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Humshehri: Thinking Pakistan's History

Thinking Pakistan's History

Chachnama

An Arab account of the conquest of Sindh, the Chachnama is part myth and part history.

Last Updated: 28 Aug. 2014

Introduction

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Sindh and Punjab under the caliphate
(William Robert Shepherd)

The Chachnama or The Story of Chach is an Arab narrative detailing the history of Sindh before its conquest by the Muslims in 711 AD and the events thereafter. Although its historical authenticity is disputed, the Chachnama provides a version of events that must be examined critically. Many believe its part myth and part history.

The original manuscript was written in Arabic and later translated to Persian in the 13th century by a man named Muhammad Ali bin Abu Bakr Kufi. Ali Kufi was a resident of Uch, now in Punjab, and he set out in search of the history of this land. In Bhakkar he met a Qazi of the Sakifi tribe who gave him an Arabic manuscript written by the Qazi’s ancestors. Ali Kufi translated this manuscript into Persian and in 1900 Mirza Kalich Beg translated the Persian edition into English.

Chachnama

The Chachnama is named after Chach, a Brahmin who starts out as minister to the king of Sindh by the name of Rai Sahasi. At that time, Sindh and Punjab were one kingdom ruled by the same king. At the death of the king, Chach plots with the widowed queen to kill off all the contenders to the throne. Chach then becomes king, marries the queen and expands his empire. According to the Chachnama, Chach is unpopular with his people due to his discriminating policies. The tribes of Jats and Meds who resided in Sindh were not allowed to wear silk, satin, shoes or even turbans. They were forced to remain either woodcutters or caravan guides their entire lives.

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Muhammad bin Qasim
(Zaindy87)

Eventually after the death of Chach, his son Dahir ascends the throne of Sindh. In order to ward off a fatal prophecy, he marries his own sister. During his reign, a Muslim ship is captured by pirates off the coast of Debal, and Hajjaj bin Yusuf writes to Dahir asking for his help. Dahir insists that he has no control over the pirates and therefore cannot help. Hajjaj bin Yusuf then dispatches his nephew Muhammad bin Qasim who enters Sindh by way of Balochistan. Dahir bravely fights the Muslim armies off but is defeated and killed. Muhammad bin Qasim then continues to conquer Sindh and goes up till Multan.

The Chachnama narrates that upon the accusation of Raja Dahir’s daughters, Muhammad bin Qasim was recalled to Iraq and put to death. In facts, scholars have established that Muhammad bin Qasim was executed by the new Caliph due to his political affiliations with the previous Caliph.

Primary sources

Chachnama: A book based on an Arabic manuscript that tells the history of Sindh before its conquest by the Muslims in 711 AD and the events thereafter.

Find out more

News

Rashid, Salman. “The Chachnama.” The Express Tribune. 18 Jan. 2013.


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