The Father of Modern History of Afghanistan

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By: Jafar Rezai

Katib Hazara: The Father of Modern History of Afghanistan
Katib Hazara: The Father of Modern History of Afghanistan

It rarely happens that a western educational institute will publish the books from a third world country, which is severely blackened with the names of the Taliban and terrorism. But recently, Robert D. McChesney, a well-respected professor at New York University fell in love with the books of Fayz Mohammad Katib, a historian from Afghanistan. Robert D. McChesney not only translates Katib’s book, Kabul Under Siege: Fayz Muhammad’s Account of the 1929 Uprising, but as director of The Afghanistan Digital Library, digitizes Katib’s 900 000 words. In May of 2004 the website announced that The Afghanistan Digital Library project at New York University has this month completed the digitization of Fayz Muhammad Katib’s 900, 000-word, documentary history of Afghanistan entitled Siraj al- tawarikh (Torch of Histories). Through decades, Fayz Mohammad’s works has gained a reliable reputation as a referral source amongst both Russian and Western scholars. Fayz Mohammad Katib in seven decades of his life, fought for reforms and democracy; he appeared as the hardest working historian in recent centuries, but despite his unique reputation in the outside world he was ignored intentionally for fifty years inside Afghanistan

Katib As An Intellectual

Fayz Muhammad Kateb was born in 1862, in a Hazara family in Gazni province. He started his education from early childhood at his village, Zarsang. Later, he went to India and Iran and studied Islamic science. When he was in his mid thirty his people, Hazaras experienced the harshest storm and pulverisation of their history by Aburahman, a newly appointed Amir by Britain. It is believed that Abdurahman massacred 62 percent of Hazara people during 1883-1887. Abdurahman and his fellow Pashtuns occupied the vast and rich parts of Hazarajat land. Despite all those creeks of blood which were still flooding in Hazarajat, Katib managed to enter into Adburahman’s court. Katib served years as a “member of Amir Abdurahman’s secretariat”. After Amir’s death, Habibullah, the eldest son of emir was the only person to replace him. Meanwhile, the small group of intellectuals known as Junbish-I Mashrutyat or The Constitutionalist Movement who survived twenty-three years of murderous emir welcomed the new power shift. The Constitutionalist Movement sent a letter for the new emir and asked him for social and political reforms. Even though, the new emir wasn’t as brutal as his father, he demolished the group and killed and imprisoned the members. Fayz Mohammad Kateb was among them and spent some times in Sherpur prison. But prison couldn’t stop his political struggle for a just and humane Afghanistan. Years later, when Amanullah Khan, the reformist emir came into power, Katib encouraged him to dismiss slavery. The encouragement of Katib and his fellow constitutionalists resulted the abolition of slavery and liberation of thousands Hazara, Noristani, and Badakhshani slaves. In the great assembly of 1922 in Paghman, Katib in his speech by relying to the roots of freedom and verses of Qur’an demanded the recognition of the Shi’a religion. Before finishing his speech the assembly witnessed a chaotic riot and condemnation of his boldness by the vast majority of participant tribe leaders and fanatic mullahs. Even though Katib’s historic speech didn’t result the recognition of the Shi’a religion, but it reveals the fact of the continuous struggles of a brave man who didn’t neglect any single opportunity, no matter what ever was the cost

Katib As A Historian

Katib is the author of ten valuable history books, but the ignorance and censorship of submissive governments led by a specific ethnic group caused that 4 of them still remain unpublished, and in his own magnificent hand script. Beside being a “historian, writer and intellectual, Katib is best known for his history books of Afghanistan called “Sarajul Tawarikh”, which provides one of the best references on the 19th century Afghan history.” (Wikipedia website) ” In 1893, he entered the services of Sardar Habiblullah, son of Amir Abdul Rahman, and began work on his monumental three-volume history.” (Ludwig W. Adamec) To compelte his books he was supplied with government archives and even profiled secret documents. Belonging to an oppressed people, it was brilliant opportunity for Katib to manage a life documentary of the brutal emirs who were known of building minarets from the heads of murdered innocent men, women and children. Katib in his unique rich prose booked emirs lootings, massacres, pulverisations, and another unspeakable crime’s commands and decrees. Katib in his history book with an old and ancient style prose usually says: His Highness and Majesty emir ordered to Hazara [or] Noristani [or] Badakhshani rebels have to be massacred, looted and enslaved…” (Online Sarajul Tawarikh) The contemporary Afghan intellectuals beside admiring his braveness and sacrifices believe that he was a wise man and able to analyze the mentality of emir and his court, how else could it be possible to bring in pen, and document, and publish all of those atrocities and brutalities by emir’s permission. But it doesn’t mean that Katib accomplished his risky mission without encountering harms. Several times he was punished and humiliated for his writing, also his two valuable books that didn’t contain implicit prose enough, found no permission to be published

Long Ignorance

Katib lived under the rules of several emirs, even Abdurahman, later his son, Habibluh Khan and his grand son Amanulla Khan, but he didn’t survive another Habibulah known as Bacha-e-Saqaw (son of water carrier), a “bandit Amir” who swept reformist king, Amanullah and ruled only nine months. “In 1929, Habibullah, Bacha-e Saqaw, issued a decree on the names of the renown Shiites of Kabul such as Mohammed Ali Jauntier Chandawali …, and Faiz Mohammad Hazara. They were asked to travel to Dai-Zangi[Hazarajat] and obtain the support of the Hazara populace in that area. But the Hazara people refused to do so, and the Shiite leaders of Kabul city returned without any success.The disappointed Habibullah then order them punished for failing in their mission. In the result of the brutal beating, Faiz Mohammad Hazara got sick for a few days, but later died on Wednesday (4th-Ramadhan, 1347 of Lunar Calendar)Feberuary14,1929

(Wikipedia website)

After his death Katib was ignored intentionally for five decades. Despite the vast usage of his books in internal and outside world educational inistitutes, belonging to oppressed Hazara nationalty no one was bothering himself to remind and appreciate his 50 years struggle for writing the greatest history books of modern Afghanistan. Even no body knew where his grave was. Finally, in the last years of communist regime, 18 years ago, they decided to break the long silence of depreciation of this great man and opened the closed windows of their morality. Since then, there have been held several international conferences in and out side of Afghanistan about Katib and his monumental history books. They called him “The Father of Modern History of Afghanistan”, what Katib deserved to be called long ago

Katib in seven decades of his eventful life fought for democracy and reforms; he used his affluent prose for documentation of a bloody history which cost him severe punishment in his life and a long ignorance after his peaceful rest. Writing the truth of history from inside the court of a brutal man who just finished killing sixty two percent of your people is an unimaginable risky play. Undoubted, his connotative fluent ancient prose survived him in that stormy ocean of blood. Katib was a brave and patient man who walled with words a surviving hut around him, and traveled with a monster emir on his kingdom ship in bloody ocean of nineteen century. Katib’s unique and peaceful struggles contain inspiring lessons for young generation of Afghanistan to fight against discrimination and warlords.


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  1. Ghazi Ghaznawi

    Enough already with the Pashtun bashing. Hazaras are counterproductive in their own ethnic bias and hatred towards Pashtuns. Forget the past and let bygones be bygones. Your cries will fall on deaf ears as soon as the West abandons Afghanistan again and you have to live in that environment and share that country with your brethren so tread carefully my Hazara brothers.

  2. rohullah rohani

    Mr Rezai you did a great job by writing this nice article about kateb and that professor of New York university. I really enjoyed studying your written. I hope u continue writing more about this kinds of topics.