Sunday, March 11, 2007

India - Ghazni & temple

India - Temple destruction
Article follows my comments

This issue has been a sore subject with the Indians. Ghazni did destroy the Somnath temple, and it has been believed as destruction of Hindu Places of Worship.

This is one of the most damaging issues in the Hindu-Muslim relationships. As a Muslim I condemn Ghazni for doing this, and state that he was another King, like many of the Kings of the time; be it Hindu, Muslim or Alexander, who had nothing else to do than go around robbing other nations and keep usurping the neighboring kingdoms, a strong king was shamelessly praised for this destructiveness.

For the Hindu community, I would urge them to see Ghazni in that light, it will release some of the tension. For Ghazni did not do it for Muslims, nor did he leave institutions for Muslims for their betterment, nor any Muslim in India has his inheritance. We should not be carrying his burden.

Finding the truth is one's own responsibility, given that the below book review by Yogi Sikand is welcome.

Mike Ghouse

Truth Behind Tales of Temple Destruction

Name of the Book: Temple Destruction and Muslim States in Medieval India
Author: Richard M. Eaton,
Publisher: Hope India, Gurgaon (
Year: 2004 Pages: 101 Price: Rs.225 ISBN: 81-7871-027-7

Reviewed by: Yoginder Sikand

Central to the diverse memories of Hindus and Muslims in India about the history of Hindu-Muslim relations are incidents or claims of the destruction of Hindu temples by Muslim rulers. These memories are a defining element in the construction of contemporary communal identities. Some Muslims see medieval Muslims Sultans who are said to have destroyed temples as valiant heroes who struggled against Brahminism, idolatry and polytheism. For many Hindus, these very kings are the epitome of evil and godlessness.

The theme of the iconoclast Muslim Sultan is routinely put to use for political mobilization by communal forces, as so tragically illustrated in the case of the Babri Masjid controversy, resulting in the deaths of thousands of people. Not content with that, Hindutva forces are on record as declaring that they aim at destroying or capturing some 30,000 mosques and Muslim shrines, which, they claim, were built on the sites of Hindu temples allegedly destroyed by Muslim rulers. Hindutva literature is replete with exhortations to Hindus to avenge the misdeeds, both real and imaginary, of medieval Muslim kings, including destruction of temples. This propaganda and the communal mobilization that it has provoked have resulted in a sharp deterioration of inter-communal relations in recent years.

That some Muslim kings did indeed destroy certain Hindu temples is an undeniable fact, which even most Muslims familiar with medieval history would readily concede. However, as this remarkable book by the noted historian Richard Eaton points out, extreme caution needs to be exercised in accepting the claims of medieval historians as well as in interpreting past events in terms of today's categories. Failure to do this, he says, has resulted in the construction of the image of all Muslims as allegedly fired by an irrepressible hatred of Hindus, a gross distortion of actual history.

The notion of the Muslim Sultan as temple-breaker, Eaton says, derives essentially from history texts written by British colonial administrators, who, in turn, drew upon Persian chronicles by Muslim historians attached to the courts of various Indian Muslim rulers. Eaton argues that British colonial historians were at pains to project the image of Muslim rulers as wholly oppressive and anti-Hindu, in order to present British rule as enlightened and civilized and thereby enlist Hindu support. For this they carefully selected from the earlier Persian chronicles those reports that glorified various Muslim Sultans as destroyers of temples and presented these as proof that Hindus and Muslims could not possibly live peacefully with each other without the presence of the British to rule over them to prevent them from massacring each other. Although some of these reports quoted in British texts were true, many others were simply the figment of the imagination of court chroniclers anxious to present their royal patrons as great champions of Islamic orthodoxy even if in actual fact these rulers were lax Muslims.

Dealing with actual instances of temple-breaking by Muslim rulers, Eaton appeals for a more nuanced approach, arguing that in most cases these occurred not simply or mainly because of religious zeal. Thus, the raids on temples by the eleventh century Mahmud Ghaznavi must be seen as motivated, at least in part, by the desire for loot, since the temples he destroyed were richly endowed with gold and jewels, which he used to finance his plundering activities against other Muslim rulers in Afghanistan, Iran and elsewhere. Beginning in the early thirteenth century, the Delhi Sultans' policy of selective temple desecration aimed, not as in the earlier Ghaznavid period, to finance distant military operations on the Iranian plateau but to de-legitimize and extirpate defeated Indian ruling houses. The process of Indo-Muslim state building, Eaton says, entailed the sweeping away of all prior political authority in newly conquered territories. When such authority was vested in a ruler whose own legitimacy was associated with a royal temple, typically one that housed idol of ruling dynasty's state-deity, that temple was normally looted or destroyed or converted into a mosque, which succeeded in 'detaching the defeated raja from the most prominent manifestation of his former legitimacy'. Temples that were not so identified were normally left untouched. Hence, Eaton writes, it is wrong to explain this phenomenon by appealing to what he calls as an 'essentialized theology of iconoclasm felt to be intrinsic to Islam'.

