Ahmad Shah Durrani – Muslim Warriors

ahmad1

Ahmad Shāh Durrānī (c. 1722 – 16 October 1772), also known as Ahmad Khān Abdālī was the founder of the Durrani Empire and is regarded as the founder of the modern state of Afghanistan.He began his career by enlisting as a young soldier in the military of the Afsharid kingdom and quickly rose to become a commander of the Abdali Regiment, a cavalry of four thousand Abdali Pashtun soldiers.

After the death of Nader Shah Afshar in 1747, Ahmad Shah Durrani was chosen as King of Afghanistan. Rallying his Afghan tribes and allies, he pushed east towards the Mughal and the Maratha empires of India, west towards the disintegrating Afsharid Empire of Persia, and north toward the Khanate of Bukhara. Within a few years, he extended his control from Khorasan in the west to Kashmir and North India in the east, and from the Amu Darya in the north to the Arabian Sea in the south.

Durrani’s mausoleum is located at Kandahar, Afghanistan, adjacent to the Shrine of the Cloak in the center of the city. Afghans often refer to him as Ahmad Shāh Bābā (“Ahmad Shah the Father”).

1.Early years
An 1881 photo showing Shah Hussain Hotak’s fortress in Old Kandahar, where Abdali and his brother Zulfikar were imprisoned. It was destroyed in 1738 by the Afsharid forces of Persia.Durrani was born in or about 1722 to Mohammad Zaman Khan, chief of the Abdali tribe and Governor of Herat, and Zarghuna Alakozai. There has been some debate about Durrani’s exact place of birth. Most believe that he was born in Herat, Afghanistan.He was born as Ahmed Khan. Abdali’s father suffered “Persian captivity for many years” at Kirman before being released from prison in 1715. As a refugee, he “made his way to India” and joined his kinsmen at Multan. After he raised his family there, he was recognized as the “scion of hereditary Sadozai chiefs”. It is believed that Zaman Khan returned to Afghanistan to fight the Persians and his Afghan rivals, but left one of his wives at Multan because she was “in the family way”. So other sources believe that, Abdali was born at Multan in 1722, after which she returned to Afghanistan to reunite with her husband. He lost his father during his infancy.

Durrani’s forefathers were Sadozais but his mother was from the Alakozai tribe. In June 1729, the Abdali forces under Zulfiqar had surrendered to Nader Shah Afshar, the rising new ruler of Persia. However, they soon began a rebellion and took over Herat as well as Mashad. In July 1730, he defeated Ibrahim Khan, a military commander and brother of Nader Shah. This prompted Nader Shah to retake Mashad and also intervene in the power struggle of Harat. By July 1731, Zulfiqar eturned to his capital Farah where he had been serving as the governor since 1726. A year later Nadir’s brother Ibrahim Khan took control of Farah. During this time Zulfiqar and the young Durrani fled to Kandahar where they took refuge with the Ghiljis.

They were later made political prisoners by Hussain Hotak, the Ghilji ruler of the Kandahar region.

Nader Shah had been enlisting the Abdalis in his army since around 1729. After conquering Kandahar in 1738, Durrani and his brother Zulfiqar were freed and provided with leading careers in Nader Shah’s administration. Zulfiqar was made Governor of Mazandaran while Durrani remained working as Nader Shah’s personal attendant. The Ghiljis, who are originally from the territories east of the Kandahar region, were expelled from Kandahar in order to resettle the Abdalis along with some Qizilbash and other Persians.

Durrani proved himself in Nader Shah’s service and was promoted from a personal attendant (yasāwal) to command the Abdali Regiment, a cavalry of four thousand soldiers and officers. The Abdali Regiment was part of Nader Shah’s military during his invasion of the Mughal Empire in 1738.

Popular history has it that the Shah could see the talent in his young commander. Later on, according to Pashtun legend, it is said that in Delhi Nader Shah summoned Durrani, and said, “Come forward Ahmad Abdali. Remember Ahmad Khan Abdali, that after me the Kingship will pass on to you. “Nader Shah used to say in admiration that he had not met in Iran, Turan, and Hindustan any man of such laudable talents as Ahmad Abdali possessed.” Nader Shah recruited him because of his “impressive personality and valour” also because of his “loyalty to the Persian monarch”.

2.Rise to power
Coronation of Ahmad Shah Durrani in 1747 by Abdul Ghafoor Breshna.Nader Shah’s rule abruptly ended in June 1747 when he was assassinated by his own guards. The guards involved in the assassination did so secretly so as to prevent the Abdalis from coming to their King’s rescue. However, Durrani was told that the Shah had been killed by one of his wives. Despite the danger of being attacked, the Abdali contingent led by Durrani rushed either to save the Shah or to confirm what happened. Upon reaching the Shah’s tent, they were only to see his body and severed head. Having served him so loyally, the Abdalis wept at having failed their leader, and headed back to Kandahar. Befroe the retreat to Kandahar, he had “removed” the royal seal from Nader Shah’s finger and the Koh-i-Noor diamond tied “around the arm of his deceased master”. On their way back to Kandahar, the Abdalis had “unanimously accepted” Durrani as their new leader. Hence he “assumed the
insignia of royalty” as the “sovereign ruler of Afghanistan”.

At the time of Nadir’s death, he commanded a contingent of Abdali Pashtuns. Realizing that his life was in jeopardy if he stayed among the Persians who had murdered Nader Shah, he decided to leave the Persian camp, and with his 4,000 troops
he proceeded to Qandahar. Along the way and by sheer luck, they managed to capture a caravan with booty from India. He and his troops were rich; moreover, they were experienced fighters. In short, they formed a formidable force of young Pashtun soldiers who were loyal to their high-ranking leader.

One of Durrani’s first acts as chief was to adopt the titles Padishah-i-Ghazi (“victorious emperor”), and Durr-i-Durrani (“pearl of pearls” or “pearl of the age”).

3.Forming the last Afghan empire
Afghan royal soldiers of the Durrani Empire (also referred to as the Afghan Empire).Following his predecessor, Durrani set up a special force closest to him consisting mostly of his fellow Durranis and other Pashtuns, as well as Tajiks, Qizilbash and other Muslims.He began his military conquest by capturing Ghazni from the Ghiljis and then wresting Kabul from the local ruler, and thus strengthened his hold over Khorasan. Leadership of the various Afghan tribes rested mainly on the ability to provide booty for the clan, and Durrani proved remarkably successful in providing both booty and occupation for his followers. Apart from invading the Punjab region three times between the years 1747–1753, he captured Herat in 1750.

4.Early invasions
Abdali invaded India seven times from 1748 to 1767. The frequency of his repeated invasions reflect the “tireless energey, ambition” and purpose of the “invader”. Being a poor as well as a “backward country”, Afghanistan could not provide subsistence to its population or provide a financial support for running the government. So it was “necessary” of Abdali to invade a “rich but poorly defended neighbouring country” India for plundering and exploiting her resources. He also wanted to establish “political hegemony” in India. During his time, the Mughal empire was disintergrating and he was “eager to step into the shoes of the decadent Mughal authority” to fill up the “political vacuum without any loss of time”.

According to Jaswant Lal Mehta, Durrani aroused the Afghans’ “religious passions” to fire and “sword into the land of infidels[ India ]”. He crossed the Khyber pass in December 1747 with 40,000 men for his first invasion of India. He occupied Peshawar without any opposition.[24] Durrani first crossed the Indus River in 1748, the year after his ascension – his forces sacked and absorbed Lahore. The following year (1749), the Mughal ruler was induced to cede Sindh and all of the Punjab including the vital trans Indus River to him, in order to save his capital from being attacked by the forces of the Durrani Empire. Having thus gained substantial territories to the east without a fight, Durrani and his forces turned westward to take possession of Herat, which was ruled by Nader Shah’s grandson, Shah Rukh. The city fell to the Afghans in 1750, after almost a year of siege and bloody conflict; the Afghan forces then pushed on into present-day Iran, capturing Nishapur and Mashhad in 1751. Durrani then pardoned Shah Rukh and reconstituted Khorasan, but a tributary of the Durrani Empire. This marked the westernmost border of the Afghan Empire as set by the Pul-i-Abrisham, on the Mashhad-Tehran road.

5.Rise of the Sikhs in the Punjab
During the Third Battle of Panipat between Marathas and Durrani, the Sikhs did not engage along with the Marathas and hence are considered neutral in the war. This was because of the flawed diplomacy on the part of Marathas in not recognizing their strategic potential. The exception was Ala Singh of Patiala, who sided with the Afghans and was actually being granted and coincidentally crowned the first Sikh Maharajah at the Sikh holy temple.

