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Old Tuesday, May 08, 2018
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Default A detailed History of Conquest of Sindh by Arabs ~ Raja Dahir vs Muhammad bin Qasim:

~ Raja Dahir vs Muhammad bin Qasim: The ultimate battle? ~

A lot has been written about Raja Dahir and Muhammad bin Qasim in Pakistan, yet most has come from the extreme fringes of the right and left wings, who seem to purposely skew, hide or blow facts out of proportion to fit their own political and religious narrative. To the right wing conservative extremists, Muhammad bin Qasim is a hero who defeated the evil Hindu tyrant Raja Dahir. To the left wing liberal extremists, Raja Dahir was a hero who attempted to defend his people from the evil rampaging Islamic warlord Muhammad bin Qasim. Fortunately, both these narratives are completely wrong.

Both Raja Dahir and Muhammad bin Qasim should be viewed equally from a correct historical perspective, and not from the damaged lenses of the extreme right and extreme left. So let's begin – we first need to understand the entire history of Sindh in a timeline. The Rai Dynasty and Chach Dynasty are intricately connected to one another and should be discussed. This timeline also should tell you that Raja Dahir was not the first ruler of Sindh…he was just a handful of rulers spread over a period of 3000 years.

~ Timeline of Sindh ~
Early Harappan Period c. 3300 – c. 2600 BCE
Mature Harappan Period c. 2600 – c. 1900 BCE
Late Harappan Period c. 1900 – c. 1500 BCE
Vedic Sindhu Kingdom c. 1500 – c. 500 BCE
Sattagydia (Persian Achaemenid Empire) c. 516 – c. 330 BCE
Ror Dynasty, c. 489 – c. 450 BCE
Gedrosia (Macedonian Empire) c. 323 – c. 312 BCE
Mauryan Empire, c. 322 – c. 200 BCE
Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, c. 190 – c. 140 BCE
Indo-Greek Kingdom, c. 170 – c. 50 BCE
Indo-Scythian Kingdom, c. 110 BCE – c. 95 CE
Indo-Parthian Kingdom, c. 25 – c. 80 CE
Kushan Empire, c. 60 – 345 CE
Makuran (Sasanian Empire), c. 250 – 655 CE
> Rai Dynasty, c. 415 – 644 CE <
>> Chach (Brahman) Dynasty c. 641 - 725 CE <<
Umayyad Caliphate c. 670 - 860 CE
Habbari Dynasty c. 841 - 1024 CE
Soomro Dynasty c. 1024 - 1351 CE
Samma Dynasty c. 1351 - 1524 CE
Arghun Dynasty c. 1520 - 1554 CE
Tarkhan Dynasty c. 1554 - 1591 CE
Thatta Subah (Mughal Empire) c. 1627 - c. 1707 CE
Kalhora Dynasty c. 1701 - c. 1783 CE
Talpur Dynasty c. 1783 - c. 1843 CE
Sind (British Raj) c. 1843 - c. 1947 CE
Sindh (Pakistan) c. 1947 - present

~ Rai Dynasty ~
The Rai Dynasty was a Buddhist kingdom that ruled Sindh from 524 to 632 AD (CE). This was the first Sindhi kingdom to be established in over 800 years – the last being the Ror dynasty. Their rise to power came at a time of shifting political scenes in the Indus Valley, with the wane of Sassanian influence in the wake of the Hepthalite (White Hun) invasions. During this period, five emperors would rise to power, who were said to be great patrons of Buddhism. They included

Rai Diwa
Rai Sahiras
Rai Sahasi
Rai Sahiras II – died battling the King of Nimroz
Rai Sahasi II – died of unknown illness

The influence of the Rai's extended from Kashmir in the north, Makran and Debal (Karachi) in the south and the Kandahar, Sulaiman, Ferdan and Kikanan hills in the west. Buddhism was the main religion of this dynasty and of the Indus Valley for over 500 years up until this point, while Hinduism was a minority. The Battle of Rasil in 644 played a crucial role in their decline, which resulted in the Makran coast being annexed by the Rashidun Caliphate. The chronicle of Chach Nama describes the final demise of the Rai dynasty and the ascent of Chach of Alor to the throne. Chach, a Brahmin Hindu, rose to a position of influence under Rai Sahiras II and reportedly may have served as a “Vice Minister” of the dynasty. When Rai Sahasi II died, Suhandi (widow of the Rai) confided to Chach that the throne would pass to other relatives of the dying King in absence of any direct heir to the kingdom – and hence Rana Maharath, the king of Chittor and younger brother of Rai Sahasi II, would be next in line. However, unbeknownst to all, both Suhandi and Chach were supposedly "secret lovers". Suhandi had declared her love for the Chach years earlier, but Chach refused to betray Rai Sahasi II as long as he was alive. They consequently kept secret the news of the king's death until claimants to the throne were killed. Following the purge, Chach declared himself ruler of Sindh and later married Suhandi. This ended the Rai Dynasty and thus began the Chach (Brahman) Dynasty in 632 AD.