Royal temple complexes were pre-eminently political institutions, Eaton says. The central icon, housed in a royal temple's garba griha or 'womb-chamber' and inhabited by the state-deity of the temple's royal patron, expressed the 'shared sovereignty of king and deity'. Therefore, Eaton stresses, temple-breaking, especially of temples associated with ruling houses, was essentially a political, rather than simply religious, act. As proof of this thesis he cites instances of the sacking of royal temples of Hindu rulers by rival Hindu kings as early as the sixth century C.E.. In AD 642 CE the Pallava king Narashimhavarman I looted the image of Ganesha from the Chalukyan capital of Vatapi.. In the eighth century, Bengali troops sought revenge on king Lalitaditya by destroying what they thought was the image of Vishnu Vaikuntha, the state deity of Lalitaditya's kingdom in Kashmir. In the early ninth century the Pandyan king Srimara Srivallabha also invaded Sri Lanka and took back to his capital a golden Buddha image that had been installed in the kingdom's Jewel Palace. In the early eleventh century the Chola king Rajendra I furnished his capital with images he had seized from several neighboring Chalukya, Kalinga and Pala rulers. In the mid-eleventh century the Chola king Rajadhiraja defeated the Chalukyas and plundered Kalyani, taking a large black stone door guardian to his capital in Thanjavur, where it was displayed to his subjects as a trophy of war. In addition to looting royal temples and carrying off images of state deities, some Hindu kings, like some of their later Muslim counterparts, engaged in the destruction of the royal temples of their political adversaries. In the early tenth century, the Rashtrakuta monarch Indra III not only destroyed the temple of Kalapriya (at Kalpa near the Jamuna River), patronized by the Pratiharas, but, Eaton writes, 'took special delight in recording the fact'.

This and other such evidence clearly suggests, Eaton argues, that 'temples had been the natural sites for the contestation of kingly authority well before the coming of Muslim Turks to India'. Hence, the Turkish invaders, in seeking to establish themselves as rulers, followed a pattern that had already been established before their arrival in India. Yet, the iconoclastic zeal of the Muslim rulers of India must not be exaggerated, Eaton says. He claims that based on evidence from epigraphic and literary evidence spanning a period of more than five centuries (1192-1729), 'one may identify eighty instances of temple desecration whose historicity appears reasonably certain', a figure much less than what Hindutva ideologues today claim.
In judging these incidents, extreme caution is necessary, Eaton suggests. These temples were destroyed not by 'ordinary' Muslims, but, rather, by officials of the state.

Further, the timing and location of these incidents is also significant. Most of them occurred, Eaton says, on 'the cutting edge of a moving military frontier', in the course of military raids or invasions of neighboring territories ruled by Hindu kings. Once Muslim rulers had conquered a particular territory and incorporated it into their kingdom typically such incidents were few, if at all. When Muslim rulers grew mainly at the expense of other Muslim ruling houses, temple desecration was rare, which explains, for instance, why there is no firm evidence of the early Mughal rulers Babar and Humayun, whose principal adversaries were Afghans, in engaging in temple desecration, including, strikingly, in Ayodhya. Certain later Mughal and other rulers are said to have engaged in the destruction of royal temples and building mosques on their sites in territories ruled by rebel chieftains. These acts were intended to be punishments for rebellion, and once rebellions were quelled few such incidents took place.
Whatever form they took, Eaton says, 'acts of temple desecration were never directed at the people, but at the enemy king and the image that incarnated and displayed his state-deity'. Eaton cites in this regard a contemporary description of a 1661 Mughal campaign in Kuch Bihar, northern Bengal, which resulted in the annexation of the region, makes it clear that Mughal authorities were guided by two principal concerns: to destroy the image of the state-deity of the defeated Raja, Bhim Narayana and to prevent Mughal troops from looting or in any way harming the general population of Kuch Bihar. Accordingly, the chief judge of Mughal Bengal, Saiyid Muhammad Sadiq, was directed to issue prohibitory orders that nobody was to touch the property of the people. Sayyid Sadiq, Eaton tells us, 'issued strict prohibitory orders so that nobody had the courage to break the laws or to plunder the property of the inhabitants. The punishment for disobeying the order was that the hands, ears or noses of the plunderers were cut'. In newly annexed areas formerly ruled by non-Muslims, as in the case of Kuch Bihar, Eaton goes on, 'Mughal officers took appropriate measures to secure the support of the common people, who after all created the material wealth upon which the entire imperial edifice rested'.

