Some Hindus claim that Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni demolished a temple known as Somnath. We are going to shed some light on this issue in the light of accurate and trustworthy historical accounts. Before that, we should emphasize first that Islam prohibits clearly any kind of compulsion in the matter of religion. Allah (Glory be to Him) says:
There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. (Al-Baqarah 2:256)
Muslims have never been encouraged to exercise any pressure on non-Muslims, whether Hindus or non-Hindus, religiously or socially to accept Islam. That is why we find most of the Muslim Sultans in Indian sub-continent across their history, such as: Feroz Shah Tughlaq, Sultan Zaynul `Abidin Al-Kashmiri, Husayn Shah the king of Bengal, Nusrat Shah, the Mughal emperor Akbar and Darashkoh and others have contributed a remarkable contribution to the Indian culture by preserving the sources of Indian culture and the Sanskrit language, encouraging others to follow their exemplary move. I would not be exaggerating if I say that such efforts could be found rarely in the eras of Hindu princes and rulers. The Muslim rulers during their rule which lasted for more than eight centuries entrusted powerful administrative tasks of state to Hindus. They occupied the posts of minister and commandership in the army. They served Muslim rulers as their governors, deputies and advisors. No Muslim ruler is excepted from this merit.(1)
However, the Indian subcontinent remained an object of aspiration for foreign invaders and conquerors since the immemorial and unknown times. Islamic conquest was the last of them before the British occupation. The rule of Muslims remained always characterized by tolerance, generosity, noble manners and human behavior with the people of India that hardly could be found in the history of nations in the world. The proof is plain as Hindus were always in the majority during the reign of Muslims, millions of Hindu and Buddhist temples remained unharmed throughout the Muslim rule across the Indian subcontinent. No temple was destroyed, otherwise, the majority of Hindus would have been tuned into a minority and no temple was seen in India, but the fact does not support this assumption. Do you not see what happened to Muslims in Spain when it fell into the Christian hands? And what atrocities were exercised by Brahmans against Buddhists, when they came into power?
A historian says in this connection: “Hundreds of Buddhist statues, Stupas and Viharas have been destroyed in India between 830 and 966 A.D. in the name of Hindu revivalism, both literary and archaeological sources within and outside India speak volumes about the havoc done to Buddhism by Hindu fanatics. The spiritual leaders like Shankaracharya and many Hindu kings and rulers who took pride in demolishing Buddhist images aiming at the total eradication of Buddhist culture.”(2) But such atrocities never happened during the Muslim rule in India. The more a Muslim king was staunch in his religion, the more he was committed to the Islamic principles of tolerance, acceptance, open-mindedness and equality. Because it is his religious and ethical duty before it is a governmental obligation. But if the king is negligent of his religion, it is natural to be unjust and violating of the rights of Muslims who share the same religion before the rights of Hindus. That is why his unjust actions and violations should not be attributed to his religion.(3)
Islamic rule in the Indian subcontinent was distinguished with peaceful coexistence and brotherly relations between Hindus and Muslims.
However, nowadays there are some extremist elements who want to conceal those good relations in order to reap some personal interests. Such people always try to fuel the fire of hatred, resentment and hostility among the followers of religions in India. They claim that so and so Muslim ruler had launched a raid on so and so Hindu Prince; so and so Hindu Prince defeated so and so Muslim king and taught him an unforgettable lesson. But whoever reads and knows the history of Muslim rule in India can ask: do you not find in the history that a Muslim ruler fought another Muslim ruler? A Hindu ruler fought another Hindu ruler? The family of Kuruvas battled with the family of Panduvas while both of them belonged to the same family as was mentioned in Mahabharata? Both of them contaminated their hands with the blood of their own brothers and relatives.
The history tells us that the Hindu King Prithviraj fought the Hindu king Jaichand who were brothers, because their mothers were sisters. There have been always battling between the kings of Gujarat and Maharashtra. Chandragupta Maurya destroyed the Kingdom of Nanda Empire. The truth is that the majority of kings and princes in the past and present, whether Muslims or Hindus, Buddhists or Magi, Jews or Christians, always try to consolidate their rule and expand the circle of their government and influence as much as they can, they never were interested in religious matters as they were interested in their power and rule, ignoring all religious rulings.(4) So it is not logic to attribute the wrongdoings of some deviant rulers to the religion itself.
