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6. A Handbook for Storytellers: The Ṭirāz al-akhbār and the Qissa Genre1

Pasha M. Khan

© Pasha M. Khan, CC BY

The rise of the Urdu novel in the late nineteenth century and the growing celebration of the “natural” at the expense of the marvellous in the twentieth century pushed the Urdu and Indo-Persian romance genre—the qissa or dastan—into relative obscurity. When it has been studied by modern critics, there has been an unfortunate tendency to treat it as a primitive and imperfect ancestor of the novel. In order to recover a sense of what the qissa genre may have been before this recent period, we must examine the concept of genre itself as well as the concept of the qissa as a genre. As it turns out, the particular genre of the qissa sheds much light on questions of genre in general. One of the keys to understanding the qissa as it may have been understood in its heyday is that it was an oral genre, and indeed a fully performative one, as I will show.

The text I examine in this paper, ‘Abd al-Nabi Fakhr al-Zamani’s manual for storytellers, is sui generis itself, but it gives us a uniquely clear window onto the process of qissa performance, shows us one manner in which the qissa was defined or “encoded”, and, most importantly, lays before us the materials with which the qissas that it describes could be built. In doing us this last-mentioned service, it also in a sense undermines the very idea of monolithic genres, in a way that this study will explain. Connected to the fragmentation of the genre is the way in which the qissa’s prescribed use or purpose ought to be approached. The understandable aversion in some quarters to instrumentalising texts and spoken words should not blind us to the fact that they were meant to have certain effects, which were sometimes announced by the discourse itself, but more often implied within the discourse’s genre as a result of its genre code.2 A volume on oral performance has the advantage of highlighting the worldliness of the performed discourse—the music that is sung before the emperor or the tale that is told in the bazaar—making it difficult to ignore its relation to the world and its effects on its listeners. The healing properties of music discussed by Katherine Schofield, for instance, are as purposive as the disciplinary, “adabi” properties of the qissa. How the purposive nature of the qissa genre in particular relates to its fragmentation is a problem that will be considered at the end of the paper.

Given that this study will look at a particular conception of the qissa genre from the seventeenth century, it is legitimate to ask why this definition of the qissa is important and whether it was not a dead end. Indeed, one of the fascinating things about this very specific qissa “genre code“, which has been discussed by only one Urdu critic so far, is that it appears to have survived well into the nineteenth century before falling into oblivion. To begin with, let us consider the most interesting later expression of this definition.

Traces of Continuity and Influence

One of the most successful versions of the story of the Prophet’s uncle Amir Hamza was published in 1855 in Calcutta. This is the source of the version that Musharraf Ali Farooqi has recently translated as The Adventures of Amir Hamza, and the basis of the translation written by Frances Pritchett in The Romance Tradition in Urdu. The 1855 text, entitled Tarjuma-i dāstān-i Ṣāḥib-qirān (Translation of the Story of the Lord of the Auspicious Conjunction), was written by Mirza Aman ‘Ali Khan “Ghalib” Lakhnawi (not to be confused with his more famous Delhite contemporary, the Urdu poet Mirza Asad Allah Khan Ghalib). In his preface, Ghalib Lakhnawi is found making the customary self-effacing remarks about being a blithering know-nothing,3 and claiming in the next breath that he is married to the granddaughter of no less than Tipu Sultan, the late ruler of Mysore. Beyond these remarks, we know little about Ghalib Lakhnawi aside from what ‘Abd al-Ghafur Nassakh tells us in his prosopography (tazkira) about ten years after the Tarjuma’s publication, which is that Ghalib was a Deputy Tax Collector, the disciple of a poet named Qatil, and a Hindu convert to Islam. He had lived in Patna as well as Lucknow and had at last settled in Calcutta.4 Whoever he was, he appears to have been coaxed into writing the dastan by a friend, a physician of Calcutta named Hakim Imdad ‘Ali b. Hakim Shaikh Dilawar ‘Ali, who then printed the book using what seems to have been his own personal press.5 It appears that the Hakim wished to translate the dastan himself (from a deliciously withheld Persian text), but did not do so, on the grounds that his medical practice would suffer. Ghalib’s account tells of Hakim Imdad ‘Ali’s distraction and his reluctant delegation of the task in the Hakim’s own words:

I receive no respite from the clinic, for which reason it is difficult for me to finish [the dastan]; and if I abandon the clinic I am helpless to cure the servants of the Absolute Sage (Ḥakīm).6

Imagine the scandal had Imdad ‘Ali sidelined his practice: perhaps he might have been busy scribbling scurrilous accounts of the artistic flair with which the trickster ‘Amar ‘Ayyar painted polka-dots on the hapless King Nausherwan, while his patients clamoured to consult him about their venereal diseases.7 (Colonial records of the famous ailments of Lucknow were not kept until the passage of the Contagious Diseases Act nine years later.8)

In response to Hakim Imdad ‘Ali’s appeal to Ghalib’s “regard for an old friend [liḥāż-i muḥibb-i qadīm]” caught up in his medical work, Ghalib Lakhnawi took on the task of writing the dastan, and the Hakim published it himself. Alas, Ghalib’s fame quickly faded thanks to the dastan’s superb plagiarism by ‘Abd Allah Bilgrami, who stuffed, padded, and ornamented his version, which ultimately eclipsed Ghalib Lakhnawi’s work.9 The dastan became very popular in this puffed-up form and was thenceforth famous as Bilgrami’s child.10 The Bilgrami editions naturally omitted Ghalib Lakhnawi’s telltale preface with its concern for Hakim Imdad ‘Ali’s patients and its important throwaway remark on the four pillars of the dastan—a remark which appears to be a reformulation of a statement about the genre made more than two centuries previously.

It is to this remark that I now turn. “There are four things”, Ghalib wrote, “in this dastan: battle, courtly assemblies, enchanted worlds and trickery” (is dāstān me cār cīze hai razm bazm ṭilism aur ‘ayyārī).11 Later in the nineteenth century, the Lakhnawi intellectual ‘Abd al-Halim Sharar echoed Ghalib’s assertion, with one difference: according to him the four elements were “razm, bazm, ḥusn o ‘ishq (love and beauty) and “‘ayyārī”.12 Whence this substitution of Ghalib’s third pillar of the dastan genre, the tilism, for Sharar’s husn o ‘ishq? Shamsur Rahman Faruqi suggests that Sharar may have chosen husn o ‘ishq rather than tilism due to the influence of an Iranian style of storytelling.13 But Faruqi’s hypothesis that the category of husn o ‘ishq might be from Iran is not based on a notion that Iranians are incurable romantics. Rather, it stems from the striking fact that the same four elements recounted by Sharar—razm, bazm, husn o ‘ishq, ‘ayyari—are enumerated in the early seventeenth century by ‘Abd al-Nabi Fakhr al-Zamani, who was a storyteller in Jahangir’s India, but who was born in Iran and professed to know a good deal about the Iranian tradition of storytelling.

Genre Codes and Purposes

Before we broach the subject of Fakhr al-Zamani’s work, which evidently inaugurated or at least accorded with a long-lasting definition of the qissa/dastan genre, there is a word or two to be said about the idea of genre.14 Many literary critics have noted that genres (or their codifications—a concept to be explained shortly) tend to specify expected uses for the texts through which they flow;15 it seems probable that codifications of the qissa genre do something similar. In fact, as we will see, Fakhr al-Zamani’s formulation responds quite appropriately to the question, “what is the purpose of the qissa genre?”16

I concur with the view that no genre inheres essentially and irrevocably in a written or oral discourse as a fact of its nature. Genres are socially instituted laws, whose institution may be recorded. Tvetzan Todorov’s bipartite model of the constitution of genres is useful: any given genre is marked by (1) a trait or a series of traits, but in order for those traits to be recognised as signals of a discourse’s participation in a genre, they must be (2) encoded as traits of that genre by way of another discourse.17 Such a genre code, if recorded, might take the form of a critical or metadiscursive text which explicitly describes or prescribes a genre. At least this is the most obvious form of the genre code, of which we have examples in the above statements on the qissa genre by ‘Abd al-Halim Sharar and Ghalib Lakhnawi. These codes, as I have hinted, have a much more extensive antecedent in a text by ‘Abd al-Nabi Fakhr al-Zamani, which will be the focus of this study. I will examine the traits of the genre as Fakhr al-Zamani presents them in his own codification.

The information that we possess regarding Fakhr al-Zamani’s activities and ideas with regard to the qissa genre comes from a singular book of his: the Ṭirāz al-akhbār (The Embroidery of Tales), a manual for storytellers, to which we now turn.18 Three manuscripts of the never-printed Ṭirāz al-akhbār are extant, not in South Asia but in Tehran and Qom in Iran; therefore for this chapter I have had to rely on two descriptive articles by the Iranian scholars Muhammad Ja‘far Mahjub and Muhammad Riza Shafi‘i-Kadkani. The former describes and quotes large swathes of the Ṭirāz’s fascinating muqaddama or Foreword, while the latter outlines the body of the text. It is possible that this distance from the source text means that my paper is not far from being a collection of bald lies. If this is so, at least it has the interesting quality of surreptitiously reflecting the genre it purports to describe.

Fakhr al-Zamani and the Ṭirāz al-akhbār

Given the unwarranted obscurity of the Ṭirāz al-akhbār, it seems proper to say a few words about its author and his life. We may deduce from what he writes of himself in the Mai-khāna that familial networks played an important role in his working life, and we may also see the usefulness of storytelling in gaining patronage. ‘Abd al-Nabi Fakhr al-Zamani was born in the city of Qazwin in Iran in the late sixteenth century, a time when Iranian emigration to India was not infrequent. He writes that his father Khalaf Beg was a retiring man of a sufistic bent who had the prescience to foretell the hour of his own demise, predicting that he would die on such-and-such a day during the Friday prayer.19 However, ‘Abd al-Nabi recognised the atavism of his own poetic skill, and changed his sobriquet from ‘Izzati’ to ‘Fakhr al-Zamani’ in honour of his more learned and famed paternal grandfather Fakhr al-Zaman. He claims that in his youth his memory was so powerful that when “out of youthful desire he sought knowledge of qissas, […] by the absorptive force of his memory he retained the entire qissa of Amir Hamza ‘Abd al-Mutallib in his mind after hearing it only once”.20 At the age of nineteen he made a pilgrimage to the shrine of Imam Riza in Mashhad, where he was enthralled by merchants’ and travellers’ accounts of India. As a result, he found himself trekking through Qandahar and on to Lahore, where he made his entrance in 1609.

He stayed in Lahore for four months before moving on to Jahangir’s capital at Agra. Fakhr al-Zamani’s account makes this move appear more or less fortuitous, but it is telling that in Agra he met a relative named Mirza Nizami Qazwini, who was at the time a royal waqi‘a-nawis or chronicler (and later the divan of Bihar). In all likelihood Fakhr al-Zamani knew of his kinsman’s presence in the Mughal capital and exploited it as a way to gain employment. Given this probability, it is likely that his apparent drifting off to India was quite purposeful and that he had been captivated by accounts not simply of India’s beauty, but also of the opportunities it afforded of self-promotion.

It seems that Mirza Nizami was fond of hearing the qissa of Amir Hamza, and it was at his urging that Fakhr al-Zamani honed the skills that he had acquired in his youth and properly learned the art of storytelling.21 When Mirza Nizami moved with the royal court to Ajmer, Fakhr al-Zamani tagged along, and there he met another of his compatriots, named Masih Beg, who was in the employ of the amir Zamana Beg Mahabat Khan “Susani”. With Masih Beg’s help, Fakhr al-Zamani gained an audience with Mahabat Khan’s son Mirza Aman Allah “Amani”, who appears to have been a fan of qissas as well. Fakhr al-Zamani writes of this meeting:

After I had been at his service for a little while, as per his command I presented a section of the qissa before that Issue of Lords. After he had given ear to this speech, that Master of Speech became, to some degree, desirous of this beggar.22

After all, the “youthful desire” which had led Fakhr al-Zamani to memorise the qissa and to become a storyteller—beginning perhaps at home, outdoors, or in the coffee-house—proved to be the making of a skill that could be used to secure patronage, not imperial, perhaps, but certainly courtly. The possibility of this process highlights the difficulties involved in drawing a bold line between courtly and popular qissas, especially before the age of print, when evidence is relatively sparse. If Fakhr al-Zamani’s progress is any indication, qissas that began at the “popular” level could, given a chance and perhaps with some stylistic alterations, eventually be performed in the courts of nobles and preserved as manuscripts in their libraries. Fakhr al-Zamani was far from oblivious to the success of storytellers like Zain al-‘Abidin Takaltu Khan at the court of the Safavid ruler Shah Isma‘il, and ‘Inayat Allah Darbar Khan at the Mughal Emperor Akbar’s court.23 He also shows that he was aware of his own contemporary, the storyteller Mulla Asad, who was lavished with gifts by Jahangir and given a mansab of two hundred.24 Perhaps Fakhr al-Zamani desired similar emoluments for his storytelling skills. He claims to have become highly intimate with Mirza Aman Allah “Amani” but was later forced to leave his service under ignominious circumstances, and eventually wound up in the employ of Sardar Khan Khwaja “Yadgar” in Bihar.

It was to Yadgar that Fakhr al-Zamani dedicated his most famous work, the Mai-khāna (Wine Tavern), a prosopography of poets who wrote saqi-namas (poems addressed to the saqi or cup-bearer). In the Mai-khāna, Fakhr al-Zamani mentions a book that he wrote in Kashmir as a guide for storytellers, and particularly for the tellers of the story of Amir Hamza. This book, entitled Dastūr al-fuṣaḥā’ (Rules for the Eloquent), was probably finished around 1616 or 1617 according to Muhammad Shafi‘.25 Whenever it may have been written, it appears to have vanished without a trace, perhaps reduced to cinders when Fakhr al-Zamani’s house in Patna caught fire in 1620.26 Surviving the Dastūr, we have a book entitled Ṭirāz al-akhbār, a creature halfway between a professional storyteller’s handbook and a glorified bayaz or commonplace book. If the chronogram (“zebā Ṭirāz-i akhbār”) is correct, it was finished in 1041 AH (1631/2 CE), and the colophon of the most complete manuscript tells us that the scribe Sayyid Muhammad b. Mas‘ud Ahmad Husaini Bihari finished copying it two years later on 27 Safar 1043 AH (1 September 1633), not 7 Safar 1043 AH in Patna (“dar balda-i Ṭayyiba-i Patna itmām yāft”).27 The perplexing question is how it came about that manuscripts of this work are now non-existent in India and Pakistan. The only other extant work by Fakhr al-Zamani is a now-rare collection of tales called Nawādir al-ḥikāyāt (Rare Tales), supposedly consisting of five volumes, only the first of which remains in the British Library. This volume was composed in 1041 AH (1631/2 CE).28

The Ṭirāz al-akhbār is divided into a muqaddama (foreword) and a main body, which I am comparing to a well-organised bayaz (a commonplace book for snatches of poetry). It is in the muqaddama that the genre code is most evident, and in the discussion that follows I will focus at first upon Fakhr al-Zamani’s descriptions in this section of the book. The muqaddama itself is divided into five sections (fasl) according to Mahjub: (1) Regarding various accounts of the origin of the Dastan-i Amir Hamza, (2) On the attributes of the dastan, (3) On the storyteller’s superiority to the poet, (4) On the storyteller’s religious leanings and moral conduct, and (5) On the performance of the dastan.

Avicennian Mimesis

Elsewhere I have examined the post-Enlightenment identification of the qissa genre with the newly re-encoded English “romance” genre, the identity of which was often thrown into relief in the eighteenth century by setting it against its sister genre, the novel.29 A particularly strong classificatory force was the text’s mode of imitation which, focused through Enlightenment empiricism and rationalism, allowed for the sharp disambiguation of history from fiction, and worked within the genre of prose fiction to separate probable fictions (novels) from improbable ones (romances). Duncan Forbes’ preface to The Adventures of Hatim Tai: A Romance—his translation of the Indo-Persian qissa, the Haft sair-i Ḥātim—is one of a number of nineteenth-century writings that take for granted the sameness of the improbable romance genre and the genre that Indians called the qissa or dastan. Forbes makes an apology for the improbability of the story of Hatim Ta’i, begging the reader to remember that the Eastern mind remained in thrall to a credulous belief in things whose existence was, for the English, irrational or unempirical.30

Leaving aside the Orientalist valuation that might be perceptible in Forbes’ comments, is it possible that there were epistemologies prevalent in India that would have caused qissa to be received as statements of truth? After all, magical arts such as geomancy (raml) and the creation of tilisms (talismans and, in qissas, enchanted worlds) were not always perceived as charlatanry, and the existence of creatures such as the jinn is attested to by the Qur’an. Fakhr al-Zamani weighs in significantly on this question, but before getting back to his muqaddama, it will be useful to better historicise the categories we are dealing with when we refer to literary truth and lies.

Commenting on the Arabic version of Aristotle’s Poetics (Kitāb al-shi‘r), the philosopher Abu ‘Ali al-Husain Ibn Sina spoke of two somewhat opposed modes of representation: sidq or veraciousness, and muhaka or mimesis. Its opposition to veracious representation does not mean that mimesis is simply false representation. But at least in part, mimesis is defined by its being mendacious (kadhib), a mendacity that, particularly when involved in takhyil (incitement of the imagination), has the ability to make the mimetic discourse more effective in certain ways than veracious discourse. Following the Arabic Aristotle, Ibn Sina speaks of poetry as the prime example of mimetic discourse.

It is important to note that for Ibn Sina, as for Al-Farabi before him, poetry must be mimetic and therefore mendacious. As an illustration: In the Autumn of 2008 at the Lahore Museum, I came across a manuscript of a versified Urdu tract on medicine (hikmat), in masnavi form, describing cures for two of the most grievous ailments of the day, faqr-i sahl and ihtilam—constipation and nocturnal emission. In the Avicennian scheme of things, such scientific treatises (as well as versified grammars and so on), however they may tickle us, are not mimetic but veracious, and therefore are not classifiable as poetry even if they are in verse.

However, despite the stress that he places on poetry, Ibn Sina notes that some prose works may also be imagination-inciting (takhyili) and mimetic.31 But if we were to apply the Avicennian distinction to prose discourses, historiographical genres (tarikh, sira, nasab, safar-nama, etc.) are not likely to have been considered mimetic, given that mimesis involves mendacity (kidhb), whereas historiographical genres cause the reader to expect a veracious (sadiq) discourse.

On the other hand, is it possible that the qissa was, in Avicennian terms, a veracious genre, similar to a history, rather than a mimetic one? Generalising from the example of Kalīla wa Dimna, Ibn Sina insists that such stories (“amāthil wa qiṣaṣ”), though they lack metre and do not aim primarily at takhyil or imagination incitement, are in fact mimetic, like poetry.32 A full investigation of this issue would, however, require attention to borderline cases such as Indian versified histories by authors known primarily as mimetic poets, such as Amir Khusrau’s Qirān al-sa‘dain (Conjuction of the Two Fortunate Planets), in which Khusrau, as Sunil Sharma reminds us, professes his preference for truthfulness (rasti) over falsehood (durogh).33 Other examples include Keshavdas’ Jahāngīrjascandrika or Moonlight of the Fame of Jahangir and the same author’s remarkable Ratnabāvanī (Fifty-Two Verses in Honour of Ratnasena), about which Allison Busch has written; the fact that the latter text has “gods weaving in and out of the story” is only the beginning of its fascinations.34 Indeed we have yet to come to grips with the alleged prevalence of mimetic elements in the historiography of the post-Mongol Islamicate world, whether in verse or in prose, which often pivot on the under-examined topos of the kharq al-‘ada (“custom-breaking”, extraordinary), exemplified by but not limited to ‘aja’ib (mirabilia) literature.35 Other problematic texts include qissas that present themselves as participants in historiographical genres, such as the aforementioned Haft sair-i Ḥātim.

Falsehood and the Sin of Performance

Faced with the bewildering potential of such liminal cases, we may be relieved to find that Fakhr al-Zamani does not compound the sin of lying for a living by pretending in the Ṭirāz al-akhbār that he is telling the truth. In the foreword to the Ṭirāz al-akhbār we find him confirming expectations: he declares the qissa to be a falsehood (durogh), “devoid”, he says, “of the fine ornament of truthfulness” (az ḥilya-i ṣidq maḥrūm).

Moreover, there was a malign aspect to this mendacity; the falsehood of the qissa was not value-neutral, but had a negative ethico-religious valence. This comes across most forcefully in the fourth section of the foreword, which concerns the religious conduct of the professional storyteller. In an exhortation worthy of an ethical manual, Fakhr al-Zamani enjoins his storytelling colleagues to practice muruwwat (roughly, “humanity”)36 towards their fellow creatures and help them in their time of need: “The best conduct for the speaker [i.e., the storyteller] is […] to expend in God’s path whatsoever he acquires, and to behave with humanity towards everyone”.37 The storyteller’s incentive for behaving with muruwwat is important to note:

Perhaps in this way he will win the heart of some afflicted person, and ease a frustrated mind—so that it might be the cause of expiation in this world for his telling of lies, and of an honourable acquittal (surkh-ru’i) in the next.38

Virtuous conduct is valuable, according to Fakhr al-Zamani, as an antidote to the sins that are necessarily committed by the storyteller, given that the sin of telling lies is an insuperable part of the qissa genre. The mimesis inherent in the genre is therefore perceived by Fakhr al-Zamani as blameworthy; elsewhere he says that the qissa’s lies may bring disgrace (ruswa’i) upon their teller.39 More than this, they are eschatologically harmful, as evidenced by the need for a life of muruwwat to counter the difficulties that mendacity will cause on the Day of Reckoning.

Fakhr al-Zamani’s comments regarding the sinfulness of the qissa lies already present the qissa as a thoroughly oral genre, which does not stand aloof from the context in which it is recited in the way that written texts are sometimes imagined to do. Its production, as we read in the Ṭirāz al-akhbār, has material, social, and soteriological effects on the storyteller who speaks it into being. In his landmark study, Sāḥirī, shāhī, ṣāḥib-qirānī (Sorcery, Kingship, Lordship of the Auspicious Conjunction), Shamsur Rahman Faruqi energetically stresses the orality (zabani-pan) of the story of Amir Hamza even when it appears in written form, for instance in the massive Naval Kishore printed cycle, which was itself authored by storytellers. At the outset Faruqi defends oral genres such as the dastan, qissa, and masnavi from Orientalist belittlement and goes on to present an impressive system of poetics based on the Dāstān-i Amīr Ḥamza’s orality.40 When we read together Faruqi’s study of Fakhr al-Zamani and the passages from the Ṭirāz al-akhbār that Faruqi cites, it becomes clear that “orality” is a central and seminal element of the genre, but also that the qissa or dastan as Faruqi describes it is not only oral, but, moreover, performative.

The irāz al-akhbār makes it clear to us that the term “qissa-khwan” does not convey the full range and force of the storyteller’s activities. Impressive as it seems that storytellers like Fakhr al-Zamani recited and improvised the interminable Dāstān-i Amīr Ḥamza from memory, they did not simply read them, but performed them. In his description of the presentation of the qissa, Fakhr al-Zamani prescribes not only modulations of the voice, but gestures and postures for the storyteller. The term naqqali, designating a sort of professional acting in which a performer conveys a story with words and actions, attempting to embody the narrative and its characters, might be a more expressive alternative to qissa-khwani in terms of its meaning, although naqqali was generally lower on the scale of professions than qissa-khwani, and I do not know that Fakhr al-Zamani ever uses the word. In the late nineteenth century Sharar described Lakhnawi storytellers as “imaging”—becoming taswirs of—the stories that they performed, allying the art of storytelling to the visual arts.41

Similarly, Fakhr al-Zamani states in the Ṭirāz al-akhbār that in the Iranian style of qissa-khwani (as opposed to the Indian and Turanian styles, which he also describes), the storyteller must marshal his gestures and postures in such a way that the audience members find themselves beholding the action with the imagination’s gaze (“naar-i taṣawwur”). When a character in the qissa escapes from captivity, the storyteller must speak and act in such a way that the audience perceives him to be the one breaking out of his chains. In other words, the storyteller, in bodying forth the qissa’s characters, must engage in a mimesis and therefore a kind of mendacity that is not merely oral, but fully performative, for he pretends to be what he is not.42

Fakhr al-Zamani’s wariness with regard to such imposture may be gauged from his comments on religious performance, which are so remarkable as to merit full translation:43

The possessor of this heart-stealing art and the master of this assembly-adorning craft [i.e., that of storytelling] must be confined by his creed, not by the bonds of religious prejudice, because every one of the sultans of the day and the high-ranking nobles has a different religion and a separate law. Some are Sunni, a few are Shi‘a. There is a group that affirms the unity of God, and a lot that disbelieve the resurrection of the dead. The storyteller must deal with each differing faction in each region according to need. First of all, he must not proclaim his own creed inconsistently in order to mix with the great men of each kingdom. For if he makes himself out to be Sunni in one place and makes himself known as a Shi‘a in another, he will not be able to maintain this to the end. Because it is possible that, before he shifts locations, the reality of his religion will have been disseminated to every corner of the kingdom where he has long resided.44

This is an odd piece of advice—it is difficult to resist the biographical temptation, and to leave off wondering whether Fakhr al-Zamani had tried this trick out himself. What is notable for our purposes is the way in which the negative religious valuation of performative mimesis in the case of the qissa performance is paralleled by the analogous mimesis of taqiyya or religious dissimulation—the false performance of religion itself.45 It is as if the storyteller’s predilection for performance, which should have been restricted to storytelling situations, has burst its bonds, engendering characters that rampage about in the real world. The parallel, while by no means complete, is particularly strong given the chances, in each case, of prior knowledge on the part of the audience that an act is being put on. However, we will soon come to an important difference between the two types of performance.

What the Qissa is Good For

The storyteller, despite the sin implicit in his occupation, can redeem himself through doing good in his life. But how is the qissa genre itself redeemed? The Ṭirāz al-akhbār does not treat the qissa simply as “literature” in the poststructuralist sense summed up by Derek Attridge, as a discourse inhabited by otherness and irreducible to uses, ideologies, and the like.46 It is easy to see how such a view of literature has participated in a crisis of genre theory, as it dissociates itself from the implicitly prescribed uses and effects to which genre is so often tied. Jameson writes pithily that “genres are essentially literary institutions, or social contracts between a writer and a specific public, whose function is to specify the proper use of a particular cultural artifact”.47 To take some examples of Arabo-Persian genres, the marsiya (lament) is meant to provoke mourning, the hajw (satire) to provoke laughter or ridicule, and the qasida (praise-poem, in the Persianate sense of this word) to please the one who is praised, to excite admiration, and possibly to earn a reward for the poet. Sunil Sharma’s essay in this volume draws attention to the force that words were understood to have in the world, even to the extent of being able to kill. In this spirit, Fakhr al-Zamani deals with the qissa as something of the order of adab in the classical sense of a culturing, disciplinary discourse. Just as Indian music has curative properties, as Katherine Schofield explains in this volume, the qissa ameliorates its audience in particular ways. Fakhr al-Zamani very specifically spells out the genre’s beneficial effects for the listener, and, in doing so, offers answers to the question, “What is the purpose of the qissa?”

