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Old Friday, April 18, 2008
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Post Arab Rule Of Sindh/pakistan


In A.D. 711, a youthful Arab general Muhammed Bin Qasim rode eastwards along the desolate Makran coast (Baluchistan) with six thousand Syrian Arab cavaliers to become the conqueror of Sind. It was an event of great historic significance about which the Italian scholar F. Gabrieli comments: "Present day Pakistan, holding the values of Islam in such high esteem, should look upon the young Arab conqueror, Muhammed bin Qasim, almost as a distant Kistes (founding father), a hero of South Asian Islam".

Muhammed Bin Qasim's conquest were part of the proselytization and expansion of the Damascus based Ommayid Empire. He was the military commander of Caliph Walid bin Abdul malik whose domains extended from Central Asia to Spain. In A.D. 712, Muhammed Bin Qasim conquered Sind's major sea port Daibul. Its ruins are situated 40 miles east of Karachi at the mouth of a dried up channel of the Indus Delta. The city had a great Buddhist stupa, a dewal, the root of its Arab name Daibul.

At that time Sind was ruled by Brahmin King Dahir son of Chach, related the 13th century Persian chronicle Chachnama, translated from a lost near-contemporary account in Arabic referred to by later Arab historians.

Dahir's kingdom extended from the Indus Delta on the Arabian Sea to Rur, contemporary Rohri, on the eastern banks of the Indus opposite the modern city of Sukkur. The kingdom had brought about a reassertion of Brahmanism over Buddhism, but because majority of people were then followers of the Buddhist faith, it had an extremely fragile base. The Arabs came accross so many Buddhist idols in Sind that they adopted the word budd (Buddha) for the idol in the temple, a word still used in Pakistan.

After taking control of Daibul, Muhammed Bin Qasim continued his advance northwards and conquered Niran near Hyderabad. There the Arabs were reiforced by a contingent of four thousand native Jat soldiers. They crossed the Indus by a bridge of boats and challenged dahir's army near Rawar. The battle of destiny ensued. Dahir's forces were scattered and he died fighting.

The Arabs continued pressing northwards along the Indus. They captured Dahir's capital city Brahmanabad (Brahmin city), where they built their own city Mansura. Next they occupied Rur and continued their advance until they conquered Multan, the most ancient living city of South Asia. Multan, with its renowned ancient golden temple dedicated to the sun god Aditya, contained so much gold that the conquerors evidently felt that they need go no further. For three centuries it remained the northernmost outpost of the Sind province of the Arab Empire.

The amazing Arab Islamic expansion was not only the result of cavalry forays. They had combined military operations with political means as well. Their offer to proselytize the natives to their own faith and become part of the new Islamic community had a far reaching impact. It was an offer which was open to everybody, and one which was perhaps most readily accepted by the lower orders of Hindus who now had a marvellous opportunity for collective manumission from caste slavery. As a result many Sind tribes accepted Islam, among them the Somra Rajputs. An additional attraction was that religious levies were abolished for those who converted.

But the new ruling power in Sind did not impose Islam on anybody. The Chachnama has reproduced extracts from the historic Brahmanabad Charter which for the eighth century represents a paricularly high level of humanistic social order and values.

Those who did not choose to convert to Islam were treated magnanimously. The charter allowed complete religious freedom to those living in the countryside around Brahmanabad, putting them on par with the status of Jews, Magians and fire worshippers in Syria and Iraq. They were allowed to continue making idols of their gods; Brahmins and Buddhists alike could continue celebrating religious festivals according to the customs of their forefathers. They were encouraged to do business freely with the Muslims.

Muhammed Bin Qasim incorporated the traditional administrative and revenue structures into the new order, appointing officials to positions according to their rank and experience, leaving the internal affairs to look after themselves. He showeredhis new appointees with gifts and gave them seats of honour in the court. On a local level he appointed elders to collect revenue from villages and towns, allowing them complete administrative authority.

The members of the highest caste, Sind's ruling class Brahmins, who obviously saw less reason than anybody to convert, were also incorporated into Brahmanabad Charter. They were restored to their top posts and much of the administration of the country was left in their hands.

Ommayids were succeeded by the Abbasids who became the new rulers of Sind. From A.D. 750 the Abbasid Caliphs with their capital in Baghdad sent their governors to rule. Ibn Haukal, who had travelled extensively through the Arab domains around the middle of the 8th century, particularly mentioned the affluence of the people and cheapness of food in Sind. Being a prosperous land, Sind paid substantial revenue to Baghdad. In A.D. 820, Caliph Al- Mamoon had received one million dirams as revenue from Sind.

Culturally, deep interactions had started between the Middle East and the South Asian subcontinent. The Arabic language had made deep inroads into Sind which has the longest tradition of Arabic scholarship in the whole region. Modern Sindi vocabulary abounds in Arabic words. There is mention of Sindi scholars and poets in the annals of Abbasid Arabic literature. There was also a synthesis of Islamic and Sindi living pattern. Local dress was adopted by the common folk from among the new settlers, though the merchants continued to wear flowing Arab cloaks.

Academically there was not only one way cultural traffic. During the rule of Abbasid Caliph Al-Mansur, scholars from the Indus valley were welcomed at the court of Baghdad. Their works on medicine, mathematics, astronomy and philosophy were translated into the Arabic language.

In the north Islam was also making inroads from Afghanistan into the north western regions of Pakistan. Islamic missionaries were actively spreading their faith among the tribes. Peshawar Museum has a stone tablet inscribed with both Arabic and Sanskrit characters from Tochi valley of Waziristan, whic establishes the presence of Islam in the area as early as A.D. 857. With the gradual decline of the Abbasid Arab Empire the Turks now entered the imperial arena.
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