THE HISTORY OF GREAT PATHANS Syed Bahadur Shah Zafar Kaka Khel

Syed Bahadur Shah Zafar Kaka Khel in his well written book "PUKHTANA" and Sir Olaf Caroe in his book "The Pathans" place little reliance on Niamatullah's theory of the Semitic origin of the Pukhtoons and say that his account of the Pukhtoons suffers from historical inaccuracies. To disprove the assertion that the Pukhtoon tribes had embraced Islam en-bloc after the return of Qais Abdul Rashid from Medina, the accounts of Al-Beruni and Al-Utbi, the contemporary historians of Mahmud of Ghazna, establish "that four centuries later than the time of Qais the Province of Kabul had not been Islamized and this was achieved under the Ghaznavides. The Hindu Shahiya Kingdom of Jaipal extended almost to Kabul, Mahmud had to fight against infidel Afghans of the Sulaiman mountains". Even Prithvi Raj had a cavalry of Afghans in the battle of Tarian against Mohammad Ghori. Other writers, after a careful examination of the physical anthropology of the Pukhtoons say that difference in features of the various Pukhtoons point to the fact that they must have "mingled with races who passed through their territory to conquer Hindustan".

Khawaja Niamatullah's theory has further been put to a serious test by prominent linguists who maintain that Pushto bears no resemblance to Hebrew or other Aramaic languages and the Pukhtoons' language, Pashto, belongs to the family of the Eastern group of Iranian languages. Mr. Ahmad Ali Kohzad and some other Afghan historians, lending support to the Aryan origin of the Pukhtoons, say that the Pakhat of the Rig Veda are the Pukhtoons of today. It is a fact that the North West Frontier of Pakistan has, perhaps been involved with more foreign invasions in the course of history than any other country of Asia. Each horde seems to have left its mark on the Pukhtoons who absorbed the traits of invading forces, "predominantly of Turks, Iranians and Mongols".

According to Khawaja Niamatullah the Pukhtoons embraced Islam in the first quarter of the 7th century when the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) sent his emissaries in all directions to invite the people to the fold of Islam. One such messenger is stated to have been sent to Qais Abdur Rashid, who is claimed to be the ancestor of the Pukhtoons, through Khalid bin Walid. In response to Khalid's invitation, Qais hurried to the Holy land and as a result of the sublime teachings of the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) embraced Islam in Medina. After his return to Ghore, his whole tribe followed him in the Muslim faith. But due to weak evidence, missing links and wide gaps this theory has aroused suspicion in the minds of scholars.

If the origin of a race can be determined on the basis of customs and traditions then Pukhtoon would be closer to Arabs. The study of Arabian and Pukhtoon society presents a remarkable resemblance particularly in their tribal organisation and social usages. Both possess the same virtues and characteristics. To both hospitality is one of the finest virtues, retribution a sacred duty and bravery an essential pre-requisite for an honourable life. Love of independence, courage, endurance, hospitality and revenge were the supreme virtues of pre-Islamic Arabs. These very attributes also form the basis of the Pukhtoon code of honour and anyone who repudiates them is looked down by the society. A Pukhtoon is nearer to an Arab in his tribal organisation. Like an Arab tent, every Pukhtoon's house represents a family, an encampment of Arab tents forms a hay and a cluster of a few houses constitute a village in tribal areas. Members of one hay form a clan in Arabia and a Khel (which is an Arabic word meaning association or company) is the basis of the Pukhtoon's tribal organisation. A number of kindred clans grouped together make a qabila in Arabia and a tribe in the Pukhtoon borderland. Even the Pashto script resembles the Arabic script in essence. The Arabs held in great esteem four moral virtues, viz Ziyafah or hospitality hamasah or fortitude, muruah or manliness and courage and ird or honour.

The Pathans are brave, courageous, hospitable and generous and these attributes are considered as pillars of the Pukhtoon code of honour or Pukhtoonwali. The Pathans like the Arabs also believe in fire and sword for all their adversaries. This was the reason that they fought tooth and nail against the non-Muslim rulers of the sub-continent whether Sikhs or Feringi as the Britishers were called.

The position of a tribal Malik who plays an important role in tribal politics is similar to that of an Arabian Sheikh. The qualifications of a tribal Malik, such as seniority in age, qualities of head and heart and character as courage, wisdom and sagacity etc. are not different from an Arab Sheikh. Like a Sheikh, a tribal Malik follows the consensus of opinion. He is required to consult the heads of the families or village council while making any decision with regard to future relations with a village or tribe. Darun Nadwa was the centre of activity of the pre-Islamic Arabs and the Pukhtoons' Hujra is also not different from it in its functions. All matters relating to war, peace, future relations with neighbouring tribes and day to day problems used to be discussed in Darun Nadwa. Similarly, all tribal affairs connected with the tribe are discussed in the Hujra.

Hospitality is one of the sublime features of the Pukhtoons and pre-Islamic Arabs were also renowned for their hospitality and for affording asylum to strangers. They would share the last crumb of their bread with a guest and protect him from all harm so long as he was under their roof. Similarly, Pukhtoons regard hospitality as a "sacred duty and safety of the guest as inviolable". It is a serious violation of their established norms to hurt a man who enters their village as a guest. In the pre-independence days they provided asylum to all and sundry, including the proclaimed offenders wanted by the British Government in cases of a criminal nature in the settled districts. Similarly the Arabs the right of asylum considered sacred and was rigidly respected regardless of the crime of the refugee.

The spirit of revenge of the Pukhtoons is not different from that of the Arabs. Blood according to the law of the desert called for blood and no chastisement could satisfy an Arab other than wreaking vengeance on his enemy. Similarly, the hills of the Pukhtoon highlanders vibrate with echoes of retribution till the insult is avenged. As a matter of fact, the society of both the Arabs and the Pukhtoons is inspired by a strong feeling of muruwwa, virility or a quality to defend one's honour (ird). There are several anecdotes of revenge resulting in long blood feuds for generations. The Basus war between Banu Bakr and Banu Taghlib in Arabia lasted for about 40 years whereas tribal disputes between Gar and Samil factions of the Pukhtoons continued for decades. Pukhtoons like Arabs are conscious of their racial superiority. An Arab would boast of being a Quraish and a Pukhtoon would assert his superiority by saying, Am I not a Pukhtoon"?

The customs regarding giving protection to weaker neighbours is also common between Arabs and Pukhtoons. A weaker tribe in Arabia would seek the protection of a powerful tribe by means of Khuwah and a weaker Pukhtoon tribe would ensure its security by offering "Lokhay" to its strong neighbouring tribe. The custom of "Lokhay Warkawal" is still prevalent among Afridi and Orakzai tribes of Tirah. A similarity can also be found in their customs relating to birth, marriage and death etc. Certain superstitions are also common between the Arabs and the Pukhtoons. Both believe in all kinds of invisible beings, wear amulets as a safeguard against the evil eye and believe in sooth sayers and fortune tellers.

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