AʿẒAM KHAN, AMIR MOḤAMMAD, the fifth son of Amir Dōst Moḥammad Khan and the third amir of the Moḥammadzay line, ruler of Afghanistan in 1284/1867-1285/1868. Born at Kabul in 1236/1820 from a daughter of Mollā Ṣādeq ʿAlī, the sardār of the Bangaš tribe, he received a thorough education under his father’s supervision (Fayż Moḥammad, Serāj al-tawārīḵ, p. 251; Ḵāfī, Pādešāhān-e motaʾaḵḵer I, p. 197). Aʿẓam Khan was with his father at the time of the latter’s defeat in the first Anglo-Afghan war on 1 Jomādā II 1255/12 August 1839 and his subsequent flight to Bukhara. In 1256/1840 Dōst Moḥammad returned to Afghanistan and was eventually sent in exile to Calcutta, while Aʿẓam Khan worked with other Afghan chiefs to stir the Andar and Solaymān-ḵēl tribes around Ḡazna against the British domination, later joining his father in India (Serāj, p. 160; Farroḵ, Tārīḵ-esīāsī, p. 133). When general uprising forced the British to evacuate Afghanistan, Dōst Moḥammad Khan was allowed to return to Kabul, where he re-ascended the throne in 1259/1843 and appointed his sons to governorships of provinces, making Aʿẓam Khan governor of Lōgar, south of Kabul. In 1268/1851, during the amir’s absence on a campaign to subdue a revolt of the Tūḵī and Hōtakī tribes, Aʿẓam Khan was acting governor of Kabul (Serāj, p. 200; Tārīḵ-esīāsī, p. 169). In 1272/1855 he subdued members of the royal family who were resisting his father at Qandahār. Later he was governor of Kūram (Kurram) and Ḵōst, south of Kabul. In 1274/1857 he was commissioned to pacify the lands north of the Hindu Kush range and to help his brother Amir Moḥammad Afżal Khan (Serāj, pp. 220-31; Tārīḵ-esīāsī, p. 173; Pādešāhān-e motaʾaḵḵer I, p. 200). In Šawwāl, 1278/1862 he accompanied his father on the successful expedition to Herat, where Amir Dōst Moḥammad died on 21 Ḏu’l-ḥejja 1279/9 June 1863. From among his twenty-seven sons, Šēr-ʿAlī was chosen on 24 Ḏu’l-ḥejja to be the next amir. Although Moḥammad Aʿẓam Khan is said to have obtained oaths of allegiance to Šēr-ʿAlī from the people in the Great Mosque of Herat, he secretly wrote to his elder brother Afżal Khan at Balḵ urging the latter to seize Kabul, he himself assuming governorship of Kūram and Ḵōst (Pādešāhān-e motaʾaḵḵer I, p. 40; Serāj I, p. 252; Tārīḵ-esīāsī, p. 202). Amir Šēr-ʿAlī Khan faced opposition from brothers and relatives on all sides, not least from Aʿẓam Khan in Kūram who marched against Kabul in 1281/1864, but was defeated by a strong force sent out under the command of Moḥammad-Rafīq Khan Lūdīn, forcing him to escape to Rawalpindi in India (Serāj I, p. 264; Tārīḵ-esīāsī, p. 203). When his nephew Sardar ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Khan, who had gone to Bukhara after suffering defeat in a battle at Bājgāh in Moḥarram, 1281/1864, sent a letter urging him to proceed to Balḵ, he immediately left Rawalpindi and made his way thither through Swat, Chitral, and Badaḵšān, arriving just at the time when Balḵ fell to ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān (Serāj II, pp. 268, 278, 281, 289; Āṣaf Khan, Tārīḵ-eSwāt, p. 116). The two then marched on Kabul, captured the city, and released Afżal Khan from imprisonment at Ḡazna and placed him on the throne (Serāj, p. 289; Ḡobār, Afḡānestān, p. 591; Tārīḵ-esīāsī, p. 210). Aʿẓam Khan also captured Qandahār in Ramażān, 1283/1866; but facing resistance from Šēr-ʿAlī at Herat and hearing the news of Aʿẓam Khan’s illness he had to return to Kabul. Afżal Khan died at Kabul in Jomādā II 1284/1867 and Moḥammad Aʿẓam Khan succeeded him as the amir (Serāj, p. 295; Tārīḵ-esīāsī, p. 215; Pādešāhān-e motaʾaḵḵer I, p. 197; Afḡānī, Tatemmat al-bayān, p. 135; Afḡānestān, p. 591); and his accession was officially recognized by the Governor General of India on 26 Šaʿbān 1284/1867 (Lahore Archives). At this time Sayyed Jamāl-al-dīn Afḡānī (Asadābādī) was attached to his court at Kabul (Afḡānī, Asnād o madārek, p. 156).

Aʿẓam Khan’s rule was marked by civil war and atrocities committed by his sons (Nūrī, Golšan-e emārat, p. 127). Šēr-ʿAlī marched from Herat against Qandahār and Kabul, defeating Aʿẓam in battles at Šeš-gāv and Zana-ḵān. Aʿẓam left Kabul in Jomādā I 1285/1868, escaping to Sīstān and eventually reaching Mašhad (1286/1869) via Bīrjand (Serāj II, pp. 296, 307, 314). Late in the same year he set out for Tehran, but fell ill when he reached Šāhrūd and died there at the age of fifty. His remains were buried in the nearby cemetery of Bāyazīd Besṭāmī (Serāj II, p. 325; Tārīḵ-esīāsī, p. 228). The length of his reign was eleven months.


N. M. Nūrī, Golšan-e emārat, Kabul, 1335 Š./1956.

Y. ʿA. Ḵāfī, Pādešāhān-e motaʾaḵḵer-e Afḡānestān, Kabul, 1334 Š./1955.

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M. Farroḵ, Tārīḵ-esīāsī-e Afḡānestān I, Tehran, 1315 Š./1935.

Moḥammad Zardār Khan Nāgār, Ṣawlat-e afḡānī (in Urdu), Lucknow, 1876.

Amir ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Khan, Pand-nāma-ye donyā wa dīn, Kabul, n.d.

Sayyed Jamāl-al-dīn Afḡānī (Asadābādī), Tatemmat al-bayān fī taʾrīḵ al-Afḡān, Cairo, 1901.

Ī. Afšār and A. Mahdawī, eds., Majmūʿa-ye asnād o madārek-e čāp našoda dar bāra-ye Sayyed Jamāl-al-dīn mašhūr ba Afḡānī, Tehran, 1342 Š./1963.

M. Āṣaf Khan, Tārīḵ-eSwāt (in Paṧtō), Peshawar, 1959.

D. R. Munawwar Khan, Anglo-Afghan Relations, Peshawar, 1964.

(ʿA. Ḥabībī)

Originally Published: December 15, 1987

Last Updated: August 18, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. III, Fasc. 2, pp. 181-182

Cite this entry:

ʿA. Ḥabībī, , “AʿẒAM KHAN,” Encyclopædia Iranica, III/2, pp. 181-182, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/azam-khan (accessed on 30 December 2012).