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The Customs and Traditions of Afghanistan: Pashtunwali and Its Foundations

Ministry of Higher Education of Afghanistan via edX


You will learn the main principles of Pashtunwali which set out a complete guide of the customary law that shape the society’s approach toward life. You will also learn how the Afghan community treats guests, visitors and strangers and their expectations from guests, visitors, and strangers. The course further extends the discussion of the bravery, loyalty to territory, human rights, defense of the weak, defense of honor, collective work and cooperation, and justice implementation. Moreover, participants will learn about the main approach to decision making and dispute resolution, the Jirga, and compare its procedures, impacts and legal aspects with world’s past and current democratic systems.

Participants will watch videos, movies, and documentaries and will work individually and in groups to compare the Afghan customary law, the Pashtunwali, with other legal systems in their own communities. You will read and work on case studies to learn how all these principles of Pashtunwali are applied in any aspect of the life of the Afghan community and to transfer the knowledge and seek the possibility of implementation of these principles in their communities.


1.     Getting Started

2.     Melmapalana (Hospitality)

2.1   What is Melmapalana?

2.2   Treating guest/visitors/strangers.

2.3   Dealing with Afghan community as stranger and foreigner.

2.4   Provision of food and shelter to guests.


3.     Ghairat and Nang (Chivalry)

3.1   What is Ghairat and Nang?

3.2   Defense of social honor.

3.3   Protection of women’s honor.

3.4   Protection of guests and visitors.

3.5   Defense of territory. 

3.6   Protecting the weak in neighborhood.


4.     Nanawati (Seeking forgiveness)

4.1   What is Nanawati?

4.2   Going on Nanawati.

4.3   Seeking forgiveness.

4.4   Accepting or rejecting of Nanawati.

4.5   Conflict resolution.


5.      Pana Warkawal(Granting sanctuary)

5.1 What is Pana Warkawal?

5.2    Granting sanctuary to individuals exposed to risk.

5.3   Protection of properties exposed to risk.

5.4   Respecting human rights of individuals exposed to risk.


6.      Badal (Revenge)

6.1   What is Badal?

6.2   Implementing justice and equity against wrong doing.


7.      Cheegha (Call for collective help)

7.1   What is Cheegha?

7.2   Types of Cheegha

7.2.1         Call for collective work.

7.2.2         Call for collective defense.


8.      Jirga(Gathering)

8.1   What is Jirga?

8.2   Decision making in Jirga

8.3   Setting regulations in Jirga

8.4   Jirga for consultation

8.5   Conflict resolution in Jirga


9.      Kanai (Stone) and Baramta (Guarantee)

9.1   What is Kanai?

9.1.1         Kanai for ceasefire.

9.1.2         Kanai for delimitation of land.

9.2   Kanai as opportunity for mediation.

9.3   The rule of Kanai in peace talks and conflict resolution.

9.4   What is Baramta?

9.5   Baramta as implementation of ceasefire.

Taught by

Fazal Rahman Ayoubi


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