India Before the Coming of Islam

To say the Islamist is the Islamic adherent’s worst enemy may sound conspiratorial but it is both historically and theologically factual.

Multiple reliable historical evidence record that the spread of Islam out from the harsh temperates of Arabia into the Indian Subcontinent, to the domains of China, through Eastern and North Africa, into Europe all the way to the heartland of France; was a most overhauling, violent and uncompromising imperialist undertaking. Some of the Natives in these regions initially welcomed the intervention of Islamic rule, where they themselves were being oppressed by the tyranny of their own governments (for example in Spain). A vast many of Natives however vehemently resisted Islamic conquest. In North Africa for example, the Berbers were a thorn in the flesh of Islamic imperialists in Africa. They forced the Muslim Arabs to withdraw several times from the Maghreb. In putting up a most staunch resistance to Islamic creed, Ibn Khaldun recorded that the Berbers apostatised twelve times before Islamic rule could decisively be imposed on them. It is needless to assert the obvious that through the course of this conquest, Islamic ideology was instrumental to seditiously disarming Native institutions and weakening local ethnic ties among Berbers. Islamic imperialism was so thorough there that today, an overwhelming majority of Berbers no longer identify with their despised Native ancestral lineage nor do they consider themselves Berbers. The loyalty of majority Berbers are today invested in the Arabian Heartlands. The Berbers, now Arabian cultural slaves, are today called Arabs. Could this colonist outcome have been any different considering that it was the Arabs who were the first cultural ambassadors of Islam? Can Islamisation result in any other outcome but Arabisation?

Not only is Arabisation an inevitable outcome of the spread of fundamental Islam, but self-hate – hatred for one’s own (jahiliya) ancestral heritage – is a fundamental inevitability. The Islamic follower – the true convert to Islam – becomes tortured in mind and spirit until his homeland is purified by Islam. Quran 8:39 instructs Muslims to “fight the unbelievers until there is no more fitnah (disbelief) and all submit to the religion of Allah alone”. Thus the adherent views his un-purified homeland as a Dar al-Harb – a zone of perpetual warfare that stands in stark contrast to the idealised zone of peace that Allah calls all of mankind to. Where there is warfare against the unbeliever, slavery of the unbeliever is also permitted. To the East of Africa, in Sudan, the former Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi wrote to Mary Robinson, U.N High Commissioner for Human Rights (Section III: War Crimes – Mar 24, 1999), defending this dualistic outlook embedded in Islam. He said that:

“It is true that the NIF regime has not enacted a law to realise slavery in Sudan. But the traditional concept of jihad does allow slavery as a by-product (of jihad)… The traditional concept of jihad… is based upon a division of the world into two zones: one the zone of Peace, the other the zone of War. It requires initiating hostilities for religious purposes….”

To the South of the Sahara, Uthman Dan Fodio launched a jihad in his homeland to purify the practice of Islam there from being diluted with Animism. More recently in the 1990s, Algerian Islamist movements too took up arms and killed up to 200,000 of their own country men, in trying to stave Arabo-Islamic culture there from being sullied with their Berber African past. Africa is not a unique victim to this delirious intertwined legacy of Arabisation and Islamic imperialism. The Indian subcontinent since the advent of Islam there, witnessed the enslavement of Natives both physically and mentally, and in unprecedented heights! Prior to the invasion of Islamic conquerors and Muslim merchants, there was not a single slave market in India. Although slavery existed in India in mild forms, chattel slavery was established there by Islamic rulers. Under the sacred pretence of believing in the Muslim nationhood, Polytheist converts to Islam grew to see their homeland as a Dar al-Harb, a land of war that remained ever contemptible until purified religiously, culturally and politically! They equally went as far as demanding that their motherland be partitioned to create a separate homeland from that of the majority Polytheists. Pakistan, a country they aptly termed the “Land of the Pure” is till today riddled with a purification quest whose target has naturally shifted from purifying the land of Polytheists (of which there are now hardly any left), to a long-lasting pogrom against Shias. Regarding the persecution of Shias in Pakistan, Professor An-Na’im Author of Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Islam has repeatedly stated that Muslims are in fact happier in secular India than they are in the theocratic Pakistan which was specifically created for them. To this very day, the vestiges of pre-Islamic heritage around the world are being wiped out, in favour of institutionalising norms (language, dress sense, legalities) that were disseminated from Arabia. This mandate engineers inter-faith conflicts, genocides, mass displacements, and foreign intervention in the affairs of sovereign peoples. This is the practical implications of fundamental Islam.

Below is an excerpt from chapter VI of M. A. Khan’s stellar, factual and thoroughly researched book Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism and Slavery. It records notable achievements of the Polytheist Indians prior to the coming of Islam. It also specifically details how the pre-Islamic Code of War differed from that which was introduced through Islamic rule.



An advanced civilization

Prior to Muslim conquest, India was one of the world’s top civilizations with significant achievements—in science, mathematics, literature, philosophy, medicine, astronomy, architecture and so on—to its credit. Indian mathematicians conceived the mathematical concept of zero and founded the basics of algebra. The persianized Abbasid caliphs, inspired by the pre-Islamic Persian pursuit of knowledge,464 sent scholars and merchants to India for collecting documents and texts on science, mathematics, medicine and philosophy. According to Nehru, ‘In subjects, like medicine and mathematics, they learned much from India. Indian scholars and mathematicians came in large numbers to Baghdad. Many Arab students went to Takshashila in North India, which was still a great university, specializing in medicine.’465

