Muslim conquests on the Indian subcontinent

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Muslim conquests on the Indian subcontinent mainly took place from the 12th to the 16th centuries, though earlier Muslim conquests made limited inroads into modern Afghanistan and Pakistan as early as the time of the Rajput kingdoms in the 8th century. With the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate, Islam spread across large parts of the subcontinent. In 1204, Bakhtiar Khilji led the Muslim conquest of Bengal, marking the eastern-most expansion of Islam at the time.

Prior to the rise of the Maratha Empire which was followed by the conquest of India by the British East India Company, the Muslim Moghul Empire was able to annex or subjugate most of India's kings. However, it was never able to conquer the kingdoms in upper reaches of the Himalayas such as the regions of today's Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Nepal and Bhutan, the extreme south of India such as Travancore and Tamil Nadu and in the east such as the Ahom kingdom in Assam.


Like other societies in history, South Asia has been attacked by nomadic tribes throughout its long history. In evaluating the impact of Islam on the sub-continent, one must also note that the northwestern sub-continent was a frequent target of tribes from Central Asia who arrived from the North West. With the fall of the Sassanids and the arrival of the Caliphate's domination of the region these tribes began to contest with the new power and were subsequently integrated into it giving rise to Muslim dynasties of Central Asian heritage, generally Turkics and Persians.[1][dubious ] In that sense, the Muslim invasions of the 10th century onwards were not dissimilar to those of the earlier invasions in the History of Central Asia during the 1st through to the 6th century.

What does however, make the Muslim invasions different is that unlike the preceding invaders who assimilated into the prevalent social system, the Muslim conquerors retained their Islamic identity and created new legal and administrative systems that challenged and usually superseded the existing systems of social conduct and ethics. They also introduced new cultural mores that in some ways were very different from the existing cultural codes. While this was often a source of friction and conflict, it should also be noted that there were also Muslim rulers, notably Akbar, who in much of their secular practice absorbed or accommodated local traditions.

Early Muslim communities[edit]

Islam in India existed in communities along the Arab coastal trade routes in Sindh, Bengal, Gujarat, Kerala, and Ceylon as soon as the religion originated and had early gained widespread acceptance in the Arabian Peninsula, being brought over by merchants, Sufis and missionaries, who oftentimes settled down and intermarried with the local women, adopting local customs. The first incursion by the new Muslim successor states of the Arab World occurred around 636 CE or 643 AD, during the Rashidun Caliphate,long before any Arab army reached the frontier of India by land.

Arab Naval Expeditions[edit]

Uthman b. Abul As Al Sakifi, governor of Bahrain and Oman, sent out ships to raid Thane, near modern-day Mumbai, while his brother Hakam sailed to Broach and a third fleet sailed to Debal under his younger brother Mughira either in 636 CE or 643 AD. According to one source all three expeditions were successful,[2] however, another source states Mughira was defeated and killed at Debal.[3] These expeditions were sent without the Caliph Umar's consent, and he rebuked Uthman, saying that had the Arabs lost any men the Caliph would have killed an equal number of men from Utham's tribe in retaliation.[4] The expeditions were sent to attack pirate nests, to safeguard Arabian trade in the Arabian Sea, and not to start the conquest of India.[5][6][7]

Rashidun Caliphate and the India Frontier[edit]

Arab campaigns in the Indian Subcontinent. A generic representation, not to exact scale.

The kingdoms of Kapisa-Gandhara, Zabulistan and Sind (which then held Makran), all of which were culturally and political part of India since ancient times,[8] were known as "The Frontier of Al Hind". The first clash between ruler of an Indian kingdom and Arabs took place in 643 AD, when Arabs defeated Rutbil, King of Zabulistan in Sistan.[9] Arabs led by Suhail b. Abdi and Hakam al Taghilbi defeated an Indian army in the Battle of Rasil in 644 AD at the Indian Ocean sea coast,[10] then reached the Indus River. Caliph Umar ibn Al-Khattab denied them permission to cross the river or operate on Indian soil and the Arabs returned home.[11]

Abdullah ibn Aamir led the invasion of Khurasan in 650 AD, and his general Rabi b. Ziyad Al Harithi attacked Sistan and took Zaranj and surrounding areas in 651 AD[12] while Ahnaf ibn Qais conquered the Hepthalites of Herat in 652 AD and advanced up to Balkh by 653 AD. Arab conquests now bordered the Kingdoms of Kapisa, Zabul and Sind. The Arabs levied annual tributes on the newly captured areas, and leaving 4,000 men garrisons at Merv and Zaranj retired to Iraq instead of pushing on against the frontier of India.[13] Caliph Uthman b. Affan sanctioned an attack against Makran in 652 AD, and sent a recon mission to Sind in 653 AD. The mission described Makran as inhospitable, and Caliph Uthman, probably assuming the country beyond as much worse, forbade any further incursions into India.[14][15]

This was the beginning of the long struggle between the rulers of Kabul and Zabul against successive Arab governors of Sistan, Khurasan and Makran. The Kabul Shahi kings and Zunbils, their kinsmen, blocked access to the Khyber Pass and Gomal Pass routes to India from 653 to 870 AD,[16] while modern Balochistan, Pakistan, comprising the areas of Kikan or Qiqanan, Nukan, Turan, Buqan, Qufs, Mashkey and Makran, would face several Arab expeditions between 661 - 711 AD.[17] Arabs launched several raids against these frontier lands, but repeated rebellions in Sistan and Khurasan between 653 - 691 AD diverted much of their military resources in regaining these provinces and away from expansion into Al Hind, and Muslim control of these areas ebbed and flowed repeatedly as a result until 870 AD. Arabs troops disliked being stationed in Makran,[18] and was reluctant to campaign in Kabul and Zabulistan, the difficult terrain and underestimation of Zunbil's power,[19] Arab strategy to extract tribute instead of systematic conquest, and the fierce resistance of Zunbil and Turki Shah stalled Arab progress repeatedly in the "Frontier Zone.[20][21]

Umayyad Expansion in Al Hind[edit]

