The traditions of this people refer them to Syria as the country of their residence at the time they were carried away into captivity by Bukhtunasar (Nebuchadnezzar), and planted as colonists in different parts of Persia and Media From these positions they, at some subsequent period, emigrated eastward into the mountainous country of Ghor, where they were called by the neighbouring peoples "Bani Afghan" and "Bani Israil," or children of Afghan and children of Israel In corroboration of this we have the testimony of the prophet Esdias to the effect that the ten tubes of Israel, who were carried into captivity, subsequently escaped and found refuge in the country of Alsareth, which is supposed to be identical with the Hazarah country of the present day, and of which Ghor forms a part. It is also stated in the Tabacati Nasiri - a historical work which contains, among other information, a detailed account of the conquest of this country by Changhiz Khan - that in the time of the native Shansabi dynasty there was a people called Bani Israil living in that country, and that some of them were extensively engaged in trade with the countries around.
This people was settled in the Ghor country, to the east of Herat, at the time that Muhammad announced his mission as the Prophet of God - about 622 A, D. And it was there that Khalid-bin-Walid, a chief of the Curesh tribe of Arabs, came to them with the tidings of the new faith, and an invitation to join the Prophet's standard The errand of this Arab apostle would apparently support the view held by some that the Afghan people were originally of an Arab tribe, and had linked their fortunes with the Israelites in Syria, and shared the lot of the ten tribes which were carried away into captivity. Be this as it may, the mission of Khalid was not without success, for he returned to the Prophet, accompanied by a deputation of six or seven representative men of the Afghan people and their followers amounting in all to seventy-six persons. The chief or leader Of this party was named Kais or Kish.
The traditions of the people go on to the effect that this Kais and his companions fought so well and successfully in the cause of the Prophet, that Muhammad, on dismissing them to their homes, presented them with handsome gifts, complimented them on their bravery, and giving them his blessing foretold a glorious career for their nation, and promised that the title of Malik (or king) should distinguish their chiefs for ever. (The term "Malik," it may be here noted, is apparently peculiar to the Afghan nationality At the present day it is the title of the lowest grade of nobility among the Afghan, the Pathan, and the Ghilzai, - that is to say, the Pukhto-speaking races Among the Persian-speaking races, the corresponding term is "Kalantar" among the Tajik, and "Mihtar" among the Hazarah, and Acsacal among the Turk tribes of Balkh. In each case the term signifies "chief" or "elder.") At the same time the Prophet, as a mark of special favour and distinction, was pleased to change the Hebrew name of Kais to the Arab one of Abdur Rashid - "the servant of the true guide " - and, exhorting him to strive in the conversion of his people, conferred on him the title of "Pahtan," - a term which the Afghan book-makers explain to be a Syrian word signifying the rudder of a ship, as the new proselyte was henceforth to be the guide of his people in the way they should go.
For centuries after this period the history of the Afghans as a distinct people is involved in much obscurity, and it would seem that it was only some three or four hundred years ago that their priests began concocting genealogies and histories to give form and cohesion to the very mixed nationality which had at about that time grown into existence as a result of the political convulsions and dynastic revolutions, which during preceding centuries had jumbled up together within the area of the country now known as Afghanistan a variety of different races, some of which were original or early occupants, and others new-comers.
At what period the Afghans of Ghor moved forward and settled in the Kandahar country, which is now their home, is not known. It appeals, however, from the writings of the early Muhammadan historians, that in the first century of their era - the seventh-eighth of ours - the province of Sistan was occupied by an Indian people At that time the territorial extent of Sistan was very much wider than the restricted little province of the present day. At that time Sistan, or Sajistan as it is written in native books, comprised all the country from the head waters of the Tarnak and Arghasan rivers and the Toba range of hills on the east, to the Nih Bandan range of hills and Dashti Naummed - Desert of Despair - on the west; from the valleys of the Helmand and Arghandab rivers on the north, to the Khoja Amran range and the Balochistan desert on the south. It comprised, in fact, the Drangiana and Arachosia of the Greek writers. The former was afterwards called Sijistan after the Saka Scythians, who occupied it about the first century of our era, and the latter was called Gandhar after the Indian Gandhara, who, it seems, overpowered a kindred people in prior possession some time after the Greek conquest.
Who the Indian people occupying this country at the time of this Arab invasion were will be mentioned presently, but it seems clear they were not the only inhabitants thereof, but shared it with the native Persian and other immigrant tribes of Scythic origin. For the province itself derived its name of Sakistan, Sagistan, Sajistan, Sistan from the Saka, who were probably the same people as the Saka Hamuvaiga mentioned in the tables of Darius (see Rawlinson's Herodotus) - "Saka dwellers on the Hamtu" or Amu, which has from the earliest times been the name of the lower course of the Oxus river, the latter term being the Greek form of Wakhsh, which is the name of the Upper Oxus above the point where it is joined by the Panjah.