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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