Muslim Response to Hindu Protection
The protection provided by Siddharaja JayasiMha to Muslims and their places of worship was continued by his successors in Gujarat. The population of Muslims as well as their places of worship continued to multiply in several cities of Gujarat as is borne out by numerous inscriptions, particularly from Khambat, Junagadh and Prabhas Patan, dated before Gujarat passed under Muslim rule in the aftermath of Ulugh Khan’s invasion in AD 1299.
‘These records,’ observes Z.A. Desai, the learned Muslim epigraphist, ‘make an interesting study primarily because they were set up in Gujarat at a time when it had still resisted Muslim authority. That the Muslims inhabited quite a few cities, especially in the coastal line of Gujarat, quite long before its final subjugation by them, is an established fact. The accounts of Arab travellers like Mas’udi, Istakhari, Ibn Hauqal and others, who visited Gujarat during the ninth and tenth centuries of the Christian era, amply testify to the settlements of Muslims in various towns and cities. The inscriptions studied below also tend to corroborate the fact that the Muslims had continued to inhabit Gujarat until it became a part of the Muslim empire of Delhi. Moreover, they furnish rare data for an appraisal of the condition of Muslims under non-Muslim rulers of Gujarat. On one hand, they indicate the extent of permeation of Islamic influence in Gujarat at a time when it was still ruled by its own Rajput princes and show that Muslims had long penetrated into different parts of Gujarat where they lived as merchants, traders, sea-men, missionaries, etc.; these settlements were not only on the coastal regions but also in the interior as is indicated by some of these records. On the other hand, these epigraphs form a concrete and ever-living proof of the tolerance and consideration shown vis-a-vis their Muslim subjects by Hindu kings who were no doubt profited by the trade and commerce carried on by these foreign settlers.’1
It seems, however, that these ‘merchants, traders, sea-men and missionaries’ were not satisfied with the situation obtaining under Hindu rule. They kept looking forward to the day when the Dar al-Harb (land of the infidels against which Muslims are obliged to wage war) that was Gujarat would become Dar al-Islam (land of the faithful). The evidence of how these Muslim settlers worked as sappers and miners of Islamic invasions of Gujarat remains to be collected from Muslim annals. Here we are citing an inscription from Prabhas Patan, the city which was famous for its temple of Somanatha.
The inscription is dated AD 1264 and records the construction of a mosque at Prabhas Patan by a Muslim ship-owner. The stone slab containing its Arabic version is now fixed in the Qazi’s Mosque at Prabhas Patan and is not in situ. The Sanskrit version which, it seems, was removed at some time and is now in a wall of the Harasiddha Mata temple in the nearby town of Veraval, has been summarised as follows by Z.A. Desai:
‘Ship-owner Nuru’d-Din Piruz, son of ship-owner Khwaja Abu Ibrahim, a native of Hormuz,2 had come for business to the town of god Somnath during the reign of Arjunadeva, the Vaghela king of Gujarat (C. AD 1261-74) when Amir Ruknu’d-Din was the ruling chief of Hormuz; Piruz purchased a piece of land situated in the Śikottari Mahayanpal outside the town of Somnath in the presence of the leading men like Thakkur Śri Palugideva, Ranak Śri Someśvaradeva, Thakkur Śri Ramdeva, Thakkur Śri Bhimsiha and others and in the presence of all (Muslim) congregations, from Rajakula Śri Chhada, son of Rajakula Śri Nanasiha; Piruz, who by his alliance with the great man Rajakula Śri Chhada, had become his associate in meritorious work, caused a mosque to be constructed on that piece of land; for its maintenance, i.e., for the expenses of oil for lamp, water, preceptor, crier to prayers and a monthly reader (of the Qur’an) and also for the payment of expenses of the particular religious festivals according to the custom of sailors, as well as for the annual white-washing and repairs of rents and defects in the building, the said Piruz bequeathed three sources of income: firstly, a pallaDika (particulars regarding whose location and the owner are given in detail); secondly, a danapala belonging to one oil-mill; and thirdly, two shops in front of the mosque, purchased from Kilhanadeva, Lunasiha, Ãśadhar and others; Piruz also laid down that after meeting the expenses as indicated above, the surplus income should be sent to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina; as regards the management, he desired that the various classes of Muslims such as the communities of sailors, ship-owners, the clergy (?), the artisans (?), etc., should look after the source of income and properly maintain the mosque.’3
The English translation of the first seven lines of the Arabic text as given by Z.A. Desai, is as follows:
Allah the Exalted may assign this (reward) to one who builds a house in the path of Allah. [This auspicious mosque was built].
on the twenty-seventh of the month of RamaDan, year [sixty-two].
and six hundred from migration of the Prophet (23rd July AD 1264), in the reign of the just Sultan and [die generous king].
