| · Language: Dari
| · Population: 316,000
The name Qizilbash, which is Turkish for “Red Heads,” is given to a wide variety of Shi’ite militant groups who helped found the Safavid Dynasty of Iran (1501-1722). Their name is derived from their distinct headwear, with twelve points indicating their adherence to the “Twelver” branch of Shi’ite Islam (the main Shi’ite group). The Qizilbash in Afghanistan are descendants of troops left behind by Nadir Shah during his ‘Indian campaign’ in 1738.
They held important posts in government offices in the past, and today they engage in trade or are craftsmen. As Persian-speaking Shi’ite Muslims, they constitute an important and politically influential element of society in the nation of Afghanistan. Exact population figures are hard to come by because they have taken a dual religious identity (called taqiyya) due to persecution from Sunni Muslims. There are no known believers among the Qizilbash.
- Worship the Lord in song. Proclaim Jesus sovereignty to the ends of the earth using Psalm 72:5-8, 12-14 (Think of the poverty and violence of Afghanistan).
- Pray for open doors into the lives of the Qizilbash in order that believers might find opportunities to share Jesus with them.
- Pray for workers from among the Afghani believers to minister to the Qizilbash.
- There are very few Gospel resources in their language. There is a complete Bible (also in audio format) since 2008 in Dari, but few people have it.
- Pray with compassion: He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd … (Mark 6:34). The Afghans have been through a series of terrible wars.
Information from Frontiers
Who are the Shi’as (Shi’ites )?
The first three caliphs (successors) of Mohammed were chosen from the larger Muslim community. The fourth one was Ali, Mohammed’s nephew and son-in-law who had been married to Mohammed’s daughter Fatima many years before. Ali was able to maintain his position briefly before he was murdered in AD 661. The Shi’as believe that the rightful rulers of the Muslim community worldwide were actually Ali and his eleven descendants through Mohammed’s grandson Hussein who died as a martyr in Iraq in AD 680.
A majority of Shi’as believe that Hussein’s line of succession continued till his descendant Mohammed al-Mahdi, the twelfth “rightly guided Imam,” mysteriously disappeared beginning in AD 874 at the age of five. He was supposedly accessible to certain people till AD 941. After that the Shi’a hope for ruling the Muslim community was totally transferred to the unseen world from which a hidden spiritual guide – called the Hidden Imam (leader) or Mahdi (the one who guides), will eventually return.
Sunni–Shia strife has seen a major increase recently, particularly in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. The Sunni Taliban’s clash with Shia Afghans which is strongly intertwined with Shia–Sunni strife in Pakistan. Across the region the divide between Sunni and Shia plays a big part in the future of countries choosing sides with Iran and Saudi Arabia. When the Arab Spring is over several countries will be forced to make choices and take sides. It’s complicated.
Listen to the Podcast – DAY 29 – The Qizilbash of Afghanistan