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Ahmad Shah Durrani founder of the Afghan Durrani Empire

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Ahmad shah Durrani (1722 – 4 June 1772) also known as Ahmad khan was the founder of the Durrani empire is regarded as the founder of the modern state of Afghanistan In July 1747, Ahmad Shah was appointed as the king of the Afghanistan by a Loya jirga in Kandahar, where he set up his capital. Assisted by a council of nine advisers from various Afghan tribes Ahmad Shah pushed east towards the Mughal and Maratha empires of India, west towards the disintegrating Afsharid Empire of Iran, and north towards the khanate of Bukhar  of Turkestan. Within a few years, he extended his control from Khorasan in the west to Kashmir and North India in the east, and from the Amu Darya in the north to the Arabian Sea in the south.

Soon after accession, Ahmad Shah adopted the epithet Shāh Durr-i-Durrān, "King, Pearl of Pearls," and changed the name of his Abdali tribe to "Durrani" after himself. The Tomb of Ahmad shah Durrani is located in the center of Kandahar, adjacent to the Shrine of the cloak, which contains a cloak believed to have been worn by the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Afghans often refer to Ahmad Shah as Ahmad Shāh Bābā, "Ahmad Shah the Father".

Early years

Hotak dynasty

An 1881 Shah Hussain Hotak's fortress in Old Kandahar, where Abdali and his brother Zulfikar were imprisoned. It was destroyed in 1738 by the Afsharid  forces of Persia.

Durrani was born in Herat (then Hokat Empire, present-day Afghanistan) or Multan (then Mughal Empire present-day Pakistan) in 1722 to Mohammad Zaman Khan, chief of the Abdali tribe and Governor of Herat, and Zarghuna Ana, daughter of Khalu Khan Alkozai.

Durrani's forefathers were Sadozais but his mother was from the Alakozai tribe. In June 1729, the Abdali forces under Zulfiqar had surrendered to Nader Shah Afshar, the rising new ruler of Persia. However, they soon began a rebellion and took over Herat as well as Mashad. In July 1730, he defeated Ibrahim Khan, a military commander and brother of Nader shah. This prompted Nader Shah to retake Mashad and also intervene in the power struggle of Harat. By July 1731, Zulfiqar returned to his capital Farah where he had been serving as the Governor since 1726. A year later Nadir's brother Ibrahim Khan took control of Farah. During this time Zulfiqar and the young Durrani fled to Kandahar where they took refuge with the Ghiljis. They were later made political prisoners by Hussain Hotak, the Ghilji ruler of the Kandahar region.

Nader Shah had been enlisting the Abdalis in his army since around 1729. After conquering Kandahar in 1738, Durrani and his brother Zulfiqar were freed and provided with leading careers in Nader Shah's administration. Zulfiqar was made Governor of Mazandaran while Durrani remained working as Nader Shah's personal attendant. The Ghiljis, who are originally from the territories east of the Kandahar region, were expelled from Kandahar in order to resettle the Abdalis along with some Qizilbash and other Persians.

Durrani proved himself in Nader Shah's service and was promoted from a personal attendant (yasāwal) to command the Abdali Regiment, a cavalry of four thousand soldiers and officers. The Abdali Regiment was part of Nader Shah's military during his invasion of the Mughal Empire in 1738.

Popular history has it that the Shah could see the talent in his young commander. Later on, according to Pashtun legend, it is said that in Delhi Nader Shah summoned Durrani, and said, "Come forward Ahmad Abdali. Remember Ahmad Khan Abdali, that after me the Kingship will pass on to you. Nader Shah recruited him because of his "impressive personality and valour" also because of his "loyalty to the Persian monarch".

Rise to power

Durrani dynasty

Coronation of Ahmad Shah Durr-i-Durrān by Abdali chiefs at Kandahar in 1747

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, Durrani was told that the Shah had been killed by one of his wives. Despite the danger of being attacked, the Abdali contingent led by Durrani rushed either to save the Shah or to confirm what happened. Upon reaching the Shah's tent, they were only to see his body and severed head. Having served him so loyally, the Abdalis wept at having failed their leader, and headed back to Kandahar. Before the retreat to Kandahar, he had "removed" the royal seal from Nader Shah's finger and the Koh-i-Noor diamond tied "around the arm of his deceased master". On their way back to Kandahar, the Abdalis had "unanimously accepted" Durrani as their new leader. Hence he "assumed the insignia of royalty" as the "sovereign ruler of Afghanistan".

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 Nader 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.

One of Durrani's first acts as chief was to adopt the epithet Shāh Durr-i-Durrān, "King, Pearl of Pearls."

