BADĀʾŪNĪ, ʿABD-AL-QĀDER B. MOLŪKŠĀH B. ḤĀMED, polyglot man of letters, historian, and translator of Arabic and Sanskrit works into Persian who flourished during the reign of Akbar.

Life. Badāʾūnī was born at Toda Bhim in the former princely state of Jaypur on 17 Rabīʿ II 947/21 August 1540 (Montaḵab al-tawārīḵ, Calcutta, I, p. 363). At the age of eighteen he was taken to Sanbhal to study under Shaikh Ḥāṭema Sanbhalī (I, p. 425, III, pp. 2, 66). In 966/1558-59 he went to Agra (II, p. 32), the then center of learning, where he studied for some years under Shaikh Mobārak Nāgawrī (III, pp. 67, 74). After his father died at Agra in 969/1561 (II, p. 53) he moved to Badāʾūn (Badāʾōn), where he married in 975/1567-68 for the second time (II, p. 105); about his first marriage we know nothing. In 973/1565-66, leaving Badāʾūn, he became the ṣadr (highest justice officer) of Ḥosayn Khan (II, pp. 86-87, 222), the jāgīrdār (land grant holder) of Paṭiālī (not Paṭiālā, as in EI1, p. 856), and moved with him to Lucknow and Gānt-u-Gōlā (the place is still unidentified). In 981/1574 he left the service of Ḥosayn Khan following a quarrel and went to Agra where he was presented to Akbar (II, p. 172). Impressed by his ability Akbar appointed him in 983/1575-76 as one of the seven court imams to lead the Wednesday prayers (II, p. 226). In the same year 1,000 bīḡas of land were granted to him as a madad-e maʿāš (income supplement) at Basāwar and after this he took a prominent part in literary activities. (In 997/1588-89 the grant was transferred to Badāʾūn; II, p. 368.)

At about the same time as Badāʾūnī, Abu’l-Fażl, son of Badāʾūnī’s old teacher Nāgawrī, also came to the court and he and his brother Fayżī gradually became Akbar’s favorites: they led an increasingly unorthodox, syncretistic, esoteric movement at the court, which culminated in the famous Dīn-e Elāhī, Akbar’s private religious sect. Badāʾūnī, a strict and conservative Sunni, lost Akbar’s favor and never won it back. The date of his death ranges from 1000 to 1024 (according to Storey, II/2, p. 1309, 1024/1615 may be nearest to the truth). His grave is according to Baḵtāvar Singh’s Urdu Tārīḵ-e Badāyūn (Bareilly, 1285/1668) at ʿAṭāpūr near Badāʾūn.

Works. Badāʾūnī’s fame rests mainly on his Persian Montaḵab al-tawārīḵ, also called Tārīḵ-e Badāʾūnī, a general history of India from Seboktegīn (r. 366-387/977-97) up to the year 1004/1595-96, which he began in 999/1590. The first volume starts with the Ghaznavids and ends with the death of Homāyūn, the second covers the first forty years of Akbar’s reign, and the third consists of a taḏkera or biographical anthology of saints, physicians, and men of letters of the time. One of the sources used by Badāʾūnī was Neẓām-al-Dīn Aḥmad’s Ṭabaqāt-e akbarī. The Montaḵab al-tawārīḵ was not published during the lifetime of its author. He deliberately kept it secret as it contained critical remarks about Akbar’s religious policies such as prohibiting the call for prayers in the imperial palace, the slaughter of cows, and the establishing of a brothel in the city where wine was kept running 24 hours a day.

