Soomro

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Soomro
Total population
600,000
Regions with significant populations
Pakistan:
   500,000-550,000
Languages
Sindhi,Seraiki,Balochi,Kuchi
Religion
Islam
Related ethnic groups
Sindhi,Saraiki,Baloch,kathiawari

Soomro (or Soomra, Sumrah; (Sindhi: سومرو) is a Sindhi tribe mainly based in Sindh, parts of Punjab bordering Sindh and in Balochistan, Pakistan. Although other cities have Soomro populations that are there for employment reasons, their origins remain in Sindh.

History and origin[edit]

Theory of origin from Rajputs[edit]

Writers like E. O'Brein describe the Sumra as originally Rajputs: In A.D.750 they expelled the first Arab invaders from Sindh and Multan, and furnished the country with a dynasty which ruled in Multan from 1445 to 1526 A.D., when it was expelled by the Samma.

British political agent Colonel James Tod refers to them as a part of the twin clans of Umra and Sumra Rajputs who were a subdivision of Sodha tribe of Rajputs, which in turn has been mentioned as a grand division of Panwar Rajputs who in remote times held all the Rajputana desert. Frequently combining with their brethren the Umars, gave name to a large tract of country, which is even still recognized as Umra-Sumra and Umarkot, and within which Alor and Bhukkar is situated.[1] SOOMRA DYNASTY (1011- 1351 AD) The Soomras originally were a local Hindu tribe. Some influential members of it had accepted Islam soon after the Arab conquest of Sindh. Even after conversion they retained their old Hindu names and customs. They had intermarried with local Arab landowners and thus had acquired great influence and power. They were not Qarmatis. Muqtana of Syria had been inviting Shaikh Ibn Soomar Raja Bal of Multan to accept Druzism. It is, therefore, apparent that they belonged to the Ismaili sect organised by the Fatmid Khalifas of Egypt, Imam Zahir and Mustansir. The Qarmati descendent movement or the early Ismaili sect had never gained ground in Sindh, but somehow most of the early Sunni writers considered Ismailis as Qarmatis. The Soomras practised a lot of Hindu customs even until 1471 AD when Mahmud Begra tried to suppress them and convert them to his sect of Islam i.e., Sunnism. Raja Bal or Rajpal could have been son of Soomar Soomro who ruled Sindh at that time. The early Soomra rulers were ‘Fatmid’ Ismailis, owed allegiance to Fatmid Khalifas of Cairo, sent them presents and read their names in the Friday Khutba. On the death of Imam Mustansir at Cairo in 487 AH (1094 AD), the Fatmid Dawa had been divided in two sections. The first one Mustalian Dawa with headquarters at Yemen in the beginning and later on in Gujarat; the other one called Nizari Ismaili Dawa with headquarters at Almut in Persia under Hasan bin Sabbah and supported the cause of Imam Nizar bin Mustansir and his descendants. The Soomras drifted away from these two rival Dawas. Ismailis got great setback between 1171-1187 AD starting with the fall of their Khilafat in Cairo at the hands of Sultan Salahuddin Ayubi, then in Iraq at the hands of Seljuki Turks and in Multan by Muhammad Ghori’s campaigns. Yemeni or Gujarati Dawa exercised heavy Arab influence, which is apparent in the names of people as well as Arabic literature. The Soomras in general had local Sindhi names and therefore they could not have originally belonged to this sect of Ismailis. The Ismailis of Gujarat, who attached themselves to Yemeni or Gujarati Dawa, are known as Bohris. The Nizari school, was active in the northern subcontinent. Pir Shams Sabzwari, looking like a Jogi, came to Multan where he drew considerable followings. He may have been active in Sindh, but as he came during the time of Imam Qasim Shah (1310-1369 AD) in the last days of the Soomra rule, it becomes doubtful if they could be Nizari Ismailis too. Pir Sadruddin, who died near Uch in 876 AH (1471 AD), was also a Nizari missionary and there is evidence that he exercised influence in Sindh. Nizaris got a setback in Iraq when Halaku’s forces in the mid-thirteenth century destroyed their stronghold in Alburz mountains. Mir Masum basing on hearsay considers the Soomras of Hindu origin. Tarikh-i-Tahiri clearly mentions that the Soomras were of Hindu origin, but all the same they ate buffalo meat. Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh of Muhammad Yousuf agrees with Masumi and gives some additional names of their rulers of whom some appear to be Muslim names. Tarikh-i-Tabaqat-i-Bahadur-Shahi, written around 1532-1536 AD, states that they were descendants of Tamim Ansari. This is also a mis-statement. Recently it is argued that they were Sumerians, who came from Iraq and were of Arab stock. This is the twentieth-century theory unknown to the past historians. Presence of Soomras in Kutch, Gujarat and Rajasthan in small numbers does not make them Rajputs either, as Soomra and Samma clans had formed ninety per cent of population of Sindh from eleventh to sixteenth centuries. Tuhfa-tul-Kiram and Beglar Namah have called Soomras as Arabs and perhaps connected them with Sumerians of Iraq without realising that Sumerians were not Semites. After the conquest of India by Mughals, the definition of a Mughal was: a foreigner from the central Asia or Iran, fair in colour, not knowing local language and not having a local wife. All local Muslims were discriminated against and exploited like non-Muslims. Many Sindhi tribes started showing their origin from outside. Soomras became Sumerians, Sammas descendants of Jamshed of Persia and Kalhoras as offsprings of Abbasid Khalifas, in a similar way as earlier Rais of Rai dynasty the local Sudras or untouchables, had become Rajputs. In the fifth century, Huns destroyed most of the kingdoms in South Asia. Warlike tribes collected mercenaries in the Indian desert area and called themselves Rajputs or sons of Rajas. They included many tribes of Sindh, Kutch, Kathiawar, Gujarat, Punjab and Utter Pradesh, who actually settled in areas bordering the desert. They called themselves Rajputs or sons of Rajas and Khatri by occupation having a dint to fight wars and rule. There has been no migration of these tribes to the surrounding areas of Rajasthan as is generally thought. Rajasthan with limited resources is thinly populated. The tribes were present in the above areas in large numbers and only a few in the desert. They lived on animal husbandry as their ancestors did and also small-scale agriculture in the desert. All warriors and feudals called themselves Rajputs all over South Asia. Sammas and Soomras were local tribes and assigned themselves as Rajputs by class because of presence of a few of their tribesmen in the adjoining desert of Rajasthan. Later on the Rajputs of Rajasthan built their own genealogies, descent, folklore and history, which was collected by Todd between 1815-1829 AD. This is not history but only narration of mostly fictitious perceptions. No serious historian accepts it. All British period historians given in the table at end of this chapter have called Soomras as Rajputs under influence of Todd’s writings. Actually they were local converted to Ismailism. The Soomra dynasty started with a definite and rigid law of succession unlike the contemporary Ghazni and Delhi Sultanates, which always faced trouble and where sword and murder was the natural method of deciding the right of succession. The Soomra rule therefore continued uninterrupted for about three-and-a-half centuries and their territories were never annexed, though they acted as the vassals of Delhi for some time. The method of governance like contemporary Delhi Sultanate was not hereditary feudal nobility copied from Sassanians, but Bhayat or brotherhood under which villages were allotted land for maintenance and Panchats for setting law and order problems and maintenance of land, water and grazing grounds. Panchats provided taxes to the government. Such a system, operated in Kutch from 1148 to 1948 AD under Hindu Jareja Sammas of Sindh, which had survived up to the mid-twentieth century and was a good example of governance. State was neither run through Jagirdari system nor were high officials granted fiefs to exploit land for a limited period. After nearly two hundred years of rule, Soomras, under the influence of Sufis gave Jagirs to holy foundations to maintain Dargahs and undertake moral teachings, but these Khanqahs and Dargahs of Sufis had been encouraged to subdue common man through them. The Soomra government did not follow a military theocratic despotism as was done by the Delhi Sultanate. The participation of Hindus with Muslim Sammas in wars and political struggles show that religion did not play any part in state affairs, which then was secular and unorthodox. There is no record that Soomras ever invited Persian poets, historians and scholars to their courts or main towns. There was no important caste of Sayeds in Sindh during Soomra rule besides some Sufis. Most of Sayed families of Sindh claim their origin from the central Asia in the fifteenth century when dry climate in these areas had forced them to migrate. Sammas, the new converts, welcomed them as pillars of Islam and bestowed favours on them, but except a few Sufis, there is no record of Sayeds’ presence in Sindh in Soomra or early Samma era. The Soomra monarchy was based on highly esteemed public opinion. Even the first Soomro king, Khafif ascended the throne with the full mandate of the people. When he died his son was a child. The Soomra capital city Mansura was burnt by Mahmud of Ghazni. Soomra elders collected at Tharri, the new capital of the Soomras and unanimously elected Soomar Soomro as their king, but the right of the minor son of Khafif remained reserved. Soomar died in 1054-55 AD and Khafif’s son Bhoongar succeeded him. Soomar’s son Raja Bal (Rajpal) established himself in Multan. He proved to be a very strong king. Even Muqtana of Syria addressed him in his letter in 1033 AD as ‘Power of the state’, son of Soomar and not by his actual name. It is not sure whether Raja Bal accepted suzerainty of Sindh or ruled independently. These incidents show that right of succession was never usurped in Soomra rule.

