Contrary to statist narrations about the advent of Islam into South Asia as being of one-sided benefit to the 'pagan' region, there is plenty of evidence from Islam's 'Golden Age' to show that the benefits were very much a two-way street.

The Islamic 'Golden Age' was an era spread across the initial centuries of the rise and spread of Islam, when a heightened amount of intellectual contact of Muslims with the neighbouring world led to unrivalled gains in various sciences, as more and more nations entered the fold of Islam.

The conquest of the formerly Byzantine Levant and Sassanid Persia introduced the nascent Muslim world to great new spheres of intellectual progress. With the conquest of the Indus Valley, situated in modern-day Pakistan, in around the year 711 CE, Muslims effectively stretched the Islamic frontiers inside South Asia - a region which would evolve to become one of the most significant influences for the pursuit of knowledge amongst early Muslims.

The Indus Valley not only enlightened the Muslim world by lending Baghdad its most learned scholars, but also served as the primary vehicle for the movement of knowledge from the rest of South Asia to the Islamic world.

As Islam spread across South Asia in the early 8th century, the Indus Valley emerged as a region which had plenty to offer to the Muslim world. The conquest of Sindh opened a gateway of knowledge between the expanding Muslim empire and the Indus Valley, resulting in a great exchange of intellectual ideas, knowledge, practices and practitioners


Early Islamic geography was a subject under constant evolution. However, one notion that Muslim geographers upheld initially was the division of South Asia into Sindh and Hind, with the former being the Indus Valley and the latter being the rest of South Asia.

The geographer Ibn Khordadbeh's (820-912 CE) 9th century description of 'Sindh' (the Indus Valley) covered portions of the Indus basin and much of modern Pakistan, as his Sindh comprised of the regions of Makran, Turan, al-Qiqan, Multan and Sindh proper, essentially covering much of today's Balochistan, Sindh and portions of Punjab.

Apart from Sindh's status both as a geographic entity and a strong kingdom before its conquest, the probable reason that the Muslims adopted such nomenclature to differentiate between Sindh and Hind would be to distinguish between the areas with a Muslim stronghold and those that lay beyond the frontiers of the Islamic world.

This religious and geographic distinction is apparent in the early Muslim geographic book Kitab Al Masalik Wa Mamalik [The Book of Roads and Countries] where the author, through differentiating between the portions under Muslim rule with that of the non-Muslim portion, refers to South Asia by employing the term 'Sindh-wal-Hind' (Sindh and Hind).

This geographic division along religious lines appears to have become a strongly ingrained concept in the Islamic world since we later see the 11th century Ghaznavid chroniclers Utbi and Gardezi repeatedly refer to the Indus River as 'Sayhun,' which was the name of the Jaxartes River in Central Asia. The reason behind this, according to the esteemed scholar Clifford Bosworth, was because both rivers 'marked the frontier zone between the land of Islam and Paganism.'

The method employed for discovering the origin of individuals in the Islamic world is through nisbahs, which are attached adjectives used as surnames to depict the original homeland of a person. For the people of the Indus Valley, this mainly pertained to 'Sindhi,' 'Mansuri,' 'Deybali,' 'Qusdari,' 'Makrani' etc. However, because of the vague early Islamic geography, the term 'Sindhi' was also at times applied to people within modern Afghanistan, just as the term 'Hindi' was applied to the people of Sindh in modern-day Pakistan.


The initial Islamic advances into Sindh's neighbourhood coincided with the transition of Sindh from the Buddhist Rai dynasty to the Hindu Chach dynasty. The battle of Rasil, fought by the forces of the Caliph Umer (584-644 CE) in Sindh, marked the beginning of this Islamic advance. However, the conquest of Sindh began nearly a century later, in the era of the Umayyad Caliphate, in 711 CE.

The conquest and fighting began at the port city of Deybul and slowly expanded north. A final success at the battle of Alor against Raja Dahir (633-712 CE) of Sindh proved to be pivotal for the Muslim forces and led to them capturing hefty amounts of booty and slaves. The conquest of Sindh was complex in nature, since the Muslim forces were so far from home and in a completely alien land. They relied heavily on using strong, brute force and enslavement, where deemed...

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