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Jalal al-Din Haqqani, a Legend in the History of the Afghanistan Jihad

22 March 2010

By Mustafa Hamed

Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani is regarded as one of the most prominent figures of the both the period of Jihad against the communists and the Soviet invasion (1978 –1992). Maulavi Haqqani belongs to the Zadran tribe, one of the main tribes in Paktia province, adjacent to Pakistan.

As is well-known, he received his education in the religious schools in Afghanistan, as is case with most the leaders of Jihad in its past and present stages, completing his learning in the al-Haqqani madrasa in Akurah Khatik in the tribal border region with Pakistan. He then worked as a teacher in the same madrasa for a year before he entered permanently into the Jihadist effort in the provinces of Paktia and Paktika. Maulavi Haqqani remains immersed with great effectiveness in the fighting against the Americans and their allies in Afghanistan.

This is the first instalment regarding that Jihadist luminary whose story represents a peerless Jihadist legend. This instalment uses real-life stories, based on the accounts of his closest friends, students and brothers in Jihad. I had been gathering material on the beginnings of Jihad in Afghanistan in the period after the communist coup (April 1978) and, at the beginning of 1983, finished writing a small book that has not yet been published. I drafted a number of titles for it before settling on “Highlights of the First Year”.

The theme of the book was the beginnings of the Jihad in that period, considered to be among the strangest in the history of Afghanistan, but for which, unfortunately, not much has been done to document. Thus our glorious Islamic history has been obliterated and the mission of writing and commenting upon it has been left to our enemies!! Our Ummah has thereby lost its history and is living without a memory, and our generations are being raised on the poisonous excretions of the culture of our enemies.

This installment is a part of that book.

I became acquainted with Maulavi Haqqani in June of 1979 a few months before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and later I accompanied him during my poor participation in the Afghanistan Jihad until the conquest of Girdiz in April 1992 and the conquest of Kabul a few days later. During that time, I followed many of the conquests of that great Mujahid. I grasped many of the aspects of majesty in his personality as a model for the great scholars (Ulema) of Afghanistan and students of the knowledge of the pure Mujahideen, who now stand as an impregnable bulwark against the largest crusader attack upon the Islamic Ummah across the entire globe and upon its most inaccessible fortress – Afghanistan.

“Highlights of the First Year”

After prayer on the morning of the first day of the Taraki rule, many of the men of the Hay al-Muhajareen Mosque in the Pakistani border city of Miranshah gathered to discuss in great earnest yesterday’s events in Kabul. All of them were emigrants who had fled the violence of the Daoud regime, which had swept away the king and declared a republic supported by the Marxist parties. Those men were among the minority of the people which had opposed that regime in parts of the country, but the majority of public abandoned them and chose to make peace with the regime, maybe – possibly.

Those men tried to declare Jihad against the Daoud regime, but they did not receive sufficient support from the people. Eventually the truth of their views became confirmed, but only a while had passed and the Muslims had already paid a huge price as a result of their negligence in carrying out their duty at the right time. In the Muhajareen Mosque, after events revealed the regime’s ugly face, that group saw the need to embark once again on Jihad against the communist regime.

Right away, they made the decision to travel to the city of Peshawar where were living some of the Islamic leaders who had previously fled from the injustice of the successive governments in Kabul which attacked the Islamists. They decided to seek from those leaders the immediate declaration of Jihad against the infidel government.

In Peshawar, throughout many hours both day and night, the discussions went on and opinions became divided. The first group of Mujahideen from the Daoud era believed that the Ulema should head immediately to Afghanistan and make contact with the people and residents of their respective districts to incite them to Jihad and lead them in this venture.

Another group opposed this opinion under the excuse that confronting huge government forces armed with modern weapons and equipment was tantamount to suicide and throwing oneself to destruction, which was not permissible under Shari’a. Rather, a large force equipped with heavy and light weapons must first be gathered together then launched to liberate the country. The funds necessary to implement this plan could be obtained from Islamic countries, especially the petroleum states, for those states would understand completely the danger posed to their own interests by the Marxist coup in Afghanistan. This party optimistically supported their point of view by saying that the West, which had prepared armies and equipment to confront the communists, would not hesitate to send weapons and money to support fighters against the communist regime in Kabul.

Those who spoke of the necessity of immediately launching Jihad insisted upon their position of immediately heading to the field of battle for a number of reasons:

First, the arguments of the first group would waste time while achieving nothing. During the time lost in gathering money and convincing states to support the Mujahideen, the communists would be able to shore up their rule and destroy completely any possibility of resistance.

Second, the commitment of Islamic states to assist those hostile to the Kabul regime was not guaranteed and of dubious benefit.

Third, no matter how long it takes, they would not be able to equip a force that would match or even come close to the strength of the Afghan Army which gets whatever weapons and ammunition it wants from the Soviet arsenal.
In Peshawar, divisions flared up and an agreement became impossible, as each party set out to implement what it saw as the correct way.

The “Assistance First” party set out for the petroleum countries and the countries of the west requesting aid, while the “Jihad Now” party traveled to inside Afghanistan to begin from there.

……………………….

Sheikh Jalaluddin Haqqani returned from Peshawar and its fruitless discussions to his house in Miranshah and the people, muhajireen and adherents of the old Jihad against the rule of Daoud. He declared Jihad again and surrounded himself with a number of those who previously waged Jihad against the rule of Daoud, including Maulavi Mahmud Lala, the old Mujahid who was more than 70 years old but still possessed crushing strength and a body that was harder than rock. With him were the youngMaulavi Ahmad Gul, the pious worshipper, and four young students of knowledge. They all gathered their wealth and sold their worldly goods, leaving their families without money, buying instead ammunition and rations. Since the days of the Jihad against the Daoud regime, they had possessed seven old English rifles, taken as booty in the Afghan war against the English, and they purchased a decrepit mule on which they loaded their baggage.

The seven men crossed the mountain paths into Paktia province where the lived the toughest Afghan tribes who had taught bitter lessons to previous British expeditions.

Jalaluddin settled in the mountain canyons and contacted his people in Zadran. A delegation from the mountain villages reached him secretly, telling him that government forces had come and burned down his home and the home of his relatives and that tanks had arrived in the village, terrorizing the people. The government had warned the residents that any attempt at rebellion would be met with maximum force. The people were frightened and convinced that their rifles would be useless against government tanks and MiG aircraft which swept the skies of the region repeatedly every day.

They gave Jalaluddin and his group some food, apologizing for their inability to help them further, and then returned to whence they came.

This meeting was frustrating to the hopes and the determination of the most courageous men. By morning, the government had learned of the presence of Jalaluddin and his group and sent a number of squads to sweep the mountains and increased the aircraft operations in the skies over the region. Jalaluddin and his men fell back to the trackless mountains. Their food was on the point of running out and their mule was near death from exhaustion and the difficulty of the road.

In the evening they sat down to consult with each other. They lit a fire, and Jalaluddin was exhausted and hungry but he was tough. He and his hungry, tired, hunted companions would not yield. The cold of the mountains penetrated their bones. He was commander of the caravan and it was up to him to decide and make clear to them how they had to act.

At this moment crucial moment, Jalaluddin said to them:

“We will wage Jihad fi Sabeel Allah, even if all people forsake us. There is no victory except from Allah. We do not fear the Afghan army. Allah said to us ‘It is Allah Whom you should more justly fear, if ye believe’. We seven individuals are facing an army of eighty thousand but Allah said, ‘How oft, by Allah’s will, has a small force vanquished a big one’. We have an example in the victory given by Allah, Subhanahu wTa’ala, to the Believers over Goliath and his huge armies, and the victory given by the Almighty to Moses and his lowly people over the pharaoh and his vast army. All of remember the events of the battle of Badr and the aid Allah gave to his noble Messenger and his companions. For those who desire the ease of this world, let him return to his family and live content, if he so wants, in the lowliness of exile and under the subjugation of infidels. Whoever desires martyrdom let him stay with me. For tomorrow after dawn prayer, we attack the government garrison in the valley. Let Allah judge the matter that has been done”.

Tears flowed from the eyes of the men and, one after another, they purified themselves in a nearby stream whose clear waters flowed from the heart of the mountains. And they remained in prayer until midnight. For the morning was their appointment with martyrdom.

The men finished the dawn prayer and each took up his rifle, inspected it quickly, and placed a cartridge belt upon his shoulders. Jalaluddin, wearing a smile that illuminated his face, whispered “Allah, O wind of paradise”.

The men smiled and prepared to depart. Jalaluddin raised his arm to heaven and his men gathered about him, saying Amen to his prayer as his eyes filled with tears and he recited the prayer that the Messenger of Allah used to recite before the beginning of battle. He wiped his beard after they finished prayer, and gave the order to move out. The seven men dispersed among the rocks like moths or seven lovers overcome by an excruciating desire and approached to within 200 meters of the camp.

Jalaluddin ordered the one of his men with the strongest voice to call upon the soldiers of the camp to surrender and join the camp of the Muslims - for this was the guidance of the Messenger to his soldiers before war.

The man stood and in his loudest voice called to the soldiers, explaining the unbelief of the government and the prohibition against aiding them to kill Muslims and destroy their homes. He had not finished his message when it was answered from inside the camp by the abominable cry “hurrah”, which was the war cry of the communists. This was followed by automatic weapon fire.
Jalaluddin cried “Allahu Akbar”, calling his men to battle. The exchange of gunfire continued incessantly: seven antique rifles, relics of the past century, against automatic weapons firing hundreds of rounds each minute.

It was clear that there was no hope and that what was unfolding was madness itself. But two hours after the battle began, the government garrison stopped firing. The Mujahideen therefore ceased their assault in order to reconnoiter the situation. The voices of the soldiers then called out asking them to cease fire because they surrendered.

The soldiers of the garrison emerged from their positions shouting “Allahu Akbar” and dragging the corpse of a man by his feet – he was their Khalqi leader, a member of the communist Khalq party. One of the soldiers had shot and killed him, and the entire unit joined the Mujahideen. Not one the Mujahideen was wounded or martyred.

Paktia and the entire southern region were shaken by the news which was circulating around the mountain peaks. Dozens of young men from the tribes joined Jalaluddin and food and clothing poured in from the tribes of the south. Within two days following the battle, it became clear that resistance was possible.
However, a troublesome question kept everyone awake at night: what if the tanks come? This question continued to trouble the minds of everyone although they did not reveal this to their leader Jalaluddin.

The rifles and machines guns they had captured would not penetrate these steel beasts…so what to do?

The question did not long remain. The government decided the matter by sending a large force of infantry and tanks to chastise the entire region. News reached Jalaluddin that a government force had left the provincial capital and was on its way to them.

Many felt confusion. Some felt fear, especially those who had witnessed these beasts demolishing nearby villages. The people gathered to Jalaluddin to seek his opinion on this dilemma, and the men found him calmly smiling as he came out for prayer. So he made fun of them saying: “Perhaps you are frightened because the tanks are coming?” They answered, “Yes, we don’t have the strength to fight tanks, and we have no weapons that penetrate them.” He asked them, smiling, “Who is more powerful: Allah the Creator of heaven and earth or tanks? The people were surprised by the question of the revered scholar and they answered without hesitation, “Allah, Subhanahu wTa’ala”. And he said kindly but firmly, “All who believe that truthfully is a believer of the truth faith, if we are not victorious, we have gained that which is better than victory, we have gained martyrdom and the company of the His noble Messenger and his Companions in Paradise. For he who would love to obtain this honor, let him come with me. I go to await the tanks at the mountain pass.”

Radical Transformation

Fifty men set out with Jalaluddin for the mountain pass, some of them carrying automatic weapons. Thus for the first time the Bedu of those mountains carried automatic weapons. Jalaluddin smiled as he thought about this novelty and he murmured in the ear of his comrade, the old Mujahad Mahmud Lala saying, “This is from the blessings of Jihad, Sheikh Mahmud.” And Sheikh Mahmud laughed with all his heart.

Jalaluddin stopped, standing upright in the middle of the mountain corridor which was crossed by a level but unpaved road. He then turned to face his men and said, “If we are faithful, here the angels will descend upon us”. He raised his hand to heaven in a humble prayer to Allah, beseeching Him for victory over their enemies or martyrdom in His cause. Sheikh Mahmud broke into tears with loud sobs as he remembered his 70 years without earning a meeting with the Beloved Ones.

The men dispersed to positions among the rocky peaks and as the morning lengthened, there came from afar the rumbling noise of the metal beasts. The first tank had just entered the mouth of the pass to cross it when there came cries of “Allahu Akbar” and bullets of the Mujahideen poured upon the steel beasts.

The heavy machine guns of those tanks which had not yet entered the pass opened fire on the heights in order to suppress the fire of the Mujahideen. In the midst of the din of machine gun fire and spraying rock, the sound of a terrible explosion reverberated around the entrance to the pass. All were stupefied as they watched the first tank explode and pieces of it scatter in the air. Ahmad Gul brandished his ancient rifle and cried, “Allahu Akbar. The victory and triumph of Allah has come”.

Then a round struck a fuel truck outside the pass and it set alight and soon exploded. Its wreckage scattered and the ammunition and shells it carried caused great destruction. Then something occurred that had not been taken into consideration: the soldiers jumped from their tanks, leaving them inside and outside the pass, and the movement of the entire military force stopped completely.

At the end of the battle, one of tank commanders who had been taken prisoner told them that they thought the Mujahideen had struck the first tank with a rocket, frightening the soldiers trapped inside their tanks between the walls of the pass. So they opened the hatches of the tanks and jumped out, taking up positions behind the rocks to exchange fire with the Mujahideen. This was a golden opportunity for the Mujahideen to pick off the soldiers one by one, for they were by nature skilled sharpshooters.

The attack collapsed completely and the Mujahideen took as booty a large amount of automatic rifles, medium machine guns, transport vehicles and tanks. More important than any of this was the acquisition of RPG-7 anti-armor grenades. This was a radical transformation in the course of the fighting in that region. After that battle, the tanks no longer excited terror and the Mujahedeen became more proficient and capable of opposing armored assaults.

On the road, old Sheikh Mahmud Lala whispered in the ear of Jalal al-Din, “Tell me Jalal al-Din, what happened to that tank in the front?” Jalal al-Din answered him gravely as he was lost in thought, “Subhan Allah Sheikh Mahmud, did I not tell you these were the blessings of Jihad. Allah aids those who aid Him.”

News flew from Paktia to Ghazny and all the south of the victory of the Mujahideen, and riders among the wild mountain trails circulated the story that angels had come down from heaven to aid the Mujahideen. And so the spirit of Jihad was ignited in the heart of the mountains.

The news of the victories of the Mujahideen reached the army camps, and the soldiers themselves circulated these same stories about the angels descending from heaven to help the Mujahideen. This awakened their religious feelings and there occurred repeatedly cases of government soldiers fleeing with their weapons and joining the Mujahideen or even more: some of them had opened fire on communist officers and there were increasing cases where entire military units surrendered after a short battle that had been pre-arranged with the Mujahideen to give them the opportunity to assassinate their military leaders and political officials.

In Paktia, during the first year alone, the entire province was liberated with the exception of its capital Gardiz and its major city Khost, as well as a number of strongholds which relied increasingly upon helicopters to deliver supplies. Scattered across the surface of the main roads were the wrecks of dozens of destroyed and burned-out tanks and trucks. The booty provided the Mujahedeen with modern weapons, including artillery pieces, mortars and a quantity of serviceable tanks. In sum, their military force numbered a thousand while the strength of their morale reached a level impossible to imagine or describe.

The Martyrdom of Sheikh Mahmud Lala

Some months after the last battle, the old Mujahad Maulavi Mahmud Lala was leading afternoon prayer on the mountain top. With his impressive stature, he was standing for prayer between the hands of Allah when a number of helicopters appeared to raid the position. The gigantic man paid no heed to the odious noise coming from the helicopter machine guns. A round from the shower of machine gun fire struck the head of the elderly man and the body of the Shamikh fell with his blood staining the rocks of the mountains he loved and which loved him. The spirit soared with the dear one to the place where the Beloved Ones awaited him.

------------------------------

The locations and details differed, but what happened in Paktia at the hands of Jalaluddin and his six men with their ancient rifles and their broken-down mule, was repeated in Jalalabad at the hands of Maulavi Mohamed Yunis Khales, a sheikh who was more than sixty years old. With him were his students who had received at his hands their learning in Kabul and Jalalabad. Yesterday he was their sheikh teaching them their learning and today he was their leader on the field of Jihad. Sheikh Khales achieved successes like those achieved by Jalaluddin in Paktia, with the same spirit of enthusiasm and yearning for martyrdom.

In Konar, Maulavi Mohamed Hussein had plunged into the venture of the great trial. In Nuristan the men started under the leadership of unknown Ulema – and it may remain that way forever – and they liberated Nuristan entirely and established Islamic rule there. And this is what happened in Ghazny, Qandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif, Logar, Maidan and elsewhere. The spirit of Jihad was ignited throughout the country and gradually the power of the army was destroyed. The ruling party lost most of its cadre in furnace of fiery battles or in assassinations that took place on the streets of Kabul and other cities.

When is Russia Coming?

Maulavi Jalaluddin was sitting on the mountain top where was located his command center in the village of Sarana. Everything around him was draped in white snow, and the houses were almost invisible within their frozen covers. In this mountain region where the snow reaches the height of a man, most people prefer to migrate to the border region with Pakistan until spring comes. To his right, Jalaluddin cast his glance upon a wooden hut sheltering a Dushka machine gun. Snow had covered it until its interior appeared as a pit covered in white snow. Inside it, the snoring increased from the young Qayyum Khan, wrapped within ragged strips in this stinging icy cold. The presence of Jalaluddin encouraged the youth to sleep easily, relying on his leader to watch the skies and wake him in case of an emergency. Jalaluddin smiled as he looked at the slumbering young man, and the story of the Ahl al-Kahf came to his mind and he murmured the noble Aya: “They were youths who believed in their Lord and We advanced them in guidance”. Then he looked below where lay the houses on the borders of the narrow valley like a great frozen tomb which had lost all signs of life - except Jalaluddin who was lost in a wave of dark thoughts until he was roused by the sound of crunching ice under the slow, and heavy tread of a panting newcomer.

The newcomer was the officer Golezrak, a former major in the army and a son of the same Zadran tribe to which Haqqani belonged. Haqqani looked at the hard officer with sharp, blue eyes whose breathing was growing choppy and steamy and had carded snow upon his eyelashes and trim mustache.

The two men exchanged a terse greeting betraying the tension and excitement struggling inside both of them incongruous with the icy death surrounding the place. They both sat down next to each other on the stump of an old tree that had long ago collapsed, as if one would find in it no use other than to be a place to sit, recalling the peace and tranquility of eternity.

Golezrak began the talk saying, “Maulavi Sahib, have you sent for me?”

“Yes, Golezrak, perhaps you have heard Radio Kabul this morning?”

“Yes, Maulavi Sahib, the Russian army has come”.

“What do you think, major?”

“You know, Maulavi Sahib, what the Russians did to the Muslims in Bokhara and Samarkand.”

“And what do you advise, Golezrak?”

“I received my military education at their hands, and I know how they think. They will not begin their real activity in our area before three months with the coming of spring. We need to organize our affairs during this period.”

“And how do we organize our affairs?”

“We will not be able to hold out more than three months. Within six months at the most they will have subjugated the entire country.”

“Do we withdraw then?”

“This is not exactly what I mean, but we must work to gain time and prolong the period of our resistance to the utmost possible. For perhaps an international solution will appear. Because I don’t think the world will be silent about this and maybe China or America will intervene directly in the war. And maybe we will receive much assistance from the Arab states to buy the modern weapons we need.”

“I’m asking you what we can do. I’m not concerned about what others do. Those people won’t move even if we’re slaughtered like sheep. What have they given us during the 18 lean months in which we experienced these things at the hands of Russian experts and their young men. By Allah, you must tell me what must we do?”

“Maulavi Sahib, please do not be angry. We cannot resist for more than three months or about that. I advise that we hide our heavy weapons in the mountain caves and establish a chain of caches to conceal our ammunition. We will distribute the men into small groups to begin guerilla warfare against the Russians. “

“Golezrak, with rifles and small bands we cannot hold all these areas currently in our hands. We cannot even hold the mountain passes we now use. We would close in the faces of our muhajareen in Pakistan the way to return again to their villages. What will happen is that the Russians will control the main roads and mountain passes as well as the cities and villages. And upon them they will pursue us and hunt us one by one as people hunt the wild beasts in the mountains.”

“I think that is a highly logical sequence.”

“Very well. Then we will not surrender our necksto the Russians and we will not let them hunt us like rats. The roads that we need for our movements and for transporting people and muhajareen back and forth will remain open. Our vital areas will remain ours or will kill everyone above them, and the convoys will not safely cross any roads in the province.”

“Maulavi Sahib, this will be a hugely expensive confrontation. The tribal leaders and field commanders must be consulted.”

“It shall be so. I sent one to inform everybody of a meeting tomorrow afternoon for a Shura council of the Mujahideen and tribes in the province.”

……………………………………….

In the middle of a forest of mulberry and apricot trees dried out from the cold, about 800 persons gathered with all their weapons – young men, mature men, and old men, the blood in whose veins was rekindled by Jihad as they vied with the young men in the front ranks of battle.

All came to hear Jalaluddin, the man with whom they had started Jihad and with whom they plunged into war with all its gravity, blood and martyrs as they participated with him in manufacturing the victory and the glory which had resurrected a bright shining reality.

Jalaluddin stood in front of the assembly representing the Ulema and sheikhs of the tribes, the Mujahideen and the group leaders. The young scholar stood with his palms placed over the muzzle of his old English rifle, planted on the layer of ice that coated the open space. He remained silent for some time, lost in thought as he scrutinized the faces of those sitting row upon row. Without realizing it, he was searching for the faces of old comrades, most of who had already passed on as martyrs. Of those he found only one – the lean face and sad eyes of the pious Maulavi Ahmad Gul. He was all that remained from the first beginning of the Jihad.

How he longed to see the beloved face of his life-long friend Sheikh Mahmud Lala, that face which radiated peace and tranquility and confidence in victory at even the gravest times of trial and affliction. He twice looked over the faces in the front row, spurred on by the vague hope that he would find him there, sitting as always with his huge body and his sharp glances like blazing stars shooting from deep eyes combining intelligence and benevolence, shaded by heavy eyebrows like the eaves of a forest concealing endless secrets, and with his old rifle that never left his hands, which possessed the vigor and raw mountainous enormity that enabled him to wring the neck of any earthly beast with ease.

Jalaluddin remained silent, distractedly casting his glance among the rows of men, until he became aware that those gathered before him were waiting upon his decisive word to show them the way through these dark calamities that portended great dangers and made all previous events seem petty by comparison.

He began his speech praising Allah, followed by a brief explanation of all that had happened in Afghanistan since communist coup until the earth-shaking news of the arrival of the Russian army and its occupation of the capital Kabul the previous night, recalling the tragedies which Russia caused for the Muslims in Turkistan (Central Asia) and the slaughters in the great Islamic cities of Bokhara and Samarkand.

He then recited to them Ayas from the Glorious Quran which encourage Jihad and fighting Fi Sabeel Allah and rebuked those who disagreed or were idle in performing this obligation. He spoke to them about the rankof martyrs in Paradise, reminding them of the honors and achievements of their martyred brothers, and how through them Allah protected Islam and the people and by them struck terror in the hearts of infidels thereby gaining great prestige for the Muslim. He then reminded them of the many wonders they had witnessed in hard times and the victory that came down to them from Allah when all believed that defeat and destruction were inescapable. The young scholar did not leave unsaid anything he wanted to say.

Finally, he turned to the tree on his right and rested upon it his old rifle that had been with him since his first departure Fi Sabeel Allah. He then removed the large white turban from his head and began wrapping it around his right armpit and left shoulder and recited these Ayas from the Book of Allah:

Allah hath purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs in return is Paradise: they fight in His cause, and slay and are slain: a promise binding on Him in Truth, through the Law, the Gospel, and the Quran: and who is more faithful to his covenant than Allah? Then rejoice in the bargain which ye have concluded: that is the achievement supreme. (Sura al-Tauba Verse 111)

The men knew well that Aya and what it meant. The Sheikh had explained it to them repeatedly and the Ulema recited it in the hearing of many. The sheikhs began to cry; they lifted their turbans from their heads and placed them on the ground. They raised their hands towards heaven, saying Amen to the prayer of Jalaluddin who was crying as he beseeched Allah for victory over their enemies and to protect Islam in this country. The young men saw no shame in displaying their emotions and weeping on this occasion, even though it was forbidden for the men of the mountains to show their tears in any other situations.

Jalaluddin stopped talking and the men dried their tears as their turbans lay thrown on the ground. Silence covered the place, a silence that was eloquent in expressing the feelings that no words could describe. There lengthened an absolute silence, unprecedented in similar meetings in the past, as if words and thoughts had been frozen by the piercing winter wind. Above their heads gathered a tension mingled with fighting ardor and uncertainty about what tomorrow would bring in surprises and the pain of the departure of those martyrs coming to join their beloved ones who went in the recent past?

The silence remained heavy until it was broken by a simple bedu who spoke suddenly in a high voice with all the spontaneity of the Bedouin and their instinctive courage. He directed his speech to the young scholar, saying: “Jalaluddin – I heard that the Russians have long rifles with scopes that make far away things appear up close, and that one can kill a man a day’s journey away. By Allah, you must tell me when the Russians are coming so I can kill one of them and take his rifle.”

Everyone shook with laughter and Jalaluddin’s teeth shone with pure laughter. It was as if a mysterious power of energy and joy had penetrated the gloomy atmosphere of the place and entered in a blink of an eye the hearts of those sitting there. They began talking with each other and looking with mirth at the plain bedu.

Jalaluddin calmly gestured to them and announced in a loud voice, “Let all bear witness that the first rifle of this type that we capture as booty will be the share of this man”.

The council shook with cries of “Allahu Akbar” and they began to congratulate the man on his new rifle and warmly embracing him laughing with joy and gladness as if the booty was actually in their hands. Jalaluddin was roused to action and embarked with his men in feverish activity racing against time. The coming spring would not see the usual wedding parties. For the snow had begun to melt as if to compete with the men in a grand race to embrace the virgins of paradise.

Tomorrow in spring the streams of Paktia would overflow with water and blood.

To be continued

 

 

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