Khushal Khan Khatak


A.H. Habibi



Khushal Khan Khatak is considered to be the most prolific writer of the Pashto language and is known as the father of Pashto poetry. He was born in 1613 and lived to the age of seventy six. His life coincided with the last  years of untrammeled rule of the Mughal empire in India.

Khushal was born in the village of Sarai to which his great-grandfather, Malik Akhorai, had moved from the south. Sarai lies west of the confluence of the Kabul (Landai) and Indus rivers. At the age of six Khushal narrowly escaped drowning in the Landai and two years later received a severe head injury. Thus it seems that his risky adventures began at an early age when more than once he narrowly escaped death. He first followed his father, Shahbaz Khan, into battle at the age of thirteen and saw his Khatak tribe defeated by the Yusufzai tribesmen. In his lifetime Khushal would encounter the Yusufzai in battle several more times.

He was first married at the age of eighteen. Several more marriages followed and he had a number of concubines to boast about. He fathered more than sixty sons and at least thirty daughters, a large number of whom died while they were young. Several of his children were worthy successors to him in the literary field.

It seems that Khushal’s literary career started when he was twenty years old as he says:

        I am older than twenty years in age,

        Love’s affliction will wane me in a short time.

Before Khushal we have at our disposal some poetic works by Pashtun poets but he was the first person to leave behind a voluminous divan. His poems contain nearly forty thousand couplets, therefore he can be considered as the founder of modern poetry of the Pashto language. His verse harbors the true configuration of Pashto prosody and conveys deep social feelings and attachment to his homeland.

As the eldest son, Khushal, became the chief of his tribe and this status was confirmed by emperor Shah Jahan, the builder of Taj Mahal, for whom he had great respect and served him loyally. Shah Jahan was incapacitated in 1657 and succeeded by his third son Aurangzeb. A few years later relations between Khushal and the Delhi throne soured and he was arrested and sent to Delhi in chains in 1664. He was not allowed to return home until 1669.

Khushal was a voluminous author and has composed a large number of books, the most famous of which is his divan[1] dealing with diverse subjects such as love, medicine, ethics, philosophy, religious jurisprudence,  patriotism, epics, social issues, family history, and falconry. His poems evince a spirit of patriotism, love of home and country, and at times bitterness toward his enemies including his own son, Bahram.

Khushal was a man of extraordinary vigor of mind and there is no subject in his poems which he has not dealt with. His style was free and at times he openly boasted about his sexual prowess. In his poems there are simple and charming expressions of nature, vivid descriptions of his homeland, and most poignant of all are his reflections toward beauty in all forms, whether it be mountains, flowers, birds or women whose pulchritude, coquetry and betrayal he describes with exceptional versatility.

Beside his mastery of the Pashto language Khushal was also a true master of rhyme. As expected from an outstanding and dynamic personalty like him he branched in many different directions and expressed in verse whatever mood or passion instigated him at the time without reservations. His love-poems are full of passion toward women in the recesses of his native mountains, verdant valleys and flowering meadows. The similes in the poems reflect the wild imagination of the poet molded in verse and shows his mastery of assimilation such as the comparison of the slender figure of his mistress to a cypress, her face to a tulip with red and white hue, her locks to a hyacinth and the fragrance of her body to that of a rose. The pain and lamentation of the lover is compared to the separation of the wounded heron strayed from the flock or the devoutness of the moth to the burning candle light from which it has no escape.

Khushal’s love-poems are distinct expression of his feelings and devotion toward women that does not contain any mystical sentiments. In such poems expressions of human love and passion are inextricably mingled with those of devotion to Divine love.


Who was Khushal Khan?

Khushal Khan was the son of Shahbaz Khan, son of Yahya Khan, son of Malik Akhorai, son of Darwesh Mohammad (famous by the sorbiquet Chendzo), son of Taman (Uthman), son of Hasan, son of Shaikh Ali, son of Atta (Huti), son of Pati, son of Atho, son of Bargoyat, son of Teri, son of Tuman, son of Luqman (famous as Khatak), son of Burhan, son of Kati, son of Karrlan. According to the Khatak tribesmen, Karrlan’s father was named Huni who is related to the Sarrban lineage. Some historians consider him to be the son of Abdullah Awrmurrh.[2]

Among the Karrlan people Khushal is a true Pashtun who was the chief of the Khatak tribe. He inherited this title from his father and grand father. His fifth ancestor, Malik Chendzo, was famous for his drive for Pashtun nationalism during the reign of the Mughal emperor Akbar (1556-1605 AD). His son, Malik Akorrey, was also a famous Pashtun who was considered by emperor Akbar and the Mughal empire as chief of the Pashtuns in the area. The protection of the Kabul road was his responsibility. He built Sarai, also known as Akorrah. His son, Yahya Khan, and later his grandson, Shahbaz Khan, were famous Pashtun chiefs during the period of king Shah Jahan. He was a famous chief,[3] who was under the tutelage of the Mughals and was considered to be a prominent Pashtun leader.



Khushal Khan was born when his father, Shahbaz Khan, was 22 years old during the reign of Jahangir (1605-1627) in Akorrah in the month of May in the year 1613. Later he became a valiant and well-known Pashtun chief. He fostered Pashtun nationalism and Pashto literature in this world.


Khushal Khan, the National Leader

In 1640 Khushal’s father, Shahbaz Khan, was injured in a battle with the Yusufzai and died on 13th January.[4] At the time of his father’s death Khushal Khan had three younger brothers, Jamil Beg, Shamshir Khan and Mirbaz Khan. Due to his seniority he was chosen by the entire tribe as their leader. The Mughal king, Shah Jahan, also accepted him as chief of the Khatak tribe and a decree proclaiming him as the leader was issued from Delhi.[5] Shah Jahan respected him and he had a great deal of influence in the Mughal court.[6]

When no one was able to capture the Taragaah citadel, during the battle of Ajmir, the valiant Khushal  managed to subdue it. In Lahore he received a prize of 400,000 rupees from Shah Jahan and in addition he was given land worth 250,000 rupees.[7]

Even though Khushal was under the influence of the Mughal court and considered it his duty to obey the Mughal king, he had ample freedom to govern his tribe and was against the serfdom of his people under the Mughals. On the other hand Shah Jahan considered peace with the Pashtuns an asset and did not attempt to interfere in their internal independence. Khushal says:

        He was the king of the time

        The respected Shah Jahan.

        He bestowed on me my father’s title,

        And I became my tribe’s chief.

        Was it by force or benevolence

        It was not my wish.

        The whole thirty thousand Khatak nation

        Is now under my command.

        During my time as chief

        They all became a great tribe.

Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son, Aurengzeb, who killed or subjugated his brothers and declared himself the king in 1658. Aurengzeb started to eliminate all the courtiers of his father’s kingdom. Khushal was also considered by the king to be a supporter of his father. Aurengzeb feared that Khushal will attempt to free his father from prison. Hence he wanted to crush the Pashtuns and get rid of Khushal.

Buy nature Pashtun’s prefer their independence and do not want to be subservient to others and love freedom. In particular Khushal who was an honest Pashtun chief. Since Aurengzeb was unable to defeat him by force he resorted to deceit and through flattery invited Khushal to his court. On the other hand, by means of bribery and false promises, he deceived Khushal’s relatives so they may send him to the Delhi court. Even though Khushal was a shrewd politician, he was fooled by the king’s promise and insistence by his relatives, and went to Peshawar alone without his guards. Under the orders of the Mughal court the governor of Peshawar arrested him and sent him to Delhi with an armed escort. Khushal arrived in Delhi   in toward the end of March in the year 1662.

