Completing the Narrative on the History of the Afghans


Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1838–97) was a pan-Islamic thinker, political activist, and journalist, who sought to revive Islamic thought and liberate the Muslim world from Western influence. Many aspects of his life and his background remain unknown or controversial, including his birthplace, his religious affiliation, and the cause of his death. He was likely born in Asadabad, near present-day Hamadan, Iran. His better known history begins when he was 18, with a one-year stay in India that coincided with the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857‒59. In what would become a life of constant travel, he soon went to Mecca to perform Hajj, before returning to Afghanistan to join the service of the country’s ruler, Dost Mohammad Khan (1793–1863). He later sided with Dost’s son Mohammad Aʻzam, who ultimately lost in a power struggle with his British-supported brother Sher Ali. Al-Afghani’s political activism eventually took him to Paris, London, Tehran, Saint Petersburg, and Constantinople. It was during his second stay in Egypt (1871–79) that he cemented his role as a reformer. He found in Cairo a class of young intellectuals who gathered around him, established newspapers, and used these papers to disseminate his ideas. Chief among al-Afghani’s Egyptian disciples were scholar Muhammad ʻAbduh, journalist ʻAbd Allah al-Nadim, and nationalist politicians Mustafa Kamil and Saʻd Zaghlul. Al-Afghani’s influence on both modernist and traditionalist Islamic thought continues to the present. An activist who sought to effect change through political journalism and public speaking, he did not write many books. This small book, entitled Tatimmat al-bayān fī tārīkh al-Afghān (Completing the narrative on the history of the Afghans), was written during the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–80) and was published in 1901. It begins with a dedication by the publisher, ʻAli Yusuf al-Karidli, to ʻAbd al-Rahman Khan, the ruler of Afghanistan. Two short chapters at the beginning discuss the etymology of the name Afghanistan and the ancestry of its people. The third chapter covers Afghan political and military history starting with Mahmud of Ghazni (971–1030); the fourth deals with the “different people inhabiting the lands called Afghanistan.” A conclusion discusses the “general conditions of the land” and is followed by a 12-point list of advice from an unnamed “emir of the Afghans” to his son.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

ʻAli Yusuf al-Karidli, Cairo


Title in Original Language

تتمة البيان في تاريخ الأفغان

Type of Item

Physical Description

192 pages : illustrations ; 19 centimeters


  1. N.R. Keddie, “Afgani, Jamal-al-din,” in Encyclopædia Iranica 1, number 5 (New York: Bibliotheca Iranica Press, 1985).

Last updated: September 30, 2016