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Heroes of the Age

Heroes of the Age: Moral Fault Lines on the Afghan Frontier

Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 334
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  • Book Info
    Heroes of the Age
    Book Description:

    Much of the political turmoil that has occurred in Afghanistan since the Marxist revolution of 1978 has been attributed to the dispute between Soviet-aligned Marxists and the religious extremists inspired by Egyptian and Pakistani brands of "fundamentalist" Islam. In a significant departure from this view, David B. Edwards contends that—though Marxism and radical Islam have undoubtedly played a significant role in the conflict—Afghanistan's troubles derive less from foreign forces and the ideological divisions between groups than they do from the moral incoherence of Afghanistan itself. Seeking the historical and cultural roots of the conflict, Edwards examines the lives of three significant figures of the late nineteenth century—a tribal khan, a Muslim saint, and a prince who became king of the newly created state. He explores the ambiguities and contradictions of these lives and the stories that surround them, arguing that conflicting values within an artificially-created state are at the root of Afghanistan's current instability. Building on this foundation, Edwards examines conflicting narratives of a tribal uprising against the British Raj that broke out in the summer of 1897. Through an analysis of both colonial and native accounts, Edwards investigates the saint's role in this conflict, his relationship to the Afghan state and the tribal groups that followed him, and the larger issue of how Islam traditionally functions as an encompassing framework of political association in frontier society.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-91631-9
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Maps
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. List of Significant Persons
    (pp. xiii-xv)
  6. [Maps]
    (pp. xvi-xviii)
  7. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-32)

    This book is about the lives of three great men from Afghanistan’s past. It is also about the stories Afghan people tell one another about the past-stories in which men of quality are tested and, by dint of their single-mindedness, their courage, and their capacity, demonstrate the qualities of person and action by which greatness is achieved. The three men are a tribal khan, a Muslim saint, and a royal prince who became Afghanistan’s king. Their stories come from a variety of sources. The khan’s tale was recounted to me by his son and involves a feud in which the...

  8. 2 The Making of Sultan Muhammad Khan
    (pp. 33-77)

    My name is Samiullah. I am known as Safi. My father is Sultan Muhammad Khan from the area of Morchil in Pech Valley of Kunar. My grandfather’s name was Talabuddin, but he was famous by the nameAkhundzada[son of a religious scholar]. I don’t know his background, but this much I do know. My father at that time was about thirteen or fourteen years old. He was the eldest child of my grandfather-my father was. He had two other sons who were small. One of them could eat solids. The other was still nursing. My grandfather had three wives,...

  9. 3 The Reign of the Iron Amir
    (pp. 78-125)

    I am Amir Abdur Rahman Khan, the king [padshah] of Afghanistan. During the time of my reign, I have always been sympathetic and benevolent to you people of Afghanistan, and I have not overlooked my responsibility to you for a single moment. I have told you people a lot through books of advice, publications of preachings, and in many other ways. I have now prepared a map [naqsha] of your own country and also a map of those countries which are located on the four sides of your country [see map 3]. If you people consider well the map which...

  10. 4 The Lives of an Afghan Saint
    (pp. 126-171)

    There are many miracles of Hadda Sahib. Maulana Abdul Baqi, who was Hadda Sahib’s servant and lived his entire life in the same room with Hadda Sahib, told the following story:

    After the evening prayers, Hadda Sahib would come back to his room, perform three hundred prayers, and recite fifteen verses [aya] of the Qur’an.

    One night, Hadda Sahib was sitting on his prayer carpet with the door closed. I was wrapped in my blanket but still awake. All of a sudden, I heard someone say, “Salam aleikum,” and Hadda Sahib replied, “Walekum asalam.”

    I looked out from under my...

  11. 5 Mad Mullas and Englishmen
    (pp. 172-219)

    Yet another proof has been given of the wave of fanaticism which is sweeping along the North-West frontier of India. Malakand was the scene last night of some sharp fighting, a sudden tribal rising in the Swat Valley taking place during the day. The story is a curious one, as showing how quickly tribesmen can gather and how readily they respond to an appeal to their fanaticism.

    The garrison at Malakand consists of one squadron of the 11th Bengal Lancers, No. 8 Bengal mountain battery, one company of Sappers, the 24th and 31st Punjab Infantry, and the 45th Sikhs, or...

  12. 6 Epilogue
    (pp. 220-234)

    I just found out from back home that the Jamatis² and locals have taken to the streets again. They have taken over Police Stations, Court houses, Air ports, and other govt. offices. They want Islamic Law in Malakand division (Swat, Dir, Buner, Chitral districts). Several [parliamentary representatives] have been taken as hostages along with the Judges. One [member of the provincial assembly] Badi-u-Zaman from Besham has been shot dead by the culprits, idiots with beards. His car was stopped when he was on the way to receive the Chief Minister Sherpao. He was to be made hostage when his driver...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 235-270)
  14. Glossary
    (pp. 271-278)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 279-296)
  16. Index
    (pp. 297-307)