Qais Abdur Rashid

Qais Abdur Rashīd or Qais Abdul Rasheed is said to be, in post-Islamic lore, the legendary founding father of the ethnic Afghans, also known as Pashtuns. There are doubts about the historicity and existence of such a figure: as the Pashtun ethnicity began taking shape in the Bronze Age and Islam spread through Afghanistan over a period time as opposed to people changing faith in a single day. It is likely the conception of such a figure was promoted to bring harmony between religious identity and ethnic identity.

Qais is said to have traveled to Mecca and Medina in Arabia during the early days of Islam.

According to the folk tale, Qais had three sons: Saṛban, Bēṭ, and Gharghax̌t His sons founded three tribal confederacies named after them: Sarbani, Bettani, and Gharghashti. Qais also had an adopted son, Karlani Ormur Baraki, who is progenitor of the Karlani tribe. There are multiple versions of the legend, including several regional variants that mention only one, two, or three of the four legendary brothers.

Some Afghan genealogies list Qais as the 37th descendant of King Talut (or Saul, reigned c. 1050 BC–1010 BC) through Malik Afghana, a legendary grandson of Talut.

According to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, the theory of Pashtun descent from the ancient Israelites is traced to Tārīkh-e Khān Jahānī wa Makhzan-e Afghānī, a history compiled by Nimat Allah al-Harawi during the reign of the Mughal emperor Jahangir in the 17th century. The Makhzan-e Afghānī’s Israelite theory, however, has been dismissed by modern authorities due to numerous historical and linguistic inconsistencies.

Legend has it that Qais was born in the Ghor region of present-day central Afghanistan. Upon hearing about the advent of Islam, his tribe sent him to Medina in the Arabian Peninsula, in present-day Saudi Arabia. He met the Prophet Muhammad and embraced Islam there, and was given the name Abdur Rashīd by the Prophet. He then returned to Ghor and introduced Islam to his tribe. According to Mountstuart Elphinstone, in legend the famous military leader and companion of Muhammad, Khalid ibn al-Walid, introduced Qais to the Prophet Muhammad.

The Afghan historians proceed to relate that the Jewish tribe, both in Ghor and in Arabia, preserved their knowledge of the unity of God and the purity of their religious belief, and that on the appearance of the last prophet and messenger, Prophet Muhammad, the Afghans of Ghor listened to the invitation of their Arabian brethren, the chief of whom was Khalid ibn al-Waleed, so famous for his conquest of Syria, and marched to the aid of the true faith, under the command of Kyse, afterwards surnamed “Abdul Rasheed”.

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