Tag Archives: Afghanistan History

The Historian of Afghanistan and Some of His Books

Faiz Muhammad Kateb

This year it is the 80th anniversary of the father of modern history of Afghanistan, Faiz Muhammad Kateb. The past week, BBC Persian had some great analysis about his works.

The first is a detailed research report about his life and works under repressive regimes, list of his published and unpublished books as well as his life as a political activist. The other analysis is by respected scholar Ali Amiri titled “Faiz Muhammad Kateb, the Rationalist Historian“, a scholarly analysis of his work. This one titled “In search of Kateb’s Works” is by Abdullah Shadaan, a former official of the National Archive of Afghanistan. This BBC report titled “3500-pages Works of Kateb Endangered to Extinction” tells the story of how a great part of Kateb’s works could be lost, due to the inattention of the Government and some political discrimination. It also includes concerns of the family members of Kateb about the danger of extinction of 3500-pages of his works.

Faiz Muhammad Kateb was born in 1862 Ghazni province’s Zarsang village, where he completed his primary education at mosque and local school. Later he went to India, Iran and Iraq for higher education.  He had full command on English, Arabic, Urdu and Pashto, while studied logic, communication, history, literature, Fiqa, astrology and geography.

He has written many books, of which some have been published including Siraj-ul-Tawarikh (Five volumes), Tofaul Habeeb (Three volumnes), Fayzi Az Fayozaat, Tarikh-e-Hukmayee Mutaqadimeen Az Haboot e Adam ta Baasat Hazrat Essa (PBUH), Nizhad Nama Afghanistan and Tazkira al Inqilaab. Some of these books, including the prominent Siraj-ul-Tawarikh have been translated into English.

The Afghanistan Digital Library of New York University has digitalized over 900 000 words of Katib’s work. Here is the GoogleBooks link for Robert D. McChesney’s translation of ‘”Kabul Under Siege: Fayz Muhammad’s Account of the 1929 Uprising“.

Here are the PDF translations of the famous Siraj-ul-Tawarikh.

Siraj-ul-Tawarikh (Lamp of Histories) volume one.

Siraj-ul-Tawarikh volume two

Siraj-ul-Tawarikh volume three, (378-572)

Siraj-ul-Tawarikh volume three, (572-734)

Siraj-ul-Tawarikh volume three, (734-800)

In Afghanistan, the Government make promises of publishing works of Kateb each year on his anniversary, but so far nothing has been done. Nobody knows about the promises of reconstruction of mausoleum of Faiz Kateb, establishment of a palace, building or an organization on his name by the Government and publishing and translation of his work in other languages.

In the previous years, the Government and Education Ministry would bother for a symbolic anniversary commemoration, but since last two years, those events have been forgotten. There is no Government support for republish of his work, and assistance for research projects about his unpublished works. In the above BBC reports, the family members of Kateb has said over 3500 unpublished pages are with them, which are endangered. Even hundreds of unpublished pages from later volumes of Kateb’s famous book Lamp of Histories are available with the family, but the Government, despite fake promises, has no interest to republish it, or allow the private sector to work on it.

Kateb was a historian in the secretariat of Amir Abdur Rahman Khan and later his son Habibullah Khan. He was put behind bars during Habibullah Khan, but later released under Amanullah Khan. As a historian of the Emir, Kateb’s six books were published, but some valuable four history books were unpublished due to censorship. Even the published works, like the 3rd volume of Siraj-ul-Tawarikh which is about the period of Amir Abdur Rahman Khan was public after some censorship and ‘amendments’ by Habibullah Khan, while there are uncensored editions of the book by Kateb’s own handwriting available. The 5th volume, unpublished and uncensored, has been already given to the National Archive of Afghanistan by the family of Kateb, but yet the Government has not published it.

Kateb is indeed the father of Afghanistan’s modern history. His boldness to bring the stories of those decades of tyranny into pen is a great service to the people of Afghanistan. Now the Government must not keep the same tradition of 19th century Emirs censoring the works of their own state-appointed historian, and bring the works of Kateb in publish for masses or allow the private sector to publish it.


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