Futuhu-l Bulda’n by Ahmad bin Yahya, bin Jabir, d. 279 A.H., 892-3 CE.
In The History of India as Told by its own Historians. The Posthumous Papers of the Late Sir H. M. Elliot. John Dowson, ed. 1st ed. 1867. 2nd ed., Calcutta: Susil Gupta, 1956, vol. 7, pp. 14-31.
Futuhu-l Bulda’n is one of the earliest Arab chronicles. It covers the early Arab conquests, ranging from Spain in the West to Transoxiana and Sindh in the East. It concludes with the close of the reign of the Caliph Mu’tasim in 227 H., 842 CE. It contains a significant section on the conquest of Sindh, which complements the account given in the Chach-na’ma.
Its author is Ahmad bin Yahya, bin Jabir, who is also styled Abu Jafar and Abu-l Hasan, but he was more usually known by the nickname Biladuri or Bilazuri, due to his addiction to the intoxicant produced from the balazar or Malacca bean. He lived during the ninth century, served as an instructor to the princes in the court of Caliph Al Mutawakkal, and died in 279 H. (892-3 CE). He also wrote the Kitabu-l buldan, the “Book of Countries”, a work on cosmography and geography.1 He also had the reputation of being a good poet. A manuscript of his Futuhu-l Bulda’n is preserved in Leiden University Library.
The Futuhu-l Bulda’n has an extensive section on the conquest of Sindh. It was undertaken during the reign of the Umaiyid Caliph ‘Abdul Malik (685-705), who appointed Hajjâj, the governor of Iraq and Khurasan, to lead invasions into Transoxiana and Sindh. These invasions were undertaken, respectively, by his two generals, Qutaybah bin Muslim and Muhammad bin Qâsim.
Muhammad bin Qâsim marched to Sindh with 15,000 men. He arrived at Debal, a port city near the modern Karachi, in 711. There he was bolstered by the arrival of his artillery by sea, and took the town. This was followed by his conquest of Alor, located north of Hyderabad in June 712. In the fighting before Aror the Raja Dâhir was slain. The next year he also conquered the important city of Multan.
Following the rapid conquest of Sindh, Arab progress was checked. In part this was caused by internal division. In 714 Hajjâj died, and in 715 the Calif Walid I (705-715) took interest in the campaign and recalled the conquering general, Muhammad bin Qâsim. Arab control thereafter rapidly disintegrated, leading many local rulers to repudiate their allegiance to the Arabs. The next Calif, ‘Umar II (717-720), was evidently unable to check this development. He sought, but was unable to secure, their nominal acceptance of Arab suzerainty. The text portrays this as a successful policy, but evidently it was not. Among these local chieftains was Jaisiya, the son of Dahir, whose conversion to Islam is dubious.
The Arabs also met stiff resistance from neighboring Indian kings. When an Arab governor of Sindh, Junaid, sought to seize Kacch and Malwa, he was foiled by the Pratihara and Gurjara kings. The text does not mention his defeat by them, but the transition to the next governor following the account of these raids implicitly indicates his death at their hands.
The Arabs were thus unable to expand beyond Sindh, but they were able to maintain their hold on the province, despite some later loses to the Hindu Shahi kings. The region fell out of the control of the Caliphate, but largely remained under Muslim control; in 985 an Ismaili Fatamid dynasty declared its independence in Multan. 2
- 1. Conquest of Debal by Muhammad bin Qâsim
2. Conquest of Rawar, Alor, Alsaka and Multan
3. Hajjaj accesses loot taken in Sindh and dies
4. Caliph Walid dies and is succeeded by Abdu-l malik, who recalls and kills Muhammad bin Qâsim
5. Caliph ‘Umar II succeeds to the throne, and institutes the policy of enticing local rulers to become Muslims.
6. Junaid appointed governor of Sindh, and his treachery in dealing with Jaisiya
- 7. Succeeding governors
[starting bottom p. 20]
In the correspondence which ensued, Muhammad informed Hajjaj of what he had done, and solicited advice respecting the future. Letters were written every three days. One day a reply was received to this effect: -“Fix the manjanik and shorten its foot, and place it on the east; you will then call the manjanik-master, and tell him to aim at the flag-staff, of which you have given a description.” So he brought down the flag-staff, and it was broken; at which the infidels were sore afflicted. The idolaters advanced to the combat, but were put to flight; ladders were then brought and the Musulmans escaladed the wall. The first who gained the summit was a man of Kufa, of the tribe of Murad. The town was thus taken by assault, and the carnage endured for three days. The governor of the town, appointed by Dahir, fled, and the priests of the temple were massacred. Muhammad marked out a place for the Musulmans to dwell in, built a mosque, and left four thousand Musulmans to garrison the place.
