Muhammad Bin Qasim is a central figure in the history of Pakistan, invoked by the leaders of Pakistan Movement in the past and still quoted as the first Pakistani in our national curriculum today. The story of his conquest of Sindh as the origins of Islam in the sub-continent reifies the idea of Muslim foreignness to the land, cultures, religions, histories of the sub-continent. Pakistan then enters into the picture as the preserver of this alienness. The story of Muhammad Bin Qasim’s conquest, however, is rife with historical inaccuracies. Arab General Muhammad Bin Qasim conquered Sindh in 712 AD and became another invader termed a superhero for the emotional people of Pakistan. However, the facts surrounding this conquest, and the ill fate that followed for the conqueror is known to few among us. People today are divided on his adorned status some term him as a preacher and some say he was a predator.
According to researcher and historian Dr Mubarak Ali, the war between Muhamad Bin Qasim and Raja Dahar was never a war of faith versus perfidy. He further says that it is not correct that Muhammad Bin Qasim’s men included Hindus of scheduled castes fighting for him.
People started joining the Arab forces led by Muhammad Bin Qasim due to poverty and unemployment following the mass desecration of Sindh after the war. According to Dr Mubarak Ali, the Arabs started ruling under the umbrella of an ancient elite class, thus their behavior towards the lower and humbler communities never changed.
As such, the taking over of the reigns of Hind and Sindh by the Arabs never changed a thing for the already oppressed and victimized classes of society, which is claimed to be the focus of Islamic governance. Chachnama, a Sindhi book published by the Sindhi Adabi Board in 2008, speaks of Muhammad bin Qasim’s demise.
After Raja Dahar was killed, two of his daughters were made captive, whom Muhammad Bin Qasim sent to the capital Damascus. After a few days, the Caliph of the Muslims called the two young women to his court. The name of the elder daughter of Raja Dahar was Suryadevi, while the younger one’s name was Pirmaldevi.
Caliph Waleed Bin Abdul Malik fell for Suryadevi’s extraordinary beauty. He ordered for her younger sister to be taken away. The Caliph then began to take liberties with Suryadevi, pulling her to himself.
It is written that Suryadevi sprang up and said, “May the king live long: I, a humble slave, am not fit for your Majesty’s bedroom, because Muhammad Bin Qasim kept both of us sisters with him for three days, and then sent us to the caliphate. Perhaps your custom is such, but this kind of disgrace should not be permitted by kings.”
Hearing this, the Caliph’s blood boiled as heat from anger and desire both compounded within him.
Blinded in the thirst of Suryadevi’s nearness and jealousy of Muhammad Bin Qasim who had robbed him of the purity, he would otherwise have had, the Caliph immediately sent for pen, ink, and paper, and with his own hands wrote an order, directing that, “Muhammad (Bin) Qasim should, wherever he may be, put himself in raw leather and come back to the chief seat of the caliphate.”
Muhammad Bin Qasim received the Caliph’s orders in the city of Udhapur. He directed his men to wrap him in raw leather and lock him in a trunk before taking him to Damascus.
En route to the capital, Muhammad Bin Qasim, conqueror to some, predator to others, breathed his last and his soul departed to meet with the creator in whose name he claimed to crusade in Sindh.
When the trunk carrying Muhammad Bin Qasim’s corpse wrapped in raw leather reached the Caliph’s court, the Caliph called upon Dahar’s daughters, asking them to bear witness to the spectacle of obedience of his men for the Caliph.
One of Dahar’s daughters then spoke in return and said, “The fact is that Muhammad bin Qasim was like a brother or a son to us; he never touched us, your slaves, and our chastity was safe with him. But in as much as he brought ruin on the king of Hind and Sind, desolated the kingdom of our fathers and grandfathers, and degraded us from princely rank to slavery, we have, with the intention of revenge and of bringing ruin and degradation to him in return, misrepresented the matter and spoken a false thing to your majesty against him.”
But this isn’t the only story about the controversial Muhammad Bin Qasim, there is another version. According to the famous history book 14 Infallibles, the siege of the holy Mecca and the escape of noble Syeds (Grandchildren of the Holy Prophet PBUH). The 692 AD ‘Siege of Mecca’ occurred after the Islamic Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan sent his General Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf with a large army to Mecca where rebel Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr ruled, to put an end to the rival Caliphate. The siege was brutal and destructive and ended after six months with the death of ibn Zubair.
Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf was one of `Abd al-Malik most able generals and administrators. Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, the governor of Hejaz, was `Abd al-Malik strongest opponent. Ibn Yusuf set off to subdue Mecca several times before he succeeded. In 689, he had to return to Damascus to help quell a rebellion. In 690 he met with failure. But the rebellious northern tribes capitulated in 691, and he defeated the weakened army of the governor of Basra, Mu’sab ibn al-Zubayr, by bribing many of his soldiers to switch sides and kill their leader. He then turned his attention to the rebel caliph, al-Zubayr. He besieged Mecca in 692 with almost 12,000 Syrian troops. He advanced unopposed as far as his native Taif, which he took without any fighting and used as a base. He bombarded the Holy City using catapults from the mountain of Abu Qubays. The bombardment continued during the month of the Pilgrimage or Hajj. After the siege had lasted for seven months and 10,000 men, among them two of Abdullah Ibn al-Zubair’s sons, had gone over to al-Hajjaj, Abd-Allah ibn al-Zubayr with a few loyal followers, including his youngest son, were killed in the fighting around the Kaaba. The siege resulted in the killing of men and rapes of women. According to historians, women in large numbers were raped. During the mass killing, the Syeds (members of the Prophet’s family) were prime targets owing to centuries-old rivalry between the Hashemites and Ummayids.
Many Syeds were killed and a few most women had no option but to escape. They escaped to various regions; some went to Iran and a group of them chosen the area known as Sindh (Debal) which was ruled by a Hindu Raja Dahir. Historians narrated that Raja Dahir welcomes the members of the noble family and offered them asylum knowing that they belong to the royal Muslim family. Hajjaj after the desecrations shifted his attention to the purge of the Syeds and found out that some key members escaped to Sindh. He sent several letters to Raja Dahir to return his prisoners which Dahir refused. Hajjah known for his cruelty was furious and organized an army led by his son in law Muhammad bin Qasim.
Muhammad Bin Qasim conquered the Sindh and later he was astonished to know the real reason behind his attack. He returned and confronted Hajjaj. The ruler Hajjaj imprisoned bin Qasim fearing a revolt against his rule will end if people get to know how he fabricated the entire siege and attack on Sindh. Bin Qasim mysteriously died in the prison and the history as it was narrated by the historians under the control of the cruel Ummayad and Abbassi rulers. After centuries later, a large number of people consider Muhammad Bin Qasim a hero, a savior while the ones who were killed of deprived by his ruthless and unjust attack consider him a predator. The history remains fabricated and based on lies fanned by the vicious rulers and the subjugated historians of the Ummayad era.This contestation also brings into the question whole idea of Muslim alienness to the sub-continent. This false narrative has spurred such historical violence as the persecution of Muslims in India and of Hindus in Pakistan.