Fakhr al-Zamani lists three benefits of qissa recitation for the audience (aside from its benefits for the storyteller himself or herself, which we have glimpsed in the biographical accounts of his ingratiation with Mirza Nizami and Mirza Aman Allah). These may be characterised as linguistic, practical, and moral. First, by exemplifying speech that is eloquent (“fasih”), discursively mature (“baligh”), and current (“roz-marra”), it improves the listener’s ability to manipulate language. Second, it serves as a prescription for worldly and state affairs (“‘umūr-i dunyawī wa ashghāl-i mulkī’”) and inculcates prudence (“tadbir”) in the listener.48 S.R. Faruqi reminds us that Ghalib Lakhnawi also mentions this purpose, stating that those who hear qissas “are able to imagine plans for battle, for subduing forts and conquering states, which is why they [i.e., qissas] were always told to emperors”.49 Finally, it deters the listener from vain thoughts, acting as a moral example. This last point is crucial because of its connection with the lie. What the Ṭirāz al-akhbār says is that “despite its own falsity, it [the qissa] casts the powerful off the rope of false thoughts”.50 The term batil and its cognate butlan can be synonymous with durogh or kizb, for instance in the Qur’an we find the admonition “Do not clothe the real in untruth (“lā talbasū al-ḥaqqa bi al-bāṭil”, 2.42). But batil also connotes nullity or void-ness, as in batil al-sihr or countermagic: that which renders enchantments null and void. The qissa is a kind of lie that has the effect of nullifying false thoughts, a lie which is also a counter-lie, and which therefore has a salutary moral effect despite its essential sinfulness.51

We may speculate that the anti-mendacious property of the qissa may be enabled by its announcement of its own falsehood, either explicitly or by virtue of its genre—note that this is quite unlike the dissimulation of the hypothetical religious pretender that Fakhr al-Zamani imagines above. Let us put it simply, and refer to this announced falsehood of the qissa as a form of fictionality. When Fakhr al-Zamani announces that the qissa is a lie shorn of the finery of truthfulness (az ḥilya-i ṣidq ‘āṭil), he fixes this fictionality of the genre in the genre code that he is producing. His statement speaks to the Qur’anic phrase “lā talbasū al-ḥaqqa bi al-bāṭil”, responding to it by inverting it: the qissa is not an untruth clothed in the true; it presents itself as a naked untruth. And it is perhaps for this reason that it is able to counter untruth despite its own falsehood.

The Four Repertoires

We will return to the question of purposes and particularly the multiplicity of purposes enumerated in the Ṭirāz. But the qissa is not encoded merely as a performative fictional genre with linguistic, practical, and moral uses. We must not forget the four categories with which this essay began: razm, bazm, husn o ‘ishq, and ‘ayyari (the third of which, the reader will recall, was substituted for tilism by Ghalib Lakhnawi). A look at the organisation of the main part of the Ṭirāz tells us that Fakhr al-Zamani conceived of these four not simply as elements of the genre but as the discursive and, moreover, performative bricks with which the storyteller built the edifice of the qissa, the repertoires from which the qissa was pastiched together.

We have already analysed the foreword of the Ṭirāz al-akhbār; let us now turn to the body. This bayaz-like portion consists of prose and verse quotations from a variety of written sources, from the Persian poet Zuhuri’s poems to the tales of Sindbad, from odes to the cupbearer to tales of Alexander to animal fables. But rather than being scattered randomly like verses in a standard bayaz, they are corralled into the four categories of razm, bazm, husn o ‘ishq, and ‘ayyari. Each of these four chapters (each one called a report or khabar) is subdivided into twelve sections or workshops (tiraz), and finally there is an extra chapter, seemingly for leftover odds and ends, subdivided into nineteen sections, for a total of forty-nine sections.

These classified quotations were meant to be memorised and recited or reworked extempore by the storyteller during the performance of the qissa. For example, the storyteller might be describing a battle (razm) when the story’s focus falls upon a war-elephant. His searching memory might then take him to the sixth section of the first chapter of the Ṭirāz, which contains descriptions of elephants and wolves, and it might alight on this passage from the Taj al-ma’āir (Crown of Great Deeds):

abr-hay’ate bād-ḥarkate barq-sur‘ate ażhdahā-kharṭūme dahān-i mauhūme kih dandān-ash go’ī sutūn-i īn bār-gāh-i mu‘allaq-i Bīstūn [or be-sutūn] ast wa kharṭūm-i khamīda-i caugān miṡāl-ash go’ī rubāninda-i īn saqf-i gardūn…52

Cloud-shaped and moving like the wind, with a serpentine trunk and a fantastical mouth. Its tusks: you would think that they were the pillars of a palace [i.e., the head] attached to Mount Bistun [the body], and you would think its trunk, curved like a polo stick, might be able to steal from the arched vault of the heavens.

The chapter from which this quotation is taken deals with various descriptions of battle (razm). Similarly, when describing courtly situations, the storyteller would dip into the chapter on bazm, and the same goes for husn o ‘ishq and ‘ayyari. The four elements of the genre were, as we can see, codified by Fakhr al-Zamani according to the exigencies of the performance. They were not simply there as inert facts, they were toolboxes to be selected properly or improperly.

These four styles were not simply textual; they were fully performative. Fakhr al-Zamani prescribes postures and modulation of the voice for each style. During the narration of a battle, the storyteller must slowly raise his body (sitting on one knee, rising to a standing position) as he reaches the climax. When narrating a courtly scene, he must ease his voice, and in the narration of love scenes, he must perform the expected naz o niyaz, the blandishments of the beloved and the pangs of the lover.53 The Ṭirāz al-akhbār seems, in other words, to provide a repertoire of four major performative styles—or perhaps we might say that it provides four repertoires to be used in the correct parts of the dastan. But these repertoires are not only memorised collections of classified verse and prose—they are distinct narrative situations that cue the storyteller to summon up prescribed quotations and which demand from him a certain set of vocal and physical shifts. It is difficult to imagine that the styles did not intermix at all, but Fakhr al-Zamani frowns upon undue movement between two different styles as evidence that the storyteller lacks jam‘iyyat-i hawass, which is to say that his senses are scattered and unfocused.54

What Ails the Qissa

But, having described the four repertoires which supposedly define the qissa genre, I want to return to my initial caveats regarding the category of genre, and to recall that genres, by which I mean codifications of what constitutes various genres, are not inherent or given. They are products of socio-historical forces: ideologies, commercial and practical exigencies, and so on. As such they change over time, and they are objects of contention in any given period.55 This means that it is possible that another contemporary authority whose testimony we have lost may have defined the qissa differently, but just as compellingly, as Fakhr al-Zamani. But Fakhr al-Zamani’s codification of the genre, which turns out to be tied to the technicalities of the performative production of qissas, is important. This is not only because it presents uses for the genre beyond that of “mere entertainment”, but also because it appears to have been re-cited and adapted by Ghalib Lakhnawi and Sharar. It is certainly the case that the nineteenth-century comments are sparse, and it is difficult to understand just how it is that the genre code was perpetuated, given that the quantity and present location of the Ṭirāz al-akhbār manuscripts with which we are now familiar do not inspire confidence that they were circulating widely in nineteenth-century Awadh. It is very much possible that the notion of the qissa genre that we have discussed travelled orally, and that Fakhr al-Zamani’s genre code was neither unique nor directly influential. Nevertheless, it is at the very least the most well-articulated example we have of a genre code that clearly survived, continuously or in stints, over several centuries.

What Jameson and others might call the institutionality of genres—the fact of their being “instituted” under particular socio-historical circumstances—is trouble enough; furthermore, we must consider intertextuality, which obviates the possibility of there being a chaste qissa, innocent of the crime of miscegenation. Any law of genre that implicitly prohibits the mixing of genres must overlook or repress this miscegenetic intertextuality.

This is not the place to elaborate a theory of genre mixing, but I will at least rehearse my argument. Without intertextuality, genres cannot exist; the family resemblance that allows us to group discourses into genres is intertextual. But even as intertextuality is the condition for such a classification, it shatters the image of the pure genre by virtue of the fact that each intertext is already marked by a genre (or genres, rather) of its own. Therefore we might consider each qissa as something of an intertextual tapestry that cannot be taken as a “pure” qissa and can only be comprehended as a complex of multi-generic intertexts that fall under the order of the master genre code of the qissa. Even as we read or hear a discourse overall as a qissa, submitting to the social force that encodes it as such, it is instructive to peel back the skin that gathers the discourse together into a single genre, and to view its multigenericity or heterogeneousness as well. Francesca Orsini first alerted me to this possibility with her suggestion of a “dual genealogy” for the Hindi-Urdu qissa, descended on the one hand from the dastan and on the other hand from the shorter naql.56 To continue in this biological vein, Sunil Sharma has written of Khusrau’s verse histories as “hybrid texts”.57 Riding on Orsini’s and Sharma’s coattails, what I am suggesting is that all genres—including the dastan and the naql, for instance—are already mixed and impure. As much as we try to fix a discourse’s genre and decide that there is only one, close observation of its bloodstream will reveal that is infected with myriad others.

Unsurprisingly, an important formulation of the idea of heterogeneity appears in Mikhail Bakhtin’s work, and particularly in his essay “Epic and Novel”. Here literary history is envisioned as a conflict between a weatherworn host of ossified classical genres led by the epic, and the plastic, heteroglossic “novel” or, rather, roman.58 The importance of Bakhtin’s codification of the roman lies in the fact that the roman is defined precisely by its heteroglossia and therefore its heterogeneity. Unlike Aristotle’s traditional genres (epic, lyric, tragedy),59 the roman engulfs other genres, playing with them and parodying them—even and especially “extraliterary” genres such as the newspaper report and the letter.60 In effect romans are diseased bodies riddled with heterogenous discourses of various genres, and during periods in (Western) history when the roman genre is in the ascendant (as it was in the Greek classical period, classical Rome, and neoclassical Europe), epidemics take place in which romans infect other genres on a large scale. It is the effect of this contagion that is referred to by Bakhtinians as romannost or roman-ness: other genres are roman-ised (“novelised”)—they become like romans by virtue of being contaminated.

Bakhtin’s idea is useful and consonant with the vision of the qissa genre revealed by Fakhr al-Zamani. At the same time, Bakhtin’s argument regarding the essentially sealed-off nature of “high genres” such as the epic is unconvincing, and “romanization” arguably affects all genres; therefore it does not seem justified to single out the roman as the originary touchstone for this kind of heterogeneity. Finally, while Bakhtin’s account seems to represent romanization as a fate that befalls an originally pure genre, I wish to stress that a discourse in any genre may be regarded as heterogeneous from the start.

Once we look at them through such a lens, it is easy to see that the qissas whose performance Fakhr al-Zamani describes are shot through with intertexts of many different genres. Based on the Ṭirāz al-akhbār’s list of quotations, we know that in Fakhr al-Zamani’s qissas, excerpts from the Shāh-nāma and Farid al-Din ‘Attar’s sufi Manṭiq al-ṭair (Speech of the Birds) might mingle freely with epistolary specimens (insha’), saqi-namas, and the moral fables of Kalila and Dimna.61 Most strikingly, the very genre of truth-telling historiography to which we might oppose the lying-mimetic qissa ends up infecting it. Mir Khvand’s history, the Rawżat al-ṣafā (Garden of Purity): Hatifi’s Timūr-nama (Book of Timūr); the Tāj al-ma’air (Crown of Great Deeds); the Ḥabīb al-siyār (Vademecum of Biographies); Amir Khusrau’s Qirān al-sa‘dain; and the Tārīkh-i mu‘jam are all quoted in the Ṭirāz al-akhbār.62 This irruption of historiographical genres into the qissa does not make the qissa simply historiographical, but it suggests that we cannot ignore historiographical elements when we consider the purposes that the qissa serves.

It is important to remember that Fakhr al-Zamani mentions more than one purpose to the qissa: it makes the hearers eloquent, it makes them prudent, and it wards off falsehood. To the question, “What is the purpose of the qissa?”, we must answer that there is no single purpose to the qissa because no qissa is reducible to a single genre, as it will always incorporate intertexts of various genres. At least, this is the view that I have attempted to justify.

1 I must acknowledge my debts to four people without whom this contribution would never have existed. First of all, Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, who first mentioned Fakhr al-Zamani to me in New York in September 2008, and who has already written about him at some length. Secondly, my friend and colleague Azfar Moin of the University of Michigan, who regaled me with his tales and ideas about Indian history over tea at the British Library that same Autumn, and who reminded me of Fakhr al-Zamani and gave me access to Mahjub’s article—I am especially in his debt. Soon thereafter Francesca Orsini graciously invited me to the SOAS conference on orality despite my misgivings about my lack of access to the MS of the Ṭirāz al-akhbār. Finally, in Chicago in March 2009, Paul Losensky introduced me to Shafi‘i-Kadkani’s description of the same MS, thereby enabling me to make a historical argument regarding the multiplicity of generic strands running through the qissa. Thanks are also due to Maria Subtelny for providing helpful comments on the penultimate draft. Research was supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Doctoral Fellowship.

2 I will use the term “discourse” rather than “text” in order to signal my inclusion of non-written language; it is to be understood as approximating sukhan or kalam (see also d’Hubert in this volume).

3 That is, “hec ma-dān-i kaj-maj zabān”, ‘Abd al-Ghafur Nassakh, Sukhan-i shu‘arā’ (Speech of Poets, Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh Urdu Academy, 1982), p. 3. All translations are mine unless otherwise indicated.

4 Nassakh was himself Deputy Collector and Deputy Magistrate for Rajshahi (now in Bangladesh), making it likely that he met Ghalib while on the job; Nassakh (1982), p. 349 cited in Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, Sāḥirī, shāhī, sāḥib-qirānī: Dāstān-i Amīr Ḥamza kā mutāla‘a (New Delhi: Qaumi Council bara’e furugh-i Urdu zaban, 1999), Vol. 1, p. 209. Here is my translation of Nassakh’s entry on Ghalib (1982, p. 149):

Pennamed Ghalib: Mirza Aman ‘Ali Khan ‘Azimabadi [‘Azimabad = Patna]. Author of the Urdu Qiṣṣa-i Amīr Ḥamza. Disciple of Qatil. For a time he was Deputy Collector. For a long while he has chosen to reside in Calcutta. He also composes verses in Persian. He was formerly a Hindu, but was then graced with Islam. I met him in Chandannagar, popularly known as Fransidanga. I have seen his Qiṣṣa-i Amīr Ḥamza. [A selection of verses by Ghalib follows.]

5 The Matba‘-i Hakim or Matba‘-i Imdadiyya.

6 Ghalib Lakhnawi, Tarjuma-i dāstān-i Ṣāḥib-qirān (Calcutta: Matba‘-i Imdadiyya, 1855), p. 2.

7 My speculations on the nature of the illnesses distracting Hakim Imdad ‘Ali are admittedly the products of my fancy. However, ‘Amar ‘Ayyar does indeed apply a pointillé pattern to the royal cheek that I have mentioned, along with other pranks of a gross nature: “Nausherwān kī dāṛhī mūṅcheṅ peshāb se mūnḍ ke hama tan barahna kar ke hāth pāṅw to nīl se range aur mūṅh kālā kar ke cūne ke ṭīke diye”; Ghalib Lakhnawi (1855), p. 358. In Musharraf Ali Farooqi’s translation, “He lathered up Nausherwan’s beard and whiskers with his urine and shaved them all off. Amar then stripped Naushervan naked, dyed his hands and feet with indigo, and after blackening his face, made spots all over it with lime”; ‘Abdullah Husain Bilgrami and Mirza Aman Allah Ghalib Lakhnawi, The Adventures of Amir Hamza: Lord of the Auspicious Planetary Conjunction, trans. by Musharraf Ali Farooqi (New York: Modern Library, 2007), p. 663.

8 See Veena Talwar Oldenburg, ‘Lifestyle as Resistance: The Case of the Courtesans of Lucknow, India’, Feminist Studies 16, 2 (1990), 260.

9 See Frances Pritchett, ‘Introduction’, The Romance Tradition in Urdu: Adventures from the Dastan of Amir Hamza (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), p. 30.

10 In the Summer of 1985 Frances Pritchett and Shamsur Rahman Faruqi unearthed a rare copy of the 1855 edition. Pritchett subsequently made a copy of the Ghalib Lakhnawi text available to the Library of Congress in microfiche form (call number LOC Microfiche 85/61479 (P) So Asia). I am obliged to her for allowing me to peruse her copy of the dastan.

11 Ghalib Lakhnawi (1855), p. 2. For a lengthy discussion of these elements, see S.R. Faruqi (1999), Vol. 1, p. 197ff.

12 ‘Abd al-Halim Sharar, Guashta Lakhnau, ed. by Rashid Hasan Khan (Delhi: Maktaba-i Jami‘a, 2000), p. 149.

13 S.R. Faruqi (1999), Vol. 1, p. 410.

14 The words qissa and dastan, which I will use interchangeably, are generally used to denote a narrative account, especially a fictive one. The line between the two is fine almost to the point of non-existence: see Pritchett (1991), p. 5; however, see Faruqi’s insistence that narratives such as Mir Amman’s Bāgh o Bahār and Rajab ‘Ali Beg Surur’s Fasāna-e ‘ajā’ib do not qualify as dastans; S.R. Faruqi (1999), Vol. 1, pp. 29, 194-95.

15 For instance, Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1981), p. 106.

16 I am grateful to my friend and colleague Abhishek Kaicker for initially posing this question.

17 Tzvetan Todorov, Genres in Discourse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. 198. This other discourse might be within the discourse whose genre it encodes.

18 The title is polyvalent. Tiraz or taraz means “embroidery”, with secondary meanings including “workshop, factory”—a particularly apt metaphor for the productive function of Fakhr al-Zamani’s manual. The additional meaning “form, kind, type” seems the most appropriate one when we consider the division of the book into twelve sections, each called a tiraz. Finally, the word may also be read as tarraz, meaning an “embroiderer”. The most complete MS is in the library of the Majlis-i Sina-yi sabiq, no. 358. Two others exist in Tehran University’s Central Library and the Ayat Allah Mar‘ashi Library in Qom; see Shafi‘i-Kadkani, ‘Nigāhī ba Ṭirāz al-akhbār’, Nāma-yi bahāristān 1.5 (138), 109. This made it difficult, at the time of writing this essay, to access the text itself, though I was subsequently able to obtain and read it. My translation of the opening portions will appear in a forthcoming Festschrift. Therefore it is necessary to stress the strictly provisional nature of this study, which does not make use of the manuscripts.

19 ‘Abd al-Nabi Fakhr al-Zamani Qazwini, Taẕkira-i maikhāna, ed. by Ahmad Gulcin-i Ma‘ani, 3rd edn (Tehran: Iqbal, 1983), p. 758.

20 Fakhr al-Zamani (1983), p. 760.

21 Ibid., p. 762.

22 Ibid., p. 763.

23 See Muhammad Ja‘far Mahjub, ‘Tahawwul-i naqqali wa qissa-khwani’, Irannama 9 (1991), 191.

24 Fakhr al-Zamani Qazwini (1983), pp. 458ff., for example; for the reward, see Nur al-Din Muhammad Jahangir, Jahāngīrnāmah (Tūzuk-i Jahāngīrī), ed. by Muhammad Hashim (Tehran: Bunyad-i Farhang-i Iran, 1359 AH), p. 215.

25 In fact the Mai-khāna provides a chronogram for the Dastūr al-fuṣaḥā’ (“dastūr ba-anjām rasīda”) that yields 1046 AH (1636/37 CE); Fakhr al-Zamani Qazwini (1983), p. 770. However Shafi‘, in trying to square this date with the period of Fakhr al-Zamani’s Kashmiri sojourn, concludes that if the Dastūr al-fuṣaḥā’ was finished in Kashmir as Fakhr al-Zamani claims, it would have to have been completed between the years 1025-1026 AH (about 1616-1117 CE); Shafi‘ (1983), p. xiv. The Mai-khāna itself was not completed until 1028 (1618/19 CE); Fakhr al-Zamani Qazwini (1983), p. 924. The chronogram appears, therefore, to be erroneous.

26 Fakhr al-Zamani Qazwini (1983), p. 886.

27 For the 1633 colophon, see the facsimile in Shafi‘i-Kadkani (1381 AH), 122.

28 Charles Rieu, Catalogue of the Persian Manuscripts in the British Museum (London: Gilbert and Rivington, 1883), Vol. 3, p. 1004.

29 Pasha M. Khan, ‘Genre Identifications: Hatim-namas as Romance and Qissa’, paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Asian Studies (Chicago, 28 March 2009).

30 Duncan Forbes, The Adventures of Hatim Taï: A Romance (London: Oriental Translation Fund, 1830), pp. v-vi. My remark is not meant to deny the usefulness of translating “qissa” or “dastan” as “romance”; it is only necessary to be attentive to what it meant to perform this translation in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain, and to the kinds of assumptions that came along with such a genre equation. When speaking of the Urdu or Indo-Persian “romance”, we must understand the previous history of the genre code of the “romance”, we must have a sense of what the qissa was without reducing it to this pre-existent notion of the romance, and we must alter our ideas of what we mean by “romance” if we wish for this term to encompass the qissa.

31 Abu ‘Ali al-Husain b. ‘Abd Allah Ibn Sina, ‘Fann al-shi‘r’, in Fann al-shi‘r, ed. by ‘Abd al-Rahman Badawi, 2nd edn (Beirut: Dar al-thaqafa, 1973), pp. 168, 183

32 Ibn Sina (1973), p. 183. In Ibn Sina’s view, their aim is not takhyil, but the “diffusion of views (ifādaṭ al-ārā’)” (ibid.). Ibn Sina also differentiates these two genres from poetry on the basis of their “fantastic” representations, like the English romance critics of the eighteenth century.

33 Sunil Sharma, ‘Amir Khusraw and the Genre of Historical Narratives in Verse’, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 22.1 (2002), 113.

34 Allison Busch, ‘The Courtly Vernacular: The Transformation of Brajbhaṣa Literary Culture (1590-1690)’ (PhD dissertation, University of Chicago, 2003), p. 212ff. For the Jahāngīrjascandrika, see Allison Busch, ‘The Anxiety of Innovation: The Practice of Literary Science in the Hindi/Riti Tradition’. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 24.2 (2004), 45-59, and her essay in this volume.

35 The ongoing work of Travis Zadeh on the marvellous in Islamicate writings is useful in this regard. See his PhD dissertation, ‘Translation, Geography, and the Divine Word’ (Harvard University, 2007), and his recent article ‘Wiles of Creation’, in Middle Eastern Studies 13.1 (2010), 21-48.

36 Muruwwat is an originally pre-Islamic Arabian complex of ethical virtues as changeful and difficult to define as it is old; “humanity” is an unsatisfactory translation. See “Murū‘a” in the Encyclopedia of Islam.

37 In Mahjub (1991), 193.

38 Ibid.

39 Ibid., 192.

40 S.R. Faruqi (1999), Vol. 1, p. 198.

41 Sharar (2000), p. 149.

42 Mahjub (1991), 194.

43 Azfar Moin first noted and alerted me to this section of the Ṭirāz, for which kindness I am deeply grateful.

44 Mahjub (1991), 192-93.

45 With regard to specifically Shi‘i taqiyya, we should remember that our storytelling émigré from Shah ‘Abbas’s Iran lived in a Mughal state whose relationship to Shi‘ism was complexly fraught given the presence of other émigrés such as Nur Jahan on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the Shi‘a qazi of Lahore, Nur Allah Shushtari, executed at Jahangir’s order in 1610; Sajid S. Alvi, ‘Religion and State During the Reign of Mughal Emperor Jahǎngǐr (1605-1627): Nonjuristical Perspectives’, Studia Islamica 69 (1989), 111-112.

46 Derek Attridge, J.M. Coetzee and the Ethics of Reading: Literature in the Event (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2004). This is not to say that this view of literature is incorrect—far from it—nor has genre theory’s crisis been unfruitful.

47 Jameson (1981), p. 106.

48 Mahjub (1991), 191.

49 S.R. Faruqi (1999), p. 421; Ghalib Lakhnawi (1855), p. 3. The preface to the 1803 Fort William version of the story of Amir Hamza, written by Khalil ‘Ali Khan Ashk, also contains this assertion in words similar to Ghalib Lakhnawi’s; Khalil ‘Ali Khan Ashk, Dāstān-i Amīr Ḥamza (Bombay: Matba‘-i Haidari, 1863̄), Vol. 1, p. 2.

50daulat-mandān rā az sar-rishta-i andesha-i bāṭil bā-wujūd-i buṭlān-i khẉesh mī-andāzad”, quoted in Mahjub (1991), 191.

51 Faruqi clearly reads this generic purpose as moral, and even religiously moral, stating, by way of example, that “in the dastan sorcerers are always defeated eventually [...] but they are not simply defeated; indeed they die very ordinary and even commonplace deaths, and so it is fully proven that there is no difference between them or any other of God’s servants”; S.R. Faruqi (1999), Vol. 1, p. 421.

52 Shafi‘i-Kadkani (1381 AH), 111.

53 Mahjub (1991), 194.

54 Ibid., 192.

55 My view of genre as synchronically and diachronically divided has largely developed from Ralph Cohen and Hans Robert Jauss; Ralph Cohen, ‘History and Genre’, New Literary History 17. 2 (1986), 203-18, particularly 207-09; Hans Robert Jauss, Toward an Aesthetic of Reception (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982).

56 Francesca Orsini, Print and Pleasure: Popular Literature and Entertaining Fictions in Colonial North India (Ranikhet: Permanent Black, 2009), p. 115.

57 Sharma (2002), 114.

58 Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, trans. by Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2004). The scare quotes give voice to my uneasiness about the translation of what Bakhtin refers to as “roman” into the English “novel”. The eighteenth-century sundering of the novel genre from its backward sister, the romance, appears to have been expressed much less vigorously outside of Britain, and Bakhtin often uses the word roman to designate what English speakers would think of as medieval romances. Therefore I prefer to leave the word untranslated.

59 Bakhtin’s Manichaean vision of literary history seems wrongheaded insofar as it appears to posit the existence of epics and so on as monoglossic non-roman genres, unsullied by romanization, often because they are supposedly older and predate the very appearance of the roman on the historical stage. But given the intertextuality of all discourses and, indeed, the intertextual foundations of language itself, the myth of a pure, pre-Babelian genre does not stand up to scrutiny.

60 Bakhtin (2004), p. 33.

61 See Shafi‘i-Kadkani (1381 AH), 111, 113, 121, 110 respectively.

62 Shafi‘i-Kadkani (1381 AH), 113, 110.