By Dr. Abbas Hamdani, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (U.S.A.)
About the end of the 3rd/9th century, even before the Fatimid Caliphate was established on the North African soil, the Fatimid mission was at work in many countries including India. On this point we have the evidence of the learned Qadi an-Nu'man (d.363/974), Chief Qadi of the Fatimid Caliph al-Mu'izz (d. 365/976), who states that in 270/883 the Yamani Da'i Abul Qasim b. Hawshab Mansur al-Yaman sent his nephew al-Haytham as da'i (missionary) to Sind and the Da'wa (mission) spread to Hind. We also have Rashid ad-din's account of Fatimid da'is in India during the period prior to the Fatimid conquest of North Africa2. A marginal note in Juwayni corroborates the same account3.
Having made a beginning in Sind, the Da'wa continued to grow and gradually permeated other areas, such as Multan, Gujrat and the Punjab and by the time of the Fatimid Caliph al-Mu'izz, it had quite a large following. This is recorded by the same Qadi an-Nu'man4 and his contemporary, the geographer Ibn Hawqals.
Since the Arab conquest of Sind by Muhammad b. Qasim during the time of the Umayyad Caliph Walid, the Arab Muslim power was firmly established in this province. In 258/871, the 'Abbasid Caliph Mu'tamid practically handed over the province to the famous Saffarid leader Ya'qub b. Layth, who was considerably responsible for the spread of Shi'ism in Sind. On the latter's death in 265/878, the Muslim territories in Sind were divided between two independent chiefs, those of Multan and Mansurah (Bahamanabad)6.
By 279/892 Multan passed into the hands of an Arab dynasty. Banu Sama, founded by one Asad Qurashi. The population, however, remained Hindu (referred to as "Majus" in our sources) and worshipped a famous idol Aditya (Sun God), venerated even by the Arab princes. In 347/958 we find a Fatimid mission active in the city, trying to convert the local inhabitants to Islam. However, the da'i in-charge of this mission showed signs of disloyalty and the Fatimid Caliph al-Mu'izz was trying to replace him, when the da'i was killed in a riding accident7.
Next year a new da'i was sent to Multan. He was Jalam b. Shayban. He had great success in converting the local people to Islam and bringing them within Fatimid loyalty8. In fact he succeeded in deposing the Arab prince and putting him to death, thus establishing Ismaili rule in Multan. On this occasion, the Fatimid Caliph sent him instructions in a letter dated 354/965, the full text of which has come down to us9. During Da'i Jalam's rule the famous geographer and traveller, al-Muqaddasi, visited Multan. He gives the year as 375/985 and writes: "The people of Multan are Shi'a...... In Multan the Khutba is read in the name of the Fatimid Caliph of Egypt and the place is administered by his orders. Gifts are regularly sent from here to Egypt".10 About the social life of Multan under Ismaili rule, al-Muqaddasi gives the following picture: ".Multan is smaller than Mansurah in size, but has a large 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 with 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 in abounds 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 any one in the streets. The water is healthy and the standard of living high. There is happiness, well-being and culture here, Persian is understood. Profits of business are 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. In Multan, the coin is minted on the style of the Fatimid Egyptian coin, but the Qanhari coins are commonly used 11."
At the time of al-Muqaddasi's visit in 375/985. Multan still had its idol Aditya, but al-Biruni informs us that the Da'i Jalam b. Shayban destroyed it along with a mosque built during Umayyad times and in their place built a new mosque 12. This must have been in 376/986 shortly after al-Muqaddasi's visit.
We have no information about the date of Da'i Jalam's death. Farishta 13 says that the next ruler of Multan was Shaykh Hamid, another Isma'ili da'i, and probably the son 14 of Jalam b. Shayban. Da'i Hamid ruled up to approximately 387/997 15. The Ghaznawid Amir Sabuktagin invaded Multan in 381/991, but later made a truce with Shaykh Hamid, as Isma'ili Multan served as a buffer-state between the rising Turkish power of Ghazna and the old Hindu rulers-the Imperial Pratiharas of Kanauj.
