How Islam came to India and why now it needs to go from India – 10: economic decline of India under Islam
In contrast to the so called “very friendly relations” that Indian merchants and princes apparently had with Arab Muslim traders in the early part of the Islamic invasions, based on a few references to “cordial meals” or dinners being given by a Arab merchant to his Indian counterpart at Hormuz, all references to any hostile behaviour including involvement of Islamic traders in military action against Indians are suppressed in the Thaparite literature. However the Prabandhachintamani describes explicitly how an Arab Muslim trader, Saida (Sayyad) had become so powerful as to initiate a naval fight against Vastupala, a minister of Chalukya state. It is interesting to note that the same story describes in great detail that the dispute arose at the port of Stambha (Cambay) and Saida called on an Indian ally Mahasadhanika Sanka from the port of Bhrgukachha (Broach). Harihara, who was associated with Vastupala and therefore a contemporary, [satisfies at least three of Thaparite criteria for acceptability of textual sources – it is contemporary, it is from the “attacked side”, it is from a non-Muslim side which claims to have “repressed” a non-upper-caste-Hindu] has awritten a play Sankhaparabhava Vyayoga, which claims ultimate victory of Vastupala. The fact that one “Hindu” helped Sayida against another would perhaps have been highlighted by the Thaparite School to prove the “extremely cordial relationship” between Indians and Muslim Arabs, had not this incident also involved proof of involvement of the Arab Muslim traders in direct military action against Indian states.
Trade over land route – Role of Islam
We see that exactly as the Islamic regime consolidated its power over the Middle East and expanded into Central Asia through its bulkhead in Persia, the penetration and reach of Indian merchants into Central Asia decreased, whereas the penetration of Muslim traders into India increased. We do not read of significant non-Muslim Indian settlements of traders in the lands conquered by the Arabs, and the Thaparites have managed to fish out only some references in the early Islamic period at Hormuz, and connected therefore with the sea-trade [these were possibly simply remnants of an earlier long-term trade relation between Nabateans and western-Indians]. If Islam was so liberal in encouraging commerce and trade with non-Muslims, why did all of a sudden non-Muslim Indian traders suddenly lose their interest in overland trade with areas newly converted to Islam? At the same time however the previously overland trade with China continued in volume and value with nearly equal participation in the transport of goods by India and China continued as before by shifting the greater bulk of the trade over the sea-route. The non-Hindu non-Indian traveller I-Tsing [Chavannes’s quotation] comments on how the Ta-shi interfered with travel on the road to Kapisha. The Arab control over the central Asian trade route passing through the “greater India” (Balkh-Bahlik Pradesh, Kabul/Zabul, Samarquand – this was captured only after a typical surprise Islamic military attack when the bulk of the male population was away in distant lands for trade, and the women and children were captured and used for bargaining for surrender and conversion to Islam – etc., ) was only completed in about 1022 C.E. That the Arabs were in the habit of severely restricting non-Muslim traders is also testified to in their own chronicles [Biladuri] as well as in versions by Europeans [Pirene – Economic and Social history of Medievalal Europe-note that in this period they cannot yet be called fanatical anti-Islamic Hindu fascists since by the Thaparite School Hinduism was yet to be conjured from thin air and non-existent ideas by them as a colonial power].
Four cornered struggle between Arabs, Persia, China and Tibet for control of Central Asian trade and evidence for the Muslims gradually pushing out the non-Muslim traders
In the first half of 7th century exactly when Muhammad was consolidating his hold over the isolated oases in Northern Arabia, the Chinese empire virtually controlled all the area up to the borders of Persia [Yule, Cathay]. The intensification of this struggle seems to have peaked in 650-670 C.E.[Tsuh Chih, A short history of Chinese civilization.] There are indications that Kashmir at this period could be involved in a partnership with China to fight against the Arabs, the Tukharas, and Daradas and blocked the route to Tibet. [Indian Historical Quarterly, XXX, pp 89-92]. Chinese sources represent the Pallavas from South India as requesting Chinese aid against the Arabs and the Tibetans [K.A.N. Sashtri, Foreign Nations]. There have been questions about the real motivations behind this Chinese representation as to China’s priority on the threat from Tibet. However we do find these references as indicating a struggle with the rising power of the Arab Muslims trying to take over the trade routes through Central Asia and prevent non-Muslim traders from benefiting from this trade. A significant amount of trade also began now to pass over into sea-trade between East Asia and India, and alternative land routes through (1) Bengal, Assam, and upper Burma (2) Bihar, Nepal, Tibet.[Chau ju kua, Chavannes, P.C.Bagchi -India and China, P.C.Choudhury – History of civilization of Assam].
