In the garden of the Afghan nation blossomed another flower of bravery, pride, literature and poetry. The high hills and deserted landscape of the provincial area of Mohmand were brightened by the birth of a future thinker, scholar, writer and poet of the 20th century Afghanistan. Reshteen started his childhood in the dry and elevated mountains and steeps valleys of Mohmand. As a child, he loved to study and always occupied himself in getting a good education, no matter what it took.
At early childhood he received his education from his father. After reaching his school years he lost his father and was left to the upbringing of his mother. His mother who also came from a well-educated family continued to educate Reshteen. He was sent to different local schools and teachers in the area Later he attended Najm-ul-Madares of Nangrahar and there after the Dar-ul-Uloom Arabia of Kabul.
At his early age when he was attending school in Kabul, he got interested in literature and poetry. He wrote poems and other literary pieces some which were published. This encouraged him to continue his writing. Even if his writings were not published from time to time, this did not discourage him to continue. Professor Reshteen once said: "When my first poem was published, it encouraged me to write more. But later when some of my writings were not published, it did not stop me from writing. 1 continued to write about literature and poetry regardless of being published or not.
A man of high stature, raised in a well-educated family, schooled by his father, and later by prominent scholars of the town, Professor Siddiqullah Reshteen was a man of letters, high achievements and poetry.
Even though his native language was Pashtu, Professor Reshteen was able to speak, read and write in Farsi and Arabic. Professor Reshteen was well versing in the Quranic studies, philosophy, Fiqh, Ahadeece and other Islamic readings.
He sought and worked hard for the promotion and progression of the national language, Pashtu, and tried to establish an international recognition for it. Professor Reshteen took pride in his nation, his national language and his nationality. His sentiments were free of prejudice and bias. His strive was for the betterment of the nation, the national language and character. He cherished being an Afghan and never bowed to any pressure.
Professor Reshteen's choices of words and quality of material provided in his writings are deliberate, emphatic, unprecedented, and quite instructive for the assessment of historical background and events. Professor Reshteen never got tired working toward the advancement of the Pashtu language, literature and poetry. He continued his struggle and overcame many hindernesses. He described his never ending hard work in one of his couplet as follows:
Ka me da khedmat Pakhtu lara pkar shee
lf my service will be of any use for Pashtu
Pakhtana pre ham la khoba rabaydar shee
By it, if Pashtoons could be awakened from their sleep
no halah ba me mehnat wanessee zayz szah
Only thereafter, my toil will be of influence
szah na szah ba me zargay ham pa karar shee
Than a little, my heart will have some peace
A Short History of The Pashto Prose
Profcssor Siddiqullah Reshteen
Pashto or Pakhto is an old Arian Language which by the addition of adjective "o" relates it to the Pasht, Pakht or Pakt tribe. Pakht was the great Arian tribe referred to in the Rig-Veda hymens, some three thousand years ago.
Pashto is related to the Medi family of the Eastern Arian languages. According to the famous orientalist, Mr. Grearson, the Medi languages were spoken in the east of Iran. Among this group were the Parach, Pashai, Ormarrie and Pashto dialects of the Pamir and Hindukush region. Grearson has coined the word Parsic for these dialects, but we will call these as Bakhtric or Pakhtic, because these are not Parsic. These non-Parsic languages are spoken in the region lying between the areas of Parsic and Indic dialects, stretching from Oxus to Indus rivers. In this Eastern family of the Arian dialects, Pakhto(Pashto) is the oldest, the most famous and the most comprehensive language amongst this group. It is the official and national language of about twenty million people who derive their name Pashtoon or Pakhtoon from this language or vice versa. This importance is voiced by Professor Morrison who considers the knowledge of Pashto essential for all those who want to translate er study the Avesta or other old languages.
Some Orientalists attach Pashto to the Iranian and some other to the Indian group of dialects, but the considered opinion of Pashto scholars is, that this language belongs to a different group which serves as a connecting link between the Iranian and Indian languages. We however, avoid here the old history of this language and its etymology to cast a glance over a section of its literature, prose, because this has not yet been fully expounded and has remained in the dark. We divide the Pashto prose into three periods:
a- The old period
b- The middle period
c- The present penod
A GLANCE AT THE PASHTO
We want to review, in brief, all the three periods of the Pashto prose and bring in to light its different phases.
The present style of the Pashto prose to an extent follows the style of the old period because there is not much difference between the prose of Suliman Makoo and that of the present period. Though we do not come across an appreciable stock of prose books in the old period either because it was not written or it is lost to the posterity and we have not found it. But whatever has come to our hands, shows that the prose of the period was like its poetry, simple, fluent and pure, having very little influence of Persian or Arabic languages. In this period the names of the books are in pure Pashto like, 'Da Saloo Wazhma' and 'Larghoni Pashtana ', etc. The topics of this old period are mosdy history and religion. This is natural, because every person has an inborn tendency to like its history and the way of his life and religion, which creeps up in his literature. When Islam came to the land of Pashtoons, they embraced it and gave it a place of honor in their literature. Of this period we have one book by the name of 'Tazkiratul-Awlia', which is religious in nature, and is the only book of prose we have found of that period.
In the middle period we find the Pashto prose proliferating in numbers as well as themes, though its first part is still predominated by religion. The famous books of this period are 'Khair-ul-Bayan' of Mian Roshan, 'Makhzin-ul-Islam' of Akhund Darwiza, and 'Fowaid-ul-Shariat'of Akhund Quasim all religious in nature. The prose of this time also shows the signs of its first impregnation by Sufisin, which can be taken for either the intensity of Islamic feelings or introversive tendencies. The latter are reaction to the unjust and cruel rulers of the time.
in the prose of this time, we find a lot of changes in style. It has changed to rhymes instead of the freedom it enjoyed before. This, we call as a rhyme prose. The reason for this change was the suitability of this style for the religious sermons, because of its harmonious cadences and its musical sound effects on the listeners.
In this period of prose, we also find the infiltration of Arabic words and syntax as well as the use of (na) in the ends of the verbs for the sake of the cadence and "," (vaw) for the unity of words like (Larina), (Rashina), (Wada-oo-ta) and etc.
Another feature of this prose is the use of abbreviations and old words like (wabala), (zapala), (khapasa),
(mazdak), and (tourkash) etc. The word 'mazdak' has been used in the verses of Ameer Kror and also in prose books of 'Khair-ul-Bayan' by Mian Roshan, which shows its survival in the literature until the tenth century Hejri.
The second part of the middle period is considered to be more important because of the prolification of books and the varieties of subjects.
Added to the religious writings of the period are the books in history, sociology and stories. This period has also wituessed a revolution in prose style by breaking the shackles of rhyme and metrification,with a happy return to its natural and fluent composition. The author and leader of this change was Khushal Khan Khatak, followed by his erudite family. Here are some of the famous books of Khushal Khan's family which set the style of simple beautiful prose for the others to follow:
Dastar Nama Khushal Khan Khatak
Biaz Nama Khushal Khan Khatak
Gul Dasta Abdul Quadir Khan Khatak
Tarikh-i-Morasa Afzel Khan Khatak
Another famous work of the period is 'Pata khazana' a book by Mohammed Hotak, which traces back the history of Pashto literature to the second century Hijri and thus opens a new avenue in the field.
Other valuable contribution in prose ofthis period are the 'Ahmad Shahi Fitawa' of Meer Abdullah, 'Riaz-ul-Muhabbet' of Nowab Muhabbet Khan, 'Ajaib-ul-Lugthat' of Allah Yar Khan, 'Tafsir-i-Yasir of Murad Ali and 'Ganj-i-Pashto' of Moulavi Ahmed.
Another prominent feature oft his time is the books of Pashto courses to help people learning the language. Worthy of mentioning, amongst such books is 'Manfet-ul-Afgham of Pir Mohammed Kakar.
When Khushal Khan Khatak hoisted the torch of Pashto culture and introduced for the first time the spirit of nationalism in Pashto literature, his light did not remain confmed to the banks of Lundi River and the slopes of Hoadi mountains. lt reached Kandahar and Mohammed Hotak received the patronage of the Hotek Royal court to write his famous book Pata Khazana'. Thus, began the era of offleial patronage of the Pashto language in Kandahar. Ahmed Shah Abdali also paid full attention to the service of the language, but due to his preoccupations with wars, had little opportunities to fulffill lus literary ambitions. In this period, we find Pashto literature thriving in Peshawar and Kandahar. Both centers contributing to, and influenced each other.
Out of the Pashto speaking country, in India, the
Pashtoon rulers like Nawab Mohabbet Khan,Nawab Allah Yar Khan and many others had not forgotten their mother tongue Pashto up to this period and did every thing to keep alive their language and history.
In the latter part of the period, the Britishers eame to the lower lands of the Pashtoon country, and paid some lirmted attention to the Pashto Language for the advancement of their ends. Movlawi Ahmed wrote 'Ganj-i-Pashto'and some other books in this period.
The Pashto prose advanced much in this time and received the patronage of the royal court of Afghanistan.-The prose took rapid steps toward perfection of style in the period with dictionaries and books of grammar also appearing on the scene. The translation of Persian books into Pashto also began with a result that apart from Arabic, the Persian influence also sneaked into the Pashto language of the time.
