Hindu Temples what happened to them? - Part -3

The mention made by Maulana Abdul Hai (Indian Express, February 5) of Hindu temples turned into mosques, is only the tip of an iceberg, The iceberg itself lies submerged in the writings of medieval Muslim historians, accounts of foreign travellers and the reports of the Archaeological Survey of India.

A hue and cry has been raised in the name of secularism and national integration whenever the iceberg has chanced to surface, inspite of hectic efforts to keep it suppressed. Marxist politicians masquerading as historians have been the major contributors to this conspiracy of silence.

Muslim politicians and scholars in present-day India resent any reference whatsoever to the destruction of Hindu temples in medieval times. They react as if it is a canard being spread by those they stigmatise as Hindu communalists. There was, however, a time, not so long ago, when their predecessors viewed the same performance as an act of piety and proclaimed it with considerable pride in inscriptions and literary compositions. Hindus of medieval India hardly wrote any history of what happened to their places of worship at the hands of Islamic iconoclasts.

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Whatever evidence the Hindus cite in this context comes entirely from Islamic sources, epigraphic and literary. Epigraphic Evidence There are many mosques all over India which are known to local tradition and the Archaeological Survey of India as built on the site of and, quite frequently, from the materials of, demolished Hindu temples. Most of them carry inscriptions invoking Allah and the Prophet, quoting the Quran and giving details of when, how and by whom they were constructed. The inscriptions have been deciphered and connected to their historical context by learned Muslim epigraphists.

They have been published by the, Archaeological Survey of India in its Epigraphia Indica-Arabic and Persian Supplement, an annual which appeared first in 1907-08 asEpigraphia Indo-Moslemica. The following few inscriptions have been selected in order to show that

(1) destruction of Hindu temples continued throughout the period of Muslim domination;
(2) it covered all parts of India-east, west, north and south; and
(3) all Muslim dynasties, imperial and provincial, participated in the �pious performance.�

1. Quwwat al-Islam Masjid, Qutb Minar, Delhi: This fort was conquered and the Jami Masjid built in the year 587 by the Amir� the slave of the Sultan, may Allalh strengthen his helpers. The materials of 27 idol temples, on each of which 2,000,000 Delhiwals had been spent were used in the (construction of) the mosque�� (1909-10, Pp 3-4). The Amir was Qutbud-Din Aibak, slave of Muizzud-Din Muhammad Ghori. The year 587 H. corresponds to 1192 A.D. �Delhiwal� was a high-denomination coin current at that time in Delhi.

2. Masjid at Manvi in the Raichur District of Karnataka: Praise be to Allah that by the decree of the Parvardigar, a mosque has been converted out of a temple as a sign of religion in the reign of the Sultan who is the asylum of Faith  Firuz Shah Bahmani who is the cause of exuberant spring in the garden of religion (1962, Pp. 56-57). The inscription mentions the year 1406-07 A.D. as the time of construction.

3. Jami Masjid at Malan, Palanpur Taluka, Banaskantha District of Gujarat: The Jami Masjid was built� by Khan-I-Azam Ulugh Khan... who suppressed the wretched infidels. He eradicated the idolatrous houses and mine of infidelity, along with the idols with the edge of the sword, and made ready this edifice. He made its walls and doors out of the idols; the back of every stone became the place for prostration of the believer (1963, Pp. 26-29). The date of construction is mentioned as 1462 A.D. in the reign of Mahmud Shah I (Begada) of Gujarat.

4. Hammam Darwaza Masjid at Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh: Thanks that by the guidance of the Everlasting and the Living (Allah), this house of infidelity became the niche of prayer. As a reward for that, the Generous Lord constructed an abode for the builder in paradise (1969, p. 375). Its chronogram yields the year 1567 A.D. in the reign of Akbar, the Great Mughal. A local historian, Fasihud-Din, tells us that the temple had been built earlier by Diwan Lachhman Das, an official of the Mughal government.

5. Jami Masjid at Ghoda in the Poona District of Maharashtra: O Allah! 0 Muhammad! O Ali! When Mir Muhammad Zaman made up his mind, he opened the door of prosperity on himself by his own hand. He demolished thirty-three idol temples (and) by divine grace laid the foundation of a building in this abode of perdition (1933-34, p.24). The inscription is dated 1586 A.D. when the Poona region was ruled by the Nizam Shahi sultans of Ahmadnagar.

