Ghulam Muhammad Khan had a great love and interest in his youngest son since chilhood. Thus on his birth he gave him, exceptionally, his own pen-name by calling him Mahmud Tarzi(*). Likewise, Mahmud was so devoted to his father that he was always at his side. "Rawan- Farhadi writes: Mahmud, from his early youth, became his father's companion. Father was his first mentor and deeply influenced his personality." In fact,in all of Mahmud's writings, one can perceive his closeness to his father, from whom he had inherited the gift of poetry and writing.
* later Mahmud Tarzi put Tarzi name as a surname of his family.
Following Mahmud's return, a bitter family quarrel erupted between Ghulam Muhammad and his eldest son, Gul Muhammad, who was reputed to have violent temper. On a couple of occasions he had alienated his father by disobeying him but later had been forgiven. This time, however, he exceeded the limit, obliging his father to disown him. Gul Muhammad flew to India, persuading his younger step-brother to join him. His wife, mother and 17 year-old son, Habibullah, remained under Ghulam Muhammad's guardianship in Damascus. During those days, Mahmud was occupied not only with family affairs, but also enthusiastically pursued his reading, writing, research and translation. His father, as usual, devoted himself physically and spiritually to worship and prayer. He also found time for composing poetry. (see "two kings and a leader. Mahmud Tarzi" a novel by Sardar Omer Tarzi) An early poem of his dwells on the delicate veil that the beautiful ladies of Istanbul drew partially across their faces. But as we shall see, he considered prose rather than rhyme, more relevant to today's world.
As Mahmud acquired mastery over Turkish a new horizon of knowledge opened before him. And so with greater enthusiasm he immersed himself in reading and research, using both Turkish and Western literary and scientific sources. Above all, the writings of the celebrated Turkish writer, Ahmad Mahdat (Ahmet Mithat), attracted his attention. All of this had a tremendous impact on his outlook, vision and mental growth which already had a strong base in the prevalent Islamic classics acquired during his youth from his spiritual mentors, his father and his tutor. In his autobiography we come across this line; "....the more I read and learned, the more I loved and yearned for my country....." He was homesick and apprehensive about his country's political uncertainty and backwardness. His anti-colonial feelings, especially his resentment against his country's two enemies; one threatening from the north and the other from the south, kept intensifying.
He was keenly interested in reform and the struggles of the intellectual and patriotic groups. He wrote articles and books, and translated. "When I was living in Damascus, I wrote a book entitled 'the Garden of Learning', containing choice articles about literary, artistic, travel and scientific matters". Another book entitled "The Garden of Knowledge", (later published in Kabul) concludes with an article; "My beloved country, Afghanistan", in which he tells his countrymen how much he longs for his native land and recalls with nostalgia the virtues of its climate, mountains and deserts. He complains about the discord existing among the tribes and towns, and even in the streets. He stresses the need for knowledge which Islam requires of its followers and which is the only means of survival.
He ends the article with a side-heading; "What Japan Was and Became", which describes the intellectual and social developments brought about by the country's orientation towards Western civilisation, particularly its arts and siences.
During his living in Damascus he had some friends and one of them was Faris beg, from Istanbul. He was a navy commander in Ottoman navy force and a good hafiz. And Mahmud was a good poet. . and this duo / bachelors were invited by wellknown families in Damascus and spent good times with their lovely voice and poems and received sympathy and sincere respects from the landlord and his families, especially from young ladies, behind the doors. They spent beatifull days while they were both in Damascus . When Faris beg had to go back to Istanbul and they promised each other to meet in Istanbul. When Mahmud Tarzi exiled in Turkiye with his family to Istanbul, he tried to find his old friend, Hafiz Faris Akoglu and found him about one corner from his house, in Tesvikiye. It was another happy day for them. This time they all were with their wifes, children. There, Mahmud Tarzi's son Abdul Tawab met to Zakire khanum, youngest daughter of Faris beg and they married in Istanbul. "see more chapter in A.Tawab Tarzi."
Coming back to Damascus again, in 1891, Mahmud married the daughter of Sheikh Saleh Al-Mossadiah, a businessman and muezzin of the Amawia mosque. Often after morning prayers, the sheikh would invite Ghulam Muhammad to his house for a cup of tea. The house joined the eastern wall of the mosque. Saleh had a little girl, Asma Rasmiya who always rushed to kiss Ghulam Muhammad's hand and to offer him tea or coffee. Her cheerful disposition and behaviour attracted the attention of him. Some years later, when she reached 15 years of age, he asked the sheikh for the hand of his daughter in marriage to his son, Mahmud. In view of his friendship and affection for him, Saleh readily agreed. The marriage formalities and a grand wedding followed.
Rasmia was a truly virtuous and charitable woman with a kind disposition. Her devotion to her husband during their 45 years together was a model of solidarity and harmony. "My mother was so good, that her children practically worshipped her, so her brides&grooms also."(A.Wahab Tarzi)
A few months after the marriage of Mahmud, his father arranged the marriage of his grandson, Habibullah, to Kateba, the daughter of a notable family Habal, who were his friends.
After marriage of Mahmud, Tarzi decided to visit Sultan, in Istