Little is known about the Pushtun people before the 15th century, except that these Afghans were tough and fierce people by nature. They were greatly feared and respected in the region. Today, their undying loyalty to their tribe and independence defines them as a people.
"I am a Pushtun first, a Muslim second, and an Afghan third," states General Sayed Agha, a village elder of Khewa, a typical Pushtun village in eastern Afghanistan. "I live by my tribe's code, my children live by this code, and so will my grandchildren and future generations."
The General explains with great pride that Pushtuns are different from other tribes. Pushtuns can be identified by three major traits: their language (Pashto); their lineage (they consider themselves descended from one founding ancestor); and their code of honor, called pushtunwali. It is a legal and moral code covering issues of honor (namuz), solidarity (nang), hospitality (melmastai), and shame and revenge (badal). "For a Pushtun, the defense of namuz, even unto death, is required," says the General.
This fierce loyalty to their tribe and the pushtunwali often conflicts with the rules set forth in Islam, but whenever the two disagree, tradition of the tribe wins. Thus, they remain Pushtuns above all else.