Plunder of Civilization: How Islamic Rulers Wrecked India’s Economy

Contrary to the Liberal narrative, India’s economy was practically destroyed by the Muslim rulers, and its hate-filled legacy continues to be a drag on India’s progress to this day.

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  • The agenda-driven journo Swaminathan Aiyar falsely claims that India’s economy stagnated under Hindu rule but experienced significant growth under Islamic rule.
  • Columbia economist Angus Maddison showed India accounted for 33% of world GDP under Hindu rule and declined to 24% under Muslim rule and to 3% under British Christian rule.
  • Muslim rulers’ predatory economic policies reduced the common Indians to subsistence.
  • 17th-century traveler Francois Bernier noted that under Islam’s miserable rule, there was no city or town that was not ruined or decaying.

Ever pondered over the intriguing vanishing act of the infamous Hindu Rate of Growth? This catchphrase, adored by Indian liberals and their Western mentors, was coined by the socialist economist Raj Krishna in 1978 to deride India’s low economic growth rates from the 1950s through the 1980s. Unfortunately for the liberals, after a deeply committed government led by Mr. Narendra Modi took over in 2014 and sent the economy into orbit, the offensive phrase was quietly retired.

Hey Mr. Raghuram Rajan, in what universe does it look like what you pejoratively called the “Hindu Rate of Growth”? Shame on you!

Yet, like an ever-resilient weed, it seeks revival. In March 2023, former central bank governor – and discredited economist – Raghuram Rajan claimed India was “dangerously close” to the Hindu rate of growth. Rajan quickly skulked off when the State Bank of India shut him down, saying the comment was “ill-conceived, biased, and premature at its best.” [1]

The problem with such voices is their semblance to modern-day sepoys – a term rooted in history, symbolizing mercenaries who aided colonial European powers in subjugating India. These contemporary sepoys propagate a stream of anti-Indian sentiments, usually tainted by their personal biases and often for a few extra dollars.

Selective Citations

Enter columnist Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, a voice among these sepoys, who tries to rewrite history by belittling ancient India. He claims that the millennium of Hindu governance (1-1000 CE) was characterized by “stark poverty, economic stagnation, and high mortality. “India’s GDP stagnated at a level of $33.75 billion for one thousand years of Hindu rule, and per capita income also recorded zero growth. By contrast, he says Islamic rule from 1000 CE to 1700 CE elevated India’s GDP threefold. [2] 

Cherry-picking data from British economist Angus Maddison’s ‘Contours of the World Economy 1-2030 AD,’ Aiyar says during the first millennium, while India’s per capita income was just $450, Italy, under the Roman Empire was almost twice as rich.

So, he argues: “The BJP [India’s contemporary ruling party – Ed.] is wrong to create a fictitious history of a rich Hindu India later impoverished by foreign invaders. This has become a bogus reason to sneer at and mistreat Muslim and Christian minorities. Bad history is being used to promote the politics of hate.”

[Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar is the elder brother of Mani Shankar Aiyar – a rabid anti-Modi spokesperson of the Congress, India’s has-been political party – Ed.]   

However, history, undistorted, tells another story. First up, the BJP isn’t the architect of this narrative; it’s a truth that has resonated through generations. The relentless pillaging by Islamic conquerors and the carting away of untold wealth has been recorded faithfully by Muslim historians who accompanied these invaders. [3] Even our textbooks, albeit sanitized, attest that Hindu India was indeed impoverished by Islamic and later British invaders. Aiyar, quoting selectively from Madison’s work, might insinuate otherwise, but the facts remain undisputed. India flourished under Hindu rule, floundered during Islamic rule, and was totally and utterly wrecked by the European Christians.

The liberals’ gripe is that Maddison’s landmark book conclusively proved India was far more prosperous during Hindu rule than under Islamic tyranny. The economist estimates that India accounted for 33 percent of the world GDP under Hindu rule in 1 CE. Its share declined to 24 percent under Muslim rule (which started declining in the early 1700s) and to just above 3 percent by the end of British Christian rule in 1947.

Unmasking Journalistic Prostitution

Now, one doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to see the liberal agenda here. No matter what India achieves, their focus is on making the country look bad. If an Indian spacecraft reaches Mars, they say the money could have been better used to build hospitals. When India becomes the fifth largest economy, they say there are still poor people around, so the achievement is meaningless. They don’t have a case, just lots of muck. So they throw muck in the hope that some of it will stick. And that’s precisely what Aiyar is doing here. Plus, with the 2024 elections just nine months away, the sepoys are pulling double shifts.

