Sindh Under the Kalhoras

Arabs, Ashoka, and Alexander

By Muhammad Omar Iftikhar | November 2023

Dr. Humera Naz’s prior work, “Sindh Under the Mughals: Origin and Development of Historiography” investigated the region’s historiography. In her latest endeavor, “Sindh Under the Kalhoras: Persian Histories, Chronicles, Epistolaries, and Compendiums of 18th Century Sindh,” she continues her exploration of Sindh’s historical narrative, focusing on the Kalhora rule (1701-1783).

Rather than merely recounting historical events, Dr. Humera, as an academic with a Ph.D. in history, directs her attention toward the study of Sindh’s history, with a specific emphasis on the available sources. This book serves as a comprehensive examination of the primary historical sources of Sindh during the 17th and 18th centuries and beyond.

While the book’s central theme revolves around the 18th-century Kalhora period, the opening chapter examines the author’s research on primary sources covering ancient to medieval eras. Noteworthy among these ancient primary sources are the Hindu epics. Interestingly, it is pointed out that the earliest reference to Sindh in written texts can be traced back to the Rig Veda, believed to have been composed between 1,500 and 1,000 BCE. This concise book, comprising four chapters, offers valuable knowledge and insights to readers into the art of selecting the most appropriate sources for historical research.

Dr. Humera begins by discussing the geography and historical significance of Sindh, asserting that “the ancient history of humanity identifies two cultural entities of the subcontinent at different times known as ‘Hind’ and at another time ‘Sindh’ - a term coined by the Arabs.” She navigates through Sindh’s history by touching upon key eras such as Alexander the Great’s invasion, Chandragupta’s establishment of the Mauryan dynasty (305 BC), the reign of the Ashoka dynasty, the Rai dynasty, and the Arab conquest of Sindh (712 CE).

Despite numerous rulers governing Sindh, it was able to maintain its distinct identity. After the conquest of Sindh by Muhammad Bin Qasim in 712 CE, it became part of the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphate. Dr. Humera beautifully encapsulates how various ruling dynasties influenced the development of linguistics in Sindh. For example, Cyrus the Great (505-545 BCE) and Darius I (545-476 BCE) conquered the region, laying the foundation for an empire and introducing the Aramaic language. However, during Darius I’s rule, officers and soldiers in Sindh spoke Old Persian or Avasti language. Later, Persian gradually gave way to Pali and Sanskrit during the Mauryan rule (321-184 BCE). Despite its rich history, “Sindh has left us with no authentic written historical work, creating a void in its literature.” Conversely, the Arab rulers of Sindh (712-1058 CE) left behind a legacy of education and literature during which logic, grammar, hadith, tafsir, history, and biography were developed and studied by Muslims. Subsequently, during the Mughal periods of Arghun and Tarkhan, Sindh reached literary excellence along with political and administrative stability.

While concentrating on the political literature of Sindh during the Kalhora period, Dr. Humera also includes the works of native scholars who contributed during this era. When discussing non-political genres as alternative sources of history, Dr. Humera explores tadhkiras (biographical dictionaries), mulfazat (discourses of Sufi saints), Insha (official and personal epistles), and poetic works.

The book “Sindh Under the Kalhoras” is not just a rich historical account of the Kalhoras but also a reference work for students, researchers, academicians, and scholars interested in this subject. Manan Ahmed from Columbia University aptly shares his views on the book, stating, “An important, well-written, and organized survey of Persian historical sources for 18th-century Sindh. Students and researchers alike will greatly benefit from it.”