Dr. Navras Jaat Aafreedi
A number of medieval Persian texts written by Muslim scholars refer to the Israelite origin of Afridi Pashtuns/Pathans, who mainly inhabit the hill country from the eastern spurs of the Safed Koh to the borders of the
A sprinkling of them are also spread out in certain parts of
The ethnic and etymological origin of the name Afridi is obscure. But there are those who connect it with the Persian afridan, which means ‘newly arrived’, indicating that they were immigrants in the land from where they originally got this name. Some find its origin in the name of Afrata, a great intellectual and wife of Hisron (eighth in descent from the Biblical character David). The derivation of the name Afridi in the Hayat-i-Afghani of Muhammad Hayat Khan from afrida (a creature of God) is evidently a modern fabrication.
According to the legend, in ancient times a Governor of the
One of the oldest manuscripts in the world is Abu Suleman Daud bin Abul Fazal Muhammad Albenaketi’s Rauzat uo Albab fi Tawarikh-ul-Akabir wal Ansab (The Garden of the Learned in the History of Great Men and Genealogies) written in AH 717, in which the author traces the ancestry of the Afghans to the Israelites.
An outline of the main tribal traditions of the Pashtuns/Pathans/Afghans have been chronicled by Abul Fazl (1551-1602 CE) in Akbarnama. Slightly different versions are given in Sulayman Maku’s Tadhkirat al Awliya (allegedly of the thirteenth century CE), and in the Khazama.
A number of Pathan/Pashtun/Afghan historians subscribe to the theory of the Israelite origin of the Pathans/Pathans/Afghans. The first among them to trace the genealogy of the Pathans/Pashtuns/Afghans to
Books of authority recounted that King Zuhak, hearing of a race of beautiful women that lived in far off western countries, sent an army thither, which was defeated by the beautiful women, but afterwards, a stronger expedition being sent under Nariman, they were reduced to sue for peace and gave in tribute a thousand virgins. When, on its return march, the army was one night encamped close to a wild mountainous country, there suddenly came down upon it a phantom, smote and scattered the troops in all directions, and then, in that one night, ravished all the thousand virgins. In due course of time all became pregnant, and when Zuhak learnt this, he gave orders that the women should be kept in the remote deserts and plains lest the unnatural offspring should breed strife and tumult in the cities. This offspring was the race of the Afghans.
Annoyed at the disgraceful account of the origin of Afghans/Pashtuns/Pathans, an Afghan/Pashtun/Pathan courtier, Malik Ahmad, entitled Khan Jahan Lodi, asked his secretary Khwaja Neamatullah Harawi to compile a complete account of the history of Afghans/Pashtuns/Pathans. Neamatullah sent five historians, viz., Qutb Khan, Sarmast Khan Abdali, Hamza Khan, Umar Khan Kakarr and Zarif Khan, to the Afghan/Pashtun/Pathan territories in AH 1030/1621 CE to investigate the descent of Afghans. This eventually led to the compilation of Mirat-al-Afghani, according to which Afghans/Pashtuns/Pathans are Israelites.
According to Mirat-al-Afghani, after their expulsion from their native
Neamatullah has given detailed genealogical accounts of several Afghan/Pashtun/Pathan tribes, tracing their descent from Qais Abdul Rasheed, who himself is said to have sprung from the line of Jacob (
…Khaled sent a letter to the Afghans who had settled in the mountainous countries around Ghor ever since the time of the expulsion of the Israelites by Bokhtnasser, and informed them of the appearance of the last of the Prophets. When this letter reached them, several of their chiefs departed from
Naematullah was the first historian to present a systematic genealogical table of Pathans/Pashtuns/Afghans from Israel/Jacob. However he can’t be given credit for propounding the theory of their Israelite origin. Less than ten years before the compilation of Tarikh-e-Khan-e-Jahani, another scholar Akhund Darwiza had declared the Afghans/Pashtuns/Pathans to be Israelites in his Tadhkirat al-Abrar (an account of his adventures in Afghan territories) in 1611 CE.
