Anestos Canelides, who posted last month about the fall of Constantinople, returns with a historical analysis of the destruction wrought by the Great Jihad against the Hindus of India.
Why Muslims Loot and Destroy Hindu Temples
by Anestos Canelides
According to Reuters, on July 27th, 2008, Islamic extremists put several Indian cities on high alert, and about forty people became victims in two days of bombings. It was reported that 16 small bombs were exploded in the Indian city of Ahmadabad on Saturday, killing at least 39 people and wounding 110. A day later another set of blasts in Bangalore tragically killed a woman.
A little-known group called the “Indian Mujahideen” claimed responsibility for the bombing, although it is unusual for any group to make such a claim. It is believed it was a militant group from Pakistan that actually carried out the attack. Reuters’ Islamic analysts blamed the violence on the Indian government, due to its neglect of the poverty-stricken Muslim community. According to Uday Bhaskar, a security analyst and former director of New Delhi’s Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, the disenfranchisement of India’s Muslims has forced them to join the global/regional jihad. (www.jihadwatch.org) Is it really because Muslims faced discrimination by the kuffar — the unbelievers of India — or does it go much further back in history? The truth is that if one looks at the historical record, these attacks on the Hindus cannot be justified. Some of the major targets of these bombings have been Hindu Temples, and this has been happening for decades.
In light of these attacks on Hindu Temples by Islamic extremists during the last several decades, it is important to realize that this is not a modern phenomenon. While one cannot say it is not totally separate from issues such as Muslim independence from India in Kashmir, in reality the roots go much deeper in history. The ideology of Islamic supremacism has not changed, and it is this same religious fanaticism that resulted in the Islamic conquests of ancient India, from present day Afghanistan to southern India. To the pious Muslim rule by non- Muslims is still unacceptable, and the modern nation of India is still largely a pagan nation full of idolaters.
The point of this article is not to understand the dhimmis — people of the book — but rather the contrast that the idolaters faced from a historical viewpoint. What is the Islamic ideology behind the attacks on the Hindu people of India and their religion? What are its roots? Why did the Muslims destroy temples and other religious artifacts in India? Is this connected to the modern-day attacks in India?
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The great historian Will Durant clearly states that the “Mohammedan conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history.”2 He wrote these words prior to World War II, but even so, compared with the Muslim conquest of Christian and Jewish lands, the Muslim conquest of India was extremely brutal.
India was and still is largely Hindu, with some pockets of Buddhist and other assorted faiths, but under the teachings of Muhammad they were all idol worshippers. Unlike Christians, Jews and certain other groups, Hindus were not classified as “People of the Book”, and were not given the option to pay a protection tax called the jizya to be able to retain their faith.
People of the Book were given three choices: convert, pay the protection tax, or die. It was after paying this tax they moved from the House of War, Dar al-Harb, to the House of Peace, Dar al-Islam. Groups classified as idolaters were only given two choices: convert or die. Later on the kuffar (unbelievers) in India were given the same status as people of the book, but this only happened after their Muslim masters saw how lucrative it would be to tax these idolaters. Still, the Islamic conquests of India brought onto the Indians centuries of cruelty, even after they were granted dhimmi status.
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The first Muslim attack began with a raid on Multan, in the western Punjab region of India, and similar raids continued at the convenience of the invaders for the next three centuries. Eventually this led not only to conquest, but also to the establishment of Islam in the Indus Valley contemporaneously with the battles fought by its co-religionists against the Franks at the Battle of Tours in 731 AD. However, the real conquest of Hindu/Buddhist lands did not come fully into fruition until the turn of first millennium after Christ.
In any case, military contact by the “peaceful” armies of Islam in pagan India resulted in conversion, destruction of property such as temples, outright slaughter, enslavement, and pillaging. These brutal attacks continued for the next 500 years, bringing war upon the kuffar from Afghanistan to southern India. The invasions caused the destruction of many temples throughout the lands of India, and in some cases eliminated Hindu and Buddhist culture from certain regions forever. Other groups such as the Jains faced the same threat from Islam.1
Arab conquests: the beginning
It was after the complete conquest of Persia under the Sassanid Dynasty in 637 AD that the boundaries of the Caliphate touched the frontiers of India, known as Hind va Sind by the Arabs. It was natural that India could not escape the attention of the Islamic expansionists, whose eyes were ever-hungry for converts, conquest, loot, and slaves.