Forming the last Afghan empire

Durrani Empire

Although Ahmad Shah appointed his fellow Durrani (Abdali) clansmen for most senior military posts, his army was otherwise ethnically diverse with soldiers also from various other ethnic and tribal groups, including non-Durrani Pashtun tribes like the Ghilji, and non-Pashtun groups such as Qizilbash, Hazaras, Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Baloch. He began his military conquest by capturing Qalati Ghilji from its governor Ashraf Tokhi, and then captured Ghazni, where he installed his own governor after some fighting. Ahmad then wrestled Kabul and Peshawar from Mughal-appointed governor Nasir Khan, and conquered the area up to the Indus river On 15 July 1747, Durrani appointed Muhammad Hashim Afridi as chief of the Afridi of  Peshawar. He conquered Herat in 1750 and Kashmir in 1752.

Indian invasions

 Indian campaign Ahmad Shah Durrani invaded India eight times between 1748 and 1767. After the assassination of Nadir Shah, Ahmad Shah Durrani succeeded the throne of Afghanistan and started plundering wealth from nearby regions. In the Chota Ghalughara and Vada Ghalughara Abdali managed to massacre many through ambush, but in the end, Abdali retreated when he encountered the Sikhs on his way to India on the banks of river Chenab. That was his last invasion he would ever do as shortly after he died. After Durrani returned to Afghanistan, the Sikhs rebelled and annexed several cities in the Punjab region. His repeated incursions destroyed the Mughal empire and at Panipat, dealt a major blow to Maratha pretensions in the North and created a power vacuum. His objectives were met through the raids and caused political issues in India.

Early invasions

The Bala Hissar fort in Peshawar was one of the royal residences of Ahmad Shah.

Peshawar served as a convenient point for Ahmad Shah for his military conquests in Hindustan. From 1748 to 1767, he invaded Hindustan eight times. He first crossed the Indus River in 1748, the year after his ascension – his forces sacked and absorbed Lahore. In 1749, Ahmad Shah captured the area of Punjab around Lahore. In the same year, 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 forces of the Durrani Empire Having thus gained substantial territories to the east without a fight, Durrani and his forces turned westward to take possession of Herat, which was ruled by Nader Shah's grandson, Shah Rukh. The city fell to the Afghans in 1750, after almost a year of siege and bloody conflict; the Afghan forces then pushed on into present-day Iran, capturing Nishapur and Mashhad in 1751. Following the recapture of Mashhad in 1754, Durrani visited the eighth Imam's sepuchre and ordered repairs to be made. Durrani then pardoned Shah Rukh and reconstituted Khorasan, but a tributary of the Durrani Empire. This marked the westernmost border of the Afghan Empire as set by the Pul-i-Abrisham, on the Mashhad-Tehran road.

Third battle of Panipat

 Battle of Panipat (1761)

Durrani sitting on a brown horse during the 1761 Battle of Panipat in Northern India.

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 as the Peshwa of the Maratha Empire. Through this treaty, the Marathas controlled large parts 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. Durrani 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 northwest of India up to Peshawar under Maratha rule. Thus, upon his return to Kandahar in 1757, Durrani chose to return to India and confront the Maratha forces to regain northwestern part of the subcontinent.

In 1761, Durrani set out on his campaign to win back lost territories. The early skirmishes ended in victory for the Afghans against the 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 was fought between Durrani's Afghan forces and the Maratha forces in January 1761, and resulted in a decisive Durrani victory.

Central Asia

 Islamicisation and Turkicisation of XinjiangDzungar conquest of Altishahr, and Dzungar genocide

The historical area of what is modern day Xinjiang consisted of the distinct areas of the Tarim Basin  and Dzungaria, and was originally populated by Indo-European Tocharian and Eastern Iranian Saka peoples who practiced the Buddhist religion. The area was subjected to Turkification and Islamicisation at the hands of invading Turkic Muslims. Both the Buddhist Turkic Uyghurs and Muslim Turkic Karluks participated in the Turkification and conquest of the native Buddhist Indo-European inhabitants of the Tarim Basin. The Turkic Muslims then proceeded to conquer the Turkic Buddhists in Islamic holy wars and converted them to Islam. The mixture between the invading Turkic peoples and the native Caucasian Indo-European inhabitants resulted in the modern day Turkic speaking hybrid Europoid-East Asian inhabitants of Xinjiang. The Turkification was carried out in the 9th and 10th centuries by two different Turkic Kingdoms, the Buddhist Uyghur Kingdom of Qocho and the Muslim Karluk Kara-Khanid Khanate. Halfway in the 10th century the Saka Iranic Buddhist Kingdom of Khotan came under attack by the Turkic Muslim Karakhanid ruler Musa, and in what proved to be a pivotal moment in the Turkification and Islamification of the Tarim Basin, the Karakhanid leader Yusuf Qadir Khan conquered Khotan around 1006.