The Political Situation during the Reign of the King Mahmud of Ghazni
Political conflict existed between the Islamic government in Ghazni, Afghanistan and the state of Buddhism represented in the King Jayapala in Punjab during the reign of the King Nasiruddin Sabuktegin father of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni.(5) Sabuktegin united under his government some scattered and small states which were ruled by some Muslim princes. In fact, Sabuktegin desired to expand his reign towards Bukhara; he was not interested in attacking Jayapala, his intention was to bring together the Islamic scattered and small independent states in Ghazni and around, Jayapala disliked the increasing power of Sabuktegin and was afraid of his widening influence.(6) Therefore, Jayapala assembled a large number of troops making a strong coalition includin the majority of Hindu princes and kings and attacked this emerging state with a large number of coalition forces, while Sabuktegin was out of Ghazni, he was in Nisapur on a mission to fight some rebels of Shiites that was governed by the prince Mahmud son of Sabuktegin. When Sabuktegin heard of this sudden attack of Jayapala who penetrated with his army into Ghazni when the king heard of this attack he returned to his capital immediately, and began fighting the coalition army of Jayapala who was defeated in this battle a bad defeat, because the Afghans were accustomed to fight in the circumstances of a severe winter and snow, unlike Jayapala and his soldiers. However, when he felt his defeat he sent a letter to Sabuktegin requesting a peace truce promising him to be always loyal to him, vowing that a lot of gifts would be sent to him after arriving Punjab as a gratitude to his mercy and kindness. He asked to send with him some Muslims to accompany him who can carry those gifts from Punjab to Ghazni. The advisors of Sabuktegin hesitated and were not satisfied with the conclusion of reconciliation and truce, suggesting to continue the fighting until the end, but the king remained persistent to implement the Order of Allah (Glory be to Him) that says:
And if they incline to peace, then incline to it [also] and rely upon Allah. Indeed, it is He who is the Hearing, the Knowing. (Al-Anfal 8:61)
When Jayapala returned from Ghazni after he was pardoned by Sabuktegin and released following a peace agreement between him and the king Sabuktegin, but he violated his promise and wrote letters to every king and prince in India inciting them to be prepared for a battle with Sabuktegin who has planned to attack Punjab with a large army, if he conquered the king of Punjab all kings of India would be defeated easily. He requested them to provide a big coalition of army in order to fight Sabuktegin. Thus Jayapala assembled a huge force; also he jailed the Muslims who accompanied him.(7)
It is noted that Jayapala was pardoned by Sabuktegin after his request, but he set aside his agreement and breached his promise, in addition to that, he incited the Hindu kings and princes to fight Sabuktegin. One of the most authentic and earliest historical accounts about the history of Indian subcontinent in Persian language, History of Farishtah that is more reliable and authentic than the historical books of English writers, who tried intentionally to distort the history of Muslim rulers in India, mentions that even the Hindu women have given their gold and silver in charity to prepare the Hindu army to confront Mahmud and his army, they worked in spinning and earned money to help them with a great religious spirit and spiritual zeal.(8)
The Muslim historian Akbar Shah mentions that Jayapala suffered defeat at the hands of Sabuktegin twice and sought amnesty every time and was pardoned by the Muslim King Sabuktegin, but every time he breached the covenant until he committed suicide, and his son Anandpal succeeded him.(9)
During this period, in the year 1030 A.D. the king Sabuktegin died and was succeeded by his son the Prince Mahmud of Ghazni whose attention was concentrated on conquering Khurasan and Bukhara which were among the states of his father and was beset by the problems of rebels from time to time. He traveled and fought them and restored it to his reign. The king Mahmud was busy in organizing his new states until he was informed through a letter by one of his deputies in Peshawar in the year 1001 A.D. His deputy said that Jayapala has assembled a large coalition army to invade Ghazni. However, he did not believe in the content of this letter and sent a spy to verify the news that confirmed that Jayapala has camped down around the suburbs of Ghazni that forced Mahmud to direct his attention to Jayapala.(10)
This reveals clearly that the war was imposed upon King Mahmud by Jayapala which became inescapable for him. Immediately, he prepared his army to meet Jayapala who was with a large army that exceeded a hundred thousand armed men. Mahmud fought them heroically and defeated them a bad defeat, many of them were killed and many of them escaped and ran away. It is worth-mentioning that Multan was a center of Ismaili Qarmatians who always lurked Mahmud and his states, allying with Jayapala and other Hindu kings to conquer him. Thus, Somnath was a center of political intrigues and conspiracies by Hindu kings and their Ismaili allies. Also the temple of Somnath was used as a fort to attack Mahmud and his force. After we have proved that the attack was started by Jayapala and his son Ananadpala on Sabuktegin and Mahmud of Ghazni, as well as, Jayapala was granted amnesty twice, in the following article we will introduce to Somnath Temple, explaining if it was demolished by the King Mahmud as was claimed some Hindu writers.
(1) Muhammad Ayyub Khan Najeebabadi, `A’alamgir Hinduon Ki Nazar Mein, (`A’alamgir in the sight of Hindus), Madinah Press, Bajnur, India 1938, p. 11.
(3) Muhammad Ayyub Khan Najeebabadi, `A’alamgir Hinduon Ki Nazar Mein, (`A’alamgir in the sight of Hindus), Madinah Press, Bajnur, India 1938, p. 11.
(5) See, Moulana Akbar Shah, A’inah Haqiqat Numa, Hamdard Press, India, p. 180.
(8) Tarikh Farishtah, Urdu translation by Muhammad Fida `Ali, `Usmaniyah University, Hyderabad, Deccan 1926, vol. 1, p. 77. (9) Moulana Akbar Shah, A’inah Haqiqat Numa, Hamdard Press, India, p.192.