The raids started in the territories of Sind by land and sea. At first the progress of invading Arab armies was slow, and they faced numerous defeats due to stiff resistance. “For the declaration of objectives of Muslim invaders had not taken into account the potentialities of India’s stiff and latent resistance.”1
Subsequent invasions were repulsed, and the Arabs enjoyed little success until they began to invade from the northwest, emboldened by the earlier annex of Khurasan in 643 AD. The first Arab army penetrated into Zabul, or present day Afghanistan, which at that time was part of India territorially as well as culturally. The Arabs were driven out of Zabul, but later reconquered the territory under Arab General Abdul Rahman, forcing Kabul to pay tribute to the Muslim conquerors.1
The attempts to conquer southern India continued by land and sea, but the first subjugation of India proper began in 712 AD with a full-fledged invasion. The main purpose of the invasion of India was the spread of Islam into the region. The Qur’an clearly says, “fight against them (the Mushriks) until idolatry is no more and Allah’s religion reins supreme” The one thing these Muslims knew about the inhabitants of India was they were idol-worshippers and infidels, which led to only one conclusion: conquest. This is repeated in Sura 69 “Lay hold of him and bind him. Burn him in the fire of Hell,” and again “When you meet the unbelievers in the battlefield strike off their heads and when you have laid them low, bind your captives firmly.”
The invading Muslims knew about their duty concerning such idol worshippers with the instructions coming from three sources: the Qur’an, the Hadith, and the personal exploits of Muhammad himself. The supreme Qur’an taught them to fight the kuffar or unbeliever with all their strength until they were subdued. It was their pious duty to convert them and destroy their idols, shrines and temples.
“The Jihad or Holy War is a multi-dimensional concept. It means fighting for the sake of Allah, for the cause of Islam, for converting people to the true faith.”1 The central theme in Islam is iconoclasm and razing pagan temples, often to replace them with mosques. It is justified by Quranic revelation, and the examples are written in the Sunnah of Muhammad, who destroyed Arab temples, thus, setting an example for his followers. This example was carried into India, or anywhere else they came in contact with Kuffar. Without jihad there would be no Islam, and jihad is the duty of every true Muslim alive, from the time of the Prophet Muhammad until today.1
History does testify to the destruction caused by incursion of the religion of peace into India, which started with the Arabs.1
The Arab Jihad on Indian culture
A clear example of the destruction of the Hindu/Buddhist culture and their temples can be seen in the siege of Debal by Muhammad bin Qasim; who marched into India with a large military expedition. His forces were supplied by Muhammad Harun, the governor of Makran, with weapons of siege warfare such as five catapults. Debal was located on the coast, and was so called because of its Deval or temple. Qasim arrived at the city walls in late 711 or early 712 AD with about 20,000 foot soldiers and cavalry. The Muslims gave the initial invitation to convert, and many in the lower rung of society known as the Jats and Meds, who were thoroughly uneducated, accepted this invitation and flocked to the standard of Islam. Their main motivation was the hope of more material gain and the desire to escape from the Hindu caste system.
