The Legacy of Jihad in India
By Andrew G. Bostom
Danish translation: Jihad i Indien
Source: American Thinker, July 2, 2005
Published on November 10, 2013

The phenomenon of modern Islamic terrorism has forged an inchoate strategic alliance between the Israeli and Indian governments, while heightening the awareness of a common threat—the institution of jihad—among the civilian populations of these nations.

Rarely understood, let alone acknowledged, however, is the history of brutal jihad conquest, Muslim colonization, and the imposition of dhimmitude shared by the Jews of historical Palestine, and the Hindus of the Indian subcontinent. Moreover, both peoples and nations also have in common, a subsequent, albeit much briefer British colonial legacy, which despite its own abuses, abrogated the system of dhimmitude (permanently for Israel and India, if not, sadly, for their contemporary Muslim neighboring states), and created the nascent institutions upon which thriving democratic societies have been constructed. Sir Jadunath Sarkar (d. 1958), the preeminent historian of Mughal India, wrote with admiration in 1950 of what the Jews of Palestine had accomplished once liberated from the yoke of dhimmitude. The implication was clear that he harbored similar hopes for his own people:

Palestine, the holy land of the Jews, Christians and Islamites, had been turned into a desert haunted by ignorant poor diseased vermin rather than by human beings, as the result of six centuries of Muslim rule. (See Kinglake's graphic description). Today Jewish rule has made this desert bloom into a garden, miles of sandy waste have been turned into smiling orchards of orange and citron, the chemical resources of the Dead Sea are being extracted and sold, and all the amenities of the modern civilised life have been made available in this little Oriental country. Wise Arabs are eager to go there from the countries ruled by the Shariat. This is the lesson for the living history. [1]

Earlier, I reviewed at length the legacy of Muslim jihad conquest and imposition of the Shari'a in historical Palestine. The current essay provides a schematic overview of the same phenomena in India, focusing on the major periods of Muslim conquest, colonization, and rule.

A Millennium of Jihad and Dhimmitude on the Indian Subcontinent

The 570 year period between the initial Arab Muslim razzias (ordered by Caliph Umar) to pillage Thana (on the West Indian coast near Maharashtra) in 636—637 C.E., and the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate (under Qutub—ud—din Aibak, a Turkish slave soldier), can be divided into four major epochs: (I) the conflict between the Arab invaders and the (primarily) Hindu resisters on the Western coast of India from 636—713 C.E.; (II) the Arab and Turkish Muslim onslaughts against the kingdom of Hindu Afghanistan during 636—870 C.E.; (III) repeated Turkish efforts to subdue the Punjab from 870 C.E. to 1030 C.E. highlighted by the devastating campaigns of Mahmud of Ghazni (from 1000— 1030 C.E.); and finally (IV) Muhammad Ghauri's conquest of northwestern India and the Gangetic valley between 1175 and 1206 C.E. [2]

This summary chronology necessarily overlooks the very determined and successful resistance that was offered by the Hindus to both the Arab (in particular) and Turkish invaders, for almost four centuries. For example, despite the rapidity of Mahmud of Ghazni's conquests—spurred by shock—tactics and the religious zealotry of Islamic jihad—his successors, for almost 150 years, could not extend their domain beyond the Punjab frontiers. Even after the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate (1206—1526), and the later Mughal Empire (1526—1707), Muslim rulers failed to Islamize large swaths of Indian territory, and most of the populace. [3] The first Mughal Emperor, Babur (1483—1530), made these relevant observations upon establishing his rule in India: [4]

[Hindustan] is a different world...once the water of Sindh is crossed, everything is in the Hindustan way—land, water, tree, rock, people, and horde, opinion and custom...Most of the inhabitants of Hindustan are pagans; they call a pagan a Hindu.

Buddhist civilization within India, in stark contrast, proved far less resilient. Vincent Smith has described the devastating impact of the late 12th century jihad razzias against the Buddhist communities of northern India, centered around Bihar, based on Muslim sources, exclusively: [5]

The Muhammadan historian, indifferent to distinctions among idolators, states that the majority of the inhabitants were 'clean shaven Brahmans', who were all put to the sword. He evidently means Buddhist monks, as he was informed that the whole city and fortress were considered to be a college, which the name Bihar signifies. A great library was scattered. When the victors desired to know what the books might be no man capable of explaining their contents had been left alive. No doubt everything was burnt. The multitude of images used in Medieval Buddhist worship always inflamed the fanaticism of Muslim warriors to such fury that no quarter was given to the idolators. The ashes of the Buddhist sanctuaries at Sarnath near Benares still bear witness to the rage of the image breakers. Many noble monuments of the ancient civilization of India were irretrievably wrecked in the course of the early Muhammadan invasions. Those invasions were fatal to the existence of Buddhism as an organized religion in northern India, where its strength resided chiefly in Bihar and certain adjoining territories. The monks who escaped massacre fled, and were scattered over Nepal, Tibet, and the south. After A.D. 1200 the traces of Buddhism in upper India are faint and obscure.

