Muntakhab ul Lubab of Khāfi Khān

It is written by Muhammad Hashim whose title was Khafi Khan. It is a very important source of Aurangzeb’s period and covers aspects not found in other works easily. It can be compared to Barani and Abul Fazl.

Khafi Khan was born in 1664. For some time he was also connected with a Qutbshahi noble, Abdul Razzaq Lari. He served in the Mughal Empire down to the reign of Muhammad Shah (1719-48), and died sometime in 1731-32.

It is a history of India from its Muslim conquest down to 1731-32, i.e. 14 RY of Muhammad Shah. The work is divided into three parts. The first part deals with the Muslim rule from the beginning till the end of the Lodi dynasty. The second part gives the account of the rulers of Timurid dynasty down to 14 RY of Mohd. Shah. The third section is related to the local dynasties of India.

We are concerned only with the part dealing with the reign of Aurangzeb. Khafi Khan claims and actually appears to be an eye witness to most of the events. He also says that he himself recorded the events as well as consulted other eye witnesses and checked the records of the imperial office and contemporary chronicles. Referring to his sources he mentions the Alamgirnama and the Ma’asir-i Alamgiri apart from other sources from the earlier period. Khafi Khan says that he spent 16-17 years on its compilation.
He was an eye witness to many events which he recorded and he claims that he based his narration on the privately maintained account of the events of Aurangzeb’s reign, as well as on personal observations and verbal account of men who had been witness to these events.

He was a writer who was conscious of the duties of a historian. He says that a historian should be faithful, having no hope or fear. He should show no partiality or enmity and should not differentiate between a friend and foe while giving the facts. He followed this belief of his to a great extent. He praises Aurangzeb for his religious zeal, piety, concern for the public good and the concern for discipline. Yet at the same time he records the truth about Aurangzeb’s attitude towards Shahjahan, Dara Shukah, Prince Murad Bakhsh, Shaikhul Islam Qazi Abdullah, Prince Muazzam and his wife, with all regards and respect to Aurangzeb. He could not conceal his disapproval to these actions of Aurangzeb. He account is on the whole objective and reliable. He also presents a balanced picture of the conflict between Aurangzeb and Dara.

Muntakhabul Lubab is a complete, connected and a very detailed account of Aurangzeb’s period. Unlike Ma’asir-i Alamgiri or Nuskha-i Dilkusha, which mention just the grant of mansabs, promotions, appointments, transfers or despatch of nobles on expeditions and their military operation, Khafi Khan gives us a total and complete picture of the entire reign, providing us a sequence of events, interaction of political and economic developments, thereby giving us a correct and comprehensive understanding of this crucial period of Indian history. He gives very valuable details in much greater measure than Ma’asir or Dilkusha about the imperial policy towards the Marathas and the Deccani rulers. About the military operations there, actual condition of the two fighting parties (the Deccan & Imperialists) and their camps during prolonged campaigns of Aurangzeb is also discussed by him. He is perhaps the only historian who describes the influx of the Deccani nobles and its effects on the Mughal nobility, the mansabdari and jagirdari system which in time seriously affected the position and strength of the Mughal rule in India.

He also gives valuable comments on the character and functioning of some important officials and makes observations not only on the functioning of the government and administration in the second half of Aurangzeb’s reign but also on the agrarian and economic crisis of the period. His comments on the honesty and efficiency of the officials and nobles are objective and invaluable. He also mentions the mutual jealousies of the various princes and nobles: e.g. between Muazzam and Azam and between Asad khan and Inayatullah Khan etc. he also discusses the effects of these jealousies on the administration as a whole.

Khafi Khan is said to have been a Shi’i and thus prejudiced in favour of the Iranis. It may be correct but he did not refrain even from criticizing the Iranis and the Shia nobles. Again in spite of being a Shia, he was a great admirer of Aurangzeb. He did not in any way attempt to bring discredit to Aurangzeb.
Muntakhab ul Lubab is therefore an extremely valuable account for the history of Aurangzeb and its importance is much enhanced because of the fact that as regards to contents, the scheme of narration, nature of facts and analysis, no other source, contemporary or semi-contemporary comes near it.

Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi