Muslim conquests in the Indian subcontinent

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Muslim conquests in the Indian subcontinent mainly took place from the 12th to the 16th centuries, though earlier Muslim conquests made limited inroads into modern Afghanistan and Pakistan as early as the time of the Rajput kingdoms in the 7th century. With the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate, Islam spread across large parts of the subcontinent.

Quotes from pre-19th century sources[edit]

  • Mahmud utterly ruined the prosperity of the country, and performed there wonderful exploits, by which the Hindus became like atoms of dust scattered in all directions, and like a tale of old in the mouth of the people. Their scattered remains cherish, of course, the most inveterate aversion towards all Muslims.... Hindu sciences have retired far away from those parts of the country conquered by us, and have fled to places which our hand cannot yet reach, to Kashmir, Benaras and other places. And there the antagonism between them (the Hindus) and all foreigners receives more and more nourishment both from political and religious sources
    • Alberuni's India, vol. I, p. 22. Also quoted (in part) in Jain, Meenakshi (2011). The India they saw: Foreign accounts.
  • Having lifted Islam to the head, You have engulfed Hindustan in dread....
    Such cruelties have they inflicted, and yet Your mercy remains unmoved....
    Should the strong attack the strong the heart does not burn. But when the strong crush the helpless, surely the One who was to protect them has to be called to account....
    O' Lord, these dogs have destroyed this diamond-like Hindustan, (so great is their terror that) no one asks after those who have been killed, and yet You do not pay heed...
    • Guru Granth Sahib, [Mahla 1.360] quoted in Arun Shourie, "The Litmus Test of Whether Your History is Secular" [1] [2] and in Shourie, Arun (2014). Eminent historians: Their technology, their line, their fraud. Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India : HarperCollins Publishers.
  • Having subjugated Khuraasaan, Babar terrified Hindustaan
    So that blame does not come on Him, the Creator has sent the Mughal as the messenger of death
    So great was the slaughter, such the agony of the people, even then You felt no compassion, Lord?
    If some powerful man strikes another, one feels no grief But when a powerful tiger slaughters a flock of helpless sheep, its master must answer
    This jewel of a country has been laid waste and defiled by dogs, so much so that no one pays heed even to the dead…
    Guru Nanak proceeds to describe how the oppressors shaved off the maidens, their ‘heads with braided hair, with vermillion marks in the parting’; how ‘their throats were choked with dust’; how they were cast out of their palatial homes, unable now to sit even in the neighbourhood of their homes; how those who had come to the homes of their husbands in palanquins, decorated with ivory, who lived in the lap of luxury, had been tied with ropes around their necks; how their pearl strings had been shattered; how the very beauty that was their jewel had now become their enemy – ordered to dishonour them, the soldiers had carried them off. ‘Since Babar’s rule has been proclaimed,’ Guru Nanak wrote, ‘even the princes have no food to eat.’
    • Guru Granth Sahib, quoted from Shourie, Arun (2014). Eminent historians: Their technology, their line, their fraud. Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India : HarperCollins Publishers.
  • The blood of the infidels flowed so copiously at Thanesar that the stream was discoloured, notwithstanding its purity, and people were unable to drink it. The Sultan returned with plunder which is impossible to count.
  • But so far as the Hindus are concerned, this period was a prolonged spell of darkness which ended only when the Marathas and the Jats and the Sikhs broke the back of Islamic imperialism in the middle of the 18th century. The situation of the Hindus under Muslim rule is summed up by the author of Tãrîkh-i-Wassãf in the following words: “The vein of the zeal of religion beat high for the subjection of infidelity and destruction of idols… The Mohammadan forces began to kill and slaughter, on the right and the left unmercifully, throughout the impure land, for the sake of Islãm, and blood flowed in torrents. They plundered gold and silver to an extent greater than can be conceived, and an immense number of precious stones as well as a great variety of cloths… They took captive a great number of handsome and elegant maidens and children of both sexes, more than pen can enumerate… In short, the Mohammadan army brought the country to utter ruin and destroyed the lives of the inhabitants and plundered the cities, and captured their off-springs, so that many temples were deserted and the idols were broken and trodden under foot, the largest of which was Somnãt. The fragments were conveyed to Dehlî and the entrance of the Jãmi‘ Masjid was paved with them so that people might remember and talk of this brilliant victory… Praise be to Allah the lord of the worlds.”