Three major waves of jihad campaigns (exclusive of the jihad conquest of Afghanistan) which succeeded, ultimately, in establishing a permanent Muslim dominion within India, i.e., the Delhi Sultanate, are summarized in the following discussion. The imposition of dhimmitude upon the vanquished Hindu populations is also characterized, in brief.

The Muslim chroniclers al—Baladhuri (in Kitab Futuh al—Buldan) and al—Kufi (in the Chachnama) include enough isolated details to establish the overall nature of the conquest of Sindh by Muhammad b. Qasim in 712 C.E. [6] These narratives, and the processes they describe, make clear that the Arab invaders intended from the outset to Islamize Sindh by conquest, colonization, and local conversion. Baladhuri, for example, records that following the capture of Debal, Muhammad b. Qasim earmarked a section of the city exclusively for Muslims, constructed a mosque, and established four thousand colonists there. [7] The conquest of Debal had been a brutal affair, as summarized from the Muslim sources by Majumdar. [8]

Despite appeals for mercy from the besieged Indians (who opened their gates after the Muslims scaled the fort walls), Muhammad b. Qasim declared that he had no orders (i.e., from his superior al—Hajjaj, the Governor of Iraq) to spare the inhabitants, and thus for three days a ruthless and indiscriminate slaughter ensued. In the aftermath, the local temple was defiled, and '700 beautiful females who had sought for shelter there, were all captured'. The capture of Raor was accompanied by a similar tragic outcome. [9]

Muhammad massacred 6000 fighting men who were found in the fort, and their followers and dependents, as well as their women and children were taken prisoners. Sixty thousand slaves, including 30 young ladies of royal blood, were sent to Hajjaj, along with the head of Dahar [the Hindu ruler]. We can now well understand why the capture of a fort by the Muslim forces was followed by the terrible jauhar ceremony (in which females threw themselves in fire kindled by themselves), the earliest recorded instance of which is found in the Chachnama.

Practical, expedient considerations lead Muhammad to desist from carrying out the strict injunctions of Islamic Law [10] and the wishes of al—Hajjaj [11] by massacring the (pagan) infidel Hindus of Sindh. Instead, he imposed upon the vanquished Hindus the jizya and associated restrictive regulations of dhimmitude. As a result, the Chachnama records, 'some [Hindus] resolved to live in their native land, but others took flight in order to maintain the faith of their ancestors, and their horses, domestics, and other property'. [12] Thus a lasting pattern was set that would persist, as noted by Majumdar, until the Mughal Empire collapsed at the end of Aurangzeb's reign (in 1707), [13]

...of Muslim policy towards the subject Hindus in subsequent ages. Something no doubt depended upon individual rulers; some of them adopted a more liberal, others a more cruel and intolerant attitude. But on the whole the framework remained intact, for it was based on the fundamental principle of Islamic theocracy. It recognized only one faith, one people, and one supreme authority, acting as the head of a religious trust. The Hindus, being infidels or non—believers, could not claim the full rights of citizens. At the very best, they could be tolerated as dhimmis, an insulting title which connoted political inferiority...The Islamic State regarded all non—Muslims as enemies, to curb whose growth in power was conceived to be its main interest. The ideal preached by even high officials was to exterminate them totally, but in actual practice they seem to have followed an alternative laid down in the Qur'an [i.e., Q9:29] which calls upon Muslims to fight the unbelievers till they pay the jizya with due humility. This was the tax the Hindus had to pay for permission to live in their ancestral homes under a Muslim ruler.

