Saturday, November 12, 2011

Some books from India

Rather fortuitously, a few books arrived last week from India relating to my recent forays into the 18th century in North India:
1) Aḥmad b. Muḥammad ʿAlī b. Muḥammad Bāqir Iṣfahānī Bihbahānī's invaluable travelogue of North India during which he visited Benares and Lucknow in the age of Muḥammad Shāh, published by the Khuda Bakhsh Library in Patna is a wonderful facsimile edition [the text was also partially edited by ʿAlī Davānī and published in Tehran in the early 1980s but this is a far superior version]. To my knowledge, Juan Cole in his classic study of Avadh under the nawabs cites this work from a manuscript in the National Archives in New Delhi, and Muzaffar Alam and Sanjay Subrahmanyam have also cited it in their study of travellers to India. The text entitled Mirʾāt al-aḥwāl-i jahānnumā - subtitled on the front page as Safarnāma-yi Hind - was penned in 1224/1809. A scion of the Majlisī family (among whom he was far from being the first to seek his fortunes in India), he arrived in India in 1202/1787 and settled in ʿAẓīmābād [Patna]. The text itself is dedicated to Muḥammad ʿAlī Khān Qājār (d. 1237/1821) the eldest son of Fatḥ ʿAlī Shāh, and is divided into five maṭālib
Maṭlab I is a family genealogy of the elder Majlisī, Muḥammad Taqī (d. 1659) and his progeny. 
Maṭlab II is a genealogy of the younger and more famous Majlisī, Muḥammad Bāqir (d. 1699) and his family. 
Maṭlab III considers the genealogy of another ancestor of the author, the well known Akhbārī figure Mullā Muḥammad Ṣāliḥ Māzandarānī, who wrote a commentary on al-Kāfī, one of the key texts in the promotion of the study of ḥadīth in the late Safavid period. 
Maṭlab IV is a biography of the author's grandfather Āqā Muḥammad Bāqir Iṣfahānī.
Maṭlab V moves to the life of the author himself and is divided into three maqāṣid: I -on his birth and birthplace, II - arrival in India in Bombay, his travels in the Deccan and encounter with Sir John Malcolm and his journey north to Murshidabad and then west to Patna and beyond, and arrival in Fyzabad and encounter with notables in Lucknow (includes his rather critical comments on Sayyid Dildār ʿAlī and the 'supine' nature of the ʿulamāʾ at court) and elsewhere, ending with his return to the east and his arrival in Jahāngīrnagar (modern Dhaka), and finally III - on Europe and its institutions and customs [this desire to provide a comparative framework to a study of Avadh was common in a number of histories of the court written under Saʿādat ʿAlī Khān and Muḥammad Shāh. The khātima turns to the role of kings and notables and also provides a short sketch of Persian history from the fall of the Safavids to the time of the composition of the work. 

2) Muḥammad Khalīlullāh Anṣārī Farangī-Maḥallī and his family genealogy entitled Tuḥfat al-aḥbāb fī bayān al-ansāb - published by the Amīr al-Daula Library in Lucknow - the edition includes the Persian original (rather a bad facsimile copy) with an introduction and Urdu translation by Shāh ʿAbdussalām, a trustee of the library and now the director of the Raza Library in Rampur. The author does not seem to be well known but the source is a useful supplement to the existing histories of Farangī Maḥall such as Tadhkira-yi ʿulamāʾ-yi Farangī Maḥall of Muftī ʿInāyatullāh Anṣārī and al-Aghṣān al-arbaʿa of Muftī Walīullāh Anṣārī (the only copy of this I've ever seen is in the Oriental Books section of the Asiatic Society in Kolkata). The text itself is fairly short - around fifty pages. 

3) The final short work is also published by the Khuda Bakhsh Library in Patna and is a bio-bibliographical work by ʿAbd al-Salām Khān entitled Barr-i ṣaghīr kē ʿulamāʾ-yi maʿqūlāt aur unkī taṣnīfāt. Drawing mainly on Sayyid ʿAbd al-Ḥayy's Nuzhat al-khawāṭir, the standard sources of Kashf al-ẓunūn and Miftāḥ al-saʿāda and some local histories such as Tazkira-yi kāmilān-i Rāmpūr of Aḥmad ʿAlī Khān 'Shawq' (d. 1932, this text was published by the Khuda Bakhsh Library in Patna in 1986), it is a chronological list of those involved in the rational disciplines of logic, philosophy and theology from the earliest period. 

1 comment:

Arslan said...


About the third work, the number of individuals mentionned in Nuzhat al Khawatir was around 5000, could you please tell me how many names are there in Abd al Salam Khan's book (to have an idea of the "upgrade") ?