An Indian scholar brought two seminal mathematical works to Baghdad in 770. One was the Brahmasiddhanta (known to Arabs as Sindhind) of the great seventh-century Indian mathematician, Brahmagupta. It contained early ideas of algebra. In the ninth century, famous Muslim mathematician and astronomer Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi combined the Indian work with Greek geometry to found the mathematical system of algebra. Khwarizmi became known as the father of algebra. The term algorithm (or algorism), the technique of performing arithmetic calculations developed by al-Khwarizmi using Indian numerals, is the latinized version of his name. The second manuscript contained the revolutionary system of denoting number, including the concept of zero, unknown elsewhere. Muslim scholars used to call this Indian numbering system, “Indian (Hindi) numerals”; the Europeans later gave it the name, “Arabic numerals”.466 Although Muslims made significant contributions in these achievements, they often, in an act of self- gratification, claim all the credit for these plagiarized developments. Pre-Islamic India had a great tradition in creating magnificent and sensual sculptures, and building wondrous architectures. After the coming of Muslim invaders, Indian builders and craftsmen mixed Islamic ideas to their own, creating a new Indo-Islamic mosaic in the new building and architecture, which became integrated into the “heritage” of the self-declared Islamic civilization.

Alberuni (d. 1050) has recorded many of these ancient Indian achievements in his famous work, Indica, published in 1030. Arabic scholar Edward Sachau translated this book in 1880 and published under the title of Alberuni’s India (1910). Sachau writes: ‘To Alberuni, the Hindus were excellent philosophers, good mathematicians and astronomers.’467 Alberuni summarizes Indian achievement in mathematics as follows:

They do not use the letter of their alphabet for numerical notation, as we use the Arabic letters in the order of Hebrew alphabet… The numerical signs which we use are derived from the finest forms of the Hindu signs…The Arabs, too, stop with the thousand, which is certainly the most correct and the most natural thing to do… Those, however, who go beyond the thousand in their numeral system, are the Hindus, at least in their arithmetical technical terms, which have been either freely invented or derived according to certain etymologies, whilst in others both methods are blended together. They extend the names of the orders of numbers until the eighteenth order for religious reasons, the mathematicians being assisted by the grammarians with all kinds of etymologies.468

According to Alberuni, Indian learning, such as the fables of Kalila and Dimna and books on medicine, including the famous Charaka, came to the Arab world, through either direct translation from Sanskrit into Arabic or through first translation into Persian, and then, from Persian into Arabic. Sachau also thinks that the influx of knowledge from India to Baghdad took place in two different phases of which, he writes:

As Sindh was under the actual rule of Khalif Mansur (753–74), there came embassies from that part of India to Baghdad, and among them scholars, who brought along with them two books, the Brahmasiddhanta of Brahmagupta, and his Khandakhadyaka (Arkanda). With the help of these pundits, Alfazari, perhaps also Yakub ibn Tarik, translated them. Both works have been largely used, and have exercised a great influence. It was on this occasion that the Arabs first became acquainted with a scientific system of astronomy. They learned from Brahmagupta earlier than from Ptolemy.469

Sachau adds that there was another influx of Hindu learning into the Arab world during the reign of Caliph Harun al-Rashid (r. 786–808). The famous ministerial family of Barmak from Balkh, who had outwardly converted to Islam but never abandoned their ancestral crypto-Buddhist tradition after generations,

…sent scholars to India, there to study medicine and pharmacology. Besides, they engaged Hindu scholars to come to Baghdad, made them the chief physicians of their hospitals, and ordered them to translate from Sanskrit into Arabic books on medicine, pharmacology, toxicology, philosophy, astrology, and other subjects. Still in later centuries, Muslim scholars sometimes traveled for the same purposes as the emissaries of the Barmak, e.g. Almuwaffuk, not long before Alberuni’s time…470

Moreover, the Arabs also translated Indian works on many other subjects, including on snakes, poison, veterinary art, logic and philosophy, ethics, politics, and science of war. ‘Many Arab authors took up the subjects communicated to them by the Hindus and worked them out in original compositions, commentaries and extracts. A favorite subject of theirs was Indian mathematics, the knowledge of which became far spread by the publications of Alkindi and many others,’ adds Sachau.471

The eleventh-century Spanish Muslim scholar Said al-Andalusi—in his book, The Categories of Nations, on world science—acknowledges India very positively and describes it as a major center for science, mathematics and culture. The treatise recognizes India as the first nation to have cultivated science and praises Indians for their wisdom, ability in all the branches of knowledge and for making useful and rare inventions. It adds:

To their credit, the Indians have made great strides in the study of numbers and of geometry. They have acquired immense information and reached the zenith in their knowledge of the movements of the stars (astronomy) and the secrets of the skies (astrology) as well as other mathematical studies. After all that, they have surpassed all the other peoples in their knowledge of medical science and the strengths of various drugs, the characteristics of compounds and the peculiarities of substances (chemistry).472

Many early Islamic scholars (seventh–eighth century) left records of a vibrant and wealthy India, having many populous and prosperous cities (discussed below). Of the pre-Islamic civilization of India, notes Francis Watson:473

It is clear that India, at the time when Muslim invaders turned toward it (8th to 11th centuries), was the earth’s richest region for its wealth in precious and semi-precious stones, gold and silver, religion and culture, and its fine arts and letters. Tenth century Hindustan was also far more advanced than its contemporaries in the East and the West for its achievements in the realms of speculative philosophy and scientific theorizing, mathematics and knowledge of nature’s workings. Hindus of the early medieval period were unquestionably superior in more things than the Chinese, the Persians (including the Sassanians), the Romans and the Byzantines of the immediate proceeding centuries. The followers of Siva and Vishnu on this subcontinent had created for themselves a society more mentally evolved—joyous and prosperous too—than had been realized by the Jews, Christians, and Muslim monotheists of the time. Medieval India, until the Islamic invaders destroyed it, was history’s most richly imaginative culture and one of the five most advanced civilizations of all times.