~ Brahman (Chach) Dynasty ~
Rana Maharath , who was not present during the purge, challenged Chach’s claim to the throne in 640 AD. According to Chach Nama, Maharath, seeing that his army was making little headway, devised a sly strategy of challenging Chach to a one-on-one duel. Maharath took advantage of the fact that he was a trained warrior and would naturally have a decisive advantage over Chach, who was a court administrator with very little combat training. Chach, knowing he could not refuse a duel without appearing weak, realized that he could only win by tricking Maharath. Chach claimed that he could not fight on horseback as he was not a trained horseman and suggested that they both fight on foot. Maharath readily agreed knowing that he would have the overwhelming advantage at close quarters. The two dismounted to engage in a duel, but Chach remounted upon his horse and killed Maharath by chopping his head off with a sword. With Maharath now out of the picture, Chach was in complete control of Sindh,

~~ Public Perception of Chach ~~
Not much is known about how Chach was viewed by the general population; however, it is known that several regions in the dynasty attempted to secede following the rise of Chach to the throne. Chach was a Brahmin Hindu, yet the majority of the population were Buddhists, which may have played a part in the distrust. Furthermore, the purge of loyal followers of Rai Sahasi II and the killing of his brother did not help matters further for Chach, who was increasingly viewed as a tyrant, rather than a King.

~~ Secession Threats ~~
Chach viewed the threat of secession as an insult and enlisted the help of his brother Chandar. He launched a campaign against the revolting autonomous regions along the River Beas in Punjab at Iskandah and Sikkah. It was a decisive victory for Chach - 5000 men were killed, while the remainder became prisoners of war, of which a significant number of these captives would be enslaved. After his victory, he appointed a Thakur to govern from Multan, and used his army to settle boundary disputes in Kashmir. Chach also conquered Siwistan, but allowed its chief, Mutta, to remain as its king.

~~ Suppression of Buddhists ~~
Later, he established the writ of his power in Buddhist majority region within Sindh, which were resisting Chach – these efforts culminated in a battle at Brahmanabad, in which the region's Buddhist governor, Agham Lohana, was killed. Chach remained in Brahmanabad for a year to cement his authority. In order to prevent any future mutiny against his reign, Chach equaled the social status of the ruling family of Lohana to Shidr, the lowest class of society. They were prohibited to wear silk, ride horses or worship at any temples. Chach also took Agham's widow as his second wife.

Not only were the Lohana family targeted but also the Jat tribe. Jat’s were originally farmers from Sindh and held the status of “Vish”, which was above the “Shidr” class. Following the rise of Chach, these Jat farmers were declared “Shidr”. They were prohibited from entering temples and heavy taxes were imposed on them. The extent of cruelty towards Jats is not fully understood – it is possible that the Jats were one of the largest resistance to the Chach’s initial rise to power, which may have led to the cruel treatment.

~~ Dynasty Expansion ~~
From Brahmanabad, Chach invaded Sassanid territory through the town of Armanbelah, marching from Turan to Kandahar. He exacted tributes from the latter before returning. Chach died in 671, and his brother Chandar took the throne until 679 temporarily, while Dahir was being groomed. In 679, Dahir (son of Chach) took the throne.

Chach (632 – 671 AD )
Chandar (671 – 679 AD )
Dahir (679 – 712 AD – from Alor)

~~ Declining Law & Order ~~
During this transition period from Chach to Dahir, law and order in the dynasty appears to have eroded away. This had several consequences both domestically and internationally by 680 AD. Domestically, the peripheral territories, which Chach had captured, were again threatening to secede and made the dynasty vulnerable to attack from foreign powers.

~~ Piracy in the Arabian Sea ~~
Internationally, piracy was becoming huge issue. Pirated raids off the coast of Debal (Karachi) resulted in gifts to the Umayyad caliph from the king of Serendib (Sri Lanka) being stolen. The coast of Sindh has always been a major shipping route (and still is today). The Meds, a tribe of Scythians living in Sindh, had pirated earlier upon Sassanid shipping in the past, from the mouth of the Tigris to the Sri Lankan coast, and now were able to prey on Arab shipping from their bases at Kutch and Debal (Karachi) with ease. This led to Arabs putting Raja Dahir on “notice”.

