During the late 1880s,On July 27, 1880 for the second time, Afghanistan was occupied by British-Indian forces attempting to colonise the area and annex it with what was then British India (now Pakistan and India).
The main garrison of the British was located in Kandahar, which is the closest city to the town of Maiwand. The military of Afghanistan was represented by commander Ayub Khan, son of Afghan Emir Sher Ali Khan. Malalai’s father, who was a shepherd, and her fiancé joined with Ayub Khan’s army in the large attack on the British-Indian forces in July 1880.
Like many Afghan women, Malalai was there to help tend to the wounded and provide water and spare weapons. According to local sources, this was also supposed to be her wedding day. When the Afghan army was losing morale, despite their superior numbers, Malalai took the Afghan flag and shouted:
Young love! If you do not fall in the battle of Maiwand,
By God, someone is saving you as a symbol of shame!
This inspired the Afghan fighters to redouble their efforts. When a lead flag-bearer was killed, Malalai went forward and held up the flag (some versions say she used her veil as a flag), singing a landai (a short folk-song sung by Afghan women):
With a drop of my sweetheart’s blood,
Shed in defense of the Motherland,
Will I put a beauty spot on my forehead,
Such as would put to shame the rose in the garden!
Malalai was herself struck down and killed by British troops. However, her words had spurred on her countrymen to victory. After the battle, Malalai was honored for her efforts and buried in her native village of Khig, where her grave remains today. She was 18 or 19 at her death. She is buried in the village of Karez, and locals regard her grave as a shrine.