Muslim Origins in South Asia

Episode 330

hosted by Shireen Hamza

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When did Muslims first come to the South Asian subcontinent? The answer to this question has formed a crucial part of nationalism in both India and Pakistan, where the story begins with the conquest of Sind by Muhammad ibn Qasim in 712 AD. In this episode, we speak with Manan Ahmed Asif about his book, A Book of Conquest: The Chachnama and Muslim Origins in South Asia, which reexamines a key text in this narrative about Islam in South Asia: The Chachnama. Written in Sind in the 13th century, this text draws on multiple Indic and Islamic literary traditions to respond to its contemporary political context. We discuss the ways in which the text puts forth political theories, based on the lives of Brahmin rulers of Sind -- including the eponymous Chach -- as well as Muhammad ibn Qasim. Rather than a straightforward story of Muslim conquest, the text advocates a mode of rule which acknowledges and engages with the cultural and religious diversity of Sind. Finally, we touch on the ways this history is alive today among residents of Uch, the city most discussed in the Chachnama.

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Contributor Bios

Manan Ahmed Asif is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Columbia University. He specializes in the intellectual history of Islam in South and Southeast Asia, frontier-spaces and the city in medieval South Asia and colonial and post-colonial North India and Pakistan. He is the co-founder of the Group for Experimental Methods in the Humanities at Columbia.
Shireen Hamza is a doctoral student in the History of Science department at Harvard University. Her research focuses broadly on the history of science and medicine in the Islamicate Middle Ages, especially in the Delhi Sultanate.


Episode No 330
Release Date: 24 August 2017
Recording Location: Columbia University, New York
Audio editing by Shireen Hamza
Music: Special thanks to Ganavya Doraiswamy - (Black, Brown, Beige) Are the Colors
Images and bibliography courtesy of Manan Ahmed Asif


Historical Map of South Asia (Photo Credit: State of Pakistan, Geography Division, 1992)
Bibi Jawindi Shrine, Uch Sharif (Photo credit: Manan Ahmed Asif)
Derawar Fort, Bahawalpur (Photo Credit: Manan Ahmed Asif)

Select Bibliography

A Book of Conquest: The Chachnama
and Muslim Origins in South Asia
by Manan Ahmed Asif
Harvard University Press, 2016

Ahmed, Manan Asif. A Book of Conquest: The Chachnama and Muslim Origins in South Asia (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2016)

Engseng Ho, The Graves of Tarim: Genealogy and Mobility Across the Indian Ocean (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006)

Sunil Kumar, The Emergence of the Delhi Sultanate, 1192-1286 (New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2007)

W. G. Sebald, The Emigrants (New York: New Directions, 1996)


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