The Life of Abdur Rahman, Amir of Afghanistan


ʻAbd al-Rahman Khan (1844‒1901) ruled Afghanistan from 1880 to 1901. He was a grandson of Dost Mohammad Khan (ruled 1826‒39 and 1845‒63), the founder of the Barakzai dynasty of Afghanistan after the fall of the Durranis and the end of the First Anglo-Afghan War in 1842. After long years in exile in Central Asia, Rahman came to power in Afghanistan with the support of the British, by whom he was later patronized financially, politically, and militarily. The Life of Abdur Rahman, Amir of Afghanistan is a two-volume work, edited and translated from the original Persian by Mir Munshi Sultan Mohamed Khan, the amir’s former state secretary. Volume one consists of 12 chapters, the first 11 of which are an autobiographical narrative of the amir’s life up to his accession to the throne at the end of the Second Anglo-Afghan War and his early years as ruler, in which he consolidated his grip on the country by defeating the Hazaras and conquering Kafiristan. The final chapter of volume one and the eight chapters of volume two consist of ʻAbd al-Rahman Khan’s observations and reflections on various matters as conveyed by Sultan Mohamed Khan. The titles of some of these chapters indicate the range of topics covered: “My Successor to the Throne of Kabul”; “The Means I Took for the Encouragement of Progress in Commerce, Industries, and Arts”; “A Few Details in My Daily Life”; “The Boundaries of Afghanistan and the Durand Mission”; “The Future of Afghanistan”; and “England, Russia, and Afghanistan.” The book includes a preface by Sultan Mohamed Khan in which he explains how the book was composed, and in which he claims that “since the time of the great Mogul Emperors—Timur, Babar, and Akbar, etc. no Muslim sovereign has written his autobiography in such an explicit, interesting, and lucid manner as the Amir has done….” The book is illustrated and contains a genealogical table of the Barakzais and several maps.

Last updated: September 30, 2016