Awan (tribe)

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Awan (Urdu: اعوان‎), is a prominent tribe living predominantly in northern, central, and western parts of Pakistani Punjab, with significant numbers also residing in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Kashmir and to a lesser extent in Sindh and Balochistan . Awans are putatively descendants of the fourth Caliph, Ali and as such, a number adopt the title, Alvi.


There are different theories pertaining to the origin of the Awans:

Arab origin[edit]

A letter written by Sajjada Nashin Pir Sial Sharif Khawaja Zia ud Din to Qazi Mian Muhammad Amjad asking him about the rare book Kihalastah al-Nisab, a treatise written by Jamal ad-Din Hasan ibn Yusuf ibn 'Ali ibn Muthahhar al-Hilli on the descendants of 'Ali Ibn Abi Talib'. This treatise also includes the descendants of Ali Ibn Abi Talib who migrated to other countries after the rise of Umayyad Caliphate. The treatise is the oldest work supposedly dealing with the history of the Awan tribe.

The Awan historiographers[2][full citation needed][3] claim that the Awans are descended from one Qutb Shah, who originally resided in Herat, served in the army of Mahmud of Ghazni, and was a Hashemite descendant of the Prophet Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, Hazrat Ali.[citation needed]

It is asserted that Qutb Shah and six of his sons accompanied and assisted Mahmud in his early eleventh century conquests of what today forms parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Northern India. It is claimed that in recognition of their services and valour, Mahmud bestowed upon Qutb Shah Awan and his sons (who, according to tribal traditions, settled primarily in the Salt Range) the title of Awan, meaning "helper".[citation needed]

Tribal history holds that Qutb Shah and his sons married local women who converted to Islam from Hinduism. Qutb Shah’s sons are said to have settled in different regions of the Punjab and to a lesser extent, what now constitutes parts of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa; Gauhar Shah or Gorrara, settled near Sakesar, Kalan Shah or Kalgan, settled in Kalabagh, Muzammil Shah colonized the hills close to the Indus, Mohammad Shah (Elder son of Qutab Shah) or Khokhar,[4] settled by the Chenab, and Turi Shah ‏and Jhajh Shah settled in Tirah the descendants of Turi or Tori and Jhajh are also known as Syeds of Tirah.[citation needed] Their descendants not only came to heavily populate these regions, but a number of Awan sub-clans that trace their origins to these six individuals, give their names to various localities such as Golera in Rawalpindi,Malpur in Islamabad, Khewra in Jhelum, Bajara in Sialkot, Jand in Attock, and Dhudial in Chakwal.[citation needed]

Indigenous origins[edit]

However, there are also many scholars who disagree with the Arab origin theory put forward by the Awans, and classify them as indigenous people of the Indian subcontinent[citation needed]. Those who attribute an indigenous origin to the Awan tribe include Ahmed Hasan Dani.[citation needed].

Kaul was of the opinion that the tribe was of either Jat or Rajput origin, pointing to the fact that in Sanskrit, the term Awan means "defender" or "protector" and asserting that this title was awarded by surrounding tribes due to the Awans successfully defending their strongholds against aggression[citation needed].


A certificate issued in 1905 by the Deputy Commissioner of Shahpur, C.H. Atkins, to Khan Sahib Qazi Zafar Hussain, the youngest son of Qazi Mian Muhammad Amjad. This document also demonstrates the influence wielded by the Awan tribe in the Punjab, during the era of the British Raj.

The Awans are probably the tribe most recruited to the Pakistan Army[5] and have a strong martial tradition.[6] Christophe Jaffrelot says:

The Awan deserve close attention, because of their historical importance and, above all, because they settled in the west, right up to the edge of Baluchi and Pashtun territory. [Tribal] Legend has it that their origins go back to Imam Ali and his second wife, Hanafiya. Historians describe them as valiant warriors and who imposed their supremacy on the Janjua and other Rajput tribes in part of the Salt Range, and established large colonies all along the Indus to Sind, and a densely populated centre not far from Lahore.[7]

