ABDĀLĪ, ancient name of a large tribe, or more particularly of a group of Afghan tribes, better known by the name of Dorrānī since the reign of Aḥmad Šāh Dorrānī (1747-72). This tribal confederation groups the Pashtun clans of the west, which are to be distinguished from the Ḡilzī (sing. Ḡilzay), comprising those of the east. The eponymous ancestor of the Abdālī is said to be Abdāl, son of Tarīn, son of Ḵaršbūn. Tradition claims that Abdāl bore this surname (laqab) because he had been in the service of one of the abdāl (q.v.), who represent the fifth degree in the hierarchy of Sufi saints. It is not possible to ascertain if this is only popular etymology or reflects historical reality.
The Abdālī are divided into two branches: (a) The Zīrak, who, especially in the region of Qandahār, include the clans of the Pōpalzī, the Alīkozī, the Bārakzī, and the Acəkzī. The last king of Afghanistan (1933-73), Moḥammad Ẓāher Šāh, was a Moḥammadzī of the clan of the Bārakzī. The Moḥammadzī had reigned since 1826, just as the Saddōzī, an offspring of the Pōpalzī, had reigned from 1747 to 1818. This illustrates their long political power. (b.) The Panǰpāo, which include the Nūrzī, the Alīzī and the Esḥāqzī or Sākzī, reside for the most part in the west of the country (Helmand, Farāh, Sīstān and Herat).
For the history of the Abdālī, see Dorrānī; for bibliography, see Paṧtūn.
(C. M. Kieffer)
Originally Published: December 15, 1982
Last Updated: July 15, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 2, pp. 175-176
C. M. Kieffere, “Abdali,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/2, pp. 175-176; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abdali-ancient-name-of-the-i-group-of-afghan-tribes (accessed on 17 January 2014).