themselves in what they deemed a sacred cause. He fully exploited the religious sentiments of his followers, though he found no time to make conversions from among the native population”.
Some say that “Mehmud was the greatest champion of Islam whose main motive in invading this country was to preach Islam by breaking the idols and desecrating the temples”. There are others who hold the view that “his chief motive was to loot the wealth of Indo-Pakistan. He was a raider in chief who in order to satisfy his thirst for wealth, “came, burnt, killed, plundered, captured and went away”. Still there are others who think and maintain that Mahmud was a great military general and conqueror and it was his ambition that brought him to this sub-continent. Thus there are different views about the motives of the Mahmud’s invasion and these views may briefly be discussed here.
Religious Motives:
There are writers who are of the opinion that chief object of Mahmud’s Indian invasion was to crush idolatry and spread Islam. According to them Mahmud had been especially engaged by Khalifah Qadir Billah of Baghdad to undertake the task of spreading Islam in India and Mahmud in his repeated invasions tried to plant Islam in India. He destroyed the great Hindu temples of Nagarkot, Somnath and other places and compelled thousand of Hindus including many Rajast to embrace Islam.
The age of Mahmud was not religious in character:
The view of the historians cannot be accepted in the face of facts. The age of holy war was over long ago. The idea of propagation of Islam had ceased to be considered a part of the duty of the sovereign at the time of Sultan Mahmud.
Professor M. Habib says in his book “Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni” that, “the non-religious character of his expeditions will be obvious to the critic who has grasped the salient feature of the age. It is impossible to read a religious motive into them”.
Himself a Muslim never forced religion on others:
was not a preacher, but a great conqueror. He was a pious Muslim but never forced his religion on others. Islam sanctions neither vandalism nor plundering motives of the invader.
Dr. M. Nazim is of the opinion in his book “Life and Times of Sultan Mahmud” that, Some Rajas are said to have embraced Islam, but they did so most probably as a political shift to escape the fury of the conqueror and returned to their faith as soon as he had turned his back on them”.
Sir W. Haig in his book “Cambrige History of India says that, “His religious policy was based on toleration and though zealous for Islam, he maintained a large body of Hindu troops and there is no reason to believe that conversion was condition of their services.”
It is a different thing if a Hindu Raja and his followers embraced Islam either for the fear of defeat or for enjoying privileges under Islam.
His army composed of a large body of Hindu troops:
The Hindu soldiers fought shoulder to shoulder with the Muslims against the common enemy. Had it been a Holy War, it would not have been possible to against their co-religionists. According to M. Elphinstone, “It is nowhere asserted that he ever put a Hindu to death except in battle or in the storm of a fort”.
Mahmud massacred a good number of Muslims in Persia and almost all his Central Asian expeditions were against his co-religionists. According to Dr. M. Nazim, “If he harassed the Hindu Rajas of India, he did not spare the Muslim sovereigns of Iran and Transoxiania.”
Religious liberty granted to the Hindus
Under his benign government the Hindus enjoyed complete religious freedom. He granted the Hindus separate quarters in Ghazni where they were at liberty to perform their religious rites and ceremonies. The Hindus were appointed to highly responsible posts and the names of Tilak Rai, Hazari Rai and Sonai stand out prominently in the military history of Ghazni. He also instituted a college and a market in Ghazni for the propagation of Hindu culture and Sanskrit works. If he was a fanatic, how could it be possible for him to do these things?
Destruction of temples was due to military programme:
Mahmud of course, destroyed some of the temples of the Hindus. This destruction of Hindu temples was a part of his military programme, for the temples were the repositories of accumulated wealth. There certain writers who blame Mahmud for “wanton destruction of temples”. But they have forgotten that it was only during war that the temples were destroyed. He never destroyed any temple in peace time nor did any temple suffer desecration at his hands, if he had not been aware of its riches. He was not actuated by a desire to punish the idolators nor to spread the faith of Islam.
The famous historian al-Beruni who was an eye witness says, “The treasurers were accumulated in the temples by the bounty of pious Hindus who had grown rich by selling their surplus produce to foreign merchants.”
Charge of invading India on religious ground was base less:
The temples were regarded as inviolate and some times even monarchs kept huge wealth in the safe custody at these temples.
According to Dr. Iswari Prasad, “The temples of India which Mahmud raided were store-houses of enormous and untold wealth and also some of these were political centers”.
Hence, the view of the critics that Mahmud invaded India again and again to preach Islam by breaking the idols and desecrating the temples is historically wrong and psychologically untrue.
Political Motive:
According to some historians Mahmud’s motive in invading India was to satisfy him ambition of conquest and to extend his empire to this country. There is no doubt that Mahmud was an ambitious man and it was but natural for him to cherish the idea of extending his empire to the east.
Invasions of India arouse out of political necessity:
This idea arouse out of necessity. The North-West Frontier of India occupies a strategic position and its occupation is of vital importance to the Kingdom of Kabul and Afghanistan. It may be mentioned here that Jaypal, the King of the Hindushahi kingdom of the Punjab, viewed the rise of the Ghaznavid power with great alarm and it was he who first invaded Ghazni during the time of Sabuktigin. Though he drank the cup of humiliation at the hands of Sabuktigin, the issue remained unsettled and when Mahmud ascended the throne, he took up the issue.
His motive to establish a Central Asian Empire:
Sultan Mahmud wanted to establish a Central Asian Empire and for this, he followed a policy of conquest and consolidation in the west. But in east Mahmud remained satisfied with the annexation of the Punjab and some other places such as Sind and Multan. These places formed the second line of his defense in the east and south-east. His Indian invasion was one of the political rather than religious interests.
Disloyalty of the Hindus:
In addition to the occupation of North-West Frontier in the interest of his kingdom, the violation of the terms of the treaty by the Hindu Rajas, the renouncing of allegiance to the Sultan, the political betrayal in the form of help to his enemies, the molestation of his Indian allies by their hostile neighbours and the rebellion of the Indian vassals compelled Mahmud to invade Indo-Pakistan.
Economic Motives:
According to S. M. Jaffar and Professor Habib, the real motive of Mahmud’s invasion of India was economic and not religious.
R.C. Majumdar in his book, “An Advanced History of India” says that, “Mahmud was neither a missionary for the propagation of religion in this country nor an architect of empire. The main object of his eastern expeditions seems to have been the acquisition of the “wealth of India” and the destruction of morale of its custodians.
Economic Necessity:
Mahmud was in need of Money and the fabulous wealth of India might have attracted him to the fertile plains of Hindustan. Whenever he led an expedition, he went back with enormous money in order to finance his campaigns against his Central Asian enemies and to build Ghazni into a great empire. Hence, it can be concluded that the real motives of Mahmud’s Indian invasions were economic-cum-political and not religious.
Was Mahmud a Raider?
Unlike other Central Asian rulers, Mahmud of Ghazni did not like to live here permanently. So after conquering the land and destroying the power of his enemies he went back to his own country. His invasions seem to be merely plundering raids and he appears to the historians of India more as raider than a conqueror. But his conquests in other direction and those in the sub-continent, though the later had little permanent result, speak positively of Mahmud as a great conqueror.
Mahmud availed the opportunity:
Mahmud fully realized the importance of wealth in attaining political power and when India offered him that chance, he availed himself of it. The money which he took from India was properly spent for the improvement of the capital. But one thing seems to be certain. His frequent raids must have caused hardship to the population of the north-western part of this sub-continent.
Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi was a man of ambition. Early in life he formed the resolve of spreading the faith of Prophet in distant lands his investiture by the Khalifah further sharpened his zeal and he made it obligatory on himself to undertake every year an expedition to Hind. According to Sir Henry Elliot, he led as many as seventeen expeditions. India with her myriad faiths and fabulous wealth presented a favourable field for the exercise of his religious and political ambitions. He was a pious Muslim who observed all the injunctions of Islam in his daily life, but he never forced religion on others. He knew the Quran by heart and possessed sufficient knowledge of the Hadith. He was a true Mujahid who worked for the cause of Islam. He crushed the idolatry and polytheism in India. As rightly said by M. Habib, “When he was breaking the idol of Somnath, the priests offered him immense wealth, only if he spared that remained of their god, but he replied that he wished to be known in the world as the Mahmud the breaker of idols and not as Mahmud the seller of idols”. (farishta) Mahmud paved the way for the propagation of Islam and Islamic empire in future. “The expedition of Somnath” says Dr. M. Nazim, “is one of the greatest feats of military adventure in the history of Islam.” Ishwari Prasad, “to the Muslim of his days, he was a Ghazi who tried to extirpate, infidelity in heathen land. He was an orthodox Sunni and took a keen interest in religion

Mahmud Ghaznavi (979-1030)

One of the most controversial personalities in the history of South Asia, Mahmud Ghaznavi is known as one of the greatest conquerors the world has ever seen. He was one of the very few leaders who were never defeated in a battlefield. Born in 979, Mahmud became the Sultan of Ghazni in 998. He inherited the small state of Ghazni from his father Subuktigin, and turned it into an empire that lasted for about a century. He was a brave man and use to take part in all the battles his forces fought. Though he was interested in extending his empire toward Central Asia, the maneuverings of the Hindu rulers of Punjab forced him to invade South Asia. He came to South Asia seventeen times and went back to Ghazni every time with a great victory. He fought against the strong forces of Jaipal, Annadpal, Tarnochalpal, Kramta and the joint forces of Hindu Rajas and Maharajas but all of them were forced to flee away from the battlefield due to Mahmud’s war strategy as a general. After the conquest of Multan and Lahore, Mahmud made Punjab a part of his empire in 1021.
Unlike other great conquerors like Alexander and Chengez Khan, Mahmud did not leave the areas conquered to the mercy of his soldiers. After becoming the first Muslim ruler to conquer Northern Punjab, he consolidated his rule in the area and established his provincial headquarters at Lahore. He established law and order in the areas that he ruled, giving special attention to the people he ruled. The department of police and post were efficient. His judicial system was very good as everybody was equal before the law and justice was the order of the day.Mahmud was also a great patron of learning. His court was full of scholars including giants like Firdosi the poet, Behqi the historian and Al-Biruni the versatile scholar. It is said that he used to spend four hundred thousand golden Dinars on scholars. He invited the scholars from all over the world and was thus known as an abductor of scholars. Under Mahmud, Ghazni became one of the most important and beautiful cities of the Islamic world. It was the city of mosques, madrasas and libraries. He also established a Museum in Ghazni. During his rule, Lahore also became a great center of learning and culture. Lahore was called ‘Small Ghazni’. Saad Salman, a poet of those times, has written about the academic and cultural life of Lahore.

Mahmud was also a deeply religious man. He himself wrote a book on Fiqh. He had respect for other religions. A large number of Hindus lived in Ghazni, and they enjoyed religious freedom. One of his commanders named Tilak was a Hindu. A number of soldiers in his army were also Hindus. Mahmud attacked the Hindu Temples in India because of political and not religious reasons.

Mahmud Ghaznavi died on April 30 1030.

Hajjaj bin Yusaf was deeply mortified at two succesive failure of the expedition of Sind to take revenge on the Sindhis, he fitted out a third expedition under the charge of his cousin and son-in-law, Muhammad bin Qasim. Under Hajjaj’s patronage, Muhammad bin Qasim was made governor of Persia, where he succeeded in putting down a rebellion. At the age of seventeen, he was sent by Caliph Al-Walid I on the recommendation of Hajjaj to lead an army towards South Asia into what are today the Sindh and Punjab regions of Pakistan. S. M. Ikram pays tribute to Muhammad bin Qasim thus, “He combined great courage and resourcefulness with moderation and statesmanship of high order. . . he was methodical, disciplined, shrewd and humane individual displaying political sagacity and military skill far above his years. He had a warm, humane personality ready to enjoy the honour of new and old situations: with all this he was disciplined soldier.”

