Wednesday, November 25, 2015

History of Abdali or Durrani tribe (up to 1626 AD)

The Abdalis, otherwise Durranis, are one of the three branches of Tarin tribe. The Abdal is said to have been contemporary with Sultan Mahmud of Ghaznin , and Malik Zirak , the progenitor of Popalzais, of which the Saddozais are a branch , the Barakzais,  and Alakozais , with Sultan Shah Rukh, son of Amir Timur, the Gurgan, in whose time the Abdali came down from the Ghar or Kasi Ghar. mistaken for "Ghor" , and settled within the boundaries of the Kandahar province in 821 H (1418 AD). [1]

 Malik Abdal

Some accounts mention that Abdal was the son of Sharkabun, and others that he was his grandson, but neither of these accounts can be correct , as there is a space of three hundred years between them, Sharkabun being contemporary of Hujaj bin Yusuf, while Malik Abdal lived in the reign of Mahmud bin Sabuktagin, who succeeded his father to the throne of Ghazni in the year of Hijrah 387 ( A.D 997). The great hiatus between the reigns of these two chieftains may be accounted for in the following manner. It often happens that the names of those chiefs who have been celebrated for their wisdom, bravery, piety, or numerous progeny, have been alone handed down to posterity , and those of mediocrity set aside and forgotten. There is an instance of this with regard to Hasham and Abd-ush-Shams, who were both sons of Abdul Manaf. The descendents of the former are still styled banu-Hashim, while those of the latter are known as Bani-Umeya, from Umeya the celebrated son of Abd-ush-Shams, thus father's name has been dropped altogether .In the same manner Malik Abdal, having acquired great name for bravery, equity and generosity , and having surpassed many of his predecessors in grandeur and dignity , his name has been handed down to us, whilst the very remembrance of those of little or no celebrity is now altogether lost in oblivion . This is the great cause of the confusion which so often take place in the genealogical histories of different tribes and people, and hence the reason why Malik Abdal has been called the son or grandson of Sharkabun. [2]

Malik Abdal thus became the chief of Afghanah. During his reign the people began to pay attention to agriculture and the lands about Kaseghar were brought under cultivation. Abdal, who was framed for his bravery, followed in the path of his ancestors by making war on the people of the surrounding parts, in the plundering of whose property his followers acquired great wealth. A number of infidels who dwelt in the vicinity of Kaseghar district was also, at this time converted to Islam. At length the Afghans, having no infidels to plunder and insufficient land to yield them subsistence, began to take service under the Ghaznavid Sultans, from whom they obtained the district of Bagram, now known as Peshawar, as a feudal fief. Of the countries to the North , such as Swat and Bajaur, which were in the hands of Kafirs, they got possession by force of arms.  They also obtained grants of lands at Ghazni and Kabul , from Sultan Mahmud and his successors., and by degrees began to emigrate from the neighborhood of Kaseghar , and settled in those places they considered best suited to themselves. Up to the time of Malik Abdal, the whole of the tribes, considered and obeyed him as as their head and chief ; but now each and village began to choose their own governors , and ceased to pay that respect and obedience to his authority which they formerly did ; in fact they fell headlong into the slough of arrogance and presumption.

Descendents of Malik Abdal

"Abdal was succeeded by his son, Malik Rajar. This prince—a second Nimrud —was passionately fond of the sports of the field, in which he spent the best part of his days and nights. He was blessed with four sons—Esau, Nur, Khokar, and Makou, the first of whom, a God-fearing and just personage, succeeded him in the chieftainship: the others gave name respectively to the Nurzai, Khokari, and Makou tribes.

"The remainder of the Abdalis, and other clans, which had up to the present period continued to dwell in the Kaseghar district, near the Takht-i-Sulieman, finding it too small to support so many families, began, in the hot season, to migrate with their flocks to the neighbourhood of Kandahar, returning again to their old haunts at Kaseghar in the winter.

"Malik Esau had three sons—Zirak, Ishak, and Ali. At his death he bequeathed the turban of authority to Zirak, his sword to Ishak, and his carpet for prayer to Ali From these two latter the Ishakzai and Alizai branch of the Abdalis are descended; and from them is also descended the only one of the twelve astanahs, or families, who are devoted to the priesthood, as already referred to.

"Zirak, who was a wise and able.chief, governed his tribe with energy and ability.  He completely rooted out the crimes of impiety, adultery, and dishonesty, which appear to have been but too prevalent at the period in question. "The five tribes which have been already mentioned as the Abdali clan, viz., Ishakzai, Alizai, Nurzai, Khwagani, and Makou, are known as the Panjpa'o branch.