Muawiyah established Umayyad rule over the Arabs after the first First Fitna in 661 AD, and resumed expansion of the Muslim Empire. After regaining control of Khurasan and Sistan by 663/665 AD, Arabs launched an invasion against Kapisa, Zabul and Balochistan. Abdur Rahman b. Samurra besieged Kabul in 663 AD, while Haris b Marrah advanced against Kalat after marching through Fannazabur and Quandabil and moving through the Bolan Pass. King Chach of Sindh sent an army against the Arabs, the enemy blocked the mountain passes, Haris was killed and his army was annihilated. Al Muhallab ibn Abi Suffrah took a detachment through the Khyber pass towards Multan in Southern Punjab in modern-day Pakistan in 664 AD, then pushed south into Kikan, and may have also raided Quandabil. Turki Shah and Zunbil expelled Arabs from their respective kingdoms by 670 AD, and Zunbil began assisting in organizing resistance in Makran.[22]

Battles in Makran and Zabulistan[edit]

Arabs launched several campaigns in Balochistan between 661 - 681 AD, four Arab commanders were killed during the campaigns, but Sinan b. Salma managed to conquer parts of Makran including the Chagai area,[23] and establish a permanent base of operations in 673 AD.[24] Rashid b. Amr, the next governor of Makran, subdued Mashkey in 672 AD,[25] Munzir b. Jarood Al Abadi managed to garrison Kikan and conquer Buqan by 681 AD and Ibn Harri Al Bahili, conducted several campaigns to secure Arab hold on Kikan, Makran and Buqan by 683 AD.[26][27] Zunbil saw off Arab campaigns in 668, 672 and 673 AD by paying tribute, although Arabs occupied the areas south of Helmand in 673 AD permanently[24][28] Zunbil defeated Yazid b. Salm's army in 681 AD at Junzah, and Arabs had to pay 500,000 dirhams to ransom their prisoners,[29] but Arabs defeated and killed Zunbil in Sistan in 685. Arabs were defeated in Zabul in next invaded Zabul in 693 AD.[30]

Al Hajjaj and the East[edit]

Muhammad bib Qasim's Campaigns in Sindh. A generic representation, not to exact scale.

Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf Al Thaqifi, who had played a crucial role during the Second Fitna for the Umayyad cause, was appointed the governor of Iraq in 694 AD, further extended to Khurasan and Sistan in 697 AD. Al-Hajjaj also sponsored Muslim expansion in Makran, Sistan, Transoxiana and Sind.[31][32]

Campaigns in Makran and Zabul[edit]

Arab hold on Makran had weakened when Arab rebels seized the province, and Hajjaj had to send three governors between 694 - 707 AD before Makran was partially recovered by 694 AD.[33] Al Hajjaj also fought Zunbil in 698 AD and 700 AD. The 20,000 strong army led by Ubaidullah ibn Abu Bakra was trapped by the armies of Zunbil and Turki Shah near Kabul, and lost 15,000 men to thirst and hunger, earning this force the epithet of the "Doomed Army".[34][35] Abd al-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn al-Ash'ath led 20,000 troops each from Kufa and Basra[36] in a cautions but successful campaign in 700 AD, but when he wanted to stop during winter, Al-Hajjaj's insulting rebuke[37] led to mutiny.[38] The mutiny put down by 704 Ad, and Al-Hajjaj granted a 7-year truce to Zunbil

Umayyad expansion in Sindh[edit]

Main article: Muhammad bin Qasim

Raja Dahir of Sind had refused to return Arab rebels from Sindh[39][40] and furthermore, Meds and others.[33] Meds (a tribe of Scythians living in Sindh) shipping from their bases at Kutch, Debal and Kathiawar.[33] in one of their raids had kidnapped Muslim women travelling from Sri Lanka to Arabia, thus providing a casus belli[33][41] against Sindh Raja Dahir[42] when Raja Dahir expressed his inability to help retrieve the prisoners. After two expeditions were defeated in Sindh[43][44][44] Al Hajjaj equipped an army built around 6,000 Syrian cavalry and detachments of mawali from Iraq,[45] six thousand camel riders, and a baggage train of 3,000 camels under his Nephew Muhammad bin Qasim to Sind. His Artillery of five catapults were sent to Debal by sea[45] ("manjaniks").

Conquest of Sindh[edit]

Early Arab conquest of Pakistan by Muhammad bin Qasim for Umayyad caliphate rule c. 711 CE.

Muhammad bin Qasim departed from Shiraz in 710 CE, the Army marched along the coast to Tiaz in Makran, then to the Kech valley. Muhammad re-subdue the restive towns of Fannazbur and Armabil, (Lasbela)[46] finally completing the conquest of Makran then the army met up with the reinforcements and catapults sent by sea near Debal and took Debal through assault.[45] From Debal the Arabs moved north along the Indus, clearing the region up to Budha, some towns like Nerun and Sadusan (Sehwan) surrendered peacefully[45] while tribes inhabiting Sisam were defeated in battle. Muhammad bin Qasim moved back to Nerun to resupply and receive reinforcements sent by Hajjaj.[45] The Arabs crossed the Indus further South and defeated the army of Dahir, who was killed.[47][48] The Arabs then marched north along the east bank of the Indus after the siege and capture of Rawer. Brahmanabad, then Alor (Aror) and finally Multan, were captured alongside other in-between towns with only light Muslim casualties.[45] Arabs marched up to the foothills of Kashmir along the Jhelum in 713 AD,[49] and the stormed on Al-Kiraj (probably the Kangra valley)[50] Muhammad was deposed after the death of Caliph Walid in 715 AD. Jai Singh, son of Dahir captured Brahmanabad and Arab rule was restricted to the Western shore of Indus.[51] Sindh was briefly lost to the caliph when the rebel Yazid b. Muhallab took over Sindh briefly in 720 AD.,[51][52]

Last Umayyad campaigns in Al Hind[edit]

