DR. Bashir Sakhawaz


The Role of Afghan Intellectuals in Modernisation

and Independence from Britain








Some historians portray Afghans as being freedom-loving and independent. This understanding of independence is different from what is normally understood as national independence.  It is based on the idea of freedom for individuals, who take the law in to their own hand and, which results in lawlessness. Mahmud Tarzi, the great thinker of modern Afghanistan, though also concerned for freedom of individuals, focused his own work on an independent, modern and liberated Afghanistan. He assumed the leadership of a group of educated people in Afghanistan who were struggling for the independence of Afghanistan from the British, modernising the country and limiting the authority of the Amir by establishing a constitution. Using the Siraj al-Akhbar newspaper as an effective tool, Tarzi appealed to the Afghans to accept each other as living under one nation.[1] Furthermore, he introduced ways and methods for modernisation. Tarzi was not alone in the Afghan struggle. A number of educated Afghans, albeit small in numbers, dreamt of a better future. These intellectuals were revolutionary in their thinking and challenged the authority of the Amir and British imperialism.[2]


Until the unification of Afghanistan in 1919 and the emergence of Afghan intellectuals who showed the ability to govern the country, the British had previously ignored demands of Amirs for an independent Afghanistan. The British argued that such a country was not qualified enough to become independent, meaning that Afghanistan had not reached the state of nationhood - a fact which could not be denied, since until the rule of Abdur Rahman Khan (1880-1901), the country was little more than states within states, ruled by warlords, feudal chiefs and so-called royal courts.[3]


The emergence of a modern Afghanistan (1880-1919) posed the biggest challenge to British imperialism. In the past, with untold bloodshed on both sides, the British had indeed benefited from the disunity of the people, using the hostility among warlords who feuded one against another.  In this way Britain managed to retain its hold on Afghanistan.  However, during his reign, the iron man, Amir Abdur Rahman, miraculously united the Afghanistan people and created a central power.


Visible signs of development and progress became clear during Habibullah Khan’s era (1901-1919) who initially accepted progress for his own personal benefit, including the allowance of Siraj al Akhbar which the Amir sought to promote in the royal court.[4]


Mahmud Tarzi, the most influential thinker of modern Afghanistan, believed that Afghanistan had all the resources to fight in the name of Islam, nationalism and the Amir, but it lacked the vision to demonstrate that it could exist as an independent country, a country without the need of protection from foreigners. The British had argued that they were the “protector” of Afghanistan.  The amnesty that Habibullah Khan granted to the Afghan people living in exile brought a new wave of educated people back to Afghanistan. These educated people, along with Tarzi, took a leading role in directing Afghans towards their goal of becoming independent. Indeed, Tarzi was more of a leader than Amir Habibullah Khan and influenced a large number of Afghan intellectuals including the two sons of Amir; one of them, Amanullah Khan, later became the most progressive king of Afghanistan and the other, Enayatulla Khan, pushed for modern education in Afghanistan when he became the head of the department of education in Kabul (unofficially the Minister of Education) and was responsible for the reforms introduced in Afghan’s first school Habibia in 1914.[5]


In this paper, through recounting the recent history of Afghanistan since the times of Amir Abdur Rahman Khan, I will argue that the fight for the independence of Afghanistan was not a spontaneous act based on fatwa of a mullah urging Afghans for jihad, but a well-calculated agenda which began and grew from the time of Amir Abdur Rahman Khan. To reach their goal of free Afghanistan, Afghan intellectuals, including those who were close to Habibullah, had no choice but to stage a coup against Habibullah, which resulted in his death. They thought that Habibullah would never challenge the authority of the British directly, since he was a careful and conservative man, concerned only for his own position of authority over all other matters including the independence of Afghanistan. Amir Habibullah was right for he knew that if he fought the British to gain independence, the British would simply support his local rival which would result in his loosing the grip of power. He thought to be an Amir of Afghanistan under the influence of the British was a safer option.


I argue that education in Afghanistan was only limited to the big cities, which is the main reason that government reforms failed repeatedly. If modern education were introduced to all of Afghanistan, the people would benefit economically and there would be less chance for the rise of fundamentalism.






Amir Abdur Rahman Khan, the hand of law?


During his life as Amir of Afghanistan, Abdur Rahman Khan spent almost all of his energy concentrating his power to unite the country. At the beginning he was able to control only Kabul but soon his circle of influence spread as far as the tribal areas of Afghanistan where his authority was recognised by the tribal leaders. This charismatic leader could have followed the ambition of previous emperors who hailed from this country by invading Central Asian countries to the north and India to the south, if he had been born as the son of Ahmad Shah Durani, many years ago. However, during his time as Amir, his biggest task was to unite Afghanistan. The country was divided along tribal lines of influence stirred by previous Amirs who wanted to rule Afghanistan. Moreover, he had no chance of expanding his territory beyond the borders of modern Afghanistan as the Russians were tightly in control of Central Asian countries and Britain were the ultimate rulers of India.


The mission to unite Afghanistan was the biggest challenge for Amir Abdur Rahman Khan and in order to achieve this during his Emirate we see a well-planned system of rule through absolute control.  The country saw cruelty of mammoth proportions such as capital punishment in most horrific ways, displacement of peoples in masses, creating an environment of fear, setting up an intricate spy system and paying particular attention to even the smallest details about his enemies or people who were thinking of threatening his power.[6]


Abdur Rahman himself described his task as one of putting “in order all those hundreds of petty chiefs, plunderers, robbers and cut throats…..This necessitated breaking down the feudal and tribal system and substituting one grand community under one law and one rule.” [7]


While Amir Abdur Rahman Khan had very little time to modernise Afghanistan and pay attention to education, nevertheless his success in uniting Afghanistan, defeating the warlords, creating a standing army and establishing an administration system to rule the country directly contributed to the ambition of his successors.  Both, his son, Habibullah Khan and his grandson, Amanullah Khan tried to break away from the British and gain Afghanistan’s independence. Creating a united Afghanistan was the catalyst not only for independence but also for future reforms to introduce modernisation.[8]


In addition to drawing up painful and time-consuming agreements with the British and the Russians as well as dealing with lawless people inside Afghanistan, Abdur Rahman Khan can also be remembered as the first Amir who attempted modernisation. He hired many foreigners to assist in technological development including Dr. John Gray (1895), an English physician; Messrs. Pyne and Myddleton, English Engineers; Munshi Abdur Razaq an Indian printer from Delhi; M. Jerome, a French Engineer; Arthur Collins, an English mining engineer, who introduced modern way of mining, Captain C.L Griesbach (1887), an English Geologist; Miss Lillias Hamilton, English lady doctor to the Amir; Mrs. Kate Daly, English medical advisor to the harem.[9]


Although fundamentally an autocrat, Abdur Rahman did create a supreme council, similar to a modern cabinet. The council had no prime minister, and no authority - it could only advise. The council included the following: a gentleman known as the ‘Ishak Aghasi (The Lord Chamberlain, also called Shaghasi); Lord of the Seal; the Chief Secretary and other secretaries appointed by Abdur Rahman Khan; the officers of Royal Bodyguard; the Treasurer of private treasury of the Amir; the Secretary of State for War; the Secretary of State for four major areas of the country; the Postmaster General; the Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces; Master of the Horse; the Kotwal (equivalent to Minister of Interior); Accountant General; Groom of the Bedchamber; Superintendent of the Magazine; Heads of the Board of Trade and the Board of Education.[10]


Another great achievement of Abdur Rahman was to weaken the position of religious leaders who often blocked movements for progress. This, on its own, paved the way for modernisation. He took over most waqf (religious endowments) and put the various brotherhoods on government payroll. Abdur Rahman tolerated no opposition from the religious leaders. Under Habibullah, however, the religious leaders (backed by Nasrullah) regained much political power and influenced many of Habibullah’s decisions. A parallel rise in modernist thinking, however, led by Mahmud Tarzi, greatly affected Afghanistan in the second decade of the twentieth century.[11]


When Abdur Rahman Khan came to the throne in Kabul, ten clerks under the guidance of one official handled the entire central government administration. Using the military branch of bureau as a watchdog, Abdur Rahman developed a civil administration, which continues in a modified form to the present day. He instituted the Treasury Board,  Board of Trade, Bureau of Justice and Police, the Office of Records, Office of Public Works, Office of Post and Communications, Department of Education, Department of Medicine, all of which can be roughly equated to modern cabinet department or ministries.[12]


Abdur Rahman’s ability to create ministries according to requirements and his vision to divide the country into four important zones showed his skill to govern with efficiency.  It certainly was more effective, compared to today when many minor provinces and ministries are created more for the personal interests of a group of people who have been involved in the so-called jihad which in fact has had an adverse effect on the development of the country.[13]



Habibullah a Great Politician or a Great Failure?


No Amir of Afghanistan has played his cards so carefully in the great game as Habibullah and been so unfortunate to ultimately lose his life in so doing. The reign of Habibullah coincides with the First World War and the arrival of Germans to Afghanistan to contribute to the great game which previously had two major players - Russia and Britain - and Central Asian countries as their playground. However, the First World War brought the Germans to Afghanistan to participate in this highly complex game. Germans, who had the lead role in Central Power, used its ally, Turkey, to announce a jihad against the British. The main reason for this was to attract Afghanistan into the jihad struggle and influence the Afghan Amir to attack India. The Germans believed that if Afghanistan attacked India, they could destabilise the country and thereby make it independent from British influence. Had they achieved this, Britain would have lost one of its most important colonies that had always contributed to the prosperity of Britain and had been an important source of fuel for the British war machine.[14]


Habibullah was charmed by the German envoy that had travelled for months via Turkey and Iran to secretly reach the court of Amir, hiding from the British. Some of the Afghans, including the brother of Amir, Nasrullah Khan, were in favour of joining the Germans call for jihad. They were inspired by the notion of pan-Islamism. On the one hand, the Germans were hoping to unite the Islamic world against the British and the Russians, while on the other hand, Afghan intellectuals who supported the Germans had their own plan that by backing the Germans they would have a golden opportunity to pursue their country’s independence, more so if the Germans managed to defeat the allies.[15]


In spite of the Amir’s resistance to coercion from external sources, he refused to bow to internal pressures to enter the First World War to side the Central Powers.  The forces supporting the war were particularly vociferous after Turkey entered the conflict and Sultan Abdul Hamid, nominal caliph of the Muslim world, called for a jihad (holy war) against the infidel allies. Propaganda pictured the German Kaiser in Arab dress and the Turkish referred to him as “Haji Wilhelm.”[16]


Habibullah was not convinced that the Germans had the ability to support his country during a war. He knew that the journey of a single German envoy had taken months; hence, the arrival of German soldiers and financial support for war would take even more time. In contrast the British soldiers were stationed right at the Afghan border, ready to attack at any moment should the need arise. Habibullah kept his hawk leashed. He insisted that a call for a jihad was invalid unless proclaimed inside Afghanistan by Afghan religious leaders. However, the Afghan Amir reportedly wrote a letter to Enver Pasha, Young Turk Minister of War, asking if he should attack British India or Tsarist Central Asia in support of the Ottoman cause.[17]


In many ways, Habibullah played the great game with much care and great intelligence, keeping his country neutral. Maintaining a neutral position somehow demonstrated that the Afghans were in fact not colonised by the British but rather protected by them. Moreover, by remaining neutral, the Amir of Afghanistan received a large sum of money as subsidy. There were also other signs that the British were happy with the Amir since they indicated to him that once the war was over, Afghanistan would become independent; a reward from the British to the Amir for staying neutral. At least, that was what Amir understood. However, after the defeat of the Germans, the British recanted on their promise and maintained the status quo. Amir was devastated. He lost his popularity in the country, in the court and soon after the war, he was assassinated in a calculated coup.  Some historians believe that the court officials masterminded his killing.[18]


Despite his failure to achieve independence from the British, Habibullah was the first Amir of Afghanistan who saw the need for modernisation and education, and he himself became the most significant tool for moving Afghanistan towards becoming a modern state. After the initial years of experimenting and ensuring that he had a good grip on the country, in contrast to his father, Habibullah was a mild-mannered man who did not see progress and education as a challenge to his authority, especially when the agenda came from Mahmud Tarzi whom he trusted deeply. Indeed, two of his sons had married into Tarzi’s family.[19]


Habibullah’s most significant achievement was to allow modern education in Afghanistan.  The Amir had been assured by Tarzi, Maulwi Abdur Rauf and Moulana Sarwar Wasif Kandahari that by establishing a modern school in Afghanistan, not only would the nation benefit, but the Court as well, by having educated people working for the Amir. In 1906, Sayyid Ahmad Kandahari created a literacy method and wrote six books including a teacher's guide. In 1907, the Office of Textbooks was established to produce textbooks for the new, modern schools.[20]

In the early 20th century, it became necessary to create an independent teacher-training institute that would have its own standard curriculum and a level of competency required for the instructors and students. So, in 1912, the first teacher-training college, Dar-al-Malimin, was established in Kabul.  The next year the primary school system was broadened.[21]

The Department of Education was established in 1913 for the first time in order to modernize and broaden the curriculum of the traditional schools. Amir Habibullah's son, Prince Enayatullah, was appointed Head of the Department. Education and school supplies were provided free of charge to all students. In addition, a small stipend was awarded to students as an incentive to pursue formal education.[22]


Habibia High school, modelled after Aligarh College, near Delhi, was opened and the Amir himself urged the nation to send their children for better education to this school which was promoting a modern, western curriculum, very different from the education in madrasas where learning was confined to the Holy Quran.


In its early days, the Habibia school was used as a source for British propaganda instead of making an impact to educate pupils about their country, understanding the politics of the region and accepting the challenge of progress for a better future. The reason for this was the lack of qualified teachers in Afghanistan. This shortcoming made inevitable the need to import teachers from India.  With the teachers came the curriculum, which was taught in British-run schools in India.  The Amir and the Court were horrified when they discovered that the history of Afghanistan was distorted and there was lack of respect for being Afghan nationals, thus confusing the ideology of the pupils. Habibullah asked for school reform. This needed a dedicated department that later became the Ministry of Education.  Although there were only a small number of Afghan intellectuals running this office under the leadership of Enayatullah Khan, the eldest son of the Amir, they soon showed a keen ability to institute reform. Habibia produced bright graduates who took active part in the modernising of the country. The school also became an important ground for cultivating the freedom fighters of Afghanistan as well as those of India.

The Indian teachers who taught the Afghans saw the opportunity to inspire the pupils with the values of nationhood and struggle for freedom that also served as an inspiration to Indians. They thought that if a nation such as Afghanistan can become independent surely it would influence the Indians to see that the colonial castle is not impermeable.[23]


And so, Habibia School became an institution for the Afghan people who sought reforms for their country’s independence. The role of the British and the Court were challenged in hot debates amongst the teachers and students. This institution had brave teachers who could take the risk of proposing to the Afghan Amir the benefits of limiting its ruling powers and bringing a constitution into existence. Even the young prince Amanullah Khan, later king of the country, subscribed to this movement.  Failing to realise that the mild-mannered Habibullah was the son of the ruthless Abdur Rahman and had the genes of his father, some reformists, including the most influential teacher of Habibia Sarwar Wasif Kandahari, signed a petition and personally presented the document to Amir Habibullah asking him to limit his authority and enforce a constitution. Such a bold act made the Amir angry and resulted in the death of prominent figures such as Wasif Kandahari and the imprisonment of others. But once education was introduced in a country previously starved of civilisation and modern progress, the passion for reform and freedom never disappeared.  Many were faithful and loyal to this cause regardless of fear of loss of life or imprisonment. [24]


The British government of India was closely monitoring the changes occurring in Afghanistan. British democracy that always valued education adopted a double standard in Afghanistan, warning the Amir that institutions such as Siraj al Akhbar and Habibia were posing a threat to the authority of the Amir because these institutions encouraged people to challenge the government.  And yet, the British government in India opened more schools and published more newspapers – no doubt as tools for British propaganda supporting their history curriculum in praise of British monarchy.


Role of Mahmud Tarzi and his associates in Afghan independence and modernisation


Awareness in Afghanistan dates back to the era of Amir Shir Ali Khan (1863-1878) and Sayyed Jamaluldin Afghani, a philosopher and a thinker, who was creating a vision for Pan Islamism, seeking to remove the contemporary super powers - Russia and Britain who had infiltrated deep into Muslim countries. Unfortunately Sayyed Jamal’s grand ideas were too grand for Amir Shir Ali Khan and, due to his differences with Amir, Sayyed was forced to leave his homeland. He therefore preached his philosophy in other countries instead where he was able to influence the society.[25]


Sayyed left Afghanistan but he still influenced many Afghans. Some of these Afghans like Nasurullah Khan, brother of Habibullah became pro Pan Islamists, while some others like Mahmud Tarzi, became nationalists fighting for Afghan independence.[26]


No one who has researched Afghan history prior to its independence can ignore the role of Mahmud Tarzi, the father-in-law of Amanullah Khan, the first king who ruled a complete independent Afghanistan.[27]


In his choice of spiritual leaders, Tarzi did not follow Baidel or Hafiz or any other philosopher, poet or writer of Afghanistan but instead followed a modern thinking philosopher who was about to change the world.[28]  It is recorded that Tarzi met Afghani in Syria and spent some seven months in his presence. Tarzi records that the time he spent in the presence of his master was equivalent to 70 years of formal study.[29]


Tarzi was born in 1865 and from birth was on the move constantly which continued for the rest of his life.  His birth took place in Ghazni, Afghanistan as his family travelled from Kabul to Kandahar during a time of unrest.  His education proceeded along classical Muslim lines.  He studied Arabic and Persian and their literature. Poetry and philosophy had particularly fascinated him.  He spoke and wrote Pashto, Urdu, Turkish and French, as well as Arabic and Persian.  His father, Ghulam Mohammed Tarzi, a well-known poet, broke up with Abdur Rahman Khan over the Amir’s strictness and brutality towards his enemies.  Other tribal leaders (about fifteen in number) also opposed these harsh policies (as well as being threats to the Amir’s power) and they and their families were banished by the Amir.[30]


Family life engaged only a part of his time, however.  He savoured the intellectual atmosphere of Damascus, and argued ideals, dreams, and Realpolitik with incubating Young Turks who eventually overthrew Sultan Abdul Hamid and shaped modern Turkey.  He met and impressed the worldly-wise exponent of Pan Islamism, Sayyed Jamaluldin Afghani.[31]


During his time in Turkey, Tarzi had come to the conclusion that the source of all evils in Afghanistan was the lack of education. Lack of education resulted in:


  1. Afghanistan being dominated by cunning invaders who despite having lost many wars against Afghanistan, were capable of defeating Afghans in diplomacy, changing Afghan triumph into defeat and continue to rule the country;

  2. Afghans regressing, with no schools and universities, despite a successful history of civilisation;

  3. Afghans continuing to live in poverty without knowledge of modern developments in the world;

  4. Afghans easily being misguided and manipulated by their ruling authorities.


The list was endless but these were the aspects that bothered the mind of young Tarzi, giving him many a sleepless night. It was in Turkey that the gentleman of modern Afghanistan plotted the greatest plot of all time - to revolutionise his country through education. The plot was simple and humane. He was not planning the next kingdom of Afghanistan for he hoped the country would eventually get rid of this sentiment.  Nor was he seeking for riches or to gain mass popularity.   Instead he wanted to challenge the mullahs and spiritual leaders and allow the nation to embrace modern education holistically. The education in the mosque was very different with daily due emphasis on:


  1. Amir is the shadow of the God;

  2. Practice satisfaction with whatever you have because your faith is designed by God;

  3. Respect the spiritual leaders because they are bridges for reaching God.


With this kind of brainwashing, the people of Afghanistan had little chance to progress.[32]


Under the direct influence of Mahmud Tarzi, Habibullah began several processes of Afghan modernisation that continue today.  The Amir (called Siraj-al-Mellat-wa-ad-din: Light of the Nation and Religion), however, become more enamoured with mechanical gadgetry than with the social, political, and economic mechanics of change.  He loved cars, so he began to improve the road from Kabul to the Durand Line.  He also imported cameras, and photography became one of his principal hobbies.  Many of his photographs still exist in private collections.  An American engineer, A. C. Jewitt, built the first power station in Afghanistan, so that Habibullah’s palace and other buildings in Kabul could have electric light (Bell, 1948).  Jewitt’s old General Electric generators at Jabul us-Siraj still serve as auxiliaries to the new German-constructed power stations.[33]


Habiblullah first appointed Mahmud Tarzi as Chief of the Bureau of Translations, where his primary task was to translate Turkish editions of Jules Verne’s novels into Persian so that Habibullah, an avid Verne fan, could read them.  Several of these translations were later published in Kabul for public sale.  Unofficially, however, Tarzi became one of Habibullah’s most trusted advisers, a position of great power.[34]


Tarzi understood that in order to achieve his goal to make Afghanistan independent from a superpower’s influence he needed many nations to work together.  He felt that Afghanistan alone could not challenge the authority of the British. He saw the need for all nations suffering in the hand of colonial powers to unite. For this reason he promoted Pan Islamism and anti-colonialial movements, showing his ability as a great politician and nationalist for the benefit of Afghanistan. One could suggest that he was not prepared to fight for Pan Islamism in Turkey for the benefit of Turkey alone, as some religious leaders had wanted him to do. He wanted to fight for Afghanistan from within Afghanistan in order to achieve reforms and independence, but if supporting Turkey could bring freedom to Afghanistan, Tarzi was not hesitant to give such support.  In Siraj al Akhbar’s time and time again we see articles written in support of Turkey, Iran, India, Japan, Somaliland and Germany. Indeed, not all these countries were Islamic, but all of them were enemies of Russia and Britain.[35]


Siraj al Akhbar was not only a newspaper but also an association for intellectuals who were fighting on two fronts: firstly, to make Afghanistan independent and secondly, to see this country move forward towards  progress. The Siraj al Akhbar newspaper was edited and controlled by Tarzi, while Siraj al Akhbar Association was led by Mawlawi Abdur Rab Khaki Qandahari. His assistant was another intellectual, Sarwar Wasif Qandahari.[36]


The two men (Wasif and Khaki) were dedicated to bringing progress to the country.  Both had realised that the best way to proceed was to introduce education. Khaki was a well-respected teacher of the royal court (madrasa-e shahi) and also a teacher of the army school (maktab-e harbia). Wasif was a renowned intelligent teacher of Habibia College. It was with the effort of these two men that Habibullah opened Habibia School. However, Wasif was not satisfied with the opening of schools alone and introduced further reforms to the Amir in terms of bringing a constitution to effect. He wrote to the Amir: “In some countries it is the people who force the court to accept a constitution and rule the country with the hand of law. In  other countries, however, it is the enlightened King who wants progress, takes initiatives and introduces a constitution. The Light of People and Religion (Siraj al Milata wa Deen) is an enlightened King who has already founded the Habibia and Harbia schools and given permission for the construction of factories, roads, printing houses and publication of books for the benefit of the people.  With all these progressive qualities of the King, I would wish that he accepts the recommendation to introduce the constitution which would enforce the rule of law and, by so doing, allow people to live in comfort.” The Amir however, misunderstood the letter. He was after all the son of Abdur Rahman Khan and his tolerance had a limit. Habibullah thought that Wasif was interfering with his power and after receiving the letter, he ordered Wasif and his associates to be imprisoned and later prosecuted them in a most horrific way, by blowing them up in front of the barrel of a cannon.  Before his prosecution he wrote to his mother from prison, “Freedom, constitution and self governance is our lawful right. We have fought for Islam, jihad and we are servants of Allah and we all say our kalmia and yet by the order of the King we die. We have gone and yet I am sure that the Afghan people will achieve freedom and a constitution.”[37]


Along with Wasif, many other intellectuals who strived for progress and constitutional reform lost their lives.  Such defeat made the rest of the reformers more careful and gentler in their demands for progress and independence. The challenge was for a leader who could work with the Amir. Fortunately Tarzi could fit the bill. He was highly educated and passionate about educational reform was strategically positioned as the father-in-law of two of Habibullah’s sons. He was not only close to the Court and had the trust of Habibullah, but also had the faith of other reformers who knew that he would do every thing in his power to introduce reforms, constitution and independence to the country.  In other words, Both sides trusted him.[38]


The social and political belief of educated Afghans was influenced by other global events  at the time. War between Russia and Japan, the 1907 agreement between Russia and Britain, the constitutional movement in Iran, the Turkish Empire, Pan Islamism, developments in Balkans (1912-13), the First World War, the Russian Revolution, all of these events had their impact on learned Afghans and influenced their way of thinking.[39]


Aware of the influence of Islam in the country and, a keen understanding of the culture of Afghans, this group of intellectuals worked in synergy with Islamic theories and did not challenge the religion. One of the most prominent writers of his time, who was also the right hand of Tarzi, Abdul Hadi Dawi wrote in Siraj al Akhbar: “even if knowledge is in China a Muslim must seek it”, a Quranic quotation.  Tarzi himself had vast knowledge of Islam having been educated in Damascus; he spoke and wrote fluently in Arabic. The knowledge of Arabic language itself allowed him to understand the Quran much better than many mullahs. He used this knowledge as a tool to prove that there was nothing wrong to strive for science and technology progression.  In many ways this group of people knew their society much better than other reformers who appeared later in the 20th century. For example, Tarzi and his educated friends would never have made the mistake that the socialist government did after gaining power in 1979. The socialist reformists did not know Afghanistan well enough, despite being well versed in Leninism.[40]


Even in his translation of novels, Tarzi chose those novels that could educate Afghans to understand developed countries. He translated books such as Russian Japanese War and the International Law. By translating the Russian Japanese War he wanted to demonstrate that Asian countries could indeed fight western imperialism.  The translation of International Law was intended to make the Afghans aware of their own rights within the world.[41]


Education for the Afghans was not only for the men and privileged. Tarzi and his friends also initiated to engage women in public professions.  It was during Habibullah’s reign that a school for girls with English language medium started to function in Kabul. In his quest to make Afghanistan free of foreign influence, he thought that women must take part in liberating Afghanistan as much as the men. He thought that women deserved full citizenship and claimed that educated women were an asset to future generations and concluded that Islam did not deny them equal rights. In his newspaper Siraj ul Akhbar, Tarzi devoted a special section on women’s issues entitled “Celebrating Women of the World,” which was edited by his wife, Asma Tarzi.[42]