 The district of Eudah and Kaseghar, as before stated, not being of sufficient extent to support the great number of people to which the Afghans had by this time increased, Malik Zirak was induced to send an agent to Shah Rukh Mirza, at Herat, for the purpose of soliciting a grant of the districts round Kandahar. This request was favourably listened to by the Shah, and Zirak, in consequence, gave directions to the Abdali, Barech, Tarin, Jamand, Ghalzai, Kakarr, Kasi, Babarr, and other tribes—who were more numerous than the extent of their lands could support—to proceed to Kandahar, and settle on the lands granted by the Shah in that district. To each tribe a portion of land was given, in proportion to the number of families of which it consisted, and for which they had to pay a small tax to the Governor of the province.

"Zirak had three sons—Popul, Barak, and Alako, from whom have sprung the Populzais, Barakzais, and Alakozais. At his death Popul succeeded him in the chieftainship of the whole Afghan people. Being a sagacious and intelligent chief, and endowed with the tact of government, he kept the whole of the tribes under subjection and obedience. They also were generally well satisfied with his government; but, at the same time, those who showed any opposition to his authority were punished by the Kandahar Governors, and this tended still more to keep all under proper restraint.

"Popul had also three sons—Habib, Badu, and Ayub. The two former were by one mother, and the latter by another wife. Some also say that Ayub was the son of the first wife by a former husband. Badu was the ancestor of the Baduzaiss, and Ayub of the Ayubzais.

"At length Popul, suddenly finding his end approaching, sent for his children; and, after giving them much good advice, and exhorting them to follow in the footsteps of their ancestors, departed this life, leaving the chieftainship of the tribes in the hands of his eldest son Habib.

"The children of Afghanah, who had now become a numerous people, and had, up to this time, generally paid obedience to the authority of their chiefs, began to show symptoms of restlessness and dislike to the yoke of Habibie... supremacy. At length they commenced quarreling amongst themselves, and the khel or clans of every village, having deolared themselves independent, set about nominating' their own chiefs. All was uproar and confusion; the rich tyrannized over the poor, and the strong plundered the property of the weak; might was right; and villany, impiety, and depravity, reigned supreme.

"Malik Hablb endeavoured for a long time to stem this torrent of rebellion, and regain his lost authority over the people, but without success; and at lengthnot one tribe remained on his side. The Tarins, Barechis, Ghalzais, Kakarrs, Shiranis, and others, each set up one of their own tribe as pretenders to the chieftainship, raised the standard of revolt, and commenced a civil war. The life of Habib was spent in civil contentions, which were entirely without avail. He had three sons—Bami, Ismail, and Hasan, from whom are descended the clans of Bamizai, Ismaeilzai, and Hasanzai.

"Bami, who was of a mild disposition, and possessed of many excellent qualities, succeeded his father as nominal head of the Afghans. Sultan Bahlol, Ludi, and his son Sikandar, emperors of Hindustan, were on friendly terms with him, and sent him from time to time various costly presents. This produced great envy in the hearts of the pretenders to the chieftainship, and they dispatched agents with presents to those potentates. Their agents, without being admitted to an audience even, were dismissed with the answer that the Sultans neither knew of, nor recognized, any other head of the Afghans than Malik Bami. He had four sons—Salih, Eali, Zaiyl, and Warukah. They were fathers of large families, and their memory has been perpetuated in the separate clans bearing their respective names.

 Abdalis and Sher Shah Suri

"Bami died at an advanced age, and the shadow of chieftainship which now alone remained descended to his eldest son Salih, who became head of the Habibzai tribe, which consisted of the three smaller ones of -Ali, Zaiyl, and "Warukah, just mentioned, who acknowledged and supported his authority. He was a man of great piety and generosity; and his threshold was never clear from the crowds of poor, nor his table from the numerous guests. In his lifetime Sher Shah and Salim Shah, who were of the Sur branch of the Afghans, sat on the throne of Delhi; and the friendship which had sprung up between his father and the Ludi Emperors was renewed and kept up with the former princes also.  At length the vicissitudes of fortune wrested the sovereignty from the grasp of the Ludis, and placed it in the hand of the Mughal; but when Sher Shah, in the year 951 of the Hijrah (a.d. 1544), sallied forth to regain the throne of his ancestors, the Afghans assisted him with a powerful force of their countrymen, and Hindustan was regained. When the agents of Malik Salih presented his letter of congratulation to Sher Shah, the Emperor observed to his ministers and court, that Malik Salih was not only his own chieftain, but that his forefathers, from the time of Malik Afghan, were the chiefs of his forefathers also; and that the family of Malik Salih. had no equal in rank amongst the whole of the Afghan tribes. Sher Shah, after thus acknowledging Salih as his head and chief, and treating his agents with great distinction, dismissed them with numerous presents for their master. [3]