Muhammad, son of Yahya, says that Mansur, the son of Hatim, the grammarian, a freeman of the family of Khalid, son of Assaid, relates that he had seen the pole broken into fragments which had been placed on the steeple of the temple. ‘Ambissa, son of Ishak Az Zabbi, the governor of Sind, in the Khalifat of Mu’tasim billah, knocked down the upper part of the minaret of the temple and converted it into a prison. At the same time he began to repair the ruined town with the stones of the minaret; but before [p. 22] he had completed his labours, he was deprived of his employment, and was succeeded by Harun, son of Abi Khalid- al Maruruzi, and he was slain there.
Muhammad, son of Kasim then went to Nirun, the inhabitants of which place had already sent two Samanis, or priests, of their town to Hajjaj to treat for peace. They furnished Muhammad with supplies, and admitting him to enter the town they were allowed to capitulate. Muhammad conquered all the towns successively which he met on his route, until he had crossed a river which runs on this side of the Mihran [Indus]. He then saw approaching towards him Sarbidas, the Samani, who came to demand peace in the name of the inhabitants. Muhammad imposed tribute upon them, and then went towards Sahban, and took it. Then he went to the banks of the Mihran, and there remained. When this news reached Dahir, he prepared for battle. Muhammad, son of Kasim, had sent Muhammad, son of Mus’ab, son of’Abdu-r Rahman as Sakifi, to Sadusan, with men mounted on horses and asses, at whose approach the inhabitants solicited quarter and peace, the terms of which were negotiated by the Samani. Muhammad granted them peace, but he imposed tribute on the place, and took pledges from them, and then returned to his master. He brought with him four thousand Jats, and left at Sadusan an officer in command.
Muhammad sought the means of crossing the Mihran, and effected the passage in a place which adjoined the dominions of Rasil, chief of Kassa, in Hind, upon a bridge which he had caused to be constructed. Dahir had neglected every precaution, not believing that the Musulmans would dare to advance so far. Muhammad and his Musulmans encountered Dahir mounted on his elephant, and surrounded by many of these animals, and his Takakaras [Thakurs] were near his person. A dreadful conflict ensued, such as had never been heard of. Dahir dismounted and fought valiantly, but he was killed towards the evening, when the idolaters fled, and the Musulmans glutted themselves with massacre. According to Al Madaini, [p. 23] the slayer of Dahir was a man of the tribe of Kalab, who composed some verses upon the occasion.
Various authors concur in saying that Muhammad took the village of Rawar by assault, in which city there was a wife of Dahir, who, afraid of being captured, burned herself along with her handmaids and all that she possessed.
Then Muhammad, son of Kasim, went to old Brahmanabad, two parasangs f rom Mansura, which town indeed did not then exist, its site being a forest. The remnant of the army of Dahir rallied at Brahmanabad and resistance being made, Muhammad was obliged to resort to force, when eight, or as some say, twenty-six thousand men were put to the sword. He left a prefect there. The place is now in ruins.
Muhammad then marched towards Alrur and Baghrur. The people of Sawandari came out to meet him and sued for peace, which was granted them, on the condition that they should entertain the Muhammadans and furnish guides. At this time they profess the Muhammadan creed. After that he went to Basmad, where the inhabitants obtained peace on the same terms as those accorded to the Sawandrians. At last he reached Alrur, one of the cities of Sind. It is situated on a hill. Muhammad besieged it for several months, and compelled it to surrender promising to spare the lives of the inhabitants and not touch the temples (budd). “The temples,” he said, “shall be unto us, like as the churches of the Christians, the syna-gogues of the Jews, and the fire temples of the Magians.” He imposed, however, the tribute upon the inhabitants, and built a mosque in the city.
