16. The Hindu Shahis in Kabulistan and Gandhara and the Arab conquest

According to the Arab chronicler al-Biruni (973–1048 CE), the last Turk Shahi in the throne of Kabul was a certain Lagaturman, who was deposed by his Brahman minister Kallar in the middle of the 9th century CE. With the establishment of the Abbasid caliphate in 750 CE the situation had dramatically worsened for the still largely independent kingdoms in Zabul and Kabulistan. In 814/815 CE the Kabul Shah suffered a critical defeat against the troops of the Abbasid caliph al-Ma'mun (813–833 CE) (No. 13) and was forced to convert to Islam. Ma'mun's troops had even pushed into Gandhara on the Indus River. The annual tribute that the Kabul Shah subsequently had to pay the Abbasid governor of Khorasan entailed 1,500,000 dirhams and 2,000 slaves per year. The Turkic dynasty of kings, which had ruled Kabulistan and Gandhara for nearly 200 years, came to an end under these politically and economically tense circumstances. Under the new ruling dynasty, called the Hindu Shahis by al-Biruni, the political center of the kingdom successively moved from Kabul to Udabhandapura in Gandhara (present-day Hund, Pakistan), which offered more security from Arab attack.

And they did not have to wait for long: Yaqub bin Laith al-Saffar rose to be the most powerful man in East Iran around 861 CE; his first goal was Zabulistan, which he finally defeated in several campaigns in 870/871 CE. In the same year he continued on to Kabul, where the Kabul Shah was taken prisoner and the holy temple plundered. 50 standing statues of gods made of gold and silver are said to have fallen into his hands and were sent to the caliph in Baghdad. At his death Yaqub had transferred the government affairs to a vicegerent, but it seems that the Hindu Shahs managed to regain Kabul in 879 CE. The Samanid ruler Isma'il I (892–907 CE) ultimately drove out the Hindu Shahis around 900 CE (No. 3), but the dynasty remained in power in Gandhara and the Punjab until the beginning of the 11th century.


A. Following the death of the prophet Mohammed in 632 CE, the Arab tribes carried by the new religion Islam set out to conquer Byzantine Syria, Palestine, Egypt and North Africa, which they accomplished within several years. The conquest of the Persian Sasanian empire was largely complete by 651 CE. The first Muslim ruling dynasty, the Umayyads (661–750 CE), belonged to the same tribe as the prophet Mohammed (Nos. 11, 12), and the seat of the caliphs was erected in Damascus. In 750 CE the Umayyad dynasty was overthrown by the Abbasids, who moved the capital of the Muslim empire to Baghdad (No. 13).

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