Shia Islam in Afghanistan
By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi
Inscription of history is conducted for one of the following reasons by historians, as it is either linked to the religious and political affiliations of the historian to conceal some facts or all the facts, or for presenting the true events for future generations to dissect and study them for various purposes. Therefore, many events, facts, struggles, afflictions, victories and losses have been hidden, due to the unethical conduct and decisions of some historians to serve their interests and purposes. One of the historic events and facts, which has been hidden by such historians, is the first Shia state in history, which was formed in modern day Afghanistan.
Majority of historical records and sources, date the presence of Islam in this part of the world to Islamic conquests, and specifically the conquer of Persia, where the Umayyad dynasty introduced Islam there. According to these sources, after the Battle of Qadisiyyah, the Persian Shah Yazdegerd III fled to central Asia, as he was a wanted felon by Muslims. Therefore, the Muslim armies continued their conquest to that part of the world and entered Afghanistan to Herat, where they placed enormous efforts to convert the citizens to Islam. The efforts to present Islam and convert the people of Afghanistan were increased and affectual during the Umayyad Caliphs, Hisham Ibn Abdul Malik and Omar Ibn Abdul Aziz.
However, the reality of Islam’s presence in Afghanistan has nothing to do with Islamic conquest and the Umayyad dynasty, but due to the hostile relation of this dynasty toward Shia Muslims and the followers of Imam Ali, the presence of history’s first Shia state has been hidden.
The first Shia State in history, which was formed in Afghanistan is named the ‘Ghoriyon Dynasty’, which was formed after the Martyrdom of Imam Ali, and due to their hostility toward the Umayyad dynasty and Muawiya specifically, this state was totally abandoned in history. The founder of this state was a man named, Shansab Ibn Khartak, who was the leader of Hazara tribe.
According to Shia sources, this man (Shansab Ibn Khartak) came to the governor of Imam Ali in Iran, who was Jo’ada Ibn Hobaira, along with a large delegation from his tribe, inquiring about Islam. Jo’ada took Shansab and the delegation to Kufa to meet with Imam Ali and Imam Ali hosted them for an entire month in Kufa. During that time, Shansab heard the sermons of Imam Ali and met with his two sons, Imam Al-Hassan and Al-Hussein and many other companions of Prophet Mohammad. Upon his return to his land, Imam Ali presented a very valuable gift, as he gave Shansab the flag of Prophet Mohammad that he carried when he entered Mecca. Along with this valuable gift, once Shansab was back in Afghanistan, he preached Islam to his people and others based on principle he learned from Imam Ali, and the entire Hazara tribe embraced Shia Islam as their faith.
Upon the assassination and martyrdom of Imam Ali in 661 and the failures of Muslims in Iraq specifically, Muawiya became the Caliph of Muslim and he announced the formation of the Umayyad Dynasty in Damascus. Meanwhile, once Shansab heard about the appointment of Muawiya as the Caliph of Muslim and what had happened to Imam Al-Hassan by his followers, he gathered his tribe and narrated everything he knew about Muawiya and how he was an enemy of Imam Ali. Therefore, they decided to seclude large parts of Afghanistan and announce the formation of a Shia state that follows Imam Ali.
Once Muawiya heard about the separation and formation of this state in Afghanistan, he mobilized a large army to Afghanistan to crush them, as he announced them as apostates. The Umayyad army was able to burn the farms and demolish the houses of these people in Afghanistan, but they were not able to completely eliminate them, due to the cragginess and ruggedness of the area.
The resistance movements in that area remained for another eighty years, as guerilla wars from one generation to another, as majority of the people remaining from that state became the core of Abu Muslim Al-Khorasani’s army against the Umayyad dynasty. Once the army of Abu Muslim prevailed and the Abbasid became the leaders of the Islamic nation, those Afghans differed with the Abbasid dynasty, due to their position toward the holy household of Prophet Mohammad (Ahlul Bayt). The Afghans had realized that the Abbasid dynasty was not going to treat Ahlul Bayt with honor and dignity, as they started slaughtering the followers of Imam Ali and oppressing the Imams.
Therefore, the Afghans started reorganizing their regions and formed another state, which was able to present many astonishing services to its people during that era. In addition, that state built many schools and seminaries, which graduated many great scholars, like the famous narrator (Abul Waleed Abu Al-Rajaa), Sheikh Abdullah Al-Ansari and Noor Al-Deen Al-Jami. The new Hazara state was able to perform various outstanding services to its citizens, as they had a superb security system and an executive power entity. The last leader of this state passed away in 1203, while the mosques and schools of this state were filled with scholars and students in Herat and Balkh.
Ultimately, this state was attacked and toppled by the Khawarazmies (The tribes of Khazar). However, the Hazara dynasty was re-established 300 years later, which lasted for another 80 years, as this time the dynasty was able to reach parts of modern India and Pakistan. Majority of the Shia Muslims in today’s Afghanistan are from this dynasty, as they have suffered great deals of hardships and afflictions during the era of the regimes that ruled Afghanistan. In addition, those Shias had a great role during Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and formed many resistant movements against the soviet occupation.