Main article: Battle of Rajasthan

Junaid b. Abd Al Rahman Al Marri became the governor of Sindh in 723 AD. Secured Debal, then defeat and killed Jai Singh[51][53] secured Sindh and Southern Punjaband stormed Al Kiraj (Kangra valley) in 724 AD.[50][54] Junaid next attacked a number of Hindu kingdoms in what is now Rajasthan, Gujrat and Madhya Pradesh aiming at permanent conquest, but the chronology and area of operation of the campaigns during 725 - 743 AD is difficult to follow because accurate, complete information is lacking.[50] The Arabs moved east from Sindh in several detachments[55] and probably from attacked from both the land and the sea, occupying Mirmad (Marumada, in Jaisalmer), Al-Mandal (perhaps Oka-Mandal in Gujarat) or Marwar,[56] and Dahnaj, not identified, al-Baylaman (Bhilmal) and Jurz (Gurjara country—north Gujarat and southern Rajasthan).[57] and attacking Barwas (Broach), sacking Vallabhi[58] the temple of Somnath. Gurjara king Siluka[59] repelled Arabs from "Stravani and Valla", probably the area North of Jaisalmer and Jodhpur, and the invasion of Malwa but were ultimately defeated by Nagabhata I in 725 AD near Ujjain.[60] Arabs lost control over the newly conquered territories and Sind due to Arab tribal infighting and Arab soldiers deserting the newly conquered territory [61] during in 731 AD.

Al Hakam b. Awana Al Kalbi recovered Sindh, and in c733 AD, founded the garrison city of Al Mahfuza ("The Well Guarded") similar to Kufa, Basra and Wasit, on the eastern side of a lake near Brahmanabad.[50] Hakam next attempted to reclaim the conquests of Junaid in Al Hind. Arab records merely state that he was successful,[51] Indian records at Navasari[62] details that Arab forces defeated "Kacchella, Saindhava, Saurashtra, Cavotaka, Maurya and Gurjara" kings . The city of Al Mansura ("The Victorious") was founded near Al Mahfuza to commemorate pacification of Sindh by Amr b. Muhammad in c738 AD.[50] Al Hakam next invaded the Deccan in 739 AD with the intention of permanent conquest, but was decisively defeated at Navsari by the viceroy Avanijanashraya Pulakesi of the Chalukya Empire serving Vikramaditya II. Arab rule was restricted to the west of Thar desert.

Last Days of Caliphate Control[edit]

When the Abbasid Revolution overthrew the Umayyads in 750 AD after the Third Fitna, Sindh became independent and was captured by Musa b. K'ab al Tamimi in 752 AD.[63] Zunbil had defeated the Arabs in 728 AD, and saw off two Abbasid invasions in 769 and 785 AD. Abbasids attacked Kabul several times and collected tribute between 787 Ad - 815 Ad and extracted tributeafter each campaign. Abbasid Governor of Sind, Hisham (7in office 768 - 773 AD) raided Kashmir, recaptured parts of Punjab from Karkota control,[64] and launched naval raids against ports of Gujarat in 758 and 770 AD,[33] which like other Abbasid Naval raids launched of 776 and 779 AD, gained no territory. Arabs occupied Sindian (Southern Kutch) in 810 AD, only to lose it in 841 AD.[65] Civil war erupted in Sind in 842 AD, and the Habbari dynasty occupied Mansurah, and by 871, five independent principalities emerged, with the Banu Habbari clan controlling in Mansurah, Banu Munabbih occupying Multan, Banu Madan ruling in Makran, with Makshey and Turan falling to other rulers, all outside direct Caliphate control.[66] Ismaili missionaries found a receptive audience among both the Sunni and non-Muslim populations in Multan, which became a center of the Ismaili sect of Islam. The Saffarid Dynasty of Zaranj occupied Kabul and the kingdom of Zunbil permanently in 871 AD. A new chapter of Muslim conquests began when the Samanid Dynasty took over the Saffarid Kingdom and Sabuktigin seized Ghazni.

Later Muslim invasions[edit]

Muslim incursions resumed under later Turkic and Central Asian Mongol dynasties with more local capitals, who supplanted the Caliphate and expanded their domains both northwards and eastwards and led to the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate.

Ghaznavid Period[edit]

Main article: Mahmud of Ghazni
Tomb of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni in 1848.

Under Sabuktigin, Ghazni found itself in conflict with the Shahi Raja Jayapala. When Sabuktigin died and his son Mahmud ascended the throne in 998, Ghazni was engaged in the North with the Qarakhanids when the Shahi Raja renewed hostilities.

In the early 11th century, Mahmud of Ghazni launched seventeen expeditions into South Asia. In 1001, Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni defeated Raja Jayapala of the Hindu Shahi Dynasty of Gandhara (in modern Afghanistan), the Battle of Peshawar and marched further into Peshawar (in modern Pakistan) and, in 1005, made it the center for his forces.

The Ghaznavid conquests were initially directed against the Ismaili Fatimids of Multan, who were engaged in an ongoing struggle with the Abbasid Caliphate in conjunction with their compatriots of the Fatimid Caliphate in North Africa and the Middle East; Mahmud apparently hoped to curry the favor of the Abbasids in this fashion. However, once this aim was accomplished, he moved onto the richness of the loot of wealthy temples and monasteries. By 1027, Mahmud had captured parts of North India and obtained formal recognition of Ghazni's sovereignty from the Abbassid Caliph, al-Qadir Billah.

Ghaznavid rule in Northwestern India (modern Afghanistan and Pakistan) lasted over 175 years, from 1010 to 1187. It was during this period that Lahore assumed considerable importance apart from being the second capital, and later the only capital, of the Ghaznavid Empire.

At the end of his reign, Mahmud's empire extended from Kurdistan in the west to Samarkand in the Northeast, and from the Caspian Sea to the Punjab. Although his raids carried his forces across Northern and Western India, only Punjab came under his permanent rule; Kashmir, the Doab, Rajasthan, and Gujarat remained under the control of the local Indian dynasties. But Mahmud of Ghazni never met on the battlefield Emperor Raja Raja Chola I and Emperor Rajendra Chola I of the Chola empire which was the most powerful Empire of India at that time.[67][68]

In 1030, Mahmud fell gravely ill and died at age 59. He had been a gifted military commander.

As with the invaders of three centuries ago, Mahmud's armies looted temples in Varanasi, Mathura, Ujjain, Maheshwar, Jwalamukhi, Somnath and Dwarka.

