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ISMAILI RULE IN SIND AND HIND

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

"The Abbasid caliph al-Mutamid (d. 279/892) had handed over the charge of Sind to the Saffarid chief, Yaqub bin Layth, in order to divert his intentions from attacking Iraq. As a result, Yaqub bin Layth acquired the power of Sind, Balkh and Tabaristan. He however recited the Abbasid khutba, and was simultaneously responsible to spread Shi'ism in the territories he governed. He died in 265/892, and with his departure, the Muslim territories in Sind had been divided into two main states, i.e., the State of Multan and Mansurah. In 279/892, the State of Multan passed into the hands of an Arab dynasty, called Banu Samah, founded by the clan of Asad.

Meanwhile, Ibn Hawshab had sent al-Haytham in 270/884 from Yamen to Sind for Ismaili propaganda. He operated the Ismaili mission that continued under the charge of different da'is. The early accounts are so meager that nothing can be gleaned about the missionary activities. It is however possible that they had spread in the State of Multan during the period of Samah rule. Qadi Noman (d. 363/974) writes in Iftitah al-Dawa (comp. 346/957) that, "The mission in Sind goes back to the early days of the Ismaili movement. Abul Qassim bin Hawshab, well-known under the name of Mansur al-Yamen, sent his cousin, al-Haytham, as a da'i to the country of Sind, the latter converted many of its inhabitants and his mission still exists in Sind." It suggests that the Fatimid mission in Sind was in operation from 270/884 to 346/957. During the time of Imam al-Muizz (d. 365/975), it is reliably known that a certain unknown da'i, who had tied close relations with the ruling Samah dynasty and neglected in his duty, and acted contrary to the policy of the mission. Qadi Noman writes in his Kitab al-Majalis wa'l Musayarat (comp. 351/962) that, "In the time of al-Muizz in 347/958, there was in charge of the mission in Sind a da'i, whose views and conduct were utterly at variance with the Ismailism taught by the Imam and his close associates. Not only did he adopt a latitudinarian attitude towards those members of his flock who had made a direct passage from their old religion to Ismailism; whom he allowed to keep many of the un-Islamic practices of their former religion, but he even relaxed certain statutes of Islam for those who had been Sunni Muslims before joining Ismailism."

It suggests that the Ismaili faith penetrated among the non-Muslims and the Sunni Muslims in Sind, but the retention of certain practices of their former cults had been seriously noticed in Egypt. This unknown da'i was ultimately killed in a riding accident in 348/959, and according to the statement of Qadi Noman, another da'i called Jaylam bin Shayban was recommended by Imam al-Muizz to the headquarters of Yamen. Jaylam bin Shayban most probably proceeded to Sind via Khorasan, and seized Multan after overthrowing the ruling dynasty, and founded a Fatimid vassal state in Upper Indus Valley in 349/960. In another passage quoted by Uyun'l Akhbar (6:222), Qadi Noman summed up the Ismaili mission in Sind as follows: - "The mission of the ruler of the epoch (wali al-zaman) has emerged victoriously in Sind, his faithful followers earned glory; his da'i there conquered the ruler of the kingdom of Sind who was a Zoroastrian, killed him and his men and destroyed the idol which they used to worship and made a mosque of the temple in which the idol used to stand." It implies that there had been a firm foothold of the idolatrous in Sind, most possibly the Hindus, not Zoroastrians, and their domination throughout Sind was like their rule in Sind, which was wiped out by the Fatimid da'is, but the actual destruction of the rule in Sind was practically the Samah dynasty. It also suggests that Jaylam bin Shayban had faced challenges of both the Hindus and Samah dynasty.

