Give a brief account of early tradition of history-writing in Persian


Inspired by the Quran and Hades, the Arabic scholars began writing history in the 8th century. Apart from what was available in the Quran and other Islamic texts, efforts were made to collect the material from oral traditions also. The life and activities of the Prophet and his followers formed the main theme of these early histories in the 8th and 9th centuries.

Later on, along with these earlier themes, certain different themes such as history of religion, of conquests and of Islamic rulers were also taken up. With the development of local dynasties, the dynastic histories acquired prominence and became the main theme of the later Arabic and Persian historiographies.

As regards the beginning of history writing in Persian language, it was prompted by the emergence of Persian-speaking intelligentsia, which was not conversant with Arabic in the eastern part of the Islamic world. By the close of the tenth century A.D., the non- Arab Muslims in Iran and Central Asia felt the need to produce literature on Islam and its history in Persian language for the enlightenment of people. It is noteworthy that many of the earliest works were translations and abridgments of Arabic classics, beginning with the translation of Tabari’s Tarikh in 963 ad by the Samanid Wazir Abu Ali al-Balami.


Few of the local and dynastic histories written in Persian have survived, and there is little to distinguish them from the contemporary Arabic works, produced under the patronage of kings. The surviving histories written in Persian by Abu said Gardezi (Zain al-Akhbar) and Abul Fazl Baihaqi (Tarikh-i ale Subuktigin) are outstanding contribution to historical literature in Persian. Though Gardezi drew largely from Al-Biruni’s account of Hindus and their religion, yet we find additional materials in his Zain al-Akhbar on the reign of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna (died in 1030).

The importance of Baihaqi’s work appears from the fact that it was based on original state documents and a diary which the author used to maintain. It is also to be noted that the celebrated works, Za{nal-Akhbar of Gardezi and Tarikhi aU Subuktigin of Baihaqi, (composed around 1050 ad) were produced in the tradition of Arabic writers on Islamic history. Neither Gardezi nor Baihaqi seem to have been influenced by the ancient Persian historiography wherein historical fact and fiction were mixed up for the sake of literary embellishment.

The changes that took place in polity and culture under the impact of regional Sultanates should not be lost sight of by the historians. Their historical writing do reflect on the innovations in Muslim polity, yet the emphasis therein-show that the compilers were serious enough to point out the virtues and evils of a reign. They were also very particular about establishing the authenticity of an event before incorporating it in their respective works. Unlike the ancient Persian historians, their works are free from mythological elements or fiction.

These works became models to inspire the long line of Indo-Persian historians. It may be added that of the several volumes of Baihaqi’s Tarikh, only one, related to Sultan Masud’s reign (1030-1040) has survived. This surviving volume shows that the centralisation by Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna of political power continued under his successors also.


That all the officers and soldiers were paid their salary and allowances in cash and revenue assignment in lieu of cash salary was not a regular practice. In fact, the process of enhancing military profession was caused by the war-making function of the monarchy.

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