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Nasikh al-tawarikh (book)

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Nasikh al-tawarikh
Author Muhammad Taqi Lisan al-Mulk Sipihr
Original title ناسخ التواریخ
Language Persian
Series 6 vol.
Subject History
Genre Historical

Nāsikh al-tawārikh (Arabic: ناسخ التواریخ) is a book in Persian written by Muhammad Taqi Lisan al-Mulk Sipihr. It is an important source of Islamic history written in the Qajar period. The author intended to write a general history of the world but he could only finish the first six volumes from the creation of the Prophet Adam (a) through the biography of Imam al-Husayn (a). Although the book has certain remarkable features, some scholars have questioned its reliability because it involves unknown and unreliable hadiths, especially with regard to the history of Imam al-Husayn (a) and the Event of 'Ashura.

Author

Muhammad Taqi Lisan al-Mulk Sipihr was the son of Mirza Muhammad 'Ali, a nobleman of Kashan. He was born in 1216/1801 in Kashan and finished his educations there. He was a historian, a man of letter, and a poet in the Qajar period. He is mainly known for writing the book, Nasikh al-tawarikh.

Contents

Lisan al-Mulk Sipihr intended to write a comprehensive history of the world. He refers to his plan in different parts of the book. However, he could only finish the following parts:

The First Book: from Adam's (a) Fall from Eden to the immigration (Hijra) of the Prophet Muhammad (a). It includes two volumes:

  • Volume 2: from the Christ's birth to the migration of the Prophet (s) to Medina.

The Second Book: from the Prophet's (s) migration onward. Sipihr finished only six volumes of this book as follows:

  • Volume 1: history and life of the Prophet (s) from 1 AH/622 to 11/632, the year in which the Prophet (s) passed away. The book concludes with the Prophet's (s) virtues and attributes.

Lisan al-Mulk Sipihr wanted to continue the rest of Nasikh al-tawarikh with biographies of each Imam (a) in an independent volume together with the events of the history of the world in their periods. After Sipihr's death (1297 AH/ 1879), his son followed his lead: 'Abbasquli Khan Sipihr, known as Mushir Afkham (Lisan al-Mulk al-Thani), wrote the biography of Imam Sajjad (a), and in the meanwhile he translated the book, Wafiyyat al-a'yan by Ibn Khallikan.

Mirza Muhammad Taqi Khan Sipihr wrote the first book of Nasikh al-tawarikh: a history of Qajar in three volumes at the command of Nasir al-Din Shah.

Features

Mirza Muhammad Taqi Khan Lisan al-Mulk Sipihr was a Shiite historian. In writing the history of the Prophet (s), he took into account the views of both Sunni and Shiite scholars. When there was no disagreement between Sunni and Shiite scholars, he cited them as they were, and when there was a disagreement, he first cited the views of Sunni scholars and then those of Shiite scholars, and then elaborated their disagreements.

Sipihr's prose in Nasikh al-tawarikh is simple, and it is sometimes a quotation of the texts of earlier authors or is influenced by them, although for contemporary scholars its prose is complex. However, his prose is less complex in comparison with his contemporaries. It contains many Arabic words and expressions.

Unlike other historians who wrote biographies and life stories of the Shiite Imams (a) under the events of Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphs, Sipihr wrote the events of Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs under biographies of the Imams (a). In writing Nasikh al-tawarikh, Sipihr referred to almost all Sunni and Shiite sources. He was careful about the pronunciations of the names of people and places.

Importance

In defense of Sipihr and his work, Sayyid Ja'far Shahidi holds that the book is very valuable and progressive given the circumstances of historiography in the East from the beginning until the author's time. The work done by the author in this book outruns the capacities of one person, but the Qajar king ordered that translators and agents of his palace help him in writing the book.

According to Shaykh 'Abbas Qumi, Nasikh al-tawarikh exhibits the scholarship, eloquence, and knowledgeability of its author.

Criticisms of the Book

Qadi Tabataba'i said, in the criticism of the book, that Nasikh al-tawarikh is an official governmental history of the Qajar period, and its historical accounts cannot be relied upon. And if examined, many mistakes can be found in it.

Murtada Mutahhari believes that although the author of Nasikh al-tawarikh was a pious, religious person, his history cannot be relied upon. Mutahhari believes that older histories are, in general, more reliable, and more recent ones are less reliable, and particularly, historical books written in the Qajar period are not reliable at all, since they were written in lines with the views and goals of the Qajar kings.

A Book in which 'Ashura is Distorted

Some researchers of 'Ashura maintain that the part of Nasikh al-tawarikh concerning Imam al-Husayn's (a) life is rife with distortions and false reports since Sipihr relied on unreliable sources in writing this part. Here are some distortions of his account of 'Ashura:

  • A false story according to which Imam al-Husayn (a) and his horse offered each other to drink water first.
  • The story according to which al-Tirimmah saw the Prophet (s) in the Qatligah.
  • Hadith of Muslim the plaster worker.
  • The story of Fatima al-Sughra.

References