Ibn Hawqal is generally quoted to have narrated the existence of the Samah rule in 358/968, and after him Maqadisi reported the Fatimid rule in Multan in 375/985. With the accounts of Ibn Hawqal and Maqadisi, the scholars almost determined the Fatimid foothold in Multan between 358/968 and 375/985, which seems unlikely. Ibn Hawqal started his famous journey from Baghdad in 331/943, and returned back in 358/976, and was in the African lands in the following year, and since 361/972 he had been in Sicily. The year of the termination of his work, according to Barthold, is held to be 367/978. With all this in mind at now, it is quite possible that the narration of Multan given by Ibn Hawqal cannot be dated as 358/968. Istakhri (d. 404/1014) also gives the details of Multan for the year 340/951 when he met Ibn Hawqal at Indus Valley. While examining the extracts of these two travellers, we will safely arrive to the conclusion that Ibn Hawqal had borrowed his information of Multan from Istakhri in 340/951, and himself was not in Multan in the year 358/968. Thus, the account of Ibn Hawqal relates to the year of 340/961 he had actually acquired from Istakhri. According to Barthold (vide Barthold's Preface in Hudud al-Alam, tr. by Minorsky, London, 1937, p. 20), Ibn Hawqal was in Mosul in 358/968, and writes, "The manuscript, which Sir W. Ouseley took for a copy of the translation of Ibn Hawqal and edited as such was found to be an abridged version of Istakhri's book." It further suggests that the account of the ruling Samah dynasty in Multan reported by Ibn Hawqal in 358/968 relates to the year 340/951, and the product of De Geoji's research in this context also testifies the fact. Sir H.M. Elliot's The History of India (Lahore, 1976, 1:26) also describes that, "Istakhri was a little anterior in point of time to Ibn Hawqal, but these two travellers met in the valley of the Indus, and exchanged observations. A comparison of the extracts will show how Ibn Hawqal availed himself of his contemporary writings, and made them the basis of his own work."

The Fatimid foothold in Multan therefore seems to have existed between 340/951 and 358/968. The early accounts are too vogue to permit of any solid inference concerning an exact influence of the Fatimid in Multan. We however come to know from a rare letter of Imam al-Muizz written in 354/965 addressing to Jaylam bin Shayban, the then Ismaili ruler of Multan, in which he acknowledged the report of Multan's occupation. It further transpires that the Fatimid vassal state was founded in Multan before 354/968. The anonymous geographical work, entitled Hudud al-Alam (The Regions of the World) compiled in 372/982, giving also the accounts of Multan, and its source of information is also Istakhri and Ibn Hawqal. The author however admits the existence of the Fatimid rule in Multan during the period he compiled his work in 372/982. It writes that, "Its governor is a Quraishite from the descendants of Sam. He lived at a camp half of farasang (from Multan) and reads the khutba in the name of the Western One (bar Maghribi)." In this context, the author of Hudud al-Alam shows the Samah dynasty as the rulers of Multan, suggesting that he had extracted from Istakhri and Ibn Hawqal. While his expression bar maghribi (Western One), according to Minorsky (Ibid. p. 246) refers to the Fatimids; also suggesting a report of his own period he had known. It may also be possible that the author of Hudud al-Alam had known in his time that the rulers of Samah dynasty recited the khutba of the Fatimids instead of Abbasids, making Jaylam bin Shayban, as the then Samah ruler.

In sum, it has been indicated previously that the Fatimid da'i Jaylam bin Shayban founded the Ismaili rule in the State of Multan in 349/960. Multan was a state of antiquity. For Hindus, it was the navel of the world. The Arabs called it the Bayt al-Zahab, and for the Mughal's it was Dar al-Aman. The State of Multan does not mean the present location of the city, but it was a big state, including whole Punjab and the region of Sind. Jaylam bin Shayban had solidified his hold and extended his power. His immediate neighbours in the north were the Hindu Shahis, who ruled the territory from Lamghan to the river of Chinab and from the hills of southern Kashmir to the frontier kingdom of Multan. He established friendly relations with the Hindu Shahis. He is reported to have demolished the famous Suraj Temple and smashed the highly venerated idol, called Aditya (sun-god), and built a big mosque in the city. Writing for Jaylam bin Shayban, al-Biruni (d. 430/1039) writes that, "He broke the idol into pieces and killed its priests. He made his mansion, which was a castle built of bricks on an elevated place." (vide Alberuni's India, Lahore, 1962, 1:157). It is also reported by al-Biruni that when Muhammad bin Kassim conquered Multan, he inquired how the town had become so flourishing and huge treasure had there been accumulated, and then he found that this idol was the cause, for there came pilgrims from all sides to visit it. He thought it best to have the idol where he was. According to Istakhri in Kitab al-Masalik wa'l Mamlik (comp. 340/951), "The temple of the idol is a strong edifice, situated in the most populous part of the city, in the market of Multan, between the bazar of the ivory dealers and the shops of the copper-smiths. The idol is placed under a cupola in the midst of the building, and the ministers of the idol and those devoted to its service dwell around the cupola. The idol has a human shape, and is seated with its legs bent in a quadrangular posture on a throne made of brick and mortar, and its hands resting upon its knees, with the fingers closed. Its whole body is covered with a red skin like Morocco leather, and nothing but its eyes are visible, made of precious gems, and its head is covered with a crown of gold."