These Afghans, who defended modernism and progress, analysed the cause of Afghanistan’s backwardness. They argued that it was not a shame to admit that Afghanistan was under-developed and behind other countries. Instead of accepting the status quo, their goal was to learn from mistakes of the past. They thought nations could only develop and progress if they accepted criticism. They thought that the real reason for Afghanistan’s problems was the lack of modern education. Tarzi in 1918 wrote that the total number of educated people in the entire Afghanistan was less than the number of educated people in Indian Punjab that was after all only a province of another country. Lack of education resulted in the population not understanding the value of freedom from colonial rule. He observed that the Afghans were busy fighting for individual freedom, which ended in national lawlessness. He also clarified that the education – which only a small number had access to - was not adequate because of a shortage of qualified teachers.  Traditionally, teaching was carried out in madrasas environment by mullahs who in turn did not have adequate education.[43]


Afghan intellectuals knew that the only way to attain progress and bring Afghanistan to prosperity was by giving the Afghans access to news of the rest of the world especially from the more advanced countries. They knew that it was essential to learn from the experiences of others. The reason the European countries were ahead was not just because of their military might, but also because of their abilities in science and technology. Without access to the knowledge of the western world, occupied forces would only feed the nation with their own propaganda, as it happened during Abdur Rahman’s era when the British flooded Kabul with published praise of Britain.[44]


Siraj al Akhbar a newspaper or an organisation for independence and modernisation?


In 1911, Tarzi began his most ambitious project and, in many ways, his most enduring momentum, the bi-monthly nationalist newspaper, Siraj al Akhbar (The Light –or Torch –of News).  Tarzi lithographed the paper the first year.  Then printing machines arrived from France and Turkey, and he produced a newspaper technically equal to many current Afghan newspapers.[45]


Habibullah permitted Tarzi to publish Siraj al Akhbar in order to needle the British Government of India because of its subtle attacks on him.  However, Siraj al Akhbar developed into a truly political newspaper, revolutionary in implication if not in fact.  Tarzi constantly attacked religious leaders.  He contested the prevalent belief that Muslims could learn nothing from the West.  His pleas for independence from European political domination struck responsive cords in India and in Russian-controlled Central Asia.  The Indian nationalist press often quoted Tarzi, much to the embarrassment of British which several times banned Siraj al Akhbar in India.[46]


Embodied in his attacks on European imperialism was criticism of the lack of progress in Afghan internal politics and the lack of national unity.  The Afghan intellectuals widely quoted Tarzi’s poems. In one poem, a courtier complains: “Time and science are changing the world, and many nations suffer from impatience.  Enough of quail shooting!  Now we need to work!”  The poem was referring to Habibullah’s love of hunting (the Amir often included Mahmud Tarzi in his hunting parties). However, Tarzi, an introspective man of letters, hated horses and camps.


Tarzi would begin some editorials with flowery praise to Habibullah, then quickly switch to general criticism which, by implication, referred to the paucity of modern education and science in Afghanistan, bemoaning the fact that “no modern education and science exists in my unfortunate country!”


The seven and a half years (1911-19) of the publication of Siraj al Akhbar were years of increased strain between the Amir and Mahmud Tarzi.  Finally, Tarzi refused to leave his compound for formal functions.  He composed his newspapers in an office adjoining his house.  The printer came and went with proofs.  Several times Habibullah threatened (never seriously, however) to kill Tarzi if he continued to harp on internal reforms, threats that the editor ignored.  The Amir, however, always relented, for Siraj al Akhbar’s editorials demanded complete independence from England, a line, which evoked praise from other Asian nationalists, and pleased Habibullah.  Another pet project of Tarzi’s, Siraj al Atfal (Light of the Children), a children’s journal, came out with six issues in 1918.


Despite the fashion of the time to follow the Hindi School of Poetry, which had dominated the minds of many good writers and poets, including the father of Tarzi, Ghulam Mohamad Tarzi, Mahmud opted for a modern and simple language, which could be understood by the greater masses.  The Hindi School of Poetry is very complex in nature and complicated in thoughts that can be interpreted in many different ways but the language that Tarzi used was very direct and simple. Tarzi was a leader who was fully aware of the need of the times. There were not many educated Afghans and, the small numbers that were educated had difficulty understanding simple literature let alone solving the complexity of the Hindi School of Poetry.[47]


Siraj al Akhbar for the first time was published in May 1905 during Habibullah’s era. The editor of the first Siraj al Akhbar was Mawlawi Abdur Rab, but the paper was stopped soon after its first publication. One can only guess that the reason was Amir’s suspicion that this paper would weaken his position. However, Abdur Rab had wanted the paper to enlighten the people of Afghanistan and inform them about progress of the world. In his first article, published in the first edition of Siraj al Akhbar, he writes: “I who am less than any servant of Allah, asked his royal highness to allow the publication of the Siraj al Akhbar in order to translate the news of the world for the people of Afghanistan. The reason for this work is to inform the people of this country of the progress of the world and follow the progressed world and reach our own goal”. The letter also mentions that Afghan people are entitled to understand the colonial powers of the world and the manner in which they rule. By understanding their method of ruling the world, not by army alone but also by political manoeuvres, the Afghan people would be able to better understand colonial power and how to reject it. Such honest critiques upset the British and worried the Amir as he thought the consequence could easily result in his loosing his grip on power. He knew very well how the British replaced one Amir after another if they felt the current Amir was not cooperating. However, when Tarzi proposed the publication of Siraj al Akhbar later in 1911, Habibullah agreed this time, because Tarzi belonged to the court then and had the Amir’s trust.[48]


The newspaper Siraj al Akhbar became the centre of anti-colonial movement publishing articles and poems for freedom fighters of India, Iran, Islamic countries of Transoxiana and other countries.


Siraj al Akhbar was a newspaper with a strong voice for independence, reform and progress for modernisation. It was a platform for debates for the responsible writers who wanted to bring change to the country.  Tarzi, who was in many ways ahead of his time, assumed the role of a teacher, changing the popular subject of poetry to social and economical progress, instead of romanticising with nature, wine and women. He also wrote articles about science, technology, western imperialism, reform and progress.


Saied Jamal al-Din Al-Afghani, Mahmud Tarzi and King Amanullah


The relationship between Sayyed Jamal al-Din Al-Afghani, Mahmud Tarzi and Amanullah is linear, from top to bottom based on teacher-student relationship; Sayyed being Tarzi’s teacher and Tarzi the teacher of Amanullah.  After his encounter with Sayyed, which lasted 7 months in Damascus, Tarzi wrote: “The knowledge I have gained from Sayyed is equivalent to 70 years of hard work in search of knowledge.”


In contrast to Tarzi’s teachings, Sayyed Jamal al-Din Al-Afghani’s philosophy was embodied in the salafiyya movement. Derived from the concept of al-salaf al salih (‘the virtuous forefathers’), he argued for a return to values which had guided the Prophet Muhammad and his companions during their exile in Madina. The leitmotif of this argument was that the original postulates of Islam had been abandoned through the centuries by heterodox practices like Sufism and by corrupt governments. The results, according to the Salafis, were plainly visible in the Muslim world’s feeble response to European imperialism, and the remedy lay in the revival of the pristine culture of the first Islamic community. The Salafis did not reject European values and achievements per se, but on the contrary, sought to reconcile Islam with modernity. Their objective was to combine elements of European industrial society -positivistic science, technology, and rationalised organisation- with the heritage of Islam -moral order, spirituality and just governance.[49].


Despite being impressed by Sayyed, Tarzi did not follow his path to fight for the benefit of the whole world of Islam. His agenda differed from Sayyed as he was thinking basically about Afghanistan and used Pan Islamism as a tool to defeat imperialism. He was a nationalist while Sayyed followed the salafiya movement. For Sayyed anywhere was home as long as that place accepted his philosophy and could be used as a platform for the salafiya movement.[50]


Amanullah and rush for modernisation


Education was not only necessary for the urban population but also much needed in rural areas where people were ordered to send their children to school. Amanullah was so determined to educate the nomadic population that he sent some teachers to travel with nomads in order to educate them.


Education in Afghanistan became a focal point and with it further revolutionary ideas developed.   These ideas were not confined to the welfare of Afghanistan but influenced by India.  Furthermore, Pan Islamism grew stronger in that era. Basically, Afghanistan’s success gave inspiration to Indian nationalists to fight against the British in order to achieve their independence. Religious sentiment in Afghanistan influenced some Muslims living in Punjab who decided to immigrate to Afghanistan instead of living under the rule of non-Muslims.


All this annoyed the British and they decided to defeat Amanullah at his own game, provoking the mullahs with sentiments that modern education is not Islamic and that their King was not following Islamic rules. Rebels opposing Amanullah showed themselves to be a strong enemy and ultimately succeeded in Amanullah retracting his decree to the rural people to send their children to school.[51]  HH



The English newspapers such as Pioneer and Educate published articles about King Amanullah, condemning his modernisation and describing Amanullah to be less than a good Muslim. Tarzi advised the young King to go slow with reforms but the King was determined and impatient to bring change and misjudged the ability of the British in conspiracy with his opponents, which would finally end his rule.[52]



Education an instrument for shaping the future


Through the course of history Afghanistan has had extreme elements. This extremism has not only been reflected in Islamic fundamentalism but also in progressive agendas. In reality extreme progressive agendas resulted in creating extreme negative reactions such as Islamic fundamentalism. For example, the communist in Afghanistan in 1980 announced that education was compulsory for all citizen of Afghanistan. To achieve this the government not only implemented education but also created mixed education programmes of sensitive issues such as the rights of women which were interpreted as un-islamic. At that time, some of the education institutions in Afghanistan were much more advanced than similar institutions in neighbouring countries, such as the Kabul University and some excellent high schools. However, failing to give assurance to the muslim community of Afghanistan that modern education was in line with Islamic values gave a contrary impression to the people of the rural areas that formal education was anti Islam. The Mujahideen leaders who themselves were educated and graduates of the universities used such negative feelings of conservative people and directed their energy towards rejecting modern education preaching only traditional madrasa type of education. That resulted in the killing of many educated refugees who left Afghanistan to immigrate to Pakistan. Many educated people became victim of the Mujahideen conspiracy. They were portrayed as government spies. Their killings were justified in self made “Islamic” justice: “If they were good Muslims they would go to heaven and if they were infidels, to hell”. Such approaches gave license for the uneducated Mujahideen to kill many innocent people. While such horrific stories revealed barbaric acts in the name of Islam, at the same time it showed the government’s failures in education being accepted by the majority of the people. In describing education as an evil instrument of the West the mullahs had done the damage. This approach by mullahs does not confirm that they are committed to Islam in a selfless way but it shows that they are trying to have a good grip on society. It is in fact a power struggle between modernism and backwardness.


Islamic reaction to communist’s agendas for progress in the years1979 to 1992 is not the only example of the fight between progress and backwardness. Such clear division had been created many-a-times in the history of Afghanistan, including the time when Amanullah Khan decided to push for modernism and promoted education as the best tool to develop the country. Unfortunately agendas for developing the country’s, mostly planned in isolation in modern offices in Kabul and big cities without the involvement of the rural communities, resulted in misinterpretations of the government programmes. Mullahs have always misinterpreted modern agendas of the government and the main motivation for that was to take revenge against the government for failing to involve Muslim leaders in modern programmes. Tarzi and his friends were careful enough in interpreting their modern theories in such a way that they did not create strong reactions from the mullahs. The impatience of Amanullah, especially after his tour of Europe to modernise the country, created a communication vacuum with the rural people and muslim leaders and their acceptance of his programmes. The king was many times advised by Tarzi to slow down and take the feeling of the community into consideration but the king was becoming arrogant and had no desire to listen to others. Tension created between Tarzi and the king resulted in Tarzi leaving Kabul and accepting the post of ambassador in Europe. This in fact created even more of a vacuum between the king and his subjects. Tarzi had been the communication bridge between the people and the King.[53]


The history of Afghanistan, especially since Amir Abdur Rahman Khan clearly shows that there have been many noticeable attempts to introduce education. Yet stereo type understanding of the West is what prevailed in the minds of the people of Afghanistan who rejected progress. The history of Afghanistan has been misrepresented, portraying the people to be war lovers and anti progress and yet, modern history shows that it is not the case. Imposed wars by neighbours (direct and indirect), had changed the course of development in Afghanistan. Just before the fall of President Dawoud, Afghanistan showed a clear sign of a country which was going towards modernisation and yet after the Russian invasion and its reaction in the form of  Islamic fundamentalism Afghanistan went backwards to become a Failed State.   After one of the darkest regime of our era, the Taliban took control stopping all education institutions. During the 23 years of civil war the donor communities have supported Afghans, mainly concentrating on food and shelter programmes for the refugees and displaced. Wars have created a false impression that there was not so much interest in education and yet records shows that in 2002 when UNICEF and the Ministry of Education launched its ‘Back to School’ programme they hoped to see 1.5 million children return to school. They were amazed to see in contrast, 4.5 million children report to crowded and destroyed schools. This clearly shows that Afghans understand the need for education and even many uneducated parents sensed that the protracted 23 year long war could have been curbed through education.  A failed nation cannot act in isolation.   It is therefore only with substantive support, resources and expertise of the international community that we can accelerate the reconstructing of the education system, as priority above all else.  The uneducated farmer or soldier will change when his son or daughter comes from school and tells him of the vision of the way forward, not because foreign organisations promote their programmes.  Mothers will influence their children to be successful in school and choose progression rather than weapons as their future.  