6.Death and legacy
The tomb of Ahmad Shah Durrani in Kandahar City, which also serves as the Congregational Mosque and contains the sacred cloak that Islamic Prophet Muhammad wore.Durrani died on 16 October 1772 in Kandahar Province. He was buried in the city of Kandahar adjacent to the Shrine of the Cloak, where a large tomb was built. It has been described in the following way:

Under the shimmering turquoise dome that dominates the sand-blown city of Kandahar lies the body of Ahmad Shah Abdali, the young Kandahari warrior who in 1747 became the region’s first Durrani king. The mausoleum is covered in deep blue and white tiles behind a small grove of trees, one of which is said to cure toothache, and is a place of pilgrimage. In front of it is a small mosque with a marble vault containing one of the holiest relics in the Islamic World, a kherqa, the sacred Cloak of Prophet Mohammed that was given to Ahmad Shah by Mured Beg, the Emir of Bokhara. The Sacred Cloak is kept
locked away, taken out only at times of great crisis but the mausoleum is open and there is a constant line of men leaving their sandals at the door and shuffling through to marvel at the surprisingly long marble tomb and touch the glass case containing Ahmad Shah’s brass helmet. Before leaving they bend to kiss a length of pink velvet said to be from his robe. It bears the unmistakable scent of jasmine.

In his tomb his epitaph is written:

The King of high rank, Ahmad Shah Durrani,Was equal to Kisra in managing the affairs of his government.
In his time, from the awe of his glory and greatness,The lioness nourished the stag with her milk.From all sides in the ear of his enemies there arrivedA thousand reproofs from the tongue of his dagger.The date of his departure for the house of mortality Was the year of the Hijra 1186 (1772 A.D.)

Durrani’s victory over the Marathas influenced the history of the subcontinent and, in particular, British policy in the region. His refusal to continue his campaigns deeper into India prevented a clash with the East India Company and allowed them to continue to acquire power and influence after they took complete control of the former Mughal province of Bengal in 1793. However, fear of another Afghan invasion was to haunt British policy for almost half a century after the battle of Panipat. The acknowledgment of Abdali’s military accomplishments is reflected in a British intelligence report on the Battle of Panipat, which referred to Ahmad Shah as the ‘King of Kings’. This fear led in 1798 to a British envoy being sent to the Persian court in part to instigate the Persians in their claims on Herat to forestall an Afghan invasion of India that might have halted British East India company’s expansion. Mountstuart Elphinstone wrote of Ahmad Shah:

His military courage and activity are spoken of with admiration, both by his own subjects and the nations with whom he was engaged, either in wars or alliances. He seems to have been naturally disposed to mildness and clemency and though it is impossible to acquire sovereign power and perhaps, in Asia, to maintain it, without crimes; yet the memory of no eastern prince is stained with fewer acts of cruelty and injustice.

— Mountstuart Elphinstone
His successors, beginning with his son Timur and ending with Shuja Shah Durrani, proved largely incapable of governing the last Afghan empire and faced with advancing enemies on all sides. Much of the territory conquered by Ahmad Shah fell to others by the end of the 19th century. They not only lost the outlying territories but also alienated some Pashtun tribes and those of other Durrani lineages. Until Dost Mohammad Khan’s ascendancy in 1826, chaos reigned in Afghanistan, which effectively ceased to exist as a single entity, disintegrating into a fragmented collection of small countries or units. This policy ensured that he did not continue on the path of other conquerors like Babur or Muhammad of Ghor and make India the base for his empire.

In Pakistan, a short-range ballistic missile Abdali-I, is named in the honour of Ahmed Shah Abdali.

7.Durrani’s poetry
Durrani wrote a collection of odes in his native Pashto language. He was also the author of several poems in Persian. The most famous Pashto poem he wrote was Love of a Nation:

By blood, we are immersed in love of you.
The youth lose their heads for your sake.
I come to you and my heart finds rest.
Away from you, grief clings to my heart like a snake.
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.

8.Personal life
During Nader Shah’s invasion of India in 1739, Abdali also accompanied him and stayed some days in the Red Fort of Delhi. When he was standing “outside the Jali gate near Diwan-i-Am”, Asaf Jah I saw him. He was “an expert in physiognomy” and predicted that Abdali was “destined to become a king”. When Nader Shah came to know about it, he “purportedly clipped” his ears with his dagger and made the remark “When you become a king, this will remind you of me”. According to other sources, Nader Shah did not believe in it and asked him to be kind to his descendants “on the attaintment of royalty”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *