The following article, “The Arab conquest of Sindh was only an episode in the history of India and of Islam, a triumph without results. Do you agree with the view?“, is written by Tehreem Zafar, a student of Sir Syed Kazim Ali. Moreover, the article is written on the same pattern, taught by Sir to his students, scoring the highest marks in compulsory subjects for years. Sir Kazim has uploaded his students’ solved past paper questions so other thousands of aspirants can understand how to crack a topic or question, how to write relevantly, what coherence is, and how to include and connect ideas, opinions, and suggestions to score the maximum.
Although the Arab rule remained episodic in the political and military domains, regarding it as a ‘triumph without results’ is a prejudicial and unsubstantial stance. The Arab conquest of Sindh influenced the social, cultural, religious, and economic spheres and opened a gateway for the subsequent Muslim rule in India.
2-A brief overview of the Arab invasion of Sindh
3-What factors make the Arab conquest of Sindh not “a triumph without results”?
- ✓Religious factors
- Introduction of Sindh as the birthplace of Islam
Case in point: Facts byTanvir Anjum in his essay ‘The Emergence of Muslim Rule in India’
- Propagation of Islam in the Subcontinent
Case in point: Syed Sulaiman Nadvi’s words in ‘Arab-o-Hind ke Taluqaat,’
- Rise of Sufism
Case in point: Arrival of Khwaja Moeenuddin Chishti, Khawaja Nizam ud din Auliya, Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiar
- ✓Socio-cultural factors
- Engagement of mutual culture
Case in point: The referenceto ‘greatest romances of history’ by ‘Ishwari Prasad’ in his book ‘A Short Story of Muslim Rule in India.’
- Exchange of knowledge and ideas
Case in point: The words of Kufi Ali in Chachnama
- ✓Economic factors
- Boom of trade and commercialization
- Case in point: Words of Maulvi Abdul Halim Sharrar in ‘Tareekh-e-Sindh’
Answer to the Question
The Arab invasion of Sindh, whether futile or fruitful, remains one of the most significant events in the history of the subcontinent. However, historians have multifarious interpretations regarding its impacts and connection with the subsequent Muslim rule in India. One prominent criticism is proposed by Stanley Lane-Poole, a British orientalist, who opines that the Arab conquest of Sindh was not much of a major achievement, having no significant impact on the history of Islam and the Indian subcontinent. His argument stems from the fact that the Arabs failed to establish their political dominance beyond the northwestern region of India and were confined to only a smaller portion of the vast country. Poole’s statement is partially true in the sense that the Arab rule undeniably remained episodic in the political and military domains; nevertheless, regarding it as a ‘triumph without results’ is a prejudicial and unsubstantial viewpoint. One cannot label it an unprofitable event by assessing a single aspect and downplaying all the other accomplishments. The Arab conquest not only influenced the region’s political geography but also provided a gateway for further Muslim expansion into India. Indian society witnessed a massive change following the brief rule of Muhammad bin Qasim; these changes are portrayed in the socio-cultural, economic, and religious spheres, such as eliminating unethical practices, exchanging knowledge, formulating an economic system, etc. Thus, the answer comprehensively explores how the Arab occupation of Sindh was a rewarding victory for both Islam and India, not a worthless triumph.
“Today Sindh is an Islamic nation, similar to Iraq and Egypt; therefore, it is impossible to deny the greatness of the Arab conquest of Sindh, its historical significance and consequences.”Prof. Syed Abdul Qadir Shuja-ud-Din (a Pakistani historian and scholar)
A brief overview of the Arab conquest of Sindh
The bilateral relations between Arabia and Sindh have a long history that dates back to the mid-seventh century when Arab traders started to inhabit the coastal areas of Sindh and Baluchistan. Nevertheless, it was not until 712 A.D. that Muhammad Bin Qasim, the Umayyad general, defeated Raja Dahir and established Muslim rule in the subcontinent. Although the Muslims held power for a brief time, their transient rule proved to be effective in many ways, laying the cornerstone for Muslim supremacy in India that lasted for almost a millennium until the advent of European forces.
Factors making the Arab conquest of Sindh a rewarding victory rather than a triumph without results
- ✓Introduction of Sindh as the birthplace of Islam
It is a universally acknowledged truth that the conquest of Sindh sowed the seeds of Muslim rule in India. Sindh, being the ‘Bab-ul-Islam’, opened the gateway for the future propagation of northwest Asia and other regions of the subcontinent. Tanvir Anjum, in his essay ‘The Emergence of Muslim Rule in India’, highlights the fact by saying, “The Sindh invasion was not an isolated event; rather, it was part of a more extensive process that ultimately resulted in the foundation of Muslim supremacy throughout India.”Thus, Muhammad bin Qasim’s expeditions assisted and inspired many others, like the Ghaznavis, Ghauris, and Mughals, to solidify the Islamic footprint in India, which has continued to dominate the landscape even today.
