The Battle of India (Ghazwat-ul-Hind)
Prophecies relating to the coming of the final hour, have a powerful propensity to capture the imagination. None more so than those which appear in our tradition, the final revelation sent to mankind. Indeed, it can cogently be argued that in our present era we have borne witness to some of them: whether that be the Arabs competing in the construction of tall buildings, the lady which is clothed yet naked, and the tyranny of security forces beating people with whips.
Several questions have been tabled of late asking specifically about Prophecies relating to ‘the Battle Expedition of India,’ the ‘ghazwat-ul-hind’, what the authenticity of the traditions are, and whether this specifically relates to events prior to the end of days. Rather than listing all questions, it is intended that this short comment will cover all those areas that have been raised, with the permission and help of Allah the exalted.
Out of the well-known books ḥadith in English, the traditions relating to this topic only appear in the smaller Sunan collection of Aḥmad ibn Shu’ayb, Imām al-Nasā’i in the book of Jihād, under a chapter entitled ‘the Battle Expedition of India,’ or ‘ghazwat-ul-hind.’ Two of the narrations are reported from Abu Hurayrah, the third, from Thawbān, may Allah be pleased with them.
These narrations appear in the wider corpus of ḥadith, most of which is not available now in English. There are other narrations that appear in this regard in the famous work of Nu’aym ibn Ḥammād entitled the ‘book of tribulations,’ Kitāb al-Fitan.
The narration of Thawbān
The first narration is that reported on the authority of Thawbān, may Allah be pleased with him. Al-Nasā’i also cites this in his larger collection, entitled al-Sunan al-Kubra [Vol. 3, no. 3484].
أخبرني محمد بن عبد الله بن عبد الرحيم قال حدثنا أسد بن موسى قال حدثنا بقية قال حدثني أبو بكر الزبيدي عن أخيه محمد بن الوليد عن لقمان بن عامر عن عبد الأعلى بن عدي البهراني عن ثوبان مولى رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم عصابتان من أمتي أحرزهما الله من النار عصابة تغزو الهند وعصابة تكون مع عيسى ابن مريم عليهما السلام
Muḥammad ibn Abdullah ibn Abdul-Raḥim reported to me he said Asad ibn Musa narrated to us he said Baqiyah narrated to us he said Abu Bakr al-Zubaydi narrated to us from his brother Muḥammad ibn al-Waleed from Luqmān ibn ‘Aāmir from ‘Abd-al’Alā ibn ‘Adi al-Bahrāni from Thawbān, mawla of the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him, he said:
There are two groups of my Ummah whom Allah will free from the fire: The group that invades India (tagahzu al-hind), and the group that will be with Jesus son of Mary, peace be upon him.
This is also cited in the Musnad of Aḥmad [Vol. 5, no. 22449] via the same isnād. But the reporting of this narration is not free of considerable defects. Two of the narrators in succession are problematic: Baqiyah and Abu Bakr al-Zubaydi. In his commentary upon the Musnad Shu’ayb al-Arnā’uṭ states that the channel is ḍaef (weak) due to Baqiyah, with the ḥadith being ḥasan (fair).
There is notable disagreement regarding the narrator Baqiyah ibn al-Waleed. What is a common theme from the scholars is that he when he narrates from ḍaef or the majhul (unknown narrators), he is regarded as being ḍaef:
- Ibn Sa’d in Ṭabaqāt al-Kubra [Vol. 7, no. 6096]: ‘Baqiyah ibn al-Waleed al-Ḥimṣi, his kunya being Abu Yaḥ He was thiqa (trustworthy) in his reporting from the thiqāt (trustworthy narrators) and he was ḍaef in his reporting from other than the thiqāt. He died in the year 197 (AH), at the end of the Caliphate of Muḥammad ibn Hārun.’
