Thursday, 30 August 2007, 11:07 GMT
Sharafnama, the book

Farhad Pirbal

Farhad Pirbal

First written in the 16th century, Sharafnama remains a masterpiece in the Kurdish library, four centuries later.

Being the oldest book ever written by a Kurd, Sharafnama is of particular significance to historians. The creation of Sharafnama, or The History of the Kurds and Kurdistan, by Mir Sharafkhani Batlisi, is a turning point in the history of Kurdish culture. The fact that a Kurd, for the first time, put Kurdish culture under a spotlight is of special importance in contrast to other studies that were done before Sharafnama that viewed Kurds in the context of the Greater Islam World.

So, one could say the importance of this book is its "Kurdish attitude" and the fact that it tries to study the Kurdish nation through the eyes of the Kurds. Sharafkhani Batlisi, who is considered the greatest Kurdish intellectual of his era, has not only given invaluable information about Kurds and Kurdish culture, but gives us excellent insight into the lives of the Kurdish people in the 15th and 16th centuries.

In this issue, on the occasion of the 410th anniversary of Sharafnama, The Globe will present a short chronology of Mir Sharafkhani Batlisi and his master work Sharafnama.

-February 25, 1543: Sharfkhan was born, son of Shamsaddin Batlisi, in the Garmrood village near the city of Ghom in Iraq.
-1551-1554: He lived in the same house as the sons of the Shah Tahmaseb of Iran.

-1576: Shah Ismael of the Safavids gives him the title the Mir of Mirs (the King of Kings); appoints him leader of all Iranian Kurdish tribes. It is in this period when Sharafkhan learns how to sketch.

-1578, Sharafkhan abandons his previous stand and supports the Ottomans in their war against the Iranians, offering them 400 soldiers. Between 1578 and 1588, Sharafkhan virtually leads all the Ottoman wars against the Iranians in the era of the Sultan Murad III.

-1589: Sultan Murad III, the Ottoman Sultan, grants Sharafkhan the title of Khan. He becomes the Mir of the Batlisi province.

-1590: As he turned 53, Sharafkhan gives the authority of his dynasty to his son Shamsaddin Bag Abu Alma'ali.

-1591-1592: He begins writing the book Sharafnama.

-1597: The first edition was completed (safely kept in Oxford).

-1598: Sharafnama is written in a new style. Sharafkhan signs it. The book is kept in St. Petersburg.

-1607-1606: Once again, Sharafnama, in a new shape and script, is rewritten by Hasan Bin Nooraddin in the town of Kilis Ciliza near the city of Halab. In 1830, Sir Gore Ouseley gives a copy of the book to F.B Charmoy, a Russian Orientalist.

-1647: A new version of Sharafnama is produced with a new hand style. This particular version is kept in Paris at the library of the Oriental languages center, Inalco. It has not been seen since.

-1667: Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Bag Mirza translates Sharafnama into Ottoman Turkish. The translation is still kept in Turkey.

-1672-73: A new version is written all over again, currently held in Paris.


A portray made by Sharfkhan himself. Dozens of such paintings exist in his book Sharafnama. Image: Ferhad Pirbal Archives

-1777: D. Hedbilo, an Orientalist, talks about Sharafnama and evaluates it as an important reserve in his own book, Orientalist Library.

-1815: The English diplomat John Malcolm (1769-1833), comes across Sharafnama and speaks about it in his book, Histtorie de la Perse.

-1826: A Russian Orientalist, Frahen, discovers Sharafnama as a magnificent book on the Orient and encourages Europeans to translate the book into European languages. This he publishes in St. Petersburg. In the same year, another Orientalist, Wolkow, mentions the book in his article in a French journal called "Journal Aziatik."

-1828: The Russian Tsar army invades the Iranian city of Ardabil and confiscates the entire Safavid's library. A copy of Sharafnama is transferred to St. Petersburg where the Defense Ministry dedicates it to the Ministry of Culture. The copy remains there to this day.

-1837: Mahmoud Reza, son of Sabir Ali Karbalayee, in the village of Dilmakan in Iranian Kurdistan, writes a new copy of the book in 250 pages.

-1854: A Russian Orientalist, Khaykov, who was the ambassador of his country in Iran, buys a Mahmoud Reza version of Sharafnama and compares it with a different version bought in Yahya Khan from a Kurdish commander's library and sends it to Zernof.

1859-1853: An Orientalist, Barb, translates some chapters of Sharafnama into German, later published in Vienna in various papers.

-1858: At the official request of the Russian ambassador in Arzerum, Alexander Jaba, Mulla Muhammad Baiazidi translates a summary of Sharafnama into Kurdish (Krmani dialect) under the name of Tawarikhi Qadimi Kurdistan (Kurdistan Ancient Histories). The version is currently kept in Saltikov in St. Petersburg.

-1860: Two Russian Orientalists, Viliaminov and Zernov, for the
first time in history, translate and publish Sharafnama into French.

-1861: The same two Orientalists publish the second edition of Sharafnama.

-1868: Russian researcher Bernard Charmoy publishes the book in Russia in French, along with a study in the field.

-1875: Charmoy publishes the second edition.

-1930: Farullah Zaki Alkordi, the Persian version, is completed and published in Egypt. Mohammad Ali Awni writes the preface.
-1953: Mohammad Jamil Rozhbaiani, for the first time, translates Sharafnama into Arabic, supported by the Iraqi Association of Scholars.

-1967: Yevgeni Vasilivia produces the Russian version of the book along with a criticism.

-1970: Dr. Mohammad Shamsi, an Azerbaijani writer, obtains a Ph.D based on Sharafnama called "Sharafkhani Batlisi's Sharafnama: A source for history of the Kurdish nation."

-1972: The great Kurdish scholar, Hazar Mukryiani, translates the book from Persian into Kurdish. He writes a research paper as a preface. The 1,047-page Kurdish Sharfnama is published in Baghdad.