Afghans and Islam in Bengal


Bengali Muslims were likened to terrorists and the "taliban" by the secular establishment despite the secular funded shapla square massacres.
Shapla square protests: Religious Muslims were referred to as “Taliban” as an insult from there on.

Bengal has been the centre of trade, commerce and enlightenment in the subcontinent for millenniums but little is known about how Islam became a dominant force in the region. Although from a short glance, these two nations are Two Thousand Kilometres apart. One doesn’t seem tied to the other’s history with many of its inhabitants adopting stereotypes against one another for seemingly no reason.

Fighting for Islam and Sharia is being likened to the “Taliban” in a failed attempt to insult and mock religious Muslims by the corrupt and deranged secular elites and establishments. While Bengalis are being likened to that of treacherous vipers among secular elite Afghans. However, if you look back into history you will observe that such presumptions can’t be further away from the truth.

Starting of shared Bengali Afghan history

To start, the history of interaction between Afghans and Bengalis seemingly started when the Mauryan Empire connected certain parts of the two into one large and expansive empire founded by Chandragupta Maurya in 322 BCE. From there, both countries were introduced to the religion of Buddhism, contrary to their Indian counterparts, which would be the first but not the last religious similarity.

Now we fast forward to the 7th Century A.D. when Islam had just entered Afghanistan (formerly called Khurasan/Khorasan), over the years with the introduction of Islam into the lands of this mountainous nation, many aspiring rulers and conquerors emerged to spread the glory of the newly adopted Religion, leading to the conquest of Sindh by the Umayyad Muslim leader Muhammad Qasim, Which started the first chapter of Muslim Expansion into the Indian subcontinent.

By the 11th and 12th Centuries, the Muslim conquests reached much of Pakistan and Northern India, and interactions with Bengal became more frequent than ever with trade and commerce thriving under the Pala dynasty’s Bengal.

Bengalis and Islam: First contact

In mid 12th Century, in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, a young boy is born, one that will forever change the future of Bengal. His name? Ikhtiyaruddin Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khalji. He joined the Ghurids which ruled over much of Afghanistan and North South Asia, rising the ranks he would eventually handle the command of the Ghurid forces in Eastern India.

He would come to conquer the land of Bihar in East India, paving his way to the lands of the Bengal Bay, where Afghans would meet face to face on the battlefield with Bengal for the first time. It is said that Bakhtiyar Khalji had burnt the Nalanda university which was an intellectual centre for Buddhism in the region. However such claims are unfounded and have no historical basis, discredited by Buddhists and Muslims alike.

RELATED: Nalanda Monasteries: A Myth Of Muslim Invasion

In 1203 he would take the Ghurid Army to march onwards to Bengal, where he would advance into the then weak and declining Sena Dynasty, thereupon he swiftly entered the city of Nabadwip at such speed that the Emperor of the dynasty and his army upon seeing this fled at the sight of Khalji’s small but powerful horde, thus Khalji would advance and conquer Bengal, leading to the conversion of the population into Islam, reuniting the shared Religion of these two nations.

His rule would sadly soon come to an end, after reigning for three years but then, being assassinated by Ali Mardan Khalji

The Bengal-Afghan Empire

Forwarding 300 years later, the Sultan of Bengal would offer refuge to the Afghan Lodi tribe that previously controlled much of India but was fleeing from the Mughal Invasion led by Babur. The Sultan, being generous to the Afghans, had granted them significant plots of land, having even married the daughter of the last sultan of the Lodi dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate. Seemingly the Bengalis despite having fought the Afghans on the ground as enemies now treat them as friends and brothers, which signifies the unity and prosperity that Islam had brought to the region.

Eventually one of the Afghan tribes would come to dominate the region, the Sur Tribe lived in the province of Ghor in Afghanistan before eventually migrating to India through the Suleiman Mountains, with their leader Farid Khan who would eventually be called Sher Khan Suri, due to being thought to have killed a tiger singlehandedly, later to be named Sher Shah Suri due to his famed valour.

Farid Khan would start his career as a private in Babur’s Mughal army, till he eventually achieved the rank of the governor of Bihar, where he’d wait till Babur’s son Humayun was distracted by an expedition he was leading on the other part of the subcontinent, thus Farid Khan quickly took the chance to overtake Bengal and after defeating Humayun in battle he established his own Suri Dynasty.

The reign and legacy of the Suri Empire

Sher Shah was known for his tenacity as a commander. But as militarily clever as he was, his administration of Bengal would solidify him in history as one of the most influential people to ever rule Bengal, as he issued the first Rupees, as well as managed to mitigate corruption, even revitalizing the economy through effective tax procedures that kept both the people and the state wealthy that led to the construction of houses and roads and infrastructure, the most notable of which would be The Grand Trunk Road that would finally connect Bengal and Afghanistan directly by road. Mosques were built, wells were dug for water, and trees were planted as shading for travellers. Above all that, he had implemented a brilliant postal system allowing for effective communication throughout the Empire.

Farid Khan commonly known as Sher Shah Suri eventually succumbed to his wounds due to an explosion during the siege of Kalinjar. Despite not being a native of the land, he treated it as if it was his own home and its people as his kin. He was a master in warfare and a devoted servant of the land. His legacy would lead to the Bengal re-establishing itself as one of the largest economic hubs in the entire world.

The Suri Dynasty was then run by his son Islam Shah Suri who ruled for 9 years, much like his father was an efficient ruler until he died in 1554. After Islam Shah’s death, the dynasty remained for another 10 years under different leadership, leading to it changing rule 4 times in one year before the seventh and last ruler Adil Shah Suri was defeated by Humayun thus ending the Suri Dynasty that was founded by Sher Shah Suri.

The second Bengali Afghan state

But yet again another Afghan Dynasty came to rule Bengal under the name of the Karrani Dynasty, founded by one of Sher Shah Suri’s men named Taj Khan, a capable leader himself he conquered all of Bengal and set the Capital to be Gaur in 1564. Although his successor Sulaiman Khan changed the Capital to Tanda, then annexed Orissa, and maintained good relations with the Mughal Empire until passed away, after his death the relations between the Karranis and the Mughals became bitter and this animosity was reinforced.

The conflict was fuelled when the Mughals captured the Karrani Capital Tanda. The Karranis would try to take Bengal again in 1575 but were defeated by the Mughals who dissolved the Karrani Sultanate and executed their last Sultan Daud Khan. Although Afghan resistance continued till the consolidation of Bengal by Mughal Sultan Jahangir in 1612. Thus putting an to end the last Afghan Dynasty to rule Bengal, the Afghans that lived in the region would eventually assimilate and intermarry with the locals.

Bengalis and Afghans in the recent past

One thing many people may not know is that at the time of the British Raj in the Indian Subcontinent, many Bengalis migrated to Afghanistan and settled there as teachers and lecturers in Universities, a well-known one is Syed Mujtaba Ali, the author of “Deshe Bideshe” (A Land Far From Home: A Bengali in Afghanistan)

During Bangladesh’s war for independence, where it wanted to become a sovereign state independent of Pakistan after the partition of the British Raj it was called “East Pakistan”. Whilst the war was raging, the Kingdom of Afghanistan provided safe passage and sanctuary to Bengalis living in “West Pakistan”, Afghanistan called for the swift recognition of the state.

Decades later after the American Invasion of Afghanistan, the United States requested that Bangladesh would send armed forces to fight the Taliban, but the Bengalis did not forsake their brothers and instead rejected it but offered to help in rebuilding efforts including training the Afghan Workforce as well as having hundreds of NGOs in Afghanistan and sending critical aid.

Epilogue

Thus we conclude this piece, that much like plants, they may seem separate from the above view But if you look into the soil you’ll see a deeply rooted connection between them, one that has helped shape the history of these two nations, with a bond encompassing centuries, these two are unlikely to forget each other any time soon and will likely stay as old friends for foreseeable future.


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