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Ahmad Shah Durrani

Coordinates: 31°37′10″N 65°42′25″E / 31.61944°N 65.70694°E / 31.61944; 65.70694
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Ahmad Shah Durrani
احمد شاه دراني
Shāh Durr-i-Durrān ("King, Pearl of Pearls")
Portrait of Ahmad Shah Durrani, c. 1757, Bibliothèque nationale de France
1st Emir of the Durrani Empire
CoronationJune 1747[1]
PredecessorPosition established
SuccessorTimur Shah Durrani
BornAhmad Khan Abdali
1720–1722[2]: 287 
Herat, Sadozai Sultanate of Herat (present-day Afghanistan)[3][4]
Multan, Multan Subah, Punjab, Mughal Empire (present-day Punjab, Pakistan)[5][6][7]
Died (aged 49–52)[2]: 409 
Maruf, Kandahar Province, Durrani Empire
(present-day Afghanistan)
BurialJune 1772
Tomb of Ahmad Shah Durrani, Kandahar, Afghanistan
31°37′10″N 65°42′25″E / 31.61944°N 65.70694°E / 31.61944; 65.70694
(m. 1757)
(m. 1757)
Ahmad Shah Abdali Durr-i-Durrān
Era dates
18th century
DynastyHouse of Durrani
FatherMohammad Zaman Khan Abdali
MotherZarghona Anaa[8]
ReligionSunni Islam
Royal sealAhmad Shah Durrani احمد شاه دراني's signature

Ahmad Shāh Durrānī (Pashto: احمد شاه دراني; Persian: احمد شاه درانی), also known as Ahmad Shāh Abdālī (Pashto: احمد شاه ابدالي), was the founder of the Durrani Empire and is often regarded as the founder of the modern Afghanistan.[9][10][11] In June 1747, he was appointed as King of the Afghans by a loya jirga in Kandahar, where he set up his capital.[12]

Primarily with the support of the Pashtun tribes,[13] Ahmad Shah pushed eastward to the Mughal and Maratha Empires of India, westward to the disintegrating Afsharid Empire of Iran, and northward to the Khanate of Bukhara of Turkestan. Within a few years, he extended his control from Khorasan in the west to North India in the east, and from the Amu Darya in the north to the Arabian Sea in the south.[14][10][15]

Soon after accession, Ahmad Shah adopted the epithet Shāh Durr-i-Durrān, "King, Pearl of Pearls", and changed the name of his "Tareen" Abdali tribe to "Durrani" after himself. His tomb is in the center of Kandahar, adjacent to Kirka Sharif (Shrine of the Cloak), which contains a cloak believed to have been worn by the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Afghans often call him Ahmad Shāh Bābā, "Ahmad Shah the Father".[16][17][18]

Early years

An 1881 photo showing 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.

Ahmad's father, Mohammad Zaman Khan, was the Governor of Herat and chief of the Pashtun Abdali tribe, while his mother, Zarghona Anaa, was daughter of Khalu Khan Alakozai and belonged to the Alakozai tribe. Ahmad was born in Herat (then Sadozai Sultanate of Herat, present-day Afghanistan),[3] or Multan (then Mughal Empire, present-day Pakistan) in 1720–1722 around the time of his father's death, when the Abdali leadership still controlled the Herat region.[19][20]

It is disputed among historians whether Durrani was born in Herat or in Multan, present-day Pakistan. Contemporary historians tend toward Herat in poetic accounts of his life.

