The Sun of the Day, Volume 1, Number 9, January 1874


Shams al-nahār (The sun of the day) is the earliest printed periodical published in Afghanistan. The Afghan ruler Sher ʻAlī Khān (reigned 1863−66 and 1868−79) introduced the printing press to Afghanistan following a trip to India, where he appears to have been impressed by technological advances under the British Raj. At least three lithographic presses are known to have been operating in Kabul during the second period of Sher ʻAlī Khān’s rule: the Shams al-nahār, the Murtaḍāwī, and the Muṣṭafawī. The first issues of Shams al-nahār were printed at the Murtaḍāwī press. The publication moved to the Shams al-nahār press by the seventh issue at the latest. The first page of Shams al-nahār contains an emblem with a circular medallion enclosing the name Shams al-nahār-i Kābul and flanked by two sword-wielding lions. The lions allude to Sher ʻAlī Khān. Sher denotes lion in Persian, and ʻAlī, the revered son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, is often denoted by the epithet Shīr-i Ḥaqq (Lion of God). The entire composition is framed by devotional verses asking God for success. The present copy is the ninth issue dating to the 7th of Dhū al-Ḥijja, 1290, or January 26, 1874. The beginning of the periodical contains directions for becoming a subscriber as well as a list of subscription rates, and an advertisement for a reference work in Arabic, Persian, English, and Urdu. The remainder of this issue contains more than a dozen short news entries, ranging in length from several lines to a few pages. The articles relate news from Afghanistan, but also from European colonial powers that were greatly involved with Afghan affairs, notably Great Britain and Russia. Included are several reports on the marriage of Russian princess Maria Alexandrovna to Prince Alfred of Great Britain, as well as an article on the landing of British forces on the Cape Coast of Africa during the Third Anglo-Ashanti War. Some of the articles are attributed to Indian news publications (Ṭilism-i ḥayrat, Sind News, and Mufarraḥ al-qulūb). A few items, appearing under the title “The Situation of Europe via the Electric Line,” are stories that were transmitted via telegraph. News stories from Afghanistan include a report on a project to provide shelter to homeless persons in Kabul and on the death by exposure of an indigent Hazara woman.

Last updated: September 30, 2016