- Al-Dhahabi in Dhayl dīwān al-ḍuʿafāʾ wa-l-matrūkīn [no. 81, p. 25]: ‘In and of himself, thiqa (trustworthy), yet he comes forth with strange (narratives) from the matrukin (discarded) and the majhuleen (the unknown) and misrepresents in names. Far and away removed from the thiqāt (the trustworthy).’
- Al-Ḥāfiz in al-Taqreeb [no. 734, p. 126]: ‘Ṣaduq (truthful) but a great deal of tadlees (misrepresentation in reporting) from the Ḍu’afā (weak narrators).’
Al-Ḥāfiz in Tahzeeb al-Tahzeeb [Vol. 1, no. 787]:
- Ibn Abi Khaythama said: Yaḥya was asked about Baqiyah, he said: If he narrates from the thiqāt (trustworthy narrators) like Ṣafwān ibn ‘Amr and other than him, then he is accepted. But if he narrates from those that are the majhuleen, then no; and if I am the man and didn’t hear from him, then he is not worth anything.
- Al-Ijli said: ‘He was thiqa in what he narrated from the well-known narrators, as for what he narrates from the majhuleen, it is nothing.’
- Abu Zur’a said: ‘Oddly, if he narrates from the thiqāt, then he is thiqa…this is in relation to the thiqāt; as for that in relation to the majhuleen, he narrates from those who are not known and lacking exactness.’
- Ibn ‘Adi said: ‘He differs in some of his narrations from the thiqāt; if he narrates from the people of Shām (greater Syria), then it is precise. If he narrates from other than them, it is confused. And if he narrates from the majhuleen, then the reliability is from them, not from him.’
With regards to the narrator Abu Bakr al-Zubaydi, he has a status that is majhul al-ḥāl (unknown). Following al-Mizzi [Vol. 33, no. 7261, pp. 151/152], al-Ḥāfiz records that al-Ḥākim, Abu Aḥmad and Abu Abdullah ibn Manda have said that his name is Ṣamṣoum [Tahzeeb al-Tahzeeb, Vol. 12, no. 8323], but gives his status as being unknown in Taqreeb [Vol. 2, no. 8024], despite the note of Baqiyah ibn al-Waleed as narrating from him.
For the narration of Thawbān this would seem to be quite fatal and substantially weaken it. Perhaps the reason why Shu’ayb al-Arnā’uṭ judged the ḥadith as being ḥasan, may well be because of the alternative line of reporting that al-Ṭabarāni has. Absent the problematic narrators appearing in the channel mentioned by al-Nasā’i, al-Ṭabarāni cites the ḥadith of Thawbān with the following channel and near identical text in Mu’jam al-Awsaṭ [Vol. 5, no. 6741]:
حدثنا محمد بن أبي زرعة نا هشام بن عمار نا الجراح بن مليح البهراني عن محمد بن الوليد الزبيدي عن لقمان بن عامر الوصابي عن عبد الأعلى بن عدي البهراني عن ثوبان مولى رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم عصابتان من أمتي أحرزهما الله من النار عصابة تغزو الهند وعصابة تكون مع عيسى بن مريم
لا يروى هذا الحديث عن ثوبان إلا بهذا الإسناد تفرد به الزبيدي
Muḥammad ibn Abi Zur’a narrated to us Hishām ibn ‘Ammār narrated to us al-Jarrāḥ ibn Muleeḥ narrated to us from Muḥammad ibn al-Waleed al-Zubaydi from Luqmān ibn Aāmir al-Waṣābi from ‘Abd al-‘Alā ibn ‘Adi al-Bahrāni from Thawbān, mawla of the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him, he said the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him said:
There are two groups of my Ummah whom Allah will free from the fire: The group that invades India, and those who are with ‘Esa ibn Maryam.
al-Ṭabarāni said: This ḥadith is not narrated from Thawbān except with this isnād; with only al-Zubaydi narrating it.