Badāʾūnī was also a poet with the penname “Qāderī,” but none of his poetry has come down to us. Other works of Badāʾūnī, most of them commissioned by Akbar, comprise the no longer extant Ketāb al-aḥādīṯ (989/1581), a collection of forty Hadiths on the merits of holy war (jehād), and the Najāt al-Rašīd, a Sufi ethical treatise containing interesting historical anecdotes, controversial discussions, and an account of the Mahdawī movement (ed. Lahore, 1972). In 999/1590 he collaborated on a no longer extant Persian translation of Yāqūt’s Moʿjam al-boldān. Translations from Sanskrit include the following: Nāma-ye ḵeradafzā, composed in 989/1581 and partly in 1003/1595, a translation of a famous Sanskrit story collection about Rāja Vikramāditya called in Hindi Singhāsan battīsī (The thirty-two [tales] of the throne); several Persian translations of this work exist but none of them can be definitely identified as that of Badāʾūnī. While he was only a collaborator on a translation of the Mahābhārata (Persian title Razm-nāma; 990/1582), he alone completed the translation of the Rāmāyaṇa (Tarjama-ye Ketāb-e Rāmāyan; 992-97/1584-89). In 983/1575-76 he took part in the translation of Atharvaveda, but this was not completed (Montaḵab II, p. 212). In 1003/1595 he was ordered to complete the Baḥr al-Asmār, a translation of some story (possibly the Kathāsaritsāgara) made for Sultan Zayn-al-ʿĀbedīn of Kashmir. His Tarjama-ye Tārīḵ-eKašmīr (999/1590-91) is a revised and abridged translation of a history of Kashmir, probably the Rāja-taraṅgiṇī, of which a translation had previously been made by Mollā Shah Moḥammad Šāhbādī.

In 1000/1591-92 he was instructed by Akbar to epitomize the Arabic portion of the Jāmeʿ al-tawārīḵ (Montaḵab II, p. 84). Finally, he assisted in the compilation of Tārīḵ-e alfī, a general history of Islam down to the 1000th year, of which the first two volumes were revised by Badāʾūnī.



Badāʾūnī, Montaḵab al-tawārīḵ, ed. A.-ʿA. Kabīr-al-Dīn Aḥmad and W. Nassau Lees, Bib. Ind., 2 vols., Calcutta, 1864-69; Lucknow, 1868; Eng. tr., Calcutta: I, G. S. A. Ranking, 1898; II, W. H. Lowe, 1884; III, W. Haig, 1925; repr. Patna, 1973.

Neẓām-al-Dīn Aḥmad, Ṭabaqāt-e akbarī, Bib. Ind., Calcutta, 1913-, II, p. 468.

ʿAlī Aḥmad Khan “Asīr,” Ḥayāt Abu’l-Qāder Badāyūnī, ms. Badāyūn, special issue of Ḏu’l-Qarnayn, April, 1956.

Baḵtāwar Singh, Tārīḵ-eBadāyūn, Bareilly, 1285/1868.

T. W. Beale, An Oriental Biographical Dictionary, repr. Lahore, 1975, p. 4b.

Ḡolām-ʿAlī Āzād Belgrāmī, Ḵezāna-ye ʿāmera, Cawnpore, 1871, p. 323, no. 79.

H. Blochmann, “Badáoní and his Works,” JASB 38, 1869, vol. 1, pt. 1, pp. 105-44.

H. M. Elliot, Bibliographical Index, Calcutta, 1849, pp. 227-58.

H. M. Elliot and J. Dowson, History of India as Told by its own Historians V, pp. 485-549.

EI2 I, pp. 856-57.

H. Mukhia, Historians and Historiography during the Reign of Akbar, New Delhi, 1976.

Raḥmān-ʿAlī, Taḏkera-ye ʿolamāʾ-e Hend, Cawnpore, 1894, p. 130.

E. Rehatsek, Akbar Shah’s Divine Monotheism, Bombay, 1866.

Storey, Persian Literature II/1, pp. 435-440.

H. H. Wilson, “Account of the Religious Innovations Attempted by Akbar,” Quarterly Oriental Magazine 1/1, Calcutta, 1824, pp. 49-62.

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(A. S. Bazmee Ansari)

Originally Published: December 15, 1988

Last Updated: August 19, 2011

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