6. Gachinala Masjid at Cumbum in the Kurnool District of Andhra Pradesh: He is Allah, may he be glorified. During the august rule of Muhammad Shah, there was a well-established idol-house in Kuhmum Muhammad Salih who prospers in the rectitude of the affairs of Faith razed to the ground, the edifice of the idol-house and broke the idols in a manly fashion. He constructed on its site a suitable mosque, towering above the buildings of all (1959-60, Pp. 64-66).

The date of construction is mentioned as 1729-30 A.D. in the reign of the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah. Though sites of demolished Hindu temples were mostly used for building mosques and idgahs, temple materials were often used in other Muslim monuments as well. Archaeologists have discovered such materials, architectural as well as sculptural, in quite a few forts, palaces,maqbaras, sufi khanqahs, madrasas, etc. In Srinagar, Kashmir, temple materials can be seen in long stretches of the stone embankments on both sides of the Jhelum. Two inscriptions on the walls of the Gopi Talav, a stepped well at Surat, tell us that the well was constructed by Haidar Quli, the Mughal governor of Gujarat, in 1718 A.D. in the reign of Farrukh Siyar.

One of them says, its bricks were taken from an idol temple. The other informs us that Haider Quli Khan, during whose period tyranny has become extinct, laid waste several idol temples in order to make this strong building firm (1933-34, Pp. 37-44).

Literary Evidence Literary evidence of Islamic iconoclasm vis-a-vis Hindu places of worship is far more extensive. It covers a longer span of time, from the fifth decade of the 7th century to the closing years of the eighteenth. It also embraces a larger space, from Transoxiana in the north to Tamil Nadu in the south, and from Afghanistan in the west to Assam in the east. Marxist historians and Muslim apologists would have us believe that medieval Muslim annalists were indulging in poetic exaggerations in order to please their pious patrons. Archaeological explorations in modern times have, however, provided physical proofs of literary descriptions.

The vast cradle of Hindu culture is literally littered with ruins of temples and monasteries belonging to all sects of Sanatana Dharma - Buddhist, Jain, Saiva, Shakta, Vaishnava and the rest. Almost all medieval Muslim historians credit their heroes with desecration of Hindu idols and/or destruction of Hindu temples. The picture that emerges has the following components, depending upon whether the iconoclast was in a hurry on account of Hindu resistance or did his work at leisure after a decisive victory: 1. The idols were mutilated or smashed or burnt or melted down if they were made of precious metals. 2. Sculptures in relief on walls and pillars were disfigured or scraped away or torn down.

3. Idols of stone and inferior metals or their pieces were taken away, sometimes by cartloads, to be thrown down before the main mosque in (a) the metropolis of the ruling Muslim sultan and (b) the holy cities of Islam, particularly Mecca, Medina and Baghdad.

4. There were instances of idols being turned into lavatory seats or handed over to butchers to be used as weights while selling meat.

5. Brahmin priests and other holy men in and around the temple were molested or murdered.

6. Sacred vessels and scriptures used in worship were defiled and scattered or burnt.

7. Temples were damaged or despoiled or demolished or burnt down or converted into mosques with some structural alterations or entire mosques were raised on the same sites mostly with temple materials.

8. Cows were slaughtered on the temple sites so that Hindus could not use them again. The literary sources, like epigraphic, provide evidence of the elation which Muslims felt while witnessing or narrating these �pious deeds.� A few citations from Amir Khusru will illustrate the point. The instances cited relate to the doings of Jalalud-Din Firuz Khalji, Alaud-Din Khalji and the letters military commanders. Khusru served as a court-poet of sex successive sultans at Delhi and wrote a masnavi in praise of each. He was the dearest disciple of Shaikh Nizamud-Din Awliya and has come to be honoured as some sort of a sufi himself. In our own times, he is being hailed is the father of a composite HinduMuslim culture and the pioneer of secularism. Dr. R. C. Majumdar, whom the Marxists malign as a communalist historian names him as a liberal Muslim�.

1. Jhain: Next morning he (Jalalud-Din) went again to the temples and ordered their destruction While the soldiers sought every opportunity of plundering, the Shah was engaged in burning the temples and destroying the idols. There were two bronze idols of Brahma, each of which weighed more than a thousand mans. These were broken into pieces and the fragments were distributed among the officers, with orders to throw them down at the gates of the Masjid on their return (to Delhi) (Miftah-ul-Futuh).

2. Devagiri: He (Alaud-Din) destroyed the temples of the idolaters and erected pulpits and arches for mosques (Ibid.).

3. Somanath: They made the temple prostrate itself towards the Kaaba. You may say that the temple first offered its prayers and then had a bath (i.e. the temple was made to topple and fall into the sea) He (Ulugh Khan) destroyed all the idols and temples, but sent one idol, the biggest of all idols, to the court of his Godlike Majesty and on that account in that ancient stronghold of idolatry, the summons to prayers was proclaimed so loudly that they heard it in Misr (Egypt) and Madain (Iraq) (Tarikh-i-Alai).

4. Delhi: He (Alaud-Din) ordered the circumference of the new minar to be made double of the old one (Qutb Minar)The stones were dug out from the hills and the temples of the infidels were demolished to furnish a supply (Ibid.).

5. Ranthambhor: This strong fort was taken by the slaughter of the stinking Rai. Jhain was also captured, an iron fort, an ancient abode of idolatry, and a new city of the people of the faith arose. The temple of Bahir (Bhairava) Deo and temples of other gods, were all razed to the ground (Ibid.).

6. Brahmastpuri (Chidambaram): Here he (Malik Kafur) heard that in Bramastpuri there was a golden idol He then determined on razing the temple to the ground It was the holy place of the Hindus which the Malik dug up from its foundations with the greatest care, and the heads of brahmans and idolaters danced from their necks and fell to the ground at their feet, and blood flowed in torrents. The stone idols called Ling Mahadeo, which had been established a long time at the place and on which the women of the infidels rubbed their vaginas for (sexual) satisfaction, these, up to this time, the kick of the horse of Islam had not attempted to break. The Musulmans destroyed in the lings and Deo Narain fell down, and other gods who had fixed their seats there raised feet and jumped so high that at one leap they reached the fort of Lanka, and in that affright the lings themselves would have fled had they had any legs to stand on (Ibid).

7. Madura: They found the city empty for the Rai had fled with the Ranis, but had left two or three hundred elephants in the temple of Jagnar (Jagannatha). The elephants were captured and the temple burnt (Ibid.).

8. Fatan: (Pattan): There was another rai in these parts a Brahmin named Pandya Guru his capital was Fatan, where there was a temple with an idol in it laden with jewels. The rai fled when the army of the Sultan arrived at Fatan They then struck the idol with an iron hatchet, and opened its head. Although it was the very Qibla of the accursed infidels, it kissed the earth and filled the holy treasury (Ashiqa).

9. Malbar: (Parts of South India): On the right hand and on the left hand the army has conquered from sea to sea, and several capitals of the gods of the Hindus, in which Satanism has prevailed since the time of the Jinns, have been demolished. All these impurities of infidelity have been cleansed by the Sultans destruction of idol-temples, beginning with his first holy expedition to Deogir, so that the flames of the light of the Law (of Islam) illumine all these unholy countries, and places for the criers of prayers are exalted on high, and prayers are read in mosques. Allah be praised! (Tarikh-i-Alai). The story of how Islamic invaders sought to destroy the very foundations of Hindu society and culture is long and extremely painful. It would certainly be better for everybody to forget the past, but for the prescriptions of Islamic theology which remain intact and make it obligatory for believers to destroy idols and idol temples.
Indian Express, February 19, 1989

Chapter Three

 Some Historical Questions Sita Ram Goel Why did Islamic invaders continue to destroy Hindu temples and desecrate the idols of Hindu Gods and Goddesses throughout the period of their domination? Why did they raise mosques on sites occupied earlier by Hindu places of worship? These questions were asked by Hindu scholars in modern times after the terror of Islam had ceased and could no more seal their lips. In India - and in India alone - two explanations have come forth. One is provided by the theology of Islam based on the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet. The other has been proposed by Marxist professors and lapped up by apologists of Islam. We shall take up the second explanation first.