According to Afghan historian, Ghulam Muhammad Ghobar, those who say that Durrani was born in Multan, have confused his family with the family of Abdullah Khan Sadozai, another Sadozai elder, who had been living in Multan.[4]

Shah by Nizam-al Din Ishrat, a poet from Sialkot, Punjab is hinting about Durrani while writing about Durrani's father, Muhammad Zaman Khan:[citation needed]

چو از عبر احسان پرواردیگار
Since through the Creator's cloud of beneficience
محمد زمان خان شده مایه دار
Muhammad Zaman Khan had become bountiful
زمین مرده کوه و دشت هرات
The lifeless mountains and plains of Herat
دیگر تازه جان شد زی آب حیات
Were again restored through the water of life

In June 1729, the Abdali forces under Zulfiqar had surrendered to Nader Shah Afshar, the rising new ruler of Persia. 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.[21]

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 to resettle the Abdalis along with some Qizilbash and other Persians.[22]

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.[23]

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.[24] Nader Shah recruited him because of his "impressive personality and valour" also because of his "loyalty to the Persian monarch".[25]

Rise to power

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. Durrani was told 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,[26] 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".[27]

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.[28]

One of Durrani's first acts as chief was to adopt the epithet Shāh Durr-i-Durrān, "King, Pearl of Pearls."[9]

Last Afghan 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 Yusufzai, and non-Pashtun groups such as Qizilbash, Hazaras, Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Baloch.[22] He began his military conquest by capturing Qalati Ghilji from its governor Ashraf Tokhi and installed his own governor in Ghazni. He then wrestled Kabul and Peshawar from Mughal-appointed governor Nasir Khan, and conquered the area up to the Indus River. On 15 July 1747, Ahmad Shah appointed Muhammad Hashim Afridi as chief of the Afridi of Peshawar.[12][27] Ahmad Shah conquered Herat in 1750, Balkh and Badakhshan in 1751, and Kashmir in 1752.[29]

He also made two campaigns into Khorasan (1750–51 and 1754–55).[30] During the first campaign he besieged Mashhad in July 1750 but retreated after four months and on 10 November moved onto Nishapur. His forces suffered heavy casualties and were forced to retreat in early 1751. In 1754 he invaded again. In June 1754 he took Tun and on 23 July had besieged Mashhad.[30] Mashhad fell on 2 December and although Shahrokh Shah was re-appointed as leader of Khorasan in May 1755 he was forced to cede Torshiz, Bakharz, Jam, Khaf, and Turbat-e Haidari to the Afghans.[30][16] He invaded Nishapur again and after a 7-day siege the city fell on 24 June 1755, and was utterly destroyed.[30]

Indian invasions

Invasions of Durrani with considerable political shifts within Punjab and Hindustan regions

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, to save his capital from being attacked by the forces of the Durrani Empire.[citation needed] Having thus gained substantial territories to the east without a fight, Ahmad Shah 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.[31] Following the recapture of Mashhad in 1754, Ahmad Shah visited the eighth Imam's sepulchre and ordered repairs to be made.[31] Ahmad Shah 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.[32]

Third battle of Panipat

Gold coin of Ahmad Shah Durrani, minted in Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi), dated 1760/1
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 was the Peshwa of the Maratha Empire.[33] 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 toward 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.[34] 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.[35]

Central Asia

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.[36]

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.[37] Durrani then sent envoys to Beijing to discuss the situation regarding the Afaqi Khojas.[38]

Death and legacy

The tomb of Ahmad Shah Durrani in Kandahar City, which also serves as the Congregational Mosque and contains the sacred cloak that the Islamic Prophet Muhammad wore.
Son and Successor to Ahmad Shah, Timur Shah Durrani

Ahmad Shah may have suffered an injury due to a flying brick striking his nose when the Harimandir Sahib was destroyed with gunpowder. [39] Other sources state that he suffered from what Afghan sources described as a "gangrenous ulcer", which may attribute to numerous illnesses, such as Leprosy, Syphilis, or a tumor.[40]

Lee writes: "Ahmad Shah gained poor health as a result of all his campaigns. Despite all attempts to treat it, a wound in his nose remained. The ulcer in his later years began eating into his brain".[41] Following the advice of his physicians, he spent part of the summer in the cooler climate of the Margha plain in the Toba Achakzai range during the last few years of his life. He died of his illness on 4 June 1772 (2 Rabi' al-Awwal 1186) in Maruf, Toba Achakzai, east of Kandahar. Some other sources state that he died on 16 October 1772.[42][43]

