Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Land of the Infidel

No, I'm not talking about America but Kafiristan - yes, believe it or not, it's a real place. And ironically it's in Afghanistan.

Kafiristan or Kafirstan ("Land of the Infidel" in Persian) was a historic name of Nurestan (Nuristan), a province in the Hindukush region of Afghanistan. This historic region lies on, and mainly comprises, basins of the rivers Alingar, Pech (Kamah), Landai Sin, and Kunar, and the intervening mountain ranges. It is bounded by the main range of the Hindukush on the north, the Pakistani border on the east, the Kunar Valley in the south, and the Alishang River in the west.

Kafiristan takes its name from the inhabitants, the Kafirs, a fiercely independent people with distinctive culture, language and religion. In 1896 the country was conquered and forcibly converted to Islam by the Emir Abdur Rahman Khan, who renamed the people as Nuristani ("Enlightened Ones" in Persian) and the land as Nuristan ("Land of the Enlightened").

While the etymology is contested by some it was used and understood as 'The Land of the Infidel" by the neighboring Muslims.

I just think that jblogosphere tends to get a bit narrow-sighted when the only considered possibilities are Judaism (somewhere along the spectrum) or non-Judaism. From the Muslim perspective (one fifth of the planet, mind you) we're all kaffirs anyway. It seems to put things in some perspective.


Baal Habos said...

It's analogous to the realization that Earth is not the center of the Universe. Tens to knock you off the pedestal.

Baal Habos said...

... tends...

jewish philosopher said...

From a Christian perspective, Muslims are all infidels.

But there's only one right answer - that's Torah.

alex said...

I've never seen a wiki page as marked up as this one:

No mention of Jews there at all. (Well, at least not any more....)

Anonymous said...

I love the blog that you have. I was wondering if you would link my blog to yours and in return I would do the same for your blog. If you want to, my site name is American Legends and the URL is:


If you want to do this just go to my blog and in one of the comments just write your blog name and the URL and I will add it to my site.


Al Knight BS said...

I am always amazed to find a skeptic from a Muslim background.

There is a good article in the London Review of Books at


and is called Mullahs and Heretics by Tariq Ali

It begins...

I never believed in God, not even between the ages of six and ten, when I was an agnostic. This unbelief was instinctive. I was sure there was nothing else out there but space. It could have been my lack of imagination. In the jasmine-scented summer nights, long before mosques were allowed to use loudspeakers, it was enough to savour the silence, look up at the exquisitely lit sky, count the shooting stars and fall asleep. The early morning call of the muezzin was a pleasant alarm-clock.

There were many advantages in being an unbeliever. Threatened with divine sanctions by family retainers, cousins or elderly relatives - 'If you do that Allah will be angry' or 'If you don't do this Allah will punish you' - I was unmoved. Let him do his worst, I used to tell myself, but he never did, and that reinforced my belief in his non-existence.

and later in the article this interesting comparison...

Unlike Christianity, Islam had not spent its first hundred years in the wilderness. Instead, its early leaders had rapidly found themselves at the head of large empires, and a great deal of improvisation had been required. According to some scholars, the first authorised version of the Koran was published some thirty years after the death of Muhammad, its accuracy guaranteed by the third Caliph, Uthman. Others argued that it appeared much later, but Koranic prescriptions, while quite detailed on certain subjects, could not provide the complete code of social and political conduct needed to assert an Islamic hegemony. The hadith filled the gap: it consisted of what the Prophet had said at a particular time to X or Y, who had then passed it on to Z, who had informed the author, who in turn recorded the 'tradition'. Christianity had done something similar, but confined it to four gospels, editing out or smoothing over contradictions along the way. Scholars and scribes began collating the hadith in the seventh and eighth centuries, and there have been ferocious arguments regarding the authenticity of particular traditions ever since. It is likely that more than 90 per cent of them were invented.

Miri said...

Islam and OJ have a few very striking similarities.I can't tell you how often I've read stuff about their religous culture and noticed that it could be talking about us, if you switched names like Achmed for names like Chaim. the most striking similarity was in an article about the conflict of Thanksgiving in the Orthodox Muslim community; some people don't believe in celebrating the secular holiday, while others think it's important to express appreciation and thanks to G-d for a country of opportunity and religous freedom; conflicts when more modern family members hold differently from more traditional family members etc. Basically, it sounded very familiar....

alex said...

True, Miri. However, I'm sure we could take any two belief systems (including even atheism) and find a few similarities.

To Al Knight, who writes "I am always amazed to find a skeptic from a Muslim background." Well, I'm always amazed to find a skeptic from an atheist background. (Skeptical about atheism, that is.) Antony Flew, for one.

emunahpshuta said...

Muslim and Christianity are out cause they are both corruptions of the Torah. Non monothiestic relegious are out bec they are stupid. Athiesim is out cause where did the world come from, so there must be a God. And, why would he create the world if he didn't want to reveal himself so there most be revelation. The only one that makes any sense is the Torah. Anyone who can't see that is just plain stupid

Steve said...

That's not the only place name that owes its etymology to 'kafir': http://www.britishempire.co.uk/maproom/britishkaffraria.htm

As a side note, kaffir (also of the same etymology) is a highly offensive racial epithet in South Africa.

Keep up the great work on the blog!

Orthoprax said...


Yeah, thanks. I actually found out about the word being a racial epithet in South Africa when I had written a short story for an English class where one of my characters used the term in the Muslim way.

My teacher at the time was from South Africa and we had a little talk after class. She seemed concerned about the word but I had no idea.

Melissa Roddy said...


I'm interested in quality sources of information regarding the possibility that the people of Kafiristan (now known as the province of Nuristan in eastern Afghanistan) may have been Jewish.

I encourage you to checkout my blog: www.afghan-info.blogspot.com

Anyone with information on the Kafiristan subject may reach me by commenting on my blog, or contacting me through youtube, where I have videos posted under the title: AFGHANISTAN - CONFLICT OF INTEREST - PATTERNS IN CHAOS.