In the first quarter of the 19th century, a religious movement sprang up in the Yousafzai country that was headed by a non-Pashtun namely Syed Ahmad of
Syed Ahmad was born in 1786 AD, in
Amir Khan Yousafzai alias Amir-ud-Daula, the Nawab of Tonk (located in Rajasthan, India), shared and supported Syed Ahmad views (Most of the Afghan rulers of states and petty chiefs in India, such as Rampur, Tonk, Farrukhabad and Bhopal, mostly morally and financially supported Syed Ahmad in his Jihad in the Yusufzai country). Amir Khan Yousafzai was a brave leader who was then fighting against the increasing influence of British. Syed Ahmad joined Amir Khan and soon after, through his preaching and actions, gained influence in Amir Khan’s army. It is said that for seven years, Amir Khan and Syed Ahmad invited other Muslim rajas and Nawabs for Jihad against the British. Because of the internal rivalry and jealousy among the Muslim Nawabs, their efforts proved fruitless. Amir Khan became demoralized and lost all hopes of Muslim unification. Consequently, in 1817, he accepted the British offer of no war pact against the wishes of Syed Ahmad, who after the pact left him and went back to
Syed Ahmad, accompanied by Maulvi Ismail, Maulvi Abdul Hai, Maulvi Mazhar Ali, Maulvi Ramazan, Buland Bakhsh, and Qazi Hiyan Kandahari with 400 followers, reached
“He who spends an hour in preparing himself for Jihad is nearer to God than the one who keeps fast through ou the day and spends his night in his prayers.”
After consolidating his position at Peshawar, Syed Ahmad went to Nowshera via Charsadda and Kheshgi. He started making preparations for Jihad against the Sikhs. He organized his followers into disciplined contingents of which his Hindustani followers made the nucleus. A Sikh army, about 3,000 strong under Budh Singh, the cousin of Ranjeet Singh, was encamped at Akora on the southern bank of Kabul River. Syed Ahmad, with about 1,000 men, on 21st December 1826, raided the Sikh camp at dawn. The Sikhs were caught unprepared and suffered heavily. This raid had far reaching effects on the future course of the movement. The local chieftains and the Barakzai sardars namely Yar Muhammad Khan and Sultan Muhammad Khan, who supported the Sikhs, realized the strength of the movement. Khadi Khan invited Syed Ahmad to Hund. From Hund, Syed Ahmad wrote letters to various tribal leaders and local ‘Khans’, inviting them for Jihad against the Sikhs. The Barakzai sardars joined the movement and so did other tribal chiefs. Bubbling with the spirit of Islam and with the desire to oust the infidels from their land, a great number of Pashtuns, particularly the Yousafzai joined Syed Ahmad who had established his headquarters in the Yousafzai country. He, at the invitation of Ashraf Khan and Fateh Khan; the ‘Khans’ of Zaida and Panjtir respectively, visited the Sadhum valley where he preached the cause of Jihad in a big jirga , attended by thousands who had gathered there from far-flung areas at the invitation of Fateh Khan. In the same jirga, Ashraf Khan, the Khan of Ziada, put forward the case of tillers of Maneri, that fell in the Hund Khanate jurisdiction, and whose land Khadi Khan had confiscated. The affected tillers had taken refuge in Panjtir. Syed Ahmad ordered the lands be returned to the tillers. Khadi Khan reluctantly agreed to it though he took it a direct intervention in the working of his Khanate and considered it as a personal insult in the big jirga and since then he bore a grudge against Syed Ahmad.
After spending some time in Panjtir, Syed Ahmad collected his army that had been strengthened by the contingents of Khadi Khan of Hund, Ashraf Khan of Zaida and Fateh Khan of Panjtir and the army of Yar Muhammad Khan, the Barakzai ruler of
Syed Ahmad with the remnants of his followers, escaped to Swat via Lundkhwar. He had to face two enemies within the Muslim ranks, Khadi Khan and Yar Muhammad Khan. After some time (1827), at the invitation of Fateh Khan he came down to Panjtir and resumed his teachings of the Islamic tenets. The Pashtuns who still believed in his miraculous powers, swarmed in thousands round his standard. Mir Babu and Malik Mobin Khan of Chargolai, and some other notables of Sadhum valley joined him. Feeling strong, he made up his mind to sort out Khadi Khan. He, besides circulating his proclamations throughout the adjacent districts, forwarded copies to the rulers of Kashghar ,
In 1828, the Durrani sardars of
The events of these years revealed a fragmented support by the Yousafzai and Mandanrs for Syed Ahmad’s movement. Social concerns and a combination of pressure and support from Sikh generals and
Encourage by initial success, Syed Ahmad became stricter in extracting the ‘ushar’ and also added to his commands the stoppage of head money on the Pashtun brides. The Yousafzai and other Pashtun tribes rejected this new demand. They felt offended at innovation he desired to introduce into the century’s old marriage ceremony and by the ‘ushar’ demand for religious and state purposes. Olaf Careo writes that the trouble came when Syed Ahmad spoke against the bride price (walwar) given at marriage and then advocated the marriage of all single women of marriageable age. He continues, that Syed Ahmad was accused, some say unjustly, of assigning maidens one by one to his needy Hindustani followers. The people were greatly incensed and conspired against him. Careo blames Syed Ahmad’s failure on a typical system that could mobilize emotion for valour and sacrifice, but also at the same time for the vainglory, jealousy, envy, and malice that destroyed unity and success. He states that Syed Ahmad generated an emotional wave but failed to control it.
Syed Ahmad was aware of the unrest prevalent amongst the tribes. He considered Khadi Khan to be the root cause of this restiveness and his activities a constant of nuisance. Syed Ahmad planned to get rid of him permanently. He, in September 1829, sent 156 ‘Mujahids’ under Maulvi Ismail who by then had become expert in night raids. The Mujahideen waited outside the Hund fort in a hide out. Soon after the morning Azan at dawn, when Khadi Khan’s people opened the fort gates for going to the fields, the Mujahideen entered the fort and raided Khadi Khan’s residence. Khadi Khan was awake. On hearing the noise outside his residence, he took out his sword and two pistols, climbed up the roof and urged his escort to fire on the intruders. He was spotted and shot dead. He fell amongst the Mujahids. Muhammad Baig, an Indian mujaihd, cut off his head with his sword. After the death of Khadi Khan, his brother Amir Khan claimed to be the new Khan of Hund.He demanded that the arrested persons and the fort be handed over to him. In this context, Amir Khan approached Muqarrab Khan son of Ashraf Khan of Ziada. The former asked latter for assistance in avenging his brother’s death on Syed Ahmad. Muqqarab Khan was not in favour of Khadi Khan’s murder, yet didn’t want to oppose Syed Ahmad. He didn’t agree with Amir Khan’s proposal, however, he promised to get his relatives, who had been taken prisoners, released. In this context he did talk to Syed Ahmad who granted the request. The latter gave Muqqarab Khan a letter addressed to Maulvi Ismail, which directed the latter to release the captives. Unfortunately, about that time Amir Khan and Ghulam Khan killed twelve Mujahids who were out near the former’s camp. This infuriated Maulvi Ismail, sent a coded message to Syed Ahmad that in view of latest development, the captives could not be released. This message was given to Muqqarrab Khan for onward delivery to Syed Ahmad. The former took the coded message as a complaint against him to Syed Ahmad and didn’t deliver it to the latter. He took it as a personal affront. He joined Amir Khan against Syed Ahmad. Thus, a rift developed within the ranks of Mujahideen. To forestall such tendencies, Islam Khan and Fateh Khan: the brothers of Muqqarab Khaninvited Syed Ahmad to visit Zaida. During the discussion that ensued Syed Ahmad gave his verdict that on Amir Khan’s joining the Mujahideen ranks, his relatives would be released. The latter rejected the proposal.
Syed Ahmad had enjoyed unchallenged influence and power amongst the tribes, but now the situation had changed. His commands and religious discipline proved too rigid for the taste of the people, while he further antagonized some of his Pashtun followers by asking them to give their daughters in marriage to members of his Indian band: a measure which was distasteful to the proud Pashtuns. Bellew’s narrative of Syed Ahmad was laced with gossip and slander. He said, ‘the Sayad’s foreign agents had been forcibly taking the Afghan maidens as wives’. It soon resulted in alienation of some of the clans. His former friends of Chargolai now became his opponents, while the people of Hoti tappa totally ignored his authority.
The Khans of Hoti and Mardan (Ahmad Khan Hoti, the elder son of Lashkar Khan, the ‘Khan’ of Hoti) didn’t like interference in the administration of their khanates. Ahmad Khan Hoti had joined Yar Muhammad Khan Barakzai against Syed Ahmad. They ignored Syed Ahmad’s commands. Some of the other ‘Khans’ raised questions as to whether there had been simply a general reaction against Syed Ahmad’s social policies or whether elite Khans , including those protecting Hoti family’s interests, had attempted to secure old imperial ties by, perhaps, encouraging rumours about Syed Ahmad ‘s social politics. However, before this discontent could spread to other areas, the enraged Syed came down from Panjtir to punish the culprits. The ‘Khan’ of Chargolai at once submitted and begged for pardon that was granted. The Hoti and Mardan tappas persisted in their obstinacy. The Syed plundered and burnt Hoti and Mardan.
Meanwhile, Amir Khan of Hund, to make the best of the situation, asked Yar Muhammad Khan for help against Syed Ahmad. Sultan Muhammad Khan Barakzai, the ruler of Kohat and Habibullah Barakzai (son of Muhammad Azim Khan), a Barakzai notable, answered the call. They jointly surrounded the Mujahideen at Zaida. On 5th and 6th Rabi-ul-Awal 1245 H (1829 AD), a fierce battle was fought near Mayar. Habibullah defeated the Mujahideen wing opposed to him commanded by Qazi Hiban of Kunar. He followed it to Garhi Kapoor. However, he learnt that the right wing under Sultan Muhammad Khan had been driven back and was hotly pursued by Maulvi Ismail. He turned back to stop Maulvi Ismail from the pursuit. Meanwhile, the Mujahideen rallied from Garhi Kapoor and rejoined the main body and resumed the offensive. Once again Maulvi carried out a night raid on their army, captured their guns and routed them. Yar Muhammad Khan was wounded and died on his way to
Sultan Muhammad Khan, who had not sincerely accepted the terms of Syed Ahmad, exploited the levy of the usher or one tenth of the agriculture produce which was levied in Syed Ahmad’s name from Kohat to Tanawal. This exaction became oppressive for the Pashtuns. The Barakzai Khans exploited it, and the Syed’s injunctions on marriage of the women as his attempt to provide wives for his Hindustani followers. Thus, the locals were disenchanted with Syed Ahmad’s teachings and their patience, subjected to too severe a limit, gave away. There was an insurrection against Syed Ahmad and a sinister plan to eliminate his associates. Two months after taking over the control of
“On 17th November 1830, the old
authorities had regained control of the city. It was also reported that the Eusefzies alarmed at the consequences which were likely to follow because of their joining the Syed had made indiscriminate slaughter of everyone belonging to them who happened to be residing in their villages in the plains between Peshaur and Attock.” Peshawar
Thus, the Syed lost his power in one blow as rapidly as he had acquired it. With a heavy heart, he left