To paraphrase the Scottish poet, Andrew Lang, Aiyar uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp posts – for support rather than for illumination. The columnist misleads readers about India’s history by selectively citing statistics without relevant context.

New York-based financial analyst Swaminathan Venkataraman explains: “In the year 1 CE, India’s per capita income was $450 while Italy’s was indeed almost double at $809. What Aiyar leaves out is context… Italy, in 1 CE, was the center of a massive empire that drained resources from vast regions, including parts of Western Europe, the Balkans, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and much of North Africa from Egypt to Morocco. India, thankfully, was never a colonizing nation. Notice what happened to Italy by 1000 CE. After the Roman Empire collapsed, it declined right down to $450, exactly where India stood in 1000 CE, again conveniently omitted by Aiyar.” [4]

Which Era Was More Prosperous?

To start off, leftist and secular historians are right about one thing – some of the Muslim sultans and emperors were the richest rulers of their time. But wealth has never been the yardstick for greatness. Croesus, the king of Lydia, was the richest monarch in history, but he is remembered for his greed for gold. Ancient India under Hindu rulers was not just prosperous; it is remembered for its advances in science, mathematics, technology, medicine, grammar, astronomy, charitable institutions, philosophy, architecture, industry, agriculture, and, in particular, its numerous universities. In contrast, the agenda of the Islamic occupiers was primarily destruction; they did not establish a single university in their approximately 500-year rule over Delhi.

Muslim rulers ruined India’s farm economy with predatory tax policies

What liberals don’t see is the reality hiding in plain sight – India, under the Muslims, was one of the most miserable countries in the world. The Frenchman, Francois Bernier, who spent 12 years in India during the Mughal tyrant Aurangzeb’s reign, observed that “the inhabitants have less the appearance of a moneyed people than those of many other parts of the globe. “Under Aurangzeb’s rule, the condition of the people worsened. It is “a tyranny often so excessive as to deprive the peasant and artisan of the necessaries of life and leave them to die of misery and exhaustion.” [5]

“Laborers perish due to bad treatment from Governors. Children of the poor are carried away as slaves. Peasantry abandon the country driven by despair.”

“It is owing to this miserable system of government that most towns in Hindoustan are made up of earth, mud, and other wretched materials; that there is no city or town which, if it be not already ruined and deserted, does not bear evident marks of approaching decay.” [6]

Bernier’s words are perhaps the greatest indictment of Mughal rule – that the richest dynasty in the world ruled over the greatest mass of poor citizens.

Drain of Wealth

From the year 712 CE (when Sindh became the first Indian kingdom to be conquered by a Muslim army) to the final days of Islamic power in the 18th century, incalculable amounts of wealth and numberless slaves were sent annually to the countries that India’s Muslim rulers owed allegiance to. “This is how the money and resources, extracted from the sweat and toil of non-Muslim subjects of India, used to be siphoned to the treasuries of the Islamic Caliphate in Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo, or Tashkent, to the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina, and to the pockets of the Muslim holy men throughout the Islamic world. At the same time, the infidels of India were being reduced to awful misery,” writes M.A. Khan in ‘Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism, and Slavery.’ [7]

Tamerlane and his mountain of “infidel” skulls

In 1398 CE, Timur (Tamerlane), the founder of the Timurid Empire, clearly spelled out why he invaded India: “My principal object in coming to Hindustan  has been to accomplish two things. The first was to war with the infidels, the enemies of the Mohammadan religion, and by this religious warfare to acquire some claim to reward in the life to come. The other was  that the army of Islam might gain something by plundering the wealth and valuables of the infidels: plunder in war is as lawful as their mothers’ milk to Musalmans who war for their faith.” [8]

In 1526 CE, when Timur’s descendant Babur conquered Delhi and founded the Mughal Dynasty, the new emperor Babur virtually emptied the treasury through his generosity, which, of course, extended only to Muslims.

Babur writes in his autobiography Babur Nama: “Suitable money gifts were bestowed from the treasury on the whole army to every tribe there was, Afghan, Hazara, Arab, Balluch, etc. to each according to its position. Every trader and student, indeed every man who had come with the army, took ample portion and share of bounteous gift and largess. And indeed to the whole various train of relations and younger children went masses of red and white (gold and silver), of plenishing (furniture and furnishings), jewels and slaves.” [9]

Many gifts went to Babur’s extended family in his native Uzbekistan, modern Tajikistan, modern Xinjiang in China, and Arabia. “Valuable gifts were sent for the various relations in Samarkand, Khurasan, Kashghar, and Iraq. To holy men belonging to Samarkand and Khurasan went offerings vowed to God; so too to Makka and Madina.”