Mu'izz al-Din[edit]

Main article: Mu'izz al-Din

Mu'izz al-Din better known as Shahāb-ud-Din Muhammad Ghori was a conqueror from the region of Ghor in Afghanistan. Before 1160, the Ghaznavid Empire covered an area running from central Afghanistan east to the Punjab, with capitals at Ghazni on the banks of Ghazni river in present-day Afghanistan, and at Lahore in present-day Pakistan. In 1160, the Ghorids conquered Ghazni from the Ghaznavids, and in 1173 Muhammad Bin Sām was made governor of Ghazni. He raided eastwards into the remaining Ghaznavid territory, and invaded Gujarat in the 1180s but was defeated by the Indian queen Naikidevi of Gujarat.[69][70] In 1186 and 1187 he conquered Lahore in alliance with a local Hindu ruler, ending the Ghaznavid empire and bringing the last of Ghaznavid territory under his control, and seemed to be the first Muslim ruler seriously interested in expanding his domain in the sub-continent, and like his predecessor Mahmud initially started off against the Ismaili kingdom of Multan that had regained independence during the Nizari conflicts, and then onto booty and power.

In 1191, he invaded the territory of Prithviraj III of Ajmer, who ruled much of present-day Rajasthan and Punjab, but was defeated at Tarain by Prithviraj.[71] The following year, Mu'izz al-Din assembled 120,000 horsemen and once again invaded India. Mu'izz al-Din's army met Prithviraj's army again at Tarain, and this time Mu'izz al-Din won; Govindraj was slain, Prithviraj executed[72] and Mu'izz al-Din advanced onto Delhi. Within a year, Mu'izz al-Din controlled Northern Rajasthan and Northern Ganges-Yamuna Doab. After these victories in India, and Mu'izz al-Din's establishment of a capital in Delhi, Multan was also incorporated into his empire. Mu'izz al-Din then returned east to Ghazni to deal with the threat on his eastern frontiers from the Turks and Mongols, whiles his armies continued to advance through Northern India, raiding as far east as Bengal.

Mu'izz al-Din returned to Lahore after 1200. In 1206, Mu'izz al-Din had to travel to Lahore to crush a revolt. On his way back to Ghazni, his caravan rested at Damik near Sohawa (which is near the city of Jhelum in the Punjab province of modern-day Pakistan). He was assassinated on 15 March 1206, while offering his evening prayers. The identity of Ghori's assassins is disputed, with some claiming that he was assassinated by local Hindu Gakhars and others claiming he was assassinated by Hindu Khokhars, both being different tribes.

The Khokhars were killed in large numbers, and the province was pacified. After settling the affairs in the Punjab. Mu'izz al-Din marched back to Ghazni. While camping at Dhamayak in 1206 AD in the Jehlum district, the sultan was murdered by the Khokhars[73]

Hasan Nizami and Ferishta record the killing of Mu'izz al-Din at the hands of the Gakhars. However, Ferishta may have confused the Ghakars with the Khokhars.[citation needed] Other historians have also blamed Shahabuddin Ghori's assassination to a band of Hindu Khokhars.[citation needed]

Some also claim that Mu'izz al-Din was assassinated by the Hashshashin, a radical Ismaili Muslim sect.[74][75]

According to his wishes, Mu'izz al-Din was buried where he fell, in Damik. Upon his death his most capable general, Qutb-ud-din Aybak, took control of Mu'izz al-Din's Indian conquests and declared himself the first Sultan of Delhi.[citation needed]

The Delhi Sultanate[edit]

Main article: Delhi Sultanate
Map of the expansion of the Dehli Sultanate.

Muhammad's successors established the first dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate, while the Mamluk Dynasty in 1211 (however, the Delhi Sultanate is traditionally held to have been founded in 1206) seized the reins of the empire. Mamluk means "slave" and referred to the Turkic slave soldiers who became rulers. The territory under control of the Muslim rulers in Delhi expanded rapidly. By mid-century, Bengal and much of central India was under the Delhi Sultanate. Several Turko-Afghan dynasties ruled from Delhi: the Mamluk (1206–1290), the Khalji (1290–1320), the Tughlaq (1320–1414), the Sayyid (1414–51), and the Lodhi (1451–1526). During the time of Delhi Sultanate, the Vijayanagara Empire resisted successfully attempts of Delhi Sultanate to establish dominion in the Southern India, serving as a barrier against invasion by the Muslims.[76] Certain kingdoms remained independent of Delhi such as the larger kingdoms of Punjab, Rajasthan, parts of the Deccan, Gujarat, Malwa (central India), and Bengal, nevertheless all of the area in present-day Pakistan came under the rule of Delhi.

The Sultans of Delhi enjoyed cordial, if superficial, relations with Muslim rulers in the Near East but owed them no allegiance. They based their laws on the Quran and the sharia and permitted non-Muslim subjects to practice their religion only if they paid the jizya (poll tax). They ruled from urban centres, while military camps and trading posts provided the nuclei for towns that sprang up in the countryside.

Perhaps the most significant contribution of the Sultanate was its temporary success in insulating the subcontinent from the potential devastation of the Mongol invasion from Central Asia in the 13th century, which nonetheless led to the capture of Afghanistan and western Pakistan by the Mongols (see the Ilkhanate Dynasty). The Sultanate ushered in a period of Indian cultural renaissance, The resulting "Indo-Muslim" fusion left lasting monuments in architecture, music, literature, and religion. In addition it is surmised that the language of Urdu (literally meaning "horde" or "camp" in various Turkic dialects) was born during the Delhi Sultanate period as a result of the mingling of Sanskritic Hindi and the Persian, Turkish, Arabic favoured by the Muslim invaders of India[citation needed].

The Sultanate suffered significantly from the sacking of Delhi in 1398 by Timur, but revived briefly under the Lodi Dynasty, the final dynasty of the Sultanate before it was conquered by Zahiruddin Babur in 1526, who subsequently founded the Mughal Dynasty that ruled from the 16th to the 18th centuries.


Main article: Timur

Tīmūr bin Taraghay Barlas, known in the West as Tamerlane or "Timur the lame", was a 14th-century warlord of Turco-Mongol descent,[77][78][79][80] conqueror of much of western and central Asia, and founder of the Timurid Empire (1370–1507) in Central Asia; the Timurid dynasty survived until 1857 as the Mughal dynasty of India.

