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HIZB-I ISLAMI AFGHANISTAN. Two political parties that from 1978 until 1992 fought against the Marxist government of Afghanistan share the name Hizb-i Islami Afghanistan. The better known and more influential of these parties is headed by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the other by Maulavi Yunus Khales. Both leaders are Pushtuns (Hekmatyar from northern Kunduz Province, and Khales from eastern Ningrahar Province), and their parties have their strongest bases of support in Pushtun regions of the country.

The origins of Hizb-i Islami can be traced to the efforts of a group of students at Kabul University who formed the Organization of Muslim Youth (Sazman-i Javanan-i Musulman) in 1969. Initially an informal study group that was introduced to modern Islamic political ideology (particularly that of Sayyid Qutb and the Ikhwan al-Muslimun, (or Muslim Brotherhood) by professors who had studied in Egypt, the Muslim Youth began active political organizing and recruitment in response to the increasingly strident efforts of Marxist parties to expand their base within the student population during the early 1970s. The Muslim Youth was also concerned with the rapid secularization of Afghan society and the pro-Soviet direction of government policy, and its leaders railed against perceived corruption within the royal family and the traditional `ulama’. In its first years the Muslim Youth Organization was primarily involved in campus politics, but a series of violent confrontations between Muslim and Marxist students led to the first arrests of Muslim Youth leaders in 1972.

In response to the July 1973 coup d’etat of Muhammad Da’ud, an avowed leftist, the Muslim Youth joined forces with other covert Muslim political parties to overthrow the new government. These efforts were unsuccessful, however, and led to further arrests and the flight of many of the top Muslim Youth leaders to Pakistan, where they continued their efforts to overthrow the Afghan government. In July 1975 guerrillas associated with the Organization of Muslim Youth initiated an operation intended to combine a military coup d’etat in Kabul with rural insurrections in various provinces. The military coup never materialized, however, and the uprisings were unsuccessful, in large part because of the absence of popular support.

The failure of this plan was a major blow to the party; several hundred of its most enterprising members were captured and executed. It also created an enduring rift between the two principal leaders who survived the attack-Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who advocated the planned uprisings but did not personally participate, and Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former professor at Kabul University, who opposed the plan as premature. From this time on, Hekmatyar’s faction of the movement, which became known as Hizb-i Islami, and Rabbani’s group, known as Jam’iyat-i Islami, have been engaged in often violent competition for leadership of the Islamic resistance against leftist domination in Afghanistan. Following the April Revolution of 1978, other Muslim parties also set up headquarters in Pakistan, and Hizb-i Islami itself split into two parties, one dominated by Hekmatyar and the other by Maulavi Yunus Khales. The latter has generally been more moderate in its ideology and tactics and more conciliatory in its relations with other parties.

In this milieu of competing factions, the claim of Hekmatyar’s Hizb-i Islami party to authority was always somewhat uncertain; its principal leaders were students before the war, mostly in secular disciplines such as engineering, and consequently had no traditional religious authority or status to legitimate their claim to leadership. Hekmatyar’s party has responded to this situation by emphasizing its early involvement in efforts to overthrow the government and the many.student members it sacrificed to the cause during the 1970s, when the majority of traditional religious leaders remained apolitical. Because it was the first to declare jihad, Hizb-i Islam! claimed the right to lead the Islamic movement against the Marxist government; in pursuit of that right, it has gained a reputation as the most authoritarian of the parties in terms of its organization and party discipline. It is also considered particularly ruthless in its suppression of dissent, and it has been the focus of criticism for its frequent conflicts with other parties and the attacks made by local Hizb-i Islami commanders against other fronts. In ideological terms, Hizb-i Islam-i stands apart from other parties because of its combination of scriptural fundamentalism and revolutionary practice. While the party does not disavow the Hanafi school of jurisprudence that has long held sway in Afghanistan, it advocates adherence to the Qur’an and sunnah as the principal foundations of law, over and above the Hanafi traditions that traditional `ulama’ have long monopolized. Another ideological pillar of Hizb-i Islami concerns the role of the party itself. According to party doctrine, it is the only authentic Islamic party and the one vehicle through which a truly Islamic society can be realized in Afghanistan. As such, it is the obligation of every Muslim to join Hizb-i Islam and to summon others to the proper practice of the faith. Those who refuse to join Hizb-i Islam! or who join other parties are suspect, as are those who join but do not exhibit absolute loyalty and obedience to the party leadership.

Hekmatyar’s party tended to be somewhat isolated from other parties during the thirteen years of the resistance, but it was more successful than its rivals in gaining international backing from a variety of countries. Pakistan, Iran, and other Islamic states tendered financial, logistical, and military support to Hizb-i Islami. The party has also been the major beneficiary of American aid, despite the fact that Hekmatyar has been a frequent critic of the United States and has tended to back Iran and other radical Middle Eastern regimes against American policies and interests.

Following the collapse of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, Hizb-i Islam-i’s foreign assistance declined, and the party has been increasingly isolated both domestically and internationally. This isolation culminated in May 1992 when an Islamically oriented coalition government was established from which Hizb-i Islam! was initially excluded. Although overtures have been made between Hizb-i Islam-1 and the other parties, it is uncertain whether it will ultimately be welcome by other Islamic leaders, given its radical ideology and history of intolerance toward other groups.

[See also Afghanistan and the biography of Hekmatyar.]


Edwards, David B. “Summoning Muslims: Print, Politics, and Religious Ideology in Afghanistan.” Journal of Asian Studies 52.3 (1993): 6o9-628.

Naby, Eden. “The Changing Role of Islam as a Unifying Force in Afghanistan.” In The State, Religion, and Ethnic Politics: Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan, edited by Ali Banuazizi and Myron Weiner, pp. 124-154. Syracuse, N.Y., 1986.

Roy, Olivier. Islam and Resistance in Afghanistan. Cambridge, 1986.

Shahrani, M. Nazif, and Robert Canfield, eds. Revolutions and Rebellions in Afghanistan: Anthropological Perspectives. Berkeley, 1984.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/hizb-i-islami-afghanistan/

  • writerPosted On: June 10, 2013
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