First Three Failed Arab Invasions Of India By Sea

First Arab Invasion Of India By Sea At Thane Repulsed

Inspired by the early and meteoric military successes that made the Arabs ‘world conquerors’ within a short span of time, it was only natural that they “cast their covetous eyes towards India.” [1]

The first Arab invasion of India was an expedition by sea to conquer Thana near Mumbai as early as 636 A.D. It was undertaken during the vigorous expansionist regime of the second Caliph, Umar-bin-Akhtab, who was on a proselytizing mission to spread Islam to all corners of the world. He appointed Usman, of the tribe of Sakif, to capture Bahrain and Oman. Usman sent his brother Hakam to Bahrain and himself proceeded to Oman. Upon reaching Oman, Usman sent a naval expedition to capture Thana on the western coast of India.[2] The Arab army was repulsed decisively[3] and returned to Oman and the first ever Arab raid on India was defeated.

A second naval expedition was sent to conquer Barwas or Barauz (Broach) on the coast of southern Gujarat by Hakam,[4] the brother of Usman. This attack too was repelled and the Arabs were driven back successfully.

First Arab Invasion Of Sindh By Sea And Defeat Of Mughairah

A third naval invasion, which was also the first attack on Sindh, was sent by Hakam to the port of Debal near Karachi in 643 A.D. He sent his brother Mughairah as the leader of the Arab army.

At the time Sindh was ruled by the brahmin king, Raja Chach Rai who had established himself on the throne by supplanting Rai Sahasi II, son of Sahiras. Some historical accounts mention that Chach Rai had ascended the throne after the death of his master Rai Sahasi II.[5] Raja Chach Rai was a powerful king who not only subdued the provincial governors who opposed his suzerainty, but also fixed the frontier of Sindh bordering Kashmir on the east and conquered a part of Makran on the west. On the south his kingdom extended to the Arabian Sea and on the north to the mountains of Kurdan and Kikanan.[6]

The target of the first Arab naval expedition to Sindh was the port of Debal or Devalaya at the mouth of the Sindhu river. Debal was a seaside town inhabited mostly by merchants, and was under the command of Samah, son of Dewaji, who was a governor of Raja Chach Rai. When Mughairah reached Debal with his expedition, he was engaged in battle by the brave Samah, who personally led his army against the Arab invaders. The Arabs were defeated by Samah, who “issued out of the fort and engaged with them in fight” and their leader, Mughairah was killed in battle.[7]

The news of the killing of Mughairah and the defeat of his army at Debal must have been an unpleasant surprise for Caliph Umar-bin-Akhtab, who was accustomed to tidings of Arab victories elsewhere. Umar had been very anxious for a victory over ‘Hind’. The defeat at Debal had been the third in a row for the ‘pious’ Caliph Umar-bin-Akhtab, so he planned to send an expedition by land against Makran this time. He commanded Usman to proceed to Iraq, and also told Rabiah to set out on an expedition to Makran in present-day Balochistan, which was part of the kingdom of Sindh at the time.

Umar also commanded Abu Musa, governor of Iraq for detailed information about the extent of success against Sindh and Hind. Abu Musa had come to know about the defeat and death of Mughairah and victory of Raja Chach, “a king who was very headstrong and stiff necked, and was determined to behave offensively,” [8] and so he advised Umar that the kingdom of Sindh was a very powerful one that would not succumb to Islamic domination at any cost[9] and that “he should think no more of Hind.” [10]

References:

[1] – Indian Resistance To Early Muslim Invaders Upto 1206 AD, P 18 — Dr. Ram Gopal Mishra

[2] – Kitab Futuh Al Buldan: Vol. 2, P 209 — Al Baladhuri Tr. By Francis Clark Murgotten

[3] – Indian Resistance To Early Muslim Invaders Upto 1206 AD, P 18 — Dr. Ram Gopal Mishra

[4] – Kitab Futuh Al Buldan: Vol. 2, P 209 — Al Baladhuri Tr. By Francis Clark Murgotten

[5] – The History And Culture Of The Indian People: Vol. 3 — The Classical Age, P 165 — R. C. Majumdar

[6] – Indian Resistance To Early Muslim Invaders Upto 1206 AD, P 19 — Dr. Ram Gopal Mishra

[7] – The Chachnama: Volume 1 (1900), P 57 — Translated from Persian by Mirza Kalichbeg Fredunbeg

[8] – The Chachnama: Volume 1 (1900), P 58 — Translated from Persian by Mirza Kalichbeg Fredunbeg

[9] – The History And Culture Of The Indian People: Vol. 3 — The Classical Age, P 169 — R. C. Majumdar

[10] – The Chachnama: Volume 1 (1900), P 58 — Translated from Persian by Mirza Kalichbeg Fredunbeg

Featured Image Credit: Map Of Gujarat 1866

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