Informed about civil war in South Asia, Timur began a trek starting in 1398 to invade the reigning Sultan Nasir-u Din Mehmud of the Tughlaq Dynasty in the north Indian city of Delhi.[81] His campaign was politically pretexted that the Muslim Delhi Sultanate was too tolerant toward its "Hindu" subjects, but that could not mask the real reason being to amass the wealth of the Delhi Sultanate.[82]

Timur crossed the Indus River at Attock (now Pakistan) on 24 September. The capture of towns and villages was often followed by the looting, massacre of their inhabitants and raping of their women, as well as pillaging to support his massive army. Timur wrote many times in his memoirs of his specific disdain for the 'idolatrous' "Hindus".

Timur's invasion did not go unopposed and he did meet some resistance during his march to Delhi, most notably with the Sarv Khap coalition in northern India, and the Governor of Meerut. Although impressed and momentarily stalled by the valour of Ilyaas Awan, Timur was able to continue his relentless approach to Delhi, arriving in 1398 to combat the armies of Sultan Mehmud, already weakened by an internal battle for ascension within the royal family.

The Sultan's army was easily defeated on 17 December 1398. Timur entered Delhi and the city was sacked, destroyed, and left in ruins. Before the battle for Delhi, Timur executed more than 100,000 "Hindu" captives.[77][81]

Timur himself recorded the invasions in his memoirs, collectively known as Tuzk-i-Timuri.[77][77][81][83][84] Timur's purported autobiography, the Tuzk-e-Taimuri ("Memoirs of Temur") is a later fabrication, although most of the historical facts are accurate.[85]

Historian Irfan Habib writes in "Timur in the Political Tradition and Historiography of Mughal India" that in the 14th century, the word "Hindu" (people of "Al-Hind", "Hind" being "India") included "both Hindus and Muslims" in religious connotations.[86]

When Timur entered Delhi after defeating Mahmud Toghloq’s forces, he granted an amnesty in return for protection money (mâl-e amâni). But on the fourth day he ordered that all the people of the city be enslaved; and so they were. Thus reports Yahya, who here inserts a pious prayer in Arabic for the victims’ consolation ("To God we return, and everything happens by His will"). Yazdi, on the other hand, does not have any sympathy to waste on these wretches. He records that Timur had granted protection to the people of Delhi on the 18th of December 1398, and the collectors had begun collecting the protection money. But large groups of Timur’s soldiers began to enter the city and, like birds of prey, attacked its citizens. The "pagan Hindus" (Henduân-e gabr) having had the temerity to begin immolating their women and themselves, the three cities of Delhi were put to sack by Timur’s soldiers. "Faithless Hindus", he adds, had gathered in the Congregation Mosque of Old Delhi and Timur’s officers put them ruthlessly to slaughter there on the 29th of December. Clearly, Yazdi’s "Hindus" included Muslims as well.[87]

During the ransacking of Delhi, almost all inhabitants not killed were captured and enslaved.

Timur's memoirs on his invasion of India describe in detail the massacre of "Hindus", looting plundering and raping of their women and the plunder of the wealth of Hindustan (Greater India). It gives details of how villages, towns and entire cities were rid of their "Hindu" male population through systematic mass slaughters and genocide.

Timur left Delhi in approximately January 1399. In April he had returned to his own capital beyond the Oxus (Amu Darya). Immense quantities of spoils were taken from India. According to Ruy Gonzáles de Clavijo, 90 captured elephants were employed merely to carry precious stones looted from his conquest, so as to erect a mosque at Samarkand — what historians today believe is the enormous Bibi-Khanym Mosque. Ironically, the mosque was constructed too quickly and suffered greatly from disrepair within a few decades of its construction.

The Mughal Empire[edit]

Main article: Mughal Empire

India in the 16th century presented a fragmented picture of rulers, both Muslim and Hindu, who lacked concern for their subjects and failed to create a common body of laws or institutions.[citation needed] Outside developments also played a role in shaping events. The circumnavigation of Africa by the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama in 1498 allowed Europeans to challenge Muslim control of the trading routes between Europe and Asia. In Central Asia and Afghanistan, shifts in power pushed Babur of Ferghana (in present-day Uzbekistan) southward, first to Kabul and then to India. The dynasty he founded endured for more than three centuries.


Main article: Babur
Babur and the Mughal Army at the Urvah valley in Gwalior.

Claiming descent from both Genghis Khan and Timur, Babur combined strength and courage with a love of beauty, and military ability with cultivation. He concentrated on gaining control of Northwestern India, doing so in 1526 by defeating the last Lodhi Sultan at the First battle of Panipat, a town north of Delhi. Babur then turned to the tasks of persuading his Central Asian followers to stay on in India and of overcoming other contenders for power, mainly the Rajputs and the Afghans. He succeeded in both tasks but died shortly thereafter in 1530. The Mughal Empire was one of the largest centralised states in premodern history and was the precursor to the British Indian Empire.

Babur was followed by his great-grandson, Shah Jahan (r. 1628–58), builder of the Taj Mahal and other magnificent buildings. Two other towering figures of the Mughal era were Akbar (r. 1556–1605) and Aurangzeb (r. 1658–1707). Both rulers expanded the empire greatly and were able administrators. However, Akbar was known for his religious tolerance and administrative genius while Aurangzeb was a pious Muslim and fierce advocate of more orthodox Islam.


Main article: Aurangzeb
In the year 1690 the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb's realms spanned from in the west Kabul to Chittagong in the east; from Leh in the north to Cape Comorin in the south.[90]

- Cape-comerin was part of Travencore which was not under Mughal influence.

While some rulers were zealous in their spread of Islam, others were relatively liberal. Moghul emperor Akbar was relatively liberal and established a new religion, Din E Elahi, which included beliefs from different religions. He abolished the jizya twice. In contrast, his great-grandson Aurangazeb was a more religious and orthodox ruler .