Mahmud of Ghazni, according to the British historian Sir Henry Elliot, launched some seventeen jihad campaigns into India between 1000 and his death in 1030 C.E. [14] Utbi, Mahmud's court historian, viewed these expeditions to India as a jihad to propagate Islam and extirpate idolatry. [15] K.S. Lal illustrates this religious zeal to Islamize by force, as manifested during a 23 year period between 1000 and 1023 C.E.: [16]

In his first attack of frontier towns in C.E. 1000 Mahmud appointed his own governors and converted some inhabitants. In his attack on Waihind (Peshawar) in 1001—3, Mahmud is reported to have captured the Hindu Shahiya King Jayapal and fifteen of his principal chiefs and relations some of whom like Sukhpal, were made Musalmans. At Bhera all the inhabitants, except those who embraced Islam, were put to the sword. At Multan too conversions took place in large numbers, for writing about the campaign against Nawasa Shah (converted Sukhpal), Utbi says that this and the previous victory (at Multan) were 'witnesses to his exalted state of proselytism.' In his campaign in the Kashmir Valley (1015) Mahmud 'converted many infidels to Muhammadanism, and having spread Islam in that country, returned to Ghazni.' In the later campaign in Mathura, Baran and Kanauj, again, many conversions took place. While describing 'the conquest of Kanauj,' Utbi sums up the situation thus: 'The Sultan levelled to the ground every fort... and the inhabitants of them either accepted Islam, or took up arms against him.' In short, those who submitted were also converted to Islam. In Baran (Bulandshahr) alone 10,000 persons were converted including the Raja. During his fourteenth invasion in 1023 C.E. Kirat, Nur, Lohkot and Lahore were attacked. The chief of Kirat accepted Islam, and many people followed his example.

These continuous jihad campaigns were accompanied by great destruction and acts of wanton cruelty. Utbi describes the slaughter which transpired during the attacks on Thanesar and Sirsawa:

The chief of Thanesar was...obstinate in his infidelity and denial of Allah, so the Sultan marched against him with his valiant warriors for the purpose of planting the standards of Islam and extirpating idolatry... The blood of the infidels flowed so copiously that the stream was discoloured, and people were unable to drink it... Praise be to Allah... for the honour he bestows upon Islam and Musalmans. [17]
[at Sirsawa] The Sultan summoned the most religiously disposed of his followers, and ordered them to attack the enemy immediately. Many infidels were consequently slain or taken prisoners in this sudden attack, and the Musalmans paid no regard to the booty till they had satiated themselves with the slaughter of the infidels... The friends of Allah searched the bodies of the slain for three whole days, in order to obtain booty. [18]

Mahmud's final well—known expedition in Hindustan, to Somanath in 1025 C.E., was similarly brutal, and destructive:

Mahmud captured the place [Somanath] without much difficulty and ordered a general slaughter in which more than 50,000 persons are said to have perished. The idol of Somanath was broken to pieces which were sent to Ghazni, Mecca, and Medina and cast in streets and the staircases of chief mosques to be trodden by the Muslims going there for their prayers [19]

Over 900 years apart, remarkably concordant assessments of Mahmud's devastating exploits have been written by the renowned 11th century Muslim scholar Alberuni (a counselor to Mahmud), and the contemporary Indian historian A. L. Srivastava. First Alberuni, from about 1030 C.E.: [20]

Mahmud utterly ruined the prosperity of the which the Hindus became like atoms of dust scattered in all directions, and like a tale of old in the mouth of the people. Their scattered remains cherish of course the most inveterate aversion towards all Muslims. This is the reason too why Hindu sciences have retired far away from those parts of the country conquered by us, and have fled to places which our hand cannot yet reach, to Kashmir, Benares, and other places.

Srivastava in 1950, wrote: [21]

To the Indian world of his day Mahmud was a veritable devil incarnate—a daring bandit, an avaricious plunderer, and wanton destroyer of Art. He plundered many dozens of...flourishing cities; he razed to the ground great temples which were wonderful works of art; he carried thousands of innocent women and children into slavery; he indulged in wanton massacre practically everywhere he went; and...he forcibly converted hundred of...unwilling people to Islam. A conqueror who leaves behind desolate towns and villages and dead bodies of innocent human beings cannot be remembered by posterity by any other title.

K. S. Lal believes that by the late 12th century, Muhammad Ghauri was consummately prepared for the conquest and rule of India. Well—elaborated theological justifications for jihad, and comprehensive writings on India's geography and sociopolitical culture were readily available to him, complementing his powerful army of Turks, Persians, and Afghans.

He now possessed Alberuni's India and Burhanuddin's Hidayah, works which were not available to his predecessor invader. Alberuni's encyclopedic work provided to the Islamic world in the eleventh century all that was militarily advantageous to know about India. Equally important was the Hidayah, the most authentic work on the laws of Islam compiled by Shaikh Burhanuddin Ali in the twelfth century. These and similar works, and the military manuals like the Siyasat Nama and Adab—ul—Harb, made the Ghauris and their successors better equipped for the conquest and governance of non—Muslim India. There need be no doubt that such works were made available, meticulously studied and constantly referred to by scholars attached to the courts of Muslim conquerors and kings. [22]

Muhammad Ghauri launched his first expeditions against Multan and Gujarat (in 1175 and 1178 C.E., respectively). By 1191—92 C.E., following Ghauri's defeat of a Rajput confederation under Prithviraj Chauhan (and Prithviraj Chauhan's death),

Sirsuti, Samana, Kuhram, and Hansi were captured in quick succession with ruthless slaughter and a general destruction of temples, and their replacement by mosques. The Sultan then proceeded to Ajmer which too witnessed similar scenes. In Delhi an army of occupation was stationed at Indraprastha under the command of Qutub—ud—din Aibak who was to act as Ghauri's lieutenant in Hindustan. Later on Aibak became the first Sultan of Delhi [23]

Qutub—ud—din Aibak's accession in 1206 (consistent with Muhammad Ghauri's desires and plans), marks the founding of the Delhi Sultanate.

Finally, the imposition of Islamic law upon the Hindu populations of India, i.e., their relegation to dhimmi status, beginning with the advent of Muslim rule in 8th century Sindh, had predictable consequences during both the Delhi Sultanate period (1206—1526 C.E.), and the Mughal Empire (1526—1707 C.E.). A. L. Srivastava highlights these germane features of Hindu status during the Delhi Sultanate: [24]

Throughout the period of the Sultanate of Delhi, Islam was the religion of the State. It was considered to be the duty of the Sultan and his government to defend and uphold the principles of this religion and to propagate them among the masses...even the most enlightened among them [the Sultans], like Muhammad bin Tughlaq, upheld the principles of their faith and refused permission to repair Hindu (or Buddhist) temples...Thus even during the reign of the so—called liberal—minded Sultans, the Hindus had no permission to build new temples or to repair old ones. Throughout the period, they were known as dhimmis, that is, people living under guarantee, and the guarantee was that they would enjoy restricted freedom in following their religion if they paid the jizya. The dhimmis were not to celebrate their religious rites openly...and never to do any propaganda on behalf of their religion. A number of disabilities were imposed upon them in matters of State employment and enjoyment of civic rights...It was a practice with the Sultans to destroy the Hindu temples and images therein. Firoz Tughlaq and Sikander Lodi prohibited Hindus from bathing at the ghats [river bank steps for ritual bathers] in the sacred rivers, and encouraged them in every possible way to embrace the Muslim religion. The converts were exempted from the jizya and given posts in the State service and even granted rewards in cash, or by grant of land. In short, there was not only no real freedom for the Hindus to follow their religion, but the state followed a policy of intolerance and persecution. The contemporary Muslim chronicles abound in detailed descriptions of desecration of images and destruction of temples and of the conversion of hundreds and thousands of the Hindus. [Hindu] religious buildings and places bear witness to the iconoclastic zeal of the Sultans and their followers. One has only to visit Ajmer, Mathura, Ayodhya, Banaras and other holy cities to see the half broken temples and images of those times with their heads, faces, hands and feet defaced and demolished.

Majumdar sees a continuum between the Delhi Sultanate and the subsequent Mughal Empire, regarding the status of the Hindus: [25]

So far as the Hindus were concerned, there was no improvement either in their material and moral conditions or in their relations with the Muslims. With the sole exception of Akbar, who sought to conciliate the Hindus by removing some of the glaring evils to which they were subjected, almost all other Mughal Emperors were notorious for their religious bigotry. The Muslim law which imposed many disabilities and indignities upon the Hindus...and thereby definitely gave them an inferior social and political status, as compared to the Muslims, was followed by these Mughal Emperors (and other Muslim rulers) with as much zeal as was displayed by their predecessors, the Sultans of Delhi. The climax was reached during the reign of Aurangzeb, who deliberately pursued the policy of destroying and desecrating Hindu temples and idols with a thoroughness unknown before or since.

Majumdar also makes this interesting juxtaposition of Hindu cultural advancement under the lengthy period of Muslim colonial rule, compared to the much shorter interval of British colonial rule: [26]

Judged by a similar standard, the patronage and cultivation of Hindu learning by the Muslims, or their contribution to the development of Hindu culture during their rule...pales into insignificance when compared with the achievements of the British rule...It is only by instituting such comparison that we can make an objective study of the condition of the Hindus under Muslim rule, and view it in its true perspective.


[1] Jadunath Sarkar, 'The Condition of Hindus under Muslim Rule', The Hindusthan Standard, Calcutta, Puja Annual (Deepavali special) 1950.

