The History of Afghanistan Online

Fayż Muḥammad Kātib Hazārah's Sirāj al-tawārīkh

The Sirāj al-tawārīkh is the essential text for any scholar wishing to understand Afghanistan’s history. It forms the core text of historical writings from within Afghanistan for the period, 1747-1919. Mystery surrounded the work for decades to how many volumes existed. After the discovery of suppressed parts of the third and missing fourth volumes, Brill can now offer this extended resource, as it was originally envisaged by its author, in an accessible English language translation.

The Sirāj al-tawārīkh is the most important history of Afghanistan ever written. For many decades, Afghanistan’s history had been recounted through records of the experiences and policies of the British in India. And yet the country has a rich historiographic tradition of its own; the work we present here is the pinnacle of Afghanistan’s own writings.

The Sirāj al-tawārīkh was commissioned as an official national history by the Afghan prince, and later amir, Habib Allah Khan (reign 1901-1919). Its author, Fayz Muhammad Khan, better known as “Katib” (The Writer), was a Shiʿi Hazarah of the Muhammad Khwajah clan and scribe at the royal court. For more than twenty years he had full access to government archives and oral sources. His seminal work, the Sirāj al-tawārīkh, offers us an unparalleled picture of the country through his eyes.

The roots of much of the fabric of Afghanistan’s society today— tribe and state relations, the rule of law, gender issues, and the economy—are elegantly and minutely detailed in this preeminent text.

The work is of unparalleled significance to anyone studying the social, political, and economic history of Afghanistan as well as its relations with British India, Qajar Iran, Tsarist Central Asia, and the emirate of Bukhara. The extraordinary level of detail make it a fundamental resource for all scholarship on Afghanistan.

The History of Afghanistan Online is annotated, fully indexed, and includes introductions, twelve appendices, Persian-English and English-Persian glossaries, and a bibliography.

The History of Afghanistan is also available as a set of 11 volumes in print, covering all four volumes of this unique resource on Afghanistan.

Please contact our sales team for more information on prices and licensing.

All interested in the history of Afghanistan, and anyone concerned with modern Afghan society and its roots in tribe and state relations, the rule of law, gender issues, the economy.
R. D. McChesney, Emeritus Professor, New York University, is the author of Waqf in Central Asia (1991), Central Asia: Foundations of Change (1996), Kabul Under Siege (1999), and numerous articles and book chapters. He is also founder and director of the Afghanistan Digital Library.
M. M. Khorrami, Ph.D. 1996, University of Texas, Austin, teaches Persian language and literature at New York University. His research field is contemporary Persian fiction. His publications include, among others,Modern Reflections of Classical Traditions in Persian Fiction (2003).
Volume One (The Saduzaʾi Era) contains a geographical sketch of Afghanistan and its political history from 1747-1843. It is based on written sources, European and Afghan, which are carefully detailed at the beginning of the volume, and the recollections of a few illustrious elderly oral informants.

Volume Two (The Muhammadzaʾi Era) covers the period 1843–1880 and is based mainly on Persian texts and oral sources. It is particularly noteworthy for its insight into the resistance to the British during the Second Afghan War (1879-1880) and on the early career and rise of Habib Allah Khan’s father, ʿAbd al-Rahman Khan (reigned 1880-1901), to whose reign the third volume is mainly devoted.

Volume Three is a documentary history of the period and contains verbatim transcripts of some 400 decrees and letters originating at the court as well as petitions received. It is an essential primary source for the economic and social history of the country, being packed with data on currency, prices, taxation, trading organizations, and the amir’s evolving economic and fiscal policies. It also has detailed descriptions of social groupings, including non-Muslims; family life—gender and sexual relations; and in particular, the always difficult and often violent relations between Shiʿis and Sunnis.

Volume Four was written in final form in the mid-1920s and relates to the period 1896-1919. Unlike the earlier three volumes, it was not subject to official oversight. As a consequence, it is much more candid about life and politics in Afghanistan than the previous volumes.
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