Ahmad Shah 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.[44]

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.)[45]

Durrani's victory over the Marathas influenced the history of the subcontinent and, in particular, the policies of the East India Company in the region.[citation needed] His refusal to continue his campaigns deeper into India prevented a clash with the company and allowed them to continue to acquire power and influence after they established complete control over the former Mughal province of Bengal in 1793. Fear of another Afghan invasion influenced company policy-makers for almost half a century after the Battle of Panipat.[citation needed] The acknowledgment of Durrani's military accomplishments is reflected in an intelligence report made by Company officials on the Battle of Panipat, which referred to Ahmad Shah as the 'King of Kings'.[46] This fear led in 1798 to a Company envoy being sent to the Persian court in part to instigate the Persians in their claims on Herat to forestall a possible Afghan invasion of India that might have halted Company expansion.[46] 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 Shah 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. Timur Shah consolidated the holdings of the Durrani Empire, quashed civil war and rebellion throughout his reign and led multiple campaigns into Punjab to try and repeat his fathers success. After the death of Timur Shah, his son, Zaman Shah Durrani ascended to the throne; throughout his reign he lost the outlying territories, alienated some Pashtun tribes and those of other Durrani lineages. Zaman Shah led campaigns into Punjab, capturing Lahore. Due to internal strife, he withdrew on all attempts. He was later deposed by Mahmud Shah Durrani, his brother, and the Durrani Realm continued to disintegrate in the following years from progressive succession crises, usually between Timur Shah's sons, with Mahmud Shah Durrani, Zaman Shah Durrani, and Shah Shuja Durrani. Afghanistan remained disunited until Dost Mohammad Khan's ascendancy in 1826. Chaos had effectively reigned and it ceased to exist as a single entity, disintegrating into a fragmented collection of small countries or units. Throughout his reign, the khan focused on reuniting it and somewhat did so with the Herat Campaign of 1862-63, which retook Herat, and the eventual conquest of the Principality of Qandahar.

In Pakistan, a short-range ballistic missile Abdali-I, is named in the honour of Ahmad Shah Abdali.[47]


Durrani wrote a collection of odes in his native Pashto. He was also the author of several poems in Persian. One of his most famous Pashto poems was Love of a Nation:[48][49][50]

ستا د عشق له وينو ډک سول ځيګرونه
By blood, we are immersed in love of you
ستا په لاره کښې بايلي زلمي سرونه
The youth lose their heads for your sake
تا ته راسمه زړګی زما فارغ سي
I come to you and my heart finds rest
بې له تا مې اندېښنې د زړه مارونه
Away from you, grief clings to my heart like a snake
که هر څو مې د دنيا ملکونه ډېر سي
Whatever countries I conquer in the world,
زما به هېر نه سي دا ستا ښکلي باغونه
I will never forget your beautiful gardens
د ډیلي تخت هېرومه چې را ياد کړم
I forget the throne of Delhi when I remember,
زما د ښکلي پښتونخوا د غرو سرونه
The mountain tops of my beautiful Pashtunkhwa
د فريد او د حميد دور به بيا سي
The eras of Farid [Sher Shah Suri] and Hamid [Lodi] will return,
چې زه وکاندم پر هر لوري تاختونه
When I launch attacks on all sides
که تمامه دنيا يو خوا ته بل خوا يې
If I must choose between the world and you,
زما خوښ دي ستا خالي تش ډګرونه
I shall not hesitate to claim your barren deserts as my own

Personal life

During Nader Shah's invasion of India in 1739, Ahmad Shah also accompanied him and stayed some days in the Red Fort of Delhi. When he was standing "outside the Jali gate near Diwan-i-Am", Asaf Jah I saw him. He was "an expert in physiognomy" and predicted that Ahmad Shah was "destined to become a king". When Nader Shah learned of it, he "purportedly clipped" his ears with his dagger and made the remark "When you become a king, this will remind you of me". According to other sources, Nader Shah did not believe in it and asked him to be kind to his descendants "on the attaintment of royalty".[25]

Padshah Ahmad Shah Durrani
Lived: 1720/1722–1772
Reign: 1747–1772
Padshah Timur Shah Durrani
Lived: 1748–1793
Reign: 1772–1793
Padshah Mahmud Shah Durrani
Lived: 1769–1829
Reign: 1801–1803,
Shahzada Kamran Durrani
Shahzada Nadir Bismillah Durrani
Shahzada Rasheed Khan Durrani
Shahzada Aalijah Nidda Durrani
Shahzada Mohammad Abdul Rahim Durrani
Shahzada Abdul Habib Khan Durrani
Shahzada Rehmatullah Khan Durrani
Shahzada Hayatullah Khan Durrani
Born: 1964
Shahzada Mohammad Abu Bakar Durrani
Born: 1995

In popular culture

See also


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  2. ^ a b Nejatie, Sajjad (2017). The Pearl of Pearls: The Abdālī-Durrānī Confederacy and Its Transformation under Aḥmad Shāh, Durr-i Durrān (PhD). University of Toronto. Archived from the original on 4 February 2022. Retrieved 26 September 2019.
  3. ^ a b Nejatie, Sajjad (2017). The Pearl of Pearls: The Abdālī-Durrānī Confederacy and Its Transformation under Aḥmad Shāh, Durr-i Durrān (PhD). University of Toronto. p. 293. Archived from the original on 4 February 2022. Retrieved 26 September 2019. The fact that numerous sources composed in the ruler's lifetime consistently connect him in his youth to Herat justifies the stance of Ghubār and others that Aḥmad Shāh was, in fact, born in the Herat region, around the time his father passed away and when the Abdālī leadership still exercised authority over the province.
  4. ^ a b Afghanistan In The Course of History us.archive.org
  5. ^ Hanifi, Shah Mahmoud (2008). Connecting Histories in Afghanistan: Market Relations and State Formation on a Colonial Frontier. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. p. 42. ISBN 978-0804777773. Ahmad Shah (ruled 1747–72), the ephemeral empire's founder, was born in Multan in 1722.
  6. ^ Nölle-Karimi, Christine. "Afghanistan until 1747". In Fleet, Kate; Krämer, Gudrun; Matringe, Denis; Nawas, John; Rowson, Everett (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam (3rd ed.). Brill Online. ISSN 1873-9830. It was in Multan that the future Aḥmad Shāh Sadūzāʾī was born of Khudādād's lineage.
  7. ^ Dalrymple, William (2013). Return of a King: The battle for Afghanistan. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-1408818305. Ahmad Shah Abdali (1722–72): Born in Multan, Ahmad Shah rose to power in the service of the Persian warlord Nadir Shah.
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  21. ^ Sarkar, p. 124
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  40. ^ William, Anita, Dalrymple, Anand (2017). Koh-I-Noor: The History of the World's Most Infamous Diamond (Hardcover ed.). Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 65. ISBN 978-1-63557-076-2. Few possessors of the Koh-i-Noor have led happy lives, and while Ahmad Shah rarely lost a battle, he was eventually defeated by a foe more intractable than any army. From early on in his reign, his face began to be eaten away by what the Afghan sources call a 'gangrenous ulcer', possibly leprosy, syphilis or some form of tumour. Even as he was winning his greatest victory at Panipat, Ahmad Shah's disease had already consumed his nose, and a diamond-studded substitute was attached in its place.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
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  52. ^ "Mr Christos Mojo – Indian Express". archive.indianexpress.com. Retrieved 16 April 2022.



Further reading

External links

Regnal titles
Preceded by
Position established
Emir of Afghanistan
Succeeded by