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|Ahmad Shah Durrani|
A modern painting of Ahmad Shah Durrani
|Full name||Ahmad Khan Abdali|
|Titles||Padshah, Ghazi, Bahadur, Dur-i-Durran (Pearl of Pearls)|
|Died||1773 (aged 50–51)|
|Place of death||Kandahar Province, Afghanistan|
|Successor||Timur Shah Durrani|
|Father||Muhammad Zaman Khan Abdali|
|Religious beliefs||Sunni Islam|
Ahmad Shah Durrani (c. 1722–1773) (Pashto/Persian: احمد شاه درانی), also known as Ahmad Shāh Abdālī (Pashto/Persian: احمد شاه ابدالي) and born as Ahmad Khān, was the founder of the Durrani Empire (Afghan Empire) in 1747 and is regarded by many to be the founder of the modern state of Afghanistan.
Ahmad Khan enlisted as a young soldier in the military of the Afsharid kingdom and quickly rose to become a commander of four thousand Abdali Pashtun soldiers. After the death of Nader Shah Afshar of Persia in June 1747, Abdali became the Emir of Khorasan. Rallying his Pashtun tribes and allies, he pushed east towards the Mughal and the Maratha Empire of India as well as west towards the disintegrating Afsharid Empire of Persia and north toward the Khanate of Bukhara. Within a few years he had conquered all of today's Afghanistan and Pakistan, including much of northeastern Iran and the Punjab region in the Indian subcontinent. He decisively defeated the Marathas at the 1761 Battle of Panipat which was fought north of Delhi in India.
After his natural death in 1772-73, his son Timur Shah took control of the empire. Ahmad Shah's mausoleum is located at Kandahar, Afghanistan, adjacent to the famous Mosque of the Cloak of the Prophet Mohammed in the center of the city. The Afghans often refer to him as Ahmad Shah Bābā (Ahmad Shah the "Father").
Abdali's father, Mohammed Zaman Khan, was a governor of Herat province and a chief of the Abdalis of Herat. Abdali was born as Ahmad Khan between 1722 and 1723 in either Multan, Mughal India, or the city of Herat in modern-day Afghanistan. Some claim that he was born in the current Pakistani city of Multan and taken as an infant with his mother (Zarghuna Alakozai) to the city of Herat where his father was the governor. On the contrary, Dr. Ganda Singh, Willem Vogelsang, Frank Clements and others claim that Ahmad Khan was born in Herat. Dr. Singh had used primary sources such as Mahmud-ul-Musanna's Tarikh-i-Ahmad Shahi of 1753 and Imam-uddin al-Hussaini's Tarikh-i-Hussain Shahi of 1798.
Ahmad Khan was from the Sadozai section of the Popalzai clan of the Abdali Pashtuns. His father and grandfather were both killed in a battle, and the young Ahmad Khan fled to take refuge in Kandahar with the Ghilzais. During his teenage years, Ahmad Khan and his elder brother, Zulfikar, were imprisoned inside a fortress by Hussain Hotaki, the Ghilzai governor of the Kandahar Province. Shah Hussain commanded a powerful tribe of Pashtun fighters, having conquered the eastern part of Persia in 1722 with his brother Mahmud, and trodden the throne of the Persian Safavids.
In around 1731, Nader Shah Afshar, the new ruler of Persia, began enlisting the Abdali Pashtuns in his army. After conquering Kandahar in 1738, Ahmad Khan and his brother were freed by the new Persian ruler and provided careers in his administration. The Ghilzais were expelled from the city of Kandahar and the Abdalis were allowed to settle there instead.
Nader Shah favored Abdali not only because he came from a well respected family or tribe but also due to his handsome features as well as both being Khorasanians. Ahmad Khan proved himself in Nader Shah's service and was promoted from a personal attendant (yasāwal) to command a cavalry of Abdali tribesmen. He quickly rose to command a cavalry contingent estimated at four thousand strong, composed chiefly of Abdalis, in the service of the Shah on his invasion of India.
Popular history has it that the brilliant but megalomaniac Nader Shah could see the talent in his young commander. Later on according to Pashtun legend, it is said that in Delhi Nader Shah summoned Ahmad Shah, and said, "Come forward Ahmad Abdali. Remember Ahmad Khan Abdali, that after me the Kingship will pass on to you.
