Friday, June 22, 2012

Bayazid Ansari, commonly known as Pir Roshan {Peshawar, Pakistan}

Bayazid Khan known as Pir Roshan or Pir Rokhan (1525–1582/1585) was a Pashtun warrior poet and intellectual of the Barak/Urmar (known in present day as Burki) tribe who wrote in Pashto, Persian and Arabic. His mother tongue was Ormuri and he also spoke Pashto. He was born just outside Jullunder, Punjab, but early in his childhood, his father moved the family back to Kaniguram, the Burki heartland in today's South Waziristan.
Bayazid Khan (Barak/Urmar/Burki) --popularly known as Pir Roshan—became known for his thinking with its strong Sufi influences, radical for the times and unusual for the region. As to claims by some Burkis of an "Ansari" connection, refer to "An Enquiry into the Ethnography of Afghanistan" by Henry Walter Bellew (1891). Bayazid's people—currently referred to as "Burki"-- who until the early twentieth century were known as Barak or Baraki were found in large numbers during the Greek period in their present environs (p. 62). On page 8, Bellew in this seminal work refers to the Baraki's origins as "mysterious" but not of Arab/Ansari descent.
He became known for his thinking with its strong Sufi influences, radical for the times and unusual for the region. Like other Pushtun tribes, the Burki seek self segregation from the outside world thus the importance of Kaniguram as the historical focal point of the tribe and the continued effort to retain their native tongue (Urmar)which predates Pushtu. Bayazid Khan of the Urmars/Baraks became widely known as Pir Roshan, which means in Pashto "the enlightened Pir". He was the first Pushtun to lead a major insurgency against the Mughal emperor Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar.
Pir Roshan was an advocate for learning and equal treatment for women. A revolutionary concept for the times, and even today in South Waziristan. From his base in Kaniguram, he started his insurgency—Roshaniya (enlightened) movement—which was carried on against the emperor's troops by his children and then his grandchildren and great grandchildren . The Roshaniya movement spanned almost a century: 1560–1638.
During the 19th century orientalists translating texts from Pushto and other regional texts termed his movement a "sect", a mistake which persists to this day amongst many European researchers. The major focus of the movement was to create equality between men and women, including the right to learn and listen to lectures of scholars and fight to against Akbar after his proclamation of Din-i-Ilahi.


Pir Roshan is a major figure in Pushtu history and literature. He led an armed struggle against the Mughals, after continuous military agitations against him and his people from Emperor Akbar. Seeing the spiritual and religious hold of Pir Roshan over a large portion of Pashtuns, Akbar brought in a number of religious figures against the struggle, most notably Akhund Darweza. It is mistakenly reported that Akhund Darweza also wrote a book in Pashto, thrashing Pir Roshan's ideas and movement and called him Pir Tarik (the dark Pir). In actuality the book was written after the death of Akhund Darweza and after some considerable time, since it refers to Pir Roshan in past tense and even misspells even the word Roshan.
The struggle continued for nearly a hundred years with Pir Roshan's grand and great grand children.


