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Pakhtun, Afghan and Pathan

Claims About Origin

The triangle between the Indus, Hindu Kush and the Sijistan plateau of Iran is populated by an assorted group of tribesmen some of them living in plains and valleys and others in mountains interspersed over the entire length and breadth of this triangle. As already stated this is the largest conglomeration of tribal people in the world. 

We shall begin with the accounts of their origin as given by later Muslim historians. According to Niamatulla's Makhzan-i-Afghani and Hamdulla Mustaufi's Tarikh-i-Guzida: one of Prophet Ibrahim's descendents, Talut (or Saul) had two sons, one of whom was named Irmiya or Jeremia. Irmiya had a son named Afghan, who is supposed to have given the name to the Afghan people. Tareekh-e-Sher Shahi states that Bakht Nasr who invaded Jerusalem and destroyed it, expelled Jewish tribes, including sons of Afghan, from their homeland. During the days of the Babylonian captivity when the Jews were scattered, one of the tribes settled in the Hari Rud area of modern (south) Afghanistan. Pathan legend states that they accepted Islam during the time of the Prophet when a group of their kinsmen (Jews) living in Arabia sent word to them that the true Prophet of God as prophesied in their scriptures had appeared in Mecca. The Afghans, the story goes, sent a delegation to Arabia headed by one Imraul Qais who met the Prophet, embraced Islam, came back and converted the entire tribe to the new religion. The Prophet was so pleased with Qais that he gave him the name of Abdur Rashid, called him Malik (king) and Pehtan (keel or rudder of a ship) for showing his people the path of Islam.

The story proceeds: Qais Alias Abdur Rashid Alias Pehtan had three sons named Sarban, Batan and Ghurghust. Most of the present-day Pathan tribes claim descent from these three persons. Batan had a daughter named Bibi Matto. She fell in love with Hussain Shah, a prince of Turkish origin, and their intimacy reached a stage where her pregnancy could not be concealed. Marriage was the only course open, but the offspring, a boy, was given the name of Ghilzai, meaning in the Afghan language a son 'born of theft'. Bibi Matto's next son was Ibrahim who, because of his intelligence and wisdom, was addressed by Qais as Loi-dey (Lodi) i. e., Ibrahim is great. Two of Loi-dey's grandsons were Pranki and Ismail. BahIul Lodhi, the founder of the Afghan empire of Delhi, was eight generations from Pranki and was a member of the Sahukhel tribe of Lodhis. The Suris and Nuhanis are descended from Ismail's two sons Sur and Nuh. Thus the Ghilzais (Khiljis), Lodhis, Suris, Nuhanis, and their branches, the Sarwanis and Niazis are common descendants of Bibi Matto from her Turkish husband Hussain Shah.

The major tribes of Afghans named above, it must have been noted, should be of Turkish origin as they are descended from the Turkish prince Hussain Shah who married the Afghan girl Matto, daughter of Batan and grand-daughter of Qais Abdur Rashid. Thus, according to their own accounts there would be two groups of Afghans, one of Jewish (Semitic) origin and the other of Turkish origin.

There is a third group of Afghans called Hazaras living in the Hazarajat areas of Afghanistan. They are said to be descended from the remnants of the Mongol armies which had come along with Changez Khan or during later Mongol inroads. The origin of the Hazara Afghans, as such, is Mongol.

Regarding the large number of tribes living on both sides of Pak-Afghan border such as Shinwaris, Mohmands, Mahsuds, Khattaks, Afridis, Orakzais, Achakzais, Bannuchis, Waziris, Bangash, Yusufzais, etc., some trace their origin to Aryans, others to Greeks who had come with Alexander, some to the Jews and still others to the Caucasians. "The Kalnari tribes of today: the Waziris, Bannuchis, Khattaks, Bangash, Orakzais, Afridis and the rest are sprung from an indigenous stock not Pashto-speaking and became fused with or overlaid by Pashto and Pashto-speaking peoples learning in the process the language of the dominant race. The Kalnaris are not Afghans in the true line and may be much older established." (The Pathans, by Sir Olaf Caroe)

"The original Afghans are a race of probably Jewish or Arab extraction; and they together with a tribe of Indian origin with which they have long been blended still distinguish themselves as the true Afghans, or since the rise of Ahmad Shah Durrani as Durranis, and class all non-Durrani Pushto speakers as Opra. But they have lately given their name to Afghanistan, the country formerly known as Khorasan.

"All inhabitants of Afghanistan are now in common parlance known as Afghans, the races thus included being the Afghan proper, the Pathan proper, the Gilzai, the Tajik and the Hazara, besides tribes of less importance living in the confines of the country". (The Punjab Castes, by Denzil Ibbetson)

Of late, scholars in Afghanistan are seriously absorbed in research to prove that Afghans are neither of Jewish, nor Turkish nor Mongol nor Greek origin but of pure Aryan stock. They are taking pains to demonstrate original home of Aryans was Afghanistan by pointing out the similarity in the names of several places in their country with those mentioned in the Rig Veda.

Thus, the different tribes of Afghans/Pathans have different claims, racially as divergent as the Semitics and the Aryans, Greeks and the Turks, Mongols and the Caucasians. However, leaving aside the claims, there is another aspect of this issue which has great substance, weight and research behind it. This aspect is the conclusions arrived at recently by the Western scholars after a careful study of the historical and cultural developments of the region and its people. Based on the information obtained from latest excavations and the data collected in a specific manner, modern scholars have expressed certain views on the origin of the Afghans/Pathans which cannot be brushed aside lightly or treated flippantly. They aver that the origin of the Afghan/Pathan is something different. Let us briefly study their views.

Click Next for Origins As Traced By Modern Scholars


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