    • Wassaf quoted in Sita Ram Goel, The Story of Islamic Imperialism in India (1994)

Quotes (19th century and later)[edit]

  • There can be no doubt that the fall of Buddhism in India was due to the invasions of the Musalmans. Islam came out as the enemy of the 'But'. The word 'But' as everybody knows, is the Arabic word and means an idol. Thus the origin of the word indicates that in the Moslem mind idol worship had come to be identified with the Religion of the Buddha. To the Muslims, they were one and the same thing. The mission to break the idols thus became the mission to destroy Buddhism. Islam destroyed Buddhism not only in India but wherever it went.
    • B. R. Ambedkar, "The decline and fall of Buddhism," Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches, Vol. III, Government of Maharashtra. 1987, p. 229-30
  • The real problem introduced by the Mussalman conquest was not that of subjection to a foreign rule and the ability to recover freedom, but the struggle between two civilisations, one ancient and indigenous, the other medieval and brought in from outside. ... That which rendered the problem insoluble was the attachment of each to a powerful religion, the one militant and aggressive, the other spiritually tolerant indeed and flexible (...)
    • Sri Aurobindo, Foundations of Indian Culture, quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2001). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. p. 476
  • [the Muslims] could not rule the country, except by systematic terror. Cruelty was the norm -- burnings, summary executions, crucifixions or impalements, inventive tortures. Hindu temples were destroyed to make way for mosques. On occasion there were forced conversions. If ever there were an uprising, it was instantly and savagely repressed: houses were burned, the countryside was laid waste, men were slaughtered and women were taken as slaves.
    • Fernand Braudel, "A History of Civilizations", 1995.
  • From the time Muslims started arriving, around 632 AD, the history of India becomes a long, monotonous series of murders, massacres, spoliations, and destructions. It is, as usual, in the name of 'a holy war' of their faith, of their sole God, that the barbarians have destroyed civilizations, wiped out entire races. Mahmoud Ghazni was an early example of Muslim ruthlessness, burning in 1018 of the temples of Mathura, razing Kanauj to the ground and destroying the famous temple of Somnath, sacred to all Hindus. His successors were as ruthless as Ghazni: 103 temples in the holy city of Benaras were razed to the ground, its marvelous temples destroyed, its magnificent palaces wrecked.
    • Alain Danielou: Histoire de l' Inde
  • The Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precious good, whose delicate complex of order and freedom, culture and peace, can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within.
    • Will Durant, The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage page 459.
  • For its sheer magnitude in scope and death toll, coupled with its occasional (though not continuous) intention to exterminate entire Hindu communities, the Islamic campaign against Hinduism, which was never fully called off since the first naval invasion in 636 CE, can without exaggeration be termed genocide. ... There is no official estimate of the total death toll of Hindus at the hands of Islam. A first glance at important testimonies by Muslim chroniclers suggests that, over 13 centuries and a territory as vast as the Subcontinent, Muslim Holy Warriors easily killed more Hindus than the 6 million of the Holocaust. Ferishtha lists several occasions when the Bahmani sultans in central India (1347-1528) killed a hundred thousand Hindus, which they set as a minimum goal whenever they felt like "punishing" the Hindus; and they were only a third-rank provincial dynasty. The biggest slaughters took place during the raids of Mahmud Ghaznavi (ca. 1000 CE); during the actual conquest of North India by Mohammed Ghori and his lieutenants; and under the Delhi Sultanate (1206-1526). The Moghuls (1526-1857), even Babar and Aurangzeb, were fairly restrained tyrants by comparison. Prof. K.S. Lal once estimated that the Indian population declined by 50 million under the Sultanate, but that would be hard to substantiate; research into the magnitude of the damage Islam did to India is yet to start in right earnest.
    • Koenraad Elst, "Was There an Islamic "Genocide" of Hindus?" [3]
  • A century or so after Muhammad bin Qasim’s jihad in Sindh, words were put into the mouth of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, emphasizing the importance of jihad in India. Abu Huraira, one of Muhammad’s companions, is depicted in a hadith as saying: “The Messenger of Allah promised that we would invade India.” In another hadith, Muhammad himself says: “There are two groups of my Ummah whom Allah will free from the Fire: The group that invades India, and the group that will be with Isa bin Maryam [Jesus Christ], peace be upon him.”
    • Abu Abdur Rahman Ahmad bin Shu’aib bin ‘Ali an-Nasa’i, Sunan an-Nasa’i, translated by Nasiruddin al-Khattab, bk. 25, ch. 41, no. 3175-7 (Darussalam, 2007). As quoted in Spencer, Robert (2018). The history of jihad: From Muhammad to ISIS.
  • Muslims must realize and admit the wrongs perpetrated under the Islamic rule.
    • Mahatma Gandhi25 December 1947, in reaction to a Urdu poem protesting against the planned rebuilding of the Somnath temple and calling for "a new Ghaznavi to avenge the renovation of the Somnath temple", quoted by Rajmohan Gandhi: Revenge and Reconciliation, p. 237 and quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2014). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa.
  • From 986 CE, the Muslim Turks started raiding northwest India from Afghanistan, plundering western India early in the eleventh century. Forced conversions to Islam were made, and Buddhist images smashed, due to the Islamic dislike of idolatry. Indeed in India, the Islamic term for an 'idol' became 'budd'.
    • Peter Harvey (2013). An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History and Practices. Cambridge University Press. p. 194. ISBN 978-0-521-85942-4.
  • The Moslems who invaded India brought with them the idea of a God who was not the order of the army of being, but its general. Bhakti towards this despotic person was associated with wholesale slaughter of Buddhists and Hindus. Similarly bhakti towards the personal God of Christianity has been associated, throughout the history of that religion, with the wholesale slaughter of pagans and the retail torture and murder of heretics. It is the business of the rational idealist to harp continually upon this all-important fact. In this way, perhaps, he may be able to mitigate the evil tendencies which history shows to be inherent in the way of devotion and the correlated belief in a personal deity.
  • The great invasions spread very far South, spreading to, you know, even Mysore. I think when you see so many Hindu temples of the 10th Century or earlier time disfigured, defaced, you know that they were not just defaced for fun: that something terrible happened. I feel that the civilisation of that closed world was mortally wounded by those invasions. And I would like people, as it were, to be more reverential towards the past, to try to understand it; to preserve it; instead of living in its ruins. The old world is destroyed. That has to be understood. The ancient Hindu India was destroyed. .... So new people come up and they begin to look at their world and from being great acceptors, they have become questioners. And I think we should simply try to understand this passion. It is not an ignoble passion at all. It is men trying to understand themselves. Do not dismiss them. Treat them seriously. Talk to them.... I think it will keep on increasing as long as you keep on saying it is wicked and that they are wicked people. And if we wish to draw the battleline, then of course, you get to battle. If you try to understand what they are saying, things will calm down.
    • V.S. Naipaul "The truth governs writing", an interview by Sadanand Menon, The Hindu, July 5, 1998 [4] (also in V.S. Naipaul Interview with V.S. Naipaul)
  • The invasions are in all the school books. But I don't think people understand that every invasion, every war, every campaign, was accompanied by slaughter, a slaughter always of the most talented people in the country. So these wars, apart from everything else, led to a tremendous intellectual depiction of the country. I think that in the British period, and in the 50 years after the British period, there has been a kind of recruitment or recovery, a very slow revival of energy and intellect. This isn't an idea that goes with the vision of the grandeur of old India and all that sort of rubbish. That idea is a great simplification, and it occurs because it is intellectually, philosophically and emotionally easier for Indians to manage... What they cannot manage, and what they have not yet come to terms with, is that ravaging of all the north of India by various conquerors. That was ruin not by an act of nature, but by the hand of man. It is so painful that few Indians have begun to deal with it. It's much easier to deal with British imperialism. That is a familiar topic, in India and Britain. What is much less familiar is the ravaging of India before the British. What happened from 1 000 A.D. on, really, is such a wound that it is almost impossible to face. Certain wounds are so bad that they can't be written about. You deal with that kind of pain by hiding from it. You retreat from reality. I wrote a book about that, and people thought I meant that India hasn't really a civilization, or India can't go ahead. What I was saying is that you cannot deal with a wound so big. I do not think, for example, that people like the Incas of Peru or the native people of Mexico have ever got over their defeat by the Spaniards. In both places, the head was cut off...