Look at the Hindu art that Muslim iconoclasts severely damaged or destroyed. Ancient Hindu sculpture is vigorous and sensual in the highest degree—more fascinating than human figurative art created anywhere else on earth. (Only statues created by classical Greek artists are in the same class as Hindu temple sculpture). Ancient Hindu temple architecture is the most awe- inspiring, ornate and spell-binding architectural style found anywhere in the world. (The Gothic art of the cathedrals in France is the only other religious architecture that is comparable with the intricate architecture of Hindu temples). No artist of any historical civilization has ever revealed the same genius as ancient Hindustan’s artists and artisans.

The ancient Greeks undoubtedly had made greater contributions in science, medicine and philosophy than other ancient civilizations, but India was definitely a leading civilization in all spheres of intellectual achievements.

A tolerant and humane society

Apart from India’s intellectual and scientific achievements, Said al-Andalusi noted: ‘The Indians, as known to all nations for many centuries, are the metal (essence) of wisdom, the source of fairness and objectivity. They are peoples of sublime pensiveness, universal apologue…’ Indeed, India was not only a distinguished civilization in its achievements in science, literature, philosophy, arts, and architecture but also had distinguished itself from the invading Muslims in terms of its humanity, chivalry and ethical behavior. Prior to Islamic invasions, Hindu kings and princes of India used to engage in wars, like in any major civilization of the time, but such wars were relatively infrequent. Affirming this, Muslim traveler Merchant Sulaiman writes in his Salsilatut Tawarikh (851): ‘The Indians sometimes go to war for conquest, but the occasions are rare.’ Ibn Battutah, while traveling with Sultan Muhammad Tughlaq’s diplomatic convoy to the Chinese emperor, was surprised to observe that the Hindu rulers of Malabar showed great respect for each other’s territory and exercised restraint against warfare. In Malabar, he wrote, ‘there are twelve infidel sultans, some of them strong with armies numbering fifty thousand men, and others weak with armies of three thousand. Yet there is no discord whatever between them and the strong does not desire to seize the possessions of the weak.’474 Muslim invaders had unfurled continuous warfare in India (and everywhere else) not only against the Hindus but amongst themselves; there were ceaseless revolts by Muslim generals, chiefs and princes all over India during their entire period of Islamic rule. Battutah’s astonishment is then quite understandable. Sulaiman adds that the Indian kings even did not maintain troops in regular pays. They used to be paid only when they were called in for fighting. Once the war is over, ‘They then come out (to civilian life), and maintain themselves without receiving anything from the king.’475

Indians used to observe high ethical conventions and behavior in times of both peace and war. Wars and battles were normally limited to the martial class, the kshatriyyas, of opposing parties, who used to clash mostly in open battle-fields. They used to follow a code of honor and sacrificing it for the sake of victory or material gain was deemed a shame worse than death. Even famous Muslim historian Al-Idrisi wrote that Hindus never departed from justice (discussed below). The religious teachers and priests and the non- combatants, particularly the women and children, were normally left unmolested in wars. Religious symbols and establishments—namely temples, churches and monasteries—and civilian habitations were generally not attacked, pillaged and plundered. War booty, a major divinely-sanctioned object of the Islamic holy war, was not a part of war and conquest in pre-Islamic India. The women of the defeated side were normally not captured or their chastity not violated, contrary to the practice in other contemporaneous civilizations—China and Greece, for example.

Merchant Sulaiman affirms some of these ethical conducts of Indian wars. He says: ‘When a king subdues a neighboring state, he places over it a man belonging to the family of the fallen prince, who carried on the government in the name of the conqueror. The inhabitants would not suffer it to be otherwise.’476 The tenth-century Muslim chronicler, Abu Zaidu-l Hasan, wrote about the conquest of the kingdom of Kumar (Khmer) by the Maharaja of Zabaj (Srivijaya or Java).477 The young, haughty prince of Kumar had expressed his desire to conquer Zabaj and hearing this, the king of Zabaj attacked the Kumar kingdom. After the Maharaja seized the palace of Kumar and killed the prince, ‘He then made a proclamation assuring safety to everyone, and seated himself on the throne.’ He then addressed the wazir (chief minister) of Kumar that,

‘I know that you have borne yourself like a true minister; receive now the recompense of your conduct. I know that you have given good advice to your master if he would but have headed it. Seek out a man fit to occupy the throne, and seat him thereon instead of this foolish fellow.’ The Maharaja then returned immediately to his country, and neither he nor any of his men touched anything belonging to the king of Kumar.478

The ancient Greek traveler and historian Megasthenes (c. 350–290 BCE) recorded his observation of the peculiar traits of Indian warfare during his visit to India. Alain Danielou has summarized his observations as follows:

Whereas among other nations it is usual, in the contests of war, to ravage the soil and thus to reduce it to an uncultivated waste; among the Indians, on the contrary, by whom husbandmen are regarded as a class that is sacred and inviolable, the tillers of the soil, even when battle is raging in their neighborhood, are undisturbed by any sense of danger, for the combatants on either side in waging the conflict make carnage of each other, but allow those engaged in husbandry to remain quite unmolested. Besides, they never ravage an enemy’s land with fire, nor cut down its trees.479

Prof. Arthur Basham (d. 1986), the leading authority on ancient Indian culture and Oriental civilizations, writes about ancient Indian codes of war that ‘In all her history of warfare, Hindu India has few tales to tell of cities put to the sword or of the massacre of non-combatants. The ghastly sadism of the kings of Assyria, who flayed their captives alive, is completely without parallel in ancient India. To us the most striking feature of ancient Indian civilization is its humanity.’480 Hiuen Tsang, a seventh-century Buddhist pilgrim from China to Nalanda University, recorded that the country was little injured despite enough rivalries between the ruling princes of India. Faxian, a fourth-century Chinese pilgrim to India, marveled at the peace, prosperity, and high culture of Indians. Having grown up in war-torn China, says Linda Johnson, he was deeply impressed by a land whose leaders were more concerned with promoting commerce and religion than with slaughtering substantial portion of the population.481