The disbalance in the number of settlements of Muslim traders in India compared to “Hindu” traders in the Muslim world.
There are very few actual references to “Hindu” merchants being allowed to survive in areas dominated by Islam outside subcontinental India in this period. Muhammad Aufi [Elliott and Dowson] describes the case of a Hindu merchant called Wasa Abhir from Nahrwala who had trade agents at Gazni, and had property valued at one million rupees indicating that he was probably a top-league merchant. When Muizudin bin Sam was defeated by the Gujarat army after Muizuddin mounted an invasion into Gujarat, he was apparently advised to confiscate Wasa’s property at Gazni after his retreat back to Gazni. Muizuddin is supposed to have refused to follow this advice on grounds of justice. This story yields several interesting aspects. First, it does not show actual presence of Hindu Merchants in Islamic territories on a permanent basis but simply, agents, and material holdings probably as necessary components of trade. Second, it shows that they were subject to political arbitrariness as Muslims defeated in their jihads on hindu territories could in general satisfy their frustration by seizing on Hindu merchant’s properties or family. Third, the possibility of a practical motivation in the rulers of that time, that top-merchants from other nations and ideologies should not be harassed too much because of fear of potential loss of revenue. This last point in its turn could also be applied to the so-called patronization of Muslims by the Rashtrakutas or other Hindu rulers on the west coast of India – that such protection of merchants need not automatically imply non-existence of general hostilities between the two regimes or ideologies of Islam and “Hinduism”.
Similarly we hear the propaganda of “presence of Indian merchants at Hormuz and very friendly and cordial relations between them and Arab Muslims” in the Thaparaite literature, and this alone is supposed to be incontrovertible proof of “cordial relations between Muslims and Hindus in general”. This is based on among two other textual references, on the following story. According to Abu Zaid, when one of the principal merchants of Siraf invited the Indian merchants of the place he would serve them food in separate plates. On such events there would be hundreds of guests and most of them were obviously “Indians”.[Fernande, Voyage du Marchand Arabe Sulayman]. The Jewish traveller Rabbi Benjamin, writes in 1170 c.e. that the island of Kish was the point to which the Indian merchants bring their commodities. [K.A.,N. Sastri, Foreign Nations]. Ibn Batuta writes of a colony of Indian merchants in Aden, but we can no longer be absolutely certain about their religious affiliation at the time of Ibn Batuta’s writings. The last reference that we will quote is a very popular one with the Thaparite School, that of Jagadu in Jagaducharita [A.K. Majumdar, Chalukyas of Gujarat] who is supposed to have Indian agents at Hormuz and who maintained regular trade with Persia. Note the preponderance of agents, who are not always mentioned to be non-Muslim Indians, who represent Hindu merchants in Islam dominated areas, and not a significant population of settled Hindu merchants.
In contrast we find records of significant populations of settled Islamic traders, deep inside “Hindu” territories especially near important commercial, political, and cultural centres [Buddhist university townships] which are later on targets of surprise military attacks by Muslims with surgical precision. Ibn Asir mentions explicitly in his Kamil-ut-Tawarikh, that there were “Mussalmans in the country of Banaras” from the days of Sabuktigin.[Elliot and Dowson]. Muhammad Aufi also speaks of Bahram Gur of Iran coming to Hindustan under the guise of a Muslim merchant. When Bakhtyiar appeared in Nudiya people thought that he was a Muslim trader come to sell horses – implying that visits to this old Hindu city on the banks of the Ganges in modern West Bengal, by Muslim traders was quite common and that Muslim military leaders were in the habit of using this acceptance to disguise themselves for spying or raiding or surprise attacks. Taranath mentions settlement of “Turuskas” (at this period a generic name for Muslims) in the AntarVedi or Ganges-Yamuna Doab. He also significantly mentions that during the time of Lavasena and his successors and prior to the invasions and destruction of the Buddhist university townships of Odantapuri and Vikramasila the number of “Turuskas” had significantly increased. Muhammad Habib in his introduction to Elliott and Dowson suggests that the far-flung campaigns of Mahmud Gaznavi would have been impossible without an accurate knowledge of trade routes and local resources of India, which he probably obtained from Muslim merchants. Many Arab narratives [including that of Al Beruni, who had been allowed to learn Sanskrit and copy and translate Hindu texts] contain accurate accounts of land-routes in India with minute details of the distances between cities and their products and other strategic details whose context shows that these were supplied mostly by Muslim merchants who had visited these places in person and recorded these details back at home accurately for future use by their fellows.