Even before the political rise of Afghans/Pashtuns/Pathans, Hamidullah Mustawfi had speculated that they were most likely Israelites in his monumental work Tarikh-e-Guzeedah (AH 730/1326 CE), as stated by Neamatullah. This is a general historical account dedicated to Khwaja Ghiyasuddin Muhammad, son and successor of Rashiduddin Fazlullah, and deals with the Mongols of Persia (modern
We find a detailed account of the journey of Afghans from
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, founder of the Ahmadia Movement of Islam, draws upon Tabaqat-e-Nasri in his book Jesus in India (1899), where it is mentioned that during the Shabnisi rule there lived a tribe called Bani Israel, some members of which were good traders. He further records that in 622 CE during the prophet Muhammad’s lifetime, his military chief Khalid ibn-al-Waleed converted about half a dozen chiefs of the Jewish tribes to Islam. Qais or
Another theory is that whenever people asked the Pathans/Pashtuns/Afghans about their nationality, they replied in Hebrew phasq or phasht. Phasq means “to liberate”, “to make free”, “to split”, while phasht means “to spread”. The word Pashtun seems to have been derived from this very word. In Hebrew, Pasht is the name of a deity and also of a city in
Some Afghans/Pashtuns/Pathans believe that they descended from Bibi Qatoora, wife of Hazrat Ibrahim (Abraham). According to them, after the death of Bibi Sara, Ibrahim married Bibi Qatoora, from whom he had six sons. After distributing all his possessions among his sons, Ibrahim sent them towards the East. They settled down in Turan in the north-west of
According to Pashtun/Pathan/Afghan genealogies,
It is noteworthy that the people of
There is a tribal tradition that the Pashtuns originated in
Fareed-ud-Din Ahmad tries to prove the Israelite descent of Pashtuns/Pathans/Afghans from King Talut in his Risal-i-Ansab-i-Afghana.
The Pashtuns or Pathans are the world’s only claimants of Israelite descent whose claim is backed by so many medieval references, spanning hundreds of years.
 Pathans, Pashtuns, Pakhtuns and Afghans are names which are often used interchangeably. There is nothing wrong in this usage, but each name has its own meaning. Those who inhabit plains and plateaus are entitled to the name Afghan, which has a far wider connotation than just being a subject of the modern state of
 Harrison, “Ethnicity and Political Stalemate in Pakistan”, in Ali Banuazzi and Myron Weiner, Religion and Ethnic Politics: Afghanistan, Iran and Afghanistan, Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, 1986, p. 286
 Oral Tradition
 Aatif, Khan Mohammad, “Sabhyata aur Sanskriti ke Aaine mein Malihabad”, in Naya Daur, Awadh Number, Public Information Department, Uttar Pradesh, u.d., p. 145 [Hindi]
 Islam, Zaiton, “Afridi”, in N. K. Singh and A. M. Khan, eds., Encyclopaedia of the World Muslims, Global Vision Publishing House, Delhi, p. 24
 Ahmad, M. M., “The Lost Tribes of
 Islam, op.cit., p. 20
 Kakakhel, Sayed Wiqar Ali Shah, “Origin of the Afghans”, in Dr. Fazal-ur-Rahman Marwat & Sayed Wiqar Ali Shah Kakakhel, eds., Afghanistan and the Frontier, Emjay Books International, Peshawar-Pakistan, 1993, pp. 149-151
 Ibid., pp. 150-151
 Immamuddin, S. M., “The Afghans: Etymological Analysis”, in Muhammad Tahir, ed., Encyclopaedic Survey of Islamic Culture, Vol. 16, Anmol Publications Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 1998, p. 205
 Habib, Mohammad and Khaliq Ahmad Nizami, eds., A Comprehensive History of India, Vol. Five, Part One: The Delhi Sultnat, Second Edition, The Indian History Congress, Peoples Publishing House, New Delhi, October 1992, p. xxi
 Makhzan-i-Afghani (History of the Afghans) of Naematullah (1612 CE), trans. By Bernhard Dorn, Part I, Oriental Translation Committee,
 Imamuddin, op. cit., p. 206
 Imamuddin, op. cit., p. 205
 Habib, Mohammad and Khaliq Ahmad Nizami, eds., op. cit., p. xxi
 Imamuddin, op. cit., p. 205
 Imamudin, op. cit., p. 200
 Habib, Mohammad and Khaliq Ahmad Nizami, eds., op. cit., p. xx
 Benjamin, Joshua M., The Mystery of Israel’s Ten Lost Tribes and the Legend of Jesus in India, 2nd edition, Mosaic Books,
 Ibid., pp. 16-17
 Ibid., p. 17
 Ibid. p. 18
 Ibid., pp. 15-16
 Imamuddin, op. cit., pp. 206-207
 Ibid., p. 207
 Kakakhel, op. cit., p. 153
 Benjamin, op. cit., p. 16
 Singh, Nagendra K., ed., International Encyclopaedia of Islamic Dynasties, Vol. I, Anmol Publications Pvt. Ltd.,