~~ Muhammad Haris Allafi Betrayal ~~
During this same period, Muhammad Haris Allafi (possibly a general) had killed the governor of Makran, which at that time was under Umayyad control. Dahir allied himself with Muhammad Haris Allafi, and granted refuge to Allafi and his troops as they had become self-exiled from Makran. Coupled with the piracy occurring in the Arabian Sea and refuge to Allafi, the governor of Basra, Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, tasked an expedition to eliminate Raja Dahir, as he was becoming a nuisance to them.

~~ Siharas of Kannauj Invasion ~~
Prior to the Arab invasion however, another invasion took place in 687 AD. The Siharas of Kannauj (King Ramal) of a Rajput dynasty based in the Ganges plain, attacked Raja Dahir for reasons not fully understood. Some claim the Siharas of Kannauj was attempting to take control of valuble Indus territory, while others claim it was done to repel the declining law and order situation from spreading into Kannauj’s territory. Regardless, Dahir was able to defend his territory – Dahir’s army along with Muhammad Haris Allafi and his soldiers fought against the Siharas of Kannauj and repelled the invading forces.

~~ Muhammad bin Qasim ~~
Muhammad bin Qasim was an orphan and the governor of Basra, Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, was his paternal uncle and his teacher of warfare and governing. Muhammad bin Qasim was highly intelligent who at the age of 15 was considered by many to be one of his uncle’s greatest assets. Hajjaj’s complete trust in Muhammad’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.

~~ Invasion ~~
Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan granted a large army of 6000 troops, 3000 camels and a sea artillery of equal strength to the governor Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf for his invasion of Sindh. The argument for the invasion was not because Raja Dahir was a “Hindu” but rather the tyranny Raja Dahir was implementing around the region – the pirated raids of Arab sea merchants, the refuge of Muhammad Haris Allafi and the general resentment of Raja Dahir from the Buddhist majority in Sindh seemed to have tempted the Arabs to make a move as soon as possible. Seventeen-year-old Muhammad bin Qasim was put in charge as general of the campaign.

Muhammad bin Qasim, as mentioned, was intelligent and under understood that many within the Chach dynasty were not in favour of Raja Dahir – hence the policy was generally one of enlisting and co-opting support from defectors and defeated lords and forces.

In 711 AD, Muhammad bin Qasim marched upon Debal by way of Shiras via Makran. On orders of Hajjaj, he freed earlier captives and prisoners from the previous failed campaign against Raja Dahir. From Debal, his troops, along with freed prisoners and local tribes of Debal moved on to Nerun (near Hyderabad). The city's Buddhist governor supported the Caliphate’s campaign against Raja Dahir and offered to support Muhammad bin Qasim’s campaign to remove Dahir from power. Qasim's army and allied supporters and defectors then moved on to Siwistan (Sehwan), where again he was received warmly and received allegiances from several tribal chiefs. After securing the surrounding regions, Muhammad bin Qasim’s combined forces captured the fort at Sisam, and secured the region west of the Indus River in Sindh.

Muhammad bin Qasim was very well aware of the need to enlist the support of local tribes, as the campaign would not be successful without them. With the Meds tribe, Jats and Buddhist rulers of Nerun, Bajhra, Kaka Kolak and Siwistan as infantry to his predominantly-mounted army, his next move was to cross the Indus.

Dahir then tried to prevent Qasim from crossing the Indus River to his eastern domain, moving his forces to its eastern banks. Muhammad Harris Alafi served in the capacity of a military advisor to Raja Dahir, but refused to take active part in the campaign against Muhammad bin Qasim. Eventually, however, Qasim crossed and defeated Dahir's forces at Jitor led by Jaisiah (Dahir's son). Qasim then fought Dahir at Raor (near modern day Nawabshah) in 712 AD, killing him. After Dahar was killed in the Battle of Aror on the banks of the Indus River, his head was sent to Hajjaj bin Yousuf. Muhammad Harris Alafi was also captured, however, since he refused to take part in the campaign against Qasim, he would later secure a pardon from the Caliph.

~~ Post Raja Dahir ~~
Conflicting theories begin after the fall of Raja Dahir and this is where identity and religious politics really take off. Indian historian Upendra Thakur says that the Muslims persecuted Hindus after the fall of Raja Dahir. In a subsequent communication, Hajjaj ingeminated that all able-bodied men were to be killed, and that their underage sons and daughters were to be imprisoned and retained as hostages. Qasim obeyed, and on his arrival to Brahminabad killed between 6000 and 16,000 of the defending forces.

