Revolt of Kabul And Rout Of Arabs In The Battle Of Junzah

First Arab Invasion Of India By Land Thwarted At Seistan

By 643 A.D. the Arab imperialists had captured Persia and the eastern borders of the Islamic Caliphate had reached the boundaries of Kabul and Zabul. The province of Seistan (Sijistan-Sakastan) on the west of river Helmand was part of the kingdom of Zabul and bordered Khorasan on the north-west. The capital of Seistan was Zarang or Zaranj near Lake Zarah and was governed by the Satrap of the king of Zabul. The kings of Zabul were called Rutbil or Zunbil. The overlord or king of the Satrap was “probably an officer of the line of Indian princes who ruled in the Kabul and Helmund valleys and were variously known to the Arabs as Rutbil, Rantbil and Zunbil.” [1] The king was also known as Ranbal, the most common title used by the local populace. For the benefit of the readers, we shall use the epithet ‘Zunbil’.

The third ‘pious’ Caliph, Usman (644–656 A.D.) was fired with a religious zeal like his predecessor Umar. He was determined to conquer Hind and Sindh for Islam and uproot idolatory. Under his command, the governor of Basra, Abdullah-ibn-Amir sent his general Ar-Rabi-ibn-Ziyad to conquer Seistan. The first Arab attack on Zabul was carried out by Ar-Rabi in Seistan in 650 A.D. The Arab army was met with fierce resistance by the army of Abarwiz, the Satrap, and suffered huge losses, but eventually managed to defeat the Satrap after a grim and prolonged battle.[2] Ar-Rabi penetrated deep into Zabul all the way up to Bust. However, he was soon routed and forced out of Seistan by the brave locals, thereby losing all the territories he had gained.[3]

Arab Attack On Zarang And Desecration Of Temple Of Zun

Abdullah-ibn-Amir was determined to conquer the frontier provinces of Al Hind. He appointed Abdur-Rehman-ibn-Samurah as governor of Seistan in 653 A.D. to conquer Seistan and Kabul. Abdur-Rehman advanced to Zarang, the capital of Seistan, with a large army and laid siege to the castle of the Satrap of Zarang. The Satrap’s army and the inhabitants of Zarang gave Abdur-Rehman a tough fight and a fierce battle followed. After a long and intense battle, the Satrap was defeated, and Abdur-Rehman extracted a heavy tribute from him. Abdur-Rehman captured the city of Zarang and the territories surrounding it.

Within a year, the Arab general Abdur-Rehman advanced to the province of Zamindawar with a large army. There was a temple devoted to the Hindu mountain god Zun, believed to be a mountain version of Lord Shiva on top of a sacred mountain in Zamindawar to north of Kandahar. The Hindu god Zun was said to be “the northern mountain form of Shiva or ‘an adaptation of Shiva to a local god, introduced from India,’” [4] and the temple of Zun was the most important pilgrimage site of the entire region. Abdur-Rehman surrounded the sacred mountain with the temple of Zun and subjugated the local people, levying a heavy tribute on them. However, his real purpose was iconoclasm, as he took perverse pleasure in desecrating the temple and disfiguring the golden idol of the Hindu god Zun with fanatical zeal. He “went into the temple of Zur (Zun), an idol of gold with two rubies for eyes, he cut off a hand and took out the rubies. Then he said to the Satrap, ‘keep the gold and gems. I only wanted to show that it had no power to harm or help.’” [5]

Abdur-Rehman had to withdraw from Seistan due to internal civil dissidence in the Caliphate of Usman, which resulted in the First Fitna or religious war of Islam and eventually led to the overthrowing of the Rashidun Caliphate and the establishment of the Umayyad Caliphate. Abdur-Rehman appointed Umair-ibn-Ahmar in his place to govern the conquered territories of Seistan. However, soon after Abdur-Rehman departed to Arabia, the local inhabitants of Zarang rejected the Arab Islamic rule. “Subsequently the people of Zaranj expelled Umair and closed the town” to the Arabs.[6]

