The Rise of Islam (7th Century) and Conquest of India

The Rise of Islam as a religion in Arabia was one of the most important events that occurred in History. The starting of Medieval times in Indian history marks by frequent attacks by Islamic invaders and the Islamic conquest of India. In this section, we will discuss those frequent Islamic invasion and the establishment of Islamic rule in North India.

Rise of Islam in Arabia

The religion of Islam was founded in the 7th century by Prophet Muhammad (570-632 CE) in the city of Mecca, Arabia. Islam expanded rapidly from North Africa to the Iberian Peninsula, to Iran and India. This religion transformed the religious, political, and social life, of the people of Arabia and other parts of the world. Islam emphasizes the belief in one God (Allah) and its holy book, the Quran, which is considered as the Supreme Authority in Islam. Every Muslim is asked to pray five times a day, to fast during the month of Ramzan (or Ramadhan), to distribute alms, and to make a pilgrimage to Mecca once in their lives, if possible.

A Brief History of Islam

Muhammad receiving his first revelation from the angel Gabriel.
Muhammad receiving his first revelation from the angel Gabriel.| Image Source: Wikipedia

In 613 CE, Muhammad found himself receiving messages of Allah and learned that he was a prophet in the same lineage as Moses and Jesus Christ. Arabs became intolerant against Muhammad when Muhammad began insulting the traditional Pages deities and insisted that the pagan Arabs and their ancestors will burn in hell for endless life for worshipping false gods. They placed a trade embargo on Muhammad. Muhammad and his followers fled from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE, where they were welcomed by locals.

The Battle of Badr, fought on Tuesday, 13 March 624 CE (17 Ramadan, 2 AH in the Islamic calendar) in the Hejaz region of Western Arabia (present-day Saudi Arabia), was a key battle in the early days of Islam and a turning point in Muhammad’s struggle with his opponents among the Quraish in Mecca.

Rise of Islam, Battle of Badr

The battle has been passed down in Islamic history as a decisive victory attributable to divine intervention or by secular sources to the strategic genius of Muhammad. It is one of the few battles specifically mentioned in the Quran. All knowledge of the battle at Badr comes from traditional Islamic accounts, both hadiths and biographies of Muhammad, recorded in written form some time after the battle. There is little evidence outside of these of the battle. There are no descriptions of the battle prior to the 9th century.

Muhammad attacked the guarded merchant caravans with armed soldiers of the Arabs in 624 CE and took many captives. This incident is known as the Battle of Badr and was the first major battle in the Muslim conquest of Arabia. In 630 CE, Muhammad conquered his hometown of Mecca and over the next years, he sent his armies all over Western Arabia to conquer the remaining Pagan tribes.

After the death of the prophet in c.632 CE, the task of providing religious and political leadership to the Muslims passed on to the Caliphs known as the Rashidun. Between c.632 and 661 CE, there were four pious Caliphs, all close companions of the Prophet.

The first four Caliphs who ruled after the death of Muhammad are often described as the “Khulafaʾ Rashidun”. The Rashidun were either elected by a council or chosen based on the wishes of their predecessor. In the order of succession, the Rashidun was Abu Bakr (c.632-634 CE), Umar ibn al-Khattab (Umar І, 634–644 CE), Umar has often spelled Omar in some Western scholarship.

Uthman ibn Affan (644–656 CE): Uthman is often spelled Othman(or Osman) in some non-Arabic scholarship. Ali ibn Abi Talib (656–661 CE): During this period, however, Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan (Muawiyah I) controlled the Levant and Egypt regions independently of Ali.

The Age of Conflict (c.1000-1200 CE)

The period from c.1000 to 1200 CE witnessed many changes both in West and Central Asia and in northern India as well. The continuous incursions of the Turkish tribesmen from central Asia, the mercenary of the Turkish soldiers who switched loyalties often and the strife between the different Muslim sects and between the different regions made the period restless and gave it the tag of the ‘Age of Conflict’.

The Muslim Invader in India: Muhammad bin Qasim (c.712 CE)

Rise of Islam, Mohammad Bin Qasim
Mohammad Bin Qasim

He was the first Muslim invader who invaded Sindh. Muḥammad ibn Qasim was an Umayyad general who conquered and controlled the Sindh and Multan along the Indus River for a short period of four years for the Umayyad Caliphate. He was born and raised in the city of Ta’if (in modern-day Saudi Arabia). Qasim’s conquest of Sindh up to southern-most parts of Multan enabled further Muslim conquests on the Indian subcontinent.

The Ghaznavids and Mahmud of Ghazni

Two military families arose from the Turkic slave-guards of the Samanid Empire, the Simjurids, and the Ghaznavids. The Simjurids received the grant in the Kohistan region of eastern Khorasan. The Samanid generals Alpatagin and Abu al-Hasan Simjuri competed for the governorship of Khorasan and control of the Samanid Empire by placing on the throne emirs they could dominate after the death of Abd al-Malik I (Emir of Samanid Empire) in 961 CE.

His death created a succession crisis between his brothers. A court party instigated by men of the scribal class — civilian ministers rather than Turkic generals — rejected the candidature of Alpatagin for the Samanid throne. Mansur-I was installed instead, and Alpatagin marched to the South of the Hindu Kush where he was able to capture Ghazna and became the ruler of the city as a Samanid authority.

The Amu Darya, also called the Amu or Amo River, and historically known by its Latin name Oxus, is a major river in Central Asia. It is formed by the junction of the Vakhsh and Panj rivers, in the Tigrovaya Balka Nature Reserve on the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, and flows from there north-westwards into the southern remnants of the Aral Sea. In ancient times, the river was regarded as the boundary between Greater Iran and Turan.

Sabuktigin (c.977-998 CE)The Simjurids enjoyed control of Khorasan South of the Amu Darya but were hard-pressed by a third great Iranian dynasty, the Buyid dynasty, and were unable to survive the collapse of the Samanids and the subsequent rise of the Ghaznavids. He was the founder of the Ghaznavid dynasty.

Sabuktigin lived as a slave during his youth and later married the daughter of his master Alpatagin, the man who seized the region of Ghazna in political fallout for the throne of the Samanids of Bukhara. He defeated Hindu Shahi King Jayapala and forcing him into a humiliating treaty. Rise of Islam

Mahmud of Ghazni (c.998-1030 CE)
Mahmud of Ghazni, Rise of Islam
Mahmud of Ghazni

The period between c.1000-1027 CE saw Mahmud Ghazni invading Indian territories 17 times. His main interest behind the conquest of India was to accumulate the vast amount of wealth that existed in India so that he could transform Ghazni into a region of formidable power in entire Central Asia.

To spread Islam and to destroy Hindu temples. He used to attack in the hot summer season and would go back on the onset of monsoons so that his forces would not get trapped in the flooding rivers of Punjab. In 1001 CE, the Battle of Waihind (also known as Battle of Peshawar) was fought between Mahmud Ghazni’s army and the Hindu Shahi army of Jayapala, near Peshawar. Jayapala was defeated and captured, and as a result of the humiliation of the defeat, Jayapala immolated himself in a funeral pyre. In 1004-06 CE, Mahmud of Ghazni attacked the rulers of Multan.

The Khokhar is a community of the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent. They were designated as an agricultural tribe during the British Raj era. The term agricultural tribe was according to the Punjab Land Alienation Act, 1900.

The rise of Islam, second war of waihind

In c.1008 CE, the Second Battle of Waihind (also known as Battle of Chachh) between Mahmud of Ghazni and Anandapala was fought near Peshawar. Even though Anandapala was supported by the Sultan of Multan and many princes of north-eastern India, like the rulers of Kannauj, Rajasthan, and the Khokhars, despite his forces being numerically larger, he lost the war. The major reason behind Mahmud’s success was his fast-moving cavalry, in comparison to the slow Indian troops, which were mainly driven by elephants. He annexed Punjab to have easy access to India.

In c.1014 CE, Mahmud took Thanesar and burnt the temple of Mathura. In c.1018 CE, he sacked Kannauj by defeating its Chandella King Vidhyadhara. In the same year, he defeated and killed two more rulers, Hindu Shahi Trilochanpala and his son Bhimapala, thereby conquering Rahib and Lahore.

In c.1025 CE, he plundered the wealth of Somnath Temple. Mahmud captured the city after a serious struggle that claimed more than 50,000 lives of defenders. It is important to note that Mahmud left Somanth after a fortnight when he came to know that Chalukayan ruler of Gujarat, Bhima I, had completed preparations to confront him. It was Bhima I who repaired the Somnath temple.

In c.1026 CE, he returned and punished Jats for colluding against him. He patronized three important people:
  • Al Biruni – the scholar from Central Asia and the composer of the Kitab-ul-Hind.
  • Firdausi – the Persian poet called the Homer of the East, writer of the
  • Utbi – the court historian of Mahmud of Ghazni, writer of the Kitab-ud-Yamni.

During the 17 invasions of India by Mahmud Ghazni did not show any intent to conquer the sub-continent. They not only exposed the inherent military weakness of Indian rulers but Ghazni’s conquests especially with the inclusion of Punjab and Afghanistan in his kingdom, made the Indian frontiers weak. His conquest opened the gates of India to be conquered from the north-west and this made it easier for other Afghan and Turkish rulers to enter India into the Gangetic valley at any time. One such ruler was Muhammad Ghori.

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