Nader Shah's rule abruptly ended in June 1747 when he was assassinated by his own guards. The guards involved in the assassination did so secretly so as to prevent the Abdalis from coming to their King's rescue. However, Ahmad Khan was told that Nader Shah had been killed by one of his wives. Despite the danger of being attacked, the Abdali contingent led by Ahmad Khan rushed either to save Nader Shah or to confirm what happened. Upon reaching the King's tent, they were only to see Nader Shah's body and severed head. Having served him so loyally, the Abdalis wept at having failed their leader, and headed back to Kandahar. On their way back to Kandahar, the Abdalis had decided that Ahmad Khan would be their new leader, and already began calling him as Ahmad Shah.
After the capture of Qandahar, Nadir Shah sent him to Mazandaran where the young Pashtun became governor. At the time of Nadir's death, he commanded a contingent of Abdali Pashtuns. Realizing that his life was in jeopardy if he stayed among the Persians who had murdered Nadir Shah, he decided to leave the Persian camp, and with his 4,000 troops he proceeded to Qandahar. Along the way and by sheer luck, they managed to capture a caravan with booty from India. He and his troops were rich; moreover, they were experienced fighters. In short, they formed a formidable force of young Pashtun soldiers who were loyal to their high-ranking leader.
In October 1747, the chiefs of the Abdali tribes met near Kandahar for a Loya Jirga to choose a leader. For nine days serious discussions were held among the candidates in the Argah. Ahmad Shah kept silent by not campaigning for himself. At last Sabir Shah, a religious figure from the area, came out of his sanctuary and stood before those in the Jirga and said, "He found no one worthy for leadership except Ahmah Shah. He is the most trustworthy and talented for the job. He had Sabir's blessing for the nomination because only his shoulders could carry this responsibility". The leaders and everyone agreed unanimously. Ahmad Shah was chosen to lead the Afghan tribes. Coins where struck after his coronation as King occurred near the tomb of Shaikh Surkh, adjacent to Nader Abad Fort.
Despite being younger than other claimants, Ahmad Shah had several overriding factors in his favour:
One of Ahmad Shah's first acts as chief was to adopt the title Padshah durr-i dawran ('King, "pearl of the age").
Following his predecessor, Ahmad Shah Durrani set up a special force closest to him consisting mostly of his fellow Durranis and other Pashtuns, as well as Tajiks, Qizilbash and others. Durrani began his military conquest by capturing Ghazni from the Ghilzais and then wresting Kabul from the local ruler, and thus strengthened his hold over eastern Khorasan which is most of present-day Afghanistan. Leadership of the various Afghan tribes rested mainly on the ability to provide booty for the clan, and Durrani proved remarkably successful in providing both booty and occupation for his followers. Apart from invading the Punjab region three times between the years 1747–1753, he captured Herat in 1750 and both Nishapur (Neyshābūr) and Mashhad in 1751.
Durrani first crossed the Indus River in 1748, the year after his ascension – his forces sacked and absorbed Lahore during that expedition. The following year (1749), the Mughal ruler was induced to cede Sindh and all of the Punjab including the vital trans Indus River to him, in order to save his capital from being attacked by the Afghan forces of the Durrani Empire. Having thus gained substantial territories to the east without a fight, Ahmad Shah and his Afghan forces turned westward to take possession of Herat, which was ruled by Nader Shah's grandson, Shah Rukh of Persia. The city fell to Ahmad Shah in 1750, after almost a year of siege and bloody conflict; Ahmad Shah and his forces then pushed on into present-day Iran, capturing Nishapur and Mashhad in 1751. He then pardoned Shah Rukh and reconstituted Khorasan, but a tributary of the Durrani Empire. This marked the westernmost border of the Durrani Empire as set by the Pul-i-Abrisham, on the Mashhad-Tehran road.
Meanwhile, in the preceding three years, the Sikhs had occupied the city of Lahore, and Ahmad Shah had to return in 1751 to oust them. In 1752, Ahmad Shah with his forces invaded and reduced Kashmir. He next sent an army to subdue the areas north of the Hindu Kush. In short order, the powerful army brought under its control the Turkmen, Uzbek, Tajik and Hazara peoples of northern, central, and western Afghanistan. In 1752, Kashmiri nobles invited Ahmad Shah Durrani to invade the province and oust the ineffectual Mughal rulers.
Then in 1756-57, in what was his fourth invasion of India, Ahmad Shah sacked Delhi and plundered Agra, Mathura, and Vrndavana. However, he did not displace the Mughal dynasty, which remained in nominal control as long as the ruler acknowledged Ahmad's suzerainty over the Punjab, Sindh, and Kashmir. He installed a puppet emperor, Alamgir II, on the Mughal throne, and arranged marriages for himself and his son Timur into the imperial family that same year. He married the daughter of the Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah. His de facto suzerainity was accepted by the East India Company. Leaving his second son Timur Shah (who was wed to the daughter of (Alamgir II) to safeguard his interests, Durrani finally left India to return to Afghanistan.
On his way back he attacked the Golden Temple in Amritsar and filled its sacred pool with the blood of slaughtered cows. Durrani captured Amritsar in 1757, and sacked the Harmandir Sahib at which point the famous Baba Deep Singh and some of his loyalists were killed by the Afghans. This final act was to be the start of long lasting bitterness between Sikhs and Afghans.
The Mughal power in northern India had been declining since the reign of Aurangzeb, who died in 1707. In 1751–52, the Ahamdiya treaty was signed between the Marathas and Mughals, when Balaji Bajirao was the Peshwa. Through this treaty, the Marathas controlled virtually the whole of India from their capital at Pune and Mughal rule was restricted only to Delhi(Mughals remained the nominal heads of Delhi). Marathas were now straining to expand their area of control towards the Northwest of India. Ahmad Shah sacked the Mughal capital and withdrew with the booty he coveted. To counter the Afghans, Peshwa Balaji Bajirao sent Raghunathrao. He succeeded in ousting Timur Shah and his court from India and brought Lahore, Multan, Kashmir and other subahs on the Indian side of Attock under Maratha rule. Thus, upon his return to Kandahar in 1757, Amidst appeals from Muslim leaders like Shah Waliullah, Ahmad Shah chose to return to India and confront the Maratha Confederacy.
He declared a jihad (Islamic holy war) against the Marathas, and warriors from various Pashtun tribes, as well as other tribes such as the Baloch, Tajiks, and Muslims from South Asia answered his call. Early skirmishes ended in victory for the Afghans against the smaller Maratha garrisons in northwest India. By 1759, Durrani and his army had reached Lahore and were poised to confront the Marathas. By 1760, the Maratha groups had coalesced into a big enough army under the command of Sadashivrao Bhau. Once again, Panipat was the scene of a battle for control of northern India. The Third battle of Panipat (January 1761), fought between largely Muslim armies of Abdali and Nawabs and largely Hindu Maratha army was waged along a twelve-kilometre front, and resulted in a decisive victory for Ahmad Shah.
Plagued by the plight of the Uyghurs whose lands were conquered by the warring Qing dynasty, Ahmad Shah laboriously attempted to rally Muslim nations to check Qing expansion. Ahmad Shah halted trade with Qing China and dispatched troops to Kokand. However, with his campaigns in India exhausting the state treasury, and with his troops stretched thin throughout Central Asia, Ahmad Shah did not have enough resources to check Qing forces. In an effort to alleviate the situation in East Turkistan, Ahmad Shah sent envoys to Beijing, but the talks did not yield favorable prospects for the Uyghurs.
During the Third Battle of Panipat between Marathas and Abdali, The Sikhs did not support either side and decided to sitback and see what would happen. The exception was Ala Singh of Patiala, who sided with the Afghans and was actually being granted and crowned the first Sikh Maharajah at the Sikh holy temple.
The victory at Panipat was the high point of Ahmad Shah's and Afghan power, this situation was not to last long; the empire soon began to unravel. As early as by the end of 1761, the Sikhs had begun to rebel in much of the Punjab. In 1762, Ahmad Shah crossed the passes from Afghanistan for the sixth time to crush the Sikhs. He assaulted Lahore and Amritsar. Within two years, the Sikhs rebelled again, and he launched another campaign against them in 1764, resulting in an even battle. During his 8th invasion of India, the Sikhs vacated Lahore, but faced Abdali's army and general, Jahan Khan. The fear of his Indian territory falling to the Sikhs continued to obsess the Durrani's mind and he let out another campaign against Sikhs towards the close of 1766, which was his eighth invasion into India.