In the century-and-a-half that followed the death of Aurangzeb, effective Muslim control weakened. Succession to imperial and even provincial power, which had often become hereditary, was subject to intrigue and force. The mansabdari system gave way to the zamindari system, in which high-ranking officials took on the appearance of hereditary landed aristocracy with powers of collecting rents. As Delhi's control waned, other contenders for power emerged and clashed, thus preparing the way for the eventual British takeover.

Durrani Empire[edit]

Main article: Durrani Empire
Ahmad Shah Durrani and his coalition decisively defeat the Maratha Confederacy, during the Third Battle of Panipat and restored the Mughal Empire to Shah Alam II.[91]

Ahmed Shah Abdali – a Pashtun – embarked on an invasion of conquest in South Asia starting in 1747.[92] In the short space of just over a quarter of a century, he forged one of the largest Muslim empires of the 18th century. The high point of his conquests was his victory over the powerful Marathas in the third Battle of Panipat 1761. In South Asia his empire stretched from the Indus at Attock all the way to the outskirts of Delhi. Uninterested in long term of conquest or in replacing the Mughal Empire, he became increasingly pre occupied with revolts by the Sikhs.[93] His empire started to unravel not long after his death.

Decline of Muslim rule in Indian subcontinent[edit]

There is no doubt that the single most important power to emerge in the long twilight of the Mughal dynasty was the Maratha Confederacy (1674 CE - 1818 CE).[94] The Marathas are responsible, to a large extent, for ending Mughal rule in India.[95] The Maratha Empire ruled large parts of India following the decline of the Mughals. The long and futile war bankrupted one of the most powerful empires in the world. Mountstart Elphinstone termed this a demoralizing period for the Mussalmans as many of them lost the will to fight against the Maratha Empire.[96][97][98] Maratha empire at its peak was stretched from Tamil Nadu (Trichinopoly) "present Tiruchirappalli" in the south to the Afghan border in the north.[99][100][101] In early 1771, Mahadji, a notable Maratha general, recaptured Delhi and installed Shah Alam II as the puppet ruler on the Mughal throne. In north India, the Marathas thus regained the territory and the prestige lost as result of the defeat at Panipath in 1761.[102] Mahadji ruled the Punjab as it used to be a Mughal territory and Sikh sardars and other Rajas of the cis-Sutlej region paid tributes to him.[103] A considerable portion of the Indian subcontinent came under the sway of the British Empire after the Third Anglo-Maratha War, which ended the Maratha Empire in 1818.

Sikh Empire, established by Ranjit Singh in North-west India.
Maratha Empire at its zenith in 1760 (yellow area) stretching from the Deccan to present-day Pakistan. The Marathas even discussed abolishing the Mughal throne and placing Vishwasrao Peshwa on the Mughal imperial throne in Delhi.[104]

In northwest India, in the Punjab, Sikhs developed themselves into a powerful force under the authority of twelve Misls. By 1801, Ranjit Singh captured Lahore and threw off the Afghan yoke from North West India.[105] In Afghanistan Zaman Shah Durrani was defeated by powerful Barakzai chief Fateh Khan who appointed Mahmud Shah Durrani as the new ruler of Afghanistan and appointed himself as Wazir of Afghanistan.[106] Sikhs however were now superior to the Afghans and started to annex Afghan provinces. The biggest victory of the Sikh Empire over the Durrani Empire came in the Battle of Attock fought in 1813 between Sikh and Wazir of Afghanistan Fateh Khan and his younger brother Dost Mohammad Khan. The Afghans were routed by the Sikh army and the Afghans lost over 9,000 soldiers in this battle. Dost Mohammad was seriously injured whereas his brother Wazir Fateh Khan fled back to Kabul fearing that his brother was dead.[107] In 1818 they slaughtered Afghans and Muslims in trading city of Multan killing Afghan governor Nawab Muzzafar Khan and five of his sons in the Siege of Multan.[108] In 1819 the last Indian Province of Kashmir was conquered by Sikhs who registered another crushing victory over weak Afghan General Jabbar Khan.[109] The Koh-i-Noor diamond was also taken by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1814. In 1823 a Sikh Army routed Dost Mohammad Khan the Sultan of Afghanistan and his brother Azim Khan at Naushera (Near Peshawar). By 1834 the Sikh Empire extended up to the Khyber Pass. Hari Singh Nalwa the Sikh general remained the governor of Khyber Agency till his death in 1837. He consolidated Sikh hold in tribal provinces. The northernmost Indian territories of Gilgit, Baltistan and Ladakh was annexed between 1831-1840.[110]

Impact of Islam and Muslims in India[edit]

According to historian Will Durant, "The Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history". By the estimate of Koenraad Elst the population of Indian subcontinent reduced by almost 80 million between 1000 and 1525.[111] In course of their conquests and rule in India, the number of Muslims in India increased through Immigration and Conversion. The Ancient Indian Kingdoms in Afghanistan and Pakistan became Muslim majority areas, as did the Eastern Part of Bengal. This would ultimately lead to the Partition of India in 1947 after the end of British rule.

Conversion theories[edit]

Considerable controversy exists both in scholarly and public opinion as to how conversion to Islam came about in Indian subcontinent, typically represented by the following schools of thought:[112]

  1. Conversion was a combination, initially by violence, threat or other pressure against the person.[112]
  2. As a socio-cultural process of diffusion and integration over an extended period of time into the sphere of the dominant Muslim civilization and global polity at large.[113]
  3. That conversions occurred for non-religious reasons of pragmatism and patronage such as social mobility among the Muslim ruling elite[112][113]
  4. That the bulk of Muslims are descendants of migrants from the Iranians or Arabs.[113]
  5. Conversion was a result of the actions of Sufi saints and involved a genuine change of heart.[112]

An estimate of the number of people killed remains unknown. Based on the Muslim chronicles and demographic calculations, an estimate was done by K.S. Lal in his book Growth of Muslim Population in Medieval India, who claimed that between 1000 CE and 1500 CE, the population of Hindus decreased by 80 million. Although this estimate was disputed by Simon Digby in (School of Oriental and African Studies), Digby suggested that estimate lacks accurate data in pre-census times. In particular the records kept by al-Utbi, Mahmud al-Ghazni's secretary, in the Tarikh-i-Yamini document several episodes of bloody military campaigns.[114] Hindus who converted to Islam however were not completely immune to persecution due to the caste system among Muslims in India established by Ziauddin al-Barani in the Fatawa-i Jahandari,[115] where they were regarded as an "Ajlaf" caste and subjected to discrimination by the "Ashraf" castes.[116]