Abu’l-Fakhr (lit., father of pride), Ruknu’d-Dunya wa’d-Din (lit., pillar of State and Religion), Mu’izzu’l-Islam wa’l-Muslimin (lit. source of glory for Islam and the Muslims), shadow of Allah in [the lands],
one who is victorious against the enemies, (divinely) supported prince, Abi’n-Nusrat (lit., father of victory), Mahmud, son of Ahmad, may Allah perpetuate his.
and may his affair and prestige be high, in the city of Somnat (i.e. Somnath), may God make it one of the cities of Islam ad [banish?].
infidelity and idols4
Z.A. Desai has noted some differences between the Arabic and the Sanskrit versions. ‘For example,’ he writes, ‘the Arabic inscription does not give all the details regarding the sources of income, the procedure for its expenditure, management, etc., which are mentioned at some length in the Sanskrit record. Also, the Arabic version mentions only the leader of prayer (imam), caller to prayers (mu’addhin) and the cities of Mecca and Medina among the beneficiaries. Likewise, no mention is made of the provision for the celebration of religious festivals as stated in the Sanskrit record. Further, in the extant portion of the Arabic record, we do not find mention of the then Vaghela king of Gujarat, Arjunadeva. On the other hand, the Arabic version gives some more information regarding the status and position of Piruz (Firuz) and his father Abu Ibrahim. For example, Firuz is called therein ‘the great and respected chief (sadr), prince among sea-men, and king of kings and merchants.’ He is further eulogised as the ‘Sun of Islam and Muslims, patron of kings and monarchs, shelter of the great and the elite, pride of the age’, etc. Likewise, his father, Abu Ibrahim, son of Muhammad al-‘Iraqi, is also mentioned with such lofty titles as ‘the great chief of fortunate position, protector of Islam and the Muslims, patron of kings and monarchs, prince among great men of the time, master of generosity and magnanimity’, etc. Needless to say, all these titles are absent in the Sanskrit version.’5
One wonders, however, why the learned epigraphist has overlooked the most glaring difference in the two versions and tried to cover it up by stating that ‘in the extant portion of the Arabic record, we do not find mention of the then Vaghela king of Gujarat.’ The record is complete for all practical purposes except for a few gaps which the epigraphist has filled up creditably with the help of his long experience in reading and reconstructing such inscriptions. It is difficult to imagine that the name of Arjunadeva, the then Vaghela king of Gujarat, could have occurred in any of these gaps even if the king was stripped of all his appellations. Moreover, the name of a Hindu king could have found no place in the scheme followed in the inscription.
The scheme followed in the inscription is similar to that which we find in thousands of such inscriptions set up on mosques and other Muslim monuments all over India, before and after AD 1264. The name of the ruling Muslim monarch with his appellations finds a prominent place in most of these inscriptions. And that is exactly what we find in the present instance. The only difference is that there being no Muslim monarch at that time in Gujarat and Gujarat being a Hindu kingdom independent of the Delhi Sultanate, the builder of the mosque chose the king of Hormuz for showing his solidarity with Dar al-Isam.
That in itself was objectionable enough for a subject of the Hindu king of Gujarat or a resident alien doing business in Gujarat. The mosque was erected at Prabhas Patan which was situated in the kingdom of Gujarat and not at a place in the kingdom of Hormuz. But the builder went much farther as, after extolling the king of Hormuz as ‘the source of glory for Islam and the Muslims,’ he prayed fervently that ‘may his affair and prestige be high in the city of Somnat, may Allah make it one of the cities of Islam, and [banish?] infidelity and idols’ from it. In other words, he was praying for and looking forward to another Islamic invasion of Gujarat.
Comparing the Sanskrit and Arabic versions of this inscription, the conclusion is unavoidable that the Muslim merchant from Hormuz had eschewed carefully from the Sanskrit version what he had included confidently in the Arabic text. He must have been sure in his mind that no Hindu from Prabhas Patan or elsewhere was likely to compare the two texts and that even if a Hindu noticed the difference between the two he was not likely to understand its meaning and purport. At the same time, he was sharing with his co-religionists in Gujarat a pious aspiration enjoined on all believers by the tenets of Islam.
There was a similar Muslim settlement at ANhilwaD Patan, the capital of Gujarat under the Chaulukya and the Vaghela dynasties of Hindu kings. An inscription dated AD 1282 fixed in the wall of a mosque in this place, records the death of a Muslim merchant in the reign of the Vaghela king Sarañgadeva (AD 1274-96). ‘Within our present state of knowledge,’ writes Z.A. Desai, ‘this is the only record at Patan which is dated in the pre-Muslim period of Gujarat, furnishing evidence of the settlement, or at least presence, of Muslims in the very capital of the Rajput rulers.’6 But as he himself admits ‘Muslim remains also have not survived the ravages of time’7 in this town. It is quite likely that an inscription similar to that at Prabhas Patan existed at ANhilwaD Patan also.
Cambay or Khambat, the famous port of Gujarat, abounds in Muslim inscriptions from the time when Gujarat was a Hindu kingdom. An inscription dated AD 1218 in the reign of the Chaulukya king Bhimadeva II (AD 1178-1242), records the construction of a Jami’ Masjid and says in the very first sentence that no one else would be invoked with Allah.8 Another inscription dated AD 1232 in the reign of the same Hindu king records the death of a Muslim and declares, again in the first sentence, that ‘Surely, the true religion with Allah is Islam.’9 A third inscription dated 1284 in the reign of the Vaghela king Sarañgadeva (AD 1274-96), records the death of another Muslim and says that ‘whoever disbelieves in the communications of Allah-then, surely Allah is quick in reckoning.’10
An inscription dated AD 1286-87 records the construction of a mosque at Junagadh in the reign of Sarañgadeva. The record invests the name of the builder, Abu’l Qasim, with high-sounding titles. ‘The titles,’ observes Z.A. Desai, ‘may be taken to suggest that Abu’l Qasim, probably an influential merchant conducting business in that part, was associated in some way with the liaison work between the state and its Muslim population. The record also indicates that there was a considerable number of Muslim population residing at Junagadh, which necessitated the building of a prayer house and that some of the Saurashtra ports used to clear the traffic of Haj pilgrims from Gujarat and possibly from outside too.’11
Settlements of Arab and other merchants from West Asia were nothing new for Gujarat. These merchants had established colonies all along the West Coast of India and even farther afield, long before the prophet of Islam was born. The ports of Gujarat being the most prosperous had exercised a particular attraction for them. They also travelled in the interior of Gujarat in search of merchandise fit for the markets in Africa, West Asia and Europe. Mecca itself was an entrepot for trade between India and the Far East on the one hand and the Roman Empire on the other. At the same time, Indian merchants including those from Gujarat had established their colonies in most of the coastal towns along the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. Neither religion nor politics had ever divided the two merchant fraternities.
All this, however, changed radically after Arabia was conquered by the sword of Islam and every Arab was forced to become a Muslim on pain of death or permanent exile from his homeland. The Indian colonies along the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean were attacked by Islamic legionaries, both from land and sea. Indian merchants, except a few who opted for the new faith, were killed or hounded out from every place which came under Islamic occupation. Meanwhile, Arab merchants added a new item to their merchandise-they became salesmen of Islam as well. Arab settlements in India had not suffered the slightest discomfort or dislocation following from the stormy events in Arabia and the march of Islamic hordes towards the frontiers of India. Many more people to the west and north of India passed under the yoke of Islam in the next few decades. Merchants from all these places had also to embrace Islam and make a common cause with the Arab merchants. A new fraternity known as the ummah or millat of Islam emerged all along the West Coast of India as also at many places in the interior.
Only a state and a population that did not know or understand the tenets of Islam and the obligations which those tenets imposed upon every Muslim, could permit these seditious settlements in its leading cities and ports. There is little doubt that each one of these settlements served as an intelligence network for Islamic invaders. The missionaries of Islam who took care of the flock might have hoodwinked the Hindus around them with their pieties. But the faithful understood the message of these missionaries and readily served as advance guards of the armies of Islam hovering on the borders of Gujarat.