The theory that politics, rather than simple religious zeal, lay behind most instances of temple-breaking by Muslim rulers is strengthened by the fact that, as Eaton points out, once Hindu Rajas were defeated by Muslim kings and their territories annexed, pragmatism dictated that temples within the Emperor's realm remained unharmed. This was the case even with the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, generally projected as the epitome of Muslim iconoclasm. Eaton quotes an order issued by Aurangzeb to local officials in Benares in 1659 to provide protection to the Brahman temple functionaries there, together with the temples at which they officiated. The order reads:
In these days information has reached our court that several people have, out of spite and rancor, harassed the Hindu residents of Benares and nearby places, including a group of Brahmans who are in charge of ancient temples there. These people want to remove those Brahmans from their charge of temple-keeping, which has caused them considerable distress. Therefore, upon receiving this order, you must see that nobody unlawfully disturbs the Brahmans or other Hindus of that region, so that they might remain in their traditional place and pray for the continuance of the Empire.

Justifying this order, Aurangzeb asserted, 'According to the Holy Law (shari'at) and the exalted creed, it has been established that ancient temples should not be torn down'. At the same time, he added that no new temples should be built, a marked departure from the policy of Akbar. However, Eaton says that this order appears to have applied only to Benares because many new temples were built elsewhere in India during Aurangzeb's reign.

Eaton thus seeks to dismiss the notion that various Muslim rulers in India wantonly engaged in destroying Hindu temples, allegedly driven by a 'theology of iconoclasm'. Such a picture, he insists, cannot, sustained by evidence from original sources from the early thirteenth century onwards. Had instances of temple desecration been driven by a 'theology of iconoclasm', he argues, this would have 'committed Muslims in India to destroying all temples everywhere, including ordinary village temples, as opposed to the highly selective operation that seems actually to have taken place'. In contrast, Eaton's meticulous research leads him to believe that 'the original data associate instances of temple desecration with the annexation of newly conquered territories held by enemy kings whose domains lay on the path of moving military frontiers. Temple desecration also occurred when Hindu patrons of prominent temples committed acts of treason or disloyalty to the Indo-Muslim states they served'. Otherwise, he notes, 'temples lying within Indo-Muslim sovereign domains, viewed normally as protected state property, were left unmolested'.

This slim volume is a path-breaking book, a passionate protest against the horrendous uses to which the notion of the 'theology of iconoclasm' has been put by contemporary Hindutva ideologues to justify murder in the name of avenging 'historical wrongs'. It urgently deserves to be translated into various Indian languages and made readily available at a more affordable price.


  1. I do not agree with your point of view and speculation about the Muslim ruler being ignorant about the Hindus at the time. If you have read a book written by Yogi sikand that is good but it should not be a basis to conclude the final results about the Muslims rulers as u did in your article and i would suggest you as the historian look and review your history carefully and do not jump into conclusion. And do not forget the fact that a lot of Hindus were converted by Mohammad Bin-Qasam during this period. Today if you look Muslims in India they are not foreigner but the local Hindus at the time. There family tree falls in Hinduism. Only fraction of the Muslims came from Persia and other middle eastern countries. The point about looting the temple is generally wrong. You just can not support this idea on the basis on one book or an article.

  2. I do not know what are you trying to convey to people with this message . Mike i have no clue how would this bring better for the Indian people with your article.

  3. Ghazni is still a heroic figure in south Asian country.



Email to:

Voice of Moderate Muslims

Voice of Moderate Muslims
Voice of Moderate Muslims

Moderate Islam Speaker

Moderate Islam Speaker
Moderate Islam Speaker

quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration ( held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.


Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.