Zahir-uddin Mohammad Babar


The Academic Babar

By: Hasan Beg*

Zahir-uddin Muhammad Babar is a charismatic personality. He passed his life on the horse back or in a tent all his life. In addition to his military adventures he contributed to literary and academic pursuits. We can truly call him ‘Sahib saif-o-qalam’, a man who wielded sword as well as the pen.

His contributions include his autobiography, his Diwans, Mubayyan, Risala Uroz, Risala Auzan, Khat-i-Babri. Wasayanama, his Hindustani words and his musical composition.

I will like to go, briefly, through his penmanship


His autobiography has various names like Babar Nama, Tuzk-i-babri and Waqe-aat, but he has mentioned in the autobiography on a number of occasions words like ‘in these Waqai’ thus it is better to call it Waqai– Babar.[1] He wrote it in Turki language and not Persian, the lingua- Franca of the period. This has elevated Turki literature in the world of languages. He did not give a long introduction. He is direct and to the point. Earlier part of Waqai is in a narrative style but it changes during the days of Kabul, when it becomes a diary with dates e.g. the date of 8th J. Aakhir 912 AH(1506-7 AD), when he met Mirzas’ of Herat. The major portion was written in India as mentioned by Gulbadan Begum.[2] The description is open, frank and self critical. He describes his ancestors, his relatives, their courtiers and the people he met, a little bit about his wives, and occasional self promotion.  He not only mentions people, but also comments about their characters and peculiarities. He also describes the history, geography of places and the countryside. He gives detailed account of Hindustan describing its land, its animals, birds and even aquatic beasts. He describes his disappointments, his failures and at times becomes self critical. Most unusually he describes his illnesses and his injuries.  He describes his symptoms, the time he spent in bed, the time it took him to recover, the medication or other treatments he used.    For a Medical person it is possible to diagnose his illnesses. I contributed an article about his Medical history.[3]

*Fellow Royal Asiatic Society, 15 Harcourt Road, Kirkcaldy KY2 5HQ, Scotland


Waqai has been translated into many languages of the world. Its new editions are being published every so often, even now. Urdu language translations have been three.  The first edition was in 1924 by Naseeruddin Haider of Hyderabad.[4] The second edition was by Rashid Akhtar Nadvi of Lahore, as this publication does not mention the year of publication it probably came out in early 1980.[5] The most recent one was in 2007, translated by Yunus Jafrey of Delhi and edited by myself.[6] A review on these Urdu editions was published by Shar Hameedova of Uzbakistan in Akhbar urdu.[7]



He has achieved highest accolade for his poetry. His biography cannot be called complete until the verses are taken into account. His main kalam is in Turki language. He has corrected verses in both his Diwans of Rampur [8]and Istanbul[9] by his own hand. He composed his first verse when he was seventeen years of age. This then continued until his death. His Farsi Kalam is meagre as compared to Turki. The Turki publications of Koprulu and Bilal Yucel[10] have not included his Persian verses. This Persian portion reflects aspects of his life in Hindustan like when he threatened Mir Biyana with a Rubai[11]:

بہ  ترک   ستیز ہ   مکن  ای   میر   بیانہ

چالاکی   و   مردانگی   ترک  عیاں است

گر   زود نیا  ئی   و نصیحت  نکنی گوش

آنجاکہ عیاں است  چہ حاجب  بہ بیا نست

(Strive not with a Turk, O Mir Biyana. Agility and bravery of the Turk is obvious, if you do not come soon and listen to reason, there is no need to clarify of what is obvious.)

He has included Hindustani words in two of his ashars. One was pointed out by Dennison Ross.[12]

مجکا نہ ھوا کج مانک و مو تی

فقر اھلی غہ بس پانی و روتی

(I have no desire for coral and pearls, for Faqirs water and bread in enough.

The other was pointed out by Naeemuddin in the Journal Islamic Culture in 1956 which goes:[13]

چو ما دی چوما مبتلا ی توایم

بہند وستا ن از برای  تو ا یم

(Give me a kiss as I am your devoted lover, I am in Hindustan because of you.)

His Ghazals are well known in Turki language areas of the world and still sung in Central Asian countries like Uzbakistan. He is most famous for his kalam after Mir Ali Shair Navai.

One verse which is repeatedly mentioned belonging to Babar:

نو روز و نو بہار  و  گل و می و دلبراں

بابر بہ عیش کوش کہ عا لم دوبارہ نیست

(New day, new spring, flowers, wine and women, Babar enjoy, as the life will not come again), does not belong to him but is the verse of Babar Mirza, grandson of Shahrukh as mentioned in Roza-tus Salateen.[14] Though there is no doubt that his life was true to this couplet.



Mubayyan[15] was written for his son Kamran who was ruling Kabul when Babar was on his adventures in Hindustan. It has principles of Fiqah Hanafi and lessons in morals. The heading of its chapters are: Kitab-ul-Iman, Kitab-ul-Salat, Kitab-ul-Zakat, Kitab-ul-Saum and Kitab-ul Haj. It has played an important role in spreading the Fiqah Hanafi in Hindustan.  Hasan Askari of Delhi in his book Tabqat-i-Babri says the full name of Mubayyan is Nafa-e-sul-Ma-asir Dar Fiqah [16].Badayuni also calls it Mubayyan (Guidance) [17]and Shaikh Zain wrote a treatise on it and called it Mubin (explanations).[18] It used to be learnt by heart in Madarsas after Quran, in Central Asia before Russian era.[19] There are two manuscripts of Fiqah Babri in Gangbakhsh library, Islamabad written on the request of Babar by Shaikh Nur-uddin Khawafi (925 AH).[20]



Khawaja Obaidullah Ahrar wrote this treatise in Persian prose, on the request of his father describing the principles and practices of Naqshbandi Sufi order.

Babar translated the Farsi prose into Turki Ashars in 935A.H. (1528-29) with the hope that he will recover from the ill health as Sharfuddin Busairi, the Egyptian poet recovered from his stroke after writing Qasida Burda in praise of Muhaamad (PBUH). Babar’s respect for Khawaja is shown in this rubai:[21]

در ہوائے نفس گمرہ عمر ضا ئع کردہ ایم

پیش  اہل اللہ از افعال  خود  شرمندہ  ایم

یک نظر با مخلصان خستہ دل فرما کہ ما

خواجگی را ماندہ ایم و خواجگی را بندہ ایم

(We have wasted our life in pursuing wayward desires; we are embraced in front of men of God. If you cast a glance on our broken hearts, we who have distinction will remain your slaves.)

Babar’s translation is an effort to simplify the difficult Sufi principles and practices in an easy language so that it can be practiced by common folk.

This Risala was first published by Akmal Ayubi from Aligarh in 1968.[22] The Farsi prose has been published by Arif Naushahi from Rawalpindi in 1373 (Shamsi).[23] Urdu translation has been published from Karachi, by Abdus Salam, Mohammad Sabir and Ansar Zahid Khan , this year in 2012.[24]



Babar mentions Uroz in Waqai,[25] This work on prosody contains a treatise on poetic meters. The standard work on the meters at the time was that of Ali Shair Navai, called Meezan-ul-Auzan. Babar criticised some principles of Navai. The manuscript was lost and rediscovered by Koprulu in 1922 from Paris.[26] This Risala gives more details for each theory and its application than Mizan and supplements Mizan. Additional forms of Turki poetry like Tuyug and Tarkhani are mentioned.



When Babar sent his Risala Auzan to Khurasan, a poet of the region replied by producing 252 auzan to his own shair. Babar felt that he has succeeded brilliantly in using Musam-man auzan but was short on Musad-das and Murab-ba auzan. He also felt the poet has only utilized vazn associated with twelfth variety of Bahr and not other Behrs. Thus he created 504 varieties of Auzan of his own Shair:

کوز و قاش و سو ز و تیلی نی مو دی

قد  و خد  و ساچ   بیلی  نی  مو دی

(Shall I tell of your eyes, your brows, your words, your way of speaking?

Shall I tell of your figure, your cheeks, your hair, your waist?)

Babar mentions writing Auzan in 933AH (1526-7 AD). The manuscript is available in Sultanati Library in Tehran and has been described by Eiji Mano.[27] According to Mano there are 498 Auzan in it. The manuscript was first described by Toghan in Lahore and the article about it was published in Oriental College Magazine, Lahore 1958.[28]


Babar mentions inventing this Khat in Waqai.[29] He wrote it down for Qazi Ikhtiar.[30] There appears to be two samples of it, a Quran in Mashhad (Catalogue 178) and another specimen in Tashqand (Central Asian review V7, p7).[31] The two scripts were compared by Haleem Yarqeen, who published a booklet in 2005 comparing the Arabic with two versions of Khat-i-Babri.[32] The two versions of available Khat-i-Babri are different and do not match. More work is needed in this regard.


There was a will attributed to Babar in Farsi housed in Bhopal State library, India. This was first mentioned in JRAS 1923. It was bought from a Muslim of Tonk in India. In this will Babar asks Humayun to be fair to people of Hindustan like Hindus, Muslims, Sunnis and Shias. He also asks not to destroy places of worship and not to consume Cows. Nath of Rajputana searched for this will in 1994 and published an article about his search for it  but it seems to have vanished. Its copies survive in Journals and in a book.[33]


Babar has mentioned many Hindustani words in Waqai. Mohammad Sabir of Karachi University wrote an article about these words[34], and Ansar-uddin of Tashqand has done a thesis for his doctorate on Hindustani words. He has counted 26 animals, 39 plants, 19 weights and measures, 19 words related to weather and days, 206 words of geography, 65 names and 36 miscellanea.[35] The spelling of these differs from the usual Urdu or Hindi spelling e.g:

باندر (بندر) ، کریال (گھڑ یال) ، املہ ، ( آنولہ) ،سنگتارہ (سنگترہ )               

I regard these as variants and spelling of a foreigner who had a short contact with strange land, strange people and their language.



