July 27, 2016

The Kabul Insurrection of 1841‒42

The Kabul Insurrection of 1841‒42 by Sir Vincent Eyre (1811‒81) is an updated and expanded edition of his The Military Operations at Cabul, originally published in 1843. Eyre was an officer in the Indian army who served as commissary of ordnance in the Kabul Field Force that marched into Afghanistan in the fall of 1839. He arrived in Kabul in April 1840, bringing with him a large quantity of ordnance stores. In November 1841 he was caught up in the uprising in Kabul by the Afghans against the Anglo-Indian force in which Sir Alexander Burnes was killed. The occupiers were besieged in their cantonments and Eyre was severely wounded. Under a treaty with the Afghan government, in early 1842 the Anglo-Indian force was given safe passage to evacuate the country. Accompanied by his wife and child, Eyre joined the column heading eastward but, along with the other British soldiers and civilians, he was taken hostage by the amir, Akbar Khan (1816–45, ruled 1842–45). The British hostages spent nearly nine months in captivity and suffered many privations, including severe cold and the effects of an earthquake and its aftershocks. In August 1842 the captives were marched north towards Bamyan in the Hindu Kush under the threat of being sold as slaves to the Uzbeks. They finally were released on September 20, after one of the prisoners, Major Pottinger, succeeded in buying off the Afghan commander of their escort. Prior to his release, Eyre had managed to smuggle the manuscript of his journal in parts to a friend in India, who sent it to England where, with the help of Eyre’s relatives, it was published the following year as The Military Operations at Cabul, as were his Prison Sketches, Comprising Portraits of the Cabul Prisoners, and Other Subjects. Eyre went on to have a distinguished army career, and retired with the rank of major general in October 1863. With the onset of the Second Anglo-Afghan War in late 1878, Eyre decided to reissue his journal from the earlier war. Published in 1879, The Kabul Insurrection of 1841‒42 contains a new author’s preface and two new preliminary chapters, the first a brief account of Afghanistan and its inhabitants, the second a retrospective, from the vantage point of the late 1870s, on the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839‒42). The contents of the older book are then reproduced, with the journal beginning at chapter four. The Kabul Insurrection of 1841‒42 includes a fold-out map by Eyre of the Kabul cantonment and surrounding country that appeared in the older book, a sketch map of Afghanistan, and three appendices with the texts of documents relating to the 1841 uprising in Kabul.

Tax Institutions and Offices of Afghanistan

Tashkīlāt va davāyir-i māliyātī-i Afghānistān (Tax institutions and offices of Afghanistan) is a textbook and reference manual written in 1935 for the employees of the Afghan Ministry of Finance. The author, Gino Mancioli, was an Italian national who served as the adviser to the ministry under Mohammed Zahir Shah, the last king of Afghanistan (reigned 1933–73). In the years leading up to World War II, Afghanistan relied on foreign assistance, especially from Germany and its allies Italy and Japan, in developing and implementing its plans for modernization. The work consists of three sections: the first covers the principles of taxation, the second treats the different governmental agencies involved in taxation, and the third includes templates for different official tax forms. A handwritten note by a previous owner defends the soundness of the presentations in the book but criticizes their implementation and ends with a solemn prayer for the advancement of Afghanistan.

The Garden of Mystery: The Third

Gulshan-i rāz (The garden of mystery) is a 20th century text on the Nizari Ismaʻili belief system, written by Nadir Shah Kayani (circa 1897‒circa 1971), a leader of the Ismaʻili community in Afghanistan. The title of this work deliberately echoes a celebrated Ismaʻili book of verse of the same name composed by Mahmud Shabistari in 1317. Nadir Shah’s work is organized in 14 sections, each of which discusses a philosophical or religious topic such as nafs (the soul) or namaz (prayer). The first section, on tafakkur (the faculty of thought), is written as a commentary on a verse from the original Gulshan-i rāz. Kayani’s leadership of the Ismaʻili community coincided with the reign of Muhammad Shah (Aga Khan III, 1877–1957). Much remains to be discovered about the Ismaʻili community of Afghanistan during this period. What is known is that Nadir Shah belonged to a family of Ismaʻili leaders based in the Kayan valley in northern Afghanistan. He was a prolific author who wrote both poetry and philosophical texts. The present work is a manuscript, most likely produced in Afghanistan. The script is nastaʻliq, written in black ink, 11 lines to the page, on a light-cream paper. The “third” in the title probably refers to Shabistari’s original work as the first Gulshan-i rāz. The identity of the second Gulshan-i rāz is not clear; it could be a reference to the well-known commentary by Shams al-Din Lahiji, written in 1472‒73.

The Utmost Knowledge of the Arguments for the Blessed Hajj

Written in India by an unknown author in the final decades of the 19th century, Ghāyat al-shuʻūr bi-ḥujaj al-ḥajj al-mabrūr (The utmost knowledge of the arguments for the blessed Hajj) describes the various observances associated with the Hajj pilgrimage. The introduction and the text are written in Arabic, but the main text is in Persian, as are two appended texts (by a different author), a taqriz (encomium) praising Ghāyat al-shuʻūr, and a shorter versified text directed against critics of the work. The main text is dedicated by the author to a nobleman by the name of Rahim al-Din. The afterword states that the work is a second edition, printed in 1290 AH (1873) by the famed Newal Kishore Press in Lucknow, the first edition having been printed in Calcutta in 1283 AH (1866‒67). Inserted prior to the discussion of the publication date is a chronogram that stands for 1290 AH, i.e., the date of the second edition of the work. The chronogram is credited to a Sayyid Munawwar Husayn, an employee of the court of Awadh (also called Oudh). The nawabs of Awadh were a Persian Shiʻa dynasty that had migrated to India from Nishapur (in present-day Iran) and that actively promulgated Persian letters and Shiʻa beliefs. The Nawabate of Awadh was stripped of power, however, by the British in the aftermath of the Uprising of 1857 (also known as the Sepoy Rebellion), roughly a decade before Ghāyat al-shuʻūr was first published. The mention of the court of Awadh is therefore somewhat anachronistic—a reference to what was by then at best a ceremonial office.

Mīrzā ʻAbd al-Raḥīm Raḥīmī

This book is a brief biography and introduction to the work of Mirza ʻAbd al-Rahim Rahimi, an Afghan poet who was active in the first half of the 20th century. The author, ʻAbd Allah Bakhtani, was a prolific Afghan scholar and translator who wrote primarily in Pushto. He states in the beginning of his work that his goal in writing the book was to highlight the literary achievements of Rahimi, an under-appreciated poet whose verse had never been gathered together in a proper divan or collection. The book offers little-known biographical information about Rahimi, noting that he was born in Surkh Rod in eastern Afghanistan and early in his career worked as a secretary in nearby Jalalabad. The book also includes examples of Rahimi’s poetry and correspondence. Rahimi composed poems in both Pushto and Dari, but the present work contains examples only of his Dari poetry. The first edition of this book was published by the Historical Society of Afghanistan in Kabul in the year 1933 of the solar calendar (1960‒61). A second edition was published in Peshawar, Pakistan in 2001.

Memoirs of a Traveler: Regarding the History of the Tajik people, the October Revolution, and the Founding of the Republic of Tajikistan

Yāddāsht-i yak musāfir (Memoirs of a traveler) is an account of the political and social history of the Tajikistan in the early 20th century, written from a pro-Soviet and pro-Russian perspective. The author, Fazl Ahmad Afghan, writes of leaving Afghanistan for neighboring Tajikistan near the turn of the century and records his observations about the remarkable progress made by the Tajik people in subsequent decades. He begins his history with the Emirate of Bukhara (in present-day Uzbekistan) on the eve of its annexation by imperial Russia in the 1860s and 1870s. The author emphasizes the backward character of this polity (placing special emphasis on the licentiousness of the clergy) and the hopeless plight of those living within its borders. Annexation by Russia brings some improvement in the form of the telegraph and postal service and other symbols of progress, but these changes only benefit the ruling class, leaving the working class to languish as before. The main portion of the book offers a glowing (and one-sided) account of the progress achieved in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution and the formation of the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic. Areas of progress in the author’s view include improved health care and education, equality for women, and an equitable system of control over the agricultural and industrial production by the working class. A notable feature of the early history of the Tajik Republic is that it was initially formed as an entity within the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. Writing in the mid-1930s, the author treats the secession of the Tajik Republic from the Uzbek Republic, which occurred in 1929, as not yet fully actualized. Several of the illustrations in the book depict public buildings said to serve the working class in the post-revolutionary period. The section on the period of imperial Russian rule includes an illustration of revolutionary Tajiks condemned to die for their seditious activities, while the section on the rule of the Emirate of Bukhara includes an illustration of an anonymous and fictitious victim of torture. The final chapter concerns the history of contemporary Afghanistan, but virtually all of the text for this section is missing. The final surviving portion of the book is a condemnation of British capitalism and its exploitation of Egypt, Iran, and Afghanistan, and a presentation of the argument that were these nations to be freed of foreign influence, they could share in the progress made by the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic.