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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Muhammad Bin Qasim rahimahullah

Muhammad Bin Qasim rahimahullah
Muhammad bin Qasim was born around 694 AD (if we are to believe the tradition that he was seventeen when he attacked Sindh in 711 AD). He belonged to the Saqqafi tribe that had originated from Taif in Arabia, and he was also a close relative of Hajjaj bin Yousuf (possibly a second cousin, but not a nephew as narrated in the popular tradition). Much because of the influence of Hajjaj, the young Muhammad bin Qasim was appointed the governor of Persia while in his teens, and it is said that he did a good job at crushing the rebellion in that region. Sometime around the same period he got married to a girl in the Tamim tribe. There is also a popular tradition that presents him as the son-in-law of Hajjaj bin Yousuf, but some scholars discredit this tradition since an authentic pedigree of Hajjaj doesn’t mention any daughter. It is more likely that the young hero was married to a woman of Banu Tamim, and although the name of his wife does not appear in recorded history it is certain that she gave him two sons who later became famous for their own exploits.
When Muhammad bin Qasim invaded Sindh, Hajjaj arranged for special messengers between Basra and Sindh, and told the general never to take any step without his advice. This order was followed to the letter during the campaign. “When you advance in the battle, see that you have the sun behind your backs,” Hajjaj wrote to his cousin just before the famous storming of Debal. “If the sun is at your back then its glare will not prevent you from having a full view of the enemy. Engage in fight immediately, and ask for the help of Allah. If anyone of the people of Sindh ask for mercy and protection, do give it to them but not to the citizens of Debal, who must all be put to the sword.”
Debal was the first important town in Sindh captured by the Arabs under Muhammad bin Qasim. It is also said that just before the final attack, a Brahmin came out to inform the invaders that the flag on the temple is a talisman and if they strike it down the city will hold no longer. “When the army of Islam scaled the walls of the fort, the Debalese opened the gates and asked for mercy,” says the writer of Chachnameh, the primary source on Muhammad bin Qasim written on the orders of his descendants. “Muhammad bin Qasim replied that he had no orders to spare anyone in the town, and that his soldiers had to do the slaughtering for three days… 700 beautiful females, who were under the protection of the temple, were all captured along with their valuable ornaments and clothes adorned with jewels.” The women and children thus captured from Debal were included in the spoils of the war. Some of them were distributed among the soldiers, while one-fifth was sent to the Caliph through Hajjaj bin Yousuf in accordance to the Islamic law that proclaimed that one-fifth of the spoils of the war belonged to the Caliph for rightful use. These spoils included two daughters of the deceased ruler of Debal, who were handpicked for the Caliph’s harem.
The fate of Debal sent shockwaves across Sindh. People consulted their astrologers, and soon the word was out: fate has ordained the country to fall to the Arabs. It is more likely than not that the Arab invaders sponsored the rumour after seeing at Debal how local superstition could be exploited as a war strategy. The Buddhist population of Sindh was the first to make secret alliances with the Arabs, since they had little stake in the rule of the Brahmin dynasty. Hajjaj Bin Yousuf carefully dictated the terms of mercy to Muhammad bin Qasim all the way from Basra. “Whoever submits to you, let him retain his power and wealth and family,” Hajjaj ordered his cousin. “And whoever does not submit, treat him brutally and torture him till he submits.”
Muhammad bin Qasim’s advance towards Dahar was very careful. The Arab ensured that his supply line was safe, moving ahead only after each city on the way was secured in possession and its population either annihilated or won over with generosity. To Hajjaj, who was sitting several thousand miles away, it might have seemed that his cousin was wasting time. “Now give up other towns and march against Dahar,” Hajjaj wrote in a rather frustrated mood. There is a subtle, almost vague indication that Muhammad bin Qasim wanted Raja Dahar to submit to him and rule over Sindh as the Caliph’s viceroy. Hajjaj saw this as a waste of time. “I am shocked at the weakness of your policy,” Hajjaj wrote to him. “People will think that you are trying to bring about peace! You should inspire fear."
“O Men of Arabia,” Muhammad bin Qasim charged his armies to the final contest with Dahar. “These crowds of infidels have come prepared to fight with us. You must use all your strength, for they will put up a furious resistance for the sake of their wealth and families. Ride against them… With the help of Allah, we hope to make them all food for our sharp swords, take away their wealth and their families, and obtain large booty. Do not show weakness, and remember that Allah makes the end of the pious happy.”
Dahar was killed at the Battle of Rawar. “It is related that when the fort of Rawar was taken, all the treasures and arms that were in it were secured, except what had been taken away by Dahir’s son Jaisingh,” narrates the author of Chachnameh. “All this booty was brought to Muhammad bin Qasim. The slaves were counted, and their number came to 60,000. Out of these, 30 were young ladies of royal blood including Raja Dahar’s niece whose name was Husna (Sundri). Muhammad bin Qasim sent all these to Hajjaj, together with Dahar’s head, and one-fifth of the booty, as the royal share… When the head of Dahar and women and the treasure were brought to Hajjaj, he placed his forehead on the ground and offered prayers of thanks-giving, saying: Now I have got all the treasures of the world. I rule the world.” It is said that one of Dahar’s wives, Ladi, married Muhammad bin Qasim, but there is another tradition according to which Ladi killed herself by jumping down the rampart when she saw the Arabs.
The conquest of Sindh was completed with occupation of the remaining major cities, especially Brahmanabad and Multan. This brought more serious responsibilities. So far, Sindh was treated as an enemy country, and in his earlier conquests Muhammad bin Qasim had torn down temples, replacing them with mosques. “Now that the people of this land have placed their heads in the yoke of submission,” Hajjaj instructed his general. “I do not see what further rights we have over them beyond the usual tax. Therefore, permit them to build the temples of those they worship. No one is prohibited from, or punished for, following his own religion, and let no one prohibit it, so that these people may live happily in their homes.” This edict of Hajjaj bin Yousuf had a lasting influence in the history of Muslim India. By giving the Buddhists and Hindus the status of “zimmis,” and imposing “protection tax” (or “jizya”) on them.
It was about this time that he lost both of his sponsors at the court. His cousin Hajjaj was the first to die, soon followed by the master himself, Caliph Walid. The successor on throne, Caliph Sulieman bin Abdul Malik, was a generous monarch who owed his throne to the opponents of the late Hajjaj bin Yousuf. Most of these were relatives of people killed or tortured by Hajjaj (some 20,000 women and 50,000 men were found unjustly imprisoned when Hajjaj died). They demanded revenge, and there was no way, nor enough reason, for Sulieman to stop them. Muhamamd bin Qasim was high on the hit list due to his close association with Hajjaj.
It is said that the young general was about to invade an Indian state when the Caliph’s messengers arrived to take him back in chains. True to the soldier’s honor, like always, Muhammad bin Qasim obliged. His followers wept bitterly, warning him that he was going back to a certain death. We don’t know what he said in reply, if he said anything. We do know, however, that shortly afterwards, just before he died of torture in the prison of Wasit, he recited an Arabic couplet to the effect: “They wasted me at the prime of my youth, and what a youth they wasted: the one who was a defender of their borders.”

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