Thakur writes “When Muhammad Kasim invaded Sind in 711 AD, Hinduism had no resistance to offer to their fire and steel. The rosary could not be a match for the sword and the terms Love and Peace had no meaning to them. They carried fire and sword wherever they went and obliterated all that came their way. Muhammad triumphantly marched into the country, conquering Debal, Sehwan, Nerun, Brahmanadabad, Alor and Multan one after the other in quick succession, and in less than a year and a half, the far-flung Hindu kingdom was crushed, the great civilization fell back and Sind entered the darkest period of its history. There was a fearful outbreak of religious bigotry in several places and temples were wantonly desecrated. At Debal, the Nairun and Aror temples were demolished and converted into mosques. Resistors were put to death and women made captives. The Jizya was exacted with special care. Hindus were required to feed Muslim travelers for three days and three nights.”

Other historians and archaeologists such as J E Lohuizen-de Leeuw offers another explanation.

He writes “In fact, we have clear evidence that the Arabs were very tolerant towards the Hindus during the rest of the campaign and throughout the time they ruled Sind...Of course that does not mean that no monuments were ever destroyed, for war always means a certain amount of damage to buildings but it does prove that there was no wanton and systematic destruction of each and every religious Center of the Hindus in Sindh”

Then comes the story of Raja Dahir's daughters - two of them were made captive, whom Muhammad bin Qasim sent to the capital Damascus. After a few days, the Caliph called the two young women to his court. The name of the older daughter was Suryadevi, while the younger one was Pirmaldevi. Caliph Waleed Bin Abdul Malik fell for Suryadevi’s extraordinary beauty. He ordered for her younger sister to be taken away, while the Caliph began taking liberties with Suryadevi. It is written in Chachnama that Suryadevi sprang up and said: “May the king live long: I, a humble slave, am not fit for your Majesty’s bedroom, because Muhammad bin Qasim kept both of us with him for three days, and then sent us to the caliphate. Perhaps your custom is such, but this disgrace should not be permitted by kings.” Upon hearing this, the Caliph’s became enraged. He immediately directed and wrote that “Muhammad (Bin) Qasim should, wherever he may be, put himself in raw leather and come back to the chief seat of the caliphate.” Muhammad bin Qasim received the Caliph’s orders in Udhapur. He directed his own men to wrap him in raw leather and lock him in a trunk before taking him to Damascus. En route to the capital, Muhammad bin Qasim died.

When the trunk carrying Muhammad bin Qasim’s corpse wrapped in raw leather reached the Caliph’s court, the Caliph called upon Dahar’s daughters, asking them to bear witness to the spectacle of obedience of his men for the Caliph. One of Dahir’s daughter’s then spoke in return and said: “The fact is that Muhammad Qasim was like a brother or a son to us; he never touched us, your slaves, and our chastity was safe with him. But in as much as he brought ruin on the king of Sind, desolated the kingdom of our fathers and grandfathers, and degraded us from princely rank to slavery, we have, with the intention of revenge and of bringing ruin and degradation to him in return, misrepresented the matter and spoken false to your majesty against him.”

The author of the Chach Nama then writes that had Muhammad bin Qasim had lost his senses in the passion of obedience. He could have made the whole journey normally, while wrapping himself in raw leather and locking himself in a trunk only when a part of the journey remained to be covered. He could have then proven himself innocent in the Caliph’s court and saved himself from such a fate.

~ Conclusion ~
The purpose of this post was not to blame one particular person or religion, but rather to clear up misconceptions of both Raja Dahir and Muhammad bin Qasim. Both were brave leaders who fought valiantly.

Raja Dahir seems to have inherited a lot of trouble from his father Chach. Instead of learning from previous mistakes, he seemed to have learned from his father, and continued making blunders. This not only alienated the Buddhist majority, but also caught the ire of Rajput King Ramal of Kannauj and eventually the Arabs, which led to his demise in 712 AD.

Muhammad bin Qasim on the other hand is not this brave "Islamic hero" as he is being portrayed in Pakistan. His purpose of invading Sindh was not to "spread Islam" but rather to protect shipping routes used by Arab sea merchants and establishing a friendly regime in Sindh. The removal of Raja Dahir was seen necessary to fulfill these requirements.

War is a messy business, and tragedy is bound to strike. The battle between Raja Dahir and Muhammad bin Qasim was indeed no different. There is no doubt that following the fall of Raja Dahir, the Hindu minority may have been persecuted by not only the new Muslim rulers, but also the Buddhist majority. However, this is no different than what occurred following the fall of the Buddhist Rai dynasty of Sindh and the subsequent persecution of Buddhists (in particular the Jat tribe) from Raja Dahir and his Hindu minority. The sad fact is, this is how war was conducted back then…the victors usually suppressed and tormented the defeated. One could argue this still occurs today as well (ie. Treaty of Versailles).
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