Ismaili Rule In Sind And Hind

“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.

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