Jaylam bin Shayban started the new coinage in the State of Multan, known as Qahirya minted in Egypt in the name of the Fatimids. It was equivalent in weight to five Iraqian dhirams. He also started the Fatimid khutba to be read in the mosques. He was in close contact with Imam al-Muizz, and reported the progress he made during his operation. According to Uyun'l Akhbar (6:214), "There arrived a letter from him (Jaylam bin Shayban), in which he mentioned the victory which God has granted him in the jazira of Sind and the dominion which the "Friends of God" had acquired there. He mentioned that he had broken the idol for the destructions of which he had previously asked the Imam's permission. He addressed to the Imam certain questions concerning the restoration of religion and abolition of the changes introduced by the former wicked da'i, who had wandered upon the path of transgressors. He also consulted the Imam about several matters concerning the laws (fiqh) and permitted and prohibited things (al-halal wa'l haram) and about problems of allegorical interpretation (tawil), the knowledge of which has been given by God to the "people of meditation" (ahl al-zikr), Imam after Imam. The Imam answered him by a sijill which is very famous and well known and is written down in the pages of the books." The reply of Imam al-Muizz to the letter of Jaylam bin Shayban is cited in Uyun'l Akhbar (6:219) which reads: "Referring to what you have written that God has granted you a victory over those who had attacked you and wanted to oust you from your place; that terrible battles have been fought between you, till God gave you the victory, by His help and assistance and you exterminated them completely; that you destroyed their idol and built a mosque on its site. What a great favour, what manifest and palpable excellence and lasting glory is that from God! We would be very much pleased if you could send us the head of that idol; it would accrue to your lasting glory and would inspire your brethren at our end to increase their zeal and their desire to unite with you in a common effort in the cause of God. The realization of God's promise to us, which used to seem so remote, has, indeed, become imminent...." In the concluding lines, Imam al-Muizz writes: "We have sent you some of our banners, which you can unfurl in case of need. Whenever they are unfurled over the heads of the believers, God increases their glory by the banners and hails them with His assistance; on the other hand, when they are unfurled over the heads of the unbelievers, the banners humiliate their pride and overwhelm them by the power of God, Who is our Benefactor....Written on Sunday, the 19th Ramzan, of the year 354."

After getting directions from his spiritual master, Jaylam bin Shayban attained both religious and political achievements in the State of Multan. No further details are accessible from the contemporary or later sources. It is however known from the fragments of the sources that the Abbasids assisted the remains of the clan of Munabbah in the State of Multan against the Fatimid ruler. Before the time the operation might threaten the Fatimid foothold, Jaylam bin Shayban took field against them in 373/983 and destroyed the remaining ashes of the Munabbah dynasty. Maqadisi was in Sind in 375/985 and writes in his Ahsan al-taqasim (p. 485) that, "In Multan the khutba is recited in the name of the Fatimid and all decisions are taken according to his commands. Their envoys and presents go regularly to Egypt. He (Jaylam) is a powerful and just ruler." Maqadisi further adds: "Multan is smaller than Mansurah in size, but has a larger population. Fruits are not found in plenty; yet they are sold cheaper......Like Siraf, Multan has wooden homes. There is no bad conduct and drunkenness here, and people convicted of these crimes are punished by death or by some heavy sentence. Business is fair and honest. Travellers are looked after well. Most of the inhabitants are Arabs. They live by a river. The place abounds in vegetation and wealth. Trade flourishes here. Good manners and good living are noticed everywhere. The government is just. Women of the town are modestly dressed with no make-up and hardly found talking to anyone in the streets. The water is healthy and the standard of living high. There is happiness, well-being and culture here. Persian is understood. Profit of business is high. People are healthy, but the town is not clean. Houses are small. The climate is warm and arid. The people are of darkish complexion." (Ibid. pp. 481-2) Jaylam bin Shayban died probably in 376/986. "It may be summarized" says Dr. Ahmad Nabi Khan in his Multan, History and Architecture (Lahore, 1983, p. 38) "that his rule was benevolent and the people prospered under him." He was succeeded by his son, Shaikh Hamid, who ruled till 387/997. In 385/995, Shaikh Hamid is reported to have sent a deputation from Multan to Cairo to meet Imam al-Aziz along with presents. Abu Jabbar Hamdani (d. 415/1025) also confirmed the arrival of such deputation from Multan in 385/995 at Cairo in his Tathbit Dala'il Nubuwwat (p. 180).

