The War of Kabul and Kandahar


Muḥārabah-ʼi Kābul va Qandahar (The war of Kabul and Kandahar) is an account of the First Afghan War (1839–42) by Munshi ʻAbd al-Karīm, an associate of Shāh Shujāʻ, the emir of Afghanistan. Mawlawī Muḥammad ʻAbd al-Karīm was an Indo-Persian historian from Lucknow, India, who was active in the mid-19th century. He was a prolific munshi (writer, secretary, and language teacher) and translator. He rendered into Persian from Arabic such works as Tārīkh al-Khulafā (History of the Caliphs), by al-Sūyūtī (1445–1505) and a history of Egypt by Ibn Iyās (1448–circa 1524). He also completed an abridged translation of the biographical dictionary, Wafayāt al-aʿyān wa anbāʾ abnāʾ az-zamān (Deaths of eminent men and history of the sons of the epoch) by Ibn Khallikān (1211–82). Muḥārabah was written some time between 1848 and 1850. It discusses the war of the states of Kabul and Kandahar against the British East India Company and specifically against the British expedition of 1842 headed by General Pollock. Munshi ʻAbd al-Karīm later revised the original composition and added information from Akbarnāmah (Book of Akbar, a history of the third Mughal emperor) to produce the final version shown here, which was published in India in 1850. This book and the munshi's other contemporary historiographical text, Tārīkh-i Ahmadshāhī (History of the sultans of Delhi, in which he narrates the history of the Abdālīs, ancestors of the Durranis) were two of the major sources of the better known text of the Afghan history, Sirāj al-Tawārīkh (Lamp of history) by Fayz̤ Muḥammad (died 1931). Of Mawlawī ʻAbd al-Karīm's extensive oeuvre, three books exist in lithographic prints, including Muḥārabah. Lithographic printing was invented in Europe in the late 18th century and spread widely on the Indian subcontinent from the early 19th century onward, its popularity stemming from the relative ease with which it could be used to reproduce different scripts not based on the Latin alphabet. The new technology was so successful during the Raj that many more Persian lithographic books were printed in India than in Iran.

Last updated: August 6, 2014