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The Islamic conquest of Afghanistan (642–1187) began after the Islamic conquest of Persia was completed, when Arab Muslims defeated the Sassanid Empire at the battles of Walaja, al-Qādisiyyah and Nahavand. The Arabs then began to move towards the lands east of Persia and in 642 captured the city, Herat. The complete conversion of Afghanistan to Islam was during the period of the Ghaznavids, in or about the 11th century.



Names of territories during the Caliphate.

The invasion of Persia was completed five years after the death of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and all of the Persian territories came under Arab control, though pockets of tribal resistance continued for centuries in the Afghan territories. During the 7th century, Arab armies made their way into the region of Afghanistan from Khorasan with the new religion of Islam. At this point in time the area that is currently Afghanistan had a multi-religious population consisting of Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Hindus, Jews, and others.

Part of the region was ruled by Turkic Buddhist/Hindu dynasty called the Kabul Shahis since the 5th century AD. The Arabs were unable to succeed in converting the population of that area because of constant revolts from the mountain tribes. In 870, Ya'qub-i Laith Saffari, a local ruler from the Saffarid dynasty of Zaranj, conquered most of the cities of present-day Afghanistan in the name of Islam.

Arab armies carrying the banner of Islam came out of the west to defeat the Sasanians in 642 AD and then they marched with confidence to the east. On the western periphery of the Afghan area the princes of Herat and Seistan gave way to rule by Arab governors but in the east, in the mountains, cities submitted only to rise in revolt and the hastily converted returned to their old beliefs once the armies passed. The harshness and avariciousness of Arab rule produced such unrest, however, that once the waning power of the Caliphate became apparent, native rulers once again established themselves independent. Among these the Saffarids of Seistan shone briefly in the Afghan area. The fanatic founder of this dynasty, the coppersmith’s apprentice Yaqub ibn Layth Saffari, came forth from his capital at Zaranj in 870 AD and marched through Bost, Kandahar, Ghazni, Kabul, Bamyan, Balkh and Herat, conquering in the name of Islam.[1]
Nancy Hatch Dupree , 1971

From the eighth century to the ninth century, many inhabitants of what is present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, and areas of northern India were converted to Sunni Islam. In some cases, however, many people that were conquered by the Saffarids would rebel and revert to prior forms of worship.[1] The mountain areas were still not completely converted and remained largely by people of non-Muslim faiths. In a book called Hudud-al-Alam, written in 982 CE, it mentions a village near Jalalabad, Afghanistan, where the local king used to have many Hindu, Muslim and Afghan wives.[2] This indicates that the mentioned Afghans were not Hindus or Muslims.



Out of the Samanid dynasty came the Ghaznavids, whose warriors forged the first great Islamic empire from Ghazni (Afghanistan) that spanned much of the Iranian plateau, Central Asia and conducted many successful raids into Hindustan. During the end of the ninth century, the Samanids extended its rule from Bukhara to as far south as the Indus River and west into most of Persia. By the mid-tenth century, the Samanid dynasty had crumble in the face of attacks from Turkish tribes to the north and from the Ghaznavids, a rising Turkic Muslim dynasty in Afghanistan.

It is surmised from the writings of Al Biruni that some Afghans who lived west of India (modern-day Pakistan) had not been completely converted to Islam. Al Biruni, writing in Tarikh al Hind, also alludes to those Afghan tribes as being neither Muslim nor Hindu, but simply Afghans.

The most explicit mentioning of the Afghans appears in Al- Baruni’s Tarikh al hind (eleventh century AD). Here it is said that various tribes of Afghans lived in the mountains in the west of India. Al Baruni adds that they were savage people and he describes them as Hindus.[2]
Willem Vogelsang , 2002
Al Beruni mentions the Afghans once (ed Sachau, I 208) saying that in the western mountains of India live various tribes of Afghans who extend to the neighbourhood of the Sindh (i.e., Indus) valley. Thus in the eleventh century when the Afghans are first mentioned, they are found occupying the Sulaiman Mountains now occupied by their descendants, the very tribes which the advocates of the exclusive claims of the Durannis will not admit to be true Afghans. Al Beruni no doubt also alludes to them in the passage (loc. Cit. p 199) where he says that rebellious savage races, tribes of Hindus, or akin to them inhabit the mountains which form the frontier of India towards the west.[3]
H.A. Rose , 1997

Various historical sources such as Martin Ewans, E.J. Brill and Farishta have recorded that the complete conversion of Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern India to Islam was during the rule of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni.

The Arabs advanced through Sistan and conquered Sindh early in the eighth century. Elsewhere however their incursions were no more than temporary, and it was not until the rise of the Saffarid dynasty in the ninth century that the frontiers of Islam effectively reached Ghazni and Kabul. Even then a Hindu dynasty the Hindushahis, held Gandhara and eastern borders. From the tenth century onwards as Persian language and culture continued to spread into Afghanistan, the focus of power shifted to Ghazni, where a Turkish dynasty, who started by ruling the town for the Samanid dynasty of Bokhara, proceeded to create an empire in their own right. The greatest of the Ghaznavids was Muhmad who ruled between 998 and 1030. He expelled the Hindus from Ghandhara, made no fewer than 17 raids into India. He encouraged mass conversions to Islam, in India as well as in Afghanistan.[4]
Martin Ewans , 2002

Al-Idirisi testifies that until as late as the 12th century, a contract of investiture for every Shahi king was performed at Kabul and that here he was obliged to agree to certain ancient conditions which completed the contract.[5] The Ghaznavid military incursions assured the domination of Sunni Islam in what is now Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. The most renowned of the dynasty's rulers was Mahmud of Ghazni, who consolidated control over the areas south of the Amu Darya then carried out devastating raids into India. With his booty from India, Mahmud built a great capital at Ghazni, founded universities, and patronized scholars. By the time of his death, Mahmud ruled a vast empire that stretched from Kurdistan to the entire Hindu Kush region as far east as the Punjab as well as territories far north of the Amu Darya. However, as occurred so often in this region, the demise in 1030 of this military genius who had expanded the empire to its farthest reaches was the death knell of the dynasty itself. The rulers of the Ghorids of Ghor in modern-day Afghanistan, captured and burned Ghazni in 1149, just as the Ghaznavids had once conquered Ghor. Not until 1186, however, was the last representative of the Ghaznavids uprooted by the Ghorids from his holdout in Lahore, in the Punjab.

See also


  1. ^ a b Dupree, Nancy Hatch (1971) "Sites in Perspective (Chapter 3)" An Historical Guide To Afghanistan Afghan Tourist Organization, Kabul, OCLC 241390
  2. ^ a b Willem Vogelsang, The Afghans, Edition: illustrated Published by Wiley-Blackwell, 2002, Page 18, ISBN 0631198415, 9780631198413 (LINK)
  3. ^ A Glossary Of The Tribes And Castes Of The Punjab And North-West Frontier Province Vol. 3 By H.A. Rose, Denzil Ibbetson Sir Published by Atlantic Publishers & Distributors, 1997 Page 211 ISBN 8185297703, 9788185297705
  4. ^ Afghanistan: a new history By Martin Ewans Edition: 2, illustrated Published by Routledge, 2002 Page 15 ISBN 0415298261, 9780415298261
  5. ^ Al-Idrisi, p 67, Maqbul Ahmed; Al-Hind, the Making of the Indo-Islamic World, 1991, p 127, Andre Wink.

Further reading

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