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The Jewish Quest for Afghan Cousins – Editorial

FEBRUARY 1985 JEWISH QUEST FOR AFGHAN COUSINS 5 Editorial: The Jewish Quest for “Afghan Cousins” Soon after the empire of David and Solomon had passed over its peak, the twelve tribes of Israel began to scatter out of the land to which they had been led from Egypt by Prophet Moses. It is believed that, following the death of King Solomon, some ten Hebrew tribes, in approximately 928 B.C., split from the other two and formed their own kingdom. In 720 B.C., the two Jewish kingdoms suffered a decisive defeat from the Assyrians. Consequently, an influx of immigration of major proportions began. The Assyrian victors exiled large numbers of Israelites and led them to what the Talmud describes as ‘ ‘beyond the mountains of darkness.” The Bible throws little light on what happened to these ten tribes in the succeeding centuries except that they traveled toward Gozan and Habor. Some scholars believe that these two regions might have been in ancient Mesopotamia—today’s Iraq. In fact, they soon began to be called as “the lost tribes of the House of Israel.” Recently some Jewish scholars have become seriously interested in tracing the whereabouts of these ten lost tribes. This type of study, of course, is of vital importance not only to the Jews but also the Christians because it will immensely help toward understanding the mission vouchsafed to Jesus by divine command. The New Testa- ment states that the angel that appeared to Mary told her that her soon to be born son, Jesus, would receive the throne of his father David and that he would reign over the house of Jacob (Luke: 1:32-3). The Bible quotes him very emphatically to proclaim that his mission was specifically for the people of Hebrew ethnic background. When a woman of Canaan came to seek help for her daughter, he told her in no uncertain terms that “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:22-28). Throughout at least two thousand years, Jewish historians concen- trated upon tracing the movements of only two tribes of Israel— Judah and Benjamin. The ancestry of the present day acknowledged Jews are usually confined to only these two tribes. With the .possible exception of few scholars, even the Christian writers hardly address- ed themselves to the fate of those other ten tribes to whom Jesus THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS FEBRUARY 1985 claimed to have been sent. Lately there has been a revival of interest in locating the present descendents of the lost Hebrew tribes. The Hadassah, a Journal of the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, reports in its November 1984 issue that one such outstanding scholar, Rabbi Eliyahu Avihail, a Jerusalem researcher, has come to the conclusion that the people of Afghanistan possess some striking similarities with the Israelites. Rabbi Avihail suggests that the Biblical places of Gozen and Habor might not be in today’s Iraq as earlier theorized, but in the Afghan lands. Habor, in his opinion, might be the area of Khyber Pass while Gozan could be today’s Jazan River, a tributary of the Amu Darya which serves as the Soviet-Afghanistan boundary. Similarly another Biblical place could be the Afghan city of Herat. To support his thesis, the writer refers to the historian Flavius Josephus who, writing some 800 years after the exile of the ten tribes, in his book Antiquities, comments that they “are beyond the Euphrates till now and are an immense multitude not to be estimated in their numbers.” Rabbi Avihail finds further interesting similarities between the Israelites and the Afghans. For example, Afghan names like Rabbanis, Afridis, Ashuris, Jajani, Daftani, Shinwari and Levani may be the Hebrew Reuben, Ephriam, Asher, Gad, Nephtali, Shimon and Levi respectively. Yusufzai might be the equivalent of the sons of Joseph. Of course, Rabbi Avihail’s research is a welcome contribution, particularly in the field of the history of religions. It may be added, however, that several dimensions of this subject have already been discussed in recent time. Yitzhak Ben Zvi, former President of Israel, was perhaps the first Jewish author of modern times to have dealt with this subject in detail in his book The Exiled and the Redeemed. He records accounts of travellers from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century who reported on the Afghans who “looked Jewish” and “acted Jewish.” Earlier accounts of the Afghan-Hebrew ethnic affinities throw additional light on this fascinating episode of history. As early as in 1843, Sir Henry Yale, a British scholar, reported that many Afghans claim their descent from King Saul through a son Jeremiah, whose offspring is claimed to be called Afghana. Another scholar of the last century, James B. Frazer, reported that many Pathans derive FEBRUARY 1985 JEWISH QUEST FOR AFGHAN COUSINS 7 their origin from Afghan, the son of Eremin, the son of Saul. According to some others, Afghana was the nephew of Asaph, the son of Berachia, who built the temple of Solomon. Frazer claimed to have spent several days with some of these Afghan tribes. Another author, George Moore, devoted his entire book appropriately entitl- ed as The Lost Tribes published in 1886, to this thesis. One may also find a valuable discussion of this subject in L.P. Ferries’ The History of Afghans (1858). May we urge Rabbi Avihail not to stop at the Afghan border in his search for his forgotten cousins. Since the Talmud reported that the lost ten tribes were led “beyond the mountains of darkness,” we can confidently state that he will be sure to find some of their descendents farther East, even as far as in Kashmir. Some authoritative research has already been done in this connection and various pieces of conclusive evidence have been found leading the scholars toward the direction of Kashmir. It was after Divine guidance, that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah and the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Move- ment in Islam (1835-1908), wrote his famous classic entitled in Urdu, Masih Hindustan Men (Jesus in India). He was led to proclaim to the world that, not only some Jewish tribes travelled