History of Pathans

Ceremonies. Besides ceremonies at the various rites of passage, the religious calendar includes: three days of celebration at the end of Ramazan, the month of fasting; a day observed by the ritual slaying of sheep in memory of Ibrahim slaying a sheep in place of his son on Allah’s order; and the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed.

Arts. Poetry is the art most esteemed by Pathans. Their greatest poet, Khushhal (d. 1689), wrote both love poems and patriotic poems. Embroidered waistcoats and elaborately decorated rifle butts were traditionally the major visual arts.

Medicine. While some medical facilities are being introduced, people customarily go to the mullah or traditional herbalist for cures. A jinn possessing the patient is commonly held to be the cause of disease. Indigenous treatment is in a tradition said to be of Greek origin or in a religious tradition worked out centuries ago. A common cure consists of the wearing of talismans around the neck composed of magic formulas or verses of the Quran sewn up in cloth or leather.

Death and Afterlife. In Islam the body is to be buried ritually pure so that the soul is prepared to enter Heaven on Judgment Day. After death the body is washed and wrapped in a white sheet. A mullah performs the death rites, leading the congregated mourners in a special prayer. The body is buried with the face pointing toward Mecca. Mourning obligations continue after the burial. The deceased’s relatives gather at the grave on the first few Fridays and on the fortieth day after the death, and they observe the first year’s anniversary of the death with a final memorial ceremony.

See also Kohistani; Sayyid


Ahmed, Akbar S. (1976). Millennium and Charisma among Pathans: A Critical Essay in Social Anthropology. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Ahmed, Akbar S. (1980). Pukhtun Economy and Society: traditional Structure and Economic Development in a Tribal Society. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Barth, Fredrik (1972). Political Leadership among Swat Pathans. London School of Economics Monographs on Social Anthropology, no. 19. London: Athlone Press.

Caroe, Olaf (1958). The Pathans 550 b.c.-a.d. 1957. London: Macmillan; New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Dupree, Louis (1980). Afghanistan. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.



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