Tarikh-i-Khan Jahani wa Makhzan-i-Afghani

Book Review

Tareekh-e-Khan Jehani or Makhzan-e-Afghani

Dr. Sher Zaman Taizi

The book was written and compiled in Persian in 1021 H, when the Mughal
Empire was at the apex of its glory in India. It was translated into
English by Dr. Imam Din of Dacca University and in Urdu by Dr. Mohammad
Bashir of the Punjab University. The under review edition is the latter.

Dr. Bashir, in his foreword, has discussed the book and its author, and,
with all its drawbacks, considers it as a standard work. The biography
of the author – Niamatullah Heravi – has been taken from the original
prefaces, which goes like this:

In his early age, Niamatullah lived an obscure life. In 993 H, he was
the Chief Conservator of the library of Sipah Salar Abdul Rahim
Khan-e-Khanan until 1006 when he joined the retinue of Prince Saleem. In
1014 H, when the prince ascended the throne and adopted the title of
Jehangir, he appointed Niamat Heravi as the court-chronicler. In 1017 H,
Emperor Jehangir dismissed him from the service for some sort of
misdemeanour. Then he joined the service of an Afghan Amir Mian Pir Khan
alias Khan Jehan Lodhi who had crushed Marhatta uprisings against the
Mughal throne in Southern India through a series of battles in1019.
Niamatullah Heravi took part in all those battles. In Deccan, he
commenced compilation of the history at Malakpur on 20 Zilhaj 1020 and
concluded it at Burhanpur on 10 Zilhaj 1021. Later, in 1024, he added to
it the biography of Khan Jehan Lodhi and also mentioned the death of
Sheikh Shahab Bakhtiar which occurred on 25 Jamad-ul-Akhir the same
year. The book also contains material on the struggle for power between
Aurangzeb Alamgir and his brother Dara Shukoh in 1067, in which the
former succeeded to grab the throne. However, the author omitted the
events related the revolution of Khan Jehan against Emperor Shah Jehan,
in which the former lost his life. This leads the translator, Dr.
Bashir, to confusion about the death of the author. He draws his own
conclusion that since the author had developed some sort of difference
with Khan Jehan Lodhi and lived in recluse, he had purposely omitted the
events related to abortive revolution by Khan Jehan Lodhi.

If we analyse the account presented by Dr. Bashir, the Chief Conservator
of the library of a man like Khan-e-Khanan must be a matured learned
man in forties. So, the year of birth of Niamat could be around 95, and,
in 1040, he was an octogenarian if he still lived, and in 1067 more
than 110. So, it can be assumed with reservation that Niamat Heravi died
before 1040 and the events of later stage were added to his work by
someone else. His father, Habibullah Khan Heravi, lived in India in
service of the Mughal Empire. It is, therefore, believed that
Niamatullah was born at Agra or somewhere else in India.

The fifth, and the last, appendix gives an introduction of Haibat Khan
and his dedication to Khwaja Yahya Kabir, an Afghan Saint, who spoke

It gives an idea that the author enjoyed a good opportunity of reading
and recording of day to day events at the court of Emperor Jehangir by
virtue of his employment, which needed, of course, scholastic knowledge
and good command on languages. But, he left no other work except the one
under review, who which he was also inspired by Haibat Khan and Khan
Jehan Lodhi. The motivation behind this work was ethical and biased. He
was supposed to write something to aggrandise the Afghans as a nation
and boost up their morale. But, he did not hide his fear of the Mughal
power that reflected its cruel nature. He tried to balance his approach
to both the rival forces, which, noticeably, led him to confuse the
issue. His fear of the Mughal power is reflected in the titled he used
for the Emperors and avoiding of mention of their names repeatedly.
Babar has been titled as Firdaus-e-Makani, Humayun as Janat Ashyani and
Akbar as Arsh Ashyani and so on. Looking through his experience, his
language was not so fluent and rich, which is a common phenomenon if one
writes in hesitation under some pressure or compulsion.

In his preface, Niamatullah Heravi, having used the prefix of Khwaja,
has given his biography, the purport of his work, the bibliography and
has also summarised the contents. It is followed by another preface,
which gives genealogy of the mankind from Adam to Jacob, also giving
ages of a few Prophets in the line. Then the book starts chapter-wise.
Chapter No One gives the events to show as to who Saul was and how he
became the first Israeli King with proclamation from Prophet Samuel.
Saul fights Goliath, the strongest non-believer, who was killed by David
the Prophet. Saul grudged against David and tried to kill him. But
through a maiden saint, he established contact with dead Samuel, who
suggested to him to abdicate in favour of David and then offer
sacrifices of his sons and himself through Jihad against the
non-believers for redemption. He did so. Then his two sons Armia and
Barkhia, born after their father’s and brothers’ martyrdom, were
appointed b David in his court. A son of Armia was named Afaghena – the
forefather of the Afghans. The descendants of Armia, through Afaghena,
were driven out of Babylonia. A part of them took refuge in the central
parts of present Afghanistan, which are now known as Ghore. When Khalid
bin Waleed, who himself related to that family, embraced Islam, he
invited his kinsmen from Ghore. Led by Qais, they went to Mecca and were
introduced to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) by Khalid. They also embraced
Islam and then participated in Jihad. Qais was given the name of Abdul

From Adam to Qais Abdul Rashid, the events and genealogy have been
covered in two chapters and one preface, which have been summed up in
the preceding paragraph. It, however, needs some clarification. More or
less similar line has been taken by other scholars also and still a
number of interested writers rely on their information. But little is
known about the primary source of the information, and none of the
scholars has given any reference to it. Of late, certain Muslim scholars
took notice of it and rejected this whole story as a fabrication of
Jews. In 586 BC, when Nebuchadnezzar subdued Israelis and destroyed the
whole structure of their culture, having burnt their religious and other
literatures including the original Torah, the Israelis were so much
depressed that they lost all hopes of their survival. The Jews rabbis
and scholars realised the hanging threat of their total annihilation.
They worked devotedly to prepare a sacred book, later titled as the Old
Testament, in order to boost up the morale of their people. One part of
this book deals with the evolution of God, creation of Adam and then
Adam’s posterity in a line, which has been, almost, copied in
Makhzan-e-Afghani. The Pakhtun writers, commonly, refer to the lost ten
tribes and try to prove that they had migrated to central parts of
Afghanistan. But by that time, the Central Asia, including Afghanistan
had already seen a sequence of changes and development of a sort of
civilisation, which is elaborated by sociologists in different ways. So
this theory is falsified by the history, when we see the Persian Empire
expanded with glorious civilisation, its language and culture, and
religion (Zoroastrianism) and the area was then called Sogdiana. The
Muslim scholars take the Holy Koran as the source of information. The
Holy Koran describes the creation of Adam and depicted his life in the
Paradise and then his ouster from the Paradise. It mentions a number of
Prophets for very significant events. The Muslim scholars, down to
Maulana Maudoodi, although having slight variations in interpretation of
these events, have reject the stories, which do not coincide with those
mentioned in the Holy Koran and Ahadees, or with the well founded
historical facts.

Chapter III deals with Lodhi dynasty in three parts: (a) Behlol Lodhi,
(b) Sikandar Lodhi and(c) Ibrahim Lodhi with a passing reference to the
victory of Babar over Ibrahim at Panipat, which was, in fact, a turning
point in the history of India to usher in a new era with the Mughal
Empire. Chapter IV discusses the period of Suri dynasty in four parts:
(a) Sher Shah Sure, (b) Islam Shah Suri, (c) Feroz Shah Suri and (d)
return of Humayun, and short notes on some Afghan Sardars. These two
chapters have been copied from Tabqat-e-Akbari compiled by Mizam-ud-Din,
although it has not been indicated by the author.

Chapter V on Nawab Khan Jehan Lodhi was added later as the sole purpose
of the book was to magnify the character of the benefactor of the
author, who was so much interested in the history of the Afghans. This
chapter has been divided into five parts. As a fashion, the Nawab has
been named after a long row of titles. He is put in the same lineage of
Bani Israel.

Chapter VI explains the Afghan families in fourth parts: (a) Sarbani,
(b) Bitani, (c) Ghorghashti and (d) Karlani, which are repeated more or
less in the same pattern by most of the Pakhtun writers.

Chapter VII has been dedicated to Emperor Jehangir with all the
benevolent praises in his favour, so much so that the weight of the
chain linked with the gong for appellants, under the orders of Jehangir,
has been shown as 489 maunds instead of four maunds. And this is the
end of the book.

After the end, start the biographical sketches of the Afghan saints, 66
males and five females. This has also been divided into parts: 1-28 are
Sarbani, 29-48 are Bitani and 49-66 are Ghorghashti, the rest 67-71 are
females. These are quite interesting and gives an idea, if not complete
picture, as regards the contribution made by the Afghan saints to
propagation of Islam in India. It is followed by five addenda to give
some more genealogies of the Afghan families, the last one speaks of
Haibat Khan and Khwaja Yahya Kabir, which is, probably, the writing of
Haibat Khan.

The honoured translator has added five valuable indices of the names of
persons, places, quotations from the Holy Koran and bibliography, and
corrigenda. These have seized a hundred pagers. In the last, there are
eight genealogical trees of the Afghan families stemming from Qais Abdul

But there is no mention of any other person contemporary of Qais Abdul
Rashid. Here, the question arises; where have gone other people of the
lost ten tribes, and where and who are their descendants?

Throughout the book, there are serial numbers in brackets at intervals.
It has not been explained anywhere, but its shows that these numbers
denote the pagers of the original work from which it has been
translated. In the text, Persian verses have been quoted, and, at
certain places, Urdu translation of some quotations has been given,
which were of Pashto verses as indicated by the translator.

There are certain glaring mistakes in the chronology, which have been pointed out in the margin.
With all its drawbacks, the book is considered as one of the best works
in the Mughal period. It has a standard and is lays down a system in its
approach to the rise and growth of the Afghans in India. However, the
theory of the origin of the Afghans is open to question.

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