ŠARIF KHAN, Moḥammad


ŠARIF KHAN, Moḥammad (d. ca 1807), a physician at the court of the Mughal emperor, Shah ʿĀlam II (r. 1760-1806), author, and the eponymous founder of the Šarifi family, distinguished as the leading physicians of the yunāni medicine in Colonial India. He descended from a family of theologians and physicians who traced back their origin to the mystic ʿObayd-Allāh Maḥmud Aḥrār (d. 1490), an influential Sufi Shaikh of the Naqšbandi order in Transoxiana. Šarif Khan studied at a madrasa in Delhi that was run by the sons of the Naqšbandi scholar, Shah Wali-Allāh (d. 1762), and with them he was one of the first Indian scholars to attempt to translate the Koran into Urdu. His most famous work is Taʾlif-e šarifi, a Persian dictionary of the Indian materia medica. This book was translated into English by George Playfair, a superintending surgeon serving in Bengal. Playfair writes in the introduction that the drugs used by local physicians have beneficial effects for many diseases for which the Western pharmacopoeia has no adequate remedy (Rieu, II, p. 842; Monzawi, I, p. 486). Šarif Khan also wrote the ʿElāg al-amrāż, a book in Persian on the treatment of diseases (Āḡā Bozorg, fasc. 15, p. 310), and Ḵawāṣṣ al-jawāher on the medical and occult properties of precious stones. An abridged version of this book, the Toḥfa-ye ʿālamšāhi, was dedicated to Šāh ʿĀlam (Rieu, II, p. 842). Among his other works are tracts on phlebotomy, China root (čub-e čini), sexology, logic, Sufism, translations and annotations of Avicenna’s al-Qānun fi'l-ṭebb and of Nafis b. ʿEważ Kermāni’s commentary of Najib-al-Din Samarqandi’s Ketāb al-asbāb wa ʿalāmāt. Šarif Khan died in 1222/1807 and was buried near the tomb of the Češti mystic Qoṭb-al-Din Baḵtiār Kāki (d. 1236).


ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy Ḥasani, Nozhat al-ḵawāṭer wa bahjat al-masāmeʿ wa'l-nawāẓer … tarājem olamāʾ al-Hend wa aʿyānehā men al-qarn al-awwal ela'l-qarn al-sābeʿ, 2nd ed., 8 vols., Hyderabad, 1962-81, VII, p. 216.

Āqā Bozorg Ṭehrāni, al-Ḏariʿa elā taṣānif al-Šiʿa, ed. Aḥmad Monzawi, 24 vols., Najaf and Tehran, 1936-78.

Ḥakim ʿObayd-al-Raḥmān Eṣlāḥi, “Ḥakim Moḥammad Šarif Ḵān, Urdu kā pahlā motarjem-e Qorʾān,” in Alṭāf Aʿẓmi, ed., Ṭebb-e yunāni awr urdu zabān wa adab, Delhi, 2004, pp. 129-134.

D. N. Marshall, Mughals in India: A Bibliographical Survey, Bombay etc., 1967, p. 341.

Aḥmad Monzawi, Fehrest-e nosḵahā-ye ḵaṭṭi-e fārsi, 5 vols. in 7, Tehran, 1969-74, I, p. 486.

Charles Rieu, Catalogue of the Persian Manuscripts in the British Museum, 3 vols., London, 1966.

Moḥammad Šarif Khan, ʿElāj al-amrāż, Delhi, 1848.

Idem, Resāla-ye ḵawāṣṣ al-jawāher, Delhi, 1863.

Idem, Taʾlif-e šarifi, Delhi, 1863; tr. George Playfair as The Taleef Shereef or Indian Materia Medica, Calcutta, 1833, repr. Dehra Dun, India, 1984.

Zillur Rahman (Ẓell-al-Raḥmān), Dilli awr ṭebb-e yunāni, Delhi, 1995, pp. 102-5.

March 20, 2009

(Fabrizio Speziale)

Originally Published: July 15, 2009

Last Updated: July 15, 2009