October 7, 2014

Collection of Works from Hakim Sanai

Kitāb-i mustaṭāb-i Kullīyāt-i (Collection of works from Hakim Sanai) contains poetic works of Abu al-Majd Majdud ibn Adam Sanai Ghaznwai (died circa 1150). Abu al-Majd, better known as Sanai, was a famous medieval classical Persian scholar, poet, and mystic, thought to have been born and died in Ghazna (a present-day province in southeast Afghanistan) and also to have lived in Khorasan. Sanai is considered to be the first to compose qasida (ode), ghazal (lyric), and masnavi (rhymed couplet) poems in Persian, and he is famous for his homiletic poetry and role in the development of early mystical literature. He was connected to the Ghaznavid dynastic courts as a literary person whose patrons were state officials, military men, scholars, and the like. Modern collected works of Sanai are an outcome of a complex textual transmission stretching back centuries, during which their contents have changed in various ways, particularly in the order of poems, variant texts, and the numbers of verses. The oldest copy of his diwan (collection) that was copied in Herat in 1284−85 is housed now in the Bayezit Library in Istanbul. The last page of this lithographed edition, copied from one or multiple old manuscripts, states that it was printed and published at Matb-e Brejis in Bombay by Aqa Muhammad Jafar Saheb in October 1910. This particular collection is arranged by its genres and forms, such as ghazals, masnavis, qasidas, and others and by religious, mystical, ethical, philosophical, and courtly themes concerning God, mysticism, love, humankind, divine knowledge, ideas, and courtly culture. The work concludes with a brief biography of Sanai. The book has more than 130 pages in total, paginated with Indo-Arabic numerals. Verses appear very compressed throughout, covering entire pages including the margins. Almost all the poems have titles and are clearly separated at the end by “Sanai.”

The Mirror of Orrery

Āyinah-i jahān numā (The mirror of orrery) is a prose work of fables in Persian, which are relevant to both religious and worldly affairs. An orrery is a model representing the movements of heavenly bodies around the sun. The book was published in 1899 in Kabul by lithography. It is thought that it may derive in part from a work by Ḥusayn Vāʻiẓ Kāshifī, but the name of the author is unknown. This copy is arranged in several sections. It has a typically late-19th century Afghan-style leather cover embossed with flowers. The inside cover page also has a description affirming the approval for publication of ʻAbd al-Raḥmān Khān, then emir of Afghanistan, and the name of the scribe or the man responsible for the publication, Gul Mohammad Mohammadzai Durrani Afghan, who seems to have been an official in the Afghan administration. This information appears in more detail in the foreword and the epilogue, which mentions that the emir himself had read the book several times at night and approved its publication so that “people should read and benefit from its fables.” The contents are arranged as 14 short and 12 long fables. These fables cover themes of ethics, religious piety, honesty, loyalty, friendship, obedience, respect, and the like. The fable on pages 17−18 is on the moral and professional responsibility of society’s learned individuals in serving, advising, and correcting a (new) ruler or king. Page 28 has a fable on why it is wrong and potentially harmful if a person is not frank and truthful in addressing the king, a doctor, or friends. The 14 short fables that appear on pages 5−15 mostly start with the relative pronoun “That” or “Who.” The 12 long fables usually start “Scholars have said that” or “The story of.” Each title is in bold face and numbered. Well-known poems appear occasionally, as on page seven, often after a fable for the purposes of acclaiming its importance and value. The pages are numbered with Indo-Arabic numerals; pages 141, 173, 236, 270, 278, and 311 are missing. Pages 1−144 were by Gul Mohammad; after his death, his brother, Mohammad Zaman Khan Barakzai, completed the remaining pages.

