Islam arrived in present-day Pakistan and India from the south and north. Between 711 and 1526 various Muslim armies—Arabs, Turks, Afghans and Mughals—conquered northern Indian from the west while Islam was absorbed more peacefully in the south through the efforts of maritime traders and missionaries from the Middle East and Iran. Arab military forces conquered the Indus Delta region in Sindh in 711 and established an Indo-Muslim state there. Sindh became an Islamic outpost where Arabs established trade links with the Middle East.
The Muslim-Arab stronghold in the Sindh endured until Turkic tribes arrived in the 11th century from Central Asia and set up a sultanate near Delhi but Islam did not make serious inroads into India until the arrival of the Ghaznavids from Afghanistan in the 10th century and did not really take hold until the Mughals established a sultanate in Delhi in the 16th century.
By the end of the tenth century, dramatic changes took place when the Central Asian Turkic tribes accepted both the message and mission of Islam. These warlike people first began to move into Afghanistan and Iran and later into India through the northwest. Mahmud of Ghazni mounted seventeen expeditions between 997 and 1027 into North India, annexing Punjab as his eastern province. Early Muslim rulers propagated Muslim religion and culture upon India and they were partially successful. Much of the conversions of the local population, however, took place under the auspices of Sufis or Saints. Muslims were a more cosmopolitan people, interested more in trade and politics than agriculture, as had traditionally been the case with Hindus.
Islam took hold quickly in India and was especially popular as it was egalitarian and accepted everyone with new converted Muslims given tax concessions. Those who chose not to convert were allowed to practice their religion and were even permitted to make idols of their gods and worship them. Local leaders were encouraged to convert by giving them the power to collect taxes. Muslim conquest was instrumental in establishing a trade network throughout Southeast Asia and the East Indies.
The Ghaznavids, a Central Asian dynasty, was founded by the Karluk Turks in the 10th century. Named after their ancient Afghan city, Ghazni, they established a kingdom in Afghanistan and helped establish Islam on the Indian subcontinent by conquering much of India in the name of Islam. Ghazni is not far from Kabul. By 1001, the Ghaznavid state had extended its rule into the northwestern region of India. Conversions to Islam began at this time by Sufism introduced by Muslim saints such as Syed Ali Hajveri properly known as Data Ganj Buksh. Ghazni and Lahore became centers of Islamic culture. The Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan were absorbed and became integral parts of the Ghaznavid Empire.
The Ghaznavids battled with the Karakhanids, a rival empire that stretched from Kazakhstan to western China until they were subdued by the Seljuk Turks and were ousted by the Iranian Ghurids (1148-1206), who conquered Delhi in 1193 and extended Turkish rule to Bengal. Ghauri was a 12th century Muslim general who conquered parts of northern India. Ghauri defeated a Hindu ruler named Prithviraj.
In the early 13th century, a Turkish slave dynasty succeeded Ghurids in India and established the Sultanate of Delhi. It ruled the whole of the Ganges Valley, consolidated Turkish power and lasted for 300 years until the arrival of the Mughals. The sultanate expanded southward, absorbing many Hindu kingdoms.
The Delhi Sultanate refers to the various Muslim dynasties that ruled in India (1206-1526). In 1206, Qutbud-Din Aibak, one of his generals, proclaimed himself sultan of Delhi and founded a line of rulers called the Slave dynasty, because he and several of the sultans who claimed succession from him were originally military slaves.
Shams-ud-Din Altamash (or Iltutmish) a former slave-warrior, established a Turkic kingdom in Delhi, which enabled future sultans to push in every direction; within the next 100 years, the Delhi Sultanate extended its sway east to Bengal and south to the Deccan, while the sultanate itself experienced repeated threats from the northwest and internal revolts from displeased, independent-minded nobles. Iltutmish and Balban were among the dynasty’s most illustrious rulers.
The sultanate was in constant flux as five dynasties rose and fell: Mamluk or Slave (1206-90), Khilji (1290-1320), Tughlaq (1320-1413), Sayyid (1414-51), and Lodi (1451-1526). Constantly faced with revolts by conquered territories and rival families, the Slave dynasty came to an end in 1290. Under the Khilji dynasty (1290-1320), Ala-ud-Din (r. 1296-1315) succeeded in bringing most of South India under its control for a time, although conquered areas broke away quickly. Both the Quran and Sharia provided the basis for enforcing Islamic administration over the independent Hindu rulers but the sultanate made only fitful progress in the beginning, when many campaigns were undertaken for plunder and temporary reduction of fortresses.
Power in Delhi was often gained by violence–nineteen of the thirty-five sultans were assassinated–and was legitimised by reward for tribal loyalty. Factional rivalries and court intrigues were as numerous as they were treacherous; territories controlled by the sultan expanded and shrank depending on his personality and fortunes. India was more centralised than before under Turkish rule. The Delhi sultans ruled based on institutions used by the Abbasid Empire. They established a large army and civil administration that relied on village headmen to collect taxes. Justice was meted out through magistrate justices. Poetry, classical dance and music blossomed and was enjoyed by ordinary people as well as courtiers.
The effective rule of a sultan depended largely on his ability to control the strategic places that dominated the military highways and trade routes, extract the annual land tax, and maintain personal authority over military and provincial governors. Sultan Alauddin made an attempt to reassess, systematise, and unify land revenues and urban taxes and to institute a highly centralised system of administration over his realm. Agriculture in North India improved as a result of new canal construction and irrigation methods, including what came to be known as the Persian wheel. The result was that trade and a market economy, encouraged by the free-spending habits of the aristocracy, acquired new impetus both inland and overseas. Experts in metalwork, stonework, and textile manufacture responded to the new patronage with enthusiasm.
Early in the reign of Muhammad Tughlaq, founder of the Tughlaq dynasty (1325-98), the power of Delhi was acknowledged even in the extreme south of India. His eccentric rule and ferocious temperament provoked a series of revolts and a steady loss of territory; by his death (1351) the Hindu south had recovered its independence and the Deccan had become a separate Muslim state, the Bahmani kingdom. Under Tughlaq’s successors the sultanate of Delhi began to disintegrate into several small states.
The greatest challenges to the Delhi sultanate came from the north. Genghis Khan reached the Indus in 1212 but did not penetrate as deeply into India as he did elsewhere. In 1398-9, Timur (Tamerlane), the great Turkish conqueror, overran Delhi and its adjoining areas. He did not stay long and the Turkish sultanate managed to return to power after he left. With the sack of Delhi by Timur in 1398, the once great sultanate fell, although local rulers lingered on at Delhi until the invasion of Babur and the Mughal conquest. TW