In Afghanistan, where Babur wandered for many years during his youth, every single citizen was rewarded. “We gave one shahrukhi (silver coin) for every soul in the country of Kabul and the valley-side of Varsak (in Afghanistan), man and woman, bond and free, of age or non-age.” The amount disbursed must have been huge.

Presents of jackets and silk dresses of honor, gold and silver, household furnishings, and various goods were given to those from Uzbekistan and other places in Central Asia. Similar gifts were given to servants and peasants in Afghanistan. [10]

Enslavement of Non-Muslims

The objectives of all Muslim invaders and rulers in India were the same as those mentioned by Timur. Plunder was followed by destruction and slavery. In 1018 CE, an army of Turks, Persians, and Afghans of Ghazni led by their king Mahmud Ghaznavi invaded the holy city of Mathura, east of Delhi. He had brought with him a rapacious horde, hungry for loot and slaves. Some were battle-hardened and disciplined troops; most were unpaid freelancers whom Mahmud had promised a sizeable war booty plus as many beautiful Hindu maidens and child slaves as they could get their hands on.

Mahmud camped in Mathura for 20 days, during which time the city suffered greatly from fire, besides the damage it sustained by being pillaged. Like a ravenous pack, the Muslim army fell upon the citizens of Mathura, killing the men wantonly, separating the women from their children, and sorting them as if they were cattle. “Mahmud took with him such a large number of prisoners from Mathura that in spite of his willingness to sell each one at a price of Rs 2.50, he could not find buyers.[11]

For many years after the invasion, visitors to Ghazni commented that it appeared like a mini-Hindustan because of the large number of Indian slaves everywhere. It was a great tragedy – once proud and free men, happy women, and carefree children, now reduced to working as slaves or concubines in the homes of illiterate barbarians. The Persian historian Jabadkani gloats: “Slaves were so plentiful that they became very cheap, and men of respectability in their native land were degraded by becoming slaves of common shopkeepers. But this is the goodness of God, who bestows honors on his own religion and degrades infidelity.”

So many Hindu slaves were being transported each year from India to the Islamic crescent that the mountains between India and Afghanistan were named the Hindu Kush or Hindu Killer. Ibn Batuta, the 14th-century Moroccan traveler to India, writes this was because “many of the male and female slaves transported from India die in these mountains because of the violent cold and the quantity of snow.” [12]

Muslim invaders also were obsessed with capturing the enemy’s women. David Margoliouth, professor of Arabic at the University of Oxford (1889–1937), explains the reason: “Victory over an enemy would seem to have been consummated only when the enemy’s daughter was introduced into the conqueror’s harem.” [13] This was a precept enthusiastically practiced by Muslim conquerors and rulers in India. “It is, therefore, no wonder that from the day the Muslim invaders marched into India to the time when their political power declined, women were systematically captured and enslaved throughout the length and breadth of the country,” says K.S. Lal. [14]

This is why throughout the medieval period, as soon as it was certain that there had been a defeat and all the Hindu men of fighting age had been killed, the women immolated themselves in the fire of Jauhar (jiva har, taking of life).

Muslim Misrule

One of the wonders of ancient India was its ability to generate prodigious wealth through trade. The country had always been a seller of raw and finished goods against precious metals. First-century CE Roman general and author Pliny the Elder complained in Natural History that “in no year does India drain our empire of less than 550 million of sesterces, giving back her own wares in exchange, which are sold among us at fully one hundred times their prime cost.[15]

Because of the destruction caused by the Islamic invaders and the outflow of bullion from India to Islamic nations, this favorable position was lost. Indian merchants in many parts of the country were unable to ply their trade because of the disturbed political conditions. The drain of gold and silver out of India enriched the Islamic bloc and, in the same proportion, debased Indian currencies. The result was that Indian merchants lost their credit with foreign merchants. [16]

The predatory and unsustainable economic system institutionalized by the Mughals, who had supplanted the country’s ancient Hindu royal houses, spelled disaster for India’s common people. Modern Indian historians concur that the Muslim rulers imposed “a crushing tax system” on the poorest peasants, [17] reducing them to subsistence. [18] In contrast to the previous Hindu rulers who taxed the farmers just 16 percent of the total produce, the Mughal tax rate was 30-50 percent, plus some additional taxes, states Irfan Habib, a stridently anti-Hindu historian. [19]

Irrigation, the lifeblood of agriculture, was neglected. Maddison writes the irrigated area was small. There were some public irrigation works, “but in the context of the economy as a whole, these were unimportant and probably did not cover more than 5 percent of the cultivated land of India.” [20]

Muslim rulers did build a canal – in Iraq, not India

However, it would be incorrect to say the Muslims did nothing for agriculture. They built a mighty canal that transformed the geography and economy of a vast area, bringing prosperity to what used to be a barren desert. Unfortunately, it was not in India but in Iraq.

In the late 1780s, even as the Mughals had become vassals of the Hindu Marathas, they contributed Rs 500,000 (approximately $11 million today) towards the construction of a grand canal known as the Hindiya Canal. “So big was the diversion of the water from the Euphrates that the river changed course. The canal became a virtual river and transformed the arid zone between the cities of Najaf and Karbala into fertile land that attracted the Sunni Arab tribes to settle there and take to farming,” says Lahore-based historian Khaled Ahmed. [21]

Ahmed adds: “The custodian of the seminarian complex of Najaf and the mausoleum of Caliph Ali is a Pakistani grand ayatollah, appointed to his top position in deference to the fact that Najaf and Karbala were developed as a habitable economic zone by the Shia rulers of North India.”

What it boils down to is that while the Mughals did not build a single canal in India, they built one that transformed the geography and economy of a distant Muslim country. Is further proof required to show that Muslim rulers drained India’s wealth and reduced it to destitution?

As Rukhsana Iftikhar of the University of Punjab, Lahore, observes in her study ‘Historical Fallacies,’ “The Mughal period was a golden age only for kings, princes, and some individuals. The subjects of Hindustan, the real custodians of this State, were lucky if they had a loaf of bread.” [22]

Clearly, while contributing little to the country’s well-being, these parasitic rulers did everything to increase the people’s misery.

Legacy of Islamic Rule

The most enduring legacy of Islamic rule in India is not just the rapacious loot, the destruction of tens of thousands of temples, and the genocide of tens of millions of Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists but the mindset of hatred that culminated in the country’s partition. When they realized that independence would mean having to live peacefully with their Hindu neighbors as equal citizens of a democratic nation, the Muslims collaborated with the British to create a separate Islamic homeland for themselves. While the Muslims got two Islamic nations (after Bangladesh split from Pakistan), the Partition continues to negatively impact India in multiple ways.

Crippled Economy

Partition was not only political but also economic. Undivided Punjab was the focal point of economic activity for places such as Delhi and Kashmir. Karachi and Bombay were economically interlinked. Zafar Mahmood, Pakistan’s commerce secretary in 2012, pointed out that in 1948-49, a hefty 56 percent of Pakistan’s exports were sent to India. For the next several yearsIndia was Pakistan’s largest trading partner. Interestingly, in 1965, nine branches of six Indian banks were operating in Pakistan. [23] India thus lost a vast market.

Clipped Wings

Due to the loss of its western and eastern extremities, India lost its land connection to Central Asia and Southeast Asia. In the pre-colonial era, several important trade routes ran through present-day Pakistan. These extended from Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asia in the west to India in the east. These routes were severed by Partition, impacting the social and economic connections of ordinary people, traders, and manufacturers in India. “Ancient and thriving trade routes that ran via the areas of Pakistan to Central Asia are little more than abysses today.” [24]

Haj Burden

During the Mughal era, on average, 15,000 pilgrims every year visited Mecca to perform Haj. According to a Mughal official, these pilgrims went “at great public expense, with gold and goods and rich presents.” Mughal emperors sponsored the pilgrimage to “stand out as defenders of Islam.” [25] After Akbar, his son Jahangir ramped up the Haj subsidies, even extending it to Muslims in Persia, Bokhara, and Azerbaijan. [26]

Modern India’s secular rulers continued with this annual subsidy, transferring taxes paid by Hindus to finance the pilgrimage of hundreds of thousands of Muslims to Mecca. In 1958, the Indian Government started the Haj Subsidy, which involved building an entire Haj terminal in Mumbai. The annual grant of millions of dollars to Indian Muslims only ended in 2018 after a Supreme Court order. Several Indian states continue to spend vast sums constructing Haj houses to this day.

