The Coming of Islam to South Asia. Muslim invasions from the seventh century added to the complexity of Indian civilization. Previous nomadic invaders usually had blended over time into India’s sophisticated civilization. Muslims, possessors of an equally sophisticated, but very different, culture were a new factor. The open, tolerant, and inclusive Hindu religion was based on a social system dominated by castes; whereas Islam was doctrinaire, monotheistic, evangelical, and egalitarian. In the earlier period of contact, conflict predominated, but as time passed, although tensions persisted, peaceful commercial and religious exchange occurred in a society where Muslim rulers governed Hindu subjects.
Political Divisions and the First Muslim Invasions. The Umayyad general Muhammad ibn Qasim conquered and annexed Sind, and, despite quarrels among succeeding Muslim dynasties, the occupation endured. Many Indians, treated as "people of the book" welcomed the new rulers because they offered religious tolerance and lighter taxes. Few Arabs resided in cities or garrison towns, and minimal conversion efforts did not change existing religious beliefs.
Indian Influences on Islamic Civilization. Although Islam's effect on India was minimal, Islamic civilization was enriched by Indian culture. Indian achievements in science, mathematics, medicine, music, and astronomy passed to the Arabs. Indian numerals were accepted, later to pass to Europe as "Arabic" numerals. Colonies of Arabs settled along India's coasts, adopted local customs, and provided staging points for later Islamic expansion to island and mainland Southeast India.
From Booty to Empire: The Second Wave of Muslim Invasions. After the initial Muslim conquests, internal divisions weakened Muslim rule and allowed limited Hindu reconquest. In the tenth century, a Turkish dynasty gained power in Afghanistan. Its third ruler, Mahmud of Ghazni, began two centuries of incursions into northern...