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Islamic Culture, Vol xxiii Nos 1-4 1949, The Islamic Culture Board Hyderabad, Deccan



The North African dominion acquired by the Fatimids served them as a starting-point and a base whence to pursue the conquest of the whole empire of Islam. That ultimate aim was to be achieved by two different methods: by way of direct territorial expansion on the one hand-the conquest of Egypt being the classical example-and by permeation through the da'wa on the other. The da'wa itself, the most characteristic institution of Isma'ilism, consisted, in one of its aspects, of individual missionary work among the public; another equally, or even more important side of it was to gain the adherence to the Fatimid cause of as many local rulers as possible. It cannot be said that, as far as that last point goes, the da'wa was very successful; its achievements in that field were but short -lived. The conversion of the Samanid Nasr b. Ahmad ended in a catastrophe; nor did the Isma'ili sympathies of princes like Asfar b. Shiroya or Ibn Simjur and others lead to any substantial results.

Perhaps the only place, where the work of the mission ended in the establishment of an Isma'ili principality under Fatimid sovereignty, was that farthest province of Islam, Sind.(*1) The study of Ismaili da'wa, whenever the scarcity of our sources permits it is always an absorbing subject. The da'wa in Sind, for which there is at our disposal some odd documentation -- to be called substantial only if compared with that available for most of other phases of the da'wa -claims our special attention by its singular political success. Moreover, one of the figures in the Isma'ili history of Sind is revealed by our sources as representing a quite extraordinary trend in the Isma'ili movement.

According to the Qadi al-Nu'man -and there is no reason to doubt the correctness of his information-- the da'wa in Sind goes back to the early days of the Ismaili movement. Abu-I-Qasim b. Haushab(*2) well known under the name of Mansur alYaman"sent his cousin, al-Haitham, as a da'i to the country of Sind; the latter converted many of its inhabitants and his da'wa is still existing in Sind." The Iftitah al da'wa of the Qadi al-Nu'man, whence the preceding quotation, was written in the year 346 A. H. (957 A.D.); of the conditions existing in Sind at that time we have curious details in another book of al-Nu'man, written only a few years later.

In the Kitab al-Majalis wa-l-Musayarat of al-Nu'man (*1) there is a paragraph devoted to the doings of a "heretic" da'i- heretic from the official Isma'ili point of view -in a "certain distant province" and to the events which ended in a virtuous and in every way acceptable successor being substituted for him. It was possible to guess from the beginning-owing to indications like the mention of the great idol, which could only be the idol of Multan-that the account in question referred to the mission in Sind. This conjecture was fully borne out by the Uyun al-Akhbar of Imad-al-din Idris where the whole paragraph from al-Nu'man's book is quoted(*2) accompanied by a few introductory lines lifting the anonymity which, alas, is a regular feature of the Kitab al-Majalis wa-l-Majalis wa-i-Musayarat. We can be sure that Idris had at his disposal certain sources on the history of the Sind da'wa independent of the Kitab al-Majalis wa-l-Musayarat; those sources enable him to supply the missing name of the loyal dai appointed instead of the heretic. Moreover, he was able even to quote passages from some epistles addressed by al-Mu'izz to the same da'i (Idris does not, unfortunately, specify the source from which his additional information is derived).

The passages from the Kitab al-Majalis wa-l-Musayarat and the Uyun al-Akhbar will be given in extenso; we may summarize the data furnished by them as follows.

In the time of al-Mu'izz there was in charge of the mission of Sind a da'i whose views and whose conduct were utterly at variance with the Isma'ili orthodoxy taught by the Imam and his close associates. Not only did he adopt a latitudinarian attitude towards those members of his flock who had made a direct passage from their old religion(*3) to Ismailism -whom he allowed to keep many of the un-Islamic practices of their former religion -but he even relaxed certain statutes of Islam for those who had been Muslims before joining Isma'ilism. In this passage his permitting infringements of the Islamic dietary laws and laws concerning forbidden degrees in marriage is specifically adduced; other passages in the Kitab al-majalis wa-I-Musayarat, which almost certainly refer to the same heretical da'i of Sind, charge him with dangerously heterodox views in points of doctrine.(*1) As al-Mu'izz is reported by al-Nu'man to have frankly said, he could not think of dismissing the da'i. The latter commanded the full respect of the people of his da'wa and any intervention from the Imam would have led to trouble.

As far as political success was concerned, the da'i of Sind had an important achievement to his credit: he succeeded in winning over the Fatimid cause one of the rulers of Sind.(*2) The sovereignty of al Mu'izz was openly proclaimed, and the khutba read in his name. With the help of the princely convey, the Isma'ilis of Sind were able to defeat a coalition of the rulers of the country which attacked them and to consolidate their position; the fortress which the Isma'ilis made their capital and dar hijra is probably no other but the city of Multan.

