The Ismailis of Afghanistan: ISMAILIS IN AFGHANISTAN
ISMAILIS IN AFGHANISTAN
The Ismailis in Afghanistan except Badakhshan almost 90 percent belong to the ethnic of Hazara community and 2 percent to the Tajik ethnic. The Ismailis in Badakhshan entirely belong to Tajik ethnic. Hazarajat is however mainly Ismailis.
ISMAILIS IN BADAKHSHAN
Badakhshan is an old coinage of modern Afghanistan. The name Badakhshan first appeared in Chinese writings of 7th century, before which Hephthalites, Turks and Arabs dominated the area successively. The Timurids took over it in the 15th century. In 1584, the Uzbegs conquered Badakhshan, which came to be dominated by local Uzbeg mirs until 1882, when Murad Beg of Kunduz overran it. In 1857, it became tributary to Kabul and its autonomy ended in 1881. The British-Russian accord of 1895 delineated the Panj River as a part of the Russo-Afghan border, separating the Afghan-Badakhshan from Russian Badakhshan in Pamirs. The Afghan-Badakhshan is a northwest province of Afghanistan. It occupies an area of 18300 sq. miles with its capital at Faizabad. The winter in the region is severe, the mountains being impassable from snow early in December, and the rivers generally frozen.
Soon after the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Pamir region became the Gorno-Badakhshan (Autonomous Region), the part of the former Tajik S.S.R., now in modern Tajikistan. In sum, the region of Badakhshan is divided into two parts, Tajikistan occupies one and another is situated in Afghanistan. Mawlana Hazar Imam launched his first visit in Tajikistan for ten days on May 22, 1995, and reached Khorog, the provincial capital of Gorno-Badakhshan with Imamali Sharipovich Rahmonov, the President of Tajikistan on May 24, 1995.
The majority of the people in Badakhshan are the Tajiks. Different views are advanced on the origin of the Tajik. The word Tajik (Russian Tadzhik) is said to have derived from the Arabian tribe, called Taiy, the original form was Tazik or Tezik, which came to be used simply for the Arabs in Central Asia. Later on, it was used for the Persian subjects of the Arabs. According to the popular belief, the Tajiks are originally the Iranians, with mixture of Mongoloid and Turkish blood.
It has been estimated without official record that there are over 200,000 Ismailis in Badakhshan, Afghanistan. Formerly, they deposited the religious dues to the mukhis of Kayan. Later on, they selected their own mukhis indifferent villages, i.e., one mukhi for each 20 families.
ISMAILIS IN HAZARAJAT
The word Hazara is supposed to be the Persian equivalent of the Mongol word ming or mingan, meaning a thousand. The Mongol divided their troops into the groups of ten (dah), hundred (sad) and thousand (hazar). It is generally held that the Hazaras are the mixed descendants of the Turko-Mongoli war settlers, who built and settled in army bases in central Afghanistan. They are not the descendants of Turks and Mongol or Monghols only; rather they represent a mixture of these and other races, such as Tajik, Afghans, etc.
The oldest documented name of Hazarajat is Barbaristan, whose inhabitants are known as the Hazaras. They mostly inhabit the central mountainous part of Afghanistan, and one of the coldest areas with winter lasting six months and mountaintops covered with snow from October to May. Nevertheless, it has some of the greenest land providing excellent grazing ground.
The map of Afghanistan no longer includes an area actually called the Hazarajat, so that an accurate description and demarcation of it in today’s geography of Afghanistan is somewhat difficult. But the Hazarajat is generally considered to cover the three central provinces of Afghanistan: Bamiyan, Orozgan and Ghur, and parts of Herat, Farah Kandahar, Ghazni, Parwan, Baghlan, Balkh and Badghis.
Hazarajat, which lies mostly to the west and northwest of Kabul, included Ghazni, Qallat-i Ghalzayi, and areas of Balkh, Andarab and the border region of Herat. The north-eastern most boundary of Hazarajat lay at a Pass situated 20 km south of Mazar-i Sharif, continued southwards along the river of Dar Gaz past the forests of Boyna Qara, and onwards to Aq Kaprak, Qarah Kashan and Dandan Shikan Passes, where it joined the Shorkhab and Siah Khak. From there is stretched eastwards Hajar and Lurak villages, passing the Ghorband river and joining the Doab; then south again towards the Qotandar Pass and the village of Zay Mooni, where it turned westwards towards Sia Khar, and onwards Jalriz, Surkh Sang, Jau Qol and Gardan-i Divar-i Nia villages. And finally, in a southeasterly direction past the village of Nanagai Shanba, Surkh Sang, Sar-i Khavat, Bal Qara, Shamulto and Bonan Passes reaching the village of Allah-o Akbar. From there it stretched 26 km west of Ghazni along the foot of the mountains running along the Ghazni-i Kandahar Road, to the proximity of Kandahar.
The southern boundary of the Hazarajat began at Maidan, passing Qalla-i Asiah and Moqor and continuing along the Nakhorb River to Shah-i Mashhad. Then westwards through Badan Mazar, Band-i Kotal-i Tahiry, Morghabi, Charmistan, Mian Joy, Ay Kalan, Tan-i Morgh, ChaKalu, Lokorma, Band-i Zarb, Bagram and Paya Koh, passing the village of Ziarat-i Haji and continuing along the mountain ranges on the way down to Tagab Khor, through a Pass in the proximity of Zard Bed, where it turned northwards.
On the west the boundary began at Band Barmah, near Sia Lur village, stretching westwards past Tulok, Mah Go, Polaristan, Sia Lak, Qalla, Tekman Koh, Shahinak, Janoor, Chil Chava villages up to point 20 km short of Bala Morghab, then through Band-i Turkistan Pass and along to the village of Bookan.
In the north, the Hazarajat included Qalla-i Wali, Char Shinia, Qalla-i Nau Dara, Tukal, Dahan Dara and Bol Chiragh, turning up northwesterly through Kawolian and Dor Day villages and up to a point 20 km south of Sari Pol, and along to the neighbourhood of Khaja Qoroom, Bal Qorom and Tanga-i Koh.
The Hazaras are mostly the Shiah Muslims in the majority, and inhabit the heartland of Afghanistan, surrounded by strict Sunnite tendency. They speak Persian with their own particular account known as the Hazaragi dialect. Their ethnic origins are yet uncertain, despite their obvious Turko-Mongolian features. Due to their geo-political location inside Afghanistan, they were able to live virtually autonomously until 1890, after which they were ruthlessly subjugated.
Any discussion of the population of the Hazaras must confront some major problems. The population of Afghanistan itself has not as yet been ascertained as no accurate population census has been carried out. It is however estimated to be 4-5 million, but the Hazaras maintain their figure between 6-7 million.