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 descendants of the fourth Caliph, Ali and as such, a number adopt the title, Alvi.[1]


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 dealing with the history of the Awan tribe.

The Awan historiographers[2][3][4][5] maintain that the Awans are descended from an individual named 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 R.A[6]). As Sir Lepel Henry Griffin states:

"All branches of the tribe are unanimous in stating that they originally came from the neighbourhood of Ghazni to India, and all trace their genealogy to Hazrat Ali R.A the son-in-law of the Prophet. Kutab Shah, who came from Ghazni with Sultan Mahmud, was the common ancestor of the Awans."[7]

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".[8]

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,[9] 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.[10] 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.[11]

Amongst those who support the Arab ancestry of Awans, are H. A. Rose, Malik Fazal Dad Khan and Sabiha Shaheen. Although Rose was more cautious in assigning an Arab origin to the Awans, he was willing to concede that the tribe may well be Alvi Sayyids, or a cross between Syeds and local indigenous populations, who having sought refuge in Sindh from the Abbasids, allied themselves to Sabuktagin and assisted him in his Indian adventure, for which he bestowed the title of Awan on them (Rose considering it plausible that the name of the Awan tribe was derived from the word 'Ahwan', meaning "helper".[12] And although the Ferozsons Urdu-English Dictionary lists the Awans as a Rajput clan, it does state that the title of the tribe is of Arabic origin, being the plural of the word 'aun', and defining "Awan" as "helpers"[13]).[12] Making reference to W.S. Talbot's assessment of the Awans, Rose also commented:

"But in the best available account of the tribe, the Awans are indeed said to be of Arabian origin and descendants of Qutb Shah."[12]

Malik Fazal Dad Khan supports the traditional account of the Awans' origins, but with some modifications. He considers the Awans to be of Arabian origin and traces their lineage to Hazrat Ali R.A, but according to him, Abdullah Rasul was the remote ancestor of the Awans[citation needed]; in the eighth century, he was made a commander of the army of Ghaur by Caliph Haroon-ur-Rasheed[citation needed], the title of Awan being conferred upon him, and his descendants consequently being called Awans. Sabiha Shaheen (who addressed this issue as part of her MA Thesis) deems this theory tenable. Furthermore, she states that Qutb Shah fled to the Subcontinent along with a small group of people due to Mongol attacks and joined the court of Iltutmish[citation needed]. The majority of his descendants came to refer to themselves as Qutb Shahi Awans.[14]

Indigenous origin[edit]

However, there are those who attribute an indigenous origin to the Awan tribe; these include Alexander Cunningham, Harikishan Kaul, HK Gupta[15] and Professor Ahmed Hasan Dani. Alexander Cunningham looked upon the Awans as a higher Rajput clan.[16] He writes, " According to the Emperor Babar the Jud and the Janjuha were "two races descended from the same father, "[17] who from old times had been rulers of the hills between Nilab and Bhera, that is, of the salt range. "On one-half of the hill lived the Jud, and on the other half the Janjua." The Awans now occupy western half of these hills towards Nilab, and from all I could learn, they would appear to have been settled there for many centuries. They must therefore be the Jud of Baber's memoirs, for Jud was not the true name of the people, but was applied to them as the inhabitants of Mt' Sakeswar, which was called Jud by the Muhammadans on account of fancied resemblance to Mt. Jud, or Ararat in Armenia".[18] However he accepts that,"In the total absence of all written records, I have almost nothing to offer in favour of this identification, except its great probability."[19] According to Robert George Thomson, "General Cunningham's argument leads him to class the Awans as Rajputs and cousins of the Janjuas, and to represent them also as residents of three thousand years standing, this is almost certainly erroneous.[20]

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.[21] However it is also stated in Census of India, 1901, that "In the Salt-range Tract, however, the higher Rajput tribes, such as Janjua, are carefully excluded; and Jat means any Muhammadan cultivator of Hindu origin who is not a Gakkhar, Pathan, Awan or Saiyad."[22]


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 have a strong martial tradition;[23] as Christophe Jaffrelot states:

"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. 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."[24]

According to Denzil Ibbetson, the Awans may well have accompanied the forces of Babur, and the Awans of Jalandhar, who claimed to have shifted from the Salt Range at the behest of one of the early Emperors of Delhi, were particularly notable for being in the imperial service at Delhi.[16]

According to Philip Edward Jones:

"The Awan Tribe is perhaps the most heavily recruited tribe for the Pakistan Army."[25]

On a rural level, Awans belong to the Zamindar or landowning class,[26] 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[27] 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.

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. In the opening to his account of the Awan tribe, H. A. Rose comments:

"The Awans are an important tribe, exclusively Muhammadan."[12]

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."[28]

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 (Awan clans residing here are believed to have been almost the sole occupants of the Mianwali Salt Range Tract for over six hundred years[16]), 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.[29] Before the independence of Pakistan in 1947, an Awankari existed in Jalandhar and an Awan bara in Hoshiarpur.[30] Awankari is also a dialect of Punjabi.[31] Though these areas are their ancestral homelands and many own farms and other property there, numerous Awans live in the major cities of Pakistan such as Lahore (where a section of the Awan tribe has established a settlement, aptly named Awan Town), Islamabad, and Karachi.

The Awan tribe is also to be found in considerable numbers in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa,[29] particularly in the Hazara Division, Peshawar valley and Nowshera, Kohat. They are especially populous in Abbottabad, Haripur, Mansehra, Bannu, Mardan Sawal Dher, Swabi and Swat. A smaller portion of the tribe resides in Azad Kashmir, and to a lesser extent is also present in the Pakistani provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. In addition, Awans can also be found in Afghanistan and some parts of India.

Notable Awans[edit]

Many Awans have played, and continue to play, prominent roles in areas as varied as politics, the armed forces, academia, literature, and sport. These include figures such as:

  • [Shahid Akhtar Alvi] Shahid Akhtar Alvi to the rank of Air Vice Marshal. Air Vice Marshal Shahid Akhtar Alvi was commissioned in the Pakistan Air Force in November, 1984 in GD(P) Branch.

During his illustrious career, he has commanded a Fighter Squadron and an Operational Air Base. In his staff appointments he has served as Senior Air Staff Officer and Assistant Chief of Air Staff Security.

He has also served as Air Attaché to India. He is a graduate of Combat Commanders’ School, Air War College and National Defence University (NDU). He holds a Master’s degree in Defence and Strategic Studies. For rendering meritorious services to Pakistan Air Force, he has been awarded Sitara-i-Imtiaz (Military).

Photo gallery[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 1. Awan and Awani or Awanri(pashtun) (Hasankhel, Hussain Khel, Sahib Khel,Malik deen Khel) are two different tribes.Tareekh Alvi, Maulvi Haider Ali,1896, published by Hakeem Dr. Ghulam Nabi,p.14, p.16
    About this book, there is a note in " A glossary of the tribes and castes of the Punjab" by H.A Rose that "There is the history of Awans in Urdu, published by Dr.Ghulam nabi of Lahore p.28 footnote". later on Dr.Ghulam nabi in 1906 published the second book on this subject. 2. Bab-ul-Awan,Muhammad Noor ud Din Sulemani, 1906, published by Hakeem Dr. Ghulam Nabi, p.p135.
    3. Aulad Amir ul Momeneen, Abu al Husnain Wazir Hussain Al-Alvi, published by Itmaad, Qum al Muqdsa, Iran p.22 23
    4. History of Awan, by Muhammad Sarwar Khan, 2009 by the Al- Faisal Nashran, Lahore. Alvi, p130, 205, 213
  2. ^ Tareekh Alvi (A History of the Alwis), Maulvi Haider Ali,1896, published by Hakeem Dr. Ghulam Nabi,
  3. ^ Tareekh Bab-Ul-Awan (A History of the Awan Tribe), Muhammad Noor-ud-Din Sulemani, 1906.
  4. ^ Tarikh-ul-Awan (History of Awan), Malik Sher Muhammad,Lahore,
  5. ^ History of Awan, by Muhammad Sarwar Khan Awan, 2009 by the Al- Faisal Nashran, Lahore.
  6. ^ .Punjab District Gazetteers: Attock District, 1930, 1932, Superintendent Government Printing, p.80.
  7. ^ Griffin, L.H., 1865, The Panjab Chiefs: Historical and Biographical Notices of the Principal Families in the Territories Under the Panjab Government, Chronicle Press, p.p. 570-571.
  8. ^ Talbot, W.S., 1991, Gazetteer of the Jhelum District 1904: Part 1, Sang-e-Meel Publications, p.100, Kaul, H., 1912, Report on the Census of Punjab 1911, p.p.445-446 and Wikeley, J.M., 1973, Punjabi Musalmans, The Book House, p.67.
  9. ^ It is interesting to note here that 'Khokhar' is also in fact the name of an indigenous Rajput tribe of the Punjab
  10. ^ Rose, H.A., 1997, A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province, Nirmal Publishers and Distributors, p.p. 25-29 and Wikeley, J.M., 1973, Punjabi Musalmans, The Book House, p.67
  11. ^ Talbot, W.S., 1991, Gazetteer of the Jhelum District 1904: Part 1, Sang-e-Meel Publications, p.100, Kaul, H., 1912, Report on the Census of Punjab 1911, p.p.445-446 and Wikeley, J.M., 1973, Punjabi Musalmans, The Book House, p.68.
  12. ^ a b c d Rose, H.A., 1997, A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province, Nirmal Publishers and Distributors, p.p. 25-29.
  13. ^ Ferozsons Urdu-English Dictionary, Ferozons (Pvt.) Ltd., p.60.
  14. ^ Shaheen, S., Session 1983-85, The Golra Family of Hazara, [A/No.20]. This reference seems vague and doesnt provide the proper source and location of the MA thesis hasnt been given either
  15. ^ HK Gupta History and Peoples of the Punjab: A Monograph pub Lahore, FC College Press, 1935. Prof Gupta opines that the Awan are, in fact, the 'Abanii' mentioned by early Greek and Roman historians
  16. ^ a b c Ibbetson, D., 2001, Punjab Castes, Sang-e-Meel Publications, p.170.
  17. ^ Autobiography translated by Erakine, p251
  18. ^ Four reports made during the years, 1862-63-64-65, Volume 2, by Sir Alexander Cunningham, p.17
  19. ^ Four reports made during the years, 1862-63-64-65, Volume 2, by Sir Alexander Cunningham, p.18
  20. ^ A report of the second regular settlement of the land revenue of the Jehlum District, by Robert George Thomson 1883, p.30
  21. ^ Kaul, H., 1912, Report on the Census of Punjab 1911, p.p.446-447.
  22. ^ Census of India, 1901: Volume 1 p.78
  23. ^ Ali, I., 2003, The Punjab under Imperialism, 1885-1947, Oxford University Press, p.114.
  24. ^ Jaffrelot, C., 2004, A History of Pakistan and Its Origins, Anthem Press, p.205.
  25. ^ Jones, P.E., 2003, The Pakistan People's Party: Rise To Power, Oxford University Press, p.61.
  26. ^ Ahmed, S., 1977, Class and Power in a Punjabi Village, Monthly Review Press, p.p. 131-132.
  27. ^ Ahsan, A., 1996, The Indus Saga and the Making of Pakistan, Oxford University Press, p.88.
  28. ^ Hutton, J.H., 1969, Caste in India: Its Nature, Function and Origins, Oxford University Press, p.39.
  29. ^ a b Douie, J., 2003, The Panjab, North West Frontier Province and Kashmir, Asian Educational Services, p.105.
  30. ^ Rose, H.A., 1997, A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province, Nirmal Publishers and Distributors, p.25.
  31. ^ Journal of Phonetics, Volumes 7-8, 1979, Seminar Press, p.89.
  32. ^ Khan,R., 1999, The American Papers: Secret and Confidential India-Pakistan-Bangladesh Documents, 1965-1973, Oxford University Press, p.265.
  33. ^ Feldman, H., 1972, From Crisis to Crisis: Pakistan 1962-1969, Oxford University Press, p.57.
  34. ^ "City: Awan community grieved over Malik's demise. - PPI - Pakistan Press International | HighBeam Research - FREE trial". 2003-06-13. Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  35. ^ "My soldier brother who died for honour, by Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul's wife". Daily Mail (London). 31 January 2009. 
  36. ^
  37. ^ Puri, J.R. & Khak, K.S., 1998, Sultan Bahu, Radha Soami Satsang Beas, p.6.
  38. ^ Mazhar Iqbal. "Pakistan Film News July 2006". Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  39. ^ "Mohammad Akram | Pakistan Cricket | Cricket Players and Officials". ESPN Cricinfo. Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  40. ^ "Akhtar Ayub | Pakistan Cricket | Cricket Players and Officials". ESPN Cricinfo. Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  41. ^
  42. ^ 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