ʿABD-AL-KARĪM ʿALAVĪ, MONŠĪ MOḤAMMAD, early 19th century Indo-Persian historian (d. ca. 1851). At a time when ornate literary conventions still prevailed, he was notable for his simplicity of narration. In recording events, he relied on oral and written accounts of participants and eyewitnesses. He was, however, somewhat credulous and occasionally recorded nonexistent persons and events (see, e.g., Tārīḵ-e Aḥmad, p. 15; Moḥāraba, p. 84). In general, his approach was unbiased, unsentimental, and impartial. Though a Muslim, he accused the Sind nobles of vulgarly assaulting the British commander and thereby provoking him to military action. But he also criticized the English soldiers in Afghanistan for their lewdness, which infuriated the sensitive Pashtuns and brought disaster to the expedition of 1841. ʿAbd-al-Karīm’s interest in describing the characteristics of Panjabis and Pashtuns gave a sociocultural flavor to his historical writing. In addition to the three histories which he wrote in Persian, he translated some handbooks on geography and astronomy from English into Persian and Urdu (Moḥāraba, p. 3); he also translated a variety of Arabic works into Persian, including an abridged version of Ebn Ḵallekān’s Wafayāt al-aʿyān.
ʿAbd-al-Karīm’s published works comprise the following: 1. Moḥāraba-ye Kābol va Qandahār, an account of the British invasion of Afghanistan, 1839-42 (see Anglo-Afghan War, First). The author also describes the professions, social organization, and economic conditions of the Pashtuns. The work was completed and corrected in 1847; lithographed editions were published at Lucknow in 1264/1848 and at Cawnpore in 1267/1851. 2. Tārīḵ-e Panǰāb toḥfa le’l-aḥbāb, also known as Toḥfa-ye aḥbāb, a history of the Anglo-Sikh wars (1845-46 and 1848-49). It includes such accessory data as figures for the supposed populations, armies, and revenues of Afghanistan, Iran, the Panjab, Nepal, Burma, and India (i.e., the United Provinces, Bihar, and Bengal); see p. 104, lithographed edition, Cawnpore, 1265/1849. 3. Tārīḵ-e Aḥmad (Šāh Dorrānī), a detailed history of the first three Dorrānī rulers of Afghanistan, up to 1797, derived from the Ḥosayn Šāhī of Emām-al-dīn Ḥosaynī Češtī, with a sketch of events up to the First Anglo-Afghan War. The text was lithographed at Lucknow in 1266/1850. An Urdu translation by Vāreṯ ʿAlī Sayfī, Vāqeʿāt-e Dorrānī, was published at Cawnpore in 1292/1875, and the final section, on Central Asia, was translated into French by C. Schefer (ʿAbd-al-Karīm Boḵārī, pp. 280-86)
Storey, I/1, pp. 402-04, 673.
Neẓāmī Badāʾūnī, Qāmūs al-mašāhīr (Urdu), Badaun, 1926, II, p. 68.
M. Shafi, “ʿAbd-al-Karīm Munshī,” EI 2 I, p. 72.
(N. H. Zaidi)
Originally Published: December 15, 1982
Last Updated: July 14, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 2, p. 121