Much of the population in India — such as the Buddhists, who were totally averse to fighting — was passive; their faith taught them to avoid bloodshed. Many people were indifferent to invasion, but some resisted. K.S Lal states, “In such a situation it were only Raja Dahir of Sind, his Kshatriya soldiers and Brahman Priests of the Temple who were called upon to defend their cities and shrines, citadels and country. This is based upon a Muslim source and should be accepted with caution.”1
In the latter part of the siege of Debal, defectors informed Muhammad about how the temple could be captured. Following their information, the Arabs planted their ladders on the walls of the citadel and stormed over them. Once they took Debal the citizens were given the invitation to accept Islam and upon refusal the males were slaughtered and the women and children were taken into slavery. The carnage lasted for three days: looting, plundering, and rape. Their temple was razed, and was replaced by a mosque. Muhammad left a garrison of 4,000 soldiers in the town. The spoils of conquest were divided first among the leadership and then the common soldiers, and this would be repeated again and again with continued Islamic conquests. “As this was the pattern of all future sieges of Muhammad bin Qasim — as indeed of all future Muslim invaders of Hindustan — it may be repeated. Inhabitants of a captured fort or town were invited to accept Islam or face death.”1 India would face three major invasions over the centuries, beginning with the Arabs and continuing with the Seljuk Turks in the 11th century AD. Over and over again the same scenario repeated itself, with those who converted being spared and those who did not accept the religion of peace being massacred or enslaved. In every case their temples were destroyed, along with all the idols within them, and the remains of the temple were used to build a mosque on the former temple site.1 Later Turkish invasions would even be more brutal.
Example: Jihad by the Turks on the Indian culture
The Turkic Seljuk tribes who had converted to Islam were no less destructive to India’s largely Hindu and Buddhist population. Like the Arabs, the Turks gave the same invitation to convert or die.
In the year 997 AD a Turkish chieftain by the name of Mahmud in eastern Afghanistan cast an envious eye at the wealth across the Indian frontier, because his throne was new and his kingdom was poor. Mahmud knew the kuffar in India were extremely wealthy and he wanted their riches for himself. Using a zeal against idolatry as a pretext for war, he swept across their frontiers with a force inspired by a pious lust for booty. He slaughtered the unprepared Hindus at Bhimnagar, pillaged their cities, and destroyed their temples, carrying away the accumulated treasures of centuries. He returned to his capital in Afghanistan with so much loot that he astonished foreign ambassadors by displaying “jewels and unbored pearls and rubies shining like sparks or like wine congealed with ice, and emeralds like fresh sprigs of myrtle and diamonds in size and weight like pomegranates.”2 Each winter he returned and invaded India to fill his treasure chests and allow his men to pillage and kill, only to return to his capital richer than before.2
At the town of Mathura, Mahmud looted from the temple gold statues encrusted with precious stones and emptied its coffers of gold, silver and jewels. At the same time he expressed an admiration for the architecture of the city’s great shrine, and he judged that its duplication would cost him about one hundred million dinars and the labor of 200 years. He then ordered it soaked with naphtha and burnt to the ground. Six years later he sacked a city in Northern India called Somnath, and murdered all 50,000 of its inhabitants, although at other times he spared the population to be taken to his capital as slaves.2
The whole scenario in this conflict between India and the Muslim world would continue even after India became independent from Great Britain. The separation of India into Pakistan only confirms the hostility by some Muslim groups against their kuffar neighbors.
It is still clear that the main objective of radical Muslims in destroying Hindu temples was laid out by the examples of their Prophet Muhammad. For pious Muslim these temples are not only full of idols or false gods, but are an affront to the Unity of God — after all, there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger.
Islam is not only a religion but it is a political system which does not tolerate rule by the infidel kuffar, let alone Hindu idolaters. Until the day comes when Islam is reformed, as Christianity has been, there will be no peace between radical Muslims and the non-Muslim population of India. The bombing of Hindu temples and other property will likely continue even if Kashmir gains independence from India.
Radical Islam only respects strength and courage. This fact is supported by Spero Vyronis in Medieval Historiography. In his book he states that during the First Crusade the only virtue that Arabs respected the Franks (French) for was their courage. This can be no less true for the government of India and, yes, the USA as well.
If we do not learn from history then we will never be able to deal with the Islamic threat. Respect will only come from the Muslim world by carrying a bigger stick.
Anestos Canelides has a master’s degree in history from Eastern Washington University, and lives in Arizona.
K.S. Lal, The Legacy of Jihad: Muslims Invade India, Prometheus Books
Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, Simon and Schuster. New York, 1954