Nimat Allah al-Harawi

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Ni'mat Allah al-Harawi[1] (fl. 1613–1630) was the compilator of a Persian language epic history of the Afghans while serving as a chronicler waqia-navis at the court of the Mughal Emperor Jehangir. Often referred to as Makhzan-i-Afghani.[2] Its translated copies appear as The History of the Afghans.

The original material for the book was provided by Haibat Khan of Samana, under whose patronage Nimatullah made the compilation c. 1612.[3] The original material was later published separately as Tarikh-i-Khan Jahani Makhzan-i-Afghani.[4] The first part of both books are the same, but the later part contains an additional history of Khan Jehan Lodhi.

The material is part fictional, part historical. The book is a major source of tradition relating to the origins of the Pashtun. It also covers Pashtun rulers in Bengal, contemporary events, and Pashtun hagiography. It plays a large part in various theories which have been offered about the possibility that the Pashtun people might be descended from the Israelites, through the Ten Lost Tribes.

Origin theories[edit]

The Bani-Israelite theory about the origin of the Pashtuns is based on Pashtun oral traditions; the tradition itself was documented in the Makhzan-i-Afghani, which is the only written source addressing Pashtun origins.

The Makhzan traces the Pashtuns' origins from the Patriarch Abraham down to a king named King Talut (Saul). Makhzan to this point agrees with testimony provided by Muslim sources or Hebrew Scriptures, showing King Saul around B.C. 1092 in Palestine.[citation needed]It is beyond this point that the description comes under serious doubt.

Makhzan-i-Afghani maintains that Saul had a son Irmia (Jeremia) who again had a son called Afghana raised by King David upon the death of King Saul and later promoted to the chief command of the Army during the reign of King Solomon.[5]

The description jumps to 6th century B.C. when Bakhtunnasar (Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon) attacked Judah and exiled Bani-Israel, the progeny of Afghana, to Ghor in present-day Afghanistan. This is contradictory, as Nebuchadnezzar attacked the Kingdom of Judah and Benjamin, not the kingdom of Israel of the Ten Tribes. The main ambiguity here is whether Makhzan-i-Afghani is failing to differentiate between the Kingdom of Judah and the Kingdom of Israel. This may have crept in because Makhzan might have copied the tale of Jewish captivity from Muslim sources and Muslim sources weren't well acquainted with Jewish history. Nebuchadnezzar brought Jews in captivity to Babylonia around B.C. 580 until Cyrus, the King of Persia, attacked Babylonia, freed the Jews, and allowed them to return to Jerusalem. So, Cyrus didn't send the Jews captives to Ghor but rather to Jerusalem.

However, Babylon did also conquer Assyria, where the Ten Tribes had been exiled to decades before.[6] After that, Babylon was conquered by Cyrus of Persia. So if Babylon achieved jurisdiction over them that way, that would credibly explain how they were exiled originally by Assyrians, yet the Pashtuns' story depicts them being ruled by Babylonians, and then by Cyrus of Persia.

The Assyrian king Shalmaneser is the one who raided the Kingdom of Israel in B.C. 721 and sent the ten tribes in exile to Media, the North-Western part of today's Iran. The Persian Empire didn't exist at the time of first Jewish captivity (B.C. 721) and was founded later by Cyrus in B.C. 550. The ten exiled tribes might have mingled with the local population of Media or dispersed over to Russia and Eastern Europe. So the Jewish captives from the Kingdom of Judah were eventually sent to Jerusalem. These contradictions cast some doubts on the Makhzan account of Jewish captivity and so undermines its authenticity.

Israelites from the Kingdom of Israel might have been sent separately to a different area. The Bnei Menashe of India also have traditions which trace their wanderings as going originally from the Persian Empire to present-day Afghanistan. In their case, they then went to China, where they encountered persecution, then pressed on to India and Southern Asia.

The Pashtun ancestry[edit]

According to Nimat Allah, Qais was the ancestor of most of the existing Pashtun tribes. He met Muhammad and embraced Islam, receiving the Muslim name of Abdur Rashid. He had three sons, Ghourghusht, Sarban and Bitan (Baitan). Karlan, the fourth legendary ancestor, is wrongly attributed as Qais's fourth son. In fact he was his grandson of Ghourghusht and the son of burhan

English translations[edit]

A translation appeared in 1836 by Bernhard Dorn which had two parts.[7] There is another partial translation from 1958, Roy Nirodbhusan, Niamatullah's History of the Afghans. A translation in two volumes by S. M. Imamuddin appeared in Dhaka, 1960–62.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Allah Ni'mat, Khawaja Nimatullah of Herat, Khwaja Niamatullah, Khwaja Nimat Allah Harawi, Khwaja Nimatullah Heravi, Khwajah Ni'mat Allah ibn Khwajah Habib Allah of Herat, Khwajah Nimat Ullah Harawi, Naimatulla, Naimatullah, Ne´mat-Allâh Heravî, Neamat-Allah Heravi, Neamet Ullah, Nematullah Harvi, Ni'matullah, Niamat Ullah, Niamatullah, Niamatullah Heravi, Niamatullah Hirvi, Nimat Allaah, Nimatullah, Ni'matullah al-Harawi.
  2. ^ Maghzan means storehouse.
  3. ^ B. Dorn, History of the Afghans, translation of Makhzan-e Afghani, pp ix.
  4. ^ C. Stewart, A Descriptive catalogue of the oriental library of late Tipoo Sultan of Mysore, pp 18
  5. ^ Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. Edited by James Hastings, Volume 1, James Hastings, John Alexander Selbie - 2001 - 343 pages - Page 159.
  6. ^ Assyria entry, history website.
  7. ^ Oriental Translation Fund, London