Socio-Political and Military Role of Jats in West Asia as Gleaned from Arabic Sources

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Socio-Political and Military Role of Jats in West Asia as Gleaned from Arabic Sources
Author: Prof. Abdul Ali

Note: Prof. Abdul Ali has contributed this article to The Jats, Vol. 2, Ed. Dr Vir Singh, Delhi, 2006. pp. 9-24. Here is reproduced this article for research and analysis.


The Jats are a prominent tribe of the Indian subcontinent. They are mostly concentrated in Haryana, Punjab, Sind, Rajasthan, Delhi and Western Uttar Pradesh. As per statistics of the 1960s, they constituted about 20 % of the population of Punjab. The Jats of Pakistan are mostly Muslim by faith, while those of India are divided into two prominent communities. One is known as Sikhs, who are concentrated in Punjab, while the other community is known as the Hindu Jats, who are concentrated in Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and scattered in different parts of the country.1

The Jats are described in the book Lisan al- 'Arab by Ibn Manzur as a dark-complexioned people of India.2 As described by the renowned Arab historian Abul Fida, the Balochs settled in Baluchistan were also cailed Jats, and their language was very similar to the language spoken in India.3 According to Ibn Khurdadhbih, the entire region between Makran and Mansurah measuring several hundred miles was the exclusive area of the Jats. Large segments of Jat population have been mentioned in Khuzistan, Baluchistan and Kabul also.4 It is said that the renowned Muslim scholar Imam Abu Hanifah (d. 767 AD) was born in Kabul.5 The Jats had also settled in large numbers in the fertile region of tne Arabian/Persian Gulf extending from Ubullah near Basra to Bahrain and Oman where they mostly tended cattle including goats, sheep, camels, etc. Some Jats had also permanently settled in the coastal regions of the Gulf. Most of them were recruited as sodiers in the Sasanid army, in the course of which they lived in different territories of Iran and Arabia, particularly the region of Ubullah in Iraq and Yemen of southern Arabia. Likewise, they had they important settlements in Khuzistan also which had developed into

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great cities. They were known as Humat al-Zutt (area of the Jats) and Khabiran. Both were situated along the banks of two rivers.6

As regards the original home of the Jats, it is said that they came from the Oxus or from Kandhar, or from the steppes of Central Asia. They were considered by Arab historians as having descended from Yathir, the son of prophet Nuh.7

Historical Background of Jat Migrations

On the basis of the available historical documents, it may fairly be said that the environment for the Jats never seemed to be congenial in the society of Greater Sind, which was marked by the predominance of the Brahmins from very ancient periods of time. The Jats and some other backward tribes such as Meds, who mostly remained hostile to each other, were looked down upon and subjected to humiliation by the Brahmin rulers, particularly Chach and Dahir. The Jats were also projected as proverbially stupid and simple in money-matters. They were not allowed to put on silk or satin, or to ride saddled horses, or even to wear shoes and turbans. Obviously, all this was done with a view to making them realise that as a tribe they were inferior to the ruling Brahmins. In short, they were compelled to labour under extra-ordinary disabilities and hardships. An idea of the contemptuous treatment meted out to the Jats in the reign of Chach may be had from the following quotation:

"In the reign of Raja Chach (c. 610-671) the Luhana Jats (a large class of the population of Sind) were not allowed to use soft clothes of silk or velvet. On the contrary, they used to wear a rough black blanket and put on a rough coarse scarf on their shoulders, and they went about with bare head and feet. If anyone of them wore some soft stuff, he was fined; and when they went out of their houses, they used to take a dog with them in order that they might easily be distinguished from the other tribes. None of their elders or chiefs was allowed to ride a horse. If any guides were required anywhere by any prince, they served as such. In fact it was their business to show the way as guides upto the limits of another tribe. If any headman or Rana was obliged to use a horse, he rode it without any saddle or reins, and with only a blanket on its back. If an accident occurred to any traveller, the Jat tribes were called to help, and it was the duty of their headman to see that such help was given readily. If anyone of them committed theft, his children and other members of his family were thrown into flames and burnt. They guided caravans on their way both during day-time and at night.

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Among them there is no distinction of high and low. They are all of the wild nature of brutes. They have always been refractory and disobedient to the rulers, and are in the habit of committing highway robberies ... "8

The contemptuous treatment coupled with the oppression meted out to the Jats and other backward classes by the native rulers of Sind was the principal cause of the success of the Arabs. The enlightened policy of administration introduced by the Arabs further endeared them to the local masses of Sind.9 It was also precisely for the same reason that the Jats sought their fortunes in the coastal towns of Iran and via it in different parts of West Asia whenever they could get an opportunity to do so.

Waves of Jat migration to West Asia

As recorded by the renowned Arab historian al-Baladhuri, the Jats had settled in some parts of West Asia long before the advent of Islam. According to him, the Sasanid Emperor Bahram V Gur (ruled 420-38 AD) transported from India to Khurasan and the Persian Gulf shores about 10,000 such Jats, both ladies and gents, - who were skilled in playing upon the musical instrument of Barbat (Guitar). It is also suggested that large numbers of Jats might have already migrated to Iran and via it spread and settled in various parts of West Asia and Europe. When the Sasanid Persians under Emperor Shapur I (ruled 241-272) extended their Empire upto the Indus river in the east, some military bands drawn from the two warlike tribes, the Jats and the meds, joined the Persian army and fought on their side, thereby gaining a congenial atmosphere for them to prosper in Sind and in the territories occupied by their masters in West Asia.

That the Jats had made their presence felt even in pre-Islamic and early Islamic times in such interior places of the mainland of Arabia as Mecca and Medina is evident from the fact that Abdullah Bin MaS'ud, the Companion of Prophet Muhammad, is reported to have said that he had once seen the Prophet in the company of men whose physlcal structure and faces resembled those of the Jats.10 Caliph 'Umar Bin al-Khattab was also reported to have seen Jats in Medina. Besides, there is mention of the Jats in Hadith (Apostolic Traditions) also, from which it is further substantiated that the Arabs including the Prophet and his Companions were acquainted with the Jats and the main features of their life, namely their style of dress, hair cutting, music, etc. the garments used by them were known in Arabia thiyab zuttiyah (dresses of the Jats).11 They were described as tall-statured persons of strong built having long locks of hair. As described by

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Imam Bukhari in his famous Hadith collection entitled Sahih Buknari, when Prophet Muhammad in the course of his nocturnal journey heavenward (Mi'raj) came across Prophet Moses, he found his physical constitution as resembling that of the Indian Jats.12

Even the peculiar Jat style of hair-cutting known as gula and of getting the head tonsured in the shape of the crusade had become popular among the Arabs. The Prophet is also reported to have once got his head tonsured in the Jat style.13 Besides, some Indian melodies were also early introduced among the Arabs by the Jats. Although it is difficult at this point of time to pinpoint the main Jat melodies diffused in Arabia, Jahiz has quoted in his Kitab al-Hayawan (Book on Animals) a verse by an Arab poet, in which he compared the buzzing sound of the mosquito to the musical tone of the Jats.14

There is also evidence to show that some Jats, particularly those settled in Yemen and Bahrain, had embraced Islam in the lifetime of the Prophet himself. It is said that Hadrat Bayraztan Hindi of Yemen was most probably a Jat.15 Similarly, one Muslim Jat settled in Medina is reported to have treated Hadrat 'Aishah, wife of Prophet Muhammed, who once suffered under the magical spell of her maid servant.16 Again when a delegation of Muslims belonging to the Banu Harith Bin Ka'b tribe settled in Najran, came to Medina in 10 AH (632 AD) to pay their allegiance to the Prophet, the latter enquired about them, saying that they appeared to be Indians.17

Participated in the pre-Islamlc inter-tribal wars:

Further, there existed a sizeable population of the Jats on the western shore of the Persian Gulf as far as the Isle of Bahrain. Although they retained their identity, they took active part in the social and political life of the Arabs by becoming allies and mawalis (members) of different Arab tribes. It is recorded in Arab history that the Jats had become allies and supporters of the Banu Abd al-Qays tribe of Bahrain and of the Banu Tamim tribe of Basra. As such they also participated in the pre-Islamlc inter-tribal wars and raids as supporters respective tribes, with which they had aligned themselves. 18

Yet another solid evidence of the Jats' active participation in the socio-political life of the Arabs is clear from the fact that they made their presence felt in the riddah (secession) wars triggered by the death of the Prophet in 632 AD, in which almost all Arabia broke off from the newly organized Muslim state and followed a number of local rulers and false prophets. As represented by Arab chroniclers, the Jats settled at Qatif and Hajar in Bahrain, sided with al-Hutam Bin Dubay'ah of the tribe of Qays Bin Tha' labah who had raised the banner of revolt by rallying around him the rebels of the tribe of Bakr Bin Wa'il and Other non-Muslims of that region.19

