It is believed that the Arab conquerors stepped in the land of present-day Pakistan through the province of Sindh in 92 AH, and established their first-ever state, under the marvellous leadership of Muhammad bin Qasim.
But, the great warrior Muhammad bin Qasim and his regiment were not the first to tread on the land of Sindh and to make it their dwelling place, because the trade relations, by sea and land simultaneously, have been established between Arabia and India long ago. It is said that the Prophet Solomon (AS) used to get gold, silver, ivory and peacocks imported from “Sindh and Hind” (India).
Early Arab Attempts to conquer the land of Pakistan
After the emergence of Islam in the Arab Peninsula, the map of the world changed within a span of years, and the trade relationships between the Subcontinent and Arabia got a new impetus. During the years of the caliphate of Hazrat Umar (634-45 AD), Muslims penetrated into Iran and occupied the Arabian Gulf which was a great Iranian trade hub as well as a harbour of trade-ships leaving for the Subcontinent, China and Alexandria in Egypt. This geographical change caused the opening up of the political relations between the Subcontinent (Pakistan) and Arabia which culminated, at last, in the conquest of Sindh by the Arabs.
Since the year 15 AH, some Arab commanders started attacking the Subcontinent. The manoeuvrings continued even in the reigns of Hazrat Usman and Hazrat Ali until they succeeded in capturing the Province of Makran in the south-west of Baluochistan.
Early Arab raids on Sindh
15 AH: The first Arab army attacked the land of Pakistan under the command of Usman bin Abil aas Al-saqafi, the governor of Oman and Bahrain, in the reign of Hazrat Umar.
23 AH: Seven years later, four Arab generals, namely Hakam al-Taghlibi, Shihab al-Mazni, Suhail bin Adi and Abdullah bin Utbah, again marched on Makran and captured it. When they tried to enter the land of Sindh, they were stopped by a Hindu commander Raasil who resisted fearlessly on the bank of Indus River. After getting rid of Raasil, they planned to cross the river, but were called back again by the Caliph Umar.
29 AH: Another expedition was sent under the command of Hakeem bin Jablah by the Governor of Iraq to survey the land and people of Sindh as instructed by the Caliph Usman.
39 AH: During the Caliphate of Hazrat Ali, a force of 1000 men was sent to quell the rebellion from the people of the city of Kalat in Balochistan.
42 AH: The people of Kalat again started posing threats to the Arab state. A commander namely Haris Al-abdi along with his regiment was sent to tackle the problem. But he was killed and the Arab army had to retreat.
44 AH: To avenge the killing of Haris al-Abdi, Muhallab bin Abi Sufrah was appointed new governor of Makran who severely attacked on Kalat and subdued the populace. He was the first Muslim general who had entered the sub-continent through the Pass of Khyber.
46 AH: The people of Kalat killed Abdullah bin Sawwar, the new governor of Makran, and repulsed the Arab army.
51 AH: The region of Kalat was rapidly going out of the hands of the Arabs. Rashid bin Amr Al-Hadeedi was appointed as new governor. He kept on fighting for whole year. On his returning back to Makran in 53 AH, he was killed by the Meds near the city of Sehvan Sharif in Sindh.
56 AH: Sinan bin Salma attacked Kalat but he, too, was killed.
59 AH: Munzir bin Jarood al-Abdi was appointed as the governor. He was, at last, able to establish a regular cantonment in Kalat. Besides this, he conquered the cities of Buqan and Khuzdar in Balochistan.
75 AH: Hajjaj bin Yousuf’s rise to the position of viceroy-ship of Iraq and Eastern Provinces happened to be turning point in the history of the region. He re-opened the issue of the Sindh after it had been put into cold storage in the reign of Abdul Malik bin Marwan ( 65-75 AH). Had there not been the threat of
“Allafi Brothers”- the enemies of the Umayyad Dynasty, who had fled to the land of the Sindh, collected a band of supporters and got the protection of Raja Dahir-, Hajjaj would have left the issue of the Sindh un-attended. He sent Saeed bin Aslam Al-kilabi to fight them, but they got him killed and started growing stronger and stronger, and, by the year 80 AH, occupied the whole Province of Makran.
85 AH: Hajjaj deputed Majaah bin Misar to teach them the lesson. No sooner had he reached Makran than the enemies fled away and took refuge in the court of Raja Dahir.
90 AH: The first direct naval attack on Debul from Iraq under the command of Abdullah Al-Sulami took place. The apparent cause of the attack was the “incident of Debul” which so gravely affected the Arab Umayyad politics that Hajjaj had to conquer the whole province of the Sindh now called Pakistan. Famous Hindu historian KS Lal says:
“The king of Ceylon had sent to Hajjaj bin Yousaf Sakafi, the governor of the eastern provinces of the Caliphate, eight vessels filled with presents, Abyssinian slaves, pilgrims and the orphan daughters of some Muslim merchants who had died in his dominions, but the vessels were attacked and plundered by pirates off the coast of Sindh. Hajjaj sent a letter to Dahir demanding reparation, but Dahir replied that the pirates were beyond his control and he was powerless to punish them.”
Besides this, there are some facts which cannot be ignored. They are:
1. The lower strata of the Hindu society, like Jats and Medes, were hostile to the Hindu ruler. They had been forbidden to ride in saddles, wear fine clothes and to uncover the heads.
2. The Buddhists which formed the bulk of the population were “averse to fighting and were always eager to make submission to the invader without even a show of resistance.”
3. The king of Sindh, Raja Dahir, was unpopular and was considered to be a usurper’s son because after the death of the last Shudra King, Sahasi, his throne was seized by Chach, the father of Dahir.
Hajjaj sent his army to fight the culprits, but they were defeated and a lot of Arab warriors including their commander were killed.
91 AH: Hajjaj was not ready to digest the defeat so easily. Next year he sent another well-supported army under the command of Budail bin Tahfah Al-bajli, but, too, was severely punished by the son of Raja Dahir. The commander of the Arab army was mercilessly killed.
An Organised Arab Conquest
92 AH: The consecutive defeat of the Arab army at the hands of the Hindus shook the policy-making circles in the Umayyad administration. Hajjaj sent to the Caliph a detailed report of the events demanding permission for a full-fledged military operation to conquer the Sindh. Caliph Waleed bin Abdulmalik, after showing reluctance initially, approved the plan. So a huge army, with 6000 Syrian horse, 6000 men, a camel corps of 3000 and a baggage train of 1500 camel, was sent, under the command of Muhammad bin Qasim, a cousin and son-in-law of Hajjaj
An Overview of the Arab Strategy
The Arab military establishment exercised a marvellous multi-pronged strategy to occupy the land now called Pakistan. Here is a quick look at the major two phases of the military operation:
A. On the Western Side of the Indus
Muhammad bin Qasim landed on Makran in 92 AH and started occupying the cities situated on the western bank of the Indus. The first major victory achieved was in 93 AH when the city of Debul was occupied after a protracted fighting and all the Arab prisoners including women were released. Next came the turn of the city of today’s Hyderabad which was captured without any resistance. The Arab army then advanced to the city of Sahvan Sharif which was subjugated after a complete siege of seven days. Before crossing the River, the Arab Conquerors also took the cities of Boodhia and Bhakkar.
B. On the Eastern Side of the Indus
The crossing of the Indus by the Arab army proved to be decisive step in the ensuing war between the Arab Muslims and the Hindus. Had Raja Dahir stopped the Arabs at the bank of the River, the situation would have been quite different. He let the Arab army cross the river easily which proved fatal not only for him but also for his kingdom. The Arabs made him the first victim of their onslaught. They besieged his city of Rawar for days and a bloody war continued between the armies till he was killed in the holy month of Ramazan, 93 A.H.
After the death of Raja Dahir, all other citadels of the Sindhhies, like Alwar, Brahmanabad, Harawar, Basmand and swandhri, were no more than a wall of sand. They all were occupied one by one in 94 AH.
… To be continued