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Saints of the Indus: The Rise of Islam in South Asia's Borderlands

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 May 2016

University of Wisconsin


This paper summarises an argument I make at much greater length in the forthcoming fourth volume of my book Al-Hind: The Making of the Indo-Islamic World. For more detail and extensive footnotes and references I refer to the longer version.

The aim of this summary is to provide an outline of a new account of the rise of Islam in Sindh and more broadly the Indus borderlands — the latter comprise Sindh, Baluchistan, the Afghan tribal areas and the Kabul wilayat, Kafiristan (the later Nuristan), the western Panjab, and, to the east and south of the northernmost curve of the Indus river, the Kashmir valley and its surrounding mountain zone. With the exception of about half of the Afghan tribal lands which are part of Afghanistan and the valley of Kashmir which is part of India today, this area is broadly coterminous with Pakistan minus Lahore.

Part IV: Beyond the Empire
Copyright © The Royal Asiatic Society 2016 

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1 Lieven, A., Pakistan: A Hard Country (New York, 2011), p. 30 Google Scholar.

2 Charles Masson, Narrative of Various Journeys in Balochistan, Afghanistan and the Panjab, 1826 to 1838, 4 vols (reprinted New Delhi, 1997), IV, p. 335; Lieven, Pakistan, p. 342.

3 Thomas, R. Hughes (ed.), Memoirs of Sind (Selections from the Records of the Bombay Government, No. XVII-New Series), I (Karachi, 1979; first edition 1855), p. xli Google Scholar; Lieven, Pakistan, p. 305.

4 Elphinstone, M., An Account of the Kingdom of Caubul, 2 vols (1815; reprinted Karachi, 1992), I, p. 114 Google Scholar; Lieven, Pakistan, p. 378. Lieven cautions that “no reliable Afghan national census has ever taken place” (ibid.).

5 Encyclopaedia Iranica (New York, 2005), s.v.

6 Thorburn, S. S., Musalmans and Money-Lenders in the Punjab (Lahore, 1886), p. 17 Google Scholar; Lieven, Pakistan, p. 259.

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8 Reflecting on the early 16th-century Bāburnāma, Masson wrote: “There is nothing more evident from all Babur's details than the fact, that the countries of Kâbal [Kabul], Nangenhár (Nangarhar], Lúghmân [Laghman], & c. were in his days infinitely less populous than they are at present” [italics added] (Narrative of Various Journeys, I, p. 218).

9 Cf. Burton, R. F., Sindh and the Races that Inhabit the Valley of the Indus (1851 reprint New Delhi, 1997), p. 304 Google Scholar; Wink, André, Al-Hind: The Making of the Indo-Islamic World, 3 vols (Leiden and Boston, 1990–2004), III, p. 15Google Scholar and passim.

10 Wink, Al-Hind, I, p. 175; III, pp. 64–78.

11 Wink, Al-Hind, I, pp. 141, 175–185; Barthold, W., An Historical Geography of Iran (Princeton, 1984), pp. 2095 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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13 Rashid, S. A. (ed.), Inshā’-i-Māhrū (Lahore, 1965), pp. 4951 Google Scholar, 110–112; S. Sen, N. (ed.), Indian Travels of Thevenot and Careri (New Delhi, 1949), p. 77 Google Scholar; Wink, Al-Hind, III, p. 15.

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17 Wink, Al-Hind, I, pp. 231–254; II, p. 350; Y. Bronner, “From conqueror to connoisseur: Kalhana's account of Jayapida and the fashioning of Kashmir as a kingdom of learning”, paper presented at the Annual Conference on South Asia, Madison, WI, 22 Oct. 2011.

18 Wink, Al-Hind, I, pp. 147–166.

19 Beal, Si-Yu-Ki, p. 463.

20 Ibid ., pp. 462 ff.


21 Ibid ., pp. 461–465; Lambrick, H. T., Sind: A General Introduction (Hyderabad, 1964), pp. 146151 Google Scholar; Maclean, D. N., Religion and Society in Arab Sind (Leiden, 1989), pp. 516 Google Scholar.


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23 Wink, Al-Hind, I, pp. 95, 166–167, and II, p. 238; Elphinstone, Kingdom of Caubul, I, pp. 205–206; J. T. Arlinghaus, The Transformation of Afghan Tribal Society (Unpublished PhD Dissertation, Duke University, 1983), pp. 109–110; Tapper, R., “Holier than Thou: Islam in three tribal societies”, in Ahmed, Akbar S. and Hart, David M. (eds), Islam in Tribal Societies from the Atlas to the Indus (London, 1984), p. 258 Google Scholar; Burton, Sindh, pp. 18, 233, 246, 410, n. 2; Rose, H. A., A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Panjab and North-West Frontier Province, 2 vols (1919 reprint Delhi, 1999), II, pp. 2528 Google Scholar, 539; Ali, Shahamet, The History of Bahawalpur, with notices of the adjacent countries of Sindh, Afghanistan, and the west of India (London, 1848), p. 182 Google Scholar; Pottinger, Travels in Beloochistan and Sinde, p. 267; Matheson, S. A., The Tigers of Baluchistan (London, 1967), p. 8 Google Scholar.

24 Hardy, Peter, “Modern European and Muslim explanations of conversion to Islam in South Asia: A preliminary survey of the literature”, in Levtzion, N. (ed.), Conversion to Islam (New York and London, 1979), pp. 6899 Google Scholar.