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It is said that the Banu Hanifah tribe of Yamamah, who had gathered under the banner of their leader derisively called in Arab history as Musaylimah al-Kadhdhab (musaylimah, the liar), offered the most stubborn resistance to Khalid Ibn al-Walid, the hero of the secession wars. About 40,000 fighting men under the command of Musaylimah were equipped with sharp Indian swords which were most probably provided by the Jats of Najran and Najd.20 No wonder, Musaylimah had already crushed two Muslim armies before Khalid could crush them with a third. Even the victorious army led by Khalid lost a large number of Qur'an reciters, thereby necessitating the measures to be taken by the Arab caliph for the preservation and perpetuation of the knowledge of the revealed Book.21

Role of the Jats in Islamic Periods

It is remarkable to note that after embracing Islam and becoming full-fledged members of the Islamic Ummat (community), the Jats continued to align themselves with some Arab tribe of their choice. They also contributed to the expansion of Islam among non-Muslims. For instance, when the City of Basra was built by Caliph 'Umar Bin al- Khattab in 14 AH (636 AD), there already existed a good number of Jat Muslims, who participated in the Islamic wars under the leadership of their patron Arab tribe the Banu Hanzalah.22 Another important point relating to the policy adopted by the early Jat-Muslims of Arabia was that while they wholeheartedly participated in the Islamic-wars against non-Muslims, they chose to remain neutral in the internal affairs and quarrels of the local Muslims. So long as they acted on this-po1icy, they were quite better-oft, and they were not discriminated against by any section of the indigenous Muslim population.

Mass Conversion of Jats to Islam

As mentioned above, large numbers of Indians from Sind and other coastal territories of the land were recruited as soldiers by the Sasanids in their army. They were Known in Arab history as Jats, Meds, Asawirah and Sayabijah. The main grudge of these soldiers was that although they fought for their master they were not treated at par with the Iranian soldiers. Then after the expansion of Islam under Caliph 'Umar Bin al-Khattab (634-44 AD) when the Sasanids were overpowered by the growing military might of the Muslim army, the non-Iranian soldiers of the former started embracing Islam by deserting their army one by one-at the right moment of time before it could be too late for them. The Asawirah (horse-riders) were the first to do so, who were followed by the Jats and the Sayabijah.

It so happened that Abu Musa al-Ash'ari, the commander-in-chief of Caliph Umar at Basra was assigned the task of besieging the city of

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Sus in Khuzistan. When he pressed his siege of the city in 16 AH (638 AD) the Sasanid Yazdagird's commander Siyah al-Aswari, charged with the responsibility of defending the city, realised that like other Iranian territories Sus was also on the verge of being lost to the besieging Muslim army which continued to be strengthened with fresh reinforcements regularly sent from Kufa on the caliph's orders. Now he did not see any future for himself and his fellow Aswari soldiers in the Sasanid army. Accordingly, he proposed to Abu Musa al-Ash'ari to embrace Islam and join the Muslim army on the terms and conditions as under:

1 That they would join the Muslim army and fight against the non-Arab enemies.
2 That in the event of any internal strife among the Arabs, they would remain neutral and would not side with any rival faction among them.
3 That in the event of any clash between them and the Arabs, the Muslim army would assist and protect them.
4 That after becoming Muslims they should be allowed to settle in any city of their choice, and that they should be permitted to become ally of any Arab-Muslim tribe of their liking.
5 That by virtue of being Muslim soldiers, they would be entitled to the same military rights and privileges as were due to Arab soldiers of the Muslim army.
6 That the matter relating to their conversion to Islam and conditions laid down by them would be decided and settled by the caliph himself, and that they would be governed directly by the caliphate.

In his capacity as commander of the Muslim army, Abu Musa al-Ash'ari assured Siyah and his fellow soldiers that by virtue of being Muslims they would share with them the same rights and responsibilities, and that there was no need to conclude a formal treaty to that effect. But Siyah did not agree to anything less than a written assurance from the caliph himself. Ultimately, Abu Musa wrote to Caliph 'Umar and obtained his written sanction as desired by Siyah and his advisors.23 Thus the entire contingent of Siyah Aswari embraced Islam and became a part of the Muslim army. They also bravely fought in the remaining battles against the Sasanids. The first convincing evidence of their loyalty was given by them when they besieged and reduced the Sasanid city of Tustar under the command of Abu Musa al-Ash'ari. On being convinced of their loyalty, Abu Musa once remarked that indeed he found his calculation false concerning their

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conversion to Islam, saying that initially he had some suspicion about the intention behind their proposal to join the Muslim army but he could not see any sign of disloyalty on their part. Then Siyah replied that although in the beginning they embraced Islam with an eye on safety of their life, they soon became convinced of the truth of the religion by the grace and guidance of God.24 They also got all the rights and privileges, honour and dignity that were due to Arab soldiers of the Muslim army.