Babar mentions that he invented musical composition ‘Chargah’ on a poem.[36] The time and concentration required was probably not there in his hectic life. Thus this field could not be attended to any further.

In conclusion the story of Babar is not only his military adventures, his transformation from rags to riches but also his contributions to prose, poetry, language, religion and to naturalism. It is not unfair to regard him as a genius of his age. It is the need of the day that his contributions should be studied in detail, translated into languages of Indo Pakistan and critical studies done on his legacy. His academic works needs to be translated and published, particularly in Urdu language, as they are related to our history, culture, religion and language.



  1. Beg, Hasan( ed),Waq-i-Babar, SheherBano Publishers, Kirkcaldy, 2007, p Re
  2. Beveridge, Annette, Humayun Nama, by Gulbadan Begum,Sang-meel Publications,

Lahore, 1974, p103

  1. Beg, M.H.A., Medical History, Zahiruddin Mohammad Babar, Journal of Pakistan Medical Association, May1981,p 114-117
  2. Mirza, Naseeruddin Haider, Tuzk Babri, Mohammadan printing Press, Delhi, 1924
  3. Nadvi, Rasheed Akhtar, Tuzk Babri, Sang-Meel- Publications,1980(?)
  4. As ref no: 1
  5. Hameedova, Shar, Tuzk Babri ka Urdu Tarjuma, Akhbar Urdu, Islamabad,

June 2012, p53-549.

  1. Babar, Zahiruddin, Diwan Babar (Manuscript S.T.297), Rampur Raza Library.
  2. Babar, Zaheer-ud-din, Diwan-i-Babar, Istanbul University, (Manuscript no:3743).
  3. Ucel,Bilal, Babur Divani, Ataturk Kultur Merkezi, Anqara, 1995
  4. As ref:1, p267
  5. Ross, Dennison, E. Collection of Poems by Emperor Babur, Asiatic Society, Calcutta,V: VI, 1910,p IV
  6. Naimuddin, Syed, Some Unpublished verses of Babur, Islamic Culture. 1956, V30, p50
  7. Rashdi, Hissam-ud-din (Ed), Harvi, Fakhri,Sultan Mohammad, Roza-tus-salateen-o-Jawaher-ul-Ajaib, Sindhi Adabi Board, Hyderabad, 1968, p 39
  8. Sehan, Oral(Ed), Babar, Zahir-ud-Din, Mubayyan Dar Fiqah, Chagri Yanelari, Istanbul, 2004.
  9. Askari, Hasan, (Ed) Khawafi, Shaikh Zain, Tabqat-i-Babri, Idara Adabiyat, Delhi, 1982, p 185, n 26
  10. Badayuni, Mulla Abdul Qadir, Mutakhibut-Tawareekh, Academica Asiatica, Patna, 1973, p450
  11. As ref: 16, p186, n26
  12. Sabir, Muhammad, Mah-e-nau, September, 1965, p53-56
  13. Fiqah-i-Babri, Ganj Baksh library, Islamabad, manuscript Nos:13928 & 8228
  14. Salam, Abdul, Khan, Ansar Zahid Khan, Risala Walidya, Pakistan Historical Society,Karachi, 2012,p 25
  15. Ayyubi, Akmal,N., A versified Treatise on Mysticism of Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur or the Risala –i-Walidiyye Terjumesi, Aligarh, 1968
  16. Naushahi, Arif (Ed), Ahrar, Obaidullah, Walidiya, Tehqiqat Islami, Tehran,

1373 (Shamsi), V9, No1,2, p 65-77

  1. As ref: 20
  2. As ref: 1, p143
  3. Mano, Eiji, The Collected Works of Babur preserved at the Sultanati Library in Tehran, The Toyo Bunko, 1999, p183
  4. As ref: 26, p 184.
  5. As ref:26, p175
  6. As ref No:1,p 119
  7. As ref No:1, p150
  8. Habibi, Abdul Hai, Tarikh Khat-O-nawishta Hai Kuhn, Afghanistan Academy, Kabul, 1350, p102
  9. Yarqeen, Muhanmmad Haleem, Babri Khat, Mosisah Intesharat-ul-Azhar, Kabul, 2005, ps 39 and 44
  10. Nath, R. India as seen by Babur, M.D.Publications, New delhi,1996, p18
  11. Sabir, Muhammad, Babar ki zaban main Urdu alfaz ka imla, University Studies, Karachi, August 1965,p 65-106
  12. Ibrahimov, Ansar-ud-din, Bobyphoma Gazu Xuhgya cyzaap (Russian), Tashkent, 2002, p79

36. As ref No: 1, p 221

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