Muslim code of war

It is evident from the discussion so far that the Islamic invaders of India brought a totally different code of war, based on the Quran and the Sunnah. Contemporary Muslim historians inform us that, as a general rule, they used to slay all enemy soldiers on the battlefield. After the victory, they often fell upon the civilian villages and towns often slaughtering the men of fighting age. They sacked and plundered the households for booty, and sometimes burned down the villages and towns. Of the civilian population, the Buddhist monks and priestly Brahmins, in whom the common people reposed their trust, became special targets for extermination. The centers of infidel religion and learning—namely Hindu and Jain temples, Buddhist monasteries, Sikh Gurdwaras and indigenous educational institutions—were their prime targets for desecration, destruction and plunder. The women and children were captured as slaves in large numbers. They kept the young and beautiful women captives as sex-slaves, others were engaged in household chores, and the rest were sold. The magnitude of the booty, the captives included, was a measure of the glory and success of military missions; this is reflected in their glorifying narratives by leading medieval Muslim historians. When large numbers of infidels were slain, Sultan Muhammad Ghauri, Qutbuddin Aibak and Emperor Babur et al. used to raise “victory-towers” with their heads to celebrate the achievement. Sultan Ahmad Shah Bahmani (1422–36) of the Deccan Sultanate attacked the Vijaynagar kingdom, in which records Ferishtah, ‘wherever he went he put to death men, women and children without mercy, contrary to the compact (not to molest civilians) made between his uncle and predecessor Mahomed Shah and the Rays of Beejanuggar. Whenever the number of slain amounted to twenty thousand, he halted three days and made a festival in celebration of the bloody event. He broke down also the idolatrous temples and destroyed the colleges of the Brahmins.’482 The Muslim invaders and rulers committed all these barbaric acts for the sake of Islamic holy war in the cause of Allah as commanded in the Quran and prophetic examples. The Prophet’s attack of the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza of Medina (627) or the Jews of Khaybar (628) and his manner of dealing with them served as an ideal example for emulation by later holy warriors of Islam.

The contrast between the Hindu and Islamic codes of war was clearly exhibited in Sultan Muhammad Ghauri’s attack on King Prithviraj Chauhan of Delhi and Ajmer (1191). Muhammad Ghauri was defeated and captured in his first attack. Despite his many brutal attacks on the northern borders of India, involving mass murder, enslavement, plunder and pillage, Prithviraj Chauhan forgave and honorably released the aggressor without inflicting any punishment or humiliation. Within a few months, Ghauri regrouped and attacked Prithviraj again defeating the chivalrous Hindu King.483 Muhammad Ghauri repaid Prithviraj’s earlier generosity by pulling out his eyes before killing him.484

Further evidence of the contrast between the Hindu and Muslim codes of war comes from Ferishtah’s narration of Deccan Sultan Muhammad Shah’s attack against King Krishna Ray of Vijaynagar kingdom in 1366. Muhammad Shah had vowed to slaughter 100,000 infidels in the attack and ‘the massacre of the unbelievers was renewed in so relentless a manner that pregnant women and children at the breast even did not escape the sword,’ records Ferishtah.485 The Muslim army in a treacherous surprise-attack put Krishna Ray on the flight and 10,000 of his soldiers were slain. Muhammad Shah’s ‘thirst for vengeance being still unsatisfied, he commanded the inhabitants of every place around Vijaynagar to be massacred,’ records Ferishtah.

Krishna Ray dispatched ambassadors to make peace, which Muhammad Shah refused. Thereupon, one of the Sultan’s favorite advisor reminded him that ‘he had only sworn to slaughter one hundred thousand Hindus, and not to destroy their race altogether.’ The sultan replied that ‘twice the number required by this vow might have been slain,’ yet he was neither willing to make peace nor spare the subjects.486 This means that nearly 200,000 people were slaughtered in this campaign. The ambassadors were, at length, able to conclude peace by paying a large sum of money on the spot and pleaded with the Sultan to let them speak. According to Ferishtah, ‘Being permitted to speak, they observed that no religion required the innocent to be punished for the crimes of the guilty (kings), more especially helpless women and children: if Krishn Ray had been in fault, the poor and feeble inhabitants had not been accessory to his errors. Mahomed Shah replied that decrees of Providence (i.e., from Allah such as in Quran 9:5 to slaughter the idolaters) had been ordered what had been done, and that he had no power to alter them.’ At length, the ambassadors were able to rouse a humane sense in Muhammad Shah, as adds Ferishtah, ‘(he) took an oath that he would not, hereafter, put to death a single enemy after a victory, and would bind his successors to observe the same line of conduct.’487 On the contrast between the Hindu and Islamic codes of war, John Jones observes: ‘It is a curious fact that the hideous and bloody monster of religious intolerance was hardly known in India until, first the followers of Mohammed and secondly, the disciples of the meek and lowly Jesus (i.e. Portuguese), began to invade the land.’488 Arthur Schopenhauer (d. 1860), one of the greatest nineteenth-century philosophers, narrates the sordid tale of the Islamic invasion of India as follows: ‘…the endless persecutions, the religious wars, that sanguinary frenzy of which the ancients (of India) had no conception! The destruction or disfigurement of the ancient temples and idols, a lamentable, mischievous and barbarous act still bears witness to the monotheistic fury… carried on from Mahmud, the Ghaznevid of cursed memory, down to Aurangzeb… We hear nothing of this kind in the case of the Hindoo.’489 English novelist Aldous Huxley (1894–1963), in likening the atrocious history of Islam with that of later Christianity, wrote in Ends and Means:

It is an extremely significant fact that, before the coming of the Mohammedans, there was virtually no persecution in India. The Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang, who visited India in the first half of the seventh century and has left a circumstantial account of his 14 years in the country, makes it clear that Hindus and Buddhist lived side by side without any show of violence. Neither Hinduism nor Buddhism is disgraced by anything corresponding to the Inquisition; neither was ever guilty of such iniquities as the Albigensian crusade or such criminal lunacies as the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries.490

Indisputably, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism arose in India as a revolt against Hinduism. Although Hinduism had its shortcomings, these new religious off-shoots grew from the midst of the Hindu society without facing any persecution of the type Islam brought to India or meted out to its revolting heretics throughout Islam’s history. The Christian persecution and brutality caused death of millions of Pagans, Jews, heretics, apostates and witches in Europe, South America and India’s Goa. In Islam, Prophet Muhammad himself had ordered execution of critics and apostates of Islam, while the killing and torture of apostates and heretics have continued ever since to this day. It should be noted that Buddhism was a flourishing religion in Central and Southeast Asia and was quite vigorous in parts of India at the time of Islam’s birth. Islam has nearly extinguished this most humane and peaceful ancient religious creed from India. It extinguished Paganism from Arabia by the sword in the life-time of Muhammad. Zoroastrianism in Persia and Christianity in the Levant, Egypt, and Anatolia etc. have suffered near extinction caused by the violent exertions of Islam. It should be noted that, to escape the brutal persecution of Islam, tens of thousands of Zoroastrians (Persis) fled to India, where—welcomed by the Hindu society—they live as a peaceful and well-off community till today. However, they suffered Islamic persecution in India too, after the Muslim invaders later occupied India. Sultan Ibrahim, a Ghaznivid descendent of Sultan Mahmud, marched to India; and according to historian Nizamuddin Ahmad, the author of Tabakat-I Akbari,he conquered many towns and forts, and amongst them were a city exceedingly populous, inhabited by a tribe of Khurasani descent (Persis), whom Afrasiyah had expelled from their native country. It was completely reduced… he took away no less than 100,000 captives.’491

Indian tolerance in the eyes of Muslim chroniclers

The humanity, tolerance and chivalry of Indians also caught the attention of Muslim historians. The Arab geographer Abu Zaid wrote of the rulers and people of Sarandib (Sri Lanka), an extension of Indian civilization, that in late ninth century, ‘There are numerous colonies of Jews in Sarandib, and people of other religions, especially Manicheans. The King allows each sect to follow its own religion.’492 Al-Masudi, a famous Muslim historian and traveler, writing in the early tenth century, describes the disposition of the most powerful Indian king, Balhara, toward Muslim settlers of his kingdom. He placed Balhara (Rashtrakuta dynasty, South India) in the same league of the world’s three greatest monarchs: the caliph of Baghdad, the emperors of China and Constantinople.493 On Balhara’s treatment of Muslims, noted al-Masudi: ‘Of all the kings of Sindh and India, there is no one who pays greater respect to the Musalmans than Balhara. In his Kingdom, Islam is honored and protected.’494 Al-Masudi’s description (916–17) of a large Muslim community near Bombay, created by Arabian and Iraqi pepper and spice traders who had settled there, is already noted. This Muslim community was ‘granted a degree of political autonomy by the local raja’ and they ‘intermarried considerably with the local population.’495 About the status of Muslims in Balhara’s kingdom, al-Istahkri wrote (c. 951): ‘It is a land of infidels, but there are Musalmans in its cities and none but the Musalmans rule them on the part of Balhara.’496

Ibn Haukal—renowned tenth-century Arab traveler and geographer and the author of famous treatise, Surat al-Ardh or The face of the Earth (977)—observed while traveling in the region between Cambay and Saimur that ‘The inhabitants were idolaters, but the Musalmans were treated with great consideration by the native princes. They were governed by the men of their own faith… They had erected their mosques in these infidel cities and were allowed to summon their congregations by the usual mode of proclaiming the time of prayer.’497 Al-Idrisi also gives a similar account of the treatment of Muslims in the territory of Balhara: ‘The town is frequented by large number of Musalman traders who go on business. They are honorably received by the king and his ministers and find protection and safety.’ Al-Idrisi continues: ‘The Indians are naturally inclined to justice, and never depart from it in their actions. Their good faith, honesty, and fidelity to their engagements are well known, and they are so famous for these qualities that people flock to their country from every side.’ He was further impressed by Indian’s “love of truth and horror of vice”.498 Even modern Muslim historian Habibullah states that ‘Muslims were treated by the Hindus with generosity and respect and allowed them freedom, even to govern themselves.’499

These ethical principles of Indians were rooted in its civilizational value system. King Ashoka seemed to have deviated from these principles in his ambition to become a great conqueror. However, he was left devastated by the casualties that occurred in the conquest of Kalinga, in which about 100,000 soldiers and commoners died. Subsequently, he became a great humanist and used to feel frightened by wars; he became an avowed anti-war activist. Killing the infidels in large numbers by Muslim conquerors was a common occurrence, generally glorified by Muslims at all levels—including by most of their greatest intellectuals.