Spiritual Rhyming Couplets by Rumi

Masnavi-e Manawi (Spiritual rhyming couplets) is the famous poetic collection of the medieval ecstatic mystic scholar and Sufi, Mawlānā Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī (1207−73), known in Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Iran as Mowlana or Mawlānā Jalaluddin Balkhi and in the West as Rumi. This Persian manuscript in nastaliq script is a complete 15th century copy of Masnavi, with all six volumes. Narratives, homilies, and commentaries appear throughout. Many stories have stock characters, such as beggars, prophets, kings, and animals. Ethical concerns, traditional wisdom, and stories filled with jokes, including ones about sexuality and ethnic and gender stereotypes, appear throughout Masnavi. Prose pieces are arranged extemporaneously, sometimes breaking off mid-narrative and resuming later. Masnavi begins with Rumi’s famous “Song of the Reed,” which is the 18-verse prologue. This song, scholars have argued, contains the essence of the work. A mystic who has become separated from God is searching for his origin, and longs to find it again; Rumi suggests in this song that love of God is the only way to return to that state. The first story of Masnavi expands on “Song of the Reed,” and is about a king whose love for a sick slave cures her illness. All six books have their own introductions. The introduction to book one, written in Arabic, defines Masnavi as “the roots of religion” and “uncovering the secrets of knowledge and union.” Masnavi’s contents are specified as a creed, holy law, proof of God, cure for man’s ills, and mysticism. Rumi also praises the supremacy of God: “He is the most protective and most merciful of all.” The other introductions are mostly in Persian (the one to book three is partly in Arabic) and some are part prose and part verse. In each one, Rumi praises his leading disciple and successor, Ḥosām-al-Din Chalabi (died 1284), and his contribution to Masnavi. The work has a mixed verse-and-prose conclusion in Persian and Arabic entitled “The seventh book of the books of Masnavi,” which is not part of the known original of Masnavi; however, there are claims for a seventh book. If true, then this manuscript is a rare copy. Rumi’s full name and the year of publication, 1435, appear on the last page of book six. The place of publication is not given; it was probably somewhere in Khorasan. Each narrative has a rubricated heading. Pages are not numbered.

History of Islamic Conquests

Tarikh-e Futuhat-e Islamiyah (History of Islamic conquests) is a two volume work chronicling Islamic historical events, particularly wars, battles, and conquests. It is also known as Tawarikh-e Islam (History of Islam) and Futuhat-e nabawai (Conquests of the Prophet). This lithographic copy is a Persian translation from the original Arabic work by Sayyid Ahmad ibn Sayyid Zayni Dahlan (1816 or 1817−86), an eminent scholar of Mecca and Medina. The translation was a collective effort by “scholars of Herat . . . for an Afghan audience to know about the history of Islam.” It was carried out by 11 translators who were approved by Governor of Herat Abdul Rahim Khan and supervised by his son, ʻAbd al-ʻAlīm Khān. Mullah Fakhruddin Khan Saljuqi was one of the main contributors. The preface by the 20th-century iconic Afghan poet, Khalilulah Khalili, praises the supremacy of God and the divinity of Islam, its Prophet Muhammad, and his followers. Khalili emphasizes the need for a history of Islam’s conquests in Persian, the lingua franca of high culture in Afghanistan. The contents of volume one range from the military campaigns and conquests of Usama bin Zayd, an adopted grandson of Muhammad, to the reign of Abdul Hamid II, one of the last sultans of the Ottoman Empire. The conquests include Syria, Persia, Anatolia, Egypt, Spain, Afghanistan, and other geographical regions in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Famous battles and peace treaties are also described. A short epilogue to volume one, by the translators and contributors, praises the completion and publication of the volume, and announces the intention to begin on the second volume. All events have subheadings both in the body of the text and on the page headers. Volume two covers 195 events, from the Mongol invasions of Islamic lands in the mid-13th century and the overthrow of the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad to the military campaigns and battles of 19th century Ottoman sultans. Also at the end of volume two are short descriptions of the moral and personal qualities and lives of Muhammad and of Islam’s first four caliphs, and a discussion of the reign of Sultan Abdul Aziz, one of the last Ottoman sultans. An epilogue and a table of word corrections appear on pages 538 and 539−44. The two volumes amount to about 1,110 pages, paginated with Indo-Arabic numerals. The paper and color are of poor quality, and some marks of water spillage are visible. There are stamps and signatures of several owners of the book on the cover and the last blank pages of the volumes. Extra notes appear on the margins of the texts, often providing additional information on a particular event or a Persian translation of an Arabic verse from the Qur’an, such as on page two of volume two.

Dīvān-i of the Chain of Gold

Dīvān-i Silsilah va al-Ẕahab (literally, The collection book of the chain of gold) is a work of Persian literature in verse. It forms volume one of a seven-volume literary collection of Mowlana Nur al-Din Abd al-Rahman Jami (1414−92), the famous Persian scholar, poet, and Sufi. The entire collection is known as Haft awrang (The seven thrones) and was one of Jami’s first major works. Volume one is the longest volume, composed sometime between 1468 and 1486. This manuscript copy seems incomplete, as the final narrative of verses on scholars and perfectionists finishes suddenly and awkwardly. This copy has more than 100 pages paginated in Indo-Arabic numerals. Each verse narrative has subheadings rubricated in blue, gray, and red. This copy lacks preface and epilogue notes, making it difficult to establish the place, date, and contributor of the publication. A black ink hand-written line on the first blank page reads “Silsilah-i zahab, 28 Rabi Al-Awwal, 1246,” being the title and the Islamic date (September 16, 1830), possibly the publication date. However, one of three seals on the same page gives the Islamic year as 1210 (1795−96); thus the correct date for this manuscript is uncertain. The author’s name, Mowlana Abd al-Rahman Jami, appears on the second page. The complete Dīvān-i Silsilah has three sections; the first deals with ethical and didactic themes and includes short anecdotes and criticisms of contemporary society. Section two is of similar structure and deals with carnal and spiritual love. The third section is the conclusion. This copy is structured around religious and ethical themes and various heroic, historical, and sententious stories. Several narratives, such as the first verses, are in praise of God, his divinity, and supremacy. Page six praises the Prophet Muhammad. The verses on page 11 are on righteousness and justice. Ethical stories include one on pages 28−31 of a king and his son or perhaps a question-and-answer session of a king and a slave; on page 39 a story of a teacher and his student; and on pages 90−91 the tale of a village boy who reverses his decision to sell his old donkey after he hears that the broker wants to sell it as a young donkey in the market. Jami had direct connections with the Timurid court and its rulers in Herat and in Khorasan, particularly at the court of Sultan Husayn Baiqara. Jami’s many works in poetry and prose include interpretive and religious commentaries, Persian poetry of different genres, mystical treatises, works on Arabic grammar, and elegies. He was influenced by Sufi mystical discourses, particularly of the Naqshbandi order, and by earlier Persian classic literary authors, including Sadi, Sanai, and Nizami. Scholars consider Jami’s work as representative of a shift from the classical to the neoclassical Persian literary era, and regard Jami as one of the last great traditional Persian poets.

“Siraj al-Tavarikh,” or History of Afghanistan

Siraj al-Tavarikh (literally, Histories of light) is a work on the modern history of Afghanistan by Faiz Muhammad Katib Hazarah (1862 or 1863−1931), one of the earliest historians in Afghanistan. The book was commissioned by Emir Habibullah Khan, ruler of Afghanistan in the early 20th century. Siraj al-Tavarikh is generally agreed to be a four-volume text covering the period between 1747, when Afghanistan under Ahmad Shah Durrani, the founder of the modern state, emerged as an independent polity in Khorasan, and 1919, when Amanullah Khan, Habibullah Khan’s son, came to power. It is also claimed, however, that there is also a fifth volume, covering 1919−29. This copy contains only volumes one and two, published as a single tome by the royal printing press of Matba-e Hurufi Dar al-Saltana-e Kabul in 1912−13. In this copy, volume one has a detailed preface on pages 1−2; the maps on pages 3−4 show the topography and “ancient geography of Afghanistan,” known as Bakhtar, Kabulistan, and Zabulistan. (When this region converted to Islam in the seventh and eight centuries, it was divided into the eastern part, from Qandahar and Kabul to Sindh, and the western part, which included Khorasan.) Pages 4−9 cover famous cities of Afghanistan and eastern Persia, including Kabul, Qandahar, Herat, Ghaznin, and Balkh. The main content of volume one, on pages 10−194, covers the reigns of the 18th-century dynasties of Ahmad Shah Durrani and his Sadozai Pashton (Pashtun) lineage, who ruled modern Afghanistan and parts of northwestern India until the early 19th century, when Emir Dost Muhammad Khan and the Afghan Barakzai lineage replaced the Sadozais as the dominant political line. Volume two of the original work, pages 195−377 in this edition, discusses the reigns of Dost Muhammad Khan and other Barakzai rulers until 1880, when Emir ʻAbd al-Rahman Khan, also a Barakzai, came to power. Page 196 has a half-page preface in which the author writes of finishing volume one and its approval by Emir Habibullah Khan. On page 197 is a family tree of the Barkazais. A short epilogue appears on page 377. Subheadings appear throughout, in both the main text and at the tops of pages. The pages are numbered with Indo-Arabic numerals.