Abdul Hai Habibi


What did our ancestors call their beloved homeland?

This is a question which can be answered by history because we do not have any written documents from the past written by Pashtuns and the histories they wrote have been lost over time hence it is difficult to research the name of the Pashtun nation. In the past I have written certain articles on the subject in Tuloo Afghan and other journals. Here I present my view on the subject.

As mentioned earlier in the debate of Pashtun and Pashtunwali the name Pashtun is very old. Pakhat has been mentioned in Rig Veda and later Greek historians such as Herodotus have also stated it in their writings. The first Islamic historians such as Belazari, Tabari, Masudi and others also talk about the conquests of the Pashtuns but they do not mention their names and instead indicate the names of different cities such as Bost, Sajistan, Dawar, Rakhj, Zabul, Kabul, Bamian and others. The reason for this is also clear because at the beginning of the spread of Islam there were different sovereigns in the land and when the Moslems conquered a land they referred to it by the name of a city and did not recognize it as a nation.

Afghan is a relatively new name and it was mentioned for the first time by al-Autbi in 1024 A.D.[i] Later, historians of the Ghaznavid period, such as al-Biruni and Aladarisi, mention this name. Firdowsi has also written this name in several pages of the Shahnama. Later Indian historians repeatedly mentioned this name also such as Abulfazl[ii] and the owner and perceiver of Zafar Nama, al-Sa’edin, mentions Afghan or Awghanan. Mohammad Qasem Fereshta has also mentioned this name numerous times in his history. However, the historians of the period of Babur’s family called the abode of the Pashtuns Ruh and its people Ruhila.[iii]

Until this day the place where Pashtun refugees live in India is called Ruhil Gahand, and I think the words Afghan, Ruhila and Ruh are not old words but became customary after the advent of Islam. Masudi in 916 A.D. refers to Kandahar the place of Rahbut which is close to Ruh.[iv] Afghan or Ruh has bot been mentioned in pre-Islamic histories but Pashtun exists in ancient works and it is an old name with deep historical connotations.

Now that we have talked briefly about the name Pashtun and other related names we will also discuss the old name of this nation. The Pashtuns called their beloved motherland Pashtunkhwa and this name was part of Pashto literature. The famous French linguist, Darmesteter, has also mentioned this name. The book which he has written on Pashto literature is named Chants Populaires des Afghans[v] This scholar derived this word, Pashtunkhwa, from Pashto literature and he considers it to be the original name of the land of Pashtuns. The name has been mentioned repeatedly in Pashto literature, Khushal Khan Khatak states:

      Whatever good is from Pashtunkhwa, this is its state.

      He who talks about its bad, is a real person.[vi]

Pir Mohammad Kakar, poet of the Ahmad Shahi family says:

      Like your poetry in his Pashtunkhwa

      There will be little such Afghan poetry at this time.[vii]

Mia Naim Mutizai, grandson of Shaikh Mati of Kalat writes:

      My beloved country has been ruined by the sight of my lover

      It is Pashtunkhwa, destroyed by the red Mongols.[viii]

Ahmad Shah Baba, in his collection of poetry, has also mentioned the name Pashtunkhwa and has praised his country in this way:

      I am oblivious to the Delhi throne,

      While pondering the peaks of my beloved Pashtunkhwa.

Pashtunkhwa is an ancient word which has been written in Pashto literature and ancient historians have mentioned this word to denote the nation of the Pashtuns.

Herodotus has referred to Pakti Aeki while discussing the Pashtuns. In Greek the current Pashtun was pronounced as Pakteen or Paakteen. In mentioning Pakti Aeki, Herodutus states that emperor Darius sent his emissary Skyloce to discover Sind and this person passed through the land of Pakti Aeki.[ix]  

Pakti is the present Pashtun. The conversion of the letters “sween” to “kaf” derives from this same word. The pronunciation of the letter (x) in Greek resembles the letter sween of Pastho.[x] Since the Greek converted the word Pasht or Pashtun to Pakhat or Pakteen it is possible that the word khwa was converted to aeki.

The redundant (alif) letter has been added to the beginning of the word by foreigners to many Pashto words such as the word lmar (sun) which even now in Afghanistan is used for stamps as ilmar. Its abbreviation is also undertaken with the wrong (alif) while it should be abbreviated with the letter (lam). Based on Latin roots the sound (yae) has been added to the words. The letters (khae, and sween) of Pashto have been converted to the Greek (kaf) and the letter (khe) of khwa was converted to (kaf). A large number of Pashtuns convert the letter (wow) to (yae) such as khor, khaer; ghwari, ghwaeri, and mor, maer.

If the ancient Pashtuns converted (wow) in this fashion and the Greeks heard it as such it is likely that khwa was pronounced as khue or khey which was later converted to ki by the Greeks becoming eki and later aeki. Hence this name of the Pashtuns which they called their land and mountains, and is present in their literature of the past four centuries, was the ancient name of their country which Herodotus wrote as Pakti Aeki in Greek. Herodotus lived from 484 to 425 B.C. and he has mentioned this name in his renowned history.

Based on historical reasoning the name of the homeland of the Pashtuns, that is now called Afghanistan, is very old and the name, Pashtunkhwa, exists until this day in their language.[xi]









[i] Tarekh-e Yamyani, p. 270-415.

[ii] Ayeen-e Akbari, Vol. 2, p 191. 

[iii] See Khasayel-al-Sa’ada and Khurshaid-e Jahan, Tarekh-e Nematullah and Ismalmic Encyclopedia.

[iv] Murawaj-al-Dahab Masudi, Vol. 1, p. 372.

[v] Published in Paris by the Oriental Society in 1888.

[vi] Khushal Khan’s hand written poetry, p. 770. Written in Multan in 1729.

[vii] Pir Mohammad’s hand written poetry, p. 42.

[viii] Mia Naim Mutaizai’s hand written poetry, p. 175.

[ix] The History of Herodotus, Vol. 1, p. 308-760. Vol 2, 121-157.

[x] Yaqub Khan has elucidated on this subject in the Kabul Yearly.

[xi] Tuloo Afghan, Vol. 17-1, p 53.