Evidently, the Indian rulers showed generosity, humanity and chivalry toward Muslims, despite suffering terrible cruelty at the hands of ruthless Muslim invaders. This generosity and chivalry was demonstrated very early, when the Hindus revolted and ousted the Muslim rulers from Sindhan during the reign of Caliph Al-Mutasim (833–42). Despite suffering so much slaughter, destruction, pillage, enslavement and defilement of their temples over two centuries, the Hindus ‘respected the mosque, which the Musalmans of the town visited every Friday, for the purpose of the reading of usual offices and praying for the Khalif.’500

Tolerance & chivalry of Hindu rulers during the Muslim period

Indian rulers exercised the principle of Hindu tolerance, generosity and chivalry toward Muslims well into the last days of Islamic domination; by this time, Muslim invaders had inflicted terrible cruelty upon the Hindus and destruction of their religion for nearly a millennium in some parts. During the period of the Muslim rule in India, courageous Indian princes and commoners, revolting against the Muslim invaders, occasionally curved out Hindu kingdoms. Vijaynagar was one such Hindu kingdom (1336–1565) in South India (Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala). Constantly under attack by Muslim rulers, sometimes it exercised independence, and paid tribute to Muslim overlords at other times. Still, Vijaynagar rose to be one of the greatest empires in the world of the time. Abdur-Razzak of Herat, who came to Vijaynagar in 1443 as an envoy of the Mongol Khan of Central Asia, wrote, ‘‘The city is such that eyes has not seen nor ear heard of any place resembling it upon the whole earth.’’501 Paes, a Portuguese traveler, visiting Vijaynagar in 1522, found it ‘‘large as Rome and very beautiful to the sight’’; it was ‘‘the best-provided city in the world… for the state of the city is not like other cities, which often fails of supplies and provisions, for in this everything abounds.’’502 As goes the legend, it was ‘a kingdom so rich that pearls and rubies were sold in the market- place like grain,’ notes Naipaul.503 Razzak’s eyewitness account somewhat affirms this legend, saying: ‘The jewellers sell their rubies and pearls and diamonds and emeralds openly in the bazar.’504 In late 1564, four neighboring Muslim sultanates joined hands to destroy the great Hindu civilization of Vijaynagar that had lasted over 200 years. In a five-month seize, it was burnt to ashes in January 1565. English historian Robert Sewell noted of the destruction that ‘‘so splendid a city; teaming with a wealthy and industrious population in the full plentitude of prosperity… seized, pillaged and reduced to ruins, amid scenes of savage massacre and horrors begging description.’’505 On the massacre and pillage of the fleeing Hindus, notes Ferishtah, ‘the river was dyed red with their blood. It is computed by the best of authorities that above one hundred thousand infidels were slain during the action and in the pursuit. The plunder was so huge that every private man in the allied army became rich in gold, jewels, tents, arms, horses, and slaves…’506

Let us return to the tolerance of the Vijaynagar kings. In order to fortify his army to stave off Muslim attacks, King Dev Raya II (1419–49), records Ferishtah, ‘gave orders to enlist Mussulmans (of his kingdom) in his service, allotting them estates, and erecting a mosque for their use in the city of Beejanuggar (Vijaynagar). He also commanded that no one should molest them in the exercise of their religion and moreover, he ordered a Koran to be placed before his throne on a rich desk, so that the faithful (Muslims) can perform their ceremony of obeisance in his presence without sinning against their laws.’507 However, this tolerance and promotion of treacherous Muslims in the army eventually proved costly for Vijaynagar, the only standing Hindu civilization in India. By the mid-sixteenth century, Muslims had become a significant force in the army. When the confederate force of the surrounding sultanates attacked Vijaynagar in 1564–65, two large Muslim battalions, each having 70,000–80,000 soldiers, deserted King Ramraja. Because of these two Muslim commanders’ treachery, Ramraja fell into Muslim hands. Sultan Hussein Nizam Shah ordered his beheading immediately. This led to the collapse of Vijaynagar, noted Caesar Frederick, who visited the place two years later in 1567.508

It should, however, be acknowledged that some degree of intolerance had been sinking in Ramraja’s army. He had become very powerful and started capturing domains from the neighboring Muslim sultanates, threatening latter’s existence. In the course of incursions into Muslim domains, his forces started paying in the same coin as Muslims had been doing ever since they started attacking India in the 630s, and more importantly, against Vijaynagar over the previous 200 years. His forces started disrespecting mosques, offering Hindu prayers in them and even destroyed some; they even violated Muslim women in the 1558 attack of Ahmednagar, ruled by Hussein Nizam Shah, records Ferishtah.509 However, these sacrilegious acts, it appears, were not approved by the Hindu monarch. On one occasion, his Muslim soldiers sacrificed a cow—sacred to Hindus—in the Turukvada area in Vijaynagar offending the Hindus. Ramraja’s offended officers and nobles, including his own brother Tirumala, petitioned to him about the sacrilege. To be noted that even today a similar offence against Islam in a Muslim-majority country, say in Bangladesh or Pakistan, will incite Muslim mobs to violence, even probably bloodbath. Ramraja, however, refused to prohibit the sacrifice of cows by his Muslim soldiers, saying that, it will not be right to interfere in their religious practices and that he was only the master of the bodies of his soldiers, not of their souls.510

During the reign of fanatic Aurangzeb (d. 1707) toward the end of the Islamic domination in India, his Maratha opponent Shivaji was consolidating power and expanding his kingdom. When Shivaji started incursions into Mughal territories in the South, Aurangzeb, still a prince, wrote to his general Nasiri Khan and other officers to enter Shivaji’s territory from all sides for ‘wasting the villages, slaying the people without pity and plundering them to the extreme,’ records Qabil Khan in Adab-i-Alamgiri. They were further instructed to show no mercy in slaying and enslaving,511 an age-old Muslim practice. But Shivaji, a deeply religious man, never indulged in extreme cruelty and violence in kind. Even his inveterate critic Khafi Khan, in his Muntakhab-ul-Lubab, could not but admire Shivaji’s lofty ideals in saying: ‘But he (Shivaji) made it a rule that whenever his followers were plundering, they should not do harm to the mosques, the Book of God (Quran), or the women of anyone.’512

Shivaji put his words in actions too. Despite the fact that Muslim rulers used to enslave the Hindu women in tens of thousands and reduce them to sex-slavery, he abstained from such abhorrent practices even defying the temptation of very beautiful captive women. One of his officers had captured a beautiful Muslim girl in 1657 and presented her to Shivaji. Shivaji praised her as prettier than his own mother Jija Bai, honorably gave her dresses and ornaments, and sent her back to her people, escorted by 500 horsemen.513 Obviously, such acts of chivalry made Khafi Khan appreciate his hated enemy.