The Turkic Muslim sedentary people of the Tarim Basin of Altishahr were originally ruled by the Chagatai Khanate  while the nomadic Buddhist Dzungar Oirats in Dzungaria ruled over the Dzungar Khanate. The Naqshbandi Sufi Khojas, descendants of the Prophet Muhammad, had replaced the Chagatayid Khans as the ruling authority of the Tarim Basin in the early 17th century. There was a struggle between two factions of Khojas, the Afaqi (White Mountain) faction and the Ishaqi (Black Mountain) faction. The Ishaqi defeated the Afaqi, which resulted in the Afaqi Khoja inviting the 5th Dalai Lama the leader of the Tibetan Buddhists, to intervene on his behalf in 1677. The 5th Dalai Lama then called upon his Dzungar Buddhist followers in the Zunghar Khanate to act on this invitation. The Dzungar Khanate then conquered the Tarim Basin in 1680, setting up the Afaqi Khoja as their puppet ruler.

Khoja Afaq asked the 5th Dalai Lama when he fled to Lhasa to help his Afaqi faction take control of the Tarim Basin (Kashgaria). The Dzungar leader Galdan was then asked by the Dalai Lama to restore Khoja Afaq as ruler of Kashgararia. Khoja Afaq collaborated with Galdan's Dzungars when the Dzungars conquered the Tarim Basin from 1678–1680 and set up the Afaqi Khojas as puppet client rulers. The Dalai Lama blessed Galdan's conquest of the Tarim Basin and Turfan Basin.

Since 1680 the Dzungars had ruled as suzerain masters over the Tarim, for 16 more years using the Chagatai as their puppet rulers. The Dzungars used a hostage arrangement to rule over the Tarim Basin, keeping as hostages in Ili either the sons of the leaders like the Khojas and Khans or the leaders themselves. Although the Uighur's culture and religion was left alone, the Dzungars substantially exploited them economically . The Uighurs were forced with multiple taxes by the Dzungars which were burdensome and set by a determined amount, and which they did not even have the ability to pay. They included water conservancy tax, draught animal tax, fruit tax, poll tax, land tax, tress and grass tax, gold and silver tax, and trade tax. Annually the Dzungars extracted a tax of 67,000 tangas of silver from the Kashgar people in Galdan Tseren's reign, a five percent tax was imposed on foreign traders and a ten percent tax imposed on Muslim merchants, people had to pay a fruit tax if they owned orchards and merchants had to pay a copper and silver tax. Annually the Dzungars extracted 100,000 silver tangas in tax from Yarkand and slapped livestock, stain, commerce, and a gold tax on them. The Dzungars extracted 700 taels of gold, and also extracted cotton, copper, and cloth, from the six regions of Keriya, Kashgar, Khotan, Kucha, Yarkand, and Aksu as stated by Russian topographer Yakoff Filisoff. The Dzungars extracted over 50% of the wheat harvests of Muslims according to Qi-yi-shi (Chun Yuan), 30–40% of the wheat harvests of Muslims according to the Xiyu tuzhi, which labelled the tax as "plunder" of the Muslims. The Dzungars also extorted extra taxes on cotton, silver, gold, and traded goods from the Muslims besides making them pay the official tax. "Wine, meat, and women" and "a parting gift" were forcibly extracted from the Uighurs daily by the Dzungars who went to physically gather the taxes from the Uighur Muslims, and if they dissatisfied with what they received, they would rape women, and loot and steal property and livestock. Gold necklaces, diamonds, pearls, and precious stones from India were extracted from the Uighurs under Dāniyāl Khoja by Tsewang Rabtan when his daughter was getting married.

67,000 patman (each patman is 4 Piculs and 5 Pecks) of grain 48,000 silver ounces were forced to be paid yearly by Kashgar to the Dzungars and cash was also paid by the rest of the cities to the Dzungars. Trade, milling, and distilling taxes, corvée labor, saffron, cotton, and grain were also extracted by the Dzungars from the Tarim Basin. Every harvest season, women and food had to be provided to Dzungars when they came to extract the taxes from them.

When the Dzungars levied the traditional nomadic Alban poll tax upon the Muslims of Altishahr, the Muslims viewed it as the payment of Jizyah (a tax traditionally taken from non-Muslims by Muslim conquerors).