This famous poet of the Pashtuns stayed in prison for four years even though his tribe wanted to free him by force but he restrained them from doing so and prevented them from engaging in battle with the Mughal soldiers.

Khushal talks about his years in prison in his poetic rendering, The Prison Ballad, in 220 verses, In it he forcefully laments abut his separation from his native land.

        I remember my dear friends all the time

        Shedding tears when I see them in my dreams.

Khushal was in prison in Delhi and Rantambor for a period of four years. Later he was released but had to present himself to the court every day and he was not allowed to visit his homeland. During this time he complains about his fate (30 December 1666).

        Every day I must visit the court

        See what humiliation I have to endure.

        These orders become a burden

        To the one who himself issued orders.

        Oh how I miss my beloved friends,

        Whose company I long for endlessly.

Finally with the help of his friends Khushal managed to free himself in Agra and returned home. His followers gathered around him and he fought several battles with the Mughal forces and once again raised the cause of Pashtun nationalism. He led the Pashtuns to proclaim their independence against the Mughals. However, bribes from the Mughal court and the discord among his sons and relatives did not allow him to achieve his goal. He writes:

        I am a subject of Aurengzeb

        In this vast mountainous country

        Fighting for the Pashtun pride

        Who have become vassals of the Mughals.

The Mughal court spent a great fortune to divide the Pashtuns to make sure that Khushal did not succeed in his aspiration for freedom. They encouraged his sons to rise against him. Khushal  wanted them to maintain the Pashtun pride, but as a result of bribery by the Mughal court, they did not follow their father and were engaged in revelry. It is for this reason that he complains about them in his poems:

        My sons changed the Khatak values

        Turning them to ashes.

        When it was time to gain my pride

        My unruly sons ruined my fortunes.

At the time when the Mughal forces were intent to capture him again he traveled wide and far to raise the people against them. In the end Aurengzeb was forced to face him personally:

        Aurengzeb came to Lahore with vengeance in his heart

        Let us see who will he destroy and who will rejoice.

For nearly two years Khushal valiantly fought against the Mughal empire and Aurengzeb stayed by the bank of the Indus river near Attock.

        It has been a year since Aurengzeb came here

        Bewildered and frustrated he remains in this land.

In the end when the Mughal emperor realized he could not defeat the Pashtuns by force he resorted to bribery and thus managed to persuade Khushal’s sons and relatives to rise against him.

        It is the wealth of Hindustan that has poured in,

        The vivid gold spread in this mountainous land.

Khushal incessantly complains about his sons and relatives and blames them for helping the Mughals in their victories.

        It is not the arrows or the flint locks of the enemy

        But my own kin who are up against me.

Khushal’s life is rife with hardships. During the time when no one else had the courage to stand against the Mughal empire, a time when Aurengzeb’s orders were carried out from the Oxus river to the Indian Ocean. The greed of the Mughals to become a dominant power of the world resulted in the elimination of Pashtun independence. They did not want this brave nation to live freely in their mountainous land so they promised Khan’s son, Bahram, the title of chief so he may arrest his father.

 When Khushal turned into a silver-haired man he appointed his elder son, Ashraf Khan, known by his literary title Hijri, as chief of the tribe. But Bahram arrested his brother Ashraf and handed him over to the Mughals in 1630. He was imprisoned in Bejapur for 10 years where he eventually died.[8]

With the aid of the Mughal soldiers Bahram tried to arrest his father. Even though Khushal was 76 years old Bahram was unable to detain him and Khushal went to the domain of the Afridi tribe.[9] Retiring from warfare he spent the end of his life dedicated to writing poetry and spent the last days of his life serving the Pashtun nation with his penmanship.

        After imprisonment I dedicate

        My life to a noble cause.

        Toward Mecca I pray

        And watch the Mughals decay.

        In a corner of the mountain

        My message to God convey.


Khushal Khan the Scholar

Khushal studied the sciences of his time at a young age. From his poetry it is clear he studied Islamic subjects such as logic, philosophy, literature and the art of poetry such as interpretation, expression and prosody and he was a prominent literary figure. Khushal was a Sunni Moslem and followed the Hanafi faith. He says:

        There are four faiths to follow

        I am a follower of the Hanafi faith.

In every aspect of his life Khushal was a follower of Islamic jurisprudence and was against superstitions which had penetrated religion. He often spoke against such beliefs.

        Whatever Sharia tells us we should follow

        And not the people’s superstitions.

Beside this Khan was well-versed in sufism and spirituality which will be discussed later.


Poet and Literary Figure

Pashto poetry before Khushal Khan:

At the time when Khushal started serving his mother tongue Pashto literature was limited.

The history of Pashto literature has three branches:

1. The first period starts from the beginning to the 15th century. This was a time when the Mughals and the Safavi family in Iran were the supreme rulers in the Middle East. Before this Pashto poetry had a natural flavor and did not show any artificial tendencies. It was composed of natural ballads which the people recited, such as songs sung for the Atan dance, Landie (two lined folk poetry) and folklore, which exist to this day. This was the mainstream literature of the time.

2. The second period starts from the time of the Mughal king Babur until the end of the Ludhi rulers, the Pashtun kings of India from 1524 to the end of the 16th century. During this period Pashto poetry is semi-artificial, which means it is neither natural nor under the influence of poetic prosody and rhyming. There are a number of literary figures associated to this era such as Akhund Darweza from Nangarhar, Shaikh Mali Yusufzai, Akhund Qasem, Mullah Alif Hotak, Karimdad, and Bayazid (Pir-e Roshan). Their poetry is neither metric nor has a natural flavor.

3. The third period is composed of poems with total prosody and artificial flavor. During this period Pashto poets started writing in meters and rhyme. Three and a half centuries have passed from this period. This is the time when Pashto poetry took its prosodic form. Other poets such as Mirza Khan Ansari, Arzani, Dawlat, Wasil and Qalandar preceded Khushal during this period. He mentions them in his poems:

        I ripped through Mirza’s collection of poems

        And made fun of Arzani’s style of poetry.


Khushal Khan the Establisher of Literary School

Even though there were other poets who wrote prosodic poetry but the service which Khushal has provided to the Pashto language is unprecedented. The amount of poetry he has written is unsurpassed by any other Pashtun poet. He has written over 40,000 verses. The transformation which he has brought to Pashto literature is immense and because of that he can be called father of the language. All those literary figures who came after him have followed his teachings. There are a number of his progeny who were prominent literary figures. They will be mentioned later.

Poetry is a part of human civilization just as the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, considers literature to be a parcel of human temperament and feelings. Pashto literature is based on the same premise, in particular Khushal’s poetry and his literary works, which is based on the environment and the surroundings he lived in. He is an interpreter and voice of nature which he expresses with utmost clarity.

Khushal was capable of writing poetry on any subject. He has written love, social, philosophical, national, moral and epic poetry. Khushal is a moralist and realist in his description of human feelings and Pashtun nationalism. No one can match his literary prowess and absolute courage in writing poetry. His idealism is also at a level that no other poet has been able to match.

All those literary figures of the Pashto language who were born after him have followed his literary school. He is a master of the literary style he established and it is for this reason we can say he is the most prolific poet of the Pashtun nation. He states:

        It is I, Khushal, who started the new trend in Pashto

        Which has embellished it with great detail.


Equilibrium and Comparison

Even though Pashto poetry has common properties with Persian and Arabic poetry but since  environment and a nation’s mode of thinking and undertakings have an impact on an individual’s style of writing we see a strong influence of Pashtun nationalism in Khushal’s writing. He was a Pashtun thinker. His thinking did not follow the typical literary pattern but he created his own subject which is clear from his literary work.

Love is a subject which reveals the inner sentiments of the writer and one’s national feelings are reflected in poetry. Since literature is a mirror of human spirit we can see in it an abundance of nationalistic feelings.

In temperament Pashtuns have a great deal of pride and a Pashtun will not engage in any kind of misdeed which will hurt his national pride.

In poetry of the non-Arabs, Shebli Nemani, writes that in relation to Persian poetry the Arab poet maintains his dignity. Even though the lover is obsessed with his beloved and seeks her closeness but he does not act like a beggar. Despite being intrepid, he does not act like a slave, and is ready to face the hardship of love without showing any weakness.

For example an Arab poet address his beloved in these words:

        Do not think I am a reverent and nor will imprisonment break my will.[10]

In another instance the lover addresses his beloved by showing the valiance of his tribe.

        Come over when darkness has set in but be careful our guardians are like lions.[11]

However in Persian literature the lover humiliates himself to a level where he even calls himself a dog:

        You had gone hunting when I came over to your place

        Without a dog of what use was your hunting trip?

Hafez writes:

        I heard you are putting collars on dogs

        Why don’t you put a rope around Hafez’s neck too.

Even though Pashto poetry has come under the influence of Persian poetry and poets have alluded to such thoughts but the aspirations of Pashtun nationalism can be seen in their work. A Pashtun in love never humiliates himself and always maintains his pride.

We see the spirit of Pashtun nationalism in Khushal’s poetry. See how he maintains his dignity in the following couplet:

        Consider it the throes of death when the Mughal army arrives

        Isn’t it a disgrace you are not bothered by Khushal’s death.

Intrepidness and bravery are features in his love poems and under no circumstances does he accepts humiliation.

        Either I will bloody my head wholeheartedly

        Or kiss your sweet lips tender.


        You, who is with royal wealth endowed

        Still ask for a kiss from Khushal Khatak.


        No one is as infamous in this world as I am

        But with my sword withdrawn I go to see my love.

Pashtuns are bold and open in their love affairs and engage in a love affair with their swords withdrawn yet they want to keep their affair secret.

        I pass by you in the crowd

        So one one will suspect our affair.

In Persian poetry, due to fear of others, the lover does not directly ask about his beloved’s condition.

        In every gathering I ask the wise about

        The whereabouts of my unkind beloved.

However, in the world of Pashtun nationalism, such secrecy does not exist and the lover openly talks about his beloved. Khushal says:

        I, Khushal, am not weak or afraid to proclaim

        That she openly presented me her sweet lips.

The bond of Khushal’s love is strong:

        Even though I may lose my head

        Khushal’s bond of love will remain strong.

In summary we can say that in Khushal’s poetry the spirit of Pashtun national feelings is strong.

        Even though I may die of thirst in my endeavor

        I shall not drink from the river of paradise.

The pangs of Pashtun feelings are evident in his poems. His poems have an idealistic and materialistic flavor. He is aware about diction and fluency of poetry and knows how to express himself eloquently.


Creativity and Craftiness

Beside other strong points Khushal’s poetic work is ripe with different forms of renderings such as odes, stories, couplet-poems, quatrains, piece-meals, imagination, strophe-poem, and valor. In Pashto poetry four to ten verse poetry is his innovation.

There is ample creativity in his poems in which he expresses the art of rhyming. In the following couplets he expresses his mastery of comparison.

        It is good you stay away from me without austerity

        Since you pollute whoever you approach.

        You rejoice while I live in sadness

        You may laugh while I shall cry.

        Like unification there is also separation from friends

        Which makes Khushal happy and sad at times.

In the following couplets he expresses his mastery of pun.

        Your two eyes are like two demons

        Your two eyebrows are like deadly arrows.

        It is the power of your captivating eyes

        Which no army can withstand in any battle.

        When in my bed will lie that voluptuous beauty

        Which I do not even dream about in eternity.

In his poems he also resorts to the mixing of languages. In some places he has used Pashto, Persian and Urdu words simultaneously. He shows his mastery of tenuous imagination, discusses novel ideas, and innovation is a prime exponent in his poetry. In the world of love intense feelings are abundant. Khushal eloquently expresses himself in this couplet:

        Even the washers of dead bodies are rejoicing

        While the lover, in happiness, just cries.

There is ample conflict of interest in this piece. In the world of love death abounds which results in the joy of the washers of dead bodies which means more work for them. Even though there is expression of miscarriage in a part of the poem but its meaning is clear and evident. Such power of expression and eloquence is a significant trait of his work as shown in this quatrain: 

        When you at the mirror glance

        Revealing its beauty in a trance,

        Water turns into pomegranate juice

        As your lips touch the goblet perchance.


The Champion of Thought

Poets and writers resonate idealism in their thoughts. That which a poet can perceive others are not able to comprehend. While others take pleasure from the blooming of spring flowers a poet takes a lesson from this turn of events and wonders whose body was converted into the soil in which the flowers grow. Abu-al-Alla, the famous Arab philosopher (1057) says: 

                Tread softly on the ground since it is composed from the bodies of our ancestors. 

There is unity of thought among poets. Omar Khayyam has expressed this thoughts very well: 

                Every blade of grass that grows along the stream

                Is linked to the angel in heaven. 

                Do not tread on the grass with impunity

                Since it takes its nourishment from the tulip. 

Sa’adi says that one day he stepped on the ground and heard: 

        Avoid treading so blatantly on the ground

        For there are eyes, ears and heads hidden underneath. 

Ghalib Dehlawi, the famous literary figure of India, states: 

        What creatures are hidden beneath the ground

        From which the tulips and flowers have risen. 

Khushal’s son, Abdul Qader Khan, conveys this subject in these words: 

        Tread slowly on the sacred ground

        Since beautiful creatures lie beneath it. 

Khushal is a resourceful thinker. He expresses this thought in a most profound way:

        What beautiful creatures lie beneath this soil

        Which has turned my grave into a garden of Eden. 

 Khushal conveys his thought in a way which does not have any precedence. Khushal was not only a champion of the battlefield but also a torchbearer of thought and literature. 


Khushal Khan the Critic

Criticism is an important aspect of literature and beneficial to its expansion and development. Wise men say that writers and poets instill society with their thoughts. It is their work which results in the advancement of society. As a result of this criticism plays an important role in the advancement of literature and society. Khushal was a prolific critic. He is especially critical of certain Pashtun customs and weaknesses. He writes:

        My tongue is like fire and the bullet of a rifle.

Khushal was not only a brave warrior but his criticism is as sharp as his sword.

        Praise be to your style of writing

        Which matches the might of the sword.

He laments about the past might of the Pashtuns who were mighty kings in Asia. He remembers them wistfully and tries to enlighten the nation once again.

        Sher Shah was not like one of us

        Wretched dwellers of the mountains.


        Of what use is the Pashtun pride

        They might as well live in a graveyard.

        Who shall I complain to and write about

        A people who are dysfunctional and silent.

He remains critical of his nation throughout his writing.


Moral Khushal Khan

Scholars have expressed different views about morality. In the oldest books written by humans such as the Rig Veda in India, Avesta of Zoroastrianism, the Old Testament, and the works of Confucius of China and Buddha morals and morality have been dealt with extensively.

Morality is an integral part of philosophy and in simple language we can say that morality is how a person acts and lives. Human behavior is under the influence of several factors such as the environment, hereditary, nurturing, and traditions. All these factors have an impact on the way we behave. Hence we can say that morals form the basic principle of our livelihood.[12]

Khushal’s Philosophy on Nurturing and Morality

Khushal Khan considers a person’s temperament and background paramount to his livelihood. He says that a man can have high or low morals and is in need of elevating his temperament.

        The person who looks like an angel is also a demon

        If one is to look closely at his natural instincts.

        We know that the evil is doomed to hell

        While the pious has his place in heaven.

