An Offering for Religious Scholars


Tuḥfat al-ʻulamā’ (An offering for religious scholars) is ostensibly a tract addressed to the ʻulamā’ (religious scholars) of Afghanistan, asking them to actively discourage the suspicion held by their followers toward things foreign. It was written by order of the Afghan ruler Sher Ali Khan (reigned 1863–66 and 1868–79). Little is known of the author, ʻAbd al-Qadir Khan, although he is identified as a qāḍī (judge) indicating his religious authority. ʻAbd al-Qadir uses numerous quotations from the hadith literature to argue that practices originating with “non-believers” may be in accordance with the sharia provided these practices benefit the Islamic ummah (community). The foreign practices in question mostly have to do with the military—that military spending and a strong military are consistent with Islamic teachings remain major themes throughout the work. Although the heavy reliance on the Qur’an, the hadith, and quotations by learned men in the Islamic tradition (such as Fakhr al-Din al-Razi and Muhammad al-Ghazali) demonstrate the expertise and the erudition of the author (or, possibly, authors), the polemical and often repetitious arguments serve to emphasize the purely propagandistic aspects of Tuḥfat al-ʻulamā’. The timing of the publication is noteworthy. For much of his career Sher Ali Khan was in the enviable position of managing the conflicting interests of tsarist Russia and Great Britain, two colonial powers locked in the “Great Game” for mastery over Afghanistan. The publication of Tuḥfat al-ʻulamā’ in 1875 predates the Second Anglo-Afghan War (and Sher Ali’s retreat from Kabul) by several years. The book was published in the Mustafawi printing press, which was founded by Sher Ali Khan, and is one of the earliest works printed in Afghanistan.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Muṣṭafawī Printing Press, Kabul

Title in Original Language

تحفة العلماء

Type of Item

Physical Description

80 pages ; 22 centimeters

Last updated: September 30, 2016