CHAPTER VIII
Islam in India

Before the consequences of the fifth- and sixth-century invasions had worked themselves out, Islam had appeared in the middle Eastern world. The Hegira, or flight of the prophet Muhammad from Mecca, from which the Muslim lunar era is dated, took place in 622 A.D. or almost in the middle of the reign of Harsha. Muhammad died in 632, three years after the Buddhist pilgrim Hieuen Tsang had set out from China for the holy land of India. While he was wandering from monastery to monastery and attending the emperor Harsha's great religious assembly the Muslim followers of the prophet were making their first dramatic conquests. In 636, soon after the pilgrim had entered Harsha's dominions, the Arabs captured Jerusalem, where the splendid Dome of the Rock was shortly to rise, from the Byzantine Greeks. Before he started on his homeward journey in 643 the Persian Sassanids had been overthrown and Egypt wrested from the Greeks. Within three years of Harsha's death the caliphate was established at Damascus. There would seem nothing to prevent the Arabs from invading India at any time during the next fifty years, apart from preoccupations elsewhere. The north was again in tumult, and it should not have been difficult to gain a foothold. But in fact the Arabs were busy elsewhere. They spread along the north coast of Africa to conquer Spain in 711, only to be halted in the heart of France at Tours in 732. In Asia they were at grips with the Byzantine Greeks. They overran Asia Minor but were finally repulsed from Constantinople in 717.1 The energy expended in these campaigns may well have precluded a major effort further east. In Iran itself the nomads of the desert came into contact with the nomads of the steppe. Arab and Turk faced each other, setting up a lasting dichotomy of race in the Muslim world. It was the resistance of the Greeks which set limits to the first Islamic flood and which perhaps determined that neither India nor Europe should become provinces of the

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