Enduring Wars

Subcontinental Muslims not only suffer from a sense of superiority over Hindus, they are also prisoners of the belief that because India was once under the Muslims, it must revert to Islamic rule. This is the root cause of all wars. Since Partition, India and Pakistan have fought four wars. Before launching the 1965 attack on India, Pakistani dictator General Ayub Khan said: “Hindu morale would not stand more than a couple of hard blows at the right time and place.” [27] These overt wars, along with the frequent terrorist attacks sponsored by Pakistan, are a huge drag on India.

All Angles Jehad

With a sizable section of Muslims in India becoming radicalized by the Islamic State, Indian intelligence agencies have uncovered a new threat to Hindus – Accident Jehad. The Islamic State’s magazine recommends causing accidents to kill people and cause mayhem. The arson attacks on trains in Kerala and the destruction of a dam that flooded Assam’s Silchar, an 86 percent Hindu majority district, by Muslims are a sign of their commitment towards all-angles jehad. [28]


“Muslims will only live as an oppressive majority and a turbulent minority.” The origin of this adage is unknown, but it pretty much sums up what Hindus have experienced throughout the past millennium. The cost of dealing with such a large and turbulent population spread across the country is massive. Vast numbers of police and paramilitary personnel have to be diverted to check Islamic jehad.

There’s no denying the Islamic faith is inherently exclusivist and separatist. But it is also true that it is mainly the liberals who fan the flames of this separatist tendency. Former Member of Parliament Shahid Siddiqui says Muslims have been ghettoized since Partition and treated as a vote bank by the liberals. When he wanted to take up the economic and educational problems faced by Muslims, the Congress Party wouldn’t listen. [Ed. – Congress was the party that ruled India for the first seven decades after India’s freedom from British rule.]  Instead, they wanted to pit Muslims against Hindus. “I was told by the Congress’ highest leadership that Muslims voted out of fear and not for development.[29]

So long as liberals prop up Muslims against Hindus, the problem will continue to fester.

And finally, you’ve got to hand it to our liberals who managed to fool the entire world, terming Nehruvian economic failure as the Hindu Rate of Growth. The real golden era, as Aiyar acknowledges, is today. That is when India is finally being run by Hindus. Not even a trenchant liberal like Aiyar can deny that.

  5. Francois Bernier, Travels in the Mogul Empire, page 226
  6. Francois Bernier, Travels in the Mogul Empire, page 227
  7. M.A. Khan, Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism, and Slavery, page 163
  8. K.S. Lal, The Legacy of Muslim Rule in India. Chapter 3
  9. Annette Beveridge, Baburnama, Vol II, page 22
  10. Annette Beveridge, Baburnama, Vol II, page 529
  11. Al Utbi, ‘Kitab-i-Yamini’,
  12. Koenraad Elst, The Meaning of Hindu Killer,
  13. David Margoliouth, Mohammed and the Rise of Islam, page 177
  14. K.S. Lal, Muslim Slave System in Medieval India, Chapter 12
  16. K.S. Lal, The Legacy of Muslim Rule in India. Chapter 3
  17. K.S. Lal, Theory and Practice of Muslim State in India, Chapter 5
  19. Irfan Habib, Agrarian System of Mughal India, 1556–1707, page 38
  20. Angus Maddison, The Moghul Economy and Society, Chapter 2, Class Structure and Economic Growth: India & Pakistan since the Moghuls, (1971), page 5
  21. Khaled Ahmed, The Shia of Iraq and the South Asian Connection,
  22. Rukhsana Iftikhar, Historical Fallacies, South Asian Studies, A Research Journal of South Asian Studies Vol 28, No. 2, July – December 2013, page 367
  25. John Slight, The British Empire and the Hajj, 1865–1956
  26. Tarikh-i-Salim Shahi, page 16


Rakesh Krishnan Simha is a globally cited defense analyst. His work has been published by leading think tanks, and quoted extensively in books on diplomacy, counter terrorism, warfare and economic development. His work has been published by the Hindustan Times, New Delhi; Financial Express, New Delhi; US Air Force Center for Unconventional Weapons Studies, Alabama; the Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi; and Russia Beyond, Moscow; among others. He has been cited by leading organisations, including the US Army War College, Pennsylvania; US Naval PG School, California; Johns Hopkins SAIS, Washington DC; Centre for Air Power Studies, New Delhi; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC; and Rutgers University, New Jersey.

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