Arabs invade Kabul And Zabulistan

Early on in his reign, the first Umayyad Caliph, Muawiyah (661–680 A.D.) appointed Abdur-Rehman-ibn-Samurah as governor of Seistan once again with the aim of conquering Kabul and Zabul. Led by Abdur Rehman, a large Arab army laid siege to Kabul. After a long siege extending over a month, the Arab army stormed Kabul and finally managed to take possession of Kabul. But “the king of Kabul made an appeal to the warriors of India and the Musalmans were driven out of Kabul. He recovered all other countries and advanced as far as Bust.” [7] The king of Kabul, however agreed to pay an annual tribute to keep the Arabs at bay but over time he withheld the tribute to the Arabs. From Kabul, the Arab invaders marched on to Zabul and after a fierce battle, managed to defeat the people and get a foothold in Zabul.

The success of Zabul was also shortlived for the Arabs. Soon afterwards, Abdur Rehman was called back to Basra. Upon his departure, the Satraps of Kabul and Zabul rejected Islam and drove out the Arab Muslims from their kingdoms. The succeeding Arab governor attempted to subdue the region but failed and eventually made a treaty with the Satraps for a stipulated amount of money.[8]

Revolt Of Kabul And Slaughter Of Arabs At Junzah

In 683 A.D. the people of Kabul revolted under the leadership of the Kabul Shahi king as “Kabul Shah assembled a force to oppose the Moslems and drove out all of them that were in Kabul.” [9] Yazid-ibn-Ziyad, the governor of Seistan rushed in with his Arab army to restrain the revolt but his attempt at retribution was crushed by the Kabul Shahi army at the Battle of Junzah and his army was completely routed. Yazid-ibn-Ziyad was killed in battle along with many other prominent warriors of Arab aristocracy and his army was slaughtered in large numbers. Those Arab soldiers who escaped slaughter managed to flee.[10]

Around the same time, the Zunbil or king of Zabul also declared war on the Arabs and drove them out of Seistan. The Zunbil captured the Arab general Abu Ubaida and held him hostage and the Arabs had to pay large a very large sum of money to procure the release of Abu Ubaida from the king of Zabul. Yet, in spite of his victory over the Arab army, the Zunbil was defeated and killed in battle in 685 A.D. by Umair-al-Mazini. Zunbil’s son, also titled Zunbil (or Ranbal) continued the war with the Arabs to defend Zabul.


[1] – The Dynastic History Of Northern India — Vol. 1, P 65 — H. C. Ray

[2] – Kitab Futuh Al Buldan: Vol. 2, P 142–143 — Al Baladhuri Tr. By Francis Clark Murgotten

[3] – Indian Resistance To Early Muslim Invaders Upto 1206 A.D., P 39 — Dr. Ram Gopal Mishra

[4] – Al Hind: The Making Of The Indo Islamic World, Vol. 1 — Early Medieval India And The Expansion Of Islam — 7th-11th Centuries, P 118–119 — Andre Wink

[5] – Kitab Futuh Al Buldan: Vol. 2, P 144 — Al Baladhuri Tr. By Francis Clark Murgotten

[6] – Kitab Futuh Al Buldan: Vol. 2, P 144 — Al Baladhuri Tr. By Francis Clark Murgotten

[7] – The History Of India As Told By Its Own Historians, Vol. 2 — The Muhammadan Period, P 415 — Elliot And Dawson

[8] – The History And Culture Of The Indian People: Vol. 3 — The Classical Age, P 167 — R. C. Majumdar

[9] – Kitab Futuh Al Buldan: Vol. 2, P 147 — Al Baladhuri Tr. By Francis Clark Murgotten

[10] – The History And Culture Of The Indian People: Vol. 3 — The Classical Age, P 168 — R. C. Majumdar

Featured Image Credit: Representational Map Of Hindu Kingdoms Of Kapisa And Zabul In 600-700 A.D.

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