Muhammed Bin Qasim

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MUHAMMAD BIN QASIM

Muhammad bin Qasim was among the finest colonialists in the Arab history, and a worthy soldier. Unfortunately, our modern writers have tried to paint him as a saint, and in the process they have lost all those features that made this Arab general an interesting human being. It is high time we restore his true picture from authentic sources of history written by the earliest Muslim historians. 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 Hajjaji 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 God. 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 Arab terms of mercy to Muhammad bin Qasim all the way from Basra....
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