Waris Shah has never referred to Ahmad Shah Durrani as ‘Kabuli dog’ in his poetry

Punjabi nationalists and Punjabi liberals on social media are often found saying that Waris Shah (a Punjabi poet of 18th century) has referred to his contemporary Ahmad Shah Durrani as a ‘rabid dog of Kabul’ or ‘Kabuli dog’ in his poetry. To ascertain the truth, I decided to research into the matter and read several translations of the ‘Heer’ of Waris Shah. To my surprise, Waris Shah has not said anything to that effect. It dawned upon me that that poetry of Waris Shah has been taken out of context and has been misused. The thing is, Waris Shah derisively likens men and women to various kinds of animals throughout his poetry. At one instance (or two instances as per another version of Heer), Waris Shah likens a group of aggressive women to the Kabuli breed of dogs. This is not a reference to Ahmad Shah Durrani or Afghans by any stretch of imagination. The home and capital Ahmad Shah Abdali was Qandahar, not Kabul, and Waris Shah always refers to him and his army as Qandahari in his poetry. Following is the relevant screenshot with Urdu translation: 

Waris Shah poetry afghans

Waris Shah poetry afghans

Like I said, Waris Shah always refers to Ahmad Shah Abdali and his force as Qandahari in his poetry. At one place, he says that Qandaharis have occupied Punjab, and at another place he says that the conqueror of Punjab is a Qandahari. Relevant Screenshots from the translated Heer as follow:

Waris shah poetry


In the narratives of Punjabi nationalists and Indians, Sikhs are often painted as admirable heroes who fought defended Punjab and its people from foreign invaders. So, it is expected that Waris Shah must be praising them in his poetry. But on the contrary, Sikhs are much derided by Waris Shah in his poetry. For example, Waris Shah says that all Jats (Sikhs) are iman-farosh (ایمان فروش), thieves and high-way robbers.

Waris Shah


Waris Shah was in fact upset at the rise of Sikhs in Punjab. He writes that in 1766-67 AD, Jats (Sikhs) became the chieftains of Punjab. Under their rule, ‘Ashrafia’ (noble families) were in ruins while base and lowly people prospered. Thieves became Chauhdris (headmen of the village), women of bad character assumed the garbs of righteous, and groups of ill-natured people prospered many times. 

Waris Shah Kabuli

The word Waris Shah has used in the above couplets, is Jat but he is definitely talking about Sikh Khalsa (who were mostly Jats) here because it was them who had achieved dominance over much of Punjab in 1767. Waris Shah has also lamented the fall of Muslim Ashrafia (caused by rise of Sikhs) elsewhere.

Note that Waris Shah himself was part of the Ashrafia of Punjab. He was a Sayyid. It was natural that he would resent the fall of Ashrafia and ascendance of people who he deemed as ‘Kameen’ (base and lowly). Sikhs were particularly ruthless against the Sayyids, Pirs and Mullahs of Punjab. The ascendence of Sikhs was accompanied with the descendance of the Sayyids in the region.

It is interesting to see that Waris Shah counted Pashtuns among nobility (شرفا) of Punjab. Many of those Pashtuns settled in Punjab, spoke Pashto as evident from his poetry.


Waris Shah


One of such settlements of Pashtuns in Punjab was Kasur. Waris Shah was greatly saddened by the devastation of Kasur at the hands of Sikhs (Waris Shah got his education from Kasur). On twitter I found a Punjabi nationalist attributing the devastation of Kasur to Ahmad Shah Durrani. Afghans of Kasur were staunch allies of Ahmad Shah Durrani. It was actually Sikh marauders who burnt and sacked Kasur in 1763 (and then again in 1770). 

waris shah

An important note

Poetry of Waris Shah is heavily distorted, and additions were made to it by the people (including Sikhs) of later times. It is not a reliable source of history, and nothing can be attributed to Waris Shah with 100% certainty.

Waris Shah Punjabi

Waris Shah Punjabi
Imaginary portrait of Waris Shah


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