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Why were Hindu temples the primary target of Islamic rulers in India?

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Everything the Prophet did was an example for all Muslims to follow — including iconoclasm. From Somnath to Gyanvapi — all stories of temple destruction in India are reminiscent of what Mohammad did in Mecca.

Somnath temple in Gujarat converted into a mosque — Source : Wikimedia Commons

For this story, I will be quoting extensively from Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them Vol. I, 1990(Ed. Sita Ram Goel).

Muslim politicians and scholars in present-day India resent any reference whatsoever to the destruction of Hindu temples in medieval times. They react as if it is a canard(rumour) being spread by those they stigmatise as Hindu communalists.

There was, however, a time, not so long ago, when their predecessors viewed the same performance as an act of piety and proclaimed it with considerable pride in inscriptions and literary compositions. Hindus of medieval India hardly wrote any history of what happened to their places of worship at the
hands of Islamic iconoclasts. Whatever evidence the “Hindu communalists” cite in this context comes entirely from Islamic sources, epigraphic and literary.

— Sita Ram Goel in Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them Vol .1,1990.

The above was true in 1990, and it’s still true in 2022.
There was a time when Muslim authors described the deeds of the Muslim rulers of their times with extreme pride. But times have changed, and so has their “public” stance.

From Maasir -i -Alamgiri(account of Emperor Aurangzeb’s reign by Saqi Mustad Khan):

Excerpt from Maasir -i -Alamgiri — Aurangzeb ordering destruction of Dehra of Keshav Rai in Mathura. Read till the end.

In these times of religious tolerance, fans of Aurangzeb defend him by saying that he paid for the renovation of temples, not destroy them. Shameless — refuting history that does not suit Muslims is one of the reasons why Hindu- Muslim tensions keep popping up in India.

So, why were temples — Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist — always a target throughout Islamic history in India by both Islamic invaders and rulers?

The Conquest of Mecca by the Prophet in 630 AD gives us the answer.

Conquest of Mecca

The Encyclopaedia of Islam says, “Muhammad, when he entered Mecca as a victor, is stated to have struck them in the eyes with the end of his bow before he had them dragged down and destroyed by fire.”

The Prophet made iconoclasm a pious performance for all Muslims for all time to come when he practised it himself on the very day he conquered Mecca. “When the Prophet,” writes Ibn Ishaq(the first biographer of the Prophet), “prayed the noon prayer on the day of the conquest, he ordered that all the idols which were round the Kaba should be collected and burnt with fire and broken up.”

The Encyclopaedia of Islam says, “Muhammad, when he entered Mecca as a victor, is stated to have struck them in the eyes with the end of his bow before he had them dragged down and destroyed by fire.”

Pictorial representations of Ali standing on the shoulders of the Prophet and tearing down the idol of Hubal from top of a Ka‘ba wall, have been published by Shias!

Soon after, expeditions were sent to other parts of Arabia for doing what had been done at Mecca. Idols were smashed and temples destroyed or converted into mosques everywhere.

Muslim poets vied with each other to record the events in rapturous verse.

Fazal bin al-Mulawwih sang:

“Had you seen Muhammad and his troops,
The day the idols were smashed when he entered,
You would have seen God’s light become manifest,

In darkness covering the face of idolatry”.

And Kab bin Malik:

“We forsook al-Lat, al-Uzza and Wudd*
We stripped off their necklaces and earrings”.

And al-Mustaughir Bin Rabia who was a warrior as well as a poet:

“I smashed Ruda so completely that

I left it a black ruin in a hollow”.

— Sita Ram Goel in Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them Vol .1,1990.

Following the path of the Prophet

It is recorded history that the armies of Islam did everywhere what had been done in Arabia, as they advanced into Iran, Khorasan, Transoxiana, Seistan, Afghanistan and India.

“Growing Islam,” concludes the Encyclopaedia of Islam, “was from the very beginning intent upon the destruction of all traces of pagan idolatry and was so successful that the anti-quarians of the second and third century of the Hajira could glean only very scanty details.

Some of the idols were made use of for other purposes, as for example, the idol Dhul-Kalasa which was worshipped at Tabala, a place on the road from Mecca to Yaman in the time of Ibn al-Kalbi (about 200 A.D.), was used as a stepping stone under the door of the mosque at Tabala. Other stones which had been worshipped as idols were actually used as corner-stones of the Kaaba.

It is recorded history that the armies of Islam did everywhere what had been done in Arabia, as they advanced into Iran, Khorasan, Transoxiana, Seistan, Afghanistan and India.

Hundreds of thousands of Fire Temples of theZoroastrians, Buddhist monasteries and Hindu temples disappeared or yielded place to mosques, ziarats and Dargahs.

Modern archaeology, has reconstructed what happened along the trail of Islamic invasion of all these ancient lands.

— Sita Ram Goel in Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them Vol .1,1990.

the idol Dhul-Kalasa which
was worshipped at Tabala, a place on the road from Mecca to
Yaman in the time of Ibn al-Kalbi (about 200 A.D.), was used as
a stepping stone under the door of the mosque at Tabala.

Refer to the excerpt from Maasir -i- Alamgiri above: the idols of Hindu Gods from the Dehra of Keshav Rai in Mathura were buried under the steps of the Mosque of Begam Sahib(Jahanara).

Temple destruction in India and their descriptions by Muslim Poets

“So the temple of Somnath”, he wrote, “was made to bow towards the Holy Mecca, and the temple lowered its head and jumped into the sea, so you may say that the building first said its prayers and then had a bath.”

Temples were attacked all along the way as the armies of Islam advanced; they were robbed of their sculptural wealth, pulled down, laid waste, burnt with naptha, trodden under horses hoofs, and destroyed from their very foundations, till not a trace of them remained.

Mahmud of Ghazni robbed and burnt down 1,000 temples at Mathura, and 10,000 in and around Kanauj.

One of his successors, Ibrahim, demolished 1,000 temples each in Hindustan (Ganga-Yamuna Doab) and Malwa.

Muhammad Ghuri destroyed another 1,000 at Varanasi.

Qutbud-Din Aibak employed elephants for pulling down 1,000 temples in Delhi.

Ali I Adil Shah of Bijapur destroyed 200 to 300 temples in Karnataka.

A sufi, Qayim Shah, destroyed 12 temples at Tiruchirapalli.

Such exact or approximate counts, however, are available only in a few cases.

Most of the time we are informed that many strong temples which would have remained unshaken even by the trumpets blown on the Day of Judgment,were leveled with the ground when swept by the wind of Islam.

We find the Muslim historians going into raptures as they describe scenes of desecration and destruction.

For Amir Khusru it was always an occasion to show off the power of his poetic imagination. When Jalalud-Din Khalji wrought havoc at Jhain, a cry rose from the temples as if a second Mahmud had taken birth.

The temples in the environs of Delhi were bent in prayers and made to do prostration, by Alaud-Din Khalji. When the temple of Somnath was destroyed and its debris thrown into the sea towards the west, the poet rose to his full height. “So the temple of Somnath”, he wrote, “was made to bow towards the Holy Mecca, and the temple lowered its head and jumped into the sea, so you may say that the building first said its prayers and then had a bath.”

— Sita Ram Goel in Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them Vol .1,1990.

Temples were destroyed only for their riches?

Some Muslim scholars who cannot unashamedly refute history try to twist it by explaining the destruction of temples in India in terms of loot & plunder purely for the riches they concealed.

Several instances are cited when the Hindus tried to
ransom their idols, sometimes by expressing willingness to
pay their weight in gold. All such offers were rejected with
contempt because the hero concerned wanted to earn merit
in the eyes of Allah rather than mere mammon( biblical term for riches). Those who want to explain away the destruction of Hindu temples in
terms of economic motives, are called upon to explain these
instances.

— Sita Ram Goel in Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them Vol .1,1990.

Conclusion

The Prophet is the role model of every Muslim on earth — all that happened to millions of temples in India was inspired by what he did in Mecca.

Looters and plunderers don’t make sure they deface the idols, chop off their limbs, and throw them in the sea. This was not loot and plunder. Everything else is either whataboutery, or a lie.

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