Muhammad bin Qasim Al-Thaqafi was an Umayyad general
who conquered the Sind and Punjab regions along the Indus River (now a
part of Pakistan) at the age of seventeen. The conquest of Sind and
Punjab began the Islamic era in South Asia and continues to lend the
Sind province of Pakistan the nickname Bab-e-Islam (The Gateway of
He was born and raised in the city of Taif (in modern-day Saudi Arabia).
A member of the Thaqafi tribe of the Ta'if region, Muhammad bin Qasim's
father was Qasim bin Yusuf who died when Muhammad bin Qasim was young,
leaving his mother in charge of his education. Umayyad governor Al-Hajjaj
Ibn Yusuf Al-Thaqafi, Muhammad bin Qasim's paternal uncle, was
instrumental in teaching Muhammad bin Qasim about warfare and
governance. Under Hajjaj's patronage, Muhammad bin Qasim was made
governor of Persia, where he succeeded in putting down a rebellion.
Conquer of Sind
During those times, some Muslim traders living in Ceylon died and the
ruler of Ceylon sent their widows and orphans back to Baghdad. They made
their journey by sea with pilgrims. The King of Ceylon also sent many
valuable presents for Walid and Hajjaj. As the eight-ship caravan passed
by the seaport of Daibul, Hindu pirates looted it and took the women and
children prisoner. When news of this attack reached Hajjaj, he demanded
that Dahir return the Muslim captives and the looted items. He also
demanded that the culprits be punished. Dahir replied that he had no
control over the pirates and was, therefore, powerless to rebuke them.
On this Hajjaj decided to invade Sind. Two small expeditions sent by him
failed to accomplish their goal. Thus, in order to free the prisoners
and to punish the guilty party, Hajjaj decided to undertake a huge
offensive against Dahir, who was patronizing the pirates. The reason for
attack was Raja Dahir's policies.
When Muhammad bin Qasim began the invasion of Debal, the ruler of Sind
Raja Dahir was staying in his capital Alor (Nawabshah) about 500 kms
away. Debal was in the charge of a governor with a garrison of four to
six thousand Rajput soldiers and a few thousand Brahmans, and therefore
Raja Dahir did not march to its defense immediately. All this while, the
young invader was keeping in close contact with Hajjaj, soliciting the
latter’s advice even on the smallest matters. So efficient was the
communication system that letters were written every three days and
replies were received in seven days, so that the campaign was virtually
directed by the veteran Hajjaj ibn Yusuf himself. When the siege of
Debal had continued for some time a defector informed Muhammad bin Qasim
about how the temple could be captured.
Thereupon the Arabs, planting their ladders stormed the citadel-temple
and swarmed over the walls. As per Islamic injunctions, the inhabitants
were invited to accept Islam. The carnage lasted for three days. The
temple was razed and a mosque built. Muhammad bin Qasim laid out a
Muslim quarter, and placed a garrison of 4,000 in the town. As this was
the pattern of all future sieges and victories of Muhammad bin Qasim as
indeed of all future Muslim invaders of sub-continent - it may be
repeated. Inhabitants of a captured fort or town were invited to accept
Islam. At Ar-rur, he was met by Dahir's forces and the eastern Jats in
battle. Dahir died in the battle, his forces were defeated and a
triumphant Muhammad bin Qasim took control of Sind.
Character sketch of Muhammad bin Qasim
The military and the administrative success of Muhammad bin Qasim form
one of the most brilliant chapters in the history of the Muslim rulers
of Indo-Pakistan. He was a born leader and a man of versatile genius. He
was a poet, a patriot, a statesman and an accomplished administrator.
His tender age, impressive figure, his dauntless courage and noble
bravery, his brilliant victories in battles and wise method of
administration and lastly his sudden and tragic end make the story of
his short and illustrious life one of the romances of history. He was
strong against opponents and tender-hearted to his friends. According to
al-Marzubani, Muhammad bin Qasim was one of the great men of all times.
An able General
The army of Raja Dahir was inferior in technical skill and his
commanders were inferior in generalship, Muhammad bin Qasim, a young man
of 17 was an intrepid and skilful general, and the success of the Arabs
in Sind was largely due to his able generalship. He was not only a great
warrior and conqueror but also a good administrator. The administration
introduced by him leads us to believe that he possessed great experience
in the art of administration. Some of the temples were no doubt
destroyed during the days of war, but that was a temporary phase, for
the destruction of the temple was due not to religious bigotry or
fanaticism but to the fact that the temples were the repositories of
India’s age long accumulated wealth.
He adopted kind and conciliatory policy towards the subject. The
Brahmins were permitted to perform their rites and ceremonies in the
manner prescribed by their religion. He granted the population of Sind
the right to life and property in lieu of their submission and
willingness to pay taxes to the Muslim administrator.
Far sighted statesman
Muhammad bin Qasim was a far-sighted statesman and great politician. He
did not disturb the existing system of administration in Sind. He placed
the entire machinery of internal administration in the hands of the
natives. The people, who had occupied key posts in the time of Dahir,
were expected to know all about the land. According to Chach Nama,
Reposing full confidence in them, Muhammad bin Qasim entrusted them with
high offices and placed all important affairs of the place in their
Muhammad bin Qasim met his tragic end in the prime of his life in 715.
The Khalifah Sulayman was an arch enemy of Hajjaj bin Yusuf and Muhammad
bin Qasim being his cousin and son-in-law fell a victim to his wrath. He
was arrested and sent to Mesopotamia where he was tortured to death.
Thus, it ended the bright career of the great hero who had laid the
foundation of Muslim rule in the sub-continent.