Sunday, January 1, 2012

Scholarship (2)

Happy new year to one and all! I thought I'd begin 2012 with a positive note, this time from a rather touching preface to a book: Muhammad Saleem Akhtar's Sind Under the Mughals: An Introduction to, Translation of and Commentary on the Maẓhar-i Shāhjahānī. I refer to it as a book and not simply a translation because there is an impressive 133 page introduction. The translation is of the second part of Maẓhar-i Shāhjahānī which is history of Sind.* I pulled out my copy to glance though it after I saw one of the panels in AHA next month will cover partly this work. The part I felt was particularly touching was at the end of preface--touching because it differs so much from the self-aggrandizing tone of many introductions now. I'll just quote the portion in extenso to let it speak for itself:
"In the execution of this enterprise, the writer has not infrequently disagreed with his precursors. In criticizing their works, to which he owes so much, he was inspired by the same lofty ideals which prompted Hodivala to undertake the writing of the Studies in Indo-Muslim History, and the idea of discrediting or disparaging them never crossed his mind because he was more than anybody else conscious of the fact that hamah chīz hamagān dānad wa hamagān hanūz az mādar nazādah and ('It is the whole of mankind that knows everything, and the whole of mankind has not yet been born'). Nevertheless, the pursuit of truth has transcended all other considerations, and every effort has been made to uncover the facts."
M. Saleem Akhtar
Islamabad, 30 October 1989
Scholars of Indo-Islamic history owe much to Muhammad Saleem Akhtar for his critical editions and translation work. Perhaps there is something about doing the intensive labour of editing and translating that humbles people and makes them appreciate other's work. I am aware that not too long ago I myself complained about a certain lack of quality of scholarship, therefore the present post is more about self-reflection than preaching. Perhaps there shall be a new year's resolution to that effect.           
*The first portion was a tract on political ethics, a good old fashioned mirror for princes. It has not been translated. It has been examined in Sajida S. Alvi, "Maẓhar-i Shāhjahānī and the Mughal Province of Sind: A Discourse on Political Ethics," in Islam and Indian Regions, Texts, [Beitrage zur Sudasienforschung Sudasien-Institut Universitat Heidelberg, band. 145] eds. Anna L. Dallapiccola and Stephanie Z. Lallemant (Franz Steiner Verlag Stuttgart, 1993), vol. 1: pp. 239-258.

1 comment:

  1. Akhtar Sahib is a wonderfully kind and generous man. This is well-deserved praise.