Bayazid Khan belonged to the Burki tribe and was an Urmar. Urmar/Burki of Kaniguram retain a keen desire to self segregate from the outside world by retaining strong kinship ties. Family narratives passed down vary on the origins of their forebears. One opinion however, is that their origins are Kurdish from an area known as Uromiyeh in Western Iran. Captain Leech is the first person who has given some detailed notes on the Baraki Barak (Logar) dialect of the Ormuri language. He collected quite a few words and sentences and published them in "The Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal" under the name of "A Vocabulary of the Baraki language". While introducing the tribe and its language, he says: "The Barakis are included in the general term of Parsiwan, or Tajak; they are original inhabitants of Yemen whence they were brought by Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni; they accompanied him in his invasion of India, and were pre-eminently instrumental in the abstraction of the gates of the temple of Somnath. There are two divisions of the tribe. The Barkis of Rajan in the province of Lohgad, who speak Persian, and the Barakis of Barak, a city near the former, who speak the language called Barki; at Kaniguram under Shah Malak who are independent. The Barakis of this place and of Barak alone speak the Baraki language. It is clear from Capt. Leech's "assessmnet" that he is mixing the Barakis up with the Baluchis, whose lineage does suggest a possible peninsula connection of some who came to the Baluchistan region in Mahmud of Ghaznavi's time. But the Baraki have been in the greater Afghanistan region much longer/prior to the tenth century.
Just like Elphinstone, Captain Leech was "hypothesizing" about the mysterious origins of the Barakis/Baraks/Urmurs/Burkis based on the narrative probably fed to him by the Barakis/Urmurs. After all, why would most of them trust this feringhee with their "origins," not being able to discern (at face value) what his true intentions might be? This was/is a region characterized by unending warfare and strife, inhabited by xenophobic/self segregating tribes with foreign origins. The "Yemen/Arab" narrative, it can be argued, was an attempt of a "foreign" people to successfully embed/survive, especially after Pir Roshan's (Bayazid Khan)enemies, and orthodox Pushtuns in the north, (Yusufzai, Khattak etc.) regarded him as a heretic due to his "progressive/heretical/revolutionary" ideas. It is rightfully said: "the victors write/disseminate the historical narrative."
It can, therefore, be postulated that the Barakis (later "Burki" in the twentieth century) were desperate to wipe out any public mention of Pir Roshan's ideas (although many of them, along with other Pushtuns, privately espoused his views). Thus, their counter narrative to Khushal Khan Khattak's poetic attacks of "Pir Rokhan" (so much for Khattak showing gratitude towards the man -Pir Roshan—who invented Pushtu script which enabled Khattak's prolific writing in Pashto less than a century later!) by some shrewd Barakis/Urmurs (unidentified) to reinvent Bayazid Khan's lineage (and suggesting he was an embed, and not native to the tribe, even though the Baraki have been one of the most reluctant Pushtun tribes to marry outside, let alone a non-Pashtun) as being that of the Ansar! (as in an Ansari from Medina/Yathrib). Some of the descendents of the man, as well as members of the tribe (especially in Kaniguram) have, over time, convinced themselves (not an uncommon tendency in the Muslim world, especially in Iran and South Asia) that they are syeds thus a reinvention when in fact they also widely acknowledge their roots in what is now Kurdistan. The Arab/Yemeni survival narrative does not stand up to careful scrutiny: the mother tongue, features and cultural traditions of the Baraki are not indicative of this narrative. Nor does the historical xenophobia and reluctance to intermarry outside the tribe and the Pushtun qaums in general lend credence to this thesis. Bayazid Khan's provocative challenge to the information status quo necessitated a "survival narrative" at the time after his movement/struggle failed. As mentioned the orthodox Pushtuns, the Yusufzais (sons of Yosef) and the Khattaks hated Pir Roshan's seemingly heretical ideas. It is indeed a bitter irony to read Khushal Khan Khattak's poem (written in Pashto!) which he begins by attacking the Afridi (supporters of the Pir in the Tirah and Khyber) and then Pir Roshan himself:
Nas me Afridai dai
My Carnal nature's an Afridi,
Without a care for true religion;
With good thoughts it's not over burdened,
Being more prone to every evil.
I teach it pious orthodoxy
As steadily as did Darweza
But it goes on, like Pir Rokhan.
To preach its cursed heresy

Early life

Bayazid was born in 1525 at Jullundur in Punjab but moved back to his homeland Kaniguram in Waziristan with his family when he was a child.

