The Baburnama
May 19, 2005 1:28 PM   Subscribe

The Baburnama Although Andijan has lately been in the news (NY Times, reg. required) as the site of riots against the US-backed government of Uzbekistan, its lasting claim to fame is that of the birthplace of Babur, the first Moghul Emperor.

Babur authored the Baburnama, often credited as the first Muslim autobiography and an endlessly entertaining read. The book's bloody-mindedness (Amazon's statistically improbably phrases include girth dagger, Uncle the Khan, and turn over the fortress) is leavened by a remarkably humane voice. A must.
posted by since1968 (8 comments total)
posted by longsleeves at 3:48 PM on May 19, 2005

How can the Baburnama be the first Muslim autobiography in light of Al Munqidh min al-Dalal by Abu Hamid Muhammad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Ahmad al-Tusi al-Ghazali, arguably the world's first recorded Gonzo stylist, more than 400 years previous?
posted by felix at 4:01 PM on May 19, 2005

(whups, forgot the link to the online version of same)
posted by felix at 4:03 PM on May 19, 2005

Gonzo stylist?..

True though, there have been prior reflections by muslim scholars in particular over their wild and wonderful life. I think however that those tend to be more with respect to development of ideas than incidents that occured - less storytelling, more analysis.

Looks interesting, will add to The List ^_^
posted by Mossy at 4:53 PM on May 19, 2005

Yeah -- Hunter S. Thompson 1000 years earlier without a doubt. Check out this passage from his translator, Mohammad Abulaylah:

As we have already said, some critics have argued about the historical value of the Deliverance from Error. Some went as far as to say that it was intended as novel, with himself as the central figure of the novel, a Bildungsroman (a development novel) as the Germans call this genre. These critics regard the book not as a true record of his real life and development, but as a fictional account written when he had finished developing. For example, Abd Al-Daim al-Baqari says that al-Munqidh is neither an Apologia pro vita sua nor an autobiography, but a novel with a message, a sort of roman a th├ęse, with al-Ghazali himself as the hero. He was trying to "leave to posterity a fictional image of his personality and give an interpretation of his life which would give him an unrivaled place in all the domains of thought and of the life of the Muslims of his time, including especially the knowledge and practice of Tasawwuf (Sophism). With a dosage of avowals insinuations which without being totally false would not correspond to historical reality." The crux of this argument is that al-Ghazali himself said that his actions were not directed towards Allah, but towards his own quest for fame and prestige.
posted by felix at 5:10 PM on May 19, 2005

Well, I'd never heard of it and I have a taste of old time autobiography. Always happy to find classics I've never heard of (I had heard of Ghazali). So thumbs up and thanks from here, at any event. It definitely goes on the list.

(Wonder if he had a ghost?)
posted by IndigoJones at 5:13 PM on May 19, 2005

(whups, forgot the link to the online version of same).

posted by TimothyMason at 11:58 PM on May 19, 2005

From the first link:

...reminding us that India, which would like to be a secular state, has always been a religious battleground.

Wrong. It was a religious battleground for a long time, but by the nineteenth century people were getting along pretty well, with everybody visiting each others shrines on feast days and lots of ecumenicalism. It's one of the many tragedies of the 20th century that Islam and the newly invented "Hinduism" wound up such bitter enemies in India (and Sri Lanka, for that matter). Politicians who use religion to set people against each other should die horrible deaths.
posted by languagehat at 5:20 PM on May 20, 2005

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