AFŻAL KHAN, AMIR MOḤAMMAD (1220-84/1814-67), governor of Balḵ and for a short time ruler of Afghanistan. The eldest son of the ruler Dōst Moḥammad Khan (Fayż Moḥammad Hazāra, Serāǰ al-tawārīḵ II, p. 251; Y. ʿA. Ḵāfī, Pādešāhān-e motaʾaḵḵer I, p. 212), under his father (whose reign at Kabul began in 1254/1838) Afżal held a governorship at Zormat, south of Kabul, and in 1266/1849 was appointed governor of the northern provinces of Afghanistan with his seat at Balḵ. Since the ancient city of Balḵ was in ruins, he built the new town of Taḵta-pol east of the old citadel (Serāǰ II, p. 214; Amir ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Khan, Pand-nāma-ye donyā va dīn, p. 6). When he returned to Kabul in 1271/1854, he left his twelve-year-old son Sardār ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Khan at Taḵta-pol as his deputy (Serāǰ II, p. 717; ʿA. Ḥabībī, Tārīḵ-emoḵtaṣar-e Afḡānestān, Kabul, 1967, II, p. 122). Rebels in the district of Qaṭaḡan and the towns of Tāleqān, Baḡlān, and Andarāb were subdued by Afżal Khan and his brother Sardār Moḥammad Aʿẓam, but Mīr Atālīq, who had mustered a large force at Rostāq and Kūlāb, held out until he was overcome by Afżal’s son Sardār ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān in 1276/1859 (Serāǰ II, p. 234). After Dōst Moḥammad’s death at Herat on Tuesday, 21 Ḏu’l-ḥeǰǰa 1279/9 June 1863, Afżal’s younger brother Šēr-ʿAlī made himself amir at Herat and then went back to Kabul. When Šēr-ʿAlī moved to Čārīkār intending to subdue the provinces north of the Hindu Kush range, Afżal led a substantial force toward Kabul, but was defeated and taken prisoner in a battle in the Bāǰgāh valley on the northern flank of the range. Šēr-ʿAlī then took control of the Balḵ district and brought the captive Afżal with him to Kabul (Serāǰ II, p. 273; Pādešāhān-e motaʾaḵḵer I, p. 79; M. Farroḵ, Tārīḵ-esīāsī-e Afḡānestān, pp. 63, 201; G. M. Ḡobār, Afḡānestān dar masīr-e tārīḵ, Kabul, 1347 Š./1968, p. 590). Šēr-ʿAlī’s first reign did not last long. On a Friday in early Moḥarram, 1283/June, 1866, Afżal’s brother Moḥammad Aʿẓam and son ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān, having captured Kabul, released Afżal from his imprisonment at Ḡazna and enthroned him at Kabul; but his reign also was short. In Jomādā II, 1284/October, 1867, he died of cholera at the age of 54 in Kabul. He was buried in the castle of Hūšmand Khan in the south of the city (Tārīḵ-emoḵtaṣar II, p. 121; S. J. Afḡānī, Tatemmat al-bayān fī taʾrīḵ al-Afḡān, Cairo, 1901, pp. 133-37).

In regard to Afżal Khan’s achievements at Balḵ, Naǰm al-dīn “Ḏāker”, a contemporary poet resident in the inhabited part of Balḵ, wrote a maṯnavī, the Afżal-nāma, which runs to about 1,000 bayts in the motaqāreb meter and was completed on 1272/1855 (ms., Public [ʿāmma] Library, Kabul).


See also Fayż Moḥammad Hazāra, Serāǰ al-tawārīḵ, Kabul, 1331/1913, pp. 214-95.

Y. ʿA. Ḵāfī, Pādešāhān-e motaʾaḵḵer-e Afḡānestān, Kabul, 1955-57, I, pp. 39 to end; II, chap. 4.

M. Farroḵ, Tārīḵ-esīāsī-e Afḡānestān, Tehran, 1333 Š./1954, pp. 201-16.

Amir ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Khan, Pand-nāma-ye donyā va dīn, Kabul, n.d.; tr. Mir Munshi Sultan Mahommed Khan, Life of Abdur Rahman, Amir of Afghanistan, 2 vols., London, 1900, vol. I.

(ʿA. Ḥabībī)

Originally Published: December 15, 1984

Last Updated: July 28, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 6, p. 601

Cite this entry:

ʿA. Ḥabībī, “AFŻAL KHAN, AMIR MOḤAMMAD,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/6, p. 601; an updated version is available online at (accessed on 15 March 2014).