The credit for pioneering the Marxist proposition about destruction of Hindu temples goes to the late Professor Mohammed Habib of the Aligarh Muslim University. In his book, Sultan Mahmud of Ghaznin, first published in 1924, he presented the thesis that Mahmud's destruction of Hindu temples was actuated not by zeal for the faith but by lust for plunder. According to him, India at that time was bursting with vast hoards of gold and silver accumulated down the ages from rich mines and a prosperous export trade. Most of the wealth, he said without providing any proof, was concentrated in temple treasuries. It was impossible, wrote the professor, that the Indian temples should not sooner or later tempt some one strong and unscrupulous enough for the impious deed. Nor was it expected that a man of Mahmud's character would allow the tolerance which Islam inculcates to restrain him from taking possession of the gold when the Indians themselves had simplified his work by concentrating the wealth of the country at a few places (p. 82).

Professor Habib did not hide any of the salient facts regarding destruction of Hindu temples by Mahmud, though the descriptions Le gave were brief, sometimes only in footnotes. He also narrated how Mahmud's exploits were celebrated at Baghdad by the Caliph and the populace and how the hero was compared to the companions of the Prophet who had achieved similar victories in Arabia, Syria, Iraq and Iran. Only the conclusion he drew was radically different from that drawn by Mahmud's contemporaries as well as latter-day historians and theologians of Islam. Islam, he wrote, sanctioned neither the vandalism nor the plundering motives of the invader; no principle of the Shariat justifies the uncalled for attack on Hindu princes who had done Mahmud and his subjects no harm; the wanton destruction of places of worship is condemned by the law of every creed. And yet Islam, though it was not an inspiring motive could be utilised as an a posteriors justification for what was done. So the precepts of the Quran were misinterpreted or ignored and the tolerant policy of the Second Caliph was cast aside in order that Mahmud and his myrmidons may be able to plunder Hindu temples with a clear and untroubled conscience (Pp. 83-84, Emphasis in source). This proposition of Mahmud's guilt and Islam's innocence appealed to the architect of India's secularism, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. In a letter dated June 1, 1932, he wrote to his daughter, Indira Gandhi, that Mahmud was hardly a religious man, that he was a Mohammedan of course, but that was by the way and that Mahmud would have done what he did to whatever religion he might have belonged (Glimpses of World History, 1982 Reprint, p. 155).

In fact, Pandit Nehru went much farther than Professor Habib. The latter had written how Mahmud gave orders to burn down thousands of temples at Mathura after he had admired their architectural excellence. Pandit Nehru narrated how Mahmud admired the temples but omitted the fact that they were destroyed by him (Ibid., Pp. 155-156). Thus a determined destroyer of Hindu temples was transformed into an ardent admirer of Hindu architecture! This portrayal of Mahmud remained unchanged in his Discovery of India which was published in 1946 (1982 Reprint, p. 235). In days to come, Professor Habibs thesis that lust for plunder and not the Islamic theology of iconoclasm occasioned the destruction of Hindu temples, became the party line for Marxist historians who, in due course, came to control all institutions concerned with researching, writing and teaching of Indian history. This was extended to cover all acts of Muslim iconoclasm in medieval Indian history. It became a crime against secularism and national integration even to mention Islam or its theology in this context. Any historian who dared cite facts recorded by medieval Muslim historians was denounced as a Hindu communalist.

Three Marxist professors wrote a book attacking Dr. R.C. Majumdar in particular, simply because the great historian was not prepared to sacrifice truth at the altar of Communist politics. The book was printed by a Communist publishing house and prescribed for graduate and post-graduate courses in Indian universities. What was more, the Marxist professors discovered a political motive as well. Hindu temples were seen as centres of political conspiracies which Muslim sultans were forced to suppress. And if the temples got destroyed in the process, no blame could be laid at the door of the sultans who were working hard in the interest of public order and peace.

In a letter published in the Times of India on October 21, 1985, twelve Marxist professors rallied in defence of Aurangzeb who had destroyed the Keshavdeva temple at Mathura and raised an Idgah in its place.

The Dera Keshava Rai temple, they wrote, was built by Raja Bir Singh Bundela in the reign of Jahangir. This large temple soon became extremely popular and acquired considerable wealth. Aurangzeb had this temple destroyed, took its wealth as booty and built an Idgah on the site. His action might have been politically motivated as well, for at the time when the temple was destroyed he faced problems with the Bundelas as well as Jat rebellion in the Mathura region.

