Answers to Quora Questions by Yair Davidiy
Pathans and Afghans. Is the Pashtun the lost tribe of Israel?
The question was,
Are the Pashtun/Afghan people the lost tribes of Israel?
The Pashtuns are also known as Pushtuns, Pathans, and as Afghans. They are generally consdiered to have arrived from the region of Armenia and to have been of Iranian stock.
They are not Israelites. They adopted the claim to be of Israelite origin for cultural and political reasons. Political motivations are also involved with recent claims made on their behalf.
Bani-Israelite Theory of Paktoons Ethnic Origin (Internet Article, now removed, by Afghan Activist):
# "Makhzan-i-Afghani", that one day Khan Jehan Lodhi was attending the court of the Mughal Emperor Jehangir, when an Iranian emissary passed a very derogatory remark about the origin of Pakhtoons to appease Jehangir. Hurt by the remark, Khan Jehan was prompted to have Pakhtoon history compiled by his subordinates, Haibat Khan Kakar, Hamza Khan Tokhi, Zarif Khan Yousafzai, and Nematullah Harvi. As Mughals, the rivals of Pakhtoons, were claiming racial supremacy through descend from "Yafs" son of "Noah", the compilers of Makhzan strove to prove Pakhtoons Israelites for ethnic superiority over Mughals and so came up with Makhzan-i-Afghani. Later Pakhtoon historiographers quoted heavily from Makhzan-i-Afghani because of its being the only written source about the origin of Pakhtoons.
# Interestingly, in its own time, the authenticity of Makhzan-i-Afghani had been questioned by the people now projecting it as a propaganda tool because it gave Pakhtoons a superior status by declaring them as the descendents of prophets. Pakistani government helped propagate it to emphasize Pakhtoons as a people of faith and so to help strengthen Pakhtoons bond with Islamic ideology of Pakistan vis-a-vis the infidel India. Now that the Bani-Israelite theory about Pakhtoon origin has been scientifically proved untenable, people initially objecting to it have reverted to the opposite viewpoint of its being authentic for political motives to dub Pakhtoons a sort of foreigners in their historic land. #
BELLEW, H. W. "An Inquiry into the Ethnography of Afghanistan", London, 1891.p.195: "At this time i.e. at time of the Arab moslem attack on Sind [Pakistan] in which Afghan tribesman fought beside the Arabs; The Arab conquest of the Afghan area was in ca. 70 CE) they (the Afghans), had been settled in Ghor for a period of thirteen hundred oars, (i.e. from ca. 600 BCE), and were called, as their accounts explicitly state, by their neighbouring peoples, Afghan and Bani Israel. But that these were names by which they designated themselves is nowhere explicitly stated in their accounts".
According to Arab Chroniclers (Tabari and Al-Bikhi) the Kahzars or a portion of the KHAZARS had also once been in the Afghanistan area before moving westward. Since the Khazars, even before their conversion, were identified with Hebrews this source may also have given rise to the traditions adopted by the Afghans of today.
In short, there were Scythian peoples in, or near the area of Afghanistan before the ancestors of the present-day Afghans came there. The previous Scythians inhabitants had moved out. They had been associated with Israelites and the Afghan took that tradition to themselves after having received the name of the former inhabitants from their neighbors.
The Afghans are not Israelites.
Another possibility exists in addition to the Scythian-Israelite one:
There are some grounds to assume that at some time possibly before the Muslim area, a group of Jews, or proselytes to a form of Judaism, or Nestorian Christians with some Jewish customs, had become part of the Afghan tribal confederation. The Afghans accepted some of the customs of this people.
Extract from "The Tribes," by Yair Davidiy (2004).
According to local tradition the eastern part of Hara ("Ghor"), where the Hari River rises, was once settled by a people referred to as "Assakan" and "Bnei Yisral" or Children of Israel20. "Assakan" was shortened to "Sak" or "Sok" and local Muslim lore equated the term with the name "Isaac", father of Israel21. A dialectical variation of "Assakan" is Afghan22 and the names "Bnei Yisral" and "Afghan" were applied later to a group from Armenia who settled in the area after the original "Bnei Yisral" and "Assakan" had moved out23. The newcomers eventually moved further east into modern Afghanistan. They did not apply the names "Afghan" and "Bnei Yisral" unto themselves until fairly recently and then only within a few literary circles24. Some Israelite and/or Jewish elements may have been absorbed amongst one or two of the various "Afghan" groups and these in turn influenced the whole. The Royal family, for instance, had a tradition that they descended from the Tribe of Benjamin25. Even so, most Afghans never seem to have identified themselves as Israelites and are antipathetic to the very idea. They are the first to admit that the names "Afghan" and "Bnei Yisral" were first applied to them by foreigners26. By their own admission they received these names from other peoples. They themselves say that they received the names due to the original holders of these names having moved out of the area that they came to occupy. The existence of these names is evidence that a section of the Israelite nation had once been in that area. The original dwellers are apparently to be identified with the historical "Sok" or "Sakae" (meaning Scythians) who were in the Hara region at least from around 600 BCE 27 or earlier. They had been settled there by the Assyrians, and had a tradition that King Solomon of Israel had once ruled over them28. From the Saka descend the Anglo-Saxon invaders of Britain.
Main source of references:
BELLEW, H. W. "An Inquiry into the Ethnography of Afghanistan", London, 1891.
It is worth noting that the Afghans ALSO claimed decent from the Persians of Cyrus the great, from the soldiers of Alexander, from the Romans, from descendants of Esau, from descendants of some Arabian tribe related to Mohamed, and others. It is part of their culture to claim association with all and sundry. The Hazaris who adjoin the Afghans and often war against them are also known to occasionally claim Israelite descent.