Jats embraced Islam: Seeing the good fortunes of the converted Asawirah soldiers in the Muslim army, the Jat and Sayabijah soldiers in the Iranian army, together with their respective community members, who lived as Beduins in the Arab coastal areas and moved from place to place in search of water and pasturage for their animals, also embraced Islam and joined the Muslim army on the same terms and conditions.25 All these new converts to Islam were rehabilitated by Abu Musa al-Ash'ari in Basra where the Asawirah Muslims became attached to the Banu Sa'd clan while the Jat and Sayabijah Muslims became attached to the Banu Hanzalah clan of the influential North Arabian tribe of Banu Tamim.26 Thus they lived together in a disciplined manner and took active part in the subsequent wars against non-Muslims.

Recruitment of large numbers of soldiers of Indian origin including the Jats in the Muslim army had two important repercussions on the course of history of West Asia and South Asia. First, this hastened the downfall of the tottering Sasanid empire. The Muslim army continued chasing and defeating the remnants of the Sasanid army till the death of the young Yazdagird in 651 or 652 put an end to the once mighty empire that had flourished for about twelve centuries and whose well-organised and well-equipped army had measured swords with the Romans for four hundred years with a view to establishing their supremacy in a greater part of the then known world.27Secondly, it also paved the ground for launching systematic military campaigns against India by both land and sea. Prior to that there was lack of resolve on the part of Muslim rulers to embark on military ventures into the Indian territories. Although Caliph 'Umar once sought information about the possibility of launching a naval attack on Qandabil, the great military outpost situated between Sind and Mukran, he refrained from doing so for fear of safety of Muslim soldiers. As described by Ibn Qutaybah on the authority of the caliph's son 'Ubaydullah, the former was informed about unhygienic water of Qandabil, its inferior quality of dates as well as the prevalent lawlessness in it. It was also pointed out to him that if a large number of soldiers were sent to it, they would die of hunger, and that if a small band of

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warriors was sent, they would be eliminated. On hearing that the caliph abandoned the idea of launching a military attack on Qandabil, saying that he would not like to be questioned by Almighty Allah on the Day of Judgment for putting to risk the life of even a single soldier there.28

Military campaigns against India:

The above point is further substantiated by the statement of the renowned historian Abu Ja'far Muhammad Ibn Jarir al-Tabari to the effect that prior to 17 AH (639 AD) Caliph 'Umar did not permit any contingent of his army to undertake military adventures by way of sea. Following the example of Prophet Muhammad and Caliph Abu Bakr, he disliked to rush his army headlong into a peril by way of sea.29 That was the main reason why when Hadrat 'Uthman Bin Abi al- 'Asi al- Thaqafi, the governor of Bahrain and Oman, with the assistance of his two brothers Hadrat Hakam Bin Abi al- 'Asi and Mughirah Bin Abi al- 'Asi unofficially occupied the Cities of Thana, Bharoch and Dibul by attacking the coastal region of India, Caliph 'Umar was displeased at this adventure. He even expressed his displeasure and anger in a letter written to 'Uthman al-Thaqafi, saying: "O Thaqafi brother! You have mounted a worm upon a wood and consigned it to sea. I swear by Allah that in case they (Muslim fighters) perish because of your misadventure, I would take the same number of people from your tribe".30 The caliph also issued strict orders not to undertake military campaigns against India at that point of time.

It is clear from the above that prior to 16 or 17 AH (638 or 639 AD)there was lack of Will and resolve on the part of Muslim rulers to launch systematic military campaigns against India. But soon afterwards the situation became favourable for the Muslim world to expand their conquests eastwards both by land and sea in an organised and sustained manner, thanks mainly, among other factors, to recruitment of large numbers of soldiers of Indian origin including the Jats in the Muslim army, who not only added to its military might, but also served as a valuable source of information to it about socio-political and geographical conditions of different Indian territories. As a result, several naval expeditions were organised and sent in different directions after 17 AH, which among other places subjugated Makran, the coastal region of Baluchistan, shortly after 643 AD, thereby bringing the Arabs to the very borders of India. Thus the ground was prepared for the conquest of Sind and other Indian territories.