The climax was reached when the same Marxist professors started explaining away Islamic iconoclasm in terms of what they described as Hindu destruction of Buddhist and Jain places of worship. They have never been able to cite more than half-a-dozen cases of doubtful veracity. A few passages in Sanskrit literature coupled with speculations about some archaeological sites have sufficed for floating the story, sold ad nauseam in the popular press, that Hindus destroyed Buddhist and Jain temples on a large scale. Half-a-dozen have become thousands and then hundreds of thousands in the frenzied imagination suffering from a deep-seated anti-Hindu animus.

Lately, they have added to the list the destruction of animist shrines from pre-Hindu India, whatever that means. And these facts have been presented with a large dose ofsuppressio veri suggestio falsi. A few instances will illustrate the point. A very late Buddhist book from Sri Lanka accuses Pushyamitra Sunga, a second century B.C. king, of offering prizes to those who brought to him heads of Buddhist monks. This single reference has sufficed for presenting Pushyamitra as the harbinger of a Brahmanical reaction which culminated in the age of the Guptas.

The fact that the famous Buddhist stupas and monasteries at Bharhut and Sanchi were built and thrived under the very nose of Pushyamitra is never mentioned. Nor is the fact that the Gupta kings and queens built and endowed many Buddhist monasteries at Bodh Gaya, Nalanda and Sarnath among many other places. A Pandyan king of Madura is reported to have been a persecutor of Jains. This is mentioned in a book of the Saiva faith to which he belonged. But the source also says that before becoming a convert to Saivism, the king was a devout Jain and had persecuted the Saivites. This part of the story is never mentioned by the Marxist professors while they bewail the persecution of Jains. According to the Rajatarirgini of Kalhana, King Harsha of Kashmir plundered Hindu and Buddhist temples in his lust for the gold and silver which went into the making of idols. This fact is played up by the Marxist professors with great fanfare. But they never mention Kalhan's comment that in doing what he did Harsha acted like a Turushka (Muslim) and was prompted by the Turushkas in his employ. This placing of Hindu kings on par with Muslim invaders in the context of iconoclasm suffers from serious shortcomings.

Firstly, it lacks all sense of proportion when it tries to explain away the destruction of hundreds of thousands of Brahmanical, Buddhist and Jain temples by Islamic invaders in terms of the doubtful destruction of a few Buddhist and Jain shrines by Hindu kings. Secondly, it has yet to produce evidence that Hindus ever had a theology of iconoclasm which made this practice a permanent part of Hinduism. Isolated acts by a few fanatics whom no Hindu historian or pandit has ever admired, cannot explain away a full-fledged theology which inspired Islamic iconoclasm. Lastly, it speaks rather poorly of Marxist ethics which seems to say that one wrong can be explained away in terms of another.1 Coming to the economic and political motives for the destruction of Hindu temples, it does not need an extraordinary imagination to see that the Marxist thesis is contrived and farfetched, if not downright ridiculous. It does not explain even a fraction of the facts relating to the destruction of Hindu temples as known from literary and archaeological sources. Even if we grant that Hindu temples in India continued to be rich and centres of political unrest for more than a thousand years, it defies understanding why they alone were singled out for plunder and destruction. There was no dearth of Muslim places of worship which were far richer and greater centres of conspiracy.

The desecration of Hindu idols and raising of mosques on temple sites is impossible to explain in terms of any economic or political motive whatsoever. Small wonder that the Marxist thesis ends by inventing facts instead of explaining them. Professor Habib cannot be accused of ignorance about the theology or history of Islam. The most that can be said in his defence is that he was trying to salvage Islam by sacrificing Mahmud of Ghaznin who had become the greatest symbol of Islamic intolerance in the Indian context. One wonders whether he anticipated the consequences of extending his logic to subsequent sultans of medieval India. The result has been disastrous for Islam. In the process, it has been reduced to a convenient cover for plunder and brigandage.

