According to Khushwant Singh, Arab traders brought Islam to India to the west coast from the mouth of Indus to Kanyakumari in the south. The year 712 is considered a landmark in the history of Islam, when Muhammad Bin Qasim entered Makran, conquered Debal (near Karachi). He conquered whole Sindh and southern Punjab upto Multan and region became an Arab province. It took the Muslims another two centuries until 1000 AD when Mahmud of Ghazni, a mamluk (Turk) entered India. He invaded India seventeen times from 1000 to 1027. His territory stretched from Bukhara in the north to the Persian Gulf in the south and from Khwarzam and Tehran in Persia to Kanauj in central India. He was first one to enter India and breaking the military strength of Hindus and paved the way for Islam. He conquered Punjab, Bulandshar, Mathura, Kanauj and Gwalior. As a reward for his services to Islam he received the title “Yamin-al-Dala” (right hand of state) from the Abbasid caliph. One of the greatest poets of the Persian language Firdousi, Amir Khusro, Abul Hassan lived in his court and also Al Baruni. When Ghaznavid rule declined, the rulers of Ghaur (Turk) began to assert themselves and conquered Ghazni after over throwing the rulers.

In 1191, Ghauri wrote to Prithvi Raj of Ajmer and Delhi and Jaichand of Kanauj to return eastern districts of Punjab which they seized as he has now succeeded the Ghaznavids. Prithvi Raj refused and which led to first battle of Tarian in 1191 and Ghauri was defeated. In 1192 Ghauri came back and the two armies met again at Tarian where the Rajput army was crushed and Prithvi Raj killed. In 1193, his general Qutubuddin Aibak conquered Delhi, Meerut, Aligarh and in the meantime Ghauri conquered Kanauj and defeated Jaichand. Ghauri was the one who established Muslim rule in India in 1193 while the whole of northern India was under his control.

Ghauri never caused unnecessary bloodshed and never forced Islam on any body. He appointed Qutubddin Aibak, his general and a slave from Turkistan ruler of India who founded the dynasty of slave sultans. He justified his selection and confidence placed in him by extending his territory from Delhi to Bengal. He was followed by Iltutmish, Razia Sultana and Ghaisuddin Balban who ruled northern India for forty years. The slave dynasty was followed by another Turk dynasty of Khiljis who ruled India from 1290 to 1320. The most prominent of the Khiljis ruler was Alauddin who ruled India for 20 years. It was Bakhtiyar Khilji who brought Bihar and Bengal under control. It is said Khiljis saved India and Hinduism from Mongols, as they defeated Mongols several times successfully.

Allauddin used similar tactics used by Alexander the Great therefore adopted the nickname (Sikandar Sani) Alexander the Second. He also got fame for his capture of Chittor in Mewar, Rajasthan and one of the generals of Allauddin, Malik Kafur conquered the whole of south India by 1312. Films like Padmaavat, where Allauddin has been portrayed in a negative role, are contrary to actual facts. There is no truth to any such stories and it is nothing but character assassination. The Khiljis were replaced by another Turkish dynasty the Tughluks, who ruled India for seventy years. The prominent ruler was Muhammad Tughluk (1325-51), who ruled India with two capitals, one at Delhi and the other in Deccan at Daulatabad. The last ruler of Tughluk dynasty was Nasiruddin and it was during his time in 1397, Taimur (Tamerlane) entered India. The immediate effect was that India divided in two parts, the northern half was under Muslims (Turks, Afghans, Sayyeds and Lodhis) and the south became independent under Hindus kings.

By the time Babar of the Mughal dynasty came to India in 1526, India had been a Muslim land for 500 years and Sindh and Multan for 800 years. In four years, Babar occupied the whole of northern India. Babar was replaced by his son Hamayoun and it was Sher Shah Suri who defeated Hamayoun at the battle of Chausa in 1539. From 1540 to 1545 Sher Shah Suri was the emperor of India. During his rule he introduced various reforms, connected major cities of India with roads and constructed Grand Trunk road from Bengal to Peshawar. Raised his Hindu employees into position of eminence and recruited Rajputs in army. According to Sir Thomas Haig, Sher Shah Suri was one of the greatest Muslim rulers of India. Hamayoun was replaced by his son Akbar who was a tolerant ruler, treated his Hindu subjects with respect and encouraged interfaith dialogue. He attempted to forge a religion of his own “Din-Ilhai” and declared himself as the head of the group.

He married a Rajput lady and raised Rajput Kinsmen to position of eminence and favoured Hindus more than Muslims. According to William Sleeman, “Akbar has always appeared to me among sovereigns what Shakespeare was among poets”. In 1600 AD, the Mughal empire extended from Afghanistan to Bengal and from Kashmir down to southern extremities of the Deccan plateau. Akbar was followed by Jahangir who was succeeded by his son, Shah Jehan, famous for the construction of Pearl Mosque, Red Fort and Taj Mahal. Shah Jehan was followed by his son Aurangzeb who ruled an empire bigger than Akbar. He patronised the famous Fatwa-i-Alamagri, the comprehensive book on Muslims jurisprudence ever compiled. The later Mughals failed to maintain their glory, strength and unity.

Mughals ruled what are the modern countries of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and parts of Myanmar. Over a span of three centuries the Mughal empire last until the uprising against Britishers in 1857. Islam was mostly brought to the people of sub-continent by Muslims divines. Their preaching, saintly life attracted attention and people flocked to hear them and they converted millions to Islam. Historians praise the high level of civilisation of the Muslims, high standard of architecture, building, writings of memoirs, poetry and ship buildings. One of the finest glories of Muslims architecture is also one of the most recognised buildings in the world, the Taj Mahal and others, like the Red Fort, Tomb of Shah Jehan and the Jumma Masjid in Delhi, the Tomb of Iltutmash, the Qutub Minar, the Alai Darwaza and the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque.

Masud Ahmad Khan

The writer is a retired brigadier and freelance columnist.