Printed versions of Mu’jam al-Awsaṭ carry the designation for this tradition as being ḥasan (fair). While the higher portion of the isnād mirrors that appearing in al-Nasā‘i and Musnad Aḥmad, two of the narrators in this channel are not necessarily considered to be of the highest veracity in reporting: al-Jarrāḥ ibn Muleeḥ and Luqmān ibn ‘Aāmir al-Waṣābi. Citing him within a tradition from his collection of Sunan [Book 25, no. 23], al-Tirmidhi carries a quote from Bukhāri that al-Jarrāḥ ibn Muleeḥ is ṣaduq. Al-Ḥāfiz summaries similarly in al-Taqreeb [no. 908, p. 138], ‘ṣaduq but having wahm (delusions).’ For al-Nasā’i, ‘there is nothing untoward with him;’ al-Dāraquṭni being far more critical: ‘al-Burqāni said: I asked al-Dāraquṭni about al-Jarrāḥ, he said: He is nothing, he has a great deal of delusions’ [Tahzeeb al-Tahzeeb, Vol. 2, no. 1108]. Regarding Luqmān ibn Aāmir al-Waṣābi, the summary comment from al-Ḥāfiz in al-Taqreeb [no. 5979, p. 464], is also ṣaduq, which al-Dhahabi also has in Mizān al-I’tidāl, added with the comment of Abu Ḥātim to write his ḥadith [Vol. 3, no. 6986]. As the follow up comment of al-Ṭabarāni shows, this seems to be quite a unique line of reporting. At best perhaps ḥasan, but not to the level of Ṣaḥīḥ.
Two obvious aspects to the reported text: mention that a group from the Ummah is to be freed from the fire by participation in the ‘ghazwat-ul-hind’; the second, a group from the Ummah freed from the fire who are the supporters of ‘Esa ibn Maryam (Jesus). The latter, giving the indication that this is towards the end of days, since the beginning of the narration states ‘from my Ummah’ (min ummati), thereby distinguishing the original supporters and disciples of ‘Esa ibn Maryam that the Qur’ān mentions [5: 111, 61: 14].
There isn’t a further indication in the reported text regarding when the ‘ghazwat-ul-hind’ would occur or that it is in any sense specifically connected to the events pertaining to the end of days. It merely stipulates that this is a future event to occur. Stating that this event is to come, with any degree of certitude, isn’t possible, because there is nothing that can distinguish this textually from the previous Muslim campaigns that invaded and brought Islam to India. Indeed, previous historians like Ibn Kathir noted the battle campaigns that had already occurred when mentioning the narration.
The narration of Abu Hurayrah
There are two narrations of Abu Hurayrah which appear in the smaller Sunan of Imām al-Nasā’i, again in the book of Jihād, under a chapter entitled ‘the Battle Expedition of India’:
حدثني محمد بن إسماعيل بن إبراهيم قال حدثنا يزيد قال أنبأنا هشيم قال حدثنا سيار أبو الحكم عن جبر بن عبيدة عن أبي هريرة قال وعدنا رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم غزوة الهند فإن أدركتها أنفق فيها نفسي ومالي وإن قتلت كنت أفضل الشهداء وإن رجعت فأنا أبو هريرة المحرر
Muḥammad ibn Ismā’il ibn Ibrāhim narrated to me he said Yazeed narrated to us he said Hushaym reports he said Yassār Abul’Ḥakam narrated to us from Jabr ibn ‘Abidah from Abu Hurayrah, he said: The Messenger of Allah peace be upon him promised that we would invade India. If I live to see that I will sacrifice myself and my wealth. If I am killed, I will be one of the best of the martyrs, and if I come back, I will be Abu Hurayrah al-Muharrar (the one freed from the fire).
أخبرني أحمد بن عثمان بن حكيم قال حدثنا زكريا بن عدي قال حدثنا عبيد الله بن عمرو عن زيد بن أبي أنيسة عن سيار ح قال وأنبأنا هشيم عن سيار عن جبر بن عبيدة وقال عبيد الله عن جبير عن أبي هريرة قال وعدنا رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم غزوة الهند فإن أدركتها أنفق فيها نفسي ومالي فإن أقتل كنت من أفضل الشهداء وإن أرجع فأنا أبو هريرة المحرر
Aḥmad ibn Uthman ibn Ḥakim reported to me he said Zakariyā ibn ‘Adi narrated to us he said ‘Ubaydallah ibn ‘Amr narrated to us from Zayd ibn Abi Anisa from Yassar (ḥawala) he said Hushaym reports from Yassār from Jabr ibn ‘Abidah – and ‘Ubaydallah said from Jubayr, from Abu Hurayrah, he said: The Messenger of Allah peace be upon him promised us a battle expedition in India (ghazwat-ul-hind). If I live to see that, I will expend myself and my wealth in it. If I am killed, I will be one of the best of the martyrs, and if I come back, I will be Abu Hurayrah al-Muharrar.
These narrations also appear in various collections of ḥadith, notable among them are the following:
- Sunan al-Kubra, al-Nasā’i [Vol. 3, no. 3484]
- Musnad Aḥmad [Vol. 2, no. 7128]
- Mustadrak, al-Ḥākim [Vol. 3, no. 6253]
- Sunan Sa’eed ibn Manṣur [Vol. 5, no. 2198]
- al-Sunan al-Kubra, al- Bayhaqy [Vol. 9, no. 18599]
- Kitāb al-Fitan, Nu’aym ibn Ḥammād [no. 1237, p. 409]
Each of the collections has the isnād (line of reporting) going through the narrator Jabr ibn ‘Abidah purportedly narrating from Abu Hurayrah. The narrations are notable in that they don’t carry an express Prophetic statement. Rather, it has Abu Hurayrah purportedly narrating that this is something that the Prophet peace be upon him has promised, with the inference that those participating will be forgiven their sins, freed from the fire. The only different channel, together with variance of wording, that carries a reported Prophetic statement, appears in the Musnad of Aḥmad:
حدثنا عبد الله حدثني أبي حدثنا يحيى بن إسحاق حدثنا البراء عن الحسن عن أبي هريرة قال حدثني خليلي الصادق رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أنه قال قال يكون في هذه الأمة بعث إلى السند والهند فإن أنا أدركته فاستشهدت فذاك وإن أنا فذكر كلمة رجعت وأنا أبو هريرة المحرر قد أعتقني من النار
تعليق شعيب الأرنؤوط إسناده ضعيف لضعف البراء بن عبد الله الغنوي ولانقطاعه
Abdullah narrated to us my father narrated to me Yaḥya ibn Isḥāq narrated to us al-Barā’ narrated to us from al-Ḥasan from Abu Hurayrah he said: My dear friend the truthful one, the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, narrated to me: ‘Among this Ummah there will be a battle expedition to Sindh and India.’ If I live to see it and am martyred, all well and good, and if I – (and he said some word) – return, I am Abu Hurayrah the freed, I will be ransomed from the fire.
Comment of Shu’ayb al-Arnā’uṭ: ‘Its isnād is ḍaef, the weakness being due to al-Barā’ ibn Abdullah al-Ghanawi and its interruption.’
As seen from the comment of Shu’ayb al-Arnā’uṭ, the ḥadith is ḍaef, with the weak narrator coupled with an interruption in the channel of reporting. Each of the earlier two narrations from al-Nasā’i are also graded as ḍaef, principally because of the narrator Jabr ibn ‘Abidah. Many scholars make mention of this narrator, for example Bukhāri in al-Tārikh al-Kabir [Vol. 2, no. 2333], knows of him and the single narration he reports, but doesn’t appear to comment further. Ibn Ḥibbān also has a cursory note in al-Thiqāt [Vol. 2, no. 483]: ‘Jabr ibn ‘Abidah narrating from Abu Hurayrah, Yassār Abul-Ḥakam narrating from him.’ Al-Mizzi points out in Tahzeeb al-Kāmil [Vol. 4, no. 893], that he only has one narration, that appearing in al-Nasā’i. Al-Dhahabi though is very critical. In Mizān al-I’tidāl [Vol. 1, no. 1436, p. 388]: ‘Jabr or Jubayr ibn ‘Abidah – from Abu Hurayrah, with a khabr munkar (disclaimed report). I don’t know who this is; his tradition is: We have been promised a battle expedition in India.’ The inference being, is that his status is that of majhul (unknown). Unusually in al-Taqreeb [no. 900, p. 172], al-Ḥāfiz has that he is maqbul (acceptable). In Taḥrir Taqreeb al-Tahzeeb, Shu’ayb al-Arnā’uṭ levels much criticism of the evaluation of narrators as maqbul by al-Ḥāfiz. In this instance, the concurrence is with the judgement of al-Dhahabi, that Jabr ibn ‘Abidah is in fact majhul [Vol. 1, no. 892, pp. 208/209]. Therefore, these narrations, all of which he is central too, would fall and remain ḍaef.
In a similar vein that to the text purportedly reported upon the authority of Thawbān, the narrations of Abu Hurayrah do not provide further specifics that this is connected to the end of days. Rather, Abu Hurayrah only states that the ‘ghazwat-ul-hind’ was promised by the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him. The remainder text is his personal hope that he would live to see it, to achieve the honour bestowed by participating in it and if slain, to be given the honour of high martyrdom.
Narrations cited by Nu’aym ibn Ḥammād
Nu’aym ibn Ḥammād has several narrations within his ‘book of tribulations’ or Kitāb al-Fitan. Yet as will be shown, each of these has significant problems:
حدثنا بقية بن الوليد عن صفوان عن بعض المشيخة عن أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وذكر الهند فقال ليغزون الهند لكم جيش يفتح الله عليهم حتى يأتوا بملوكهم مغللين بالسلاسل يغفر الله ذنوبهم فينصرفون حين ينصرفون فيجدون ابن مريم بالشام
Baqiyah ibn al-Waleed narrated to us from Ṣafwān from some scholars from Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, he said the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him mentioned India and said: An army of yours will raid India, with Allah conquering for them, until they bring its kings in weighted down in chains. Allah will forgive their sins, so they will depart wherever, then find the son of Mary in Syria.
Comments regarding the narrator Baqiyah ibn al-Waleed have been made earlier, in relation to the narration of Thawbān. Fatal for this narration though, is the missing serious of narrators to Abu Hurayrah, with Ṣafwān purportedly narrating ‘from some scholars.’ The narration is therefore ḍaef.
حدثنا الحكم بن نافع عمن حدثه عن كعب قال يبعث ملك في بيت المقدس جيشا إلى الهند فيفتحها فيطئوا أرض الهند ويأخذوا كنوزها فيصيره ذلك الملك حلية لبيت المقدس ويقدم عليه ذلك الجيش بملوك الهند مغللين ويفتح له ما بين المشرق والمغرب ويكون مقامهم في الهند إلى خروج الدجال
al-Ḥakam ibn Nāfi’ narrated to us from whoever related it to him from Ka’b, he said: A king in Jerusalem will send an army to India and conquer it, so that they will tread on the land of India and take its treasures. These will be made into decoration for Jerusalem, and that army will come to it, bringing the kings of India in chains. [The army] will conquer the east and the west, but their staying in India will be until the appearance of the Dajjāl.
The narration while intriguing in terms of its reported text for some, is not a Prophetic tradition, so it cannot be viewed as such. Moreover, the missing series of narrators is quite clear from the isnād.
