افغان تاريخ

The Founding Father of the Modern Afghanistan State

0 373

This month (October 2017) marks the 270th anniversary of the coronation of Ahmad Shah Durrani the founder of modern Afghanistan and the establishment of the Afghan state.[1]

Portrait of Ahmad Shah Durrani
Original drawing by ’Abd al-Ghafur Breshna, this painting by Tapand – Flickr

Ahmad Shah, son of Zaman Khan Abdali, belonged to the Sadozai clan of the Popalzai tribe. His father joined other Abdali chieftains in the struggle to free Herat from the Persian yoke in 1716. Zaman Khan and his eldest son Zulfiqar Khan governed Herat at different times between 1718 and 1731. Ahmad Shah was born in Herat in 1721 shortly after the death of his father Zaman Khan and he was raised by his brother Zulfiqar Khan.

Ahmad Shah Durrani is considered the founder of modern Afghanistan. The major task ahead of him was how to build an independent Afghan polity and expand its territory to incorporate secure borders. Having learned from the Ghilzais’ hollow state-building experience and their poorly-supported conquest of Persia earlier in the 18th Century, Ahmad Shah intended to move steadily and surely to build the Afghan state and expand it in a way that, instead of overextending his forces, augment his power base. In 1761 correspondence with the Ottoman Sultan Mustafa III, the Afghan monarch details his empire building experience and his military feats in India and Persia. Ahmad Shah stresses that in the regional chaos created by the death of Nader Shah, he refrained from invading neighboring countries before building his home base and then launched conquests to punish those forces which were bent on creating instability, injustice or prosecuting the Muslim umma in the region.[2]

Coronation of Ahmad Shah Durrani in 1747 by Breshna

Ahmad Shah saw a unique opportunity to establish a national state at home after more than seven centuries during which the states and empires in Afghanistan were built by powers that came from outside. During this period, the Afghan tribes in their rugged country and hard-to-reach valleys resisted long-lasting imperial encroachment and did preserve some level of practical autonomy.

The state structure adopted by the Durrani Empire was based on central control of decentralized tribal and communal military, administrative and economic institutions. Historically such a system worked in the country only under powerful and charismatic leaders who mobilized the nation in a spirit of common cause such as foreign conquest, fighting foreign invasion or waging ideological war. Ahmad Shah Durrani achieved such a mobilization by tapping into the assabiyya (social solidarity) of the Afghans, encouraging them into building a vast empire that would permanently secure the homeland of some 4.6 million Pashtuns and other tribes living between the Indus and Oxus (Amu Darya) Rivers. Further, he invoked the Islamic duty of the Afghan Muslims to protect the oppressed Muslim population of India[3] and claimed the hereditary right of the Afghans to the throne of Delhi.[4] The Afghan ruler mobilized and maintained the unity of the tribes and offered them the opportunity to secure their poorly-resourced homeland and conquer prosperous foreign lands.

This lithograph was taken from the frontispiece of ‘Afghaunistan’ by Lieutenant James Rattray. Two Afghan nobles of the Durrani tribe are depicted, fully armed, with their helmets decorated with peacock feathers.
Rattray wrote: “This costume of the Douranee warriors gives a fair idea of the style of armour worn by the Afghaun noblesse, though it was not a common occurrence to meet with them so completely clothed in clinquant mail as they are represented in the frontispiece.” Peacock feathers were a symbol of royalty. Egret plumes were specially presented by the Emir as a mark of honour to the chiefs who merited the distinction. Rattray had often been shown the shirts of mail worn by the Afghans under their silk kameezes (shirts) as a protection against assassins’ daggers. Sometimes they also wore a “shawl around the steel head-piece, the nose-plate and the plume alone attracting attention to the fact of their being helmeted at all”.
Date 1847

Paradoxically, while the Afghans failed to form their own state within their own country in earlier centuries, they succeeded in ruling over empires in foreign lands. Between the 14th and early 16th Centuries, three Afghan dynasties (Khalji, Suri and Lodi) ruled over northern India with an Afghan (Pashtun) king sitting on the Delhi throne, while their homeland between the Indus and Hindu Kush was under the domination of Turko-Mongol kings and emperors. Although the Ghilzai Hotaks founded an Afghan state in Kandahar at the turn of the 18th Century, their conquest of Persia distracted their power and energy from the consolidation of their government at home which collapsed in the face of a foreign invasion after a relatively short life span.

Ahmad Shah Durrani – Father of Afghanistan

Ahmad Shah Durrani – Father of Afghanistan➥www.mundigak.com/en /subscribe our channel for more videos… https://bit.ly/33Ba4Fl?Hikma History✔❶Like✔❷Comment✔❸Share••• ═══ ༻✿༺═══ •••#AfghanistanHistory #mundigak_historical_society

Geplaatst door Mundigak Historical Society op Donderdag 7 mei 2020

What makes Ahmad Shah distinct from other Afghan conquerors in the past was that he intended to conquer other lands to build his own state and not to follow the example of past Afghan rulers of India or the Hotaks who chose to preside over empires in foreign lands. Alexander Dow (1735-1779), a British orientalist and a contemporary of Ahmad Shah wrote that the Afghan monarch was the only leader at that time that could restore the imperial power to Delhi if he would assume sovereignty in India and rule as king from Delhi.[5] It was a tempting proposition, but the situation in India was changing and the balance of power rapidly shifting. Ahmad Shah did try to legitimize his claim to the throne of Delhi as the heir of previous Afghan kings of India who “ruled the vast land with honor, leaving good names, until the invasion of Amir Timur Saheb Qiran.” He specifically named the Lodi and Suri monarchs as the Afghan ruling predecessors.[6] But as Ahmad Shah’s real actions indicated, he knew that getting tied up in India would undermine his plans to build an Afghan state between the Indus and Amu Darya rivers. During 26 years of rule, he never compromised any part of this territory in order to expand to northern India or into the depths of Persia in the west. In one of the poems attributed to him, he strongly states that “I forget the throne of Delhi when I remember the mountain tops of my Afghan land. If I must choose between the world and you, I shall not hesitate to claim your barren deserts as my own.[7]

Ruins of old Kandahar Citadel.
Photograph of the ruins of old Kandahar citadel from the ‘Bellew Collection: Photograph album of Surgeon-General Henry Walter Bellew’ taken by Sir Benjamin Simpson c.1881. Kandahar is the second largest city in Afghanistan and is situated in the south of the region. Although the old citadel was destroyed by Nadir Shah Afshar of Persia in 1738, the Battle of Maiwand was fought in its ruins in 1880. This conflict secured the rule of Abdur Rahman as the Amir of Afghanistan (1844-1901). At the top of this fortified citadel there are the ruins of a royal residence.
Date 1880

The deep changes in the balance of power in India hardly supported a permanent Afghan occupation of the territory while the center of the Ahmad Shah’s kingdom was in Afghanistan. Several competing powers arose in the subcontinent and hindered any foreign power’s attempt to establish an enduring rule there. While the Mughal Empire was significantly weakened and had lost influence in the south and in the east, the Marathas of Deccan, The Sikhs of Punjab, the Europeans in general, and other large and small groups were rising into prominence.

In the south, the resurgence of the Maratha power, after the death of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1707, led to the formation of the mighty Maratha confederacy that expanded to the north and made major military gains outside their original territory. Just after Ahmad Shah ascended the throne in Kandahar, the Marathas extended their conquest to northern and central India and became more independent and difficult to control. Although their control in the north was ended after their great defeat at the historical battle of Panipat by the Afghan army led by Ahmad Shah (1761), their state continued to exist as the political endowment of a highly disciplined community that combined its spiritual purpose and goals with political and military ambitions. In the later years (Second half of the 18th Century), the Maratha Empire was headed by a confederacy of five chiefs at Pune in western India that challenged the growing power of the British in India.

In Punjab, the Sikhs had become militarized after their leader, Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708), formed the Khalsa (in 1666) as the faith’s temporal authority. The Khalsa was a disciplined community inspired by a spiritual purpose and political goals. Its martial wing, the Dal Khalsa, grew into a formidable organization of highly-motivated fighters that controlled the main roads between the Indus and the Sutlej Rivers; and were capable of disrupting the line of communication between Afghanistan and northern India. The Sikhs had freed themselves from the Mughal control and were not ready to accept Afghan domination.

The commercial rivalry that brought several European powers to India in the 17th Century turned into a race for domination using proxy Indian rulers. It took another 50 years before British power expanded rapidly throughout the greater part of the subcontinent. Following the defeat of the French-backed Mysore King Tipu Sultan (1750-1799) in 1799, Britain became a serious actor on the Indian political scene with a growing military capacity.

To the west of Afghanistan, the disintegration of the Afsharid Empire and the continuing power struggle among several contenders made Persia vulnerable to outside intervention. Ahmad Shah could exploit the situation by leading his disciplined and experienced army (supported by the Afghan tribes) to make major gains in Persia. However, he was unwilling to repeat the mistake of the preceding Afghan dynasty by winning an easy victory but failing to rule the empire. The limits of Ahmad Shah’s expansion to the west were defined by the vital security considerations of Afghanistan. He did not advance beyond Mashhad and Nishapur. Sir John Malcolm (1769-1833) wrote that “Ahmad Khan was now in a condition to attempt the reduction of all Persia, but the prospect was not inviting. Every province was exhausted. The Afghans were still deemed the original authors of the misery which the nation endured; and the unsuccessful attempt to alter their religion and revived the hatred which the Persians entertained from that race as Sunnis. In addition to these obstacles, the example of usurpation which Nader Shah had given had inspired every governor of a province and every chief of a tribe with the desire of rule, and Persia abounds with pretenders to regal power. Under such circumstances, we must admire that wisdom which led the Afghan prince to withdraw from this scene of turbulence, that he might exclusively direct his future exertions to the nobler and more legitimate object of establishing a power in his native country, which while it gave a crown to his descendants, raised his nation to a rank and consideration far beyond what they have ever enjoyed.”[8]

Based on a similar argument, Ahmad Shah considered the Amu Darya River as the practical border of the Afghan state in the north. In spite of the vulnerability of the Uzbek Khanate caused by continued power struggle between the Khiva, Bukhara and Khoqand khanates, Ahmad Shah did not want to be drawn deep into Central Asia beyond the Amu Darya.

