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ABDUR RAHMAN KHAN

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Originally appearing in Volume V01, Page 38 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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ABDUR RAHMAN KHAN, amir of Afghanistan (c. 1844–1901), was the son of Afzul Khan, who was the eldest son of Dost Mahomed Khan, the famous amir, by whose success in war the Barakzai family established their dynasty in the ruler-ship of Afghanistan. Before his death at Herat, 9th June 1863, Dost Mahomed had nominated as his successor Shere Ali, his third son, passing over the two elder brothers, Afzul Khan and Azim Khan; and at first the new amir was quietly recognized. But after a few months Afzul Khan raised an insurrection in the northern province, between the Hindu Kush mountains and the Oxus, where he had been governing when his father died; and then began a fierce contest for power among the sons of Dost Mahomed, which lasted for nearly five years. In this war, which resembles in character, and in its striking vicissitudes, the English War of the Roses at the end of the 15th century, Abdur Rahman soon became distinguished for ability and daring energy. Although his father, Afzul Khan, who had none of these qualities, came to terms with the Amir Shere Ali, the son's behaviour in the northern province soon excited the amir's suspicion, and Abdur Rahman, when he was summoned to Kabul, fled across the Oxus into Bokhara. Shere Ali threw Afzul Khan into prison, and a serious revolt followed in south Afghanistan; but the amir had scarcely suppressed it bywinning a desperate battle, when Abdur Rahman's reappearance in the north was a signal for a mutiny of the troops stationed in those parts and a gathering of armed bands to his standard. After some delay and desultory fighting, he and his uncle, Azim Khan, occupied Kabul (March 1866). The amir- Shere All marched up against them from Kandahar; but in the battle that ensued at Sheikhabad on roth May he was deserted by a large body of his troops, and after his signal defeat Abdur Rahman released his father, Afzul Khan, from prison in Ghazni, and installed him upon the throne as amir of Afghanistan. Notwithstanding the new amir's incapacity, and some jealousy between the real leaders, Abdur Rahman and his uncle, they again routed Shere Ali's forces, and occupied Kandahar in 1867; and when at the end of that year Afzul Khan died, Azim Khan succeeded to the rulership, with Abdur Rahman as his governor in the northern province. But towards the end of 1868 Shere Ali's return, and a general rising in his favour, resulting in their defeat at Tinah Khan on the 3rd of. January 1869, forced them both to seek refuge in Persia, whence Abdur Rahman proceeded afterwards to place himself under Russian protection at Samarkand. Azim died in Persia in October 1869. This brief account of the conspicuous part taken by Abdur Rahman in an eventful war, at the beginning of which he was not more than twenty years old, has been given to show the rough school that brought out his qualities of resource and fortitude, and the political capacity needed for rulership in Afghanistan. He lived in exile for eleven years, until on the death, in 1879, of Shere Ali, who had retired from Kabul when the British armies entered Afghanistan, the Russian governor-general at Tashkent sent for Abdur Rahman, and pressed him to try his fortunes once more across the Oxus. In March i88o a report reached India that he was in northern Afghanistan; and the governor-general, Lord Lytton, opened communications with him to the effect that the British government were pre-pared to withdraw their troops, and to recognize Abdur Rahman, as amir of Afghanistan, with the exception of Kandahar and some districts adjacent. After some negotiations, an interview took place between him and Mr (afterwards Sir) Lepel Griffin, the diplomatic representative at Kabul of the Indian government. who described Abdur Rahman as a man of middle height, with an exceedingly intelligent face and frank and courteous manners. shrewd and able in conversation on the business in hand. A. the durbar on the 22nd of July 188o, Abdur Rahman was officially recognized as amir, granted assistance in arms and money, and promised, in case of unprovoked foreign aggression, such further aid as might be necessary to repel it, provided that he followed British advice in regard to his external relations. The evacuation of Afghanistan was settled on the terms proposed, and in 1881 the British troops also made over Kandahar to the new amir; but Ayub Khan, one of Shere Ali's sons, marched upon that city from Herat, defeated Abdur Rahman's troops, and occupied the place in July. This serious reverse roused the amir, who had not at first displayed much activity. He led a force from Kabul, met Ayub's army close to Kandahar, and the complete victory which he there won forced Ayub Khan to fly into Persia. From that time Abdur Rahman was fairly seated on the throne at Kabul, and in the course of the- next few years he consolidated his dominion over all Afghanistan, suppressing insurrections by a sharp and relentless use of his despotic authority. Against the severity of his measures the powerful Ghilzai tribe revolted, and were crushed by the end of 1887. In that year Ayub Khan made a fruitless inroad from Persia; and in 1888 the amir's cousin, Ishak Khan, rebelled against him in the north; but these two enterprises came to nothing. In 1885, at the moment when (see AFGHANISTAN) the amir was in conference with the British viceroy, Lord Dufferin, in India, the news came of a collision between Russian and Afghan troops at Panjdeh, over a disputed point in the demarcation of the north-western frontier of Afghanistan. Abdur Rahman's attitude at this critical juncture is a good example of his political sagacity. To one who had been a man of war from his youth up, who had won and lost many fights, the rout of a detachment Din (Light of the nation and religion); and his zeal for the cause of Islam induced him to publish treatises on Jehad. His eldest son Habibullah Khan, with his brother Nasrullah Khan, was born at Samarkand. His youngest son, Mahomed Omar Jan, was born in 1889 of an Afghan mother, connected by descent with the Barakzai family. See also S. Wheeler, F.R.G.S., The Amir Abdur Rahman (London, 1895) ; The Life of Abdur Rahman, Amir of Afghanistan, G.C.B., G.C.S.I., edited by Mir Munshi, Sultan Mahommed Khan (2 vols., London, 1900); At the Court of the Amir, by J. A. Grey (1895). (A. C. L.)
End of Article: ABDUR RAHMAN KHAN
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