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Pakistan, History

Ravi River, Ghaznavids, Umayyad Caliphate, Indus River Valley, Harappa

The area of present-day Pakistan has a long history of human settlement as the cradle of the Indus Valley civilization, the earliest-known civilization in South Asia. This Bronze Age culture flourished in the area of the Indus River Valley from about 2500 to 1700 bc. The Indus River is considered the lifeblood of Pakistan, and the ancient culture that arose there serves as an icon of Pakistan’s territorial identity. Important archaeological sites in Pakistan include Mohenjo-Daro (Sindhi for “Mound of the Dead”), in Sind Province, and Harappa, near the Ravi River (a tributary of the Indus) in Punjab Province.

Pakistan’s cultural identity is traced to the centuries of Muslim rule in the region. In ad 711 Mohammad bin Qasim, an Arab general and nephew of Hajjaj, ruler of Iraq and Persia, conquered Sind and incorporated it into the Umayyad Caliphate. Thereafter Muslims continued to rule areas of present-day Pakistan for almost 1,000 years. For the first 300 years the region of Sind was the only part of the Indian subcontinent that was under Muslim rule. Muslim rule began to spread to other areas after the Afghan sultan Mahmud of Ghazni, leader of the Ghaznavids, invaded in 997. After he conquered the region of Punjab in the early 11th century, he made Lahore his capital. Between 1175 and 1186 the regions of Sind and Punjab were conquered by Muhammad of Ghur, leader of the Turkish Ghurid Empire, which was centered in what is now west central Afghanistan. His generals conquered all of north India by the time he was assassinated in 1206. That year his general Qutubuddin Aybak laid the foundations of an independent Muslim kingdom in India, the Delhi Sultanate. Thirty-five sultans ruled this rich and powerful sultanate from 1206 to 1526. The sultanate included most of Punjab and Sind during this period.

The golden age of Muslim rule in the Indian subcontinent came with the glory and grandeur of the Mughal Empire (1526-1858). Between 1526 and 1707 six powerful Mughal kings ruled in succession: Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan, and Aurangzeb. As the boundaries of the empire grew, Islam spread in India through incoming Muslim rulers, intermarriages, conversions among the lower Hindu castes, and the teachings of Sufi mystics. The death of Aurangzeb in 1707 marked the beginning of the decline of the Mughal Empire, and of Muslim rule in India.

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Article key phrases:

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