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AFGHAN & AFGHANISTAN


An Etymological Overview

A nation, in the current legal and international sense of the word, is defined as a group of people who share a common geography, origin, history, and have common interests in the political and economic well-being of a single government under which they all live. Through passage of time, nations may adopt different names, dictated by changes in historic, cultural, and political realities, as well as with the evolution of the internal dynamics of the particular society. Such names may, initially, refer to a certain segment of that nation but will gradually come to apply to the rest of the people who live within the same geographical boundaries, under the same political administration and enjoying common economic interests. Linguistic or ethnic commonalities are hardly any prerequisite for the applicability of a single national name. There are many examples of such nations in the world. The United States of America is one such nation where people of various ethnic, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds are all called by a single national name of "Americans". Afghanistan is another example, where the single word of "Afghan" has come to apply to all citizens of our country.

It is believed that the word "Afghan" might have started as an adjective to describe a certain people of our region, which later found wider usage in the context of an ethnic reference. However, for at least the past three centuries, the word "Afghan" has been used to identify all the people who live within the limits of our national borders. Thus we claim that our "Afghan" nation is a group of diverse people, all of whom live in a common abode, which we so proudly call "Afghanistan".

A persistent misperception about "Afghan" and "Afghanistan" is that these two terms are thought to be fairly new, while in fact, they are quite old. The word "Afghan" is a term recorded as long as seventeen centuries ago while the word "Afghanistan" can be traced, at least, as far back as seven hundred years. Now, to a brief history of the words "Afghan" and "Afghanistan".

"AFGHAN" IN PRE-ISLAMIC ERA:

There are a number of pre-Islamic sources in which the word "Afghan" appears. These sources, Sassanid, Chinese, and Indian, have recorced and provided us with the etymological equivalents of "Afghan" in the form of Abgan, Apkan, Avagana, Op-o-kin, and others.

The earliest record of the word "Afghan" was found in a tablet at Naqsh-i-Rostam in Shiraz. Written during the reign of the Sassanid King, Shapur I who ruled between 260-273 AD, the tablet refers to a certain military officer as Vindifer Abgan Rasmand. Translated in modern Persian it means Vindafer Salar-i Jangi-e Abgan. The word Abgan is an old Pahlavi (Parthian) word, which is believed to be the derivative form of an adjective describing robustness, resilience, or bravery.

The word seems to have found a wider usage by the time of Shahpur III, who ruled between 309-379 AD, and used the term Apkan in his official title. Professor Sprengler and Sir Olaf Caroe call this term equivalent to the modern word of "Afghan". In his Shahnama, Firdousi mentions the term Avagan, referring to a General in Faridoon's army.

We encounter the word "Afghan" next in the works of the famous Indian astronomer, Varha-Mihira. He died in 578 AD after he wrote his famous book of Bharata Smitha, where the word "Afghan" appears as Avagana in verses 11-61 and 16-31.

Heun Tsung provides the next recorded reference of "Afghan". He was a Chinese traveller who visited Afghanistan between 629-645 AD. In his Memories of the West, he refers to the territories between Banu and Ghazi as Op-o-Kin. Modern researchers, such as Cunnigham, strongly believe the word Op-o-kin to be the same as the modern "Afghan".



Haji Mohammad Rahat

Library:

Haji Mohammad Rahat

Author:

Farid Maiwandi











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