Published Nov 06, 2016 11:53am

The Sindhi language has a Baghdadi connection, but it needs more research

Sindhi has remained  dominant in the Sindh region despite the presence of powerful languages like Persian and Arabic in the past -  Photograph by Khalid Mahmood
Sindhi has remained dominant in the Sindh region despite the presence of powerful languages like Persian and Arabic in the past - Photograph by Khalid Mahmood

KARACHI: There is historical evidence about the prowess of the Sindhi language, as even when Sindh had been conquered by the Arabs, its language did not lose its potential to remain dominant in a society where powerful languages like Arabic and Persian were in vogue, said historian, writer and politician Dr Hamida Khuhro at a session of the Sindh Literature Festival (SLF) on Saturday.

The session was though specified to focus on Sindh’s history during the British Raj, Dr Khuhro delved into the subject deeply during a conversation with Dr Ayoub Shaikh who was moderating the proceedings.

She invited researchers to investigate the trails of Sindhi language spoken in Baghdad over a millennium back. “Historical evidences are there proving that Sindhi was a familiar language in Baghdad — the then seat of the Abbasid caliphate — between 8th and 12th centuries (CE), [but] what happened after that?” she questioned and asked researchers to plumb through the subject, with the emphasis on the then structure of Sindhi language with phonetics etcetera and its standard script.

“Historical evidences are there proving that Sindhi was a familiar language in Baghdad — the then seat of the Abbasid caliphate — between 8th and 12th centuries (CE), [but] what happened after that?” asked Dr Hamida

“The researchers also need to explore how influential it was in the seat of the empire which was dominated by the Arabs,” she said. However, for such researches, the first and foremost condition was to learn Arabic, she added.

Dr Khuhro was of the opinion that after the Arabs invaded and conquered Sindh, Hajjaj bin Yusuf, a governor of the Umayyad Empire, who was generally known as strict, ruthless and demanding master, asked Mohammad bin Qasim to treat the people of Sindh with the same procedures as they had specified for their subjects belonging to the People of the Book. “It was Hajjaj bin Yusuf who asked bin Qasim to treat the Sindhis as the People of the Book, which included allowances for temples and pensions for priests,” she said.

However, her claim that bin Yusuf institutionalised tolerance and liberalism in Sindh that stayed alive till date convinced fewer in the audience. The doubt was evident from the loud exclamations which were heard from the crowd.

She said the ancient city of Al-Mansoora was established by the Arabs after the conquest of Sindh that along with Baghdad had huge influence on the renaissance of Europe. “A good portion of the knowledge that the Europeans took advantage of was contributed by Mansoora in Sindh,” she said, adding that Sindh’s two Hindu doctors had treated fifth Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid.

Earlier in the 4th CE, she said, Sindh was the most prosperous colony of the Persian Empire, which would pay one-third of its revenue.

Dr Hamida's claim that Hajjaj bin Yusuf institutionalised tolerance and liberalism in Sindh that stayed alive till date convinced few in the audience. The doubt was evident from the loud exclamations heard from the crowd.

She said the first exposure of Sindh to Europe was at a time when the Portuguese burnt down Thatta, the then City of Schools. The British raided Sindh much later than the rest of India, she added.

Dr Khuhro said the overall impact of the British invasion on Sindh was both positive and negative. She described the Talpurs, who had virtually divided Sindh into four princely states, as “peaceful but least efficient rulers”.

She said the British helped Sindh on economic front when Lord Curzon supported her right to water share in view of canal colonies being built in Punjab. That support later resulted in the building of Sukkur Barrage, she added.

She said the British had treaties with the Khan of Kalat promising him of independence when the British deemed it fit, but they did not have any such treaty or promise with Sindh. She rubbished the claim that the British had offered to the Sindh Assembly to pass a resolution to claim for independence. Even Balochistan was given no other option but to go for India or Pakistan, she added.


Originally published in Dawn November 6th, 2016

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Comments (12) Closed



Aijaz Shaikh Nov 06, 2016 01:06pm

As Dr. Hamida Khuhro argued, more research is required to bring the facts about the Sindhi language and culture.

Jamil Soomro, NEW YORK CITY Nov 06, 2016 06:59pm

An interesting and intellectually stimulating article on the Sindhi Language. I am so happy that Sindhi Language is taught in schools in Sindh.

FarHAN Nov 06, 2016 10:01pm

She looks like dreaming than actually doing research on history let alone sindhi language ...

Jamil Soomro,NEW YORK CITY Nov 06, 2016 10:03pm

My congratulations to Dr..Hamida Khuhro for enlightening the Sindhi Language.

Parveen Sadiq Nov 07, 2016 12:28am

Beautifully written article,based on historical facts .It shows the glory of Sindhi language which was an official language of pre partition Sindh province.Now this is lost because new Sindh residents have refused to learn Sindhi and look down upon sindhis.The result is that we have lost,our language and history.

Maria Nov 07, 2016 03:03am

Immensely interesting! More articles on such topics, kindly!

Jaswinder Sandhu Nov 07, 2016 03:38am

Dr. Hamida Khuhro's work seems interesting. It creates awareness about the links of Sindhi to Arabic and Persian. We must take the research on languages viewing them as dynamic entities. Every language develops with links from other languages. They may come in the form of trade necessities or by hegemony. Mughals and British have influenced our languages in big ways as they brought in their own languages with them and imposed those on our folks. Even a new language Urdu emerged as a result an interaction of Persian and Avadhi in and around Lucknow or Lakhnau.

Raag Nov 07, 2016 07:27am

Some intellectuals and academics are serious and devoted in promoting Sindhi language ,but unfortunately the feudals of Sindh have done nothing,except building their empire and wealth. Sindhi is shrinking in rural lands and Sindhi families migrated to urban cities where their children only speak Urdu , while there are 99% Urdu tv channels the viewers are acquainted with Urdu and keeping apart Sindhi, the Urdu speaking also complaints about depreviations of their rights by feudals rulers. Both the innocent Urdu speaking and rural Sindhi speaking needs true honest loyal devoted poor caring rulers to promote Sindhi & Urdu simultaneously , the current set up is hopeless.

Alam Nov 07, 2016 08:18am

Congrats for organising such events in the heart of Sindh Karachi.

Historian Nov 07, 2016 08:32am

Dr, Khuhro is perfectly correct to say that Hindus and Buddhists were judged and treated as 'People of the Book' following the conquest of Sindh. The same was argued by various members of the Ulama right up to the eighteenth century. This is well documented and it is only a sign of the profound failure of the Pakistani education system that people are not aware of this.

Riz Nov 07, 2016 09:39am

she is immanent historian of Sindh,, she is also daughter of Ayub khoro, than then CM Sindh when Pakistan got independence.. yes more research need to be done on Bin Yusuf and on Sindhi language as well,, also I want to ask what makes a Sindhi a Sindhi??? there are many communities living in Sindh who don't speak and practice culture of sindhi speaking people,, do they also equal sindhis??

kareem Nov 07, 2016 10:04pm

untrue, unauthentic and completely fabricated account of history