Shaal and Bolan


Abdul Hai Habibi


The Pashtoons of Kandahar have a story that the name of Shaal was coined during the time of Ahmad Shah Baba Abdali. This statement does not have any historical evidence, but for thousands of years Shaal has been the name of present day Quetta. The valley of Pseen was known before the Islamic period and I believe Bolan is also a very old name.

Geographers of the Islamic period have mentioned this region, which stretches from Mastang to Seyoon, as Walishtan or Walishsatan (see Yaqubi’s book al-Baladan, p. 281 and al-Biruni’s Qanoon-e Masudi and Hudud-al-Alam, p. 64). Abu Abdullah Mohammad bin Maqdasi, in his book Ahsan-al-Taqaseem, p. 49, name the cities of Walishtan as Eisheen (Pseen) Asbedja, Mastang, Shaal, Sekeera, and Seywa (Sebi). He repeats these names in page 297 of his book. This author wrote his book in the year 275 H. (898 A.D.). It seems that the cities of Pseen, Mastang, Shaal, Sewee and Asfajar existed 1000 years ago and were recognized by geographers of the time. This author was a traveler and he visited most of the Islamic countries of the period hence his writing can be used as a reference.

Haturaam, in his book, History of Baluchistan, printed in Lahore in 1907 in page 622 writes: This area was given by Ahmad Shah Durrani to the mother of Mir Nasir Khan as a valuable estate by presenting her a shawl. But this is an incorrect statement since Shaal existed one thousand years before this gesure and during the time of Ahmad Shah Abdali the place was known as Shaal and the clan of Kalawi of the Kasi tribe live there. In this book an order written by Mir Nasir Khan for the chiefs, Arbab Yusuf Khan, Dawlat Khan and Badin Khan, which was written on April 20, 1739, has been mentioned. The book also contains a decree issued by Ahmad Shah Abdali which is dated May 2, 1741 in page 624. Both these dates are incorrect because Nasir Khan’s accession to the throne took place in 1751 and Ahmad Shah was reigned in 1747. It is not possible they wrote decrees a decade before their accession to the throne. In both decrees this land has been named as Shaal indicating the name was famous during that time. It is not a new name and the people of Kandahar, until the present time, call the fruit merchants of Quetta as Shaalkotyan. Kote is an old Pashto word which means a fortress and Shaal Kot means the fortress of Shaal.

The name Bolan is also old even though I have not come across it in ancient books but is seems this name existed before the time of Sultan Mahmud and Masud around 500 H (1106 A.D.) and Bolan was famous a thousand years ago. The renowned historian of the Ghaznavid period, Abul Fazl Mohammad Baihaqi, writes the chief justice of Bost city, Abul Hasan Bolani and his son, Bobakr, were famous for their knowledge and piety and Sultan Masud treated them with esteem. It is said Sultan Mahmud destroyed the idols of India and brought back the gold of the temples in bags and each bag contained 1000 misqals (4600 g) of gold. When Sultan Masud learned that judge Bolani and his son Bobakr were destitute but they did not ask anyone for assistance. The Sultan ordered: “give one bag of the gold, which is a legitimate wealth, to the judge and another to his son.” But judge Bolani replied: “I do not know whether the bringing of this gold which was won by Sultan Mahmud from the temples with the might of the sword is legitimate in accordance with the teachings of Prophet Mohammad or not? How can I accept such gold.”

The Sultan then said: “if you do not want it then give it to your students and other poor people.”

Bolani in return replied: “this gold belongs to others, and others will be receiving it so why should I get involved, and how will I answer God on the day of reckoning.”

Then the Sultan offered the gold to Bolani’s son but he said: “I am the son of Bolani and learned knowledge though him, I will not accept the gold, one mouthful of bread is enough for me.”

The Sultan was very pleased with their piety and sobriety and said: “may God forever protect this Bolan from evil” (History of Baihaqi, p. 623, Tehran).

These historical incidences show that both Shaal and Bolan are ancient names and the places were known by these names a thousand years ago. The Bolanians were justices of Sharia law in Sultan Mahmud’s winter capital of Bost and their knowledge and piety was well-known, as documented by their contemporary historian Baihaqi.[1]














[1] Kandahar Magazine, 1341 H, (1962). Number 1 p. 25.