ABŪ ṬĀLEB ḤOSAYNĪ ʿARĪZĪ, Mughal scholar chiefly famous for his alleged discovery of Malfūẓāt-e Tīmūrī or Wāqeʿāt-e Tīmūrī, an autobiographical account of Tīmūr from the 7th to the 74th year of his life. It also contains an appendix, called Tūzok or Tūzokāt (“Institutes”). But the veracity of both texts is in doubt, since the original Chaghatay Turkish document, supposedly discovered in the library of Jaʿfar Pāšā, ruler of Yemen, is no longer extant. Abu Ṭāleb presented a Persian translation of the work to Shah Jahān in 1047/1637-38. The Mughal emperor, on noting some discrepancies between his account and Yazdī’s, Ẓafar-nāma, immediately asked another scholar, Moḥammad Afżal b. Tarbīat Khan Boḵārī, to compare the two works, together with others from the same period, and make the necessary emendations and additions. Boḵārī’s enlarged version, representing a collation of its predecessors and extending beyond them up to the death of Tīmūr, was entitled Malfūẓāt-e Ṣāḥebqerān (Ethé, Cat. Ind. Off., p. 86).
Many historians of medieval India have been puzzled that Abū Ṭāleb could have found such a document in Yemen; his own silence regarding its authenticity and the non-availability of the original Turkish text have led several scholars to suspect that Abū Ṭāleb claimed to have used a (non-existent) Turkish document in order to promote his own Persian compilation of the life of Tīmūr. Davy, who translated the Tūzokāt into English, and Stewart, who made a similar rendition of the Malfūẓāt into English, together with Dowson (Elliot, History of India III, pp. 389-477), have forcefully argued that Abū Ṭāleb’s work was not his own independent production. Moreover, the late Professor Moḥammad Ḥabīb of Aligarh “had no hesitation in using it” in his critical study of the life of Tīmūr (History of the Delhi Sultanate, p. 102). Dowson also discounted the possibility that Abū Ṭāleb had based his work on Yazdī’s Ẓafar-nāma. Since the florid style of the latter contrasted with the plain and lucid style of the former, Dowson suggested a reversal of the pattern of literary dependency. But Dowson’s observation is untenable; it fails to take into account a still earlier work, the Ẓafar-nāma of Neẓām-al-dīn Šāmī, a biography of Tīmūr based on first-hand observation and written in an easy, straightforward manner. Not only Abū Ṭāleb, but also Mīrḵᵛānd, the author of Rawżat al-ṣafāʾ, and ʿAbd-al-Razzāq, the author of Maṭlaʿ al-ṣaʿdayn, appear to have drawn on the valuable historical testimony of Neẓām-al-dīn Šāmī.
Numerous Western scholars, including Sachau, Rieu, Ethé, Beveridge, Browne, and Houtsma, dismissed Abū Ṭāleb’s claims, viewing his translated autobiography of Tīmūr as apocryphal and probably a forged document. Yet the traditional popularity of his work is attested by the existence of numerous manuscript copies in European and Indian libraries, and there remains the distant possibility that Abū Ṭāleb will be vindicated by a discovery of the Turkish original on which his translation is said to have been based.
Neẓām-al-dīn Šāmī, Ẓafar-nāma, Beirut, 1937.
Šaraf- al-dīn ʿAlī Yazdī, Ẓafar-nāma, Calcutta, 1888; Tashkent, 1972.
Major Davy, Institutes, Political and Military . . . . , Oxford, 1783.
C. Stewart, The Malfuzat Timury . . . . , London, 1830.
L. Langles, Instituts politiques et militaires de Tamerlaŋ. , Paris, 1787.
M. Habib and K. A. Nizami, eds., The History of the Delhi Sultanate, Delhi, 1970, pp. 101-31.
Rieu, Cat. Pers. Man. I, pp. 177-79.
ʿAbd-al-Ḥamīd, Pādšāh-nāma I, Calcutta, 1866.
Kaykāvūs ʿOnṣor al-Maʿālī, Ketāb-e qābūs-nāma va resāla-ye tozok-e Tīmūrī, Tehran, 1285/1868.
Sobḥān Baḵš, Tozok-e Tīmūrī (Urdu), Delhi, 1845.
M. Fażl-al-Ḥaqq, Tozok-e Tīmūrī (Urdu), Bombay, 1908.
Originally Published: December 15, 1983
Last Updated: July 21, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 4, p. 389