It cannot be said that at the time these inscriptions were set up at ANhilwaD Patan, Prabhas Patan, Khambat, Junagadh and other places, the Hindus of Gujarat had had no taste of what Islam had in store for them, their women, their children, their cities, their temples, their idols, their priests, and their properties. The invasion of Ulugh Khan that was to subjugate Gujarat to a long spell of Muslim rule, was the eighth in a series which started within a few years after the Prophet’s death at Medina in AD 632. Five Islamic invasions had been mounted on Gujarat before Siddharaja JayasiMha ascended the throne of that kingdom in AD 1094 - first in AD 636 on Broach by sea; second in AD 732-35 by land; third and fourth in AD 756 and 776 by sea; and fifth by Mahmud of Ghazni in AD 1026. Two others had materialised by the time the Muslim ship-owner set up his inscription in AD 1264 on a mosque at Prabhas Patan. The sixth invasion was by Muhammad Ghuri in AD 1178, and the seventh was by Qutbu’d-Din Aibak in AD 1197. The only conclusion that can be drawn from the evidence is that either the Hindus of Gujarat had a very short memory or that they did not understand at all the inspiration at the back of these invasions. The temple of Somnath which stood, after the invasion of Mahmud of Ghazni in AD 1026, as a grim reminder of the character of Islam, had also failed to teach them any worthwhile lesson. Nor did they visualize that the Muslim settlements in their midst could play a role other than that of carrying on trade and commerce.
The foreign merchants turned Muslims had continued to do business and amass wealth as in the earlier days. But the leadership in the Muslim settlements had now passed into the hands of the missionaries of Islam known as Sufis, Walis, Dirvishes and by several other high-sounding names. The sole occupation of these missionaries was to see the frontiers of Dar al-Islam extend towards Gujarat. All Muslims in Gujarat were now expected to serve as the eyes and ears of the Caliphate which had started on a career of imperialist aggression in all directions. Gujarat had had a taste of this aggression earlier than any other part of India. As the armies of Islam marched towards the land frontiers of India in Makran and Seistan, Indian ports on the West Coast became targets for the newly created Islamic navy.
Legends About Mahmud of Ghazni
Mahmud of Ghazni had led twelve to seventeen expeditions to India, according to different accounts. He destroyed many temples and smashed or burnt numerous idols wherever he was victorious over Hindu resistance. But what made him into a myth was his expedition to Somnath. ‘The destruction of the temple of Somnath,’ observes Muhammad Nazim, ‘was looked upon as the crowning glory of Islam over idolatry, and Sultan Mahmud as the champion of the Faith, received the applause of all the Muslim world. Poets vied with each other in extolling the real or supposed virtues of the idol-breaker and the prose writers of later generations paid their tribute of praise to him by making him the hero of numerous ingenious stories.’12
One such story was told by Shykh Faridu’d-Din ATTar, the renowned ‘mystic poet’ in his ManTiqu’t-Tair (Conference of Birds). ‘In this story,’ writes Muhmmad Nazim, ‘the Sultan is made to show his preference for the title of idol-breaker to that of idol-seller.’ While rejecting the offer of the BrahmaNas to ransom the idol of Somnath with its weight in gold, Mahmud is supposed to have said, ‘I am afraid that on the Day of Judgment when all the idolaters are brought into the presence of Allah, He would say, ‘Bring Ãdhar and Mahmud together one was idol-maker, the other idol-seller’.’ Ãdhar or Ezra, the uncle of Abraham, according to the Qur’an, made his living by carving idols. ‘The Sultan,’ according to ATTar, ‘then ordered a fire to be lighted round it. The idol burst and 20 manns of precious stones poured out from its inside. The Sultan said, ‘This (fire) is what Lat13 (by which name ATTar calls Somnath) deserves; and that (the precious stones) is my guerdon from my God.’14
Another story is told in the Futuhu’s-Salatin. ‘It is stated,’ summarises Muhammad Nazim, ‘that shortly after the birth of Mahmud, the astrologers of India divined that a prince had been born at Ghazna who would demolish the temple of Somnath. They therefore persuaded Raja Jaipal to send an embassy to Mahmud while he was still a boy, offering to pay him a large sum of money if he promised to return the idol to the Hindus whenever he captured it. When Mahmud captured Somnath the Brahmins reminded him of his promise and demanded the idol in compliance with it. Mahmud did not like either to return the idol or to break his promise. He therefore ordered the idol to be reduced to lime by burning and when, on the following day, the Brahmins repeated their demand, he ordered them, to be served with betel-leaves which had been smeared with the lime of the idol. When the Brahmins had finished the chewing of the betel-leaves they again repeated their demand, on which the Sultan told them that they had the idol in their mouths.’15 As we would see at a later stage in this study, this story inspired some other Sultans to do actually what Mahmud was supposed to have done in the imagination of a story-teller.
Finally, we have a story which presents the Muslims as a persecuted community in the Hindu kingdom of Gujarat and Mahmud’s invasion as a punitive expedition. The Raja of Gujarat, we are told, used to sacrifice a Muslim everyday ‘in front of the idol of Somnath.’ So Prophet Muhammad appeared in a dream to Hajji Muhammad of Mecca and told him to go to the rescue of the Prophet’s beloved people in Gujarat. The Hindu Raja tried to kill the Hajji but did not succeed. ‘The Hajji,’ the story goes on, ‘now invited Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna to come with his army and stop this iniquity.’ The Sultan came, reduced the idol of Somnath to powder which he fed to Raja Kunwar Ray in betel-leaves. The deputy he appointed at Somnatha before his return to Ghazni ‘demolished the temple and set fire to it.’16
The story, of course, seeks psychological compensation for an unprovoked aggression against a king and a people who had been kind to the Muslims settled in Gujarat. We hear similar stories about many other places which were invaded by the armies of Islam and which had provided protection to Muslim settlements, particularly the Sufis. But at the same time, it betrays the secret that the Muslim community in Gujarat had invited Mahmud to invade the kingdom and destroy the temple of Somnath. Professor Mohammad Habib was telling this truth when he wrote that ‘the far-flung campaigns of Sultan Mahmud would have been impossible without an accurate knowledge of trade routes and local resources, which was probably obtained from Muslim merchants.’17
Sidhpur, like many other famous Hindu cities, is a small town today. But it reminds us of the days when it was the most important place of Hindu pilgrimage in North Gujarat.
The Rudramahalaya, like many other magnificent Hindu temples, is a heap of ruins at present. But it reminds us of a past when it was one of the most magnificent temples ever built in India.
The Jami’ Masjid, like many other historical mosques, stands as a dilapidated structure now. But it reminds us of a regime under which it symbolised the might of Islam.
The destruction of the Rudramahalaya at Sidhpur in Gujarat was not an isolated event; it was only a link in the long chain which stretches from the middle of the seventh century, when the first Islamic invaders stepped on the soil of India, to the closing years of the eighteenth century when Tipu Sultan led his expedition into Malabar. The vast land which is spread from Transoxiana, Khurasan and Seistan in the West to Assam in the East, and from Sinkiang in the North to Tamil Nadu in the South, is literally littered with the ruins of temples belonging to all Hindu sects- Bauddha, Jaina, Śaiva, Śakta VaishNava, and the rest.
The Jami’ Masjid at Sidhpur is not the only mosque built on the site and from the debris of a demolished Hindu temple. There are innumerable mosques all over India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and the neighbouring lands towards the north-west which have, embedded in their masonry, some epigraphical or sculptural or architectural evidence that they were places of Hindu worship in the past. Quite a few of these mosques have failed to withstand the ravages of time and are in ruins at present. But quite a few are still in use by the worshippers of Allah.
The story of Gujarat was repeated all over India in wave after wave of Islamic invasions from the middle of the seventh century onwards. Hindus fought the invaders at every step and defeated them quite often. But they failed to study and understand the theology of Islam, and the aspirations of Muslims living in their midst. The invaders continued to forge ahead for several centuries. The situation is the same today. Afghanistan, North-West Frontier Province, Punjab, Sindh, and East Bengal have been lost. No one can say how things will turn out in Kashmir. Muslims inside India continue to create street riots on an ascending scale. But the Hindus have refused to learn, either from history or from contemporary experience.
Arabic Inscriptions of the Rajput period from Gujarat’, Epigraphia Indica-Arabic and Persian Supplement, 1961, pp. 1-2. It is, of course, his personal view that Hindu tolerance towards Muslims was inspired in part by profits derived from foreign trade. ↩
A principality in the Persian Gulf. ↩
Epigraphia Indica-Arabic and Persian Supplement, 1961, pp. 11-12. ↩
Ibid., p. 14. ↩
Ibid., p. 12. ↩
Ibid., p. 16. ↩
Ibid., p. 15. ↩
Ibid., p. 6. ↩
Ibid., p. 8 ↩
Ibid., p. 17. ↩
Ibid., p. 18. ↩
Muhammad Nazim. The Lift and Times of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna, second edition, 1971, p. 219. ↩
Al-Lat was a Goddess of the pre-Islamic Arabs. Prophet Muhammad had got her idols destroyed. She was seen by Islamic iconoclasts in many Hindu idols. ↩
Muhammad Nazim, op. cit., p. 221. ↩
Ibid., pp. 221-22. ↩
Ibid. pp. 222-24. The story is based on a ballad written by some Muslim in Gujarati language in AH 1216 (AD 1800). The ballad was summarised by Major J.W. Watson in Indian Antiquary, Vol. VIII (June, 1879), pp. 153-61. ↩
Quoted by Ram Gopal Misra in his Indian Resistance to Early Muslim Invaders upto AD 1206, Meerut City, 1983, p. 101. ↩