The above two couplets shows aspects of a person’s character. Khushal expresses his nurturing philosophy as such:

        If you seek nurturing from a gardener

        You will see flowers in every corner of the garden.

        If you engage with a learned person

        You will come to know his skill and deeds.

        In the company of  learned people

        You will know who the dignified are.

        In the company of Mughals you shall be like them

        While  in the company of an Afghan you’ll be an Afghan.

        In the company of Khushal for a few years

        All the Khataks in the mountains will become poets.

Khushal says if one receives a devious training then it will be difficult to get rid of such a trait.

        Others will learn bad habits from an evil person

        As excuses will not change a person’s character.

In this respect Khushal’s thinking is similar to today’s scholars of education but he has specific thoughts on temperament and expresses his opinion in a lucid way:

        If in essence you weave a black blanket

        Turning it white is an impossibility.


        Even if you eat it with honey

        The bitter apple will remain bitter.


        If a parrot starts thinking like a crow

        Never will it be able to learn to talk.

These thoughts are similar to those of contemporary scholars such as Willian James and among the learned men of the East the great Persian poet and philosopher, Sa’adi, has a similar philosophy. Such philosophy has also been expounded in the Holy Quran of which Khushal is an ardent follower. Khushal  is also a keen follower of the teachings of prophet Mohammad with regard to education and morality. Based on the teachings of Islam and the Holy Quran he expresses heavenly blessings in the following words:

        When ignorance and injustice prevail even the counts know

        That the flesh cannot be turned into a bone.

Khushal was keen in distinguishing right from the wrong. It is for this reason that in his poems he condemns bad deeds and favors good behavior.


Khushal Khan the Philosopher

From the very beginning philosophy has been imbued in poetry. Philosophical thoughts can be found in poems of all nations. Philosophy reveals to us those features which are linked to thought and our senses.[13] The essence of philosophy is to understand the realities of living organisms resulting in the understanding of knowledge.[14] Since poetry mirrors natural features and is a voice of our temperament and conscience we can say that poetry and philosophy intermingle.

A large number of eastern poets have expressed philosophical thoughts. Sa’adi, Hafez, Beidel, Omar Khayam and Ibn Yamin are some of the prominent Persian poets whose works are filled with philosophical thoughts. The Omawi and Abbasi Arab poets have also admixed philosophy in their poetic works such as Abu-al-A’la, Ahzal, Bashara and others. In the expression of philosophical thought Pashto poetry is similar to Persian and Arabic poetry. Here we will discuss some of the philosophical thoughts of Khushal Khan.


Spiritual Philosophy

Khushal is of the belief that, beside human values, there are spiritual values in philosophy too. It is possible that a person will not live in this pretentious world and will clear his consciousness and resort to spirituality. Pretentiousness is based on delight which is also sought by animals. Humans are different from animals and think differently. Khushal is a proponent of this philosophy and states:

        A human’s value is well known to all

        Without sugar the cane tastes just like straw.

He says that all the pleasures of the world are finite and it is useless to crave for perishable things therefore it is necessary that humans pursue spirituality.

        Aurungzeb who craves the court and crown

        This wish will eventually bring him down.

        He will leave behind an ignoble name

        And will gain neither piety nor fame.



The end result of knowledge is astonishment. Socrates became knowledgable when he realized his ignorance. Great philosophers in the end have realized their ignorance. Toward the end of his life, Imam Fakhruddin Razi, says: “In the end I perceived a world of nothing.” Boali Seena states:

         My heart searched a lot in this wilderness

        For that which does not exist,

        Even though my heart became enlightened

        It was unable to seek the secret of the atom.

Khushal was a learned and thoughtful Pashtun and does not consider mere thought to be the solution to all problems. In defiance to rationalists he defines his philosophy as such:

        Do not be ignorant and attempt the impossible

        It is hard to climb a vertical wall.

        Wisdom will look weak and wretched

        When left to its own decline.

Despite his wealth of knowledge and philosophical thoughts he thinks he understands nothing and is lost in astonishment. He says:

        As I look at the creatures of this world

        In a state of astonishment I submerge.

        My senses becomes blurred behind

        A vague curtain of the universe.

        Even the Prophet has not sought the secret

        Of the vastness of this universe.

Astonishment is the culmination of philosophy. From Socrates to Ibn-e Seena all philosophers have reached this conclusion. Khushal has also expressed himself in this regard and says:

        I am bewildered who I am and what I shall become

        From where did I come and where shall I go?

        The world is like a bowl and I am like and ant in it

        Struggling to get out of these slippery walls.

Going one step further, Khushal, in his philosophical state of mind, describes the realities of the world as follows:

        People are engaged in a child’s game in this world

        Which I also tend to willfully join.


The Philosophy of Life

 Khushal’s philosophy on life is deeply intricate even though he is not a student of western philosophy but had acquainted himself with the works of Greek, European and Arab philosophers in the valleys and dales of his homeland. Here we will describe some aspects of his philosophy on life so you may bear witness that he indeed was a great philosopher. In short his philosophy is based on Islamic teachings which has a strong influence in society.

        People are immersed in the river of grief though,

        Sometimes they rise their head from this sorrow.

This is the thought in which happiness is considered to be a parcel of fear. Happy people are like drowned ones who from time to time raise their heads from sorrow. In another instance he says:


        What I sought in this world I could not find

        Perhaps I will find happiness in another world.

        Not a single hour is spent without sorrow

        Perhaps man was born to bear grief.

He further adds:

        Oh bewildered human kind

        Enveloped in sadness of this earth.

        For a brief moment you may laugh

        Followed by grief the rest of the time.

Khushal considers sorrow to be attached to his life and is hence a follower of pessimism. He further states that gloom is a necessity of life. He believes if there is no gloom then jubilation will also not exist. It is from bitterness that we experience the value of sweetness.

        In the orchard people eat fruit

        Each one with its peculiar taste

        Bitterness is also a necessity in this world

        From which we experience the value of sweetness.

Such is the manifestation of his philosophy on doom and pessimism. Despite this he believes in the active role of life and considers the material world a part and parcel of his struggle for life. Despite facing immense difficulties in life he did not give up in his struggle to have a resourceful life and constantly fights despondency. This couplet reveals his struggle for life:

        All the grief and sorrow of this world I shall bear

        I am thankful for having such immense capacity.

 Khushal considers sorrow like a mountain which can neither be moved nor impacted by anything.

        There may be insurmountable odds to bear

        Like a mountain I face them without fear.

Poetry reflects the inner feelings of the poet which has been keenly expressed in the above couplet. In short we can say that Khushal’s philosophy of life was based on pain and sorrow and he was not a proponent of war and conflict but he professed a peaceful and expansive philosophy.


Mystic Khushal

Pashto literature started with Sufism. Its initial expansion and literary rise began during the reign   of the Mughal king, Akbar. At this time Sufism was prevalent in India and Iran. Among the Pashtuns of Nangarhar and Attock lived a person by the name of Bayazid bin Abdullah, who was originally from Kandahar, but had moved to Karri Kuram. Later he was known as Pir-e Roshan who had a large number of followers. He fought several battles with the superintendent of King Akbar. He is the author of a book entitled Khair-al-Bayan, which is based on Sufism.[15] Pir-e Roshan travelled to India, Iran and Turkestan and his  thoughts are inclined toward the inner philosophy of existence. His rival, Akhund Darweza, states that he wrote poetry in Pashto, Persian and Hindi languages in which he has expressed his thoughts.[16] Pir-e Roshan added radical and philosophical thought to Pashto literature. In his opposition, Akhund Darweza wrote Makhzan-al-Islam, Irshad-al-Talebain, and Tazkerat-al-Ibrar. Pir-e Roshan’s students also added mysticism to Pashto literature. Mirza Ansari, who was a Yusufzai, wrote a book of poetry on mysticism.[17] After this mysticism became a part of Pashto poetry and most of the poets of the language have written something about this subject such as Abdul Rahman, Hamid Mashokhel, Abdul Azim and Arzani.


Khushal Khan’s Mysticism

Khushal recited abundant poems in mystic thought. His mysticism is Islamic in nature although sometimes he engages in deep philosophical thoughts but refrains from engaging in extravagance. He is the follower of Tariqat  (the way of life) of Shaikh Rahamkar and his mysticism seems to emanate from this branch of philosophy. In the first poem of his divan, Khushal Khan relates to the mysteries of a human body and later talks about the philosophy of wisdom and says:

        If we are to look at every hair on the body

        It will tell us the secret of our life.

        Consider it the work of God’s creation

        He who is triumphant in life’s strife.

In the world of cognition, beside recognizing external senses, he believes in the soul which he considers to be cognizant and by means of which truth can be recognized.

        Knowledgable people may cover their eyes

        But will recognize the world through their hearts.

This world is an arena of spectators and knowledge emanates from every direction.

        Spring’s flowers have blossomed in every direction

        Enjoy it as this show will not last for long.

Khushal expresses the power of the creator by watching the aura of creation and he reasons:

        If you have the sight of a mystic

        The beauty of flowers you will appreciate.

        Who has given such color and smell to the flower?

        And made the tulip petals so red?

Natural beauty bewilder people and in the end one wonders about the power of wisdom.

        To the dark soil it has given such beauty

        I wonder at the power of the Creator.

Beside recognizing material power, Khushal also believes in spiritual power and conveys his thoughts in these words:

        With material power you will not break the rock

        It can only be done with the power of the spirit.

Khushal’s mysticism is clearly evident in these couplets:


        Come open your eyes

        See the beauty of the world,

        Studded with stars is the night sky

        See the beauty of the sky,

        Among the garden’s flowers

        See a myriad of beauty,

        To every flower that you look at

        See the beauty of the Creator.



Immersed in his deep thoughts a mystic finally reaches the stage where in the entire universe he does not see anything but singularity. This is a state in which mystics get lost. Khushal is also among these mystics and when he sees true beauty he says:                                                                                                                          If it is a mosque or a temple of fame

        It’s purpose is the same.

        Both are made so one can find,

        The heart’s contentment of some kind.

                I am looking  for that place

                Where birds have found their grace;

                Khushal is happy and feels fine

                When he is blessed by power divine.                                              

There is controversy among philosophers, some follow one path while others take a different path. Khushal considers this controversy a result of ignorance and says:

        In ignorance people listen to gossip

        Praise the wise men who know the truth.

        There are seventy two beliefs, plus a few more

        Each one believing his own teachings.

        Follow the light in every nook and corner

        The light which enlightens every city and village.

In these lines Khushal has solved the mystery of 72 beliefs which Hafez Sherazi struggled to solve but was unable to do so. Sherazi says:

        The war of seventy two beliefs has bewildered everyone

        Unable to find the truth they resorted to myth.

Khushal has been able to explain the truth when he says follow the light. He expresses the end result of knowledge as such:

        He spreads enlightenment all around,

        Looking in every direction I see Him.



Philosophers believe that in order to pursue mortality one has to go through a very difficult path full of obstructions or else they will not be able to reach unity. On this subject Khushal says:

        If you seek mortality all the time

        You will always be in conflict with your soul.

Khushal does not accept unity unless one believes in the singularity of God.

        You may not boast of unity again

        Unless you refrain from evil thoughts..

In another instance he describes this adventure as such:

        If you were to lose your existence in the world of love Khushal

        Then you can boast your existence is due to Him.


Life and Death

People look at death with fear but philosophers have a different perspective of death. They consider death as an extension of life and they say that a person’s soul is instilled with holiness. When a person dies the soul descends to its epicenter. In his collection of couplets the mystic, Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi, begins his voluminous work of poetry with these words:

        Listen to the reed complaining about life

        Of separation and its undue strife.

        From my friends separated am I

        My lamentation no one will belie.

Like true philosophers Khushal sees death as a passing drop and says:

        With dignity I came and with dignity I go

        Like a detached droplet rolling on its own given path.


Love and Relationship

Love and relationship is a part of mysticism. To a mystic the world is a reflection of beauty of this world and when the mystic ponders he sees the beauty of nature all around. Khushal says:

        Your heart will agree with all faiths that exist

        When you, Khushal, will recognize the power of love.

Beside his philosophical thinking Khushal also has a social perspective in life. He regrets discord among people and says:

        Look at these different veins of faith

        Which has separated mankind so willfully.

Khushal is a strong supporter of morality and he has embedded consent, contentment, patience, humility, mysticism, seclusion, service to others, happiness, and silence in his poetic work.



Khushal Khan the Pashtun

Every nation has its own characteristics, its morality and beliefs are different from others. It is these traits through which a nation is recognized. The Pashtuns are a pureblooded nation and is alive due to its national characteristics. The national characteristics of the Pashtuns are known as Pashtunwala (the way of the Pashtun) which has its peculiar characteristics and laws among the Pashtuns. It is an ancient social system under which the Pashtuns have lived throughout history. Khushal was a Pashtun poet and hence is poetic work is full of Pashtun nationalism. Here we will mention some of these characteristics which he describes in his writings.

1. A Pashtun does not express undue pride unless someone tramples on his rights and will not accept aggression by others. Khushal describes this notion as follows:

        Strike him with the blow of the sword

        Even that who will attack you with a pole.

2. Steadfastness during difficult times is a trait of the Pashtun. A Pashtun will lose his life but will not leave the battlefield in cowardice. Khushal is a champion of the battlefield and he struggled to maintain his dignity all his life. He says:

        The brave person will accept two things in this world

        Either he will lose his life or be victorious.

He has so much confidence in himself that he is ready to face any kind of difficulty.

        Bravery is not based on the number of troops

        But on the individual soldier’s brave deeds.

To achieve his goal he is willing to make any kind of sacrifice.

        The ideal is to achieve your intention

        Even if you spill blood in your aspiration.

Despite any kind of difficulty a Pashtun will not abandon his ambition.

        Even though you may face the lion

        Do not abandon your ambition and cause.

Khushal fought against Mughal oppression for a long time. Even when he was arrested and imprisoned by them he did not lose his pride and the Mughal were unable to break his will. From his prison cell he encourages his children to stand against their aggression. He writes to them this poetic letter:

        Since I am not afraid of death

        I do not care about this prison.

        Ashraf Khan has written me a letter

        Which is a cause of jubilation.

        I have been in prison for five months

        Despite that I am brave at heart.

        Worried about my son have I been

        If you are healthy, then I am fine too.

        Even though I may be in a cell

        My ambition remains steadfast.

Khushal wrote this poem in reply to his son, Ashraf Khan’s letter. He does not consider a person brave who gives up hope when faced with difficulties.

        Better is the one who faces strife

        Than those who live in leisure and happiness.

3. Truth. In Pashtun culture truth is an important facet of life. A liar is not considered a Pashtun. Khushal is ready to sacrifice himself for truth even though it results in enmity toward him but he refuses to back away from truth.

        In my youth I always prevailed to endorse truth

        Even though I made enemies in support of truth.

Khushal considers a liar to be an ignoble person and he expects a Pashtun to tell the truth.

        He who lies is not a noble person

        One ought to respect a truthful person.

4. Valor. Valor and bravery are two pillars on which Pashtun nationalism is based. Without it Pashtun culture does not exist. A Pashtun is ready to sacrifice himself to uphold his valor but does not accept cowardice in any form just as Pashto folklore elaborates:

        May you come injured with a rifle shot

        For I do not want to hear about your cowardice.

A Pashtun despises cowardly behavior and does not accept such lifestyle under any condition:

        Go away, past the border of Daccan

        It is better to die than lead the life of a coward.

Khushal is also an ardent supporter of valor and makes this phenomenon clear in his writings:

        A brave person will do anything

        To maintain his stance of valor

        Of what use is it to live

        In utter cowardice.

        He who does not maintain his pride

        May his face be black as coal

        Better be in the gallows

        Than face people’s disdain.

Bravery requires that a person remain magnanimous. Khushal is deeply immersed in valor. He believes that his pride is more precious than a kingdom.

        I prefer a simple yogurt drink

        Than Aurengzeb’s royal treats.

Khushal bereaves about the past grandeur of the Pashtun nation in India and regularly mentions the might of the Ludhi and Suri dynasties. He bemoans this loss and encourages the Pashtuns to  once again revive their past glory.

        I hear about Bahlol and Sher Shah

        Two Pashtuns who were kings in India.

        They ruled for six or seven centuries

        Bewildering all people with their might.

        Those Pashtuns were certainly distinct

        May God give them their past might again.

Pride is a detailed word in Pashto with a broad base. A Pashtun is ready to lose his life for his pride. Khushal says:

        You may lose your head and wealth but not your pride

        Since a person’s dignity is based on his pride.


        If a person is not happy about his pride

        Then he might as well be considered a coward.

At the death of his son Nizam, Khushal expresses a great deal of remorse and wishes he would have died fighting rather than under the blanket. He considers such death a shame for a Pashtun.

        I wish he would have died like a valiant youth

        Rather than in bed under a blanket.

        He who dies fighting for his nation

        Will make his father famous in this world.

Without valor Khushal considers life useless. Even if a valiant person is poor and leads a harsh life he considers it to be a princely lifestyle.

        Without shame and valor

        This world will be doomed.

5. Wealth. In Pashtun culture wealth is meant to be be distributed among all members of society. Stinginess is not acceptable among the Pashtuns. A Pashtun has affection for wealth only when others are able to make use of it. By nature Khushal was a generous person. He spent his wealth for the welfare of his people and says:

        A generous person is the one

        Who is considered magnanimous in life.

        He who shares his wealth with others

        Will be considered a great leader.

In Khushal’s opinion magnanimous is the person who helps others.

        The richest person is the one

        Whose wealth shall be enjoyed by all.


Khushal Khan the Valiant Warrior

Khushal was not only a prolific writer and poet but his leadership skills were also well-known. Valor is considered to be a part of Pashtun character and without bravery a person is not considered a Pashtun. A Pashtun has a great deal of affection for the sword. The beloved also feels proud about the valor of her lover.

        If you do not strike the sword what else will you do?

        You, who have been weaned by a Pashtun mother.

A Pashtun woman considers a lover without courage a disgrace.

        You did not face the gleaming sword

        I am ashamed to let you kiss me last night.

Khushal was a true Pashtun warrior and he is consider one of the most able leader of his time. His battles against the Mughal armies are renowned. His war cries were captivating and he spent a large part of his life in battle and was injured several times.

His poetic work is laden with stories of war and is a good example of his fearlessness.

        Capturing a land can only be done by the sword

        Be it Kabul or the valleys of verdant Kashmir.

        It is the dead whom we remember

        In our ballads with a great deal of galore. 

Khushal had a natural instinct for warfare and always stood by his men in battle.

        In battle when heads are being lost

        You shall see me riding my bloodied steed.

He takes pleasure from getting injured in battle and says:

        He who wields the sword dauntlessly is the one

        Whom Khushal Khattak considers a valiant warrior.

An audacious person is one who takes pleasure from the battlefield. Khushal believes he is most happy when he is engaged in warfare.

        Khushal’s time of pleasure is when

        The swords flash like lightning.

Khushal considers his happiness to be entwined with the sword.

        You cannot attain happiness by force

        Unless you gain it with the might of the sword.

Pashtuns are elated with the birth of a son and the whole village celebrates the birth of a male child which means that another warrior has been added to the strength of the tribe. This nationalistic attribute is a good example of Pashtun bravery. Khushal expresses this national spirit as such: 

        Hear the stories of great deeds of the men

        Or their bravery with the sword in the battlefield.

The epic deeds of brave men have been well-documented in Pashto poetry. Khushal’s epic thoughts are evident from his poetry.

        All those who hear the rattling of my sword

        Shudder in their bed when they dream about my might.


        Hold steadfast to that feat Khushal

        Which is dear to the heart of every soldier.


        I girth my sword for the pride of the Afghan nation

        I am, Khushal Khatak, the brave warrior of the day.

Nothing is more shameful among the Pashtuns than a man who runs away from the battlefield.

        He who cannot face the sword

        Is not considered a daring man.

The might of the sword is considered worthy in every instance. Khushal praises the power of the sword in these words:

        He who is swift with the sword

        Shall be successful all the time.

        Of what use are the ones

        Who are not brave at heart.

        No mother shall praise those

        Who are not dauntless in war

        All people East and West

        Are at the service of the brave.

In another instance Khushal counsels his son in these words:

        If you are recognized as a brave swordsman

        You will be successful in your life.

        The brave warrior is the one

        Who is not afraid of the lion’s bite,

        The blow of the sword and the shower of arrows

        Shall further strengthen your will for revenge.

Khushal explicitly expresses the Pashtun’s warrior spirit in this quatrain.

        He who is hesitant is not brave

        Nor is he a man of battle;

        Do not consider him courageous

        Who has not been injured in a battle.


        The lover who is unarmed

        Cannot call himself a man.

        Paint your eyes with black corryleum

        If you want to face youth in battle.

When Khushal returned home after imprisonment in India he launched several battles against the Mughal occupying forces and fought against them like a true Pashtun defending his homeland. In one battle, which took place in 1675 in Barmul, he believes that the Pashtuns managed to defeat a 40,000 strong Mughal force. The battles of Mir Husaini, Nawshahr, Gandab and Khapas have been recorded as prominent skirmishes in history. In this epic poem he describes his feelings as such:

        Cup bearer pour me full cups

        So wine may fully intoxicate me.

        The hands of Pashtuns youths are bloodied

        Once again like the talons of the hawk.

        Their shining swords are stained with blood

        Just like the red tulips in the field.

Like a brave warrior, Khushal, fought many battles with the Mughals and has made his intentions clear to the enemy in these words:

        I made it clear to king Aurengzeb

        That I can face the hardships of imprisonment.

        I left the beacon of my sword’s might

        Among the Hindus and the Moslems.


Shrewd Khushal Khan

Shrewd poems are common in eastern poetry and slyness is a part of this kind of poetry. From the old times to the middle ages Persian poetry contains wiliness. Anwari, Qa’ani, and Jalal-al-Mulk’s poetry is full of jokes.

Khushal Khan’s poetry includes a great deal of rogue poetry. It is possible that some people may not like this style of poetry but such work is important to be included in his collection. The masnavi (couplet-poems) of Anwari, Sa’adi and Beidel all include such poetry. Hence we should not blame Khushal for writing such poetry.


Patriotic Khushal Khan

Pashtuns have special affinity to their land and they have a saying that to everyone his land is like a paradise. Khushal also has a great deal of love for his mountainous land and he devoted his whole life in its service. He spent a long time away from his homeland in India. He was imprisoned by the Mughals for defending his native country. In prison he laments about the meadows of his homeland in these words:

        If once I can go back to the beloved Indus river

        I will not miss the hot climate of India;

        Where one neither sees anything splendid

        Nor can quench his thirst with its murky water.

Except his homeland he cannot find happiness in another place.

        Beside Sarai, Khushal is not happy elsewhere

        Who considers his homeland to be like paradise.

From prison in India he sends his salutations to his homeland in these words:


        Oh breeze if you blow by Khairabad

        Or by the fluent river of Sarai

        Present my greeting to my friends there

        And my prayers for their well-being.

From his prison cell Khushal sheds tears when he remembers his homeland and writes:

        Tears, I will shed in abundance

        When I recall my homeland.

        When my poem reaches those in Sarai

        My friends will wail as they read these words.

Longing for his homeland and his friends Khushal says:

        Where there are good friends

        Peshawar is better than all places.

        Even though flowers are abundant in India

        But I prefer the thorns of my homeland.

Khushal finds living in India similar to being in hell. While missing his hometown he says:

        The rest of the world feels so chaotic

        When will Khushal return to his majestic home.

Even though Khushal’s homeland is a dry mountainous country and other people are not fond of it but to him it is like paradise.

        If Sarai to others is a land laden with rocks

        These rocks to me are like golden nuggets.

He is tired of the endless battles with the Mughal soldiers who are constantly chasing him out of his homeland. His love for his native land is so intense that he does not want them in his beloved land. As a true patriot and Pashtun he writes from his prison in Rantambur:

        Let the Pashtun maidens spread their hair in the wind

        So it may bring their sweet scent to Rantambur.


Khushal the Traveler

Khushal was an ardenrt traveler and visited a number of neighboring countries. He traveled all over India and several Middle Eastern countries. It is because of this he is well known in many places.

        Many a countries I have visited in my life,

        I will guide those who wish to travel to these places.

He talks about different places in his poems. For example in 1080 Hijera (1669) he was in Kabul and writes:

        I was in Kabul in the year 1080

        And wrote this verse in my book of poetry.



The Author and Writer

Even though Khushal spent a lot of his lifetime in war and battles and he was a prominent leader he was also a prolific writer. He is considered as the father of Pashto language and he authored several books. His collection of poetry is close to 40,000 couplets. European oriental scholars believe that he wrote about one hundred books, most of which are lost. H. G. Raverty says that his literary work reaches 250 books and articles.[18]

Khushal wrote the history of Pashto language and translated the Persian, Anwaar-e Suhaili, into Pashto and has also written a book on religious subjects.[19]

He also wrote his autobiography which is mentioned by his grandson, Afzal Khan, in Tarekh-e Mura’sa.[20] He is the writer of Fazl Nama, on the might of the sword and the pen. Farukh Nama and Reyaz-al-Haqeqat are also his works which can be rarely found these days.[21] Some of his other works are:

Baz Nama: A discussion of falconery.

Hedaya: Translated from Arabic into Pashto.

Ayeena: Religious subjects, translated from Arabic to Pashto.

Sehat-al-Badan: Hygiene and medical issues.

Raverty writes that Khushal created a form of short hand martial literature which was understood just by the members of his family and was called Zanjiri.[22]

Unfortunately most of the great works of this eminent scholar are lost.


A Literary Family

Khushal was not the sole figure of Pashto literature but members of his family were also prominent authors. His sons and grandsons are famous Pashto literary figures who left major works in the service of the language. Raverty writes that the women of the family were also distinguished authors, who in their turn, left behind works of poetry. One of his wife, who is the mother of Ashraf Khan Hijri, was a capable writer whose poetry is known to us. Bahram Khan, Khushal’s son was also a good writer. Khushal says:

        Ataar needs to stop writing now that

        Bahram writes with such eloquence.

Other famous authors and poets from Khushal’s family are:

1. Ashraf Khan:

He is the son of Khushal Khan. His pen name is Hijri. He has a large collection of poetry, a part of which has been published by Raverty in Gulshan-e Ruh, which personifies his style of poetry. He was imprisoned by the Mughals in Bejapur in 1682 where he was in captivity for ten years and died in prison. He writes:[23]

        Far away from my homeland I live in distress

        As I bereave about my love and life.

        I am unable to see my dear friends

        And am content to see them in my dreams.

        No messenger has come in a long time

        Only the breeze conveys to me their greetings.

2. Abdul Qader Khan: The son of Khushal Khan. He has an extensive divan in Pashto. He translated Sa’adi’s, Gulistan, into Pashto under the title of Guldasta. In Bahr-e Hanif he includes a translation of Jami’s story of Yusuf and Zuleikha. He finished this work in 1700. Raverty writes that he is the author of 60 books. He wrote a book on the love story of Adam Khan and Durkhanie. He is considered a spiritual personality of his family. He says:

        I Khatak bereave about my beloved

        Even though Rahman has given up on love.

3. Sadar Khan: He was the son of Khushal Khan and his pen name was Sadar. He is the author of a divan. He translated Nizami’s Khusrao and Shereen into Pashto. He believes one lesson of love suffices in this world.

        One lesson of love is more than enough

        Against all the wisdom in this world.

Sekandar Khan: He is the son of Khushal Khan and wrote the Mehr and Mushtari two-couplet odes. He has a divan. He says:

        The musicians can play different cords

        In the midst of the cup bearer and the lover.

        If you seek to defame your love affair

        You may as well destroy Iram’s garden too.[24]

5. Gowhar Khan: The son of Khushal Khan and an able writer.

6. Afzal Khan: He is the son of Ashraf Khan and is the author of Tarekh-e Mura’sa. His other work is Elm-e Khana-e Danish and another book is named Ism-e Kufi.[25]

7. Kazem Khan: His pen name is Sheida and he is the son of Afzal Khan. He is the great-grandson of Khushal Khan. Sheida also has a divan and is a prolific writer. He was born in 1723 and spent a part of his life in Kashmir, Sar-e Hind and Rampur. His style is fluid and he writes about the voluptuous maidens of India in these words:

        With Indian coquetry she took my heart away

        I, who am just a simple Pashtun man.

8. Ali Khan: He is also from Khushal’s family. He has an extensive divan and is a brilliant poet. This couplet is by him:

        I yearn and cry after you the whole night

        Laughing like a flower who do you delight?

This family produced a number of prolific Pashto writers. The service which Khushal’s family has provided to Pashto is unsurpassed.


Khushal Khan’s Literary Prowess

Khushal is considered the first true teacher of Pashto poetry. He is not only known by Pashtuns but is also famous among European scholars. His divan is present in various European libraries and his books have been translated into several languages.

The Islamic Encyclopedia writes: “Khushal Khan was a valiant warrior, poet and chief of his tribe. His poetry is full of patriotic odes.”[26] The French orientalist, Darmesterer, notes: “Khushal Khan had the combined spirit of a valiant man and poet.” The English writer, Abraham Gresham, says: “Khushal Khan was a famous chief of the Khatak people and his style of poetry is much more lucid than other poets.” Raverty writes: “Khushal Khan is a famous Pashto writer. His poems are well-known and renowned in Europe.”

C.I. Beddulph, while discussing the poetry of the 17th century, states: “Khushal Khan was a very talented and knowledgeable person. There is not a single subject which he has not dealt with in his poems. His poetry is leaned toward patriotism and he writes about war, love, religion, ethics and philosophy.”

Khushal is well-known among the Pashtuns and his work has become a legend and is recited in sayings:

        I wish I were neither Khushal nor a famous chief

        All I want is my youth again even if I am a sweeper.


Death and his Last Wish

Toward the end of his life Khushal was an ailing old man. He went to the land of the Afridis and lived the life a hermit. He died in utmost failure in 1621 when he was 76 years old. He was buried in his hometown of Sarai at the bottom of a hill.[27] His last wish was that he be buried in a place where the Mughal’s shadow and dust from the hooves of their horses may not cover his grave.