حدثنا الوليد بن مسلم عن جراح عن أرطاة قال على يدي ذلك الخليفة اليماني الذي يفتح القسطنطينية ورومية على يديه يخرج الدجال وفي زمانه ينزل عيسى بن مريم عليه السلام على يديه تكون غزوة الهند وهو من بني هاشم غزوة الهند التي قال فيها أبو هريرة
al-Waleed ibn Muslim narrated to us from Jarrāḥ from Arṭā’, he said: At the hands of the Yemeni Khaleefah who will conquer Constantinople and Rome, at his hands the Dajjāl will appear, (and) Jesus the son of Mary will descend. At his hands, there will be the battle expedition of India – he will be from Bani Hāshim – the raid on India concerning which Abu Hurayrah spoke.
Again, this is not a Prophetic tradition, carrying neither a Prophetic statement or a fully connected isnād by reliable narrators all the way to the Prophet peace be upon him. While al-Waleed ibn Muslim is considered as thiqa, widely recognised by the community of scholars, he does have a lot of Tadlees (misrepresentation in reporting) and of particular concern, Tadlees al-Taswiya.
حدثنا الوليد ثنا صفوان بن عمرو عمن حدثه عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال يغزو قوم من أمتي الهند يفتح الله عليهم حتى يأتوا بملوك الهند مغلولين في السلاسل فيغفر الله لهم ذنوبهم فينصرفون إلى الشام فيجدون عيسى بن مريم عليه السلام بالشام
قال أبو هريرة إن أنا أدركت تلك الغزوة بعت كل طارف لي وتالد وغزوتها فإذا فتح الله علينا وانصرفنا فأنا أبو هريرة المحرر يقدم الشام فيجد فيها عيسى بن مريم فلأحرصن أن أدنوا منه فأخبره أني قد صحبتك يا رسول الله قال فتبسم رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم وضحك ثم قال هيهات هيهات
al-Waleed narrated to us Ṣafwān ibn ‘Amr narrated to us from whoever related it to him from the Prophet peace be upon him, he said: A group of my Ummah will raid India, with Allah conquering it for them, until they bring back the kings of India weighted down in chains, so Allah will forgive them their sins, then they will go to Syria and find Jesus son of Mary in Syria.
Abu Hurayrah said: If I live at the time of that raid, then I will sell everything, small and large, to be on that raid, for when Allah conquers for us, and we have left, then I, Abu Hurayrah, the devoted one, will go to Syria and find ‘Esa ibn Maryam there. I would desire to get close to him, so to tell him that I was a Companion of yours, O Messenger of Allah. He said: The Messenger of Allah smiled, and laughed, saying: Indeed, Indeed.
While the beginning and end theme of the first portion of the narration seems to broadly be in line with what is reported in the earlier narratives, clearly this is not a fully connected isnād by reliable narrators all the way to the Prophet peace be upon him. It is significantly weakened by the series of missing narrators. The last sentence together with the additional follow-on comment attributed to Abu Hurayrah provides the connection to the events pertaining to the ‘end of days.’
Prophecies that are firmly established textually, when they come to pass, provide remarkable evidence to confirm the truthfulness of the Prophetic message. They are not necessarily, a guide to political action. Enjoining the good, forbidding the evil, and establishing justice provide the necessary building blocks for that.
Muslims in the sub-continent, in tandem with the wider Ummah, face immense challenges. Rather than dreaming over an apocalyptic battle with at best tenuous authenticity, isn’t the more pressing matter at hand how to bring this Ummah back to fully implementing the Deen of Islam and conveying its message to the world? Such fantastic solutions won’t help the present dire plight of so many. If, as an Ummah, we cannot extricate ourselves from servitude to the states and international organisations of oppression, how do we hope to fair in any battle related to the end of days, if we even live to see it? Too many are still duped by government propaganda and are terrified of a virus with an IFR akin to a bad flu season, yet somehow think they can fair better amidst the fog of war in battle.
In our lifetimes, we have witnessed some of the Prophecies that the final Messenger sent to mankind (peace be upon him) informed us of. Surely now, it is time to place our house in order lest we be replaced and swept away by the winds of history.