Mahmud was a pious king, who was very much interested in seeking knowledge but above all he loved jihad. One achievement in his love of fighting in the cause of Allah lead Muslims to call him the destroyer of the idol.
As the end of the forth century of hijrah was drawing close, the city of Baghdad was suffering under the oppression of the Burayhi, a nation of ruthless people who came down from the province of Daylam in Northern Iran. They seized the region and subdued the Khalifah leaving him no power except the pomp and protocols. Meanwhile, Islam was prospering in the regions of Khurasan and Afghanistan. Didn't the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam say: "My Ummah is like the rain, you do not know whether its goodness is at its beginning or at its end." And didn't Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala, promise that this Ummah will never be uprooted, and that there will be goodness in it, and that it will be the uppermost until the Hour comes. Isn't it amazing that in all the Islamic history, whenever Islam is weakened in one area, it flourishes in another!
In this weak period of the Khilafah, a power has sprung up in Ghaznah, southwest of Kabul, at the hand of a Turkish family, whose leader was Sabektekin. Sabektekin started jihad in India. Then came his son Mahmud. Mahmud showed a great capability in leadership and had a strong personality. The whole province of Khurasan rallied under his leadership, and his rule extended to Azerbedjan. Al-Qadir Billah, the Abbassid Khalifah approved of his rule, seeing in this Sunni power a help against the Shi'a and Mu'tazilah of Daylam.
Sultan Mahmud was among the earlier pious kings, very much interested in knowledge, drawing close to him the scholars, as he was known to love hearing the hadith of the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, being recited to him. When his popularity reached the far ends of the Muslim land, the Fatimid (extremist Shi'a) government in Egypt tried to win him over. They sent At-Tahirti, one of their du'at, to talk to him. Discovering their plot, Sultan Mahmud killed At-Tahirti and offered his mule to the shaykh of the city of Herat saying, "The leader of the disbelievers used to ride it, now let the leader of the believers in Allah alone ride it."
The most commendable act of Sultan Mahmud was his love for jihad. Every year he would set out to conquer new lands, heading always toward India. Allah granted him success many times as he opened many lands and brought Islam to its people. News reached him one day that the Indian people believed that what had brought weakness and destruction to their land was the wrath of the great idol Suminat against the rest of the idols. The great idol, they said, was the provider, the one that brought life and caused death. They used to make pilgrimage to it. A great wealth was accumulated at its site, to the point that ten thousands villages were counted as part of its endowment. A thousand of Brahma men were at its service. The idol was in a far away fortress, a walking distance of a month away from the Muslim land. The road to it was difficult and sparse in water.
Nevertheless Sultan Mahmud set out to destroy the idol after making istikharah (asking Allah for guidance in his decision). He left on the second day of 'Eid al-Fitr 416H, at the head of thirty thousand cavaliers and a great number of infantry men and volunteers. They reached the fortress on the fourteenth of Dhul-Qa'dah. When the Indians saw the determination of the Sultan, they offered him a great amount of money under the condition that he spared their idol. Some of his field commanders advised him to take the money and leave the idol alone. He said, "I have thought about the matter, and I see that when the Day of judgment comes, I would rather be called, 'Where is Mahmud who destroyed the idol?', than 'Where is Mahmud who spared the idol for the wealth of this world?'." He took his pickaxe and went in. The idol was adorned with gold and rare jewelry that were beyond description. With a mighty blow, it fell broken to pieces. He took the gold and jewelry and distributed it among his commanders and soldiers. He returned to Ghaznah in Safar 417H.
Sultan Mahmud sent to the Khalifah in Baghdad, informing him of the great victory, saying, "I have conquered citadels and fortresses, and nearly twenty thousand of idol worshippers reverted to Islam." In his book, 'Shatharat ath-Thahab', Ibn al-Ammar said, "[Mahmud] continued his conquest deep into India, until he reached areas where no flags of Islam were raised before." Adh-Dhahabi said, "His intention was pure in promoting the din, he was successful, he would frequently go out for jihad, and his halls were the gathering places of the scholars. His grave is in Ghaznah. People gave speeches praising him in Khurasan, India, As-Sind, Tabristan, and Azerbedjan."
Sultan Mahmud was born in 361H and died in the month of Rabi' al-Akhir in 421H. May Allah grant him mercy and reward him for what he has done for Islam and the Muslims.
(s) Al-Jumu'ah Magazine