‘The Moslem Conquest of India’ – Will and Ariel Durant’s ‘The Story of Civilization’

01 Oriental Heritage

Here is the text of ‘The Moslem Conquest of India’ from ‘Story of Civilization’ by Will & Ariel Durant [Volume 1, Chapter 16]

The Mohammedan Conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precarious thing, whose delicate complex of order and liberty, culture and peace may at any time be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within.

The Hindus had allowed their strength to be wasted in internal division and war; they had adopted religions like Buddhism and Jainism, which unnerved them for the tasks of life; they had failed to organize their forces for the protection of their frontiers and their capitals, their wealth and their freedom, from the hordes of Scythians, Huns, Afghans and Turks hovering about India’s boundaries and waiting for national weakness to let them in.

For four hundred years (600-1000 A.D.) India invited conquest; and at last it came. The first Moslem attack was a passing raid upon Multan, in the western Punjab (664 A.D.) Similar raids occurred at the convenience of the invaders during the next three centuries, with the result that the Moslems established themselves in the Indus valley about the same time that their Arab co-religionists in the West were fighting the battle of Tours (732 A.D.) for the mastery of Europe.

But the real Moslem conquest of India did not come till the turn of the first millennium after Christ.

In the year 997 a Turkish chieftain by the name of Mahmud became sultan of the little estate of Ghazni, in eastern Afghanistan. Mahmud knew that his throne was young and poor, and saw that India, across the border, was old and rich; the conclusion was obvious. Pretending a holy zeal for destroying Hindu idolatry, he swept across the frontier with a force inspired by a pious aspiration for booty. He met the unprepared Hindus at Bhimnagar,slaughtered them, pillaged their cities, destroyed their temples, and carried away the accumulated treasures of centuries.

Returning to Ghazni he astonished the ambassadors of foreign powers 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.”

Each winter Mahmud descended into India, filled his treasure chest with spoils, and amused his men with full freedom to pillage and kill; each spring he returned to his capital richer than before.

At Mathura (on the Jumna) he took from the temple its statues of gold encrusted with precious stones, and emptied its coffers of a vast quantity of gold, silver and jewellery; he expressed his admiration for the architecture of the great shrine, judged that its duplication would cost one hundred million dinars and the labour of two hundred years, and then ordered it to be soaked with naphtha and burnt to the ground. Six years later he sacked another opulent city of northern India, Somnath, killed all its fifty thousand inhabitants, and dragged its wealth to Ghazni.

In the end he became, perhaps, the richest king that history has ever known. Sometimes he spared the population of the ravaged cities, and took them home to be sold as slaves; but so great was the number of such captives that after some years no one could be found to offer more than a few shillings for a slave. Before every important engagement Mahmud knelt in prayer, and asked the blessing of God upon his arms. He reigned for a third of a century; and when he died, full of years and honours, Moslem historians ranked him as the greatest monarch of his time, and one of the greatest sovereigns of any age.

Seeing the canonization that success had brought to this magnificent thief, other Moslem rulers profited by his example, though none succeeded in bettering his instruction. .In 1186 the Ghuri, a Turkish tribe of Afghanistan, invaded India, captured the city of Delhi,destroyed its temples, confiscated its wealth, and settled down in its palaces to establish the Sultanate of Delhi- an alien despotism fastened upon northern India for three centuries, and checked only by assassination and revolt.

The first of these bloody sultans, Kutb-ud-Din Aibak, was a normal specimen of his kind -fanatical, ferocious and merciless. His gifts, as the Mohammedan historian tells us, “were bestowed by hundreds of thousands, and his slaughters likewise were by hundreds of thousands.. “In one victory of this warrior (who had been purchased as a slave), “fifty thousand men came under the collar of slavery, and the plain became black as pitch with Hindus.”

Another sultan, Balban, punished rebels and brigands by casting them under the feet of elephants, removing their skins, stuffing these with straw and hanging them from the gates of Delhi. When some Mongolian habitants who had settled in Delhi, and had been converted to Islam, attempted arising, Sultan Ala-ud-din (the conqueror of Chitor) had all the males -from fifteen to thirty thousand of them – slaughtered in one day.

Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlak acquired the throne by murdering his father, became a great scholar and an elegant writer, dabbled in mathematics, physics and Greek philosophy,surpassed his predecessors in bloodshed and brutality, fed the flesh of a rebel nephew to the rebel’s wife and children, ruined the country with reckless inflation, and laid it waste with pillage and murder till the inhabitants fled to the jungle.

He killed so many Hindus that, in the words of a Moslem historian, “there was constantly in front of his royal pavilion and his Civil Court a mound of dead bodies and a heap of corpses, while the sweepers and executioners were wearied out by their work of dragging” the victims” and putting them to death in crowds.”

In order to found a new capital at Daulatabad he drove every inhabitant from Delhi and left it a desert; and hearing that a blind man had stayed behind in Delhi, he ordered him to be dragged from the old to the new capital, so that only a leg remained of the wretch when his last journey was finished.

The Sultan complained that the people did not love him, or recognize his undeviating justice. .He ruled India for a quarter of a century, and died in bed. His successor, Firoz Shah, invaded Bengal, offered a reward for every Hindu head, paid for 180,000 of them, raided Hindu villages for slaves, and died at the ripe age of eighty. Sultan Ahmad Shah feasted for three days whenever the number of defenseless Hindus slain in his territories in one day reached twenty thousand.

These rulers were often men of ability, and their followers were gifted with fierce courage and industry; only so can we understand how they could have maintained their rule among a hostile people so overwhelmingly outnumbering them. All of them were armed with a religion militaristic in operation, but far superior in its stoical monotheism to any of the popular cults of India; they concealed its attractiveness by making the public exercise of the Hindu religions illegal, and thereby driving them more deeply into the Hindu soul.

Some of these thirsty despots had culture as well as ability; they patronized the arts, and engaged artists and artisans–usually of Hindu origin– to build for them magnificent mosques and tombs; some of them were scholars, and delighted in converse with historians, poets and scientists. One of the greatest scholars of Asia, Alberuni, accompanied Mahmud of Ghazni to India,and wrote a scientific survey of India comparable to Pliny’s “Natural History” and Humboldt’s “Cosmos”.

The Moslem historians were almost as numerous as the generals, and yielded nothing to them in the enjoyment of bloodshed and war. The Sultans drew from the people every rupee of tribute that could be exacted by the ancient art of taxation, as well as by straightforward robbery; but they stayed in India, spent their spoils in India, and thereby turned them back into India’s economic life.

Nevertheless, their terrorism and exploitation advanced that weakening of Hindu physique and morale, which had been begun by an exhausting climate, an inadequate diet, political disunity, and pessimistic religions. The usual policy of the Sultans was clearly sketched by Ala-ud-din, who required his advisers to draw up “rules and regulations for grinding down the Hindus, and for depriving them of that wealth and property which fosters disaffection and rebellion.”

Half of the gross produce of the soil was collected by the government; native rulers had taken one-sixth. “No Hindu,” says a Moslem historian, “could hold up his head, and in their houses no sign of gold or silver…or of any superfluity was to be seen…. Blows, confinement in the stocks, imprisonment and chains, were all employed to enforce payment.”

When one of his own advisers protested against this policy, Alauddin answered: “Oh,Doctor, thou art a learned man, but thou hast no experience; I am an unlettered man, but I have a great deal. Be assured, then, that the Hindus will never become submissive and obedient till they are reduced to poverty. I have therefore given orders that just sufficient shall be left to them from year to year of corn, milk and curds, but that they shall not be allowed to accumulate and property.”

This is the secret of the political history of modern India. Weakened by division, it succumbed to invaders; impoverished by invaders, it lost all power of resistance, and took refuge in supernatural consolations; it argued that both mastery and slavery were superficial delusions, and concluded that freedom of the body or the nation was hardly worth defending in so brief a life. The bitter lesson that may be drawn from this tragedy is that eternal vigilance is the price of civilization. A nation must love peace, but keep its powder dry.

Here is the extract on Scribd.com:

14 comments for “‘The Moslem Conquest of India’ – Will and Ariel Durant’s ‘The Story of Civilization’

  1. Fukhruddin
    June 13, 2014 at 3:05 AM

    allah ko laga do tala. allah ne aakhiri nabi modi hai bheja, sabko sath vo le jayega. sanatani shivalay ho jao. gharVapsi ekhi upay. videshi arabi majahab ka bharatvarsh me kya kam, ban jao sanatan, lo ram ka nam.

    • Bharatiya
      March 2, 2015 at 6:24 AM

      That was a very refreshing view point. As long as there are people like you, no one will conquest our country. Jai Hind

    • Allan Walter
      December 21, 2015 at 7:11 AM

      do they went to US & Europe where Islam is fastest spreading religion?

      Ram ka naam badnam na karo.

  2. Ramesh
    March 2, 2015 at 2:20 AM

    I wish this can be forwarded to every Indian , Muslim citizens in particular, so that they know what the real history of Islam and its spread in India is.
    Thanks Tarek for bringing it to the notice of many, who will possibly read it. Knowledge is power and it comes form reading the history and literature. May every human read history pertinent to the area at least if not the entire world to think how we should avoid the mistakes of the past.

  3. Pavan
    December 20, 2015 at 9:01 AM

    Tarek sahab,
    Great info on the subject. Law of karma is showing effects on the muslim community world over. They are reaping what they have sown. All the cruely and hate that they have spread is coming back to their communities worldover. Its time for the people of the religion to atleast make changes to some of the verses in that book and change the young generation.

    • New Age
      December 20, 2015 at 10:41 AM

      Still Hindus remain divided. Why is it that many are not able to proudly say.. I am hindu and don’t need to attach a word like secularism to prove anything to the world? I belong to a people that have for centuries given refuge to people of all religions even Islam. You can be sure that the sad history mentioned above will repeat again.

  4. Abhishek
    December 21, 2015 at 1:17 AM

    Hi Tarek Saheb,
    History is always bitter. Knowing it will spread bitterness till we all learn to live in present.

    Hinduism was always a way of life, it was never a religion, but I think it get organized only due to foreign invasion on their way of life that resulted in superstition and rituals that we see today.

    I am seeing that with the help of yoga, Indians are slowly going back to their original way of life and with widespread interest in yoga also taking most of the foreign friends along. Once we are on that path, we will not care if one has a muslim name or christian name or hindu name. It will not be your belief vs my belief. It will be all about truth. Hope we all set on the spiritual path soon and leave and leave all religious baggage behind.


  5. Allan Walter
    December 21, 2015 at 7:09 AM

    well as far as i know, its another kind of spreading hatred among hindus & moslem.

    this book is full of wrong info. and no comment abt this tarek

  6. Allan Walter
    December 21, 2015 at 7:50 AM

    does this book wrote about british invaders,killed innocent hindustanis,divided India and Pakistan?

  7. Rahul
    December 25, 2015 at 11:39 AM

    sir ji tussi great ho shyaad hi koi dusra Aap jasie. shyad hi padia ho apki theory. great r

    hai par bhut kam apki baat ko badi gehrayi or
    dilchaspi se Sun ko atur hote hoge par. Jo bhi ho app gyaan ka P

    Pittra ho..

  8. Shubham
    December 26, 2015 at 1:12 PM

    Bitter for secular Indians but true

  9. Tulasi dass
    January 8, 2016 at 10:46 AM

    mr. Allan Walter he was speaking of muslim invasion not british invasion.

  10. Jahangeer
    July 30, 2017 at 1:27 PM

    These fools keep on barking over myths of the past. The arrogant Hindus who invadef India 4000 to 5000 years ago and kidnapped Arabs 1300 years ago got what was coming to them. Their wealth taken and their rebellious tendency crushed brutally. The source here is poorly researched, some elements are true, but Will Durant himself said it’s just general information made accessible to the reader. India was punished then, they oppress Kashmir and must be punished again.

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