Brave Defence Of Kikan Against Frequent 7th Century Arab Invasions By Land

First Arab Invasion Of Sindh By Land Routed In Kikan

The third ‘pious’ Caliph who succeeded Umar was Usman ibn Affan (644–656 A.D.). Usman wanted to conquer Sindh and made up his mind to dispatch an expedition to invade Sindh. He appointed Abdullah to Iraq and commanded him to send an agent to gather information about Hind and Sindh. Abdullah deputed Hakim to go and acquire the desired information and upon his return, Hakim reported to the Caliph that, “Its water is dark; its fruit is bitter and poisonous; its land is stony and its earth is selfish. A small army will soon be annihilated there and a large army will soon die of hunger.” [1] Hearing such a dismal report from Hakim, Caliph Usman abandoned his plan to attack Hind and Sindh.

It was during the reign of the fourth Caliph, Ali ibn Abi Talib (656–661 A.D.) who was also the last of the Rashidun Caliphs, that the first invasion of Sindh by land was carried out in 660 A.D. A great expedition, which included many nobles and chiefs, and which was led by Haras, proceeded towards the mountainous region of Kikan or Kikanan unhindered. The state of Kikan was located in the mountainous region in the northern part of present day Balochistan near the Bolan Pass and is mentioned by Hieun Tsang as a region of pastoral people and great mountains and valleys. As the Arab army proceeded, they managed to overpower some of the towns on their way to Kikan, securing “many slaves and a large booty, until they arrived at the mountain Kikanan. Here the natives stood up to fight with them.” [2]

Kikan was part of the central division of the kingdom of Sindh which was under the direct administration of the king, Raja Chach Rai and was inhabited by the hardy Jats and Meds. The brave Jats and Meds of Kikan put up a tough fight against the Arabian invaders and decisively repulsed the attack. The invading Arab army incurred severe losses and “he (Haras) and those who were with him, saving a few, were slain in the land of Kikan in the year 42 A.H. (662 A.D.).” [3] The four ‘pious’ Rashidun Caliphs thus died with their dream of victory over Hind and Sind remaining unfulfilled.

Six Arab Raids Of Kikan And The Brave Defence By Jats And Meds

After the rout of the Arabian army in Kikan in 662 A.D., the region became the chief target of Arab military crusades. The succeeding Caliph Muawiyah I (661–680 A.D.) rebelled against Ali ibn Abi Talib and after his death, wrested power from Ali’s son Hasan and established the Umayyad Caliphate. Although a major part of Muawiyah’s political expansionism was focused on the Byzantine provinces, he nevertheless sent six determined expeditions to conquer the frontier post of Kikan in Sindh over a period of twenty years. None of the expeditions, except the last succeeded and the Arabs failed to make any lasting impact in the region.

During all the six raids, there was great slaughter as the locals Jats and Meds fought fiercely to defend their land and repulsed the Arab armies. Caliph Muawiyah despatched Abdullah ibn Sawad to conquer the kingdom of Sindh, appointing him as the governor and chief administrator of Sindh. Muawiyah said to Abdullah, “In the country of Sind, there is a mountain, which is called Kikanan. There are big and beautiful horses to be found there… The people are very cunning, and, under the shelter of that mountain, have become refractory and rebellious.” [4]

Abdullah proceeded to attack Kikan with a large contingent of 4000 Arab warriors. When they arrived in Kikan, Abdullah and his army were assaulted by the brave Jat and Med soldiers of the provincial chief and fierce battle took place between the two armies. The local people of Kikan also came out in large numbers to fight the marauders. They occupied the mountain passes and the battle raged furiously. Abdullah’s troops were defeated by the valiant and fearless army of Kikan and eventually the army of Islamic Arabs was made to flee to Makran as, “the whole mountainous region became alive with fighting men and the Mussulmans beat a hasty retreat.” [5] In 664 A.D. another Arab expedition led by Muhallab ibn Abu Safra advanced upto Banna and Alahwar between Multan and Kabul and proceeded southwards to Kikan but was trounced by the Meds and Muhallab and his men were annihilated. [6]

Upon Muawiyah’s command, Ziyad ibn Abu Sufian, who was the governor of Iraq, appointed Sinan ibn Salamah for the conquest of Sindh. Sinan made his troops take an oath to divorce their wives to keep them from fleeing [7] and was able to subdue the Meds and conquer Makran partially in 668 A.D. He established a small garrison in Makran. Ziyad then sent Rashid ibn Amr for the conquest of Kikan but Rashid was slain in a fierce battle with the Meds. Thereafter, Ziyad ibn Abu Sufian appointed Sinan ibn Salamah as the commander of the Arab army for further raids into the frontier provinces of Sindh. Although Sinan had conquered parts of Makran, the local Meds rebelled and only after the raid of Al Bahilli ibn Al Harri, who was sent by Ubaidullah ibn Ziyad, that Makran could finally be conquered by the Arabs in 680 A.D. after a fierce campaign. [8]

There was a period of relative calm in Sindh after 680 A.D. as the Arabs did not dare attack Sindh again for 28 years. They had suffered huge losses and all their invasions barring the last had failed and even that victory was no more than a small foothold in Makran. After a persistent effort of nearly half a century, the world conquering Arabs had failed to make any impact in the frontier provinces of Sindh.

References:

[1] – The Chachnama: Volume 1 (1900), P 59 — Translated from Persian by Mirza Kalichbeg Fredunbeg

[2] – The Chachnama: Volume 1 (1900), P 59 — Translated from Persian by Mirza Kalichbeg Fredunbeg

[3] – The History Of India As Told By Its Historians: Vol. 1 — The Muhammadan Period, P 116 — Elliot And Dawson

[4] – The Chachnama: Volume 1 (1900), P 60 — Translated from Persian by Mirza Kalichbeg Fredunbeg

[5] – The Chachnama: Volume 1 (1900), P 61 — Translated from Persian by Mirza Kalichbeg Fredunbeg

[6] – The History Of India As Told By Its Historians: Vol. 1 — The Muhammadan Period, P 116 — Elliot And Dawson

[7] – Kitab Futuh Al Buldan: Vol. 2, P 211 — Al Baladhuri Tr. By Francis Clark Murgotten

[8] – Kitab Futuh Al Buldan: Vol. 2, P 212–213 — Al Baladhuri Tr. By Francis Clark Murgotten

Featured Image Credit: Historical Sketch of Bolan Pass, Balochistan

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