The prose of the present period, in meaning as well as-words, is in the state of perpetual march toward still higher sublimation with an ever mcreasmg stockofliterature to enich the language.
Unlike other languages, Pashto has kept its skeleton intact and compared to Persian or other languages, has remained invulnerable against the onslaughts of time because of its rigid foundation and the geographical inaccessibility of the people who speak this language. It continued to keep the Vedic and Avestan words in its middle period and keeps this stock to an extent. Even now with all this, the language has kept its door open for all embellishments.
When the western culture approached the region and the Britisher reached a part of its soil, it did affect the language and its people in two ways. While on the one hand it stimulated their sense of patriotism in the defense of their country, on the other hand, they allowed the light of new knowledge and science to enter into their literature.
Munshi Ahmad Jan and Qazi Mir Ahmad Shah are the famous writers and giants of the first part oft his period. They introduced a new style in the language by bringing it close to the language of the people. They embellished their prose with Pashto idioms and proverbs and opened the door for western thoughts and culture in the literature. They also laid foundation of translation from English into Pashto.
Munshi Ahmed Jan gave the Pashto speaking nation the first English to Pashto translation of the History of Afghanistan and by writing two more books, e.g., 'Hagha Dagha' and Da Kissa Khani Gup' raised the standard of Pashto prose to a very high level.
The condition was further consolidated by Qazi Mir Ahmad Shah with his two prose books 'Shakiristan' and 'Baharistan'. The translation of Ebn-i-Batuta's, traveling and the history of Baramaki are considered the worthy contribution of the period in Pashto prose.
In the upper Pashtoon land the torch of the new light was kindled by Amir Sher Ali Khan. He changed the military codes and nomenelature to Pashto language. Amir Abdul Rahman published in a Pashto book his correspondence with the Viceroy of India. In the time of Amir Habibullah Khan, the language acquired educational and political importance and some Pashto courses were also written. The latter part of this period is however more important because of the abundance of books and the widening of the mental horizon. The main cause of this development was Ihe restoration of independence in Afghanistan. The needs of time and civillzation are other factors of the movement.
The literary awakening in the lower lands of the Pashto speaking nation got its impetus from resistance to British colonialism with religion, also playing its due part. Thus, we find many new books of Pashto prose in this period and many literary bright stars coming up the firmament. The lower land of Pashto Speaking Nation has done a lot to introduce different subject into Pashto literature while the upper part of the national land has concentrated upon efforts to widen and consolidate the foundation of the language. In the time of Amanullah Khan a Pashto Society was formed in Kabul under the chairmanship of MovIawi Abdul Wasi Kandahari. Ihe Society produced two books, e.g., 'Yawazinai Pashto' and 'Pashto Showana'.
A new era of Pashto was however, ushered in by His Majesty Mohammed Nader Shah with firm steps taken in bis reign for the development of the language. Mohammed Gul Mohmand established the first Pashto Council in Kandahar which was later transferred to Kabul and upgraded to Pashto Academy Many Pashto courses were written in this time and Pashto became the medium of instructions in all schools and colleges in Afghanistan. Many newspapers and magazines appeared in Pashto and the language got its official recognition as the national language of Afghanistan. Among the sweet proses of this period can be cited the 'Pashto Sind by Mohammed Gul Mohmand, 'Da Pashto Adabiyato Tarikh' by Abdul Hai Habibi, 'Nawi Zuwand' by Qiamuddin Khadim, 'Adabi Bahsona' by Gul Pacha Ulfat and 'Khushal Sa Wayee' by Abdul Rauf Benewa .
The lower part of Pashto speaking country produced some of the big giants of the Pashto prose like Sayed Rahet Zakhili, Master Abdul Karim, Ajmal Khatak, Dost Mehammed Karnil, Amir Hamza Shinwari and others. Some of the fainous
prose books of this period are 'Da Pakhtano Tarikh' by Qazii Attaullah, 'Zolai Goloona' by Master Abdul Karim, 'Zwand' by Amir Hamza Shinwari, 'Paighla 'by Sahibzada Idrees,'Bibi Noora' by Rogh Lewani.
The present is the period of richness and abundance for prose not only in the elegance of style but also the variety of subjects. Dramas and novels are the two new comers of the literdry stage of this period. Another big contribution to Pashto literature is the compilation of Pashto Encyclopedia, of which three volumes have already been published.
Successful efforts have also been made in this penod for further simplification. and fluency of the Pashto prose as well as for prescribing a common form of wnting and spelling of words.
Pashto has acquired a place amongst the living language of the world.
This paper was read by Professor Siddiqullah Reshteen at the XXVI congress of orientalists held in New Delhi on January 10,1964.