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The Israelite Origin of People of Afghanistan and the Kashmiri People

People of both Afghanistan and Kashmir in northern India trace their origins to the Israelites and claim to be descendants of the lost tribes of Israel. First we will discuss the people of Afghanistan, called Afghans. According to their traditions, the Afghans claim to be Beni Israel or the children of Israel. This claim is supported by their old historical works some of them being manuscripts still in their possession. The Afghans The oldest manuscript available to us is Rauza-tul-Albabfi Ta-arikh-i- Akabir-wal Ansab – (The Garden of the Learned in the History of Great Men and Genealogies) – by Abu Suleman Daud Bin Abul Fatal Muhammad Albenaketi written in 717 AH. The author says in the introduction that ever since the times of Moses, the ancestors of Afghans had to face great hardships. They were expelled from place to place and exterminated. Jerusalem was sacked more than once and their ancestors, the Israelites, were carried into captivity. In Chapter I, a detailed history of Jacob is given and in Chapter II, the genealogies of the Afghans tribes are traced to King Saul. Mestoufi, the author of Maima-ul- Ansab traces Kais – the tribal head of Afghans, in a series of thirty-one degrees to King Saul and fourty- five generations to Abraham. 36 Review of Religions – April 2002 The Israelite Origin of People of Afghanistan and Kashmir By Aziz A. Chaudhary, USA Jesus(as) himself had said that his mission extended to the lost sheep of the House of Israel, meaning that he had come to preach his message to the tribes of Israelites who had deviated from the teachings of Judaism. Yet of the 12 tribes of Israelites only two were present in Palestine, so where were the rest? This article provides a useful insight into those tribes that had scattered across Persia and India and comments on their prevailing Jewish customs and traditions. If these were the people for whom Jesus was sent then did he reach them? Bukhtawar Khan, in his valuable universal history, Mirat-ul-Alam – (The Mirror of the World), gives a vivid account of the journeys of Afghans from Palestine to Ghore, Ghazni, Kabul, and other places in Afghanistan. Similarly Hafiz Remat Bin Shah Alam in his Khulasa-tul- Ansab and Fareed-ud-Din Ahmad in his Rasalah Ansab-i-Afghansiyah gives the history of Afghans and deals with genealogies. They both prove that Afghans are descendants of Israel through King Saul. Fareed-ud-Din writes in his book that after the invasion of Palestine by Nebuchadenzzar, and the deportation, some of their ancestors left Nebuchadnezzar’s territory under a chief and went away to Ghaur hills in Afghanistan. Their descendants multiplied and the people began to call them Beni Israel, Beni Asaf, and Beni Afghans. Khawaja Nimatullah of Herat in his book M a k h a z a n – i – A f g h a n s i w r i t t e n in 1018 A.H. in the time of Ki n g Jahangir (translated by Pr o f Bernard Doran, London 1836) comes to the conclusion that Afghans are Beni Israel – the children of Israel – and traces their descent from King Saul. As noted elsewhere after the events of N e b u c h a d n e z z a r, the ancestors of Afghans had settled in Ghaur territory of Afghanistan. At the time of Holy Prophet Muhammad( s a ), Khalid Bin Walid invited them to Islam. The Afghans chiefs under the leadership of Qais, who was descendant of King Saul in the 37th degree, came to visit Pr o p h e t M u h a m m a d( s a ) who conferred upon the chiefs the title of Pathan which means ‘a ship’s rudder’. This signified that these chiefs would guide their nation into the currents of Islam. Among recent authors Sayed Jalal- ud-Din Afghansi in his History of Afghans and Syed Abdul Jabbar Shah, ex-ruler of Swat (in his Mun Ameen-i-Bani Israel, MS) discuss genealogies of different Afghans tribes and ultimately trace them to King Saul. They discuss the question with exhaustive detail and come to irresistable conclusion that the Afghans represent the lost ten tribes of Israel. Most of the Western writers and historians who have written on this subject, have come to the same conclusion. One of the earliest among them is Henry Vanisttart1 who commented on Israeli descent of Afghans and stated that the claim of the Afghans to be Beni Israel was more than justified. Sir Alexander Prunes in his Travels into Bokhara (published in 1835) discusses the claim of Afghans to be of Israelite descent and then 37 The Israelite Origin of People of Afghanistan and Kashmir Review of Religions – April 2002 stated that he saw no good reason to discredit them. He further wrote: ‘The Afghans look like Jews and the younger brother marries the widow of the elder. The Afghans entertain prejudices against the Jewish nation, which would at least show that they have no desire to claim, without just cause, a descent from them’.2 In 1837, Sir Alexander Prunes was sent as the first British envoy to the court at Kabul. For some time he was the guest of Amir Dost Muhammad Khan – the King of Afghanistan. He questioned the king about the descent of the Afghans from the Israelites. The king replied, ‘His people had no doubt of that though they repudiated the idea of being Jews, whom they treat with hereditary contempt. They found their claim not merely on tradition but on an ancient record in their possession named Mujmooa-e-Ansab.’ G.T.Vigne3 in his book, A Personal Narrative of a Visit to Chuzin, Cabul in Afghanistan (1840) writes that one Mullah Khuda Dad, a person learned in history of his countrymen, read out from a book, the genealogy of his people. According to it a person named Afghans was a descendant of Jacob in the ninth degree. Afghans was a contemporary of Nebuchadnezzar, called himself Beni Israel and had forty sons. Sulum, the eldest son of Afghans, migrated from his home in Syria and settled in Gura Mishkon near Herat. His descendants spread over the country now called Afghanistan. 34th descendant of Afghans was Qais who lived in the time of Prophet Muhammad(sa). Dr. Joseph Wolf4 writes: ‘I was wonderfully struck with the resemblance which Yusuf Zayes and the Khaibaries, two of their (Afghans) tribes to the Jews.’ James Bryce5 in his Cyclopaedia of G e o g r a p h y, (1800) writes about Afghans that they trace their origin to King Saul calling themselves Beni Israel. Quoting Sr. A. Brunes he further writes that their tradition is that they were transplanted by the King of Babylon from Holy Land to Ghore, lying to the Northwest of Kabul and they lived as Jews till 682 A.D. when they were converted to Islam by an Arab chief. J.P.Ferrier wrote his History of the Afghans in 1858. It was translated by Capt. W. M. Jesse. He also believed that Afghans represented the Ten Tribes of Israel. In support of his views he recorded6 a significant fact that during his invasion of India, Nadir Shah was presented at Peshawar, by chiefs of 38 The Israelite Origin of People of Afghanistan and Kashmir Review of Religions – April 2002 Yusuf-Zayee tribe with a bible written in Hebrew and with several other articles preserved by their families for the performance of religious ceremonies of their old faith. As there were also Jews in Nadir Shah’s camp, they readily recognised these articles. George Moore, published his famous work The Lost Tribes in 1861. He gave numerous reasons to prove that these lost ten tribes of Israel can be traced to Afghans and people of Kashmir in India. He writes7 ‘and we find that the very natural character of Israel reappears in all its life and reality in countries where people call themselves Bani Israel and universally claim to be the descendants of the Lost Tribes. The nomenclature of their tribes and districts, both in ancient geography, and at the present day, confirms this universal natural tradition. Lastly, we have the route of the Israelites from Media to Afghanistan and India marked by a series of intermediate stations bearing the names of several of the tribes and clearly indicating the stages of their long and arduous journey.’ Moore goes on to say: ‘Sir William Jones, Sir John Malcolm and the Missionary Chamberlain, after full investigation, were of the opinion that the Ten Tr i b e s migrated to India, Tibet, and Cashemire through Afghanistan.’ H.W.Bellews8 writes in his book The Races of Afghanistan (1884) that Afghans came from Syria and Nebuchadnezzar took them captives and settled them as colonists in Persia and Media from whence at some time later they marched to the East and settled in Ghaur hills where they were known as Beni Israel. Among the recent writers, Dr. Alfred Edersheim9 and Sir Thomas Holditch10 are of similar view that majority of Afghans and people of Kashmir are descendants of Israelites. The Kashmiris Now we turn to people of Kashmir called Kashmiris. Here again we find that their traditions and history, both ancient and modern, establishes their descent from the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel.The Kashmiris claim to be Bani Israel (children of Israelites) and call themselves ‘Kashar’ which is a Hebrew word meaning ‘right’. Unfortunately no history of Kashmir from ancient Hindu sources is available except K a l h a n a ’s Raiatarangini which deals with kings and dynasties rather than people. The first real 39 The Israelite Origin of People of Afghanistan and Kashmir Review of Religions – April 2002 historian of Kashmir was Mulla Nadiri who started writing his Ta r i k h – i – K a s h m i r ( H i s t o r y o f Kashmir) in the reign of Sultan Sikandar (1378-1426 AD) and completed in the reign of Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin. The next historian was Mulla Ahmad who wrote his Wa q a y a – i – K a s h m i r ( E v e n t s o f Kashmir) during the reign of Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin. Both these historians state categorically that the inhabitants of Kashmir are descendants of Israel. The book of h i s t o r y, H a s h m a t – i – K a s h m i r1 1 written by Abdul Qadir Bin Qazi-ul- Quzat Wasil Ali Khan was written in 1820 and states that the inhabitants of Kashmir are the children of Israel and states further that they had come from Holy Land. Nazir Ahmad, author of Jesus in Heaven on Earth, estimates12 that the ancestors of present inhabitants of Kashmir settled here probably in 3rd century BC in the reign of King Vasukula. His view is based upon the book of history by Mulla Muhammad Khalil of Murjunpur and the H i s t o r y o f Kashmir by H.H.Wilson. Pundit Narain Kaul, a Kashmiri Pundit wrote his Gu l d a s t a – i – K a s h m i r in 1884. He described Kashmiri Muslims and Pundits as being of Jewish countenance and descent. (Part I, p.73). Pundit Ram Chand Kak who was at one time a prime minister of Kashmir writes in his Ancient Monuments of Kashmir published in 1933: Moses is a very common name h e r e a n d s o m e a n c i e n t m o n u m e n t s s t i l l t o b e s e e n disclose them to be of a people who came out of Israel. For instance, the remains of an edifice built in a high mountain is called to this day the Throne of Solomon. (p.75) Asul-i-Kafi is a book of Shia t r a d i t i o n s w r i t t e n o v e r a thousand years ago. This book mentions that in ancient times there was a king in Kashmir w h o s e f o r t y c o u r t i e r s w e r e well versed in the knowledge of Torah. (p.334) To examine Western travellers, writers and historians, we will begin with Francis Rernier13. He was a courtier of Emperor Aurangzeb for many years and had visited Kashmir. He wrote that there were many marks of Judaism to be found in Kashmir and on entering this country after crossing the Peer-Punchal Mountains, the inhabitants in the frontier villages struck him to resemble Jews 40 The Israelite Origin of People of Afghanistan and Kashmir Review of Religions – April 2002 markedly. Bernier then concluded: ‘You will see then, my dear Sir, I am not disposed to deny that J e w s m a y h a v e t a k e n u p r e s i d e n c e i n K a s h m i r – The purity of their law, after a lapse of ages, may have been c o r r u p t e d u n t i l having long d e g e n e r a t e d i n t o i d o l a t o r y, they were induced, like many other Pagans, t o a d o p t t h e creed of Mahomed’. Catrou, a Jesuit father wrote in his G e n e r a l H i s t o r y o f the Moghal Empire (1708) that ‘the Kashmiris a r e d e s c e n d a n t s of the Jews’,(p.l95). S-Manouchi was a physician in the service of Emperor Aurangzeb. He had access to official records and like Bernier he accompanied the Emperor to Kashmir. He wrote 1 5: ‘There is an old tradition that these Jews who were led captives by Shalemanesser settled in Kashmir and that the people of that country are the descendants of the Jews. It is certain, though we find no remains in Kashmir of the Jewish religion, the people there being all either Guntus (Hindus) or Muhammadans, that there are several vestiges of a race descendant from the Israelites. The air of the face and the looks of the present inhabitants have something of what is peculiar to Jews, which distinguishes them from all other people’. Re v. Claudius Buchanan toured Southern India extensively and in his Christian Researches in Asia, he mentioned his discovery of an ancient manuscript of the book of Moses in Hebrew. It was written on a roll of leather 48 feet in length. He was told that it was brought from Kashmir (p.229). H . H . Wilson, author of Tr a v e l i n Himalyan Provinces (1841) states: ‘The physical and the ethnic character, which so sharply marks off the Kashmiris from all surrounding races, has always struck observant visitors to the valley and they have universally connected them with the Jews.’ G.T.Vigne in his Travels in Kashmir, L a d a k h a n d I s k a r d o o which he published in 1842 mentions certain Jewish tombs near ‘I’akht-i- Sulaiman in Sirinagar. (p.395) We have already quoted the views of George Moore, the author of The Lost Tribes. Dr. Keith Johnston in his Dictionary of Geography (1867) writes: ‘The natives of Kashmir are of a tall, 41 The Israelite Origin of People of Afghanistan and Kashmir Review of Religions – April 2002 robust frame of body, with manly features, the woman full formed and handsome, with aquiline noses and features resembling the Jews’ (p.250). In a book named Kashmir and its S h a w l s (1857) the following passage occurs: ‘There is a tradition of long standing, recently revived, that some portion of the so-called lost tribes of Israel found their way to Kashmir on their dispersion. If based on any correct foundation, the fact of weaving in its higher departments having existed for hundreds of years in the valley might be accounted for by the expatriated Jews carrying with them the arts they learned from their Babylonish conquerors.’ (p.17) Numerous writers have commented on the Jewish appearance of people of Kashmir. This list is very long. Sir Francis Young husband was a representative of the British crown (the Resident) to the Court of the Maharaja of Kashmir for many years. He writes in his book K a s h m i r: ‘The visitor…will often see strikingly handsome women, with clear cut features, long dark eyes, well-marked eyebrows and a general Jewish appearance. Here may be seen fine old patriarchal types, just as we picture to ourselves the Israelitish heroes of old. Some, indeed, say…that these Kashmiris are the lost tribes of Israel and certainly as I have already said, there are real Biblical types to be seen everywhere in Kashmir and especially among the upland villages. Here the Israelitish Shepherd tending his necks and herds may any day be seen.(p.107,112) John Noel wrote an article, ‘The Heavenly High Snow Peaks of Kashmir’ in Asia Magazine, New York, Oct. 1930. In this article he wrote: ‘Immensely strong are those picturesque, broad-shouldered Kashmiri peasants and yet docile and meek in temperament. One thing about them strikes you with enormous force. They seem more perfectly Jewish than the purest Jews you have ever seen, not because they wear a flowing cloak- like dress that conforms to your idea of Biblical garments, but because their faces have the Jewish cast of features. The curious coincidence – or is it a coincidence? – is that there is a strong tradition in Kashmir of its connection with the Jews.’ Customs and Traditions of Afghans and Kashmiris A study of customs and traditions of Afghans and people of Kashmir shows resemblance with the Israelite or Biblical traditions, in 42 The Israelite Origin of People of Afghanistan and Kashmir Review of Religions – April 2002 spite of the centuries that have rolled by since the Israelite ancestors settled in these lands. Nazir Ahmad did such a research and came to the conclusion that many customs and traditions of Afghans and Kashmiris relating to birth, marriage, mourning, burial, food, and general habits and customs bear strong resemblance to counterpart Biblical or old Jewish customs and traditions. He has given a comprehensive report16 of his extensive research in this regard in his book. Like Jews, Afghans and Kashmiris reckon their week as beginning with Saturday. Kashmiris used to and Afghans even now observe and celebrate ‘Eid- Fassakh’ which corresponds with the Jewish Passover. Like Jews, Afghans and Kashmiris name their subtribes after various animals. Many of the traditions of Afghans and Kashmiris are founded on Biblical records. They speak of their great past, of the glories of Solomon, of the deluge and of their captivity. Their folklore and fables resound with Jewish stories. The preponderance of Jewish names among Afghans and Kashmiris cannot be explained simply by their conversion to Islam. Certain archaelogical discoveries point out that Afghans and Kashmiris are descendants of Israel of old. The domestic pottery which archaelogists have discovered in a n c i e n t cities of Kashmir and Afghanistan is of one variety called ‘Celadon’. Chips and fragments of Celadon are to be found from Babylon to Seistan, from Seistan to India, in Afghanistan, and in Kashmir and not beyond.” The Jews were once famous for their type of pottery and it is significant that Sirinagar Museum in Kashmir abounds with this pottery which has been excavated from different places in the Kashmir Valley. Ancient Kashmir Temples The ancient temples of Kashmir are the most remarkable monuments of India. They establish undoubted traces of Israelite influence. Some think that they exhibit Greek influence but Sir V.A.Smith, the famous historian of India, in his Early History of India discusses this thoroughly and proves that there is no evidence that creek architecture was ever introduced in India.’” Both Sir Aurel Stein19 and Vigne20 rely on famous report of Professor Bruel and agree with him that none of Kashmir ruins were of Buddhist or Brahmanical origin. Many experts have expressed the view that the stereotyped style of temples of Kashmir points to a different origin than Hindu temples. Two Kashmir 43 The Israelite Origin of People of Afghanistan and Kashmir Review of Religions – April 2002 temples need mentioning in par- t i c u l a r. The most celebrated Kashmir temple both in extant and splendour is of Martand near Mattan, about eight miles from Islamabad (Kashmir) Dr. James Ferguson who for many years was in charge of the Archaeological Department of Government of India, testified that this temple is a Jewish temple. He wrote that it is one of the points of interest in the Kashmir temples that they reproduce, in plan at least, the Jewish temple, more nearly than any other known building21. The second significant Kashmir temple is known as Ta k h t – i – Sulaiman – (The Throne of Solomon) in Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir. This temple is built on a high hill approached by a long flight of steps enclosed by two side walls which originally bore four Persian inscriptions and to which we will refer later. The date assigned to this temple is prior to 250 BC. This temple is a replica of the tomb of Absillam, the third son of David, near Jerusalem. Kashmiri Language When the monuments of Kashmir first attracted the attention of archaeologists not a single syllable of the ancient inscriptions could be read. The knowledge of the ancient alphabet had become extinct. Some experts were trying to decipher it as if the inscriptions were in a language belonging to Sanskrit group. The researchers of Sir George Gregson, however, proved that the Kashmiri language was non-Indian and did not belong to the Sanskrit group. Prof. E. J. Rapson says that in fact there were two languages of Semitic origin, which were known as the ‘Brahmi’ and ‘Khoroshthi’. After stating that two languages were ‘brought into India through Mesopotamia by merchants he goes on to say that ‘Khoroshthi’ which is particularly the alphabet of Northwestern India, is a variety of the Aramaic script which prevailed generally throughout Western Asia in the fifth century BC. As the Persian language evolved, Syrian influence brought about the Sulus script. The New Persian with Arabic ad- mixture resulted in ‘Kashar’ the language of people of Kashmir. Richard Temple22 rightly points out that the Kashmiri language contains 30% of Persian words, 25% of Arabic, and 45% of other languages including Hebrew. The Kashmiri language is distinct from that spoken in any part of India. Mufti Mubammad Sadiq asserts that its nucleus to some extent is drawn from Hebrew language. In his book, Qabr-i-Masih (The Tomb of Jesus) he has given a very lengthy and comprehensive list of Kashmiri 44 The Israelite Origin of People of Afghanistan and Kashmir Review of Religions – April 2002 words which, in pronounciation and meaning are identical with Hebrew words.23 Biblical Names Of Tribes and Places in Kashmir and Afghanistan It is well known in history that emigrants carry with them their habits, customs, and traditions. They also have the tradition of naming new places in their new country with names of places in their old country. At times they name new places with the names of their well-known ancestors. Again sometimes tribes are named after places of their origin or their ancestors. In this way the immigrants to a new country try to preserve the memory of their ancesteral home. A good example is America where European immigrants named so many settlements in the New World with names of towns in Europe. If we proceed in tracing back the names of tribes and places of a country to another which is far away, we would be justified in asserting that the inhabitants of one of them migrated from the other. But such an inference would be justified if known facts could not be explained with some other hypothesis. In this regard, other factors like mutual trade, the settlements of a ruling nation or the conquering armies must be taken into account. It is a most significant fact that in Kashmir and Afghanistan, innumerable names of places and tribes can be traced to Biblical names of Israelites of old. History does not furnish us with evidence of extensive trade with Palestine or of Israelites coming to these countries as conquering settlers. The preponderance of Biblical names of old can, therefore, be explained on the basis of migration. Nazir Ahmad, author of the book, Jesus in Heaven on Earth has done valuable research and has given over four hundred names of places and tribes in Kashmir and Afghanistan and adjacent regions which have been traced to Biblical names of Israelites2 4. George Moore, the author of The Lost Tribes has also acknowledged this fact. This is the most convincing proof that Afghans and people of Kashmir are descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel. This was the reason that Jesus(as) undertook the long and arduous journey to Afghanistan and later to India and Kashmir, where he settled, in search of those lost tribes whom he referred to as ‘lost sheep’ and ‘other sheep’. He did this migration in his post crucifixion period of his life when he had despaired of the Jews in Palestine. 45 The Israelite Origin of People of Afghanistan and Kashmir Review of Religions – April 2002 One clarification is needed. When we claim that people of Afghanistan are descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israelites, we do not mean that all inhabitants of Afghanistan today are such. We only mean the main group known as Afghans. So-called true Afghans are the Pushtun tribes to whom the term Afghans was first applied. These Afghans are also known as Pakhtuns and they constitute about 60-70% of population. They speak Pushto. Historically they have held main power and prestige in the c o u n t r y. It is this predominant group called Afghans that are descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel. It is conceivable that other small ethnic elements may have been absorbed into the main body of Afghans over the long period of many centuries. There are many other distinct ethnic groups which are part of population of Afghanistan today. There are Tajiks which are of Iranian origin and speak Persian. Another group, Hazara, are believed to be descendants of Mongols. They speak a dialect of Persian containing many Tu r k i s h words. There are Turk and Turko Mongol elements like Uzbeks, mainly found along the northern part of country. There are other ethnic groups like Baluch in the south and Kafirs in the Northwest. Similarly when we say that people of Kashmir are descendants of Israelites, we mean the main and predominant stock of Kashmiris and not other ethnic groups which may be part of the population of Kashmir today. References 1. Indian Researches, 1788. Vol II. p.69. 2. Sir Alexander Brunes, Travels Into Bokhara, Vol II, p 139- 141. 3. G . T. Vigne, A Personal Narrative of a Visit to Ghuzin, Cabul, in Afghanistan (1840) pp.166-167. 4. Dr. Joseph Wolff, Narrative of A Mission to Bokhara in the Years 1843-1845, p.12. 5. James Bryce and Ke i t h Johnson, Cyclopaedia of Geography (1880), p.25. 6. J. P. Ferrier, History of the Afghans. p.4. 7. George Moor, History of the Afghans, p.4. 8. H. W. Bellews, Races of Afghanistan (1884). 46 The Israelite Origin of People of Afghanistan and Kashmir Review of Religions – April 2002 9. Dr. Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus, The Messiah, p.15. 10. Sir Thomas Holditch, T h e Gates of India, p.46. 11. Abdul Qadir, Hashmat-i- K a s h m i r, MS No. 42, Ro y a l Asiatic Society, Bengal CF68b. 12. Khwaja Nazir Ahmad, Jesus in Heaven on Earth. p.294. 13. Bernier, Travels in the Moghul Empire, Journey to Kashmir, the Paradise of the Indians, p.430-432. 14. Ibid, p.433. 15. James Hough, The History of Christianity in India, Vol. II, p287-288. 16. Khwaja Nazir Ahmad, Jesus in Heaven on Earth, pp.312-329. 17. Sir Thomas Holditch, T h e Gates of India, p.71. 18. Sir Vincent A. Smith, The Early History of India, p.227. 19. Sir Aurel Stein, Rajatarangini, II, p.290. 20. G.T. Vigne, Travels to Kashmir, Ladakh and Iskardoo I, p.393. 21. Dr James Ferguson, Indian and Eastern Architecture, p.286. 22. Richard Temple, Sayings of Lal Ded, p.65. 23. Mufti Muhammad Sadiq, Qabr- e-Masih, pp.72-110. 24. Khwaja Nazir Ahmad, Jesus in Heaven on Earth, pp.302-312. 47 The Israelite Origin of People of Afghanistan and Kashmir Review of Religions – April 2002