DODO-CHANESAR BALLADS; HISTORY OR MYTH There were four Dodo rulers of Sindh; Dodo-I (1068-1092 AD), Dodo-II (1180-1194 AD), Dodo-III (1259-1273 AD) and Dodo-IV 1332-? AD. The first Dodo had no conflict with any Ghaznavid ruler. Dodo-II could have conflict with Muhammad Shahabuddin Ghori, but it is doubtful if the latter had attacked Sindh, though he attacked Multan and Uch. Dodo-III could not have any conflict with Sultans of Delhi, as he had attacked Multan and Uch but not Sindh of Soomras. Dodo-IV had a conflict with Muhammad bin Tughlaq when Jam Unar Samma attacked Sehwan, to suppress a rebellion, but as Battutta met Muhammad Tughlaq in Sindh in early forties of fourteenth century, an event which is fully documented, it appears that the conflict with Dodo-IV continued. This incident is not recorded by Delhi historians. There were two Chanesars (1222-1228 and 1283-1300 AD). The first one 27 years after the death of Dodo-II, had a conflict with Khawarizm Shah and Altatmash and surrendered to Delhi most probably under the influence of Bahauddin Zakariya. The second one surrendered to Allauddin’s general, Zafar Khan. Both faced ignoramus end, but there was no Dodo in picture then. Thus it appears easy to make Chanesars the feeble rulers, unworthy of leadership and kingship. Ballads and stories similar to those of Dodo-Chanesar were composed in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in Rajasthan and Gujarat and a few well-known are: i) The sixteenth-century old Gujarati ballads of Padmanabha “Kanhad-dev Parbandh”, which describe valiant fight put up by Kanhad-dev of Jalor against Allauddin. ii) The fifteenth century Sanskrit ballads or Kavyas or Kafees of “Hamir Mahakavya”, tell a similar story of Hamir’s fight against Allauddin. iii) “Mandalik Kavya” is the similar story of the sixteenth century of resistance offered by Raja Mandalik of Junagadh against Sultan Mahmud Begra of Gujarat, who ruled in the fifteenth century. iv) Kavi Jodha’s “Hamir Raso”, tells the similar story of Hamir and was composed in the nineteenth century, about Ranthomabhore’s resistance to Allauddin. v) Ranmal Chahand’s Kavya of the sixteenth century in Gujarati gives similar tradition of Zafar Khan’s attacks on Idar. Thus ballads of Dodo-Chanesar are a simple copy of similar ballads popular in the adjoining countries. There are also Kutchi ballads in which Kutchis came to protect ‘Ladies of royal Soomra family’. These are interesting tales to tell, but not part of serious history.

RULERS OF SOOMRA DYNASTY KINGS OF SOOMRA DYNASTY AND YEARS OF THEIR RULE 1. Khafif – I 1011 - 1026 2. Soomar 1026/27 - 1054/55 3. Bhoongar-I 1054/55 - 1068/69 4. Dodo-I 1068/69 - 1092 5. Zenab Tari (daughter of Dodo ruled on behalf of her minor brother Sanghar) 1092 - 1098 6. Sanghar (no child) 1098 - 1106/07 7. Khafif-II (brother of wife of Sanghar) 1106/07 - 1141/42 8. Umar-I (brother of Khafif-II) 1141/42 - 1180/81 9. Dodo-II. 1180/81 - 1194/95 10. Bhoongar-II (descendent of Dodo-I and not Dodo-II) 1194/95 - 1222 11. Chanesar-I 1222 - 1228 12. Gunero-I 1228 - 1236/37 13. Chanesar – I (second time) 1236/37 - ? 14. Gunero-I (second time) ? - 1241/42 15. Tur (Muhammad Tur son of Gunero-I) 1241/42 - 1256 16. Gunero-II 1256 - 1259 17. Dodo-III (son of Gunero-II) 1259 - 1273/74 18. Tai (son of Dodo-III) 1273/74 - 1283/84 19. Chanesar – II 1283/84 - 1300/01 20. Bhoongar-III 1300/01 - 1315 21. Khafif – III 1315 - 1332/33 22. Dodo – IV 23. Umar-II 1332/33 - 1350 24. Bhoongar-IV 25. Hamir (Dodo)1350 - 1351/52

Theory of origin from Egypt and Iraq[edit]

Following the 985 CE expulsion of the Qarmatian Muslim sect from Iraq and Egypt, the Qarmatians relocated to Sindh. The grey part of history is that some say that when they relocated they were called Sumero along with some suggesting suggest that they were the possibly converts to Islam in Sindh, however, there is no evidence of this as their presence becomes evident later on after they became rulers of Sindh and when they did they had Arabic names. The term Soomro, spelled Soomro in English, but pronounced Soomera or Soomara, means 'of Samarra' in Sindhi. There is also a wide accepted concept of Soomera being men brought by bin Qasim and left there after he went back but according to the lack of information on this part of history, the facts are blurred.

When Sindh was under the Ummayad caliphate, the Habbari dynasty was in control. The Ummayads appointed Aziz al Habbari as the governor of sindh. Habbaris ruled Sindh until Mahmud Ghaznavi defeated the Habbari's in 1024. Mahmud Ghaznavi viewed the Abbasids to be the Caliphs thus he removed the remaining influence of the Ummayad Caliphate in the region. Following the defeat of the Habbari's, the Abbasid Caliphate made Al Khafif from Samarra the new governor of Sindh for a better, stronger and stable government.[2] Once he became the governor he allotted several key positions to his family and friends, thus Al-Khafif or Sardar Khafif Soomro formed the Soomra Dynasty in Sindh and became its first king. Until the Siege of Baghdad (1258) the Soomra dynasty was the Abbasid Caliphate's functionary in Sindh but after that it became independent. Since then some soomra's intermarried with local women and adopted some local customs as well. It be noted that Mansura[3] was the first capital of the Soomra Dynasty and the last of the Habbari dynasty.

The overwhelming majority of Soomros are Sunni and a significant number who adheres to Sufi Islam and Shiite Islam like most of Sindhis. The Soomra Dynasty was established by the Soomro tribe of Sindh. The Soomra ruled Sindh from 1024-1351.

The Soomra shifted there capital to Tharri, nearly 14 km eastwards of Matli on the Puran river. Puran was later abandoned due to changes in the course of the river. Thatta was the capital of the empire for about 95 years until the end of Soomra rule in 1351 AD. Some Hindus who had not converted to Islam under the Ghaznavids moved from Sindh to Vegh Kot and Lakhpat (Kutch) around 1028 A.D., to avoid sectarian violence and live under a Hindu ruler. During this period, Kutch was ruled by the Jadeja branch of the Samma Dynasty, who enjoyed good relations with the Soomro tribe in Sindh.

Historical significance[edit]

The Soomro tribe were one of the earliest Muslims in Sindh. They are very old feudals and were termed "Princes of Peace" by the British. They ruled Sindh for a long time.

Political status[edit]

Soomro family is the largest of the political families of Pakistan after the Bhutto family, at both federal and provincial levels.

Distribution in Sindh[edit]

Distribution in Punjab[edit]

Branch in India[edit]

Further information: Samra

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Annals & Antiquities of Rajasthan, By James Tod". 
  2. ^ Souvenir, Mansura Seminar: 12th Rabi-us-Sani, 1403 A.H./27 January 1983 A.D ʻAbdullāh Varyāh, Sanghar Historical and Cultural Society (Pakistan). Sanghar Historical and Cultural Society, 1983
  3. ^ History of Pakistan: Pakistan through ages by Ahmad Hasan Dani, Sang-e Meel Publications, 2007, Page 218