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Durrani (Pashto: دراني) or Abdali (Pashto: ابدالی) is the name of a chief Sarbani Pashtun tribal confederation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Originally known by their ancient name Abdali, which may derive from the more ancient Ebodalo (Bactrian: ηβοδαλο / "Hephthalites"), they have been called Durrani since the beginning of the Durrani Empire in 1747.[1] The number of Durranis are estimated to be roughly 16% of the population of Afghanistan or 5 million individuals.[2] Durrani are found throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan, although large concentrations are found in the South, they are also found to less extent in East, West and Central Afghanistan. Many Durranis are found in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces of Pakistan and in a lesser number in India, many of whom adopted Urdu as their language. The Durrani Pashtuns of the Afghan capital Kabul are usually bilingual in Pashto and Dari Persian. The ruling Sadozai and Barakzai dynasties of Afghanistan were originally from the Durrani.


Flag of the Abdali Afghan Tribes
Ahmad Shah Durrani established the Durrani Empire in 1747 and the name Durrani originates from that period.

They were known in the past as Abdalis, from approximately the 7th century until the mid-18th century when Ahmad Shah Durrani was chosen as the new Emir and the Durrani Empire was established. One of Ahmad Shah's first acts as Emir was to adopt the title padshah durr-i durran ('King, "pearl of the age").[3] He united the Pashtun tribes following a loya jirga in western Kandahar and changed his own name from Ahmad Shah Abdali to Ahmad Shah Durrani. Since that period, the kings of Afghanistan have been of Durrani extraction.

The origins of the Abdalis were most likely the Hephthalites.[4] However, the traditional tribal-mythical account of the Abdalis is traced to (Qais ul-Malik) Abdal Rashid (the first and supposed founder of the Pakhtun/Pukhtun race). Qais Abdur Rashid had three sons, one of them was Ibrahim [Sarabun] whose first son was Sharf ud-din [Sharakh-bun] and his eldest son was Tarin[disambiguation needed] (or Tareen) and Tarin's son was Malik Abdul and Abdul's son was Rajjal [Rajor] after Rajjal comes his son Isa, who produced a son Sulaiman (Zirak Khan) who was the ancestor of the Durranis. The Zirak line begins with Sulaiman (Zirak Khan). Zirak was father to Popalzai, Barakzai, and Alakozai.[5]

The Durranis were the most divided Pashtun tribe (مهمبن) during the rule of the Ghilji, with some having openly opposed them. The Durrani are the politically dominant Pashtun group in Afghanistan as the current President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, is of the Durrani sub-group known as the Popalzai and has close ties to the last king of Afghanistan, Zahir Shah, another member of the Durrani tribe Mohammadzai/Barakzai.

According to Hayat Khan's history of Afghanistan from their progenitor Bor Tarin/Tareen, otherwise known as Abdal, are descended their two main divisions the Zirak and the Panjpai. The term Abdal, however, gradually superseded that of Bor Tareen and came into special prominence when Ahmad Shah Abdali Sadozai/Popalzai commonly known as Durrani, began his career of conquest. The Achakzais are, in strictness, a branch of the Barakzai but Ahmad Shah, Durrani himself an Abdal/Bor Tarin/Tareen, fearing the growing numbers of the Barakzai, separated them from the parent stock, since which time their organization has remained distinct. It is still used, though sparingly, for the Achakzais, who have become localised in Toba and are regarded as a separate political unit from the rest of the Tarin/Tareens.

Durrani prince tomb in Kohat

Branches or subtribes[edit]

History of Afghanistan principal ruling families. The figure shows the splitting of the Zirak line into the Popalzai, Alokozai, Achakzai (Barech) (the Historical and famous area of Barech Tribes are Qilabes, LashgarGah and Showrawak) and Barakzai branches.

Sadozai Abdali tribe is the tribe Ahmad Shah Abdali was from. The Durrani Tareen tribe is divided into two branches Panjpai and Zirak. Durrani tribes of the Zirak branch include Popalzai, Alikozai, Barakzai, Badozai, and Achakzai.[citation needed]

The Panjpai branch are mainly found in the western Kandahar, Helmand and Farah area, and they include Alizai, Noorzai, Ishakzai or Sakzai, Khogyani(Khakwani), and Maku.

The literacy rate of the Durrani is the highest among all the Pashtun tribes and are also considered the most liberal of the Pashtun tribes. The Durranis continue to live close to other people of Afghanistan and culturally overlap in many ways with the Tajiks whom they often share more cultural and socio-economic traits in comparison to the more tribal Pashtuns such as the Ghilji, which is the other major Pashtun tribe.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, Durrani
  2. ^ Ethnologue 14 report for language code:PBU
  3. ^ The Afghans (2002) By Willem Vogelsang. Page 229.
  4. ^ http://www.diss.fu-berlin.de/diss/servlets/MCRFileNodeServlet/FUDISS_derivate_000000007165/01_Text.pdf?hosts=
  5. ^ Life of the Amîr Dost Mohammed Khan, of Kabul: with his political ..., by Mohan Lal, Volume 1. Page 1-3.

External links[edit]