The Qing defeat of the Dzungars went hand in hand with the anti-Dzungar resistance of the ordinary Uighurs, "many of them, unable to bear their misery, which was like living in a sea of fire, fled but were not able to find a place to settle peacefully." The Uighurs carried out "acts of resistance" like hiding the goods which were collected as taxes or violently resisting the Dzungar Oirat tax collectors, but these incidents were infrequent and widespread anti-Dzungar opposition failed to materialize. Many opponents of Dzungar rule like Uighurs and some dissident Dzungars escaped and defected to Qing China during 1737–1754 and provided the Qing with intelligence on the Dzungars and voiced their grievances. Abdullāh Tarkhān Beg and his Hami Uighurs defected and submitted to Qing China after the Qing inflicted a devastating defeat at Chao-mo-do on the Dzungar leader Galdan in September 1696. The Uighur leader Emin Khoja (Amīn Khoja) of Turfan revolted against the Dzungars in 1720 while the Dzungars under Tsewang Rabtan were being attacked by the Qing, and then he also defected and submitted to the Qing. The Uighurs in Kashgar under Yūsuf and his older brother Jahān Khoja of Yarkand revolted in 1754 against the Dzungars, but Jahān was taken prisoner by the Dzungars after he was betrayed by the Uch-Turfan Uighur Xi-bo-ke Khoja and Aksu Uighur Ayyūb Khoja. Kashgar and Yarkand were assaulted by 7,000 Khotan Uighurs under Sādiq, the son of Jahān Khoja. The Uighurs supported the 1755 Qing assault against the Dzungars in Ili, which occurred at the same time as the Uighur revolts against the Dzungars. Uighurs like Emin Khoja, 'Abdu'l Mu'min and Yūsuf Beg supported the Qing attack against Dawachi, the Dzungar Khan. The Uch-Turfan UighurnBeg Khojis (Huojisi) supported the Qing General Ban-di against in tricking Davachi and taking him prisoner. The Qing and Amin Khoja and his sons worked together to defeat the Dzungars under Amursana.

Afghan royal soldiers of the alsoDurrani Empire (also referred to as the Afghan Empire).

From the 17th century to the middle of the 18th century, between China proper and Transoxania, all the land was under the sway of the Dzungars. In Semirechye the Kyrgyz and Kazakahs were forcibly driven out by the Dzungars and the Kashgar Khanate was conquered. However, the Dzungar Empire was annihilated by Qing China from 1755–1758 in a formidable assault, ending the Central Asian states danger from the Dzungar menace. Uighur Muslims like Emin Khoja from Turfan revolted against their Dzungar Buddhist rulers and pledged allegiance to Qing China to deliver them from Dzungar Buddhist rule. The Qing crushed and annihilated the Dzungars in the Dzungar genocide.

The Dzungar Buddhists brought back the Aqtaghliq Afaqi Khoja Burhan-ud-din and his brother Khan Khoja and installed them as puppet rulers in Kashgar. During the Qing's war against the Dzungars, Burhan-ud-din and his brother Khan Khoja then pledged allegiance to Qing China in exchange for delivering them from Dzungar rule. However, after the Qing defeated the Dzungars, the Afaqi Khoja brothers Burhan-ud-din and Khan Khoja reneged on the deal with the Qing, declared independence and revolted against the Qing. The Qing and loyal Uighurs like Emin Khoja crushed the revolt and drove Burhan-ud-din and Khan Khoja to Badakhshan. The Qing armies reached far in Central Asia and came to the outskirts of Tashkent while the Kazakh rulers made their submissions as vassals to the Qing. The Afaqi brothers died in Badakhshan and the ruler Sultan Shah delivered their bodies to the Qing. Ahmad Shah Durrani accused Sultan Shah of having caused the Afaqi brothers to die.

Durrani dispatched troops to Kokand after rumours that the Qing dynasty planned to launch an expedition to Samarkand, but the alleged expedition never happened and Ahmad Shah subsequently withdrew his forces when his attempt at an anti-Qing alliance among Central Asian states failed. Durrani then sent envoys to Beijing to discuss the situation regarding the Afaqi Khojas.

Rise of the Sikhs in the Punjab

During the Third battle of Panipat between Marathas and Durrani, the Sikhs did not engage along with the Marathas and hence are considered neutral in the war. This was because of the flawed diplomacy on the part of Marathas in not recognizing their strategic potential. The exception was Ala Singh of Patiala, who sided with the Afghans and was actually being granted and coincidentally crowned the first Sikh Maharajah at the Sikh holy temple.

Death and legacy

The tomb of Ahmad shah durrani in Kandahar city which also serves as the Congregational Mosque contains the sacred cloak that the Islamic Prophet Muhammad wore.

Extent of Durrani Empire at Durrani's death

The Durrani Empire, also called the Sadozai Kingdom and the Afghan Empire, was founded and built by Ahmad Shah Abdali in parts of Central Asia, Middle East and South Asia. At its maximum extent, the empire ruled over the modern-day countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as parts of northeastern and southeastern Iran, eastern Turkmenistan, and northwestern India.

Durrani died of his illness on 4 June 1772 in Maruf, Kandahar province. He was buried in the city of Kandahar adjacent to the Shrine of the Cloak , 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 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.)

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