    • V.S. Naipaul, A Million Mutinies, V.S. Naipaul, India Today Date: August 18, 1997 [5]
  • "Fractured past" is too polite a way to describe India’s calamitous millennium. The millennium began with the Muslim invasions and the grinding down of the Hindu-Buddhist culture of the north. This is such a big and bad event that people still have to find polite, destiny-defying ways of speaking about it. In art books and history books, people write of the Muslims "arriving"in India, as though the Muslims came on a tourist bus and went away again. The Muslim view of their conquest of India is a truer one. They speak of the triumph of the faith, the destruction of idols and temples, the loot, the carting away of the local people as slaves, so cheap and numerous that they were being sold for a few rupees. The architectural evidence-the absence of Hindu monuments in the north-is convincing enough. This conquest was unlike any other that had gone before.
  • The conquering army burnt villages, devastated the land, plundered people’s wealth, took Brahmins and children and women of all classes captive, flogged with thongs of raw hide, carried a moving prison with it, and converted the prisoners into obsequious slaves.
    • Hindu sage Padmanabha described in his Kanhadade Prabandha in 1456 AD the story of the Muslim invasion of Gujarat of 1298 AD
  • (The Muslims had) enriched our culture, strengthened our administration, and brought near distant parts of the country... It (the Muslim Period) touched deeply the social life and the literature of the land.
  • And, above all, don't let us forget India, the cradle of the human race, or at least of that part of it to which we belong, where first Mohammedans, and then Christians, were most cruelly infuriated against the adherents of the original faith of mankind. The destruction or disfigurement of the ancient temples and idols, a lamentable, mischievous and barbarous act, still bears witness to the monotheistic fury of the Mohammedans, carried on from Mahmud the Ghaznevid of cursed memory down to Aureng Zeb, the fratricide, whom the Portuguese Christians have zealously imitated by destruction of temples and the auto da fe of the inquisition at Goa.
  • The magnitude of crimes credited to Muslim monarchs by the medieval Muslim historians, was beyond measure. With a few exceptions, Muslim kings and commanders were monsters who stopped at no crime when it came to their Hindu subjects. But what strikes as more significant is the broad pattern of those crimes. The pattern is that of a jihãd in which the ghãzîs of Islam 1) invade infidel lands; 2) massacre as many infidel men, women, and children, particularly Brahmins, as they like after winning a victory; 3) capture the survivors to be sold as slaves; 4) plunder every place and person; 5) demolish idolatrous places of worship and build mosques in their places; and 6) defile idols which are flung into public squares or made into steps leading to mosques. Still more significant is the fact that this is exactly the pattern 1) revealed by Allah in the Quran; 2) practised, perfected and prescribed by the Prophet in his own life-time; 3) followed by the pious Khalifas of Islam in the first 35 years of Islamic imperialism; 4) elaborated in the Hadis and hundreds of commentaries with meticulous attention to detail; 5) certified by the Ulama and the Sufis of Islam in all ages including our own; and 6) followed by all Muslim monarchs and chieftains who aspired for name and fame in this life, and houris and beardless boys hereafter.
    • Goel, S. R. (2001). The story of Islamic imperialism in India. New Delhi: Voice of India.
  • One may very well ask the purveyors of this puerile propaganda that if the record of Islam in medieval India was so bright and blameless, where is the need for this daily ritual of whitewashing it. Hindu heroes like Chandragupta Maurya, Samudragupta, Harihar, Bukka, Maharana Pratap, and Shivaji, to name only a few of the notables, have never needed any face-lift. Why does the monstrous men of an Alauddin Khalji, a Firuz Shah Tughlaq, a Sikandar Lodi, and an Aurangzeb, to name only the most notorious, pop out so soon from the thickest coat of cosmetics?