 Saddu Khan Abdali

Asadullah Khan alias Saddu was born in 1558 AD, during the reign of Shah Tahmasp Safavi of Iran. Majority of the writers of repute, namely, Muhammad Hayat Khan, Munshi Abdul Karim, Ganda Singh, Atta Muhammad and Sir Olaf Caroe are of the view that Asadullah or Sadullah alias Saddu was the son of Umar Khan Popalzai. At the age of ninety, his father,  Umar - eight years before his death - appointed Saddo his successor and performed the 'belt and sword-girding' ceremony with his own hands. Saddo was only twenty five years old then. But this talented young man was so promising and popular that his elevation to the chieftainship of the tribe was welcomed and acclaimed by all, including his sixty years old brother Malik Saleh [4]. When Kandahar became a bone of contention between the Mughals and the Safavids , Malik Saddu allied himself with Shah Abbas instead of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. Malik Saddu, helped Shah Abbas Safavi in conquering Qandahar in 1622 (1032 A.H.). Shah Abbas, therefore, realising Malik Saddu's importance in the territory of Qandahar, acknowledged his chiefdom and bestowed upon him the government of 'Safa' along- with the title of Mir-i-Afghan. He also exempted Alus Abdali and Malik Saddu from paying annual tribute to the Safavid Emperor. Malik Saddu was a great warrior, a politician and a pious man [5]

The following are the terms in which Sir John Malcolm, in his work on Persia, speaks of the Afghan embassy sent to Shah Abbas; the information is taken from the Persian manuscript of Mirza Syed Mohamed of Isfahan:—

"In the time of the Safavid  kings of Persia the Afghans were often oppressed; and on one occasion they were so discontented with their Persian governor, that they sent a secret deputation to Ispahan to solicit his removal and the appointment of one of their own tribe. Their request was granted; and two of the tribe of Abdali were raised to the office of Reish Safeed, or Kutkhodah of the tribes, and their authority was confirmed by a royal patent. The name of one of these two persons was Saddo, of the family of Bami, from whom Ahmed Shah, the founder of the present royal family of Cabul, is lineally descended. The name of the other was Ahmed, of the family of Barakzai, from whom the present Afghan chiefs, Serafray Khan and Futteh Khan, are descended. The Afghans were delighted with this arrangement, and granted their entire and respectful obedience to the chief appointed by the Persian Government Time has confirmed this respect; and the superiority of the chiefs so selected has become an inheritance to their family. The race of Saddo obtained sovereignty, while that of Ahmed has only gained high station and command." [6]

Saddo had five sons, of whom the second, Khwaja Khizr Khan, became the headman of the Khizr Khel clan. Khwaja Khizr was a godly man  and is still revered by the Afghans as a favourite saint. The devotion and awe, inspired by this holy personage, lent a sense of sanctity to the whole clan of Saddozais, and its members enjoyed peculiar privileges. Their persons were sacred , no punishment could be inflicted on them , except by one of their own family ; nor could even the head of Abdalis himself pass sentence of death upon a Saddozaey.

Towards the end of his life Saddo wished to appoint Khwaja Khizr Khan the head of the tribe , but his choice was rejected by the chiefs  of various clans in favour of Maghdud Khan, Khizr's elder brother on the ground of his primogenitory right. On the death of Saddo, however, the tribesmen, unanimously elected Khizr Khan to the high office considering him better for its duties and responsibilities.[7]

Miniature of Ahmed Shah Durrani painted in Lucknow circa 1820.


1- Raverty, "Notes on Afghanistan and part of Baluchistan", p-604. Barmazid-67

2- Raverty,  "A Grammar of the Pukhto, Pushto, Or Language of the Afgháns", p-11

3- Ibid, p-15

4- Dr.Ganda Singh, "Ahmad Shah Durrani", p-1

5- Pakistan Journal of History and Culture - Volumes 1-2 - Page 10

6- Joseph Pierre Ferrier, History of the Afghans, p-22

7- Dr.Ganda Singh, "Ahmad Shah Durrani", p-2