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26 See especially Eaton, R. M., “The political and religious authority of the shrine of Baba Farid”, in Metcalf, B. D. (ed.), Moral Conduct and Authority: The Place of Adab in South Asian Islam (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London, 1984), pp. 333356 Google Scholar; idem, “Approaches to the study of Islam in India”, in R. C. Martin (ed.), Approaches to Islam in Religious Studies (Tucson, 1985), pp. 106–126; idem, Islamic History as Global History (Washington, DC, 1990); idem, The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204–1760 (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, 1993).

27 Eaton, “Approaches to the study of Islam”, p. 111.

28 Eaton, Islamic History as Global History, p. 35.

29 Karin de Vries, Islamitische heiligen en heiligentomben in Multan: de rol van heiligen in ontginning, sedentarisatie en Islamisering (1320–1901) (MA Dissertation, Department of Indian Studies (Instituut Kern), University of Leiden, 1997), pp. 9–23, 77–84; Gazetteer of the Jhang District 1883–4 (Lahore, 1884), p. 69; Ibbetson, D., Panjab Castes: being a reprint of the Chapter on “the Races, Castes and Tribes of the People” in the Report on the Census of the Panjab Published in 1883 (Lahore, 1916), p. 148 Google Scholar; Gazetteer of the Mooltan District 1883–4 (Lahore, 1884), pp. 60–61, 67; S. Hellbusch, Westphal and Westphal, H., Zur Geschichte und Kultur der Jat (Berlin, 1968), p. 72 Google Scholar; Masson, Narrative of Various Journeys, I, pp. 456–457; Morris, J. B., Report on the Revised Settlement of the Mooltan District in the Mooltan Division (Lahore, 1860), pp. 5, 14–15Google Scholar.

30 Tapper, “Holier than Thou”.

31 Vryonis, Speros Jr, The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor and the Process of Islamization from the Eleventh through the Fifteenth Century (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, 1971)Google Scholar.

32 Wink, Al-Hind, I, pp. 119–128, 144–189, 201–218, and II, p. 88.

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34 Wink, Al-Hind, II, pp. 112–135, 138–139.

35 Ibid ., II, pp. 135–149.


36 Ibid ., II, pp. 202–211, 239–244, and III, pp. 118, 120–122; Masson, Narrative of Various Journeys, IV, p. 388; Rashid (ed.), Inshā’-i-Māhrū, pp. 9, 19–22, 100–103, 186–188, 229–235.


37 Wink, Al-Hind, II, pp. 207–8, and III, p. 122; Pandit, K. R. (translation), A Chronicle of Medieval Kashmir (Calcutta, 1991), pp. 17, 27–29Google Scholar.

38 Tārkhānnāma (British Museum, ms. Or. 1814), f. 72; Babur, Zahiruddin Muhammad, Bāburnāma: Chaghatay Turkish Text with Abdul Rahim Khankhanan's Persian translation, Turkish Transcription, Persian Edition and English Translation, (ed.) Thackston, W. M. Jr, 3 vols (Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University: Sources of Oriental Languages & Literatures XVIII, (ed.) by Tekin, S. & Tekin, G. A., Turkish Sources XVI, 1993)Google Scholar, ff. 125b, 128, 131, 135b, 136, 137b, 140, 144b, 145, 154–155b, 160, 162–162b, 172b, 184b, 187b, 195–202, 209–211b, 215b–216, 237b; Khwānd-Amīr, Habīb as-siyar fī akhbār-i-afrād-i-bashar, (ed.) Jalal Huma'i, 4 vols (Tehran, 1333/1954), III, pp. 150, 276, and IV, pp. 170, 293; Shams-i-Sirāj ‛Afīf, Tārīkh-i-Fīrūz Shāhī (Calcutta, 1888), p. 51; ‛Allāmī, Abū’l-Faḍl, Ā’īn-i-Akbarī, translated by Blochmann, H., 3 vols (reprint New Delhi, 1977–8), II, p. 406 Google Scholar; Masson, Narrative of Various Journeys, II, p. 224; Akhtar, M. S., Sind under the Mughals: An Introduction to, Translation of and Commentary on the Mazhar-i-Shahjahani of Yusuf Mirak (1044/1634) (Karachi, 1990), p. 246 Google Scholar; Siddiqi, M. H., “Baluch migration in Sindh”, in Lakho, G. M. (ed.), The Samma Kingdom of Sindh (Historical Studies) (Jamshoro, 2006), pp. 99104 Google Scholar; Wink, André, “On the road to failure: The Afghans in Mughal India”, Cracow Indological Studies 11 (2009), pp. 267339 Google Scholar.

39 Irving, Miles, “The shrine of Baba Farid Shakarganj at Pakpattan”, Journal of the Panjab Historical Society 1 (1919–1920), pp. 70–76Google Scholar; O'Brien, Audrey, “The Mohammedan saints of the Western Panjab”, The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 41 (1911), pp. 509520 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Vries, De, Islamitische heiligen en heiligentomben in Multan; Sarah F. D. Ansari, Sufi Saints and State Power: The Pirs of Sind, 1843–1947 (Cambridge, 2003)Google Scholar; Green, Nile, “Blessed Men and tribal politics: Notes on political culture in the Indo-Afghan world”, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 49:3 (2006), pp. 344360 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

40 Ernest Gellner applies this terminology to Muslim saints in Morocco: cf. Saints of the Atlas (London, 1969).

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