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.



About Tribes

A Tribe is viewed, developmentally or historically, as a social group existing before the development of, or outside, states. A tribe is a distinct people, dependent on their land for their livelihood, who are largely self-sufficient, and not integrated into the national society. It is perhaps the term most readily understood and used by the general public. Stephen Corry, director of Survival International, the world’s only organisation dedicated to indigenous rights, has defined tribal people as “those which have followed ways of life for many generations that are largely self-sufficient, and are clearly different from the mainstream and dominant society”.[1] This definition, however, would not apply in countries in the Middle East such as Iraq, where the entire population is a member of one tribe or another and therefore tribalism itself is dominant and mainstream.

There are an estimated one hundred and fifty million tribal individuals worldwide,[2] constituting around forty percent of indigenous individuals. However, although nearly all tribal people are also indigenous, there are some who are not indigenous to the areas where they live now.

It is important to make the distinction between tribal and indigenous because tribal peoples have a special status acknowledged in international law as well as problems in addition to those faced by the wider category of indigenous peoples.

Many people used the term “tribal society” to refer to societies organized largely on the basis of social, especially familial, descent groups (see clan and kinship). A customary tribe in these terms is a face-to-face community, relatively bound by kinship relations, reciprocal exchange, and strong ties to place.

“Tribe” is a contested term due to its roots in colonialism. The word has no shared referent, whether in political form, kinship relations or shared culture. Some argue that it conveys a negative connotation of a timeless unchanging past.To avoid these implications, some have chosen to use the terms “ethnic group”, or nation instead.

In some places, such as India and North America, tribes are polities that have been granted legal recognition and limited autonomy by the state.