Despite being one of the major political forces of the 16th century Muslim world, the Central Asian Abu’l-Khayrids (r. 1500-99) have been comparatively less studied than their Mughal, Ottoman, and Safavid contemporaries. As noted by Yuri Bregel (2011), ‘no monographic studies of the Abu’l-Khayrids were produced either in Soviet or post-Soviet time’, although certain periods of the dynasty’s political history have received opportune attention (see for example Dickson 1958).
An aspect of particular interest in Abu’l-Khayrid history resides in the way this ‘steppe-based dynasty (…) on the fringes of Islamic civilization’ strived to appropriate the extensive cultural heritage of the Timurids in order ‘to achieve full legitimacy to rule within the Islamic sphere’ (Subtelny 1983: 132-33). Associated with similar processes among rival Muslim rulers, this renders the study of Abu’l-Khayrid cultural history a particularly worthwhile undertaking, to which this communication vows to present a modest contribution.
This contribution consists in the study of Eastern Turkish translations of two Persian historiographical classics, Rashīd al-Dīn Fażlallāh’s Tārīkh-i mubarak-i Ghāzānī (c. 1302-4) and Sharaf al-Dīn ‘Alī Yazdī’s Ẓafarnāmah (c. ca. 1419-25), realised at the court of Kūchkūnjī Khān (r. 1512-30) in Samarqand. Both preserved in unicum manuscripts respectively kept in Tashkent and Istanbul, the translations were composed by Muḥammad ‘Alī b. Darwīsh Yār ‘Alī, a man also known as the copyist of manuscripts of Mīrkhwānd’s Rawżat al-ṣafā and Khwāndamīr’s Ḥabīb al-siyar (Binbaş 2012: 394-95).
In this communication, I will introduce the texts of both translations, studied in comparison with their Persian originals, with a view to examining both the translation processes and the motivations for Kūchkūnjī’s patronage. I will articulate my presentation around the following research questions: Why were these two books specifically chosen? What does this choice tell us of the early Abu’l-Khayrids’ intellectual world and self-image in the Turco-Persianate sphere? Finally, how can these translations be related to general trends in early 16th-century Abu’l-Khayrid cultural history?