- ✓Propagation of Islam in the Subcontinent
The Arab rule changed the stigmatized violent image of Muslims that had been engraved in the minds of people. Their Islamic mode of life, principles of egalitarianism and fraternity, and good administrative structure inspired many Sindhi Hindus to embrace Islam with open arms. Their leader, Muhammad Bin Qasim, also believed in the policy of tolerance and religious freedom. Instances of these events are vividly portrayed in Syed Sulaiman Nadvi’s ‘Arab-o-Hind ke Taluqaat,’ in which he defends the Muslim narrative of the advent of Islam against the Orientalist perspective.
- ✓Rise of Sufism
The Arab expedition also opened the gateway for numerous ulema, scholars, preachers, and Sufi saints to enter South Asia and spread the message of Islam. The conquest of Sindh gave birth to many Sufi saints, like Khwaja Moeenuddin Chishti, Khawaja Nizam ud din Auliya, Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Khaki, Shaykh Hameeduddin Naguri, and Baba Fareed Ganj. In short, the growth of Islam in India would have been an allusive dream if not for the Arab conquest.
- ✓ Engagement of Mutual Cultural
The conquest of Sindh brought Islamic civilization face to face with the ancient Vedic civilization of the Indo-Gangetic Plains. This cultural encounter is described as one of the ‘greatest romances of history’ by ‘Ishwari Prasad’ in his book ‘A Short Story of Muslim Rule in India.’ The amalgamation of two distinct cultural ideologies created a unique fusion and helped in mutual enhancement and enrichment. For example, Islamic law helped eliminate inhumane cultural practices that were prevalent in Hindu society, like Satti – burning the wife alive with the deceased husband – or ill-treatment of the lower classes, particularly Shudras and Dalits. Hence, the engagement of mutual cultures proved the Arab invasion of Sindh a rewarding victory.
- ✓ Exchange of Knowledge and Ideas
Similarly, social and cultural hybridity gave rise to a mutual knowledge exchange. As the borders of the Umayyad empire extended to the regions of Persia, India, and Spain, the Islamic culture was influenced by the new civilization and vice versa. In the words of Kufi Ali, the author of Chachnama, “The Arab conquerors constructed a direct line of communication between India and the Islamic world, creating enormous opportunities for economic and cultural advancement.” The Muslim scholars learnt a great deal from India, particularly in the fields of mathematics, philosophy, astronomy, and medicine. For instance, Abu Mashar – an Arab astronomer – spent ten years in Banaras to study astronomy. Moreover, many Sanskrit books, such as Charaka-Samhita, Surya-Siddhanta, and Khandakhadyaka, were translated into Arabic. Hence, the Arab invasion provided an opportunity for intellectual exchange between the two civilizations.
- ✓Boom of trade and commercialization
The economic relations between the two nations existed before the Arab conquest. However, trade and commercialization in India witnessed a major boom following the Muslim expedition. The economy proliferated because of the opening of new markets and expanded trading opportunities. This, in turn, led to increased tax revenue, which was utilized in the human development sector. The fact is also evident in Maulvi Abdul Halim Sharrar’s ‘Tareekh-e-Sindh’, as he quotes, “The Sindh occupation resulted in the revitalization of the economy through the dynamic impulse of commercialization and extension of political dominion.” Moreover, the Arabs also introduced the concept of urban planning by converting small villages into developed towns. Furthermore, they further established businesses according to the crop production of the particular region. Thus, the Arabs left a legacy behind them in the shape of a proper economic and administrative system, which continues to prevail in the country.
To diagnose critically, the orientalist perspective presented by Poole is a biased and unjustifiable representation of the Arab invasion of Sindh, aimed at subduing the accomplishments achieved in the socio-cultural, religious, and economic domains. The minutiae of its success and consequences are endlessly debated; nonetheless, its position in both Indian and Islamic history cannot be downplayed. Along with the political and religious impacts, it has profoundly and permanently affected the socio-cultural realm, which is still evident in our languages, cuisines, cultural practices, etc.
To wrap up, the Arab conquest of Sindh is one of the most remarkable events in the history of the South. Although the Arabs failed to attain dominance in the political geography, their impacts in other fields are highly appreciable. The conquest of Sindh marked the beginning of the long-standing Muslim rule in India and opened the region for further exploration and conquests by the Ghaznavis, Ghauris, and Mughals. The expedition also influenced the Indian culture and society, shaping both for centuries. Therefore, the conquest of Sindh cannot be dubbed as a futile event in history; it is a significant aspect of the Indo-Islamic heritage and identity.
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