While the da'i was thus engaged in advancing the Fatimid cause, and court in Mansuriyya was secretly intriguing in order to bring about his downfall. An opportune riding accident, however, rendered any further efforts unnecessary and delivered the Imam from his zealous, but heretical, Servant. He was succeeded by a prominent member of that part of the Sindi da'wa which kept strictly to the orthodox tenets him by the Imam, enjoining him to arrange for the elimination of the heretic da'i were Halam (or Halim) b. Shaiban.(*3)

It was but natural that the first concern of the new da'i was to do away with the religious abuses of this predecessor. He of course, made it a point to act only after the closest consultation with the Imam. Not only was he intent on enforcing a strict Islamic orthodoxy in the conduct of the da'wa but also went out of his way to destroy the famous idol of Multan.

We can date these events with sufficient certainty: the Kitab al-Majalis wa-l-Musayarat was written in 351 A.H. (or very soon afterwards) Moreover, an epistle of al-Mu'izz to Halam (*4) bears the date 354 A. H.

The author of the Uyun al-Akhbar introduces that epistle with the following words: "There arrived a letter from him (vis., Halam) in which he mentioned the victory which God granted him in the jazira (the Ismaili term for a "diocese" under the jurisdiction of a da'i) of Sind and the dominion which the Friends of God had acquired there. He mentioned that he had broken the idol, for the destruction of which he had previously asked the Imam's permission. He addressed to the Imam certain questions concerning the restoration of religion and the abolition of the changes introduced by the wicked da'i who had wandered upon the path of transgressors. He also consulted the Imam about several matters concerning law (fiqh) and permitted and prohibited things (al-hala wa-I-haram) and about problems of allegorical interpretation (ta'wil), the knowledge of which has been given by God to the People of Meditation (ahl al-dhikr), Imam after Imam. The Imam answered him by a sijill which is very famous and well known and is written down in the pages of the books."

The first one of the extracts from the epistle does not concern the affairs of Sind: al-Mu'izz gives an account of the victories gained over the Byzantines. But after this extract the 'Uyun al-Akhbar gives another one, too, reading as follows(*1) Referring to what you have written: that God has granted you a victory over place; that terrible battles have been fought between you, till God gave you the victory, by His help and assistance and you exterminated them completely; that you destroyed their idol and built a mosque on its site-what a great favour, what manifest and palpable excellence and lasting glory is that from God! We would be very much please if you could sent us the head of that idol; it would accrue to your lasting glory and would inspire your brethren at our end to increase their zeal and their desire to unite with you in a common effort in the cause of God. The realization of God's promise to us, which used to seen so remote, has indeed, become imminent." According to the 'Uyun al-Akhbar the last paragraph of the epistle read: "We have sent you some of our banners which you can unfurl in case of need. Whenever they are unfurled over the heads of the believers God increases thier glory by the banners

and hails them with His assistance; on the other hand, when they are unfurled over the heads of the unbelievers, the banners humiliate their pride and overwhelm them by the power of God Who is our Benefactor... Written on Sunday, the 19th of Ramadan of the year 354."

In another passage(*1) quoted by the Uyun al-Akhbar the Qadi al-Nu'man summarizes the Ismaili achievements in Sind as follows: "The da'wa of the Ruler of the Epoch (wali al-zaman) has emerged victoriously in Sind, his faithful followers earned glory; his da'i there conquered the ruler of the kingdom of Sind who was a Zoroastrian, Killed him and his men and destroyed the idol which they used to worship and made a mosque of the temple in which the idol used to stand." We might compare a passage from al-Biruni: (India, trad. Sachau, I, 116) " When the Qarmatians occupied Multan, Jalam (read Halam) Ibn Shaiban, the usurper, broke the idol into pieces and killed its priests. He converted its mansion which was a castle built on an elevated place into a mosque and ordered the old mosque to be closed down out of hatred for everything that had been build under the Umayyad caliphs."

We have much information about the subsequent affairs of the Fatimid "colony" in Sind. We do not know even the exact nature of the relations between the da'i and that "proselyte king" (al-malik al-mustajib) whose help brought about the victory of the Fatimid cause. There is nothing extraordinary in the fact that the epistles of the Imam are addressed to the da'i on the other hand even the passage of al-Biruni speaks as if the temporal rule were in the hands of the da'i. Nevertheless we may perhaps assume that Fatimid Sind was under a king of dual government, the king and his descendants being in charge of the temporal affairs under the spiritual guidance of the da'is. The contemporary geographers who mention the Fatimid sovereignty over Sind seem to indicate such a state of affairs, although they do not give any details in this connection.

Al-Muqaddasi, who visited Sind in 375 A.H. writes (ed De Goeje, p. 485) In Multan the khutba is in the name of the Fatimid and all decisions are taken according to his commands. Their envoys and presents go regularly to Egypt. He (the ruler of Sind) is a powerful and just ruler."(*1) Speaking of the religious doctrines prevalent inthe province, al-Muqaddasi says (p.481): "The inhabitants of Multan are Shi'a who use the formula Hayy ala khair al-amal in the call to prayer and employ a double iqama."

