Between Afghan “Idolography” and Kafir “Autoethnography” A Muslim Convert Describes His Former Religion

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Nushin Arbabzadah
Nile Green



This article presents a translation of and commentary on a previously unknown Persian account of Kafiristan published in Afghanistan’s first newspaper in 1874. The text purports to be the first-hand testimony of Wān, a recent convert to Islam, who describes the sacred sites of his homeland to a literate Muslim resident of Badakhshan. The account comes from the least documented region of former Kafiristan, not only in being on the Afghan rather than the British Indian side of the Durand Line, but also in possibly being from one of the least-known regions of Afghan Kafiristan. Wān’s testimony may not only be an extremely rare “autoethnographic” account of Kafir religious sites, but in being also a work of Afghan “idolography,” the text lends insight into how the religion of the kāfir (infidel) was understood by Afghan state officials in the decades before the conquests and forced conversions of 1895–96.

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