    The answer is provided by the Muslim historians of medieval India. They painted their heroes in the indelible dyes of Islamic ideology. They did not anticipate the day when Islamic imperialism in India will become only a painful memory of the past. They did not visualise that the record of Islam in India will one day be weighed on the scales of human values. Now it is too late for trying to salvage Islam in medieval India from its blood-soaked history. The orthodox Muslim historians are honest when they state that the medieval Muslim monarchs were only carrying out the commandments of Islam when they massacred, captured, enslaved, and violated Hindu men, women and children; desecrated, demolished, and destroyed Hindu places of worship; and dispossessed the Hindus of all their wealth. The Aligarh “historians” and their secularist patrons are only trying to prop up imposters in place of real and living characters who played life-size roles in history.
    • Sita Ram Goel: The Story of Islamic Imperialism in India
  • (The Muslims had) enriched our culture, strengthened our administration, and brought near distant parts of the country... It (the Muslim Period) touched deeply the social life and the literature of the land.
  • Writing about the Sultanate period, Ishwari Prasad says: 'There was persecution, partly religious and partly political, and a stubborn resistance was offered by the Hindus' The state imposed great disabilities upon the non-Muslims' Instances are not rare in which the non-Muslims were treated with great severity' The practice of their religious rites even with the slightest publicity was not allowed, and cases are on record of men who lost their lives for doing so.'
    • Ishwari Prasad, History of Medieval India (Allahabad, 1940 Edition), pp.509-513. Quoted in K.S. Lal, Legacy of Muslim rule in India
  • According to A.L. Srivastava the Sultanate of Delhi was an Islamic State, pure and simple, and gave no religious toleration to the Hindus and indulged in stifling persecution. About the Mughal times his conclusion is that barring the one short generation under Akbar when the moral and material condition of the people was on the whole good, the vast majority of our population during 1526-1803 led a miserable life.
    • A.L. Srivastava, The Mughal Empire (Agra, 1964), p.568-571. Quoted in K.S. Lal, Legacy of Muslim rule in India.
  • What is called the Mohammedan invasion, conquest or colonisation of India means only this that under the leadership of Mohammedan Turks, who were renegades from Buddhism, those sections of the Hindu race who continued in the faith of their ancestors were repeatedly conquered by the other section of that very race, who also were renegades from Buddhism of the Vedic religion and served under the Turks, having been forcibly converted to Mohammedanism by their superior strength.
    • Swami Vivekananda : Works Of Swami Vivekananda VII:395, quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2014). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa.
  • The immense and uncontrollable blood-baths, the brutality with which civilian populations were massacred and women and girls were dragged into harems which to the Hindus appeared as no better than brothels, the introduction of a slave trade in which thousands of people including children were sold; all these generated a hatred for foreigners.. The hatred was increased by the shameless way in which the foreigners destroyed holy places after having first defiled them in the most senseless way.
    • Wilhelm von Pochhammer, India's Road to Nationhood. Quoted in Harsh Narain, The Ayodhya Temple Mosque Dispute: Focus on Muslim Sources
  • From the seventh century onwards and with a peak during Muhammad al-Qasim's campaigns in 712-713 a considerable number of Jats [Hindus] was captured as prisoners of war and deported to Iraq and elsewhere as slaves.
    • Andre Wink, Al Hind, Vol. I, p. 161
  • I can see how what I said then could be misinterpreted. I was talking about history, I was talking about a historical process that had to come. I think India has lived with one major extended event, that began about 1000 AD, the Muslim invasion. It meant the cracking open and partial wrecking of what was a complete cultural, religious world until that invasion. I don't think the people of India have been able to come to terms with that wrecking. I don't think they understand what really happened. It's too painful. And I think this BJP movement and that masjid business is part of a new sense of history, a new idea of what happened. It might be misguided, it might be wrong to misuse it politically, but I think it is part of a historical process. And to simply abuse it as Fascist is to fail to understand why it finds an answer in so many hearts in India. .... It could become that. And that has to be dealt with. But it can only be dealt with if both sides understand very clearly the history of the country. I don't think Hindus understand what Islam means and I don't think the people of Islam have tried to understand Hinduism. The two enormous groups have lived together in the sub-continent without understanding one another's faiths.
    • V.S. Naipaul 'Hindus, Muslims have lived together without understanding each other's faiths', interview by Rahul Singh, The Times of India, Jan 23, 1998. [7]

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