The world knows that the biggest asset for a country is not its natural resources but its people. It is the people who can create resources from ashes, if they have the knowledge on how to do so.  As Iqbal Lahori, the greatest thinker loved by Afghans said:



Mazhab-e zenda delaan khaab-e pareeshaani neest

Az hameen khaak jahaani deegaree saakhtan ast


The religion of hopefull people does not permit nightmare of hopelessness

Even from these ashes they can create a new world.






I have made an effort for an objective paper which refers to notable historians both from the east and west, to argue that Afghans since the reign of Amir Abdur Rahman Khan, have been very much in favour of progress and modernism as the road to independence through education. With education the Afghans built their capacity to create an independent country. Previously the British had argued that Afghans cannot be independent because they did not have the capacity to rule their country and therefore, needed protection.  Tarzi and his peers were wise enough to involve the Amir of Afghanistan to participate in educational programmes and schools for the masses of Afghanistan. They argued that not only common people benefit from education but the Amir himself would reap the benefit when qualified Afghans ran offices.


It is clear that the British during Habibullah’s era, discouraged and even hindered his government from opening schools or the newspaper media.[54]  Many years later the Russian involvement in Afghanistan also had a negative impact on the Afghan education system. Reforms implemented by Russian allies, the communist regime in Afghanistan, had an adverse effect in the rural areas. The more schools built in cities, the more schools were burned down by the Mujahideen in the rural area. In some rural areas the schools were closed down simply because both the teachers and the students were encouraged to leave school and join the Mujahideen instead, fuelling patriotic sentiments to fight against the puppet government.  During this time the Arab fundamentalists propagated that modern schools were anti Islamic and should be replaced by madrasa. Poverty and lack of access to modern education forced Afghan refugees to attend fundamentalist supported madrasas in Pakistan. What was frequently taught in these madrasas was hatred against many things including the rejection towards progress of formal education, rights of women etc. It was many graduates of these madrasas who forced Afghanistan to the dark ages. Their lack of respect for women is just one example in history which had so many negative ramifications. Their hatred for education, history and culture was made obvious through the destruction and killings of innocent educated people, burning of libraries and demolishment of priceless historical monuments such as the Buddha statues of Bamian.  The role of USA to support the jihad against the Russians also cannot be ignored. The USA government needed soldiers to defeat the Russians not pupils who desired schooling. That was the reason that the Mujahideen were supported in the wars and decorated generously with modern weaponry.  War taught children to become graduates of high precision fighting and yet they could not read and write.  Ignorance, isolation and lack of education turned these men, ‘the friends of USA’, to become its fierce enemy over time.


The involvement of the international community to help the Afghans to build their capacity in education has many positive impacts, not only for the benefit of the Afghan people but also for the international community. By educating Afghans, they become self supporting, easing the burden of the international community in the long term. Other benefits would be the reduction or elimination of drug production and the displacement of terrorists away from the Afghan soil.


Reading much history and analysing the historical events, I came to the personal conclusion that it is not only the Afghan nation that is suffering from the lack of education which has resulted in the terminology of ‘a failed nation’ but the actors of the great games (old and new) are also paying a heavy price for not having allowed the Afghan reforms for education to succeed during Amanullah’s period. The time of colonial rivalry is one thing but to make the same mistake in recent times, using Afghans in wars, discouraging educational reforms has resulted in this country being used instead as a ground for terrorists and drug cultivation.


For the educated Afghans, no matter how small their numbers, the recent history of Afghanistan is clearly evident that many atrocities occurring in Afghanistan are directly or indirectly related to the lack of education. The educated people of Afghanistan shouldn’t rely only on the support of the outside world. They have to remember that when Tarzi wanted to build the country he was hoping to build it by the Afghans themselves, but building a country needs both education and popular leadership.


The author would like to thank Professor Ludwig Adamec, Dr Huma Ahmed Ghosh and Dr Arley Loewen for their comments.

[1] Siraj al-Akhbar was the second newspaper published at the time of Amir Habibullah Khan, first in 1905, under Maulawi Abdur Rab as chief editor, with only one edition and then in 1911 again which continued until 1919. The first newspaper called shams al-Nahar was published at the time of Amir Shir Ali Khan. Siraj al-Akhbar was edited by Mahmud Tarzi and he used the paper to inform Afghans on what was happening in the world. The paper also reflected the voice of other freedom fighters who were struggling against the British and the Russians.

[2] Louis Dupree, Afghanistan 3rd ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), 439.

[3] Ludwig Adamec, Afghanistan Foreign Affairs to the Mid-Twentieth Century (Arizona, 1974), 3.

[4]  Tarzi was aware that in order to have the support of Amir for the continuation of Siraj al Akhbar, he needed to publish news of current affairs showing the Amir of Afghanistan opening a factory, laying a foundation stone for a dam or simply going hunting. News along with Amir’s picture obviously pleased the ruler. He was fond of photography and was delighted to see himself in the newspaper, wearing immaculate western clothes, riding a beautiful horse or a most sophisticated car of the time.

[5] Mahmud Tarzi, “Maaref”  Siraj al Akhbar, no 1, 25 Sunbula AH 1292.

[6] Louis Dupree, Afghanistan 3rd ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), 420.

[7] Donald Wilber, Afghanistan: Its People, its Society, its Culture (New Haven: Graf Press, 1962), 19.

[8] Louis Dupree, Afghanistan 3rd ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), 420.


[9] Angus Hamilton, Afghanistan (London, 1906), 389-99.

[10] Mohamad Hasan Kakar, The Consolidation of the Central Authority in Afghanistan under Amir 'Abd Al-Rahman 1880-1896 (London: SOAS 1968), 99.

[11] Louis Dupree, Afghanistan 3rd ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), 430.

[12] Ibid., 420.

[13] During Amir Abdur Rahman, Afghanistan was virtually in the hand of warlords and feudal. However, with small army that he had in his position he made sure that all the warlords and the feudal respect the central government. He did not bow to the pressure of these influential people. In contrast it is obvious that Karzai the current president of Afghanistan is pressured in his decisions by the warlords and he also creates new provinces to keep some people happy. Such action would continue to undermine the authority of Karzai and will cause problems in the future.

[14] Ludwig Adamec, Afghanistan Foreign Affairs to the Mid-Twentieth Century (Arizona, 1974), 21.

[15] Ibid., 34

[16] Ludwig Adamec, Afghanistan, 1900-1923 (Berkeley, 1967), 83.


[17] Ludwig Adamec, Afghanistan, 1900-1923 (Berkeley, 1967), 83.

[18] Ludwig Adamec, Afghanistan Foreign Affairs to the Mid-Twentieth Century (Arizona, 1974), 34

[19] Bashir Sakhawarz,  Tasir Mashrooteh bar Sher-e Maa (Impact of Constitution  on Our Poetry )(Delhi: Ayubi, 1997).