Exile and rebellion

Bayazid belonged to a religious family and his father was a Qazi of Waziristan area. However, Bayazid himself was against many of the customs which prevailed in his time and specifically in his family. These were usually the fringe benefits which his family received being considered as scholarly and religious. He was known as a strong willed, stubborn man inclined to "express" himself. Once this led to a heated argument with his brother and upon intervention of his father he was given the choice of either he leave or his give up his radical ideas. He opted to leave and started spreading his ideas away from his home. He found ears in the Mohmand tribesmen, from there he went to the Peshawar valley and started spreading his message to the Khalils and Muhammadzais. However when he and his followers started spreading word of their movement amongst the Yousafzais he went into direct confrontation with the orthodox followers of Pir Baba of Buner. Soon he established his base in the Tirah valley where he rallied other tribes to his cause. He eventually raised the flag of open rebellion to the Mughal Emperor Akbar after Akbar's proclamation of Din-i-Ilahi and although he led his army successfully in several skirmishes and battles against Mughal forces, they were eventually routed in a major battle in Nangarhar by the Mughal General Muhsin Khan.
He escaped but later would be surrounded, and wounded, by a Yousafzai Lashkar near Topi and later killed by them near Tarbela. There is a controversy about his year of death, which is recorded as 1585. But it looks more likely that it was in 1581, soon after he was defeated by the Mughal General along with his sons. All his sons were put to death with one exception. His youngest, fourteen year old, son Jalala who was also captured was, due to his tender age, pardoned and released by Emperor Akbar himself. This son—Jalala—soon took up arms and it was this Pir Jalala Khan who engaged Mughal armies successfully. Raja Birbal a favorite of Mughal Emperor Akbar, was killed fighting against Jalala Pir near Jamrod in what is now the Khyber Agency in 1587.(This also supports Pir Roshan's death in 1581, as Jalala (it is rumored that the city of "Jalalabad" is named after him) was by then leading his Lashkars in the field). After Jalala's death on the battlefield, his nephew Ahdad (also spelled Ihdad)Khan took charge of the struggle against many of the famous Mughal commanders of that time, like Raja Man Singh, Zain Khan Kokaltash, Qaleech Khan, Mahabat Khan, Ghairat Khan and Muzaffar Khan. As part of a concerted campaign to destroy the Roshaniyyas, around 1619 or 1620, Mahabat Khan, under the Emperor Jahangir, treacherously massacred 300 Daulatzai Orakzai in the Tirah (which straddles the Khyber and Kurram agencies today), who were Roshaniyya members. Absent and on a visit to see Emperor Jahangir at Rohtas, Ghairat Khan was sent back to the Tirah region to engage the Roshaniyya forces with a large military force via Kohat. He advanced to the foot of the Sampagha pass, which was held by the Roshaniyyas under Ahdad Khan and the Daulatzai under Malik Tor.
The Rajputs attacked the former and the latter were assailed by Ghairat Khan's own troops, but the Mughal forces were repulsed with great loss. Six years later, however, Muzaffar Khan, son of Khwaja Abdul Hasan, then Sibahddr of Kabul, marched against Ahdad Khan by the Sugawand pass and Gardez, and after five or six months' of intense fighting, Ahdad Khan was killed fighting sword in hand and his head sent back to Emperor Jahangir. Ahdad Khan's Roshaniyya followers then took refuge in the Logar. The death of Jahangir in 1627 led to a general uprising of the Afghans against Mughal forces to put an end to attempts of Mughal domination.
Later Abdul Qadir, Ahdad's son, along with his mother and Ahdad's widow, Allai Khatoon (daughter of Pir Jalala), returned to the Tirah to seek badal (vengeance). There, under Abdul Qadir's command, the Roshaniyya defeated Muzaffar Khan's forces. Muzaffar Khan was attacked while on his way from Peshawar to Kabul, and severely handled by the Orakzai and Afridis. Muzaffar Khan was killed near Peshawar. Abdul Qadir attacked Peshawar, plundered the city, and invested the citadel.
It was not till the time of Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan (1628–1658) the grandson of Emperor Akbar (1542–1605) when a truce was brokered through Mughal commander Said Khan with Abdul Qadir, Bayazid's great grandson. Thus, the "peace" was brokered between the grandson of the Emperor and the great grandson of "Insurgent/Freedom Fighter."[3] It was only after Emperor Akbar's death in 1605, that Bayazid Khan's descendants who moved to Jullundhar purchased lands from the local land owners and established Basti Danishmandan and Basti Sheikh Derveish and later Basti Baba Khel (in fact at the place of Basti Baba Khel there already existed a village which was appendid by "Khel" to pushtunize it). The Baba Khel branch of the Baraki would live here in fortress like compounds fighting off the sikhs who surrounded their lands until the early 20th century (the last skirmishes between the two). In 1947, with the partition, his descendants (many serving in the British Indian Army and Navy) would flee to the new state of Pakistan.