The Collected Works of Riyazi


Kullīyāt-i Riyāz̤ī (Riyazi’s book, usually known in English as the Collected Works of Ryazi) is a literary-historical work written in a mixture of prose and verse styles and published in a lithographic version in Mashhad, Iran, in 1906. It chronicles social, cultural, and political events taking place in the second-half of the 19th century in Afghanistan and Persia, especially during the reigns of Afghan ruler ʻAbd al-Rahman Khan (1880−1901) and his Persian counterpart, Mozaffar al-Din Shah Qajar (1896−1907). The author, Muhammad Yusuf Riyazi Haravi, was from a family of bureaucrats; his father had served different local Afghan officials in Herat. Historians generally have used colonial sources in their study of late-19th century Iran and Afghanistan; this book is a local historical source for the study of relations between these two countries and their formation. Muhammad Yusuf received support from Mozaffar al-Din Shah Qajar, who is praised as a just and learned ruler. The author also provides rich descriptions of his own family background, childhood education, travels, and his move to Qajar Iran and the confiscation of his and his family’s property in Herat. The book includes a preface, table of contents, 12 chapters, and an extra section. The preface contains a 48-line verse and a prose section praising God, Muhammad, the family of ʻAli, the Qajar dynasts, and the author’s own family. Chapter 1 describes the family background of the author. Chapter 2 contains several hikayat (stories) describing cities, political regions, and individuals; this chapter also includes a section on Afghanistan. Chapter 3, the longest, documents events in late-19th century Afghanistan and elsewhere, such as the signing of a friendship treaty between China and Japan, the death of a prime minister in the Ottoman Empire, and the Greek-Ottoman Wars. Chapter 4, called “Book of Knowledge,” discusses “12 types of knowledge.” Chapter 5, entitled “Questions and Answers,” describes ten encounters with different individuals in which various topics are discussed, for example, with a German traveler about religious laws in Islamic countries, and with an English officer about why Muslims do not send their children to Europe for schooling. Chapter 6 contains spiritual ghazal (lyric poems). Chapter 7, “The Source of Crying,” also has spiritual poems. Chapter 8 contains quintet poems, here called takhmisat. Chapter 9 is only one page and appears to be incomplete; it contains a few quintet and quatrain poems. Chapter 10, “Book of Regrets,” discusses 12 different topics, for example, the finite character of the world and the nature of worship. Chapter 11, “Situations of Cities and Countries,” is a brief ethnographic account of Beijing, Kabul, Mashhad, and other places. Chapter 12 offers a conclusion; it also describes the recently concluded Russo-Japanese War (1904−5). The book ends with a section, Mulh’qat (Relevancies), which covers a seemingly random set of topics, including a hunting campaign in 1904 of Amir Habibullah Khan, nationalist activities in Greece, and the salaries of poets in Herat. This work clearly was written at different times and published by the author as single collection. Each chapter forms a unit, and there are no direct connections between them. The book contains lithographic images, including of the Qajar and Afghan rulers and of the author.

Last updated: October 17, 2016