Character of bin Qasim

The military and the administrative success of Muhammad bin Qasim form one of the most brilliant chapters in the history of the Muslim rulers of Indo-Pakistan. He was a born leader and a man of versatile genius. He was a poet, a patriot, a statesman and an accomplished administrator. His tender age, impressive figure, his dauntless courage and noble bravery, his brilliant victories in battles and wise method of administration and lastly his sudden and tragic end make the story of his short and illustrious life one of the romances of history. He was strong against opponents and tender-hearted to his friends. According to al-Marzubani, Muhammad bin Qasim was one of the great men of all times. ~HealAn able General:

The army of Raja Dahir was inferior in technical skill and his commanders were inferior in generalship, Muhammad bin Qasim, a young man of 17 was an intrepid and skilful general, and the success of the Arabs in Sind was largely due to his able generalship.

Far sighted statesman:

Muhammad bin Qasim was a far-sighted statesman and great politician. He did not disturb the existing system of administration in Sind. He placed the entire machinery of internal administration in the hands of the natives. The people who had occupied key posts in the time of Dahir, were expected to know all about the land. According to Chach Nama, Reposing full confidence in them, Muhammad bin Qasim entrusted them with high offices and placed all important affairs of the place in their hands”.

Toleration to the subjects:

He was not only a great warrior and conqueror but also a good administrator. The administration introduced by him leads us to believe that he possessed great experience in the art of administration. Some of the temples were no doubt destroyed during the days of war, but that was a temporary phase, for the destruction of the temple was due not to religious bigotry or fanaticism but to the fact that the temples were the repositories of India’s age long accumulated wealth.

He adopted kind and conciliatory policy towards the subject. The Brahmins were permitted to perform their rites and ceremonies in the manner prescribed by their religion. He granted the population of Sind the right to life and property in lieu of their submission and willingness to pay taxes to the Muslim administrator.

Tragic End:

Muhammad bin Qasim met his tragic end in the prime of his life in 715. His death checked the further progress of the Arab arms. The Khalifah Sulayman was an arch enemy of Hajjaj bin Yusuf and Muhammad bin Qasim being his cousin and son-in-law fell a victim to his wrath. He was arrested and sent to Mesopotamia where he was tortured to death. Thus ended the bright career of the great hero who had laid he foundation of Muslim rule in the sub-continent.

Muhammad bin Qasim as, a good soldier and a good ruler

Muhammad bin Qasim (695-715)

Muhammad bin Qasim was orphaned as a child and thus the responsibility of his upbringing fell upon his mother. She supervised his religious instruction herself, and hired different teachers for his worldly education. It was the uncle, Hajjaj bin Yousaf, who taught him the art of governing and warfare. Qasim was an intelligent and cultured young man who at the age of fifteen was considered by many to be one of his uncle’s greatest assets. As a show of faith in his nephew’s abilities, Hajjaj married his daughter to Qasim.
At the age of sixteen, he was asked to serve under the great general, Qutayba bin Muslim. Under his command Muhammad bin Qasim displayed a talent for skilful fighting and military planning. Hajjaj’s complete trust in Qasim’s abilities as a general became even more apparent when he appointed the young man as the commander of the all-important invasion on Sindh, when he was only seventeen years old. Muhammad bin Qasim proved Hajjaj right when he, without many problems, managed to win all his military campaigns. He used both his mind and military skills in capturing places like Daibul, Raor, Uch and Multan. History does not boast of many other commanders who managed such a great victory at such a young age.
Besides being a great general, Muhammad bin Qasim was also an excellent administrator. He established peace and order as well as a good administrative structure in the areas he conquered. He was a kind hearted and religious person. He had great respect for other religions. Hindu and Buddhist spiritual leaders were given stipends during his rule. The poor people of the land were greatly impressed by his policies and a number of them embraced Islam. Those who stuck to their old religions erected statues in his honor and started worshiping him after his departure from their land.
Muhammad bin Qasim was known for his obedience to the ruler. Walid bin Abdul Malik died and was succeeded by his younger brother Suleman as the Caliph. Suleman was an enemy of Hajjaj and thus ordered Qasim back to the kingdom. Qasim knew of the animosity between the two. He was aware that due to this enmity, he would not be well treated. He could have easily refused to obey the Caliph’s orders and declare his independence in Sindh. Yet he was of the view that obeying ones ruler is the duty of a general and thus he decided to go back to the center. Here he became a victim to party politics. He was put behind bars where he died at age of twenty. Many historians believe that had he been given a few more years, he would have conquered the entire South Asian region.