Operational Culture Awareness Training - Afghanistan

Afghanistan OCAT - Glossary of Terms


Abbasid Caliphate (Arabic: العبّاسيّون‎, al-‘Abbāsīyūn) — was the third of the Islamic Caliphates of the Islamic Empire. It was ruled by the Abbasid dynasty of caliphs, who built their capital in Baghdad after overthrowing the Umayyad caliphs from all but Al Andalus. Built by the descendant of Muhammad's youngest uncle, Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib, in Harran in 750 C.E. and shifted its capital in 762 C.E to Baghdad. It flourished for two centuries, but their rule ended in 1258, when Hulagu Khan, the Mongol conqueror, sacked Baghdad.

Anachronistic – (adj.) chronologically misplaced; an anachronism (noun) is something located at a time when it could not have existed or occurred; an artifact that belongs to another time; or a person who seems to be displaced in time; who belongs to another age.  An anachronist prefers older, often obsolete cultural artifacts over newer ones. For example, a modern-day anachronist might choose to wear a top-hat, use quill pens, or use a typewriter. This choice may reflect an eccentricity, aesthetic preference, or an ethical acceptance or rejection of the societal role of that artifact. (Sources: http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definition/Anachronistic; definition/anachronism; http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anachronism).


Babur — (February 23 1483 - January 5, 1531) was a Muslim conqueror from Central Asia who, following a series of setbacks, finally succeeded in laying the basis for the Mughal dynasty of India. He was a direct descendant of Timur through his father, and a descendant also of Genghis Khan through his mother. Babur identified his lineage as Timurid and Chaghatay-Turkic, while his origin, milieu, training, and culture were steeped in Persian culture and so he was largely responsible for the fostering of this culture by his descendants, and for the expansion of Persian cultural influence in the Indian subcontinent, with brilliant literary, artistic, and historiographical results. (Source: http://wsu.edu/~dee/MUGHAL/BABUR.HTM)

Buzkashi — (noun) is a traditional Central Asian team sport played on horseback. The steppes' people were skilled riders who could grab a goat or calf from the ground while riding a horse at full gallop. The goal of a player is to grab the carcass of a headless goat or calf and then get it clear of the other players and pitch it across a goal line or into a target circle or vat. (Source: http://www.afghan-network.net/Culture/buzkashi.html)

Byzantium —(noun) An ancient city on the Bosphorus founded by the Greeks. The city is what later evolved to be the center of the Byzantine Empire (the Greek-speaking Roman Empire of late Antiquity and the Middle Ages) under the name of Constantinople. Constantinople fell to the Turkish Ottoman Empire in 1453. The name of the city was changed to Istanbul in 1930 following the establishment of modern Turkey. (Sources: http://www.websters-online-dictionary.com/definition/Byzantium ; http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/byza/hd_byza.htm)




Esoteric - (adjective) of a philosophical doctrine or the like intended to be revealed only to the initiates of a group; understood by or meant for only the select few who have special knowledge or interest. (Source:http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/esoteric)



Genghis Khan (c. 1162[2]–1227), born Temujin (meaning "ironworker"), was the founder, Khan (ruler) and Khagan (emperor) of the Mongol Empire, the largest contiguous empire in history. He came to power by uniting many of the nomadic tribes of northeast Asia. After founding the Mongol Empire and being proclaimed "Genghis Khan", he started the Mongol invasions and raids on China, Korea, Central Asia. During his life the Mongol Empire eventually occupied a substantial portion of Central Asia. He died in 1227 and was buried in an unmarked grave somewhere in Mongolia. His descendants went on to stretch the Mongol Empire across most of Eurasia by conquering and/or creating vassal states out of all of modern-day China, Korea, the Caucasus, Central Asian countries, and substantial portions of modern Eastern Europe and the Middle East. (Source: http://www.fsmitha.com/h3/h11mon.htm)

Greco-Buddhist – (noun) One who follows Greco-Buddhism, sometimes spelled Græco-Buddhism, is the cultural syncretism (the union of different systems, especially in religion or philosophy) between the culture of Classical Greece and Buddhism, which developed over a period of close to 800 years in Central Asia in the area corresponding to modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan, between the 4th century BC and the 5th century AD. Greco-Buddhism influenced the artistic development of Buddhism, and in particular Mahayana Buddhism, before it was adopted by Central and Northeastern Asia from the 1st century AD, ultimately spreading to China, Korea and Japan. It was a cultural consequence of a long chain of interactions begun by Greek forays into India from the time of Alexander the Great, carried further by the establishment of Indo-Greek rule in the area for some centuries. (Sources: http://www.mlahanas.de/Greeks/LX/GrecoBuddhism.htmlhttp://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definition/syncretism )