to, and finally settl- ed down in Kashmir but Jesus followed them several centuries later to preach to the ‘ ‘lost sheep of the House of Israel” according to the specific charge vested in him as mentioned in the New Testament (Matthew 15:22-28). Hazrat Ahmad’s revealing discourse on the emigration of some Jewish tribes and Jesus to Kashmir has been repeatedly confirmed and corroborated by many scholars since then. India’s outstanding leader, the late Jawaharlal Nehru, a freedom fighter and the first prime minister of his country, was also well-known as an eminent scholar and historian. Himself a Kashmiri Brahmin, he wrote in his book, Glimpses of World History: “All over Central Asia, in Kashmir, and Ladakh, and Tibet, and even farther north, there is still a strong belief that Jesus, or Isa, travelled about there… There is nothing inherently improbable in his having done so.” If there are some similarities between the Jews and the Afghans, they are even more so between them and the Kashmiris. Many of their personal and several of their place names could be traced to their Jewish origin. In fact, it is rather interesting to note that many THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS FEBRUARY 1985 personal names in Kashmir end with “Ju” (Jew?). Their moun- tainous province of Gilgit could remind one of Golgotha (Matthew 27:33) Hims, a town near Ladakh sounds so much like Hamath (Numbers 13:21). Even Ladakh of Kashmir can be easily recognized as Laadah (1 Chronicles 4:21). Let us read some more evidence. Francois Bernier (translated by Archibald constable) wrote in 1891 in his book, Travels in the Mughul Empire: “On entering the kingdom after crossing the Pir Penjale moun- tains the inhabitants in the frontier villages struck me as resembl- ing Jews. Their counternance and manner, and that indescribable peculiarity which enables a traveller to distinguish the inhabitants of different nations all seemed to belong to that ancient people. You are not to ascribe what I say to mere fancy, the Jewish ap- pearance of these villagers having been remarked by our Jesuit Father and by several other Europeans long before I visited Kashmere.” Of particular interest may be the comments of Sir Francis Younghusband who wrote in his book, Kashmir: “The visitor with an ordinary standard of beauty, as he passes along the river on the roads or streets, does see a great many more than one or two really beautiful women. He will often see strikingly handsome women, with clear cut eyebrows, and a general Jewish appearance… There are real Biblical types to be seen everywhere in Kashmir, and especially among the uplands villages. Here the Israe- litish shepherd tending his flock and herds many any day be seen.” To our Christian friends we suggest that the obligation of locating the “lost sheep of the House of Israel” falls even more heavily on their shoulders. To believe that Jesus would have left this world without getting anywhere near the accomplishment of the mission assigned to him—that of taking his teachings to all tribes of Israel —does not bring him much credit. We cannot possibly conceive of him as having departed from this earth as a failure. Is it not logical, therefore, to believe that his life did not exactly end when he was hung on the cross for a few hours in the afternoon of Friday before Easter Sunday? Should not our Christian brothers scrutinize all the circumstances of the crucifixion phenomenon and evaluate all inter- nal and external evidence? Many scholars who have done so, have come to the undeniable conclusion that Jesus did not die on the cross—he was delivered from its curse and terrible pain. The fact is that it was Hazrat Ahmad, the Founder of the FEBRUARY 1985 JEWISH QUEST FOR AFGHAN COUSINS 9 Ahmadiyya Movement, who first drew the attention of the modern world toward the actual deliverance of Jesus from the cross. The last several decades have seen steadily mounting evidence to support his views. Scientific study of the famous Shroud of Turin is by itself a conclusive proof of the life of Jesus after crucifixion. It is only logical that he would have left Palestine, on his recovery from the ef- fect of the ordeal of the episode of crucifixion. One is naturally led to trace his post-crucifixion life among the lost tribes of Israel “beyond the mountains of darkness.” Hazrat Ahmad led the way in his famous book, Masih Hindustan Men (Jesus in India) to the final destination of Jesus on this earth. He even wrote about the discovery of his tomb in the Khanyar quarter of Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir. Since the publication of his book, a whole mass of tradition and a certain amount of writings have appeared about this tomb which is known among the people of that area as the tomb of the Prince Prophet “Yuz Asaph,” a name surprisingly so close to the names Jesus and Isa. In addition to several recent publications, the late Maulana J.D. Shams’s, Where Did Jesus Die is an excellent compilation of some of the evidence. Let us hope that while the present day Israelites will .succeed in their quest for their lost cousins “beyond the mountains of darkness” in Afghanistan and Kashmir, our Christian friends will also discover that Jesus, after survival from death on the Cross, died a natural death among the people to whom he was sent by the Lord. Khalil A. Nasir PROMISED MESSIAH’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS He released the people from bonds of social slavery and ex- plained to them their error in blindly following the present day laws of society. He proved the excellence of the social teachings of Islam by cogent reasons. He exposed the evils underlying the taking and giving of interest, showed the beneficence of the Islamic injunctions under Purdah, proved the need of polygamy under certain circumstances, and explained the im- portance of the institution of divorce. In short, he openly and vigorously advocated those teachings of Islam concerning which the Muslims were too timid to raise their voice out of fear of opposing the current of modern thought. (Ahmadiyyat or the True Islam by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II, p.226)

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