Muhammad advanced to Alsaka, a town on this side of the Biyas, which was captured by him, and is now in ruins. He then crossed the Biyas, and went towards Multan, where, in the action which ensued, Zaida, the son of ‘Umur, of the tribe of Tai, covered himself with glory. The infidels retreated in disorder into the town, and Muhammad commenced the siege, but the provisions being exhausted, the Musulmans were reduced to eat [p. 24] asses. Then came there forward a man who sued for quarter, and pointed out to them an aqueduct, by which the inhabitants were supplied with drinking water from the river of Basmad. It flowed within the city into a reservoir like a well, which they call talah.3 Muhammad destroyed the water-course; upon which the inhabitants, oppressed with thirst, surrendered at discretion. He massacred the men capable of bearing arms, but the children were taken captive, as well as the ministers of the temple, to the number of six thousand. The Musulmans found I there much gold in a chamber ten cubits long by eight broad, and there was an aperture above, through which the gold was poured into the chamber. Hence they call Multan “the Frontier of the House of Gold,” for farj means “a frontier.”4 The temple (budd) of Multan received rich presents and offerings, and to it the people of Sind resorted as a place of pilgrimage. They circumambulated it, and shaved their heads and beards. They conceived that the image was that of the prophet Job, God’s peace be on him!
We are told that Hajjaj caused a calculation to be made of the sums expended in fitting out this expedition of Muhammad Kasim, and the riches which resulted from it. He had spent sixty millions (of dirhams) and that which had been sent to him amounted to one hundred and twenty millions. He said “We have appeased our anger, and avenged our injuries, and we have gained sixty millions of dirhams, as well as the head of Dahir.” Hajjaj then died.5 Upon learning this, Muhammad left Multan and returned to Alrur and Baghrur, which had been previously captured. He made donations to his men, and sent an [p. 25] army towards al-Bailaman, the inhabitants of which place surrendered without any resistance. He made peace with the inhabitants of Surast, with whom the men of Basea6 are now at war. They are Meds, seafarers, and pirates. Then he went against the town of Kiraj. Duhar advanced to oppose him, but the enemy was put to flight. Duhar fled, but some say he was killed. The inhabitants surrendered. Muhammad slew (all those capable of bearing arms) and reduced the rest to slavery.
Meanwhile, Walid, son of Abdu-l malik, died, and was succeeded by (his brother) Sulaiman, who appointed Salih, son of Abdu-r-Rahman, to collect the tribute of ‘Irak. Yalid, son of Abu kabsha as-Saksaki, was made governor of Sind, and Muhammad, son of Kasim, was sent back a prisoner with Mu’awiya, son of Muhallab. The people of Hind wept for Muhammad, and preserved his likeness at Kiraj. He was imprisoned by Salih at Wasit. Salih put him to torture, together with other persons of the family of Abu ‘Ukail, until they expired: for Hajjaj7 –
(Muhammad’s cousin) had put to death Adam, Salih’s brother, who professed the creed of the Kharijis. Hamza, the son of Bail Hanafi, says:
- Verily, courage, and generosity, and liberality,
Belonged to Muhammad, son of Kasim, son of Muhammad.
He led armies at the age of seventeen years,
He seemed destined for command from the day of his birth.
Yazid, son of Abu Kabsha, died eighteen days after his arrival in Sind. Sulaiman then appointed Habib, son of al Muhallab, to carry on the war in Sind, and he departed for that purpose. Meanwhile the princes of Hind had returned to their states, and Jaishiya,8 son of Dahir, had [p. 26] come back to Brahmanabad. Habib proceeded to the banks of the Mihran, where the people of Alrur made their submission; but he warred against a certain tribe and reduced them.
When the Khalif Sulaiman, son of ‘Abdu-l Malik, died, he was succeeded by ‘Umar son of ‘Abdu-l ‘Aliz.9 He wrote to the princes (of Hind) inviting them to become Musulmans and submit to his authority, upon which they would be treated like all other Musulmans. These princes had already heard of his promises, character, and creed, so Jaishiya and other princes turned Musulmans, and took Arab names. ‘Amru, son of Muslim al Bahali was lieutenant of ‘Umar on this frontier. He invaded several places in Hind and subdued them.
In the days of Yazid, son of ‘Abdu-l Malik, the son of Al Muhallib10 fled to Sind, and Hilal, son of Ahwaz al Tamimi was sent after them. He fell in with them and killed Mudrak, son of Muhallab, at Kandabil. He also slew Mufalzal, ‘Abdu-l Malik, Ziyad, Marun, and Mu’awiya, sons of Muhallab; last of all he killed Mu’awiya, son of Yazid.
Junaid, son of ‘Abdu-r-Rahman al Marri, was appointed to the frontier of Sind under the authority of ‘Umar, son of Hubaira al Fazari, and was confirmed in the government by (the Khalif) Hasham, son of ‘Abdu-l Malik.11 When Khalid, son of ‘Abdu-Ilah al Kasri was sent to ‘Irak (as governor) Hasham wrote to Junaid directing him to keep up a correspondence with Khalid. Junaid went to Debal and from thence to the banks of the Mihran, but Jaishiya (son of Dahir) forbade him to cross, and sent to him, saying, “I have become a Musulman, and an excellent man confirmed me in my states, but I have no faith in thee.” But (Junaid) gave him pledges and took pledges from him, together with the tribute due from his territories. They thus exchanged guarantees, but Jaishiya acted like an infidel and took up arms. But some say, on the contrary, that he did not begin the attack, but that Junaid dealt unjustly with him. Jaishiya assembled his troops, fitted out ships and prepared for war. [p. 27] Junaid proceeded against him in ships and they fought in the lake of Ash Sharki. Jaishiya’s ship was destroyed, and he himself was taken prisoner and slain. Sasa son of Dahir fled and proceeded towards ‘Irak to complain of the treachery of Junaid, but the latter did not cease to conciliate him until they had shaken hands, and then he slew him. Junaid made war against Kiraj, the people of which had rebelled. He made use of battering-rams, and battered the walls of the town with them until they were breached, and then he stormed the place, slaying, plundering, and making captives. He then sent his officers to Marmad Mandal, Dhanaj, and Barus [Broach]. Junaid used to say, “It is better to die with bravado than with resignation.” He sent a force against Uzain12 and he also sent Habid, son of Marra, with an army against the country of Maliba.13 They made incursions against Uzain, and they attacked Baharimad14 and burnt its suburbs. Junaid conquered al Bailaman and Jurz,15 and he received at his abode, in addition to what his visitors presented to him, forty millions, and he himself carried off a similar sum.
The successor of Junaid was Tamim, son of Zaid al ‘Utbi. He was feeble and imbecile, and died near Debal in a water called the “Buffalo-water.” This water was so called because buffalos took refuge there from the bears which infested the banks of the Mihran. Tamim was one of the most generous of Arabs, he found in the treasury of Sind eighteen million Tatariya dirhams, which he soon spent. In the days of Tamim, the M usulmans retired from several parts of India and left some of their positions, nor have they up to the present time advanced so far as in days gone by.
Hakim, son of ‘Awana al Kalbi, succeeded Tamim. The people of India had returned to idolatry excepting those of Kassa, and the Musulmans had no place of security in which they could take refuge, so he built a town on the other side of the lake facing India, and called it Al Mahfuza, “The secure,” and this he made a place of refuge and security for them, and their chief town. He asked the [p. 28] elders of the tribe of Kalb, who were of Syrian descent, what name he should give the town. Some said Dimash [Damascus], others, Hims [Emessa], and others Tadmur [Palmyra]. Hakim said (to the latter), “May God destroy16 you, O fool.” He gave it the name of Al Mahfuza, and dwelt there.
‘Amru, son of Muhammad son of Kasim was with Hakim, and the latter advised with him, trusted him with many important matters, and sent him out of Al Mahfuz on a warlike expedition. He was victorious in his commission, and was made an amir. He founded a city on this side of the lake, which he called Mansura, in which city the governors now dwell. Hakim recovered from the hands of the enemy those places which they had subjugated, and gave satisfaction to the people in his country. Khalid said, “It is very surprising, – I gave the charge of the country to the most generous of Arabs, that is, to Tamim, and they were disgusted. I gave it to the most niggardly of men and they were satisfied.” Hakim was killed there.