Sabuktagin's successor, the famous Mahmud of Ghazna, was temperamentally adverse to compromise but was sworn enemy of lsma'ilism. He broke the truce by invading Multan in 396/1005. At this time the Isma'ili da'i Abu'l-Futuh Da'ud b. Nasr, the grandson of Shaykh Hamid, was ruling Multan. Tiring of the seven days siege of the town laid by Mahmud, Abu'l-Futuh agreed to pay tribute to the Sultan and Mahmud withdrew to Ghazna. Returning in 401/1010, the Ghaznawid finally annexed Multan, took Abu'l-Futuh prisoner and massacred many Isma'ilis. Abul-Futuh died in a prison in Ghazna 16.
So came to an end the Ismaili rule in Multan. It had lasted from 354/965 to 401/1010 - about half a century. The Da'is of Multan constituted an Arab dynasty of three rulers under the sovereignty of Fatimid Egypt. After the fall of this dynasty Isma'ilism did not disappear from Multan. In fact it even became a ruling creed at the nearby Mansurah. But with this later history we are not concerned here.17
* This article is based on my monograph: The Beginnings of the Isma'ili Da'wa in Northern India, Sirovics, Cairo, 1956.
1. lftitah ad-Da'wa, ed. Wudad al-Qadi. Beirut. 1970, 45. This account is copied verbatim in Da'i Idris: Uyun al-Akhbar (ms. Hamdani coll.) VI. f. 38.
2. Excerpts from Rashid ad-din in R. Levy: "Isma'ili Doctrines in the Jami 'at-tawarikh etc."
3. Ta'rikh Jahan Gusha'i, G.M.S. (1937), III, 248-249 (being marginal note to p. 154.1. 8).
4. Ibid., 45-46.
5. AI-Masalik, ad. Kramers. II. 410, 11 7-12 (also see foot-notes). Cf. De Goeje: Memories sur les Carmathes, note on p. 196.
6. Majumdar. Raychudhuri and Datta: Advanced History of India, London, 1953, 275.
7. Qadi an-Nu'man: Al-Majalis wa'l -Musayarat (ms.), quoted in S.M. Stern: "Heterodox Isma'ilism at the time of al-Mu'izz". B.S.O.A.S., XVII/I
8. Al-Biruni (5th/1 lth Century): India (ed. Sachau), text. 56; trans. 116-117 corroborated by the Isma'ili historian, the da'i Idris 'Imad ad-din (d. 872/1467): Uyun (ms. Hamdani coil.), Vi. f. 100 seq. Also see Drefremery: Histoire des Isma'ilis de la Perse," J.A. VIII. (1856), 381 and Reinaud: "Fragments Arabe et Persan relatifs a 1' Inde, II". J.A. (1844). 283-84, note 2.
9. Idris:Uyun, ff.114-117. See S.M. Stern: "Isma'ili Propaganda and the Fatimid Rule in Sind." Islamic culture, (Oct. 1949). 298-307: trans. in S.M. Stern: "Heterodox lsma'ilism in the time of al-Mu'izz.." B.S.O.A.S.. XVII/I.
10. Ahsan at-Taqasirn (Leiden ad.). 481.
11. Ibid., 481-482.
12. Al - Biruni, ibid.
13. Ta'rikh Farishta (Nawal Kishor ed.), I, 17-18.
14. In the learned opinion of Mawlana Sulayman Nadvi: 'Arab-o-Hind ke Ta'alluqat (Allahabad. 1930). 326.
15. The year of the Ghaznawid Sabuktagin's death. Farishta (ibid.) considers Shaykh Hamid contemporary to Sabuktagin.
16. Gardizi (d. 441/1049): Zayn af-Akhbar (Berlin. 1928), 67-69. Farishta gives another version. While Gardizi is silent about the race of the Isma'ili ruler. Farishta considers him to be of Pathan origin. They differ also on the route of Mahmud's invasion. Again Farishta makes Abu'l-Futuh run away with his treasures to Ceylon.
As Mawlana Sulayman Nadvi points out (op. cit., 331-332) Gardizi's account it to be preferred, because he was contemporary to the events described, and lived and wrote in the Ghaznawid capital itself.
Farishta not only wrote much later, but had a tendency to melodramatic inaccuracy.
17. For a detailed account of this period, see my monograph: Beginnings of Isma'ili Da'wa in Northern India, referred to above.
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