Even though Khushal was buried several centuries ago but his name and fame is still very much alive. He guided the Pashtuns on the path to patriotism. He revived the old Pashtun men of fame and made sacrifices in the cause of Pashtun nationalism. He was the first great chief of the Pashtuns who was also a scholar, philosopher, writer and national leader. As long as the Pashtuns are alive they will remember him and take pride in his astute leadership and penmanship. May God bless his soul.

        The nightingale of the garden will always sing

        When Khushal’s poetic tune in its ears ring.


Samples of Khushal’s poetry translated by Khushal Habibi, Olaf Caroe and Evelyn Howell.


Love Poem

I swear to God I had a dream that each other we admire;

Sweet words we both utter and share our heart’s desire.

I carry a book full of love-songs enchanting,

Strolling in the garden, red wine to me you are granting.

Hand in hand we wander, rest and rise at will,

In our joy we feel exhilarated and keep laughing still.

You fill the cup of wine, I take it from your hand,

You give me sweet kisses, and then more we demand.

Musicians play their songs from far away,

To their enchanting tunes we listen and sway.

You have the beauty of a flower and I am a happy chief,

In felicity we indulge and turn our backs to grief.

Then suddenly I wake up at the early hour of dawn,

Your company is not there and I find that you are gone.

As long as I am alive, no one else shall I crave,

Your sad memories I shall carry to my grave.

While there are lovers, Khushal will not be alone

Asleep or awake the wind will carry our drone.


Spring in a Garden

Spring has come and brought her roses,

Spring is here with her soft showers,

Happy he whom fate disposes

In this paradise of flowers.


Mine today the seventy sages,

For whose coming men shall look,

Here would halt their pilgrimages,

Resting in this favored nook.


Here these soft delicious breezes

Health and strength and life restore,

Here, where every prospect pleases,

Old Khushal is young once more.


Iris, crocus, amaryllis

Tulips red as Nimrod’s fire.

Roses, violets and lilies

Sight and scent alike inspire.


Here green lawns and murmuring waters

Glad the eye and charm the ear,

Hindustan in all its quarters

Cannot match it nor Kashmir.


Shalamar with all its fountains

Cannot rival these cascades

No, nor Iram’s fabled mountains

Vie with these sequestered glades.


Where populars that to all seeming

Tower till they touch the sky

Flank pavilions, marble gleaming

Mirrored in tranquility.


Birds of song, of flight of plumage,

Nature’s wonders, works of man,

Testify Creation’s homage

To the Great Designer’s plan.



From Captivity in India

Gentle breeze, bear my greetings,

If past Khairabad ye roam,

Past the silver stream of Landai

To Sarai, Sarai my home.

Father Indus, hail him loudly

As across his flood ye go,

But to Landai, gentle breezes,

Softer salutations blow.

Ganga, Jamna, how I hate you,

Sluggish rivers of the plain.

Hindustan has no cool waters;

Would that I were home again,

Once again to drink of Landai

Hell must one day loose its chain.




One King alone I serve, one King obey,

His orders rule my life, his yea, his nay.

The friends I loved stand in thy presence, Lord,

Wistful and solitary I wait thy word;

Soon, soon, the call rings out: ‘Come thou to me’

Then here am I, thy slave, I run to thee!

Hear me, my King, my God! Have I not prayed

Tears from the heart, and shall I feel afraid?



The Philosopher

Far above all I count good health,

‘Tis better far than sovereignty.

And what is better then than wealth?

Put honor in the first degree.

To outward deference prefer

Self-conduct and sincerity.

And what can free man’s heart from care?

To bear his lot contentedly.

By crawling dost thou seek to climb?

Nay, that is naught but lunacy.

What brings reward above all count?

Good counsel must the answer be.

What wins the favor of all eyes?

At all times generosity.

And Hell on Earth a man may taste

By keeping foolish company.



Hatred toward Emperor Aurengzeb

Aurang, full well I know him. So just is he, so fair,

Precise in all observances, punctilious in prayer.

But he slew his own blood brothers in fratricidal strife,

Gave battle to his father and imprisoned him for life.

The devotee a thousand time may brow to the earth incline

Or by repeated fasts may bring has navel to his spine,

But if his mate not with speech to further good intent,

His posture is profitless, his fasting fraudulent.

The outward of the snake is fair and glossy is her skin,

But venom lurks behind her lips and treachery within.

The valiant speaks but little, by deeds his praise is sung;

The coward and the bragger make sword-play with their tongue.

My words reveal, to him who rads?, a portrait of Aurang.

My hand can never reach him, Lord, hear me, Lord, I pray!

To Aurang, Lord be merciless on Thy great judgement day!




There cannot be another one who loves his sweetheart as I do

There is no other one more sad as I am for you,

You kill me with your own hands and then cry for me

What a lover, what a killer, and then the mourning spree.

Your face is like the garden with every shade of rose

Spring’s garden even cannot match your graceful pose.

The tulip’s heart is scarred in color so red

No martyr’s destiny is written on the sheet of his bed.

Your dark tresses and the beauty of your cheeks so fair

The hyacinth and jasmine cannot match it in despair.

A sight which I see night and day within my house’s wall

Poor Majnun[28] did not see his Leila like that at all.

The petals of flowers can abrade your skin

Your delicate figure has no match among all women.

Be it merely from custom or fidelity true

The suffering of a Hindu widow who can construe.

If someone laments for you beating his breast in grief

It is an indicator of life, not death for a great chief,

I found the bliss of Iram’s[29] garden in your court

I am happy with my fate to grant me such support.

Khushal Khatak writes in Pashto language verses sublime

You will not find its match in any Persian work of rhyme.




[1]Collection of poetry.

[2]Tarekh-e Murasa, Hayat-e Afghani, Khurshaid Jahan, Makhzan-e Afghani, Marat-al-Afagana.

[3]Hayat-e fghani.

[4]It was the year 1050 Hijera

    When Shahbaz Khan was martyred.

[5]Tarekh-e Murasa and Islamic Encyclopedia.

[6]The Rebels of the 17th Century. C.I. Biddulph.

[7]Hayat-e Afghani.

[8]Hijri was a prolific writer. He says:

    Hijri had not even dreamt about Bejapur

    Yet had to face this serpent and hardship undue.

[9]Tarekh-e Murasa.

[10]She’r-al-Ajam, vol. 5.


[12]Dr. Rapports Basic Philosophy.


[14]Akhwan-al-Safa, Vol. 1, p. 32..

[15]See Makhzan-al-Islam of Akhund Darweza Nangarhari.

[16]History of Pashto Poetry, pp. 23,24.

[17]Introduction to Pashto Grammar by H.G. Raverty.

[18]The History of Pashto Poetry.

[19]H. G. Raverty.

[20]See Tarekh-e Mura’sa by Father Hues in Keleed-e Afghani.

[21]See Father Hues introduction.

[22]Zmaryali’s article, Kabul Journal, Vol. 6, p 492.

[23]From Raverty’s Gulshan-e Ruh.

[24]From Hues’ Chaman-e Benazir

[25]Hues’ Kaleed-e Afghani.

[26]Islamic Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, Section 679.

[27]Hues’ Kaleed-e Afghani and Sarhad Journal.

[28] Majnun literally means possessed or mad in love. The tragic romance of Leila and Majnun, originating in pre-Islamic Arabia, is famous throughout the Middle East.

[29]The celebrated gardens said to have been made in Arabia Felix by a king named Iram bin Omad. Frequent mention is made of these gardens by eastern poets describing them as a perfect model of that voluptuous paradise which Moslems are promised if they are virtuous.