The 14th-century Turkic-Mongol ruler Timur (Tamerlane) wrote a memoir in Chagatai Turkish, the original of which is now lost. The work was intended as a book of advice for princes and rulers and has been given various titles over the years, including, as in this manuscript, Malfūẓāt (Utterances). The memoir was translated into Persian by Abu Talib al-Husayni, who appears to have been a Shia scholar-official from Khorasan in the service of the Mughal rulers in India in the 1630s. Al-Husayni discovered a Turkish version of the manuscript in the library of an Ottoman governor in Yemen, which he used as the basis for his translation. Al-Husayni dedicated his translation to Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (1628−58), who apparently disliked it and demanded revisions, which were done by Muhammad Afzal Bakhtiyari. This copy of al-Husayni’s translation was probably produced somewhere in India in the mid-19th century. The manuscript contains only one of the many versions of Timur’s memoir to have been written and revised over the centuries. It begins with a preface (folios 1−4) in which Bakhtiyari offers a note of praise to God, Muhammad, the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs, and the Timurid sultans. The preface also contains the title of the manuscript; a brief mention of the story of its discovery, translation into Persian, and revision; and remarks on its usefulness for future princes and statesmen, along with a commentary on the childhood and kingly life of Timur. This is followed by a brief section entitled “Divinely-Inspired Twelve Principles of Timur” (folios 4−5). Among the 12 principles by which Timur was said to have been inspired are “Just Rule,” “Differentiation between Truth and Falsehood,” and “Following God’s Laws.” The bulk of the manuscript (folios 5−653) covers events in the life of Timur. The narrative is in the first person, and begins with the appointment of the four viziers. Some of the events are titled with red subheadings, while others are not. A final section (folios 653−55) describes Timur being on the road to conquer China, the illness he contracts on the way, his wasiyat (will), and death. The manuscript is written in thick nastaʻliq script, although not in one hand, indicating that it was copied by one or more persons at different times. Turkish Chagatai quotations with Persian translations appear in various places in the text. Pagination is in Arabic numerals. There are numerous repetitions, tautologies, and obscurities throughout the text, reflecting the influence of the many official and unofficial biographies and memoirs of Timur that have been copied and recopied into various languages over the centuries by different individuals and for different purposes. These “Books of Timur,” of different genres and titles, were patronized and popularized mainly by Mughal rulers of India in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Title in Original Language
Type of Item
656 leaves (17 lines) bound : paper ; 29.5 x 17.4 centimeters
- Major Charles Stewart, translator, Malfuzat Timury: Autobiographical Memoirs of Moghul Emperor Timur (London: W. Nicol, 1830).
- Ron Sela, The Legendary Biographies of Tamerlane: Islam and Heroic Apocrypha in Central Asia. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).
- Howard Miller, “Tamburlaine: The Migration and Translation of Marlowe’s Arabic Sources,” in Travel and Translation in the Early Modern Period, edited by Carmine G. Di Biase (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2006).
Last updated: August 27, 2015