But expansion through attacks on surrounding states became a requirement for the Afghan state, not merely to build as some would term a “raiding polity” and find a better distraction for his feuding and turbulent subjects, but also as a means to wield power in a very competitive environment where the “survival of the fittest” found its political meaning. Realistically, moving east was more advantageous to Ahmad Shah than venturing west into the unsettled vastness of Persia. To the east, down to the Indus River basin, the land was inhabited by fellow Afghan (Pashtun) tribes who would add to the influence and legitimacy of the Afghan state and provide a rich source of recruitment for his army of conquest. Further east, there were large pockets of Afghan tribes in India who had migrated into the subcontinent in the wake of victorious armies from Afghanistan. Over the centuries they had established numerous spheres of political influence through sharing power with several Afghan dynasties that ruled India at different periods. They served as natural allies of the Afghan expeditionary armies. Finally, the political confusion that befell India following the Nader Afshar invasion and plunder of Delhi, made India an attractive target of conquest – a land poorly protected and temptingly rich.

Ahmad Shah Durrani died in June 1773 at the age of 50 from a lingering serious illness. During his 26 years of rule he founded a vast empire that stretched from Delhi in the east to Nishapur in the west, from the Oxus River {Amu Darya] in the north to the Arabian Sea in the south. He spent most of his life expanding the state he helped establish in his homeland following centuries of foreign domination. But Ahmad Shah’s conquests were not merely for the sake of expansion but they were also used to unify the warlike Afghan tribes around a national cause and consolidate his own state within safe and defendable borders. He was not interested in occupying foreign lands beyond Punjab in the east and Khorasan in the west. He did not wish to overextend his state and make it vulnerable to outside powers. He was the right leader for the time that seized on political opportunities that emerged after the death of Nader Afshar and during the confusion that followed in the region. He built an independent state in his country and expanded it in a balanced way. He ruled with moderation in his policies at home and abroad. In military terms, he was a natural genius. He saw that idleness demoralized his troops and he kept them always in high state of discipline. His military courage and creativity were admired both by his own subjects, and the nations against whom he fought or made alliances with.

At home, he tried to instill a sense of equality and a sense of national pride into his people. He abrogated the custom of bowing and kissing the earth before the sovereign. Ahmad Shah paid the salary of his troops in person and never channeled the revenues of the state into his private coffers. He showed clemency by pardoning rebellious nobles and served as peacemaker among rival chiefs. He was accessible to his people and administered justice equitably. He was conciliatory, persuasive and no one ever complained about the judgments he gave. The Afghan monarch had a high tolerance for freedom of speech and action. He permitted his nobles to speak their minds and maintain their independent rugged pride and individualism.

(From Ali A. Jalali’s “A Military History of Afghanistan from the Great Empires to the Great Game, Vol. I unpublished)

[1] Mahmud al-Husseini al-Munshi, Tarikh-i Ahmad Shahi (1753), rotograph of the manuscript, Ed. Sayed Muradov, Moscow: Nauka Press, 1974, Vol. I, PP.51-52

[2] Jalali, G. Jailani, Ed. Nama-ye Ahmad Shah Baba Banam-e Sultan Mustafa Thales Osmani (Ahmad Shah’s letter to the Ottoman Sultan Mustafa III), Afghanistan History Society, Kabul 1967, pp. 14-15. Referred to as Nama-ye Ahmad Shah henceforth

[3] Nama-ye Ahmad Shah, pp. 42-43; 52-53

[4] Ibid, pp. 15-16

[5] Op. Cit. Ganda Singh, Ahmad Shah Durrani: Father of modern Afghanistan, Asia Publishing House, London 1959, p. 344

[6] Nama-ye Ahmad Shah, P. 15

[7] Ahmad Shah, Diwan-i Ahmad Shah Abdali (Collection of Ahmad Shah Abdali Pashto Poetry), Kabul, 1963.

دډیلی تخت هیرومه چی را یاد کړم

زما د ښکلی پښتونخوا د غرو سرونه

که هر څو می ددنیا ملکونه ډیر سی

زما خوښ دی ستا خالی تش ډګرونه

[8] Sir John Malcolm, Major General, The History of Persia from the Most Early Period Containing an Account of the Religion, Government and Character of the Inhabitants of that Kingdom, Vol. II, London: John Murray 1829, PP. 56-57


ځواب پرېږدئ

ستاسي ايميل به خپور نسي

error: Protected contents!