Prayer Profile
The Pathan of South Central Asia
A cluster of 7 Pathan groups in 5 countries.
The Pathan of Afghanistan, and the U.K. The Western Pathan of Iran and the U.A.E.
The Eastern Pathan of Pakistan and the U.A.E. The Southern Pathan of Pakistan.

[IMAGE] The Pathan, or Pushtun, are a race of warriors who live primarily in Afghanistan and Pakistan.. They consist of about sixty tribes, each with its own territory. Although their origin is unclear, their legends say that they are the descendants of Afghana, grandson of King Saul. However, most scholars believe that they probably arose from ancient Aryans intermingling with subsequent invaders.

The Pathan have played an important role in the history of their region. From their community came Muslim rulers, administrators, and soldiers. While many of them have moved out of the highlands in search of an easier life in the plains, their mountainous homeland continues to be their citadel of strength and freedom.

The Pathan are said to be elegant, colorfully attired, hospitable, considerate, fierce in hatred, and kind in friendship. Though very dedicated to their religious beliefs, they are also fond of pleasure. They are known for their marksmanship and their love of honor.

What are their lives like?
Most of the Pathan live in southern and central Asia. Their homes lie along a chain of barren, rugged mountains (the Indus and the Hindu Kush) and the Syistan Plateau of Iran. Large Pathan communities can also be found in ten other countries.

At the core of Pathan society is the extended family. Each family group owns its own land and lives in a fortified residence called a qala. Every qala is divided into two areas: a general living area and the private living quarters. A high wall in the middle separates the two areas.

Distinctive tribal customs and traditions also form an integral part of Pathan society. The true essence of their culture can be seen in the "code of ethics" that they live by. This unwritten code is called Pushtunwali ("the way of the Pushtun"), and is close to the heart of every Pathan.

Pushtunwali is followed religiously, and it includes the following practices: melmastia (hospitality and protection to every guest); nanawati (the right of a fugitive to seek refuge, and acceptance of his bona fide offer of peace); badal (the right of blood feuds or revenge); tureh (bravery); sabat (steadfastness); imamdari (righteousness); 'isteqamat (persistence); ghayrat (defense of property and honor); and mamus (defense of one's women).

Pathan men usually wear sleeveless, embroidered vests over long sleeved, cotton shirts that are buttoned at one shoulder and hang over baggy trousers. They also wear unique turbans, which are tied in such a way to indicate tribal identity. In certain inaccessible regions, rifles, pistols, knives, and other weapons are considered essential items of dress. The women wear basically the same type clothing as the men, but they generally use more colorful material.

The Pathan tribes range from the highly educated, who live in cities, to tent-dwelling nomads. Although their societies are based on tribal traditions, the Pathan who live in cities or villages have a different attitude towards social status than do the nomads. This is because the villages are made up of both Pathan and non-Pathan peoples. In most cases, the Pathan are the landowners.

Members of the wealthier Pathan families will occasionally farm or tend to the animals; but they will not engage in any other occupation within the village. The men usually perform the more difficult tasks outside the home, while the women are responsible for the things within the home.

Traditionally, inheritances are divided equally among all the sons. The daughters are usually excluded, in spite of the clear teachings in the Koran concerning such matters. A daftari is a man who possesses a share in the tribal lands and has a voice in tribal councils. Such a person is regarded with high esteem in Pathan society.

What are their beliefs?
The majority of Pathan are Sunni Muslims. Islam came to them as a great liberating and unifying force, freeing them from the cult of Brahminism and the harshness of Buddhism. For this reason, their underlying faith and steadfast devotion to Islam is very strong..

What are their needs?
The Pathan are a people who have known frequent war. In 1979, the Soviets led a massive invasion into Afghanistan. Since that time, approximately three million Afghans have fled across the border into Pakistan; many of them were Pathan. The nation is in extreme turmoil as a result of Soviet occupation and the on-going civil war.

Today, most of the work by various mission agencies in Afghanistan has ended due to unrest in the country.

Many of the Pathan are extremely poor and live in unsanitary conditions (mainly poor water). A large number of the adults are also illiterate. The need for qualified medical teams and school teachers is great.

Since their entire way of life is opposed to change, the Pathan present one of the strongest challenges to the Christian Church today. Much intercession is needed if they are to be successfully reached with the Gospel.

Prayer Points

  • Ask God to raise up prayer teams that will break up the soil through worship and intercession.
  • Ask God to grant wisdom and favor to the mission agencies that are targeting the Pathan.
  • Pray for the Pathan children who grow up in fear and hatred of outsiders.
  • Ask God to encourage and protect the small number of Pathan believers.
  • Pray that God will provide greater peace and freedom to live and work among the Pathan.
  • Pray that God will reveal Himself to these precious people through dreams and visions.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
  • Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Pathan by the year 2000.
[Map] [Table]

See Also:
The Pathan of Afghanistan.

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Bethany World Prayer Center

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