On a rural level, Awans historically were of the zamindar or landowning class,[8] and many Awan families to this day live on and cultivate land, which their ancestors have held for centuries. They often carry titles typical to Punjabis[9] who own tracts of ancestral land such as Malik, Chaudhry Jorhy, Khan and Kalera some where in Punjab and Khan. The modern surname system often results in members of the same family with different surnames, some choosing their position as a surname i.e. Malik or Chaudhry, and some choosing their tribal name of Awan. In general Awan is considered as a prestigious cast of South Asia.[citation needed]

Though the origins of the Awans may be a matter of some debate, it has long been recognised that the composition of the tribe is wholly Muslim. The most extensive study of the tribe was conducted during the era of the British Raj, and as a result of census data collated during this period, the Awan tribe was invariably classified as being entirely Muslim.[citation needed]

Similarly, John Henry Hutton has said of the Awans:

"They are exclusively Muslim and probably the descendants of some of the earlier Muslim invaders of the tenth century or earlier."[citation needed]

Geographical distribution[edit]

The bulk of the Awan tribe is to be found in the Punjab (Pakistan). Its population is concentrated in the districts of Rawalpindi, Attock, Chakwal,Sialkot, Jhelum, Khushab (particularly the Soon Valley and Jauharabad region side areas), Mianwali,[citation needed] Tracts in regions such as Khushab, Mianwali, Attock and Jhelum are so heavily populated by Awans, that they have long been referred to as Awankari.[citation needed] Before the independence of Pakistan in 1947, an Awankari existed in Jalandhar and an Awan bara in Hoshiarpur.[citation needed] Awankari is also a dialect of Punjabi.[10] A section of the Awan tribe has established a settlement at Awan Town.

The Awan tribe is also to be found in considerable numbers in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa.[citation needed]

Notable people[edit]

Photo gallery[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Dilip Kumar was born into a Hindko-speaking Awan family at Mohallah Khudadad sited at the back of the Qissa Khwani Bazaar."
  2. ^ Tarikh-ul-Awan (History of Awan), Malik Sher Muhammad,Lahore,
  3. ^ History of Awan, by Muhammad Sarwar Khan Awan, 2009 by the Al- Faisal Nashran, Lahore.
  4. ^ H.A. Roz (1911), p. 29
  5. ^ Jones, P.E., 2003, The Pakistan People's Party: Rise To Power, Oxford University Press, p.61.
  6. ^ Ali, I., 2003, The Punjab under Imperialism, 1885-1947, Oxford University Press, p.114.
  7. ^ Jaffrelot, C., 2004, A History of Pakistan and Its Origins, Anthem Press, p.205.
  8. ^ Ahmed, S., 1977, Class and Power in a Punjabi Village, Monthly Review Press, p.p. 131-132.
  9. ^ Ahsan, A., 1996, The Indus Saga and the Making of Pakistan, Oxford University Press, p.88.
  10. ^ Journal of Phonetics, Volumes 7-8, 1979, Seminar Press, p.89.
  11. ^ Khan,R., 1999, The American Papers: Secret and Confidential India-Pakistan-Bangladesh Documents, 1965-1973, Oxford University Press, p.265.
  12. ^ Feldman, H., 1972, From Crisis to Crisis: Pakistan 1962-1969, Oxford University Press, p.57.
  13. ^ "City: Awan community grieved over Malik's demise. - PPI - Pakistan Press International | HighBeam Research - FREE trial". 2003-06-13. Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  14. ^ "My soldier brother who died for honour, by Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul's wife". Daily Mail (London). 31 January 2009. 
  15. ^ Puri, J.R. & Khak, K.S., 1998, Sultan Bahu, Radha Soami Satsang Beas, p.6.
  16. ^ a b Sarwar, S., 2002, Wadi Soon Sakesar: The Soon Valley, Al-Faisal Nashran, p.35, p.149, p.152, p.163, p.177.

External links[edit]

  • Tareekh e Alvi Awan by Mohabbat Husain Awan.
  • [1], Tareekh Bab-Ul-Awan (A History of the Awan Tribe), Muhammad Noor-ud-Din Sulemani
  • [2], Awan: A research article on the origin and history of the Awan tribe, Malik Sultan Mahmood
  • [3], Zia-e-Soon: A journal of Government College Naushera, dedicated to the history of the Awan tribe