His forefathers had fought alongside my own ancestor, the Afghan warlord and statesman Jan Fishan Khan (a , translating literally as 'He Who Scatters Souls'). None had been so courageous, or trusted, as the progenitors of Hafiz Jan. They had accompanied the warrior on all his campaigns. Many had died in battle, side by side with members of my own family. When, in 1842, their lord had travelled with his enormous retinue of soldiers from Afghanistan to India, they had escorted him. With his sudden death at the tranquil Indian town of Burhana, they had pledged to guard for eternity the mausoleum of their commander, Jan Fishan Khan.
Shah was born in British India in 1924, the son and heir of Sirdar Ikbal Ali Shah of Sardhana, and belonged to a distinguished Hashemite family. Their best-known 19th-century forbear was Jan Fishan Khan, a notable warrior and Sufi sage.
'An intelligent enemy,' he would say, stroking his beard as if it were a bristly pet, 'rather than a foolish friend.' Or, 'He learnt the language of pigeons, and forgot his own.' Or, the favourite of Jan Fishan Khan: ' ... nothing is what it seems.'