The heroes of Islam in India have been converted into bandits and vandals. It is amazing that apologists of Islam in India have plumped for Professor Habib's thesis as elaborated by succeeding Marxist scribes. They would have rendered service to Islam if they had continued admitting honestly that iconoclasm has been an integral part of the theology of Islam. Their predecessors in medieval India made no bones about such an admission. Nor do the scholars of Islam outside India, particularly in Pakistan. What we need most in this country is an inter-religious dialogue in which all religions are honest and frank about their drawbacks and limitations. Such a dialogue is impossible if we hide or supress or invent facts and offer dishonest interpretations. Mahatma Gandhi had said that Islam was born only yesterday and is still in the process of interpretation. Hiding facts and floating fictions is hardly the way for promoting that process. Indian Express, April 16, 1989 Footnotes: 1 It is intriguing that the Marxist professors never mention the destruction of Buddhist and Jain establishments in Transoxiana, Sinkiang, Seistan and India which on the eve of the Islamic invasion included present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Every historian and archaeologist of that period knows that the vast Buddhist and Jain establishments at Bukhara, Samarkand, Khotan, Balkh, Bamian, Begram, Jalalabad, Peshawar, Takshasila, Mirpur-Khas, Nagar-Parkar, Sringar, Sialkot, Agroha, Mathura, Hastinapur, Kanauj, Sravasti, Ayodhya, Sarnath, Nalanda, Vikramsila, Vaishali, Rajgir, Odantpuri, Bharhut, Paharpur, Jagaddala, Jajnagar, Nagarjunikonda, Amaravati, Kanchi, Dwarasamudra, Bharuch Valabhi, Palitana, Girnar, Patan, Jalor, Chandrawati, Bhinmal, Didwana, Nagaur, Osian, Bairat, Gwalior and Mandu were destroyed by the swordsmen of Islam. Smaller establishments of these faiths, which met the same fate, add up to several hundred.

Chapter Four

In the Name of Religion Sita Ram Goel We shall now take up the explanation provided by the theology of Islam derived from the Quran and the Hadis. Ibn Ishaq, the first biographer of the Prophet, devotes many pages to a description of Arab polytheism at the time when Islam started taking shape. Every Arab household, he tells us, had an idol of some God or Goddess. He also gives the names of many idols which were housed in sanctuaries maintained by different tribes across the Arab peninsula.

The Kaaba at Mecca which housed 360 idols was only one of these sanctuaries, though it was the most prestigious. One of the idols in the Ka�ba was named Allah. Though it had some primacy over other idols, it was far from being an exclusive deity. Besides, there were many sacred groves and places of pilgrimage visited by Arabs on special occasions. At the same time, Ibn Ishaq informs us that Monotheism was becoming an attractive creed among some sections of the Arab elite. It was the creed of the Roman, Iranian and Abyssinian empires which inspired awe and admiration among the Arabs at that time. Many Jews and Christians were present, individually or in communities, in the more important Arab towns. These People of the Book took great pride in their worship of the one and only God and looked down upon the Arabs who had had no Prophet, who possessed no Book and who worshipped stones and stocks. They aroused a sense of inferiority in the minds of those Arabs who came in close contact with them but who were not equipped with an alternate theology that could defend their own Gods and Goddesses. Such Arabs looked forward to the day when Arabia also would have a Prophet and a Book of its own. Those who have compared the Bible and the Quran know how close the two are in spirit and language on the subject of idols and idol-worshippers. Like Jehovah of the Bible, Allah also advances his claim to be the one and only God.

He denounces the mushriks (idolaters) as the doubly damned category of kafirs (unbelievers) when compared to the other category, the People of the Book. The idols, proclaims Allah while abrogating the so-called Satanic Verses, are mere names invented by the ancestors of the Arabs. They have neither eyes nor ears nor hands nor feet and can, therefore, neither help nor harm. They cannot respond to prayers and will fail to save their worshippers from bell on the Day of Judgement. They will themselves burn in the fire of hell together with those who worship them. Meanwhile, they render their worshippers napak (abominable) in the eyes of Allah. In the early days of Islam, Muslims were too weak to practice iconoclasm at Mecca. They had to rest content with expressing their contempt for idols. Food which had first been offered to idols was spurned. Names which referred to some pagan God or Goddess were changed as soon as the bearers entered the fold of Islam.

But the clarion call had come. Herd them together, said Allah, those who commit transgression and those whom they worship, and start them on the road to hellfire (Quran, 37.22-23).