Critics of the "religion of the sword theory" point to the presence of the strong Muslim communities found in Southern India, modern day Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, western Burma, Indonesia and the Philippines coupled with the distinctive lack of equivalent Muslim communities around the heartland of historical Muslim empires in South Asia as refutation to the "conversion by the sword theory".[113] The legacy of Muslim conquest of South Asia is a hotly debated issue even today. Not all Muslim invaders were simply raiders. Later rulers fought on to win kingdoms and stayed to create new ruling dynasties. The practices of these new rulers and their subsequent heirs (some of whom were borne of Hindu wives of Muslim rulers) varied considerably. While some were uniformly hated, others developed a popular following. According to the memoirs of Ibn Battuta who traveled through Delhi in the 14th century, one of the previous sultans had been especially brutal and was deeply hated by Delhi's population. His memoirs also indicate that Muslims from the Arab world, Persia and Turkey were often favored with important posts at the royal courts suggesting that locals may have played a somewhat subordinate role in the Delhi administration. The term "Turk" was commonly used to refer to their higher social status.[citation needed] However S.A.A. Rizvi[117] points to Muhammad bin Tughlaq as not only encouraging locals but promoting artisan groups such as cooks, barbers and gardeners to high administrative posts. In his reign, it is likely that conversions to Islam took place as a means of seeking greater social mobility and improved social standing.[118][better source needed]

Expansion of trade[edit]

Islam's impact was the most notable in the expansion of trade. The first contact of Muslims with India was the Arab attack on a nest of pirates near modern-day Mumbai to safeguard their trade in the Arabian Sea. Around the same time many Arabs settled at Indian ports, giving rise to small Muslim communities. The growth of these communities was not only due to conversion but also the fact that many Hindu kings of south India (such as those from Cholas) hired Muslims as mercenaries.[119]

A significant aspect of the Muslim period in world history was the emergence of Islamic Sharia courts capable of imposing a common commercial and legal system that extended from Morocco in the West to Mongolia in the North East and Indonesia in the South East. While southern India was already in trade with Arabs/Muslims, northern India found new opportunities. As the Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms of Asia were subjugated by Islam, and as Islam spread through Africa – it became a highly centralising force that facilitated in the creation of a common legal system that allowed letters of credit issued in say Egypt or Tunisia to be honoured in India or Indonesia (The Sharia has laws on the transaction of business with both Muslims and non-Muslims[citation needed]). In order to cement their rule, Muslim rulers initially promoted a system in which there was a revolving door between the clergy, the administrative nobility and the mercantile classes. The travels of explorer Muhammad Ibn-Abdullah Ibn-Batuta were eased because of this system. He served as an Imam in Delhi, as a judicial official in the Maldives, and as an envoy and trader in the Malabar. There was never a contradiction in any of his positions because each of these roles complemented the other. Islam created a compact under which political power, law and religion became fused in a manner so as to safeguard the interests of the mercantile class. This led world trade to expand to the maximum extent possible in the medieval world. Sher Shah Suri took initiatives in improvement of trade by abolishing all taxes which hindered progress of free trade. He built large networks of roads and constructed Grand Trunk Road (1540–1544), which connects Chittagong to Kabul. Parts of it are still in use today. The geographic regions add to the diversity of languages and politics.

Cultural influence[edit]

The divide and rule policies, two-nation theory, and subsequent partition of India in the wake of Independence from the British Empire has polarised the sub-continental psyche, making objective assessment hard in comparison to the other settled agricultural societies of India from the North West. Muslim rule differed from these others in the level of assimilation and syncretism that occurred. They retained their identity and introduced legal and administrative systems that superseded existing systems of social conduct and ethics. While this was a source of friction it resulted in a unique experience the legacy of which is a Muslim community strongly Islamic in character while at the same time distinctive and unique among its peers.

The impact of Islam on Indian culture has been inestimable. It permanently influenced the development of all areas of human endeavour – language, dress, cuisine, all the art forms, architecture and urban design, and social customs and values. Conversely, the languages of the Muslim invaders were modified by contact with local languages, to Urdu, which uses the Arabic script. This language was also known as Hindustani, an umbrella term used for the vernacular terminology of Hindi as well as Urdu, both major languages in South Asia today derived primarily from Sanskrit grammatical structures and vocabulary.

Muslim rule saw a greater urbanisation of India and the rise of many cities and their urban cultures. The biggest impact was upon trade resulting from a common commercial and legal system extending from Morocco to Indonesia. This change of emphasis on mercantilism and trade from the more strongly centralised governance systems further clashed with the agricultural based traditional economy and also provided fuel for social and political tensions.

A related development to the shifting economic conditions was the establishment of Karkhanas, or small factories and the import and dissemination of technology through India and the rest of the world. The use of ceramic tiles was adopted from architectural traditions of Iraq, Iran, and Central Asia. Rajasthan's blue pottery was a local variation of imported Chinese pottery. There is also the example of Sultan Abidin (1420–70) sending Kashmiri artisans to Samarqand to learn book-binding and paper making. Khurja and Siwan became renowned for pottery, Moradabad for brass ware, Mirzapur for carpets, Firozabad for glass wares, Farrukhabad for printing, Sahranpur and Nagina for wood-carving, Bidar and Lucknow for bidriware, Srinagar for papier-mache, Benaras for jewellery and textiles, and so on. On the flip-side encouraging such growth also resulted in higher taxes on the peasantry.

Numerous Indian scientific and mathematical advances and the Hindu numerals were spread to the rest of the world[2] and much of the scholarly work and advances in the sciences of the age under Muslim nations across the globe were imported by the liberal patronage of Arts and Sciences by the rulers. The languages brought by Islam were modified by contact with local languages leading to the creation of several new languages, such as Urdu, which uses the modified Arabic script, but with more Persian words. The influences of these languages exist in several dialects in India today.

Islamic and Mughal architecture and art is widely noticeable in India, examples being the Taj Mahal and Jama Masjid. At the same time, Muslim rulers destroyed most of the ancient Indian architectural marvels and converted them into Islamic structures, most notably at Varanasi, Mathura, Ayodhya and the Kutub Complex in New Delhi.



Main article: Nalanda
Ruins of Nalanda University

In 1193, the Nalanda University complex was destroyed by Afghan Khilji-Ghilzai Muslims under Bakhtiyar Khalji; this event is seen as the final milestone in the decline of Buddhism in India. He also burned Nalanda's major Buddhist library and Vikramshila University,[120] as well as numerous Bhuddhist monasteries in India. When the Tibetan translator, Chag Lotsawa Dharmasvamin (Chag Lo-tsa-ba, 1197–1264), visited northern India in 1235, Nalanda was damaged, looted, and largely deserted, but still standing and functioning with seventy students.

Mahabodhi, Sompura, Vajrasan and other important monasteries were found to be untouched. The Ghuri ravages only afflicted those monasteries that lay in the direct of their advance and were fortified in the manner of defensive forts.

By the end of the 12th century, following the Muslim conquest of the Buddhist stronghold in Bihar, Buddhism, having already declined in the South, declined in the North as well because survivors retreated to Nepal, Sikkim and Tibet or escaped to the South of the Indian sub-continent.

Sri Krishna Temple in Hampi


Main article: Vijayanagar Empire

The city flourished between the 14th century and 16th century, during the height of the Vijayanagar Empire. During this time, it was often in conflict with the kingdoms which rose in the Northern Deccan, and which are often collectively termed the Deccan Sultanates. The Vijaynagar Empire successfully resisted Muslim invasions for centuries. But in 1565, the empire's armies suffered a massive and catastrophic defeat at the hands of an alliance of the Sultanates, and the capital was taken. The victorious armies then razed, depopulated and destroyed the city over several months. The empire continued its slow decline, but the original capital was not reoccupied or rebuilt.

Somanatha Temple Prabhas Patan, Gujarat, from the Archaeological Survey of India


Main article: Somnath

The first temple of Somnath existed before the beginning of the common era.

The second temple, built by the Maitraka kings of Vallabhi in Gujarat, replaced the first one on the same site around 649. In 725 Junayad, the Arab governor of Sind, sent his armies to destroy the second temple.

The Pratihara king Nagabhata II constructed the third temple in 815, a large structure of red sandstone. Mahmud of Ghazni attacked this temple in 1026, looted its gems and precious stones, massacred the worshippers and burned it. It was then that the famous Shivalinga of the temple was entirely destroyed.

The fourth temple was built by the Paramara King Bhoj of Malwa and the Solanki king Bhimdev I of Gujarat (Anhilwara) between 1026 and 1042. The temple was razed in 1297 when the Sultanate of Delhi conquered Gujarat, and again in 1394. Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb destroyed the temple again in 1706.


Ghazwa-e-Hind or the final battle of India is an Islamic term mentioned in some hadiths[121] predicting a final and last battle in India and as a result, a conquest of the whole Indian sub-continent by Muslim warriors. The term has recently become a subject of vast criticism in media for being used by the extremist Taliban organization Al-Qaeda to justify their terrorising activities in the subcontinent.[122][123]

See also[edit]


  • Kennedy, Hugh (2007). The Great Arab Conquests. Phoenix. ISBN 978-0-7538-2389-7. 
  • Kennedy, Hugh (2004). The Prophet and The Age of The Caliphates. Pearson Education Limited. ISBN 978-0-582-40525-7. 
  • Hitti, Philip K (1994). History of The Arabs 10th Edition. The MacMillan Press Ltd. ISBN 0-333-09871-4. 
  • Kennedy, Hugh (2001). The Armies of The Caliphs. Routledge. ISBN 0-7509-3797-1. 
  • Wink, Andre (1996). Al-Hind The Making of the Indo-Islamic Worlds Vol 1. E. J. Brill. ISBN 0-391-04173-8. 
  • Khushalani, Gobind (2006). Chachnama Retold An Account of the Arab Conquests of Sindh. Promilla & Co. ISBN 81-85002-68-1. 
  • Blankinship, Khalid Y. (1994). The End of Jihad State. State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-1827-8. 
  • Editors: El Harier, Idris, & M'Baye, Ravene (2011). Spread of Islam Throughout the World. UNESCO Publishing. ISBN 978-92-3-104153-2. 
  • Litvinsky, B.A, ed. (2012). The History of Civilizations of Central Asia Vol III. UNESCO Publications. ISBN 978-92-3-103211-0. 
  • Wynbrant, James (2012). A Brief History of Pakistan. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0-8160-6184-6. 
  • Crawfoord, Peter (2013). The War of The Three Gods: Romans, Persians and The Rise of Islam. Pen & Sword Military Publication. ISBN 978-1-84884-612-8. 
  • Hoyland, Robert G. (2015). In Gods Path: The Arab Conquests and Creation of An Islamic Empire. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-991636-8. 
  • Dashti, Naseer (2012). The Baloch and Balochistan. Trafford Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4669-5896-8. 


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  4. Gopal Mandir is devoted to the blue God Krishna who is the divine herdsman, the lover of milkmaids and the eighth embodiment of Lord Vishnu, the preserver of the Universe. The marble-curled around structure is a superior example of Maratha architecture. Lord Krishna’s two feet tall statue is carved in silver and is placed on a marble-inlaid altar with silver-plated doors. Mahmud of Ghazni had taken these doors from the famous Somnath Temple in Gujarat to Ghazni in Khorasan in 1026 AD. The Afghan trespasser, Mahmud Shah Abdali, later took the gates to Lahore, from where Shrinath Madhavji Shinde today popularly known as The Great Maratha Mahadji Scindia reacquired them. The Scindia ruler later established them in Gopal Mandir, bringing to a halt the doors’ long journey. Bayajibai Shinde, Maharaja Daulat Rao Scindia’s queen, built the temple in the 19th century. Its location in the middle of the market area right in the heart of the city adds to its popularity. Mosque and Tomb of the Emperor Soolta Mahmood of Ghuznee, publisher British Library

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