Hellenistic —(adjective) The term Hellenistic itself is derived from Eλλην (Héllēn), the Greeks' traditional name for themselves. It was coined by the historian Johann Gustav Droysen to refer to the spreading of classical Greek culture and colonization over the non-Greek lands that were conquered by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC. Hellenistic civilization thus represents a fusion of the Ancient Greek world with that of the Near East, Middle East and Southwest Asia, and a departure from earlier Greek attitudes towards "barbarian" cultures. (Sources: http://www.websters-online-dictionary.com/definition/hellenistic; http://www.ancient-greece.org/history/helleninstic.html)


Idolatry – (noun) The worship of idols; the worship of images that are not God.  The term "idolatry" is also used by Islam and Judaism to refer to the use of any physical object or artwork that represents God. This term is also sometimes used by one religious group to denigrate another religious group's worship of a different deity or God. Which images, ideas, and objects, constitute idolatry, and which constitute reasonable worship, is a matter of contention with some religious authorities and groups using the term to describe certain other religions apart from their own (sometimes resulting in iconoclasm). (Sources:  http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definition/Idolatry ; http://www.moshiach.com/action/morality/idolatry.php)


Jirga — (noun) A jirga (occasionally jirgah) is a tribal assembly of elders which takes decisions by consensus. The community council meaning is often found in circumstances involving a dispute between two individuals; a jirga may be part of the dispute resolution mechanism in such cases. The disputants would usually begin by finding a mediator, choosing someone of stature such as a senior religious leader, a local notable, or one of the mediation specialists (known as khans or maliks). The mediator hears from the two sides, and then forms a jirga of community elders, taking care to include supporters of both sides. The jirga then considers the case, and after discussing the matter comes to a decision about how to handle the matter, which the mediator then announces. The jirga's conclusion in the matter has to be accepted.

The Wolesi Jirga is the "people's jirga", the lower house of the Afghan legislature. The Meshrano Jirga is the "elders' jirga", the upper house of the Afghan legislature.
(Source: Wardak, Ali. Jirga – A Tradional Mechanism of Conflict Resolution in Afghanistan. University of Glamorgan . Retrieved from http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/APCITY/UNPAN017434.pdf).




Magnanimous – (adjective) Generous in forgiving an insult or injury; free from petty resentfulness or vindictiveness; high-minded; noble. (Source: dictionary.com)

Marxist – (noun) An advocate of Marxism.  “Marxist” can be an emotionally charged term used to refer to extreme radicals or revolutionaries. Marxism is the political philosophy and practice derived from the work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Marxism holds at its core a critical analysis of capitalism and a theory of social change. The methods of analysis introduced by Marx have been very influential in a broad range of disciplines. In the 21st century, Marxist approaches have a theoretical presence in the Western academic fields of archaeology/anthropology, media studies, theater, history, sociological theory, education, economics, literary criticism, aesthetics, and philosophy. (Souces:  http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definition/Marxisthttp://www.newyouth.com/content/view/117/60/#marxism)

Mongol Invasion — Ghengis Khan and his armies invaded south-central Asia in the late 13th century. The Hazara are decendents of the Mongol armies, a fact that still causes resentment among the other Afghan peoples.

Mughal Dynasty – (or Moghul) Muslim dynasty founded by Babur (1526-1530), a decendant of both the Turkic Tamerlane and Genghis Khan, that ruled most of northern India from the early 16th to the mid-18th century. The Mughal dynasty was notable for about two centuries of effective rule over much of India, for the ability of its rulers, who through seven generations maintained a record of unusual talent, and for its administrative organization. A further distinction was the attempt of the Mughals, who were Muslims, to integrate Hindus and Muslims into a united Indian state.  The last Emperor, Bahadur Zafar Shah II, whose rule was restricted to the city of Delhi, was imprisoned and exiled by the British after the Indian Rebellion of 1857. (Sources: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/396125/Mughal-dynasty)

Mujahedeen – (also transliterated as mujahedeen, mujahedin, mujahidin, mujaheddin, etc.) is the Arabic literal translation of "holy warriors." The most well-known, and feared, mujahedeen were the opposition groups that fought against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989 and the following civil war.   In Arabic, the terms "Mujahid" and "Mujahideen" or "jihad" and "jihadi" are commonly used to refer to what the Western world calls "Islamic terrorists" and "Islamic terrorism." In the non-Muslim world, this usage is often considered to be inaccurate, and alternative Islamic terms like "hirabis" and "Muharib" have been promoted as alternatives when referring to terrorists. (Sources:  http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definition/Mujahideen; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mujahedeen)

Mullah - is a Muslim man, educated in Islamic theology and sacred law. The title, given to some Islamic clergy, is derived from the Arabic word mawla, meaning both "vicar" and "guardian". In large parts of the Muslim world, particularly Iran, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Turkey, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, it is the name commonly given to local Islamic clerics or mosque leaders. It is also understood as a term of respect for a religiously educated man. (Source: Roy, Oliver [1994]. The Failure of Political Islam. Harvard UP, 28-29.)

Mystical - (adjective) Of or having a spiritual reality or import not apparent to the intelligence or senses; relating to, or stemming from direct communion with ultimate reality or God: a mystical religion; Enigmatic; obscure: mystical theories about the securities market; of or relating to mystic rites or practices; unintelligible; cryptic. (Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/mystical (accessed: July 10, 2009).



Ottoman Empire or Ottoman State lasted from 1299 to November 1, 1922 (as an imperial monarchy) or July 24, 1923 (as a state.) It was succeeded by the Republic of Turkey, which was officially proclaimed on October 29, 1923. The empire was at the centre of interactions between the Eastern and Western worlds for six centuries. With Constantinople (modern Istanbul) as its capital city, and vast control of lands around the eastern Mediterranean during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent (ruled 1520 to 1566), the Ottoman Empire was, in many respects, an Islamic successor to the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire.

At the height of its power (16th–17th century), it spanned three continents, controlling much of Southeastern Europe, Western Asia and North Africa. The Ottoman Empire contained 29 provinces and numerous vassal states; some of which were later absorbed into the empire, while others gained various types of autonomy during the course of centuries. The empire also temporarily gained authority over distant overseas lands through declarations of allegiance to the Ottoman Sultan and Caliph, or through the temporary acquisitions of islands in the Atlantic Ocean, such as Lanzarote (1585).


Pashtunwali (noun) or Pakhtunwali - is a concept of living or philosophy for the Pashtun people and is regarded as an honour code and a non-written law for the people. Though Pashtunwali dates back to the pre-Islamic times, its practice by the Pashtuns does not necessarily contravene Islamic principles. It is practiced by Pashtuns in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and by Pashtuns around the world.


Quintessential —(adjective) Representing the perfect example of a class or quality. (Source: http://www.websters-online-dictionary.com/definition/quintessential)



Safavid Dynasty – The Safavids were one of the ruling dynasties of Persia.  The Safavids were an Iranian Shia dynasty of mixed ancestry(Azerbaijani ,Circassian/Georgian, Greek, Kurdish) founded by Shaikh Safi of Ardabil in the 14th century, ruling Iran from 1501/1502 to 1722. Safavids established the greatest Iranian empire since the Islamic conquest of Persia and established the Ithnā ashari school of Shi'a Islam as the official religion of their empire, marking one of the most important turning points in the history of Islam. Safi’s descendant Ismail conquered Tabriz and then other prominent cities of Iran and thus unified all of Iran for the first time since the 7th century. (Sources: http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definition/Safavid+Dynastyhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safavid_Dynasty)

Sharia Law – (or Shariah) (noun) the body of religious law governing the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam. Islam draws no distinction between religious and secular life, and hence Sharia covers not only religious rituals and the administration of the faith, but every aspect of day-to-day life. It is the legal framework within which the public and private aspects of life are regulated for those living in a legal system based on fiqh (Islamic principles of jurisprudence) and for Muslims living outside the domain. Sharia deals with many aspects of day-to-day life, including politics, economics, banking, business, contracts, family, sexuality, hygiene, and social issues.  Islamic law is now the most widely used religious law, and one of the three most common legal systems of the world alongside common law and civil law During the Islamic Golden Age, classical Islamic law may have influenced the development of common law and also influenced the development of several civil law institutions. (Sources: http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definition/Sharia+Law; Badr, Gamal Moursi [1978]. Islamic Law: Its Relation to Other Legal Systems. The American Journal of Comparitive Law, 26 (2), 187-198. ; Makdisi, John A. [1999]. The Islamic Origins of Common Law. North Carolina Law Review, 77 (5), 1635-1739)

Shi’a – (sometimes Shi'ite) (noun) one of the two main branches of orthodox Islam; mainly in Iran. The second largest denomination of Islam, after Sunni Islam.  Similar to other branches of Islam, Shi'a Islam is based on the teachings of the Islamic holy book, the Qur'an and the message of the final prophet of Islam Muhammad. In contrast to other branches, Shi'a Islam holds that Muhammad's family, the Ahl al-Bayt ("the People of the House"), and certain individuals among his descendants, who are known as Imams, have special spiritual and political rule over the community. Shi’a Muslims further believe that Ali, Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, was the first of these Imams and was the rightful successor to Muhammad. Shī‘ah Muslims, though a minority in the Muslim world, constitute the majority of the populations in Iran, Azerbaijan, Bahrain and Iraq. (Sources: http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definition/Shia; Esposito, John.[2002]. What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam, Oxford UP, 40. ; http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t125/e2189?_hi=26&_pos=238)

Silk Road —(noun) The silk road is an extensive (over 4,000 miles ) interconnected network of trade routes across the Asian continent connecting East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean world, including North Africa and Europe. The Silk Routes (collectively known as the 'Silk Road') were not only conduits for silk, but also for many other products. They were very important paths for cultural and technological transmission that linked traders, merchants, pilgrims, missionaries, soldiers, nomads and urban dwellers among China, India, Persia and Mediterranean countries for almost 3,000 years. (Source: Oliver, Wild. [1992]. The Silk Road. University of California,Irvine. Retrieved from http://www.ess.uci.edu/~oliver/silk.html)

Sunni — (noun) Sunni Islam is the largest denomination of Islam. Sunni Islam is also referred to as Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l-Jamā‘ah (Arabic: أهل السنة والجماعة‎ "people of the example (of Muhammad) and the community") or Ahl as-Sunnah (Arabic: أهل السنة‎) for short. The word Sunni comes from the word Sunnah (Arabic: سنة‎), which means the words and actions[1] or example of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. (Sources: http://www.websters-online-dictionary.com/definition/Sunni ; http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t125/e2280?_hi=2&_pos=2; http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Sunna)


Timur ( Tēmōr, "iron") (6 April 1336 – 19 February 1405), is commonly known as Tamerlane in the West and  was a 14th century Turko-Mongol conqueror of much of western and Central Asia. He founded the Timurid Empire and Timurid dynasty (1370–1405) in Central Asia, which survived until 1857 as the Mughal Empire of India.  Timur was a military genius who loved to play chess in his spare time to improve his military tactics and skill. (Source: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/596358/Timur)

Timurid Dynasty — The Timurids were a Central Asian Sunni Muslim dynasty of originally Turko-Mongol descent whose empire included the whole of Central Asia, Iran, modern Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as large parts of India, Mesopotamia and Caucasus. It was founded by the legendary conqueror Timur (Tamerlane) in the 14th century, a descendent of Turks affiliated with the preceding Mongol rulers. In the 16th century, Timurid prince Babur, invaded India and founded the Mughal Empire, which ruled most of the Indian subcontinent until its decline in the early 18th century, and was formally dissolved by the British Raj after the Indian rebellion of 1857.


Umayyad (or Umayyid) — The Umayyad Caliphate (Arabic: بنو أمية‎, Banu Umayyah) was the second of the four Islamic caliphates established after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. It was ruled by the Umayyad dynasty, whose name derives from Umayya ibn Abd Shams, the great-grandfather of the first Umayyad caliph. Although the Umayyad family's originally from the city of Mecca, Damascus, was the capital of their Caliphate. After the Umayyads were overthrown by the Abbasid Caliphate, they relocated to Al-Andalus, where they established the Caliphate of Córdoba, Spain. Umayyad has the distinction of the largest Arab muslim state in history. (Source: http://www.princeton.edu/~batke/itl/denise/umayyads.htm; http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/613719/Umayyad-dynasty)






Zoroaster —(noun) (Latinized from Greek variants) or Zarathushtra (from Avestan Zaraθuštra), also referred to as Zartosht (Persian: زرتشت), was an ancient Iranian prophet and religious poet. He was one of the great teachers of the East, the founder of Zoroastrianism, which was the national religion of the Perso-Iranian people from the time of the Achaemenidae to the close of the Sassanid period. The hymns attributed to him, the Gathas, are at the liturgical core of Zoroastrianism. (Sources: http://www.websters-online-dictionary.com/definition/zoroaster; http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/658060/Zoroaster)

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