The Prophet saw Amr bin Lubayy dragging his intestines in Fire.Amr was a second century king, supposed to have brought idols from Syria and set them up in Arabia. Medina where Muslims were stronger witnessed some acts of iconoclasm even before the Prophet migrated to that city. Ibn Ishaq tells us how the idol of Amr Ibnul-Jamuh was stolen at night by a group of Muslims and thrown into a cesspit, again and again till Amr lost faith in it and became a Muslim. At nearby Quba, Sahl broke up the idols of his tribe at night and took the pieces to a Muslim woman who used them as fuel. The Prophet made iconoclasm a pious performance for all Muslims for all time to come when he practised it himself on the very day he conquered Mecca.

When the Prophet, writes Ibn Ishaq, prayed the noon prayer on the day of the conquest he ordered that all the idols which were round the Kaaba should be collected and burnt with fire and broken up. Citing some other sources, the Encyclopaedia of Islamsays, Muhammad when he entered Mecca as victor is stated to have struck them in the eyes with the end of his bow before he had them dragged down and destroyed by fire. Pictorial representations of Ali standing on the shoulders of the Prophet and tearing down the idol of Hubal from top of a Kaaba wall, have been published by Shias.1 Soon after, expeditions were sent to other parts of Arabia for doing what had been done at Mecca. Idols were smashed and temples destroyed or converted into mosques everywhere, Muslim poets vied with each other to record the events in rapturous verse. Fazal bin al-Mulawwih sang: Had you seen Muhammad and his troops, The day the idols were smashed when he entered, You would have seen Gods light become manifest, In darkness covering the face of idolatry. And Kab bin Malik: We foresook al-Lat, al-Uzza and Wudd We stripped off their necklaces and earrings. And al-Mustaughir Bin Rabia who was a warrior as well as a poet: I smashed Ruda so completely that I left it a black ruin in a hollow. Growing Islam, concludes the Encyclopaedia of Islam, was from the very beginning intent upon the destruction of all traces of pagan idolatry and was so successful that the anti-quarians of the second and third century of the Hadira could glean only very scanty details. Some of the idols were made use of for other purposes, as for example, the idol Dhul-Kalasa which was worshipped at Tabala, a place on the road from Mekka to Yaman in the time of Ibn al-Kalbi (about 200 A.D.), was used as a stepping stone under the door of the mosque at Tabala. Other stones which had been worshipped as idols were actually used as corner-stones of the Kaaba. Muslim historians tell us on the authority of the Prophet that idolaters of Arabia had set up idols in places which were meant to be mosques when they were established for the first time by Abraham. The mosque of Kaaba, we are told, had been built by Abraham at the very centre of the earth.2 Those who dismiss Rama as mythological gossip and deny him a place of birth at Ayodhya may well enquire whether Abraham was a historical person who actually presided over the building of the Kaaba. It is, however, recorded history that the armies of Islam did everywhere what had been done in Arabia, as they advanced into Iran, Khorasan, Transoxiana, Seistan, Afghanistan and India. Hundreds of thousands of Fire Temples of the Zoroastrians, Buddhist monasteries and Hindu temples disappeared or yielded place to mosques, ziarats and dargahs. Modern archaeology, has reconstructed what happened along the trail of Islamic invasion of all these ancient lands. Maulana Minhaj-us-Siraj, the thirteenth century historian, sums up the theology of Islam vis-a-vis idols and idol-temples when he comes to Mahmud of Ghazni in his Tabqat-i-Nasiri. He was endowed, he writes, with great virtues and vast abilities; and the same predominant star was in the ascendant at his birth as appeared at the dawn of Islam itself. When Sultan Mahmud ascended the throne of sovereignty his illustrious deeds became manifest unto all mankind within the pale of Islam when he converted so many thousands of idol-temples into masjids and captured many of the cities of Hindustan. He led an army to Naharwala of Gujarat, and brought away Manat, the idol from Somnath, and had it broken into four parts, one of which was cast before the centre of the great masjid at Ghaznin, the second before the gateway of the Sultans palace, and the third and fourth were sent to Makkah and Madinah respectively. Mahmud's coins struck at Lahore in the seventh year of his reign describe him as the right hand of the Caliph and the breaker of idols.This is the simple and straightforward explanation of why Islamic invaders desecrated the idols of Hindu Gods and Goddesses, destroyed Hindu temples and converted them into mosques. It covers all facts, completely and consistently, and leaves no loopholes.

Indian Express, May 21, 1989

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