Shivaji also made good of his promise to respect the religious institutions and symbols of all, including Muslim’s. Despite the fact that, his opponent Aurangzeb destroyed thousands of Hindu temples— more than 200 in 1979 alone, Shivaji scrupulously refrained from defiling Muslim mosques, madrasas or shrines. Instead, he was very respectful of them. He particularly venerated the Sufis, and even provided them subsistence and build khanqah for them at this own cost. Notably, Baba Yakut of Keloshi was one such Sufi saint who had received Shivaji’s succor.514

Shivaji refrained from excessive bloodbath as well. While Muslim invaders and rulers quite commonly slaughtered the Hindus in tens of thousands—even tolerant and humane Akbar massacred 30,000 surrendered peasants in Chittor (1568), Shivaji never engaged in such cold-blooded mass-murder of his opponents captured in wars. When he attacked Surat in 1664, its Mughal governor Inayat Khan fled and the 500-strong Muslim army was taken prisoner. From his hiding place, Inayat Khan sent an envoy to negotiate peace, in the guise of which the envoy unsuccessfully fell upon Shivaji with a concealed dagger. Seeing the treachery and thinking that Shivaji was slain, his soldiers raised a cry to kill the Muslim prisoners. Shivaji stood up from the ground quickly and forbade any massacre. The enraged Shivaji, however, quenched his anger by putting four prisoners to death, amputated hands of twenty-four and spared the rest.515 Such vengeance was, however, rare for him; it was obviously highly restrained, even more restrained than that of the later British mercenaries.

In his administration, notes Jadunath Sarkar, he ‘brought peace and order to his country, assured the protection of women’s honor and the religion of all sects without distinction, extended the royal patronage to the truly pious men of all creeds (Muslims included), and presented equal opportunities to all his subjects by opening the public service to talent, irrespective of caste or creed.’516 An illiterate and deeply religious orthodox Hindu—Shivaji’s even-handed, tolerant and just policy toward his heterogeneous mix of citizens, that included Muslims, was unthinkable in his days of Muslim-ruled India.

However, Shivaji engaged in raiding and plundering of the territory of his sworn Muslim enemies. Based in a part of India, in which ‘rice cultivation was impossible and wheat and barley grow in very small quantities,’ Shivaji had little choice. He told the Surat governor of Aurangzeb in this regard that ‘Your Emperor has forced me to keep an army for the defence of my people and country. That army must be paid for by his subjects.’517 This justification will probably not stand for all of his raids. He was ambitious of establishing a native Hindu kingdom opposed to the persecuting, discriminatory foreign Muslim rulers; his raids were definitely aimed at achieving this goal, too. Nonetheless, whatever defects he had in his actions, he was no match for the plundering activities of his Muslim counterparts and the persecution, discrimination and humiliation the latter meted out to their non-Muslim subjects.

These examples, which come mainly from the writings of Muslim historians, clearly testify to the humane, chivalrous, tolerant and free nature of the Indian society, conspicuously different from what the Muslim invaders and rulers had brought in their trail. Many Muslim historians and non-Muslim observers in the late period of Muslim rule also affirmed this. In praise of Indians, Abul Fazl, the minister of Emperor Akbar, wrote: ‘‘The inhabitants of this land are religious, affectionate, hospitable, genial, and frank. They are fond of scientific pursuits, inclined to austerity of life, seekers after justice, contended, industrious, capable in affairs, loyal, truthful and constant…’’ In the Vijaynagar kingdom, noted Duarte Barbosa, ‘‘every man may come and go, and live according to his creed without suffering any annoyance, and without enquiring whether he is a Christian, Jew, Moor (Muslim) or Heathen. Great equity and justice is observed by all.’’ Mulla Badaoni, a relatively bigoted chronicler of Akbar’s court, failed to deny the freedom and tolerance that existed in Indian society as he wrote: ‘‘Hindustan is a nice place where everything is allowed, and no one cares for another (i.e., not interferes in others’ affairs) and people may go as they may.’’518

Coming to such a land of humanity, freedom and tolerance, the Muslim invaders committed utmost slaughter and cruelty; they killed tens of millions and enslaved a greater number. They destroyed temples in the thousands and looted and plundered India’s wealth in measures beyond imagination as recorded by contemporary Muslim historians with gloating joy. Kanhadde Prabandha, an Indian chronicler, leaves an eyewitness account of the activities of Islamic invaders (1456) as thus: ‘‘The conquering army burnt villages, devastated the land, plundered people’s wealth, took Brahmins and children and women of all classes captive, flogged with thongs of raw hide, carried a moving prison (of captives) with it, and converted the prisoners into obsequious Turks.’’519 Such barbarism Muslim invaders committed with the purpose of carrying out their religious duty. The orthodox Ulema as well as the Sufi divines often condemned the Muslim rulers for their failure to put a complete end to the filth of idolatry and unbelief in India. For example, Qazi Mughisuddin reminded Sultan Alauddin that ‘Hindus were deadliest foes of the true Prophet,’ who must be annihilated or subjected to worst degradation.520

The ruthless and relentless savagery and massacre of Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains, committed by Muslim invaders and rulers in India, will surpass the massacre of South American heathens by the Spanish and Portuguese invaders. Of the estimated ninety million natives in the continental Latin America in 1492, only twelve million survived after a century.521 The overwhelming majority of these deaths resulted from European and African diseases—namely the “childhood diseases” like measles, diphtheria and whooping cough as well as smallpox, falciparum malaria and yellow fever—involuntarily brought by the colonists. The native people lacked acquired immunity to these foreign diseases, which caused huge numbers of death.

Within a century, most of the people of the lowland tropical regions were literally wiped out, while as high as 80 percent of the highland population of Andes and Middle America also died from these diseases.522 Nonetheless, the colonists also killed the Pagan natives, probably in the millions, often on religious grounds. The Europeans, too, did not have acquired immunity to falciparum malaria and yellow fever of African origin; they also died in large numbers from these diseases contracted from African slaves brought to the Americas.

Based on historical documentation and circumstantial evidence, Prof. KS Lal estimates that the population of India stood at about 200 million in 1000 and it dwindled to only 170 millions in 1500, in spite of the passage of five centuries.523 Between sixty and eighty million people died at the hands of Muslim invaders and rulers between 1000 and 1525, estimates Lal. The possibility of annihilation of such a large number of Indians by Muslim invaders and rulers may appear a suspect. However, in the war of independence of Bangladesh in 1971, the Pakistani army killed 1.5 to 3.0 million people in just nine months. It occurred in our modern age of flourishing journalism, but the world hardly took a notice of it. Moreover, a large number of the victims in this case were their co-religionists, the Muslims of East Pakistan. Hence, it is entirely possible that Muslim invaders and rulers, who came with the mission of extirpating idolatry from India, could easily have slaughtered as many as eighty million Indian infidels over a period of ten centuries in such a vast land.


464. Patronized by the pre-Islamic Sassanian kings of Persia, the great Nestorian learning centre of Jundhishpur had become a flourishing centre for translating the ancient works of Greek, Indian and other origin. Under king Khosro I (531–579), it had become a melting pot of Syrian, Persian and Indian scholars. Khosro I sent his own physician to India in search of medical books. These were then turned from Sanskrit into Pahlavi (Middle Persian), and many other scientific works were translated from Greek into Persian or Syriac.

465. Nehru (1989), p. 151 466. Eaton (2000), p. 29
467. Sachau, Preface, p. XXX

468. Ibid, p. 160–61
469. Ibid, p. XXXIII
470. Ibid, p. XXXIII-XXXIV

471. Ibid, p. XXXVI

472. al-Andalusi S (1991) Science in the Medieval World: Book of the Categories of Nations, Translated by Salem SI and Kumar A, University of Texas Press, Chapter 5.

473. Watson & Hiro, p. 96

474. Gibb, p. 232
475. Elliot & Dawson, Vol. I, p. 7
476. Ibid
477. The Southeast Asian kingdoms of Srivijaya, Java and Khmer were then an extension of the Indian civilization with a firmly rooted Hindu-Buddhist religious influence. The famous Muslim historian al-Masudi had met Zaidu-l Hasan in Basra in 916, reproduced this story in his Meadows of Gold.
478. Elliot & Dawson, Vol. I, p. 8–9

479. Danielou, p. 106
480. Basham AL (2000) The Wonder That Was India, South Asia Books, Columbia, p. 8–9 481. Johnson L (2001) Complete Idiot’s Guide to Hinduism, Alpha Books, New York, p. 38 482. Ferishtah, Vol. II, p. 248

483. Dutt, KG, The Modern Face of Ang Kshetra, Tribune India, 17October 1998

484. Prithviraj III, Wikipedia,
485. Ferishtah, Vol. II, p. 195
486. Ibid, p. 196–97

487. Ibid, p. 197
488. Jones JP (1915) India – Its Life and Thought, The Macmillan Company, New York, p. 166
489. Saunders TB (1997) The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer: Book I : Wisdom of Life, De Young Press, p. 42–43

490. Swarup R (2000) On Hinduism Reviews and Reflections, Voice of India, p. 150–51 491. Elliot & Dawson, Vol. V, p. 559
492. Ibid, Vol. I, p. 10
493. Nehru (1989), p. 210

494. Ibid, p. 24

495. Eaton (1978), p. 13
496. Ibid, p. 27
497. Elliot & Dawson, Vol. I, p. 457

498. Ibid, p. 88
499. Sharma, p. 89
500. Elliot & Dawson, Vol. I, p. 450

501. Ibid, Vol. IV, p. 106

502. Nehru (1989), p. 258

503. Naipaul VS (1977) India: A Wounded Civilization, Alfred A Knopf Inc., New York, p. 5

504. Elliot & Dawson, Vol. IV, p. 107

505. Nehru (1989), p. 259

506. Ferishtah, Vol. III, p. 79

507. Ibid, p. 266

508. Majumdar RC ed. (1973) The Mughal Empire, in The History and Culture of the Indian People, Bombay, Vol. VII, p. 425

509. Ferishtah, Vol. III, p. 72,74

510. Journal of the Bombay Brach of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. XXII, p. 28

511. Sarkar J (1992) Shibaji and His Times, Orient Longham, Mumbai, p. 39
512. Ghosh SC (2000) The History of Education in Medieval India 1192-1757, Originals, New Delhi, p. 122

513. Sarkar, p. 43
514. Sarkar, p. 288; Ghosh, p. 122
515. Sarkar, p. 76
516. Ibid, p. 302

517. Ibid, p. 2,290

518. Lal (1994), p. 29
519. Goel SR (1996) Story of Islamic Imperialism in India, South Asia Books, Columbia (MO), p. 41–42

520. Lal (1999), p. 113

521. Elst, p. 8

522. Curtin PD (1993) The Tropical Atlantic of the Slave Trade, In M Adas ed., Islam & European Expansion, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, p. 172.

523. Lal (1973), p. 25–32

Secular African
This panel is run by a group of young Africans based in a number of cities across Africa. It is dedicated to fulfilling three purposes. 1) To Promote scholarly articles about the exiguously studied subject of Islamic Imperialism. 2) To support the global initiative of developing secular democracies for the human race. 3) To empower women around the world, and more crucially in the developing world, through secularism.

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