(Sultaan Mahmood Ghaznawi – Part Two)

In the era of Sultaan Mahmood, Sawmnaat was the name of a large city and also the name of an idol which was housed within its temple.

Sawmnaat, the idol, was so revered by the disbelievers of India that it had a Ka’bah-like status in their eyes. On the occasion of a solar or lunar eclipse, up to 230 000 people would travel to Sawmnaat from distant lands in order to seek its “blessing” and beg favours of it.

The disbelieving king of India would personally see to the upkeep of Sawmnaat. He had dedicated the income of approximately 2000 towns to its upkeep and had 2000 priests deputed to remain in the temple at all times to worship Sawmnaat. Every night, they would wash the idol with water that would be brought from the Ganges River which was almost 2000km away. The priests had hung a chain of solid gold weighing approximately 170kg from one end of the temple to the next. Scattered across the length of this chain were small bells which would be rung to indicate that it was time to worship Sawmnaat. 500 singing women and 300 men remained in the temple to serve Sawmnaat and an additional 300 barbers were kept available to shave the heads and faces of the priests. The king had even dedicated his daughters to the service of Sawmnaat. They lived lives of celibacy in the temple and passed their days serving the idol.

In the year 415 A.H., Sultaan Mahmood was informed of the baseless belief of reincarnation held by some of the people of India. They believed that after a person dies, his soul leaves his body and travels to the idol, Sawmnaat, who then judges the person’s actions and gives him a new body to restart life. The type of body given (whether human or animal, and if animal, which animal) depended on how righteous the person was in his lifetime.

These people also held the erroneous view that the rising and falling of the ocean tides was actually the ocean worshipping and prostrating to Sawmnaat. Sultaan Mahmood was also told of these people’s claim that all the idols which Sultaan Mahmood had destroyed to date had only been destroyed because Sawmnaat had been displeased with them. Had he been pleased with them, he would have definitely rushed to their aid and destroyed Sultaan Mahmood. They further believed that Sawmnaat was the chief god and all other idols were subservient to him.

When Sultaan Mahmood learnt all this, he immediately resolved to travel to Sawmnaat to destroy the idol and bring an end to its worship. With this purpose in mind, he summoned his special army and an additional 30 000 troops and set out for Sawmnaat on the 20th of Sha’baan.

When the army of Sultaan Mahmood eventually arrived at the city of Sawmnaat, the inhabitants climbed the walls and began to shout at the Muslims saying, “Sawmnaat has summoned you here so that he may strike you and kill you all at once!” Sultaan Mahmood engaged them in war and after a few days of intense fighting, Allah Ta‘ala granted victory to the Muslims.

After conquering the city, Sultaan Mahmood entered the fort with his ministers and sons. He examined every corner of the fort thoroughly until he found an internal passage which led to the temple. He walked through the passage, and on emerging on the other side, discovered that the temple was huge. Its vastness could be gauged from the fact that its roof had to be supported by 56 pillars. It was here that the idol, Sawmnaat was housed.

The idol itself was also massive and made from stone. It was approximately 4.5m in height with 1.8m embedded into the ground, allowing the remaining 2.7m to tower above the ground.

As Sultaan Mahmood advanced to destroy Sawmnaat, the idol worshippers came forward and began pleading and begging Sultaan Mahmood to spare their idol. In desperation, they even promised Sultaan Mahmood that they would pay a large amount of wealth to the Muslims if he spared it. Sultaan Mahmood summoned his advisers and asked them their opinion. They unanimously said, “We have already conquered the land. Sparing one idol will not harm us and destroying it will not bring an end to idol worship as they will simply construct another idol. Accept the wealth as it will greatly benefit us and will come in use for equipping the army.”

When Sayyid Mas‘ood Ghaazi (rahimahullah), who was also present, heard the suggestion of the advisors, he immediately declared, “To spare the idol is idol worship. Until today, the King was known as a person who destroys idols. After today, he will be called a person who sells idols.” Although this statement of Sayyid Mas‘ood Ghaazi (rahimahullah) struck the heart of Sultaan Mahmood and affected him, he was still slightly hesitant and unsure as to how to proceed.

That afternoon, when Sultaan Mahmood went to sleep, he had a dream in which he saw that it was the Day of Qiyaamah and he was on the Plains of Resurrection. An angel was gripping him and dragging him towards Jahannum saying, “This man is an idol seller.” Another angel, however, was insisting, “No! He is a destroyer of idols! Take him to Jannah!” Sultaan Mahmood then awoke from the dream.

As soon as he got up, he immediately gave the command for the idol to be destroyed. On demolishing the idol, they were absolutely astonished to find that it was actually hollow and filled with precious jewels and gems!

Sultaan Mahmood immediately thanked Allah Ta‘ala for not only saving him from being an idol seller but also granting the Muslim’s even more wealth than they had initially hoped to receive from the idol worshippers for sparing their idol.

(Taareek-e-Farishtah vol. 1 pg. 78-81 and Khutubaat-e-Hakeemul Ummat vol. 26, pg. 565)


1. The dream which Sultaan Mahmood saw signified the state of his heart. His heart was being pulled between taking the money (signified by Jahannum) and breaking the idol (signified by Jannah). Although accepting the money was not in reality selling an idol, it was an action which resembled that of idol sellers (as the people would get to keep their idol by paying money). Hence the action which Allah Ta‘ala could not tolerate was Sultaan Mahmood resembling the enemies of Islam. If Sultaan Mahmood’s idol was made of stone, then we, on a daily basis, are challenged with idols of flesh and blood – the idols of Hollywood, the sports world and the fashion industry. Are we worshippers of Allah Ta‘ala or followers of these idols?

2. Imaan is so valuable that it is impossible to attach a price tag to it. Therefore, never allow yourself to be dazzled and blinded by material wealth for which you will trade in your imaan and compromise your Deen.

3. When a person makes a sacrifice for the sake of Allah Ta‘ala, he will be rewarded not only in the Hereafter but even in this world.

4. Allah Ta‘ala has great love for His servants and due to His mercy, He sometimes sends signs to guide them. These should be valued, as ignoring them is to actually turn away and reject the love of Allah Ta‘ala.