[2] A. L. Srivastava. 'A Survey of India's Resistance to Medieval Invaders from the North—West: Causes of Eventual Hindu Defeat', Journal of Indian History, 1965, pp. 349—350.

[3] A. L. Srivastava., The Sultanate of Delhi (711—1526 A.D.), Agra, 1950, p. 127; R. C. Majumdar (editor). The History and Culture of the Indian People, Vol. 6, The Sultanate of Delhi, Bombay, 1960, p. xxiii, states, for example, with regard to the Delhi Sultanate:

&The popular notion that after the conquest of Muhammad Ghauri, India formed a Muslim Empire under various dynasties, is hardly borne out by facts...barring the two very short lived empires under the Khaljis and Muhammad bin Tughlaq which lasted respectively, for less than twenty and ten years, there was no Turkish empire of India. The Delhi Sultanate, as the symbol of this empire, continued in name throughout the period under review [i.e., 1206—1526] but, gradually shorn of power and prestige, it was reduced to a phantom by the invasion of Timur at the end of the fourteenth century A.D.

For discussions of the limits of the Mughal Empire, see: A. L. Srivastava., The History of India (1000 A.D— 1707 A.D.), Agra, 1964, pp. 674—676; and K. S. Lal., Indian Muslims—Who Are They?, New Delhi, 1990, pp. 122—123, 127, 136—137.

[4] Baburnama. Translated by A. S. Beveridge, Lahore, Sangmeel Publications (reprint), 1976, pp. 484, 518.

[5] Vincent Smith, The Oxford History of India, Oxford, 1928, p. 221.

[6] Al—Baladhuri, The Origins of the Islamic State (Kitab Futuh Al—Buldan). Part II, Translated by F. C. Murgotten, New York, Columbia University, 1924, pp. 217—224; Al—Kufi. The Chachnama, excerpts translated in H. M. Elliot and J. Dowson. A History of India As Told By Its Own Historians—The Muhammadan Period, 1867—1877 (reprinted 2001, Delhi), Vol. 1, pp. 157—211.

[7] Al—Baladhuri. The Origins of the Islamic State, Part II, p. 218.

[8] R. C. Majumdar (editor). The History and Culture of the Indian People, Vol. 3, The Classical Age, Bombay, 1954, p. 458.

[9] Majumdar, The Classical Age, pp. 458—459.

[10] From a translation of Ziauddin Barani's Fatawa—i Jahandari, circa, 1358—9 C.E., in Mohammad Habib. The political theory of the Delhi sultanate., Allahabad, Kitab Mahal, 1961, pp. 46—47.

[11] Chachnama, Elliot and Dowson, pp. 173—174.

[12] Majumdar, The Classical Age, p. 460.

[13] Majumdar, The Classical Age, pp. 461—462.

[14] Elliot and Dowson, Vol. II, Appendix Note D, pp. 434—484.

[15] Srivastava. The Sultanate of Delhi, p. 52.

[16] K. S. Lal. The Legacy of Muslim Rule in India, New Delhi, Aditya Prakashan, 1992, pp. 96—97

[17] Elliot and Dowson, Vol. II, 40—41.

[18] Elliot and Dowson, Vol. II, 49.

[19] Srivastava. The Sultanate of Delhi, p. 59.

[20] Alberuni, Alberuni's India—An Account of the Religion, Philosophy, Literature, Geography, Chronology, Astronomy, Customs, Laws, and Astrology of India (about 1030 C.E), Edited by E. C. Sachau, 1888 (reprinted New Delhi, 1993), p. 22.

[21] Srivastava. The Sultanate of Delhi, p. 61—62.

[22] K. S. Lal. Theory and Practice of Muslim State in India, New Delhi, Aditya Prakashan, 1999, pp. 20—21.

[23] Lal. Muslim State in India, p. 21

[24] Srivastava. The Sultanate of Delhi, pp. 304—305.

[25] R. C. Majumdar (editor) The Mughul Empire, Bombay, 1974, p. xi.

[26] Majumdar Vol. 6, The Sultanate of Delhi, p. 623.

Andrew G. Bostom, MD, MS, is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Brown University Medical School.
He is the author of:
The Legacy of Jihad, Prometheus Books (2005),
The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, Prometheus Books (2008),
Sharia Versus Freedom. The Legacy of Islamic Totalitarianism, Prometheus Books (2012),
The Mufti's Islamic Jew Hatred. What the Nazis Learned From the 'Muslim Pope', Bravura Books (2013), and
Iran's Final Solution for Israel. The Legacy of Jihad and Shi'ite Islamic Jew-Hatred in Iran, Bravura Books (2014).