The following Memoirs are translated from the Persian version of the Arabic work composed by Abúl-Nasr-Muhammad’-bn-Muhammad-Al-Jabbar-Al-Utbí. He was descended from the family of Utba, which had occupied important dignities and offices under the Princes of the house of Sámán (Kings of Khurasán, and nominally feudatories of the Khálifs of Bagdad). Of this family two are mentioned in the present Memoir, one, Abúl-Hasan-Utbí, was Grand Vizier of the Samanide Amir Mansúr-’bn-Núh, and the other, Abu-Jaafar-al-Utbí, was the nobleman to whom the Chamberlain Abúl-Abhás-Tásh was originally a slave; our author himself, as he was evidently attached to the person of Sabaktagin and his son, doubtless filled some eminent post at Court, he possessed, therefore, the best facilities and opportunities for the compilation of these historical Memoirs, which comprise the whole of the reign of Sabaktagin, and are carried on to the 14th year, at least,* of the reign of the Sultan Mahmúd. It is probable, therefore, that Utbí did not long survive the date at which his Memoirs terminate. It is to be regretted that this history, being thus cotemporary and personal, does not extend to the whole of that remarkable reign; it, however, comprises that portion of it which was most stirring and eventful. It must be observed, however, that if the dates given by Dow, in his History of India, and probably taken from Ferishta, be correct, Utbí must have survived to a very late period of Mahmúd’s reign, as some of the transactions recorded by him appear to coincide with those mentioned by the above author. There are difficulties, however, attending the hypothesis of Dow’s correctness, and possibly the authority of a contemporary writer may be more appropriately preferred, at least by his translator.

The translation of this work into Persian was undertaken by Abúl Sharaf of Jabardicán, under the circumstances which he mentions in his preface, that is, in order to amuse the faithful Ulúgh-Barik , a feudatory prince of the Atábegs, and at the same time to instruct and warn him by the example of Sabaktagin and Mahmúd, upon the subject of the advantages of righteous government, and of the ruin inevitably consequent upon oppres­sion on the one side and disloyalty on the other. The Translator derived the name Jarbadécáni from his birth-place, the town of Jabardicán, between Hamadan and Isfahan, in Persia. His work was executed in the year a.h. 582, corresponding with a.d. 1186, the very period when the dynasty of Mahmúd Sabaktagin was expelled from the throne of Ghazna, and succeeded by the family of Gúr. The Persian MS. from which the present English version is rendered is a copy of one deposited in the Bibliothèque Impériale at Paris. It was beau­tifully, and the Translator is convinced, accurately taken by Monsieur Kasimirski, lately Imperial Interpreter to the Persian Envoy at the Court of the Emperor of the French.

It may reasonably be demanded, why the Translator did not elect to render this history from the Arabic original text rather than from the Persian version? In replying to this question, the Translator will not only allege the greater difficulty of the Arabic language as the ground of his selection; for the Persian easy indefiniteness possesses its own occasional perplexities, especially in the finer turns and phrases, and he would not have grudged the labour that would have been involved in translating from the Arabic M.S., since he would have thereby augmented his ac­quaintance with that most interesting language. Arabic is the only classical dialect which still sur­vives and is spoken; it appears to have nearly absorbed and replaced all its kindred tongues. Hebrew exists but in the sacred volume, Syriac almost entirely in ecclesiastical documents alone; but Arabic still exists in all its fullness, and sup­plies us with an immense copia verborum whereby to illustrate and explain any obscurities that must necessarily arise in languages of a restricted and limited character. The highest truths are pre­sented to us in words which have been chosen by the sacred writers out of the whole mass of secular utterances as best adapted to represent the ideas which they designed to express. That mass or body still survives in the Arabic, and it is evi­dent that the nicer and finer hues, shades, and synonyms of the sacred tongues must be mainly sought in that mass. It is vain, also, to expect the attainment of a scientific, satisfactory and sound acquaintance with the Persian, Turkish, or perhaps of the Hindustáni languages, without some knowledge of Arabic. Yet, notwithstanding these great and obvious advantages, the study of Arabic generally tasks the patience of all except sincere lovers of labour; and the study of some Arabic compositions would deter many who are un­willing to devote a large portion of life and exertion to that pursuit. The difficulty of the grammatical rules, so precise and numerous, the copiousness of the epithets, the minute shades of signification which distinguish different words, the forms and conjugations of the same word, and, above all, the extensive degree in which logical and rhetorical constructions are admitted into the laws of syntax, afford an agreeable exer­cise for ingenuity and reflexion in tracing out these intricate windings, and arresting the thoughts of any author, unless his subject and his style be obvious and simple. But in translating from such a language into another so dissimilar as our own, there is some danger, with most, of falling into obscurity and harshness. Not that the language is itself at all obscure; on the contrary, if the numerous laws of grammar be rightly used, all is clear; the treasures are soon found by those who possess the keys of the various recesses in which they are deposited. The opinion attributed to Bishop Warburton, “that the translators of the Old Testament would not have been able to ascer­tain a definite sense from the Hebrew, if they had not ascertained it from the Septuagint version,” would not, at the present time, be well founded; for the labours of the last century have now, chiefly by reason of the Arabic, rescued the Hebrew from all cloudiness, and perplexity, and placed the laws of its construction upon as firm and evident a foundation as those of Greek.

It was not therefore only on account of the general abstruseness of the language, that the Translator of the present work, having proceeded some distance on his labours, resolved to transfer them to the Persian version. It was because the original work of Utbí is designedly and unusu­ally difficult, and would have occupied far more time than the Persian. It is a misfortune, that several of the most esteemed Arabic authors have sought fame and reputation in exaggerating the peculiarities of their language, and have exercised their ingenuity by the employment of far-fetched terms and words with uncommon, involved methods of grammatical construction, so as to render it necessary, even for their own co-linguists to use some research before they could fully ascertain the due meaning of the composition. The Kitáb-al-Yamíní-al-Utbi,* was said to be one of these productions of exceptional difficulty, and various commentators have found it advisable to explain it, in order to facilitate its perusal by native stu­dents. The Translator, therefore, under these cir­cumstances, after some hesitation and with some regret, unwilling to incur additional delay, decided to render the whole work from the Persic version. The Translator, moreover, deemed it requisite to abridge time and labour also with respect to the Arabic verses of various authors quoted and inter­spersed throughout the work.* There is here another difficulty to contend with, the difficulty that is of always obtaining a correct reading, on account of the paucity of MSS. and the im­possibility of collation. To those who are aware how long and carefully Arabic verses must be examined and pondered before the sense and scope of the poet appears plainly— can be disentangled, seized, and embodied in English words— this diffi­culty will be allowed to be formidable. The Persian Translator also, by no means adheres to the original in transferring the verses before him, but frequently and avowedly substitutes others for those cited by Al-Utbí. The Translator has therefore contented himself with giving all the Persian verses, all the short Arabic verses, and a specimen of each of the longer poems. It is im­possible to transpose Arabic poetry perfectly into English, and he imagined that the above propor­tion would suffice to afford the English reader some idea of the nature of these curious produc­tions. The Translator having rendered several chapters of the work from the Arabic original text, is enabled to believe that the Persian version is generally faithful, and occasionally verbally so. It appears to have been collated with the Arabic by the learned transcriber, M. Kasimirski, of Paris, for whose useful little notices in the margin, and suggestions of emendations in the text, the writer offers his sincere acknowledgments.*

A summary of this historical memoir (from the Persian), by the late eminent orientalist, M. Sil­vestre de Sacy, appeared in the 4th Volume of the “Notices et Extraits,” published in the year 7 of the Republic.

It omitted a portion, as not immediately refer­ring to the Ghaznevide history, and was so much abridged, as to afford but little assistance in the labour of translation. But from the remarks and notes of this illustrious scholar, the Translator received great benefit, and it is from the latter that he has chiefly borrowed the short geographical explanations which are occasionally subjoined.*

In estimating the value of the present contri­bution to Eastern history, as it must be allowed that many of the incidents herein comprised are already to be found in Ferishta and other authors, so others appear to be unknown or attended with varying particulars and circumstances: the per­sonal narrative also of a contemporary probably conveys a more correct impression of events, even because it is somewhat diffuse, since character and motives are obtained from details. Dow, one of the earliest English authors who treated of the history of Hindustán, complains of the dry brevity and conciseness of Ferishta; Al-Utbí may occasionally overlay his facts with too much that is extraneous, but as he more frequently prefers a plain recital,* the Translator resolved not to abridge any part of the prose narrative. He is supported in this resolution by the high authority of the Asiatic Society of Paris, who in their Report for 1841, drawn up by M. Mohl, remark, with reference to the question of curtailments and abridgments in oriental translations, “En y ré­fléchissant sérieusement, on se convaincra peut être que le système des traductions intégrales offre néanmoins des inconvénients moindres que celui des traductions incompletes. On produit par cette dernière méthode un ouvrage plus agréable à lire,” (with our present author this would not be the case, the translation reads more smoothly if it flow on uninterruptedly,) “mais ceux qui veulent faire des recherches ne s’en serviront jamais qu’avec défiance, parce qu’ils ne peuvent pas savoir si le traducteur n’à pas omis les faits qui dans leurs re­cherches particuliers leur importent le plus.”

The value, then, of Al-Utbí’s memoirs consists partly in that character of special authenticity which their occasional diffuseness and digressions tends rather to develope than to impair; but this historical fragment is also very interesting in itself; it exhibits the identity of the Oriental mind, especially as developed in the tribes of Affghan or Turkoman, or Bukharian blood. Their shrewdness and acumen, the readiness with which they yield to impulses, and their unaccountable spirit of fickleness, appear to have remained un­changed during eight or nine centuries, so that some of the events recorded by Utbí find their parallel in those of the recent mutiny in India.

But this chronicle is also highly interesting as an historical notice of one of the most remarkable empires ever founded on earth, and which, if it had been permanent, consolidated and extended, would have turned the current of the world’s his­tory into a direction different from that in which it has flowed, for this empire was formed in Central Asia— in a land for the most part fruitful and tem­perate, the native country of the vine— possibly the cradle of the human race. A right line drawn from the mouths of the Indus, through Almora to Tibet, may express the boundary of this empire towards the south; but the territory, from this limit towards the north and north-west, including the provinces on two sides of the Caspian, Aff­ghanistan, Khurasán, Bukhárá, and the greater part of modern Persia, &c., passed by degrees to Mahmúd’s immediate and direct sovereignty, and his power as Emperor Suzerain extended beyond these boundaries. He appears to have included amongst his vassals the princes of the family of Boíah, or Boyah, who, in addition to various provinces of Persia, including Kirman on the Persian Gulph, and others bordering on the Caspian and Oxus, enjoyed the office of hereditary Vizír of the Khálifs of Bagdad, and Amír of Mesopotamia, &c., and who, in fact, disposed of the Khálifat, and nominated and deposed those ecclesiastical rulers at their pleasure; so that Mahmúd in this, his extended sway, may well be said to have mingled the Euphrates with the Ganges.* His empire was nearly placed at the point of junction of Europe and Asia; it nearly possessed the ad­vantages of position which adapted Byzantium to become New Rome, and, moreover, included India within the sphere of its influence. Such an empire might have become powerful and enduring— might have reached the shores of the Mediterranean, and have been thus connected with Europe. It really did gain a wide authority and renown, and its real strength existed at least as long as that of any other dynasty which has been supreme in Hin­dustán. Perhaps one cause of its stability may have been the sagacity of Mahmúd in not estab­lishing* his capital in India, in not withdrawing from Ghazna, and not remaining isolated amidst conquered and hostile nations, at a distance from his resources. The supreme power was thus external, any check was retrievable, and the pride and zeal of Muhammadan fanaticism was soon aroused to suppress any revolts amongst the Hindús, with whom the Ghaznevide subjects were not as yet blended.