[20] Mahmud Tarzi, “Maaref”  Siraj al Akhbar, no 1, 25 Sunbula AH 1292.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ghlam Mohamad Ghobar, Afghanistan dar Maseer-e Tarikh (Afghanistan Through the Path of History), 3rd ed. (Iran: Enqelab 1988), 703.

[23] The Indian nationalists were aware that the Afghans can be the first nation to become independent of British influence, mainly because they had shown to defeat invaders in the past. They thought by supporting Afghans, the Indians will become inspired and fight for their own freedom. The British had managed to suppress the Indian nationalism since 1887, the first popular up rise against them, but the feeling to become independent never disappeared. Many Indian teachers were teaching in Habibia School and encouraging students to fight for their freedom. Two important nationalist with the name of Mahendra Pratab and Barakatullah however, went further and played the great game’s card on the side of the Germans and the Turks. They came with the German mission to Afghanistan to encourage Habibullah to call for jihad against the British in India.

[24] Ghubar 1988 gives a comprehensive list of the people who have been killed, put to prison or tortured by different Amirs in order to suppress the feeling for freedom and constitutions

[25] Ghlam Mohamad Ghobar, Afghanistan dar Maseer-e Tarikh (Afghanistan Through the Path of History), 3rd ed. (Iran: Enqelab 1988), 592.

[26] Akram Osman, “Nahzat-e Mashroota,” Farda 3 July 2005, www.farda.org/archive.

[27] Huma Ahmed-Gosh, “A History of Women in Afghanistan: Lesson Learnt for the Future,” International Women’s Studies no 3-4 (May, 2003).

[28] Before Tarzi introducing modern journalism and literature, the Afghans traditionally continued reading masters of Persian literature such as Hafiz, Sadi and Baidel. Poetry in Afghanistan was deeply influenced by Baidel the famous Sufi poet of India who wrote in Persian and prose was almost impossible to understand. The writers used a special style of writing called munshiana (literarily). In Siraj al-Akhbar Tarzi fights this style of writing and makes the literature to be easily understood by people.

[29] Abdulhai Habibi, Junbesh-e Mashroota  (Constitutional Movement), (Kabul, 1980), 67.


[30] Louis Dupree, Afghanistan 3rd ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), 437

[31] Ibid., 438

[32] Bashir Sakhawarz,  Tasir Mashrooteh bar Sher-e Maa (Impact of Constitution  on Our Poetry )(Delhi: Ayubi, 1997), 25.

[33] Louis Dupree, Afghanistan 3rd ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), 438

[34] Ibid., 439

[35] Siraj al-Akhbar, no 2,1913. In the news of the world we see comments of the editor about the Muslims of Somaliland fighting the British which has resulted in killing sixty British soldiers. The paper shows clearly its support for the freedom fighters of Somaliland. There is also a record of war between Turks and Bulgarians, Arabs and Italian. Again the paper is on the side of the Muslims.

[36] Abdulhai Habibi, Junbesh-e Mashroota  (Constitutional Movement), (Kabul, 1980), 81.


[37] Mir Mohammad Yaqob, “Roshnfekrak Afghanistan dar Maseer Zaman” (Enlightened Afghans in the passage of time), Khat-e Sewom, September 2004, 3-4 edition.

[38] Ghlam Mohamad Ghobar, Afghanistan dar Maseer-e Tarikh (Afghanistan Through the Path of History), 3rd ed. (Iran: Enqelab 1988), 718-719.

[39] Vartan Gregorian, The Emergence of Modern Afghanistan, Politics of Reform and Modernisation, 1880-1946 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1969) 85.


[40] Tarzi was well educated in Islam and he was also very much aware of the social and economical situation of Afghanistan. His educated friends who were supporting him for freedom and modernisation also had a good knowledge of the country and the rest of the world. They understood Islam very well and also knew the Afghan culture. In contrast the Afghan communists who gained power in 1979 coup had little knowledge of Islam and the tradition of people, but they were well versed in Leninism.

[41] Nasir Mehrin, “Baz ham Andaki dar bara-e Naqsh-e Rawshangarana-e Mahmud Tarzi,” Kabulnath, www.kabulnath.du, July 2004.

[42] Dr Huma Ahmed-Ghosh, “A History of Women in Afghanistan: Lesson Learnt for the Future”, Journal of International Women’s Studies Vol. 4 # 3 May 2003.

[43] Bashir Sakhawarz,  Tasir Mashrooteh bar Sher-e Maa (Impact of Constitution  on Our Poetry )(Delhi: Ayubi, 1997), 32.

[44] Ibid., 34

[45] Louis Dupree, Afghanistan 3rd ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), 439

[46] Ibid.

[47] Bashir Sakhawarz,  Tasir Mashrooteh bar Sher-e Maa (Impact of Constitution  on Our Poetry )(Delhi: Ayubi, 1997), 32.

[48] Ibid. 14

[49] Aziz Al Azmeh, Islam and Modernities, (London: Verso 1993), 92.

[50] Bashir Sakhawarz,  Tasir Mashrooteh bar Sher-e Maa (Impact of Constitution  on Our Poetry )(Delhi: Ayubi, 1997), 11.

[51] Ghlam Mohamad Ghobar, Afghanistan dar Maseer-e Tarikh (Afghanistan Through the Path of History), 3rd ed. (Iran: Enqelab 1988), 823-24.

[52] Amanullah Khan miscalculated the ability of British to topple his government using traditionalists and mullah against him. In his visit to India the young King appeared to be very enthusiastic about liberating Muslim countries from the rule of colonial power.  He was greeted a hero in India and the Indian freedom fighters asked him to give a fetwa announcing that he be King of India too. Amanullah, however, did not issue a fetwa but his appearance in India give ultimatum to the British that India would be next in line to become free of the colonial power, if Amanullah was left in power. Conspiracy against Amanullah started by the British using the mullahs and traditionalists. The British also produced false shocking photographs of queen Soraya , wife of Amanullah, half naked with foreign men. Seeing the photographs, religious leaders believed Amanullah could not be a true Muslim and therefore did not deserve to be King.


[53] Ghlam Mohamad Ghobar, Afghanistan dar Maseer-e Tarikh (Afghanistan Through the Path of History), 3rd ed. (Iran: Enqelab 1988), 812.

[54] In Siraj al-Akhbar of 1290, vol 7 page 5. Tarzi answers some of the criticism of the India based English newspaper called Educate. The paper argues by allowing Siraj al Akhbar Amir of Afghanistan would loose his grip on power and writers who contribute in Siraj al Akhbar use the paper to write against Amir; and yet many newspapers were published in India and the British government was supporting these papers. The truth is that the British were afraid that Siraj al Akhbar and schools would become centres of anti British activity.