The information given by al-Muqaddasi's contemporary, the anonymous author of the Hudud al-Alam (about 372 A. H.) is to the same effect translation of Minorsky, p.89): "The governor is a Quraishite from the descendants of Sam (a)(*2) He lives at a camp half a parasang from Multan and recites the khutba in the name of the Western One (bar Maghribi) (It is puzzling how it comes about that the Ismaili Ibn Hauqal, whose knowledge of Fatimid affairs is ordinarily very good and who wrote after establishment of the Fatimid rule in Multan does not mention it at all.)

Isma'ili rule in Multan was brought to an end by Mahnmud of Ghazna. In 396 he made tributary the Isma'ili ruler whose name is given by the historians -the earliest being Gardizi as Abu-l-Futuh Da'ud b. Nasr; in 401 he occupied Multan and took captive Abu-l-Futuh was a descendant (grandson?) of the ruler converted to Isma'ilism in the time of al-Mu'izz.

The later phases of the history of Isma'ilism in Sind and in India stand in no direct connection with the first successful attempt to establish a territorial rule in Sind; they are, therefore, outside the scope of the present article.


(Sorry, we do not have the facility to show arabic text here)


1. in manuscript Istanbul (see notes to De Goeje's edition ) there is an addition about Mukran "I heard that to-day they say the Khutba for the Maghribi (=the Fatimid).

2. If this information is correct, it follows that it was the old dynasty, allegedly of the Quraish clan of Sama b. Lu'ayy, who converted to Isma'ilism and who continued to rule under Fatimid sovereignty. (About the old dynasty of Multan, cf. for example, Ray The Dynastic History of Northern India I, 14 ff. and Nadvi, 1. c.)

the only authorities are the standard Arabic geographers of the period, like Ibn Khurdadbeh, al-Mas'udi, Istakhri and Ibn Hauqal.

3. See M. Nazim The life and Times of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna pp. 96-99-Later Indian historians like Firishta pretend to know about a "Sheikh Hamid Lodi" of the Afghan extraction who was the grandfather of Abu-Futuh; the stories they relate are very doubtful and may be pure inventions.

1. Isma'ilism in Sind has recently formed the subject of studies by H. Ray, The dynastic History of Northern India, Calcutta 1931, vol, I, ch. I;S Nadvi Muslim Colonies in India before the Muslim Conquest, Islamic Culture, VII, 1934, pp 609-20 (the material used in these works is mainly that contained in the classical work of Elliot-Dowson, The History of India as told by its own Historians, London, 1867-77, vols, I-II, passim); and specially B. Lewis, Isma'ili Notes II B.S.O.S. Xii, 1948, pp 599-600.

2. A copy, written 1310 A. H. was kindly put at my disposal by Mr. Shamoon the passage in question is on p. 14.- The article Multan in the Enc. of islam says: "At this time (viz, 900 A. D. ) it was seized by 'Abd Allah the Karmati, and became a stronghold of the Karmatian heretics who were crushed and expelled by the orthodox Mahmud of Gahzni" This is due to a misunderstanding. The authority Abdulla (sil Ibn Mayrnun) called Karmat (sic!) Whose followers, towards the end of the tenth century seized Multan".

1. Copy in the library of the School of Oriental and African Studies of the year 1315, very carelessly written it contains the second volume only (see B.S.O.S., VII 1933, p.34). The passage in question is on fol.106 ff.

2. Copy of Mr. Shamoon, (written in 1290), VI, 188 ff.

3. Al-Nu'man says that old religion was that of the Maju, this is probably a vague denomination for Hindus. (This does not exclude the possibility that there might have been Zoroastrians among the inhabitants of Sind) It is difficult to see how Foucher ( Ancient Multan, Woolner Commemoration Volume, p.90 La Vieille Route de I'Inde de Bactres a Taxila, Memoires de la Delegation Francaise en Afghanistan II (Paris, 1947), p, 266 268, deduces from the passage of al-Biruni India trad. Sachau I, 21 that the temple of Multan was "desservi par des mages, by brahmanes-mages "implying some kind of Zoroastrian - Hindu syncretism.


1. These guardedly worded passages are precious documents about forgotten, or rather suppressed, trends in Isma'ilism; I shall analyses them on another occasion.

2. Possibly a member of the old Quraishite ruling family; see below note 1. p.6

3. Uyn al-Akhbar, vol VI constantly writes .... al -Biruni 9 see below) has which is to be restored to .... Curiously Uyun, al-Akhbar, vol V-both in the copy used by Ivanow (see next note) and that before me (written by a scribe different from that who wrote vol VI) has the form.... which was however, in the copy used by me corrected to....

4. Uyun al Akhybar, Vi 214ff- An extract from another epistle of al-Mu'izz to Halam is to be found in vol V of the Uyn al-Akhbar (Mr. Shamoon's copy p. 250) it has been printed by ivanow, Journal of the Bombay Branch of the R.A.S., 1940 pp 74-76 Ivanow seems to have a slight doubt the genuineness of the document, which is of capital importance; I shall give the proof of its authenticity in a forthcoming study on the Qarmatians of Iraq.

1. Vol Vi p.222 The passage is probably from vol I of the Kitab al-Majalis Wa-I Musayarat, Which I did not have the opportunity to read.