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afghan islamic resistance fighters.

The Afghan resistance groups who took up the war against the Marxist government in 1978 called themselves mojahedin (fighters of the holy war), a derivative from the Arabic jihad (holy war). By using the appellation mojahedin, they invoked a number of Islamic beliefs associated with the concept of jihad, particularly that a person who dies in a jihad becomes a martyr (shahid) whose soul goes immediately to the side of God. Fighting mostly out of Peshawar, Pakistan, Afghan mojahedin militias organized into groups that represent the sectarian and ethnic divisions of Afghanistan. Seven main parties represented Sunni Afghans; three were led by traditional and moderate clergy, and four were led by Islamist and fundamental leaders. The moderate-traditional parties were Harakat-e Inqilab-e Islami (the Islamic Revolutionary Movement), led by Maulawi Mohammad Nabi Mohammadi; Jebhe-ye Nejat-e Milli (National Liberation Front), led by Sebghatullah Mojaddedi, a Sufi pir; and Mahaz-e Islami (Islamic Front), led by Pir Sayyed Ahmad Gailani, head of the Qadiri Sufi order. The Islamist groups were Hezb-e Islami (Islamic Party), led by Golbuddin Hekmatyar; Hezb-e Islami, led by Mohammad Unis Khalis; Jamiʿat-e Islami (Islamic Society), led by Burhanuddin Rabbani; and Ittihad-e Islami (Islamic Union), led by Abd al-Rasul Sayyaf.

In addition there were a number of Shiʿite parties (Shiʿa Muslims constitute between 15 and 20 percent of the Afghan population). They included Shura-ye Ittifagh-e Islami (Islamic Union), led by Sayyed Beheshti; Harakat-e Islami (Islamic Movement), led by Shaykh Mohseni; and Hezb-e Wahadat (Unity Party), an alliance of eight Shiʿite groups.

Each mojahedin party depended on followers in Afghanistan and on other governments for support. During the resistance war, the mojahedin parties with the largest following were the Jamiʿat-e Islami, which was the only Sunni party with non-Pakhtun leadership and thus popular in the non-Pakhtun areas of Afghanistan (especially the north and west), and the Hezb-e Islami, led by Hekmatyar, which had the support of the Pakistani military and therefore received a lion's share of the weapons and arms. When the Marxist government of Najibullah fell in 1992, the mojahedin parties returned to Kabul to form a government, which was generally referred to as the mojahedin government. Their attempt at unity failed and they began fighting among themselves. As a result, much of Kabul was destroyed in the fighting, and in 1996 the Taliban captured Kabul. Several of the mojahedin parties, especially Jamiʿat-e Islami and Hezb-e Wahadat, retreated to the north of Afghanistan to fight against the Taliban. With the arrival of the Karzai interim government in 2001 many of the original mojahedin parties returned to Kabul to take part in the new government.

see also gailani, ahmad; hekmatyar, golbuddin; hezb-e islami; jamiʿat-e islami; khalis, mohammad unis; mohammadi, maulawi mohammad nabi; mojaddedi, sebghatullah; rabbani, burhanuddin; sunni islam.


Farr, Grant. "The Failure of the Mujahedin." Middle East International 476 (1994): 1920.

Roy, Olivier. Islam and Resistance in Afghanistan. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

Rubin, Barnett. The Fragmentation of Afghanistan. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002.

grant farr