Policy of Jats in Internal Arab Strife

When subsequent to the assassination of Caliph 'Uthman, Hadrat Ali was proclaimed the fourth caliph at the Prophet's mosque in Medina in 656 AD, it was a very turbulent sail for him. It was a period of

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dynastic wars among the Muslims themselves. His two influential rivals to the office of the caliphate Talhah and Zubair, who represented the Meccan party and had followers in Hijaz and Iraq, refused to acknowledge his appointment as caliph. Hadrat 'Aishah, wife of the Prophet, who had been ill-disposed towards Ali, also joined the ranks of the insurgents against the caliph at Basra. Hadrat Ali fought and defeated the coalition of insurgents in a battle called the Battle of the Camel after the camel, on which Hadrat 'Aishah rode. Both Talhah and Zubair were killed, and Ali emerged victorious.31

Then Amir Mu'awiyah, the governor of Syria and kinsman of 'Uthman, the slain caliph, raised the banner of revolt against Caliph Ali, as a consequence of which the Battle of Siffin took place, in which thousands of soldiers were killed on both sides.

It is a matter of great historical importance that the Jat Muslims of Basra and Kufa remained neutral in the dynastic wars of the Muslims in fulfillment of the terms and conditions of their conversion to Islam, and as such they did not participate in any of the above two battles.32 But later, due to a number of factors the situation became so complex that it became very difficult, rather impossible for them to maintain their neutrality and they were looked upon as partisans of Ali. First, the Jat Muslims had great love for Hadrat AIi and his family mainly because of his proximity to Prophet Muhammad. There were also several slave women in his family, who became mothers of their off-springs. For example, Khawlah Sindiyyah was a bondwoman of Hadrat Ali, who was captured in the battle of Yamamah as a captive and brought to medina. She gave birth to a son by Ali named Muhammad Bin Ali, who became popularly known as Ibn al-Hanafiyyah after the tribe of Banu Hanifah whose client she had earlier been.33 As mentioned by Ibn Khallikan on the authority of Asma, daughter of Abu Bakr, Khawlah the mother of Muhammad Ibn al-Hanafiyyah, was a dark-complexioned lady of Sind, who earlier had been a bondwoman of the tribe of Banu Hanifah of Yamamah, and not one of its descendants.34 Since Jats existed in Yamamah from very ancient periods of time, it is quite probable that she might have been a Jat lady.

The second main factor that endeared Jat Muslims of Basra and Kufa to Hadrat Ali was the massacre by Talhahand Zubair on the eve of the Battle of the Camel of forty or four hundred Jat and Sayabijah Muslims who were appointed by the caliph as guards of the state treasury under the command of Abu Salimah al-Zutti, who was a very pious and honest person. It is related that both Talhah and Zubair accompanied by their supporters reached Basra before the Battle of

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the Camel and wanted the treasury to be handed over to them. But the Jats and other guards refused to do so, following which they were attacked in the night and all the forty or four hundred of them were killed.35 This incident also further antagonized the Jats against the opponents of Ali. That was the main reason that when Ali emerged victorious in the battle at Basra in 36 AH/656 AD, seventy Jats visited him and paid their allegiance to him in their own Indian language, saying,

"May Allah curse your opponents! None but only you are the legitimate ruler of the state. "36

But despite all these feelings of affection and loyalty displayed by the Jats towards Ali, they by and large remained neutral in the struggle for power between the Caliph and his rival Amir Mu'awiyah. As a result, they were not yet discriminated against even after the downfall and assassination of Ali in 661 AD. In the meantime the Jats continued to flourish and prosper under the Arab rulers. They struck deep roots in the soil of Basra, Kufa and neighbouring territories and became a power to reckon with. They also maintained, among other things, their linguistic identity and had not yet been thoroughly Arabicized. It was mainly because of the impact of linguistic traditions of the Jats and other Indians upon the Arabs of such territories with whom they had intermingled most, particularly the Banu Abd al-Qays and Azd tribes settled in Iraq, Bahrain and Oman, that the chastity of their Arab tongue could no longer be maintained.37 One distinguishing feature of the Jats was that the tribal affiliation among them had been very strong, due to which they mostly lived, sailed or sank together wheresoever they were settled.

Another commendable quality that made the Jats lovable and useful to the Arab rulers and elite was that they were found to be sincere, hard-working, honest, daring and faithful. Needless to say that this quality together with their policy of remaining neutral in internal Arab strife proved very fruitful to them. They were in great demand in both military and civil services. As soldiers of the Muslim army they got the same respect, gifts, stipends and rewards that were due to their Arab counterparts. Early Muslim rulers, particularly Caliph Umar took measures to ensure that no distinction was made between Arab Muslims and non-Arab Muslims. It is related that on a certain occasion when the Banu 'Ady tribe expressed some reservation to Caliph 'Umar regarding equitable distribution of booty to non-Arab Muslim soldiers, the latter replied, saying: "If the non-Arab Muslims bring some good work and we bring no work, the former would indeed be nearer to Prophet Muhammad than ourselves on the Day of Judgment, for one who left behind by his deeds cannot be put ahead by his lineage. "38

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It is further described on the authority of Muhammad Bin al-Sabah al-Bazzaz that when once a group of Arab Muslims and non-Arab Muslims visited a certain governor of Caliph 'Umar Bin al-Khattab, the latter rewarded and honoured the Arab Muslims, but he neglected the non-Arab Muslims. When the caliph was informed about it, he rebuked him and sent him a single-line scathing message, saying that it was more than enough for a man to become wicked that he should humiliate his Muslim brother.39

Jats in civil services:

Likewise, there was a great market of employment for the Jats in civil services also. A good number of them were employed as guards of commercial ships that used to sail between Arabia, India and China. Their main duty was to protect the ships from the Indian sea pirates who were very active in those days. In addition, they served as guards and superintendents of jails, treasuries and other installations. They were skilled in construction work also, and contributed a great deal to the construction of palaces, colonies, mosques and other buildings in Iraq and elsewhere.

Their Involvement in Internal Domestic Wars and its Repercussions

The Jats continued to enjoy all the rights and privileges given to them by Caliph 'Umar in the Umayyad period also as long as they remained neutral in the internal Arab domestic wars. Although earlier they had shown their loyalty to Hadrat Ali, no damage was officially done to them by the early Umayyad rulers, the bitter opponents of the Alids, by defeating whom they had captured power. The only thing done by Amir Mu'awiyah, founder of the Umayyad dynasty was that when he became the ruler; he shifted some of the Jats settled in Basra and got them settled in Antioch in modern Palestine, following which there developed a locality which became known to fame as the Zutt (Jat) locality.40

But later, when the Jats fought on the side of 'Abd al-Rahman Ibn Muhammad Ibn al-Ash' ath, a scion of a noble Kindi family of Hadramawt and governor of Sijistan, who led a frightful insurrection against al-Hajjaj, the governor of Abdul Malik Bin Marwan, during 700-704 AD, the tables were turned against them. Their participation and active involvement in the revolt against the government proved suicidal for them. That also marked the beginning of their downfall as a strong, prosperous community in the Arab world. As soon as al-Hajjaj subdued the rebellion, he embarked upon punishing the Jats by demolishing their houses, discontinuing their stipends and sending into exile large numbers of their people. He also called them violators of the treaty agreed upon by them to remain neutral in internal Arab dissensions.41

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Back home in India when Muhammad Bin Qasim conquered Sind in 711 AD, thousands of Jats were shiploaded by him along with as many buffaloes to Hajjaj Bin Yusuf, who sent them to his caliph Abdul Malik in Syria. Later, they were transported by caliph al-Walid Bin Abdul Malik to Antioch where some Jats had already been rehabilitated. It is also recorded that when al-Walid became the ruler, it was brought to his notice that the path between Antioch and Massisah in Greater Syria was a lion-fested area where lions used to pounce upon humans. On hearing that, the caliph immediately sent there four thousand buffaloes out of the several thousands of them which Muhammad Bin Qasim had earlier shipload to Iraq and Syria. An idea of the large numbers of buffaloes sent from Sind to the Arab lands may be derived from the fact that at Massisah alone they counted about nine thousand.

As regards the buffaloes of Antioch, they had been brought there originally by the Jats themselves. In addition to the above, thousands of buffaloes were set free in the jungles of Kaskar Basra.42

Then in the reign of Caliph Hisham Bin Abdul Malik (724-43 AD) large numbers of Jats accompanied by their families and buffaloes emigrated from India following the outbreak of a severe famine there and permanenty settled in such parts of West Asia as Kirman, Faris, Ahwaz, Janiqin and Jalula right upto 'Ayn Zarbah in Asia Minor near the borders of the Roman Empire. And with that the number of buffaloes increased in Syria.43

Turbulent and Rebellious Activity of the Jats and their Downfall

Despite all the harsh measures taken by the Umayyad rulers to clip the wings of the Jats, the latter strengthened their position in the course of time in the low-lying areas of Kaskar near Baghdad and neigbouring territories. They were also aided and abetted by different groups of the opponents of the Umayyads to challenge the authority of the rulers as well as to become turbulent and rebellious to them. This point has been described by the historian al-Baladhuri in the following words:

Big numbers of Jats and other communities of Sind, accompanied by their families, children and buffaloes, were brought to al-Hajjaj, who rehabilitated them in the low-lying areas of Kaskar (situated between the cities of Basra and Wasit). They also multiplied by generation and became dominant over the entire region. Then they were joined by runaway slaves, clients of the Bahilah tribe, servants of Muhammad Bin Sulayman Bin Ali and others. These new supporters emboldened and instigated their Indian friends to embark upon the course of direct

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confrontation with the rulers as well as to indulge in acts of looting and plundering. Earlier, they only used to ask people small kindness. They would also embezzle whatever they could by defrauding the owners of commercial ships.44

Since the decay of the Ummayad power had already set in following the death of Caliph Hisham, the remaining weak Umayyad rulers could not take effective measures to contain the Jats and their supporters. On the contrary, the menace posed by them to both Government and public grew fiercer and fiercer with the passage of time. They also tooK full advantage of the chaotic situation that afflicted the Muslim World from time to time. They started conducting themselves as if they had established a state of their own. Thus the Jatland in the very heart of Iraq became a formidable power as well as a potent Source of trouble and challenge to the rulers.

Caliph Mamun and the Jats

Taking advantage of the turbulent conditions that prevailed in the Abbasid Empire beecause of the struggle between Amin and Mamun, sons of Caliph Harun al-Rashid, the Jats not only gained full control of the routes that passed by Basra, but also looted and plundered the caravans and pilgrims. They also carried away the agricultural produce from the threshing floors an terrified the population, thereby plunging the entire region into a state of tyranny and lawlessness.45

When Caliph Mamun (813-33 AD) defeated Amin and occupied the seat of the Abbasid power in Baghdad, he tried to bring the Jats under the yoke. First, he sent a contingent of force under the command of 'Isa Bin Yazid al-Jaludi (died after 214 AH/829 AD) to fight and subdue the rebels. But he failed to realize the objective of his expedition. Then the caliph sent another force under the command of Dawud Bin Masjur. This force also failed in its mission of suppressing the Jat rebellion.46 The main reason for the failure of the forces sent by Mamun was that the Jats adopted the tactics of guerrilla wars instead of fighting a pitched battle. Whenever they felt the pressure of the mighty Abbasid army, they dispersed in the nearby wild deserts. But as soon as the Abbasid army withdrew, they resurfaced and resumed their acts of looting and plundering. That way they proved a great threat to peace and security of that region for a long period of time until they were crushed and defeated by Caliph Mu'tasim.47

Suppression of the Jat Rebellion under Caliph Mu'tasim

The eighth Abbasid Caliph Mu'tasim (ruled 833-42 AD), son of Caliph Harun al-Rashid by a Turkish slave and step-brother & Caliph

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Mamun, was fully seized of the problem caused to the Abbasid Empire by the Jats. He made elaborate arrangements and preparations before despatching a strong contingent of force under the command of 'Ujayf Bin 'Anbasah. First, he refurbished the postal service by the relays of swift-running horses, as a result of which the news sent by 'Ujayf could reach the caliph in the capital the same day. Likewise, the commander used to get the regular military instructions and reinforcements from the capital through the same channel of postal service.48

When 'Ujayf at the head of the contingent comprising 5000 soldiers reached Wasit, he encamped at a village called al-Safiyah situated on the bank of an off-shoot of the Tigris river. Then he besieged the Jats on all sides by sending troops in all possible hideouts of them, about which he had gathered intelligence in advance. Having done all that, he launched the decisive attack, in which 300 Jats were killed and 500 arrested, all of whom were beheaded. Finding no outlet of escape, the Jats led by their leader Muhammad Bin 'Uthman and their commander Samlaq surrendered and appealed for amnesty which was granted. An idea of the formidable force mustered by the Jats may be had from the fact that it took the mighty Abbasid army under the command of 'Ujayf as many as nine months to finally break their power -and- defeat them.49 When they surrendered in the month of Dhul in1ih 219 AH/840 AD, they numbered about 27000, out of whom 12000 were fighting soldiers and the remaining were old men, women and children.50

All the captured Jats were ship-loaded and brought to Baghdad for Caliph Mu'tasim to have look at them. Then they were transported and settled at 'Ayn Zarbah where some Jats had already been rehabilitated in the time of the Umayyad Caliph, Hisham in Abdul Mafik. It is said that when the Romans attacked the Muslim territories in Asia Minor under Caliph Mutawakkil (847-61 AD), they made all the Jats including their women and children captives and went- away with them. It has also been reported that they were killed to the last by the Romans.51 And with that history Jats as a separate, distinct Indian tribe in West Asia Came to an end. As regards the remaining Jats settled in different parts of West Asia, they continued to live and prosper. They were not at all affected by the sad plight of their rebellious brethren of Iraq. But in the course of time they became so thoroughly assimilated and dissolved in Arab-Muslim culture that now it is difficult to delineate their history as a distinct Indian tribe.

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See also


1 The Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. VI (I5th edition), Chicago, 1994, p. 510.
2 Ibn Manzur, Lisan al-'Arab, Vol. VII, p. 307.
3 Abdul Malik Bin Hisham, Kitab al-Tijan (Hyderabad edition), p. 222.
4 lbid., p. 223.
5 Tarikh lbn Khaldun, Vol. n, p. 294.
6 Istakhri, al-Mamalik w-ai-Masaiik, p. 94.
7 Abdul Malik Bin Hisham, Kitab al-Tijan. Op.cit., p. 222.
8 The Chachnamah. Op. cit, p. 170.
9 B.N. Pande,Islam and Indian Culture, Khuda Bakhsh Library, Patna, 1985, pp. 3-4.
10 Syad Sulaiman Nadwi, Indo-Arab Relations (tr. by Prof. M. Salahuddin), Hyderabad, 1962, p. 7; Tirmidhi-Abwab al-Amthal.
11 Ibn Manzur, Lisan al- 'Arab, Vol. IIl, p. 308.
12 Qazi Athar Mubarakpuri, Arab wa Hind 'Ahd-e Risalat Men, Delhi,1964, p. 70; Sahih Bukhar:Kitab Ahadith al-Anbiya.
13 Lisan al- 'Arab. Op. cit. ,Vol. VII, p. 308; Muhammad Tahir Majma' Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. II, p. 2; Arab wa Hind 'Ahd-e Risalat Men. Op. cit pp. 67-68.
14 Qazi Athar Mubarakpuri, 'Arab wa Hind 'Ahd-e Risalat Men. Op.cit p. 68.
15 Ibid., p. 72.
16 Al-Bukhari, Al-Adab al-Mufrad, Cairo, 1375 AH, p. 51.
17 Muhammad Bin Jarir al-Tabari, Tarikh al-Tabari, Vol. Ill, Cairo, 1962, p. 304.
18 'Arab wa Hind 'Ahd-e Risalat men. Op.cit., p. 70.
19 Muhammad Bin Jarir al-Tabari, Tarikh al-Tabari, Vol. m, Cairo, 1962, p. 304.
20 'Arab wa Hind 'Ahd-e Risalat Men. Op. cif .. p. 70.
21 P.K. Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 141.
22 Al-Baladhuri, Futuh al-Buldan, ed. by Abdullah Anis al-Tabba', Beirut, 1958, p. 520.
23 Ibid., p. 519.
24 Ibid., p. 520.
25 Ibid., p. 520 .
26 Ibid., p. 520.
27 P.K. Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 158.
28 Ibn Qutaybah al-Dinawari, 'Uyun al-Akhbar, Vol. Il, Egypt, 1964, p. 199.
29 Tarikh al-Tabari. Op. cit. Vol. IV, p. 213.
30 Futuh al-Buldan, Op, cit., p. 607.
31 P.K. Hitti, History of the Arabs. p. 180.
32 Futuh al-Buldan, Op.cit., p. 521.
33 Muhammad Bin Habin al-Baghdadi, Kitab al-Munammaq, ed. by Khurshid Ahmad Fariq, Da'iratul Ma'arif, Hyderabad, 1964, p. 505.
34 Qazi Athar Mubarakpuri, Rijal al-Sind w-al-Hind, Bombay, 1958, p. 116.
35 Futuh al-Buldan, Op.cit., pp. 523-24.
36 'Arab wa Hind 'Ahd-e Risalat Men, Op. cit., 69; See zutt in the book Majma' al-Bahrayn,
37 'Arab wa Hind 'Ahd-e Risalat Men, Op. cit., p. 69.
38 Futuh al-Buldan, Op.cit., p. 631.
39 Ibid., pp. 640-41
40 Ibid., p. 221.
41 Ibid., p. 521.
42 lbid., pp. 229-30.
43 Al-Mas'udi, Kitab al-Tanbih w-al-Ishraf, E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1967, p. 355.
44 Futuh al-Buldan, Op. cit., pp. 522-23.
45 Tarikh al-Tabari, Vol. IX, Cairo, 1968, p. 8.
46 Aslam Jairajpuri, Tarikh al-Ummat Vol. IV, Maktabah Jami'ah, New Delhi,p. 110.
47 Ibn Khaldun, Kitab al- 'I bar, Vol. III, p. 257.
48 Tarikh al-Tabari, Op. cit., Vol. IX, p. 8.
49 lbid., pp. 9-10.
50 Ibid.,p.lO.
51 Ibn Khaldun, Kitab al- 'Ibar, Vol. Ill, p. 258.

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