Alaptagin (d. 352/963) had founded the kingdom of the Ghaznavids in Afghanistan, and was succeeded by his son, Abu Ishaq Ibrahim (d. 355/966). Bilkatagin (d. 364/974), the slave of Alaptagin rose to the power as the third ruler. Piritagin (d. 366/977), another slave of Alaptagin ascended as the fourth ruler, and the fifth ruler was Sabatagin (d. 387/997), and his son and successor, Mehmud (d. 421/1030) had seized Ghazna and made it his capital. In 381/991, Sabatagin, the fifth Ghaznavid ruler had raided Multan, and concluded a truce with Shaikh Hamid, since the Ismaili ruler of Multan served a buffer state between the rising Turkish power of Ghazna, and the old Hindu Shahis. After the death of Sabatagin, his son Mehmud, known as Mehmud of Ghazna; the sworn enemy of Ismailism, had violated the above truce, and invaded Multan in 395/1005.

In 391/1001, Mehmud debouched from the snow-clad hills along the north-western frontier of India, marched through the Khaibar Pass and swooped down upon India. Between 391/1001 and 421/1030, he invaded India no fewer than 12 times. When he was returning from his expedition to Bhatinda in 395/1005, Abul Fateh Dawood bin Nasr, the grandson of Shaikh Hamid is said to have resented the passage of his army through the province of Multan, and as a result, Mehmud is supposed to have invaded Multan in 396/1006. Utabi however writes in Kitabu'l Yamini (comp. 411/1020) that, "Abul Fateh Dawood's adherence to the Ismailism was the root cause of Mehmud's invasion." Mehmud laid a siege over Multan, and exhausted with the seven days siege of the town due to the shortage of supplies, Abul Fateh Dawood was forced to pay a large sum of ransom to him, and it was also concluded that the reign of Multan facing the Indus River would remained under the Ghaznavid occupation.

In 401/1010, Mehmud once again spurred his horses towards Multan through opposite route, and crossed Khyber with a view to invade Multan after passing through Lahore. Anandpal, the son of Jaypal (d. 393/1002), the king of Hindu Shahis at Lahore did not allow Mehmud to pass through his territory, and himself commanded his army to block Mehmud at Peshawer, but was swept away before the mighty forces of the invaders. Mehmud entered Multan via Bhatinda, and launched a terrible massacre. Besides being greedy of wealth in plundering, Mehmud was a fanatical and cruel, and a special fierce enemy of the Ismailis. His aggressive operation is attested by al-Baghdadi (d. 429/1037), who writes in Kitab al-Firaq (p. 277) that, "The Ismailis of Multan were massacred in thousand by Mehmud." Gardizi writes in Zainu'l Akhbar (comp. 441/1048) that, "Mehmud arrested the majority of the Ismailis, who lived in Multan, killed and chopped off the hands of some and punished them severely." According to Tarikh-i Firishta (comp. 1015/1606) that, "A large number of the Ismailis were slaughtered. Hands and feet of a large number of them were ruthlessly amputated." Muhammad bin Mansur writes in Adabu'l Muluk wa Kifayatu'l Mamluk (comp. 615/1228) that Mehmud put so many Ismailis to the sword by himself that, "a stream of blood flowed from the Lohari Gate in Multan, which was on the western side of the town, and that the hand of Sultan Mehmud was stuck fast to the hilt of the sword on account of congealed blood, and has to be immersed in a bath of hot water before it could be loosened." In sum, after a bloody slaughter and savage persecution, Mehmud gained a booty of two crore dinars from the local citizens as a price of refraining from further horrible massacres. Thus, Multan was annexed to the Ghaznavid dominions. Abul Fateh Dawood, the then Ismaili ruler was taken prisoner and was imprisoned in the fort of Ghurak, about 50 miles northwest of Kandhar, and died there around 406/1015. So came to an end of the Fatimid rule in the State of Multan. It lasted for over a half century. The da'is in Multan constituted a dynasty of three rulers and were of Arab race.

Before long, however, the Ismaili power again revived in Multan by the descendant of Abul Fateh Dawood. In 572/1176, Shihabuddin Ghori (d. 602/1206) in his bid to revive Mehmud's tradition, had captured Multan. The small Ismaili state of Multan could not withstand the onslaught of the mighty military machine of the Ghorids, and according to Tabaqat-i Nasiri (comp. 658/1260), "The sultan snatched away Multan from the hands of the Ismailis in 572/1176." The underground organization of the scattered Ismailis however continued the mission for a long time without having direct contact with the Imams.

During the Fatimid rule in Multan, there existed one Sunni rule below Multan in Mansurah, known as the Habbarids, belonging to the Arab clan of Asad. Umar Habbar bin al-Asad (d. 270/884) had founded the Habbarid rule in 247/861 at Mansurah. Masudi writes that Mansurah was about 75 farasangs (each farasang in India consisted 8 miles) from Multan. It was a main city of Sind, about a mile long and mile broad; but the whole State of Mansurah comprised of three lac small villages, extending from Shahadadpur to the coast of Makran, Gwadar and Muscat with a large hinterland of Baluchistan. It also included the eastern delta of the Indus, extending from lower Sind to Aror. The State of Mansurah was famous for having a city and port, called Daibal.

The Fatimids had taken serious notice of the brutal massacre of the Ismailis in Multan, and intended to prevent further terrible operations. Ibn Jawzi (d. 597/1200) writes in al-Muntazam (7:262) that, "In 403/1012, the Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim made his contact with Mehmud of Ghazna, asking him to join the Fatimid mission, and declare his loyalty." Since Mehmud had been granted the titles of Yaminud Dawla, Aminu'l Millat and Sultan by the Abbasid caliph Kadir billah (d. 422/1031), one of the sworn enemies at the throne of Baghdad, therefore, Mehmud does not appear to have accepted the offer. Being a devout orthodox ruler, he refused Imam al-Hakim's proposal. Mehmud sent the record of communication, after tearing them up, to the Abbasid court to demonstrate his loyalty. Mehmud had committed slaughters in 396/1006 and 401/1010 at Multan, and thus the rise of the vigorous Ghaznavid regime had become a threat to the Ismailis even in Iran. Imam al-Hakim may, therefore, have endeavoured to win Mehmud's friendship, if not loyalty, to ensure the interest of the Ismaili mission. To ensure the Abbasids that he had not acknowledged the Fatimids over the Abbasids, Mehmud proceeded to intensify his hostile operations against the Ismailis. He conquered Ray in 420/1029, and severely persecuted the Ismailis in Iran. According to Ibn Athir (9:262), "Thousands of them were gibbeted, stoned to death or carried in chains to Khorasan to languish in captivity. In Ray, their houses were searched and all books dealing with their doctrines were cast into flames. Fifty camel loads of books are said to have burnt under the trees on which the Ismailis were gibbeted. While of such books as remained after this act of wanton vandalism, Mehmud transported a hundred loads to Ghazna."

The Habbarid dynasty at Mansurah recited the Abbasid khutba. Under the rule of Yaqub bin Layth, a bulk of the Shi'ites seems to have flourished in Mansurah. During the massacres of the Ismailis in 401/1010 at Multan, the surviving Ismailis fled to Mansurah, and began to live there at first under the garb of the Shi'ites. Gradually, the Ismaili influence reverberated in Mansurah. The foothold of the Ismailis can be judged from the report that the last Habbarid ruler, Amaduddin Khafif had espoused Ismailism. It is seen that the descendants of the da'i al-Haytham were active in Multan as far as Mansurah. Thus, like Multan, Mansurah emerged as an Ismaili State soon to be wiped out by the sworn enemy of Ismailism. Mehmud turned his mighty forces towards Mansurah, and destroyed the Habbarid rule in 416/1025. Farruk Sistani (d. 429/1038), the contemporary writer and poet at the court of Mehmud, writes in his Diwan-i Farrukhi (p. 74) that, "Khafif, the last ruler had a large military resource, nevertheless, he did not fight and fled to the jungles, and was followed by the Ghaznavid soldiers." It seems probable that the army of Amaduddin Khafif comprised of the Sunni Muslims in large number, therefore, he did not rely upon them, and avoided to fight. He however acquired support of the Jats and Med tribes, inhabiting near the Indus river, and fought a guerilla war against his enemies. He was at length arrested and drowned into the river. The Ismailis who escaped Mehmud's sword, had gone underground in Sind and Punjab. It also seems that many Ismailis of Mansurah fled to Kutchh in Bahawalpur State, whose chief was Anag Pal, the relative of Shaikh Ibn Sumar Raja Pal. The scattered Ismailis in Sind however retained their close contact with the Imams in Egypt. It appears that the Fatimid Imam az-Zahir had formulated a new policy for Sind. Instead of sending the da'is from Yamen, one reputable and notable person was chosen in Sind to become the leader of the Ismailis; and as a result, the leading tribe of Sumra in Sind had been preferred in this context.
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