Ahmad Shah Durrani died in 1772-73 in Kandahar Province. He was buried at a spot in Kandahar City, where a large mausoleum was built. It has been described in the following way:
Under the shimmering turquoise dome that dominates the sand-blown city of Kandahar lies the body of Ahmad Shah Abdali, the young Kandahari warrior who in 1747 became the region's first Durrani king. The mausoleum is covered in deep blue and white tiles behind a small grove of trees, one of which is said to cure toothache, and is a place of pilgrimage. In front of it is a small mosque with a marble vault containing one of the holiest relics in the Islamic World, a kherqa, the Sacred Cloak of Prophet Mohammed that was given to Ahmad Shah by Mured Beg, the Emir of Bokhara. The Sacred Cloak is kept locked away, taken out only at times of great crisis but the mausoleum is open and there is a constant line of men leaving their sandals at the door and shuffling through to marvel at the surprisingly long marble tomb and touch the glass case containing Ahmad Shah's brass helmet. Before leaving they bend to kiss a length of pink velvet said to be from his robe. It bears the unmistakable scent of jasmine.
In his tomb his epitaph is written:
The King of high rank, Ahmad Shah Durrani,
Was equal to Kisra in managing the affairs of his government.
In his time, from the awe of his glory and greatness,
The lioness nourished the stag with her milk.
From all sides in the ear of his enemies there arrived
A thousand reproofs from the tongue of his dagger.
The date of his departure for the house of mortality
Was the year of the Hijra 1186 (1772 A.D.)
Ahmad Shah's victory over the Marathas influenced the history of the subcontinent and, in particular, British policy in the region. His refusal to continue his campaigns deeper into India prevented a clash with the East India Company and allowed them to continue to acquire power and influence after their acquisition of Bengal in 1757. However, fear of another Afghan invasion was to haunt British policy for almost half a century after the battle of Panipat. The acknowledgment of Abdali's military accomplishments is reflected in a British intelligence report on the Battle of Panipat, which referred to Ahmad Shah as the 'King of Kings'. This fear led in 1798 to a British envoy being sent to the Persian court in part to instigate the Persians in their claims on Herat to forestall an Afghan invasion of British India. Mountstuart Elphinstone wrote of Ahmad Shah:
His military courage and activity are spoken of with admiration, both by his own subjects and the nations with whom he was engaged, either in wars or alliances. He seems to have been naturally disposed to mildness and clemency and though it is impossible to acquire sovereign power and perhaps, in Asia, to maintain it, without crimes; yet the memory of no eastern prince is stained with fewer acts of cruelty and injustice.
His successors, beginning with his son Timur and ending with Shuja Shah Durrani, proved largely incapable of governing the last Afghan empire and faced with advancing enemies on all sides. Much of the territory conquered by Ahmad Shah fell to others by the end of the 19th century. They not only lost the outlying territories but also alienated some Pashtun tribes and those of other Durrani lineages. Until Dost Mohammad Khan's ascendancy in 1826, chaos reigned in Afghanistan, which effectively ceased to exist as a single entity, disintegrating into a fragmented collection of small countries or units. This policy ensured that he did not continue on the path of other conquerors like Babur or Muhammad of Ghor and make India the base for his empire.
By blood, we are immersed in love of you.
The youth lose their heads for your sake.
I come to you and my heart finds rest.
Away from you, grief clings to my heart like a snake.
I forget the throne of Delhi
when I remember the mountain tops of my Afghan land.
If I must choose between the world and you,
I shall not hesitate to claim your barren deserts as my own.
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|Emir of Afghanistan
Timur Shah Durrani
|Name||Ahmad Shah Durrani|
|Alternative names||Ahmad Shah Abdali|
|Short description||Founder of the state of Afghanistan|
|Date of birth||1722|
|Place of birth||Multan (Mughal India) or Herat, Afghanistan|
|Date of death||1773|
|Place of death||Kandahar Province, Afghanistan|