Is it true that all “Hindus” welcomed the “peaceful” and “pure commercial motive” Muslim traders as the Thaparite School demands that we should believe based on the scanty textual evidence [scanty because they would dismiss such evidence as scanty if it went against their hypothesis]?
The Arab writers are unanimous in severely accusing the Pratihara kings of being most hostile to Arabs and Islam.[Sulaiman,Al Masudi, in Elliot and Dowson]. The same authors, curiously enough, admit that the Pratihara administration was highly efficient, for Sulaiman says “there is no country in India more safe from robbers”. But the extremely harsh criticism of the Pratiharas for their “religious” intolerance and “xenophobia” are far more intense than the critiques of the “Hindu” kings who desperately fought to defend their land and people from the mostly deceptive, jihadist aggression of Islamic armies on their campaigns of iconoclasm, enslavement, massacre and looting. The Pratiharas discouraged the influx of Arab Muslims to protect the interests of their own countrymen and imposed checks and restrictions in support of this policy. There is difference in opinion among historians about interpretation of the term “Turuskadanda” and one line of opinions favours this to be interpreted as a tax [ a reverse Jiziya] on “Turuska” settlers in Gahadavala [successors of Pratiharas] lands [Sten Konow, Epigraphia Indica, IX].
The protection provided by Siddharaja Jayasimha, the Hindu ruler of Gujarat, to Muslims and their places of worship was continued by his successors in Gujarat. Both the populations as well as shrines and mosques of Muslims continued to rapidly multiply in several cities of Gujarat as reflected in 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 1299 C.E. Z.A. Desai, the eminent epigraphist, comments that “These records 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 Masudi, 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.”[Arabic Inscriptions of the Rajput period from Gujarat’, Epigraphia Indica-Arabic and Persian Supplement, 1961].
Prof. Romila Thapar repeatedly cites one inscription from Prabhas Patan, the city of “Somnatha” and quotes only one of the two translations done by Z.A.Desai describing an event as recorded in two different inscriptions – in her public tirades against “revisionist historians” and in her hotly promoted Penguin history of India, she remains completely silent about the other inscription. This silence is puzzling. The inscription is dated 1264 C.E., 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 on site. 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 by Z.A. Desai:
“Ship-owner Nurud-Din Piruz, son of ship-owner Khwaja Abu Ibrahim, a native of Hormuz, had come for business to the town of god Somnath during the reign of Arjunadeva, the Vaghela king of Gujarat (C. 1261-74) when Amir Ruknud-Din was the ruling chief of Hormuz; Piruz purchased a piece of land situated in the Sikottari Mahayanpal outside the town of Somnath in the presence of the leading men like Thakkur Sri Palugideva, Ranak Sri Somesvaradeva, Thakkur Sri Ramdeva, Thakkur Sri Bhimsiha and others and in the presence of all (Muslim) congregations, from Rajakula Sri Chhada, son of Rajakula Sri Nanasiha; Piruz, who by his alliance with the great man Rajakula Sri 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 Quran) 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, aSadhar 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.”
The English translation of the first seven lines of the Arabic text as given by Z.A. Desai, is as follows:
1. Allah the Exalted may assign this (reward) to one who builds a house in the path of Allah… [This auspicious mosque was built].
2. on the twenty-seventh of the month of RamaDan, year [sixty-two].
3. and six hundred from migration of the Prophet (23rd July AD 1264), in the reign of the just Sultan and [the generous king].
4. Abu’l-Fakhr (lit., father of pride), Ruknud-Dunya wad-Din (lit., pillar of State and Religion), Muizzul-Islam wal-Muslimin (lit. source of glory for Islam and the Muslims), shadow of Allah in [the lands],
5. one who is victorious against the enemies, (divinely) supported prince, Abin-Nusrat (lit., father of victory), Mahmud, son of Ahmad, may Allah perpetuate his…
6. 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 and [banish?].
7. infidelity and idols…
Z.A. Desai noted 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 (muaddhin) 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.” 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. Could 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. Could the name of a Hindu king be found anywhere in the general format of the inscription. There are similar inscriptions on mosques and other Muslim monuments all over India, before and after this period in exactly the same format with the name of the reigning Muslim monarch with all his lengthy appellations displayed prominently. Significantly, there was no Muslim monarch at that time in Gujarat which was a Hindu kingdom independent of the Delhi Sultanate, the builder of the mosque chose the king of Hormuz for showing his solidarity with the land and ruler of Islam. It is also significant to note that by installing two versions of the same installation plaque in two different languages, the Muslim merchant shows that he is very much aware of this deception and therefore he expresses his true loyalties and feelings in his own language, which was obviously not widely known among the non-Muslims. Prof. Thapar remains completely silent on this because even mentioning this to discard it as a forgery or unreliable would bring attention to the original translation by Z.A. Desai and throw serious doubts on her desperate attempt to establish “friendly attitude of Muslim traders towards Hindus”.
Note that for a subject of the Hindu king of Gujarat or a resident alien doing business in Gujarat, and given that the mosque was erected at Prabhas Patan which was situated in the kingdom of Gujarat and not within the dominions of Hormuz, the Muslim merchant eulogises the king of Hormuz as “the source of glory for Islam and the Muslims,” and he prays 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 earnestly desiring another Islamic jihad on Gujarat. Comparing the Sanskrit and Arabic versions of this inscription, we see that the Muslim merchant from Hormuz had carefully edited out from the Sanskrit version what he had included confidently in the Arabic text. This shows that just as in the modern period, in the 13th century, Muslim elite took care with help from some elite Hindus [who collaborated out of commercial interests as claimed by the Thaparite School] that the ordinary Hindu never understood the real meanings of teachings of Islam, never read authentic versions of the core texts of Islam, never understood the real agenda of Islam, and that the Islamic Jihadi agenda of slaughter, enslavement, looting and conversion remained completely hidden until it was too late.
There were similar Muslim settlements in other places in Gujarat, for example at Anhilwada Patan, the capital of Gujarat under the Chaulukya and the Vaghela dynasties of Hindu kings. An inscription dated 1282 C.E. fixed in the wall of a mosque here, records the death of a Muslim merchant in the reign of the Vaghela king Sarangadeva (1274-96). Z.A. Desai is of the opinion that “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.” Cambay or Khambat, the famous port of Gujarat, has yielded many Muslim inscriptions from the time when Gujarat was a Hindu kingdom. A 1218 C.E. inscription in the reign of the Chaulukya king Bhimadeva II (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.” Another inscription of 1232 C.E. in the same reign records the death of a Muslim and declares, again in the first sentence, that “Surely, the true religion with Allah is Islam.” A third inscription dated 1284 in the reign of the Vaghela king Sarangadeva (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.” An inscription dated 1286-87 records the construction of a mosque at Junagadh in the reign of Sarangadeva gives the name of the builder, Abul Qasim, with high-sounding titles which according to Z.A. Desai, “may be taken to suggest that Abul 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.”
The invasion of Ulugh Khan that was to finally subject Gujarat to Muslim rule, was the eighth in a series which started within a few years after the Prophet’s death at Medina in 632. Five Islamic invasions had been targeted on Gujarat before Siddharaja Jayasimha ascended the throne of Gujarat in 1094 C.E. The first raid took place in 636 on Broach by sea on the pretext of attacking a “nest of pirates” [as accepted by the Thaparite School], second in 732-35 by land; third in 756, and fourth in 776 by sea; fifth by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1026, sixth by Muhammad Ghuri in 1178, and the seventh was by Qutbud-Din Aibak in 1197. Just as in the modern period, even after a sequence of Muslim raids and its effects, the complacency and acceptance of possible representation of Islam as peaceful with complete hiding of the inherent Jihadi agenda of Islam shown by Hindus in Gujarat, had allowed the dual plaques of Piruz to be put up in 1264. This was before the last invasion of Gujarat that brought it under Muslim control.