The governors who succeeded continued to kill the enemy, taking whatever they could acquire and subduing the people who rebelled. When the fortunate dynasty (that of ‘Abbasides) was established, Abu Muslim appointed ‘Abdu-r Rahman, son of Abu Muslim Mughallisa-l ‘Abdi, to the frontier of Sind. ‘Abdu-r Rahman went by way of Tukharistan, and proceeded against Mansur, son of Jamhur al Kalbi, who was in Sind. But he was met by Mansur and slain, and his forces were put to flight. When Muslim heard this he appointed Musa, son of Ka’bu-t Tamini, and sent him to Sind. When he arrived, the river Mihran lay between him and Mansur, son of Jamhur.17 Still he came up with Mansur, put him and his forces to flight, and slew his brother Manzur. Mansur fled in wretched plight to the sands, where he died of thirst. Musa ruled in Sind, repaired the city of Mansura, and enlarged its mosque. He was victorious in his campaigns.
The Khalif al Mansur sent to Sind Hasham, son of [p. 29] ‘Amru al Taghlabi, and he reduced those places which still held out. He sent ‘Amru, son of Jamal, in boats to Narand.18 He also sent (a force) to the territories of Hind, subdued Kashmir, and took many prisoners and slaves. Multan was reduced, and he overpowered a body of Arabs who were in Kandabil, and drove them out. He then went to Kandahar in boats, and conquered it. He destroyed the budd there, and built in its place a mosque. There was abundance in the country under his rule, and the people blessed him-he extended the frontier, and enforced his decrees.
‘Umar, son of Hafs, son of ‘Usman Hazarmard, was then appointed governor of Sind, and after him Daud, son of Valid, son of Hatim. There was with him Abu-1 Samma, who had been a slave of the tribe of Kanda, and who is now governor. The affairs of the frontier went on prosperously until Bashar, son of Daud, was appointed under the Khalifat of Mamun.19 He rebelled, and set up in opposition. Ghassan, son of ‘Abbad, who was a native of the neighbourhood of Kufa, was sent against him. Bashar proceeded to meet Ghassan under a safe conduct, and they both proceeded to the Muhammadan capital (Baghdad). Ghassan deputed Musa, son of Yahya, son of Khalid, son of Barmak, to the charge of the frontier. Musa killed Bala, king of Ash-sharki, although the latter had given him five hundred thousand dirhams to preserve his life. Bala was faithful to Ghassan, and wrote to him in the presence of his army, through the princes who were with him, but his request was rejected. Musa died in 221 A.H. (836 A.D.),20 leaving a high reputation, and he appointed his son ‘Amran as his successor. The Khalif M’utasim bi-llah wrote to him confirming him in the government of the frontier. He marched to Kikan against the Jats, whom he defeated and subjugated. He built a city there, which he called Al Baiza, “the white,”21 and he posted a military force there. Then he proceeded to Multan, and from thence to Kandabil, which city stands upon a hill. Muhammad, son of [p. 30] Khalil, was reigning there, but ‘Amran slew him, conquered the town, and carried away its inhabitants to Kusdar. Then he made war upon the Meds, and killed three thousand of them. There he constructed a band which is called “Sakru-l Med,” Band of the Meds. He encamped on the river at Alrur. There he summoned the Jats, who came to his presence, when he sealed22 their hands, took from them the jizya (capitation tax), and he ordered that every man of them should bring a dog with him when he came to wait upon him,-hence the price of a dog rose to fifty dirhams. He again attacked the Meds, having with him the chief men of the Jats. He dug a canal from the sea to their tank, so their water became salt; and he sent out several marauding expeditions against them.
Dissensions then arose between the Nizarians23 and Yamanians, and ‘Amran joined with the latter. ‘Umar, son of ‘Abu-l Aziz al Habbari, consequently went to him and killed him unawares. The ancestor of this ‘Umar had come into Sind with Hakim, son of ‘Awana al Kalbi.24
Mansur, son of Hatim, related to me that Fazl, son of Mahan, formerly a slave of the sons of Sama, got into Sindan and subdued it. He then sent an elephant to the Khalif Mamun, and wrote to him and offered up prayers for him in the Jami’ masjid, which he built there. When he died he was succeeded by Muhammad, son of Fazl, son of Mahan. He proceeded with seventy vessels against the Meds of Hind. He killed a great number of them, captured Kallari25(?) and then returned towards Sindan. But his brother, named Mahan, had made himself master of Sindan, and wrote to the Khalif Mu’tasim bi-llah, and had sent to him as a present the largest and longest saj26, that [p. 31] had been seen. But the Indians were under the control of his brother whom they liked. So they slew Mahan and crucified him. The Indians afterwards made themselves masters of Sindan, but they spared the mosque, and the Muhammadans used to meet in it on Friday and pray for the Khalif.
Abu Bakr, Who had been a slave of the Karizis, related to me that the country called Al ‘Usaifan between Kashmir and Multan and Kabul, was governed by a wise king. The people of this Country worshipped an idol for which they had built a temple. The Son of the king fell sick, and he desired the ministers of the temple to pray to the idol for the recovery of his son. They retired for a short time, and then returned and said, “We have prayed and our supplications have been accepted.” But no long time passed before the youth died. Then the king attacked the temple, destroyed and broke in pieces the idol, and slew its ministers. He afterwards invited a party of Muhammadan traders who made known to him the unity of God. Hereupon he believed in the unity and became a Musulman. This happened in the Khalifat of Mu’tasim bi-llah, -may God have mercy on him!
1. According to Dowson a copy of this text is preserved in the Library of the British Museum (Bibl. Rich. no. 7496).
2. For a survey of this period see S. A. A. Rizvi’s “The Muslim Ruling Dynasties” in A Cultural History of India. A. L. Basham, ed. (New York: Oxford, 1975), pp. 245-65.
3. M. Reinaud observes that the pronoun does not indicate whether this native word applies to the canal or the reservoir. He conjectures, with some probability, that the word may be nala, “stream”, but that word is not so pronounced at Multan. I prefer, therefore, talab, talao, “a tank, or reservoir.” [In Goeje’s’edition the word is ‘talah‘.
4. When the Musulmans’ arms extended to the mountains parallel with the course of the Indus, the kingdoms of Kamd and Sind were called Farjan “the two frontiers”-Uylenbroek, Iracoe Persicoe Descriptio, p. 67.
5. In the year 95 H., 714 A.D.
7. That sanguinary wretch is said to have slaughtered by his arbitrary mandates 120,000 persons, and after his death there were found in his different prisons, 30,000 men and 20,000 women. This is drawn from Persian sources. The Sunni writers represent him as just and impartial, notwithstanding his unflinching severity.- Pascual de Gayangos, Biographical Dictionary, Art. “Al Hajjaj.”
8. This reading is from Kudama, and is confirmed by the Chach- nama. Our text is doubtful ‘jashiyah‘. Reinaud gives “Hullysah” Mem. sur l’Inde. 191. The true name was Jai Sinha.-See Chach-nama.
9. 717 A.D.
10. Yazid II reigned 720 to 724 A.D.
11. Began to reign 724 A.D.
14. Baharimad (Persian)
16. There is a pun here on the root of the word Tadmur.
17. Coins of this Mansur and of other Sind rulers have been found in the ruins of a city supposed to be Brahmanabad.-Thomas Prinsep, II., 119.
19. Began to reign in 813 A.D.
20. The text says 21, but this is a manifest error.
21. ‘Ala nahrar Rur‘ lit. “On the river of Rur”.
22. ‘Khatan aidiham‘.
23. The Nizarians are the descendants of Nizar, an ancestor of Muhammad, and the Yamanians are the tribes of Yaman (Yemen). See note in Reinaud’s Fragments, also his Invasions des Sarrasins en France, p. 72, et seq.
24. See a note upon the Amirs Musa and Amran, in Reinaud’s Fragments, p. 215.
25. The text has ‘qali‘.
26. Saj, a green or black sash rolled round the head and hanging down behind. It is also the name of the teak tree.