October 7, 2014

The Biographical Account of Timur

Kulliyat-e Farsi Taymurnamah (literally, The biographical account of Timur) is a biography of Timur or Tamerlane (1336−1405), the Turkic-Mongolian founder of the Timurid dynasty and lineage. It chronicles in detail his personal, political, and military life, including campaigns and conquests, and events in the regions of present-day Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Iran. Many biographies of Timur were produced during his lifetime and after. This lithographed version was published in Tashkent by Matba-e Ghulam Hasan in 1912. The last page of the introduction (pages 2−7) states that this book was written in 1792 during the reign of Shah Murad, founder of the emirate of Bukhara. The full name of the author, Mirza Muhamamd Qasim Ibn Abdul Khaliq Bukhari, appears on the cover, but no other information about him is provided. The introduction to this copy is a typical Persian historiographical trope praising God’s supremacy and linking the rise of a ruler, Timur, to divine sanction. The author emphasizes that this connection also held true with the prophets, from Abraham to Muhammad, and for the first four caliphs of Islam, Abu Bakr, Umar, Usman, and Ali. On page four the author states that “humanity” is of two types, firstly the prophets, then the kings, as protectors of religion, makers and keepers of peace, and defenders of justice with courage and bravery. (He says nothing about people who do not fit either of these categories.) Timur (Amir Timur Gorgan) is seen as the latter type, “unquestionably brave, and conqueror of the world from Bulgaria to China, and the ruler of Iran and Turan.” The author refers to other biographers of Timur, including Qazi Abdul Wakil and Abdul Razzaq Samarqandi. He covers Timur’s family background, coronation as a ruler in Balkh in 1369−70, and his military campaigns. The work also expands beyond the life of Timur to cover events relating to the lives of his descendants, including the coronation of Mirza Shahrukh as a dynast in Herat, the rise of Babur as emperor in Khorasan and India, and the emergence of the Uzbeks and Safavids as new political lineages in Mawaranahr, Khorasan, and Iran. Particular historical events, individual figures, and narratives are marked with bold subheadings within the text and above. The first dastan (narrative) on pages eight to 15 concerns the birth of Timur. The last dastan is on his death and briefly discusses his descendants, notably his 34 sons and his many grandchildren. Notes and the signatures of anonymous readers, or perhaps of the author, appear in the margins of the text, as well as seals and stamps of many other readers on the last page of the book. The work is about 440 pages, paginated with Indo-Arabic numerals.

History of the Pushtuns

Tavarikh-i Khurshid-i Jahan (literally, Histories of the sun of the world) is primarily a history of Afghan Pushtun (or Pashtun) ancestry. It describes Afghan Pushtun genealogies, the various lineages, and the many political events, wars, and polities, such as the Safavid and Mughal dynasties in Khorasan and India, with which the Pushtuns have historically been identified. The book is arranged in four sections. Section one is a detailed list of contents. Section two begins with a preface containing the names of the author, patron, and contributor and proclaims that the work is “to be a book of history of Afghan Pushtun ancestry since the creation of Adam.” This section covers the various popular genealogical legends of the Afghan Pushtuns, chief among them that they are descendants of one of the tribes of Israelites, specifically children of Saul, the first king of Israel. Section three is the main text and has eight chapters devoted to the history of the Pushtuns. An epilogue, written both in prose and verse, gives the author’s name, publication details, and a brief conclusion of the contents of the book. Tables charting the various genealogies of Afghan Pushtuns with detailed introductions to each lineage appear in several chapters. For example, tables outlining the descent of the Barakzais, Alokzais, Mohmands, Kakars, and other families appear on pages 188−319. These genealogical tables are followed by detailed discussions. The book was published in 1894 in Lahore (present-day Pakistan). The full name of the author, Sher Muḥammad Khān Saheb Gandapur Ibrahim Zai (circa 1837−1902), appears on the cover of the book. He most likely was a Gandapur Pushtun and an official appointed by the British in the municipality of Kulachi in Dera Ismail Khan, one of the administrative centers in the Northwest Frontier Province of British India. The preface says that he had written another historical work called Gulshan-i Afghanistan (Flower garden of Afghanistan), published under the title Hayat-i Afghani (Ancestry of the Afghans). Sher Muḥammad Khān claims that Hayat-i Afghani fell into the hands of Mohammad Hayat Khan Saheb, a judicial official in Bannu District of the province, who published it under his own name; the veracity of this claim has not been proven. It is clear, however, that Tavarīkh-i Khurshid-i Jahan was published under the patronage of Sardar Mohammad Hayat Khan Saheb, who could possibly have been the same official. The 319 pages of the work are numbered with Indo-Arabic numerals.

October 17, 2014

A Syrian Voyage in Central and South America

Father Henri Lammens was born into a Catholic family in Ghent, Belgium, in 1862. At the age of 15 he joined the Jesuits and later settled permanently in Lebanon. He mastered Latin and Greek and taught Arabic in Beirut. His first work was an Arabic dictionary, Farā'id al-lugha (The pearls of language), dating from 1889. He also served as editor for the Jesuit newspaper of Beirut, al-Bashīr (The evangelist). He wrote many works, most notably on the history of Arabia in the pre-Islamic era, as well as on the Umayyad dynasty. His scholarly work is marred by a lack of objectivity and an often violently polemical view regarding Islam. Among his well-known works are Remarques sur les mots français dérivés de l' arabe (Comments on French words derived from the Arabic), the Tasrīh al-abṣār (On archeological sites in Lebanon), and Etudes sur le régne du calipha Omaiyade Moʼawia Ier (Studies on the reign of Umayyid caliph Muʻāwiyah I). Lammens died in Beirut in 1937. Al-Riḥla al-sūrīya fī Amīrka al-mutawwasiṭa wa al-junūbīya (A Syrian voyage in Central and South America) is based on the author's trip to America and his essays about the trip published in al-Bashīr in 1893 and 1894. These pieces were translated into Arabic by Rashid al-Shartouni and published as a book by the Catholic Printing Press of Beirut in 1894. In the book, the author provides information regarding the religious practices, agriculture, industry, trade, and demographics of the places he visited. The countries covered are Cuba (chapters 1−3), Jamaica (chapter 4), Mexico (chapters 5−11), British Honduras (present-day Belize, chapter 12), Guatemala (chapter 13), Honduras (chapter 14), Nicaragua (chapter 15), Costa Rica (chapter 16), and Panama (at the time a department of Colombia, chapters 17−19), Colombia (chapters 20−23), and Ecuador (chapter 23).

Nymphs of the Valley

ʻArā'is al-Murūj (Nymphs of the valley) is a collection of short stories by the celebrated Lebanese-American author and artist Gibran Khalil Gibran. Gibran was born in 1883 to a Maronite Catholic family in the village of Bsharri in the north of Lebanon. His family immigrated to the United States in 1895, where he began his formal schooling, studying English and art. He is best known in the West for his book The Prophet, which was completed in 1923 and subsequently translated into more than 40 languages. Gibran died in New York City in 1931; he was buried in Lebanon according to his wishes. The book consists of three stories: Ramād al-ajyāl wa al-nār al-khālida (The dust of ages and the eternal flame), Martā al-bāniya (Martha of Ban), and Yūḥanna al-majnūn (Yuhanna the mad). Nymphs of the Valley was translated into English by H.M. Nahmad in 1948, and it has been translated as well into Spanish, Persian, and other languages. The present copy is the second printing of the book, published by al-Hilāl in Cairo in 1922.

An Agreeable Discussion of the History of Egypt and Cairo

This work is a printed edition of Ḥusn al-muhādara fī akhbār Miṣr wa al-Qāhira (An agreeable discussion of the history of Egypt and Cairo) by Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti. It covers the history of Egypt, its rulers and their armies, and their historical reputations. The book consists of two parts, printed in a single volume, by the Al-sharafīya publishing house in Cairo in 1909. Imām Abū al-Faḍl ʻAbd al-Raḥmān ibn al-Kamāl Abū Bakr Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī was born in Cairo in 1445. He memorized the Qurʼan at a young age, studied with many noted scholars, and excelled in the exegesis of the Qurʼan, hadith (sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad), jurisprudence, and Arabic. His travels took him to Hijaz, Syria, Yemen, and Morocco. He died in Cairo in 1505. He was an adherent of the Shafiʻī Madhhab school of law, on which he is considered an authority. He wrote more than 500 works on religious studies and linguistics. Among his well-known works are Al-Itqān fī ʻulūm al-Qurʼān (The perfect guide to the science of the Qurʼan), Tārīkh al-khulafā (History of the caliphs), Tafsīr al-Jalalayn (Commentary on the Qurʼan by the two Jalals, i.e., Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti and Jalal al-Din al-Mahalli), Al-Ṭibb al-nabawī (On prophetic medicine), and Durr al-manthūr (On interpretation).

The Commentary of al-Allāma Ibn ʻAqīl on “al-Alfiya” by al-Allāma Ibn Mālik

This work is a commentary by Ibn ʻAqīl on the famous 1,000-line poem on the principles of Arabic grammar, al-Alfīya by Ibn Malik. ʻAbd Allah ibn ʻAbd al-Raḥmān ibn ʻAqil was born in Cairo in about 1294 and died there in 1367. He was a leading grammarian of the Arabic language and wrote prolifically, but not much is known about his life. In addition to his commentary on al-Alfiya, his works include Taysīr al-istiʻdād li rutbat al-ijtihād (The facility of preparedness for the capacity of independent reasoning) and al-Jāmiʻ al-nafīs ʻalā madhhab al-imām Muḥammad ibn idrīs (The precious encyclopedia on the method of the Imam Muḥammad ibn Idrīs, in six volumes). Both al-Alfiya and the commentary are standard texts in the traditional Islamic curriculum. Muhammad ibn ʻAbd Allāh ibn Malik (died 1274) was an Arab grammarian born in Jaén in Andalusia (present-day Spain). After leaving Andalusia he settled in Syria. He is best known for his al-Khulāsa al-alfīya (or al-Alfiya for short), a versification of Arabic grammar that was to become one of the principal texts for education in the Arabic language across much of the Islamic world. At least 43 commentaries have been written on this work, which is so important because scholars had previously searched for dependable authentication of the grammar and lexicon of Arabic. Ibn Malik intended his poem as a teaching tool rather than a work of research. However, students were required to memorize it, which became controversial in modern times. This edition of the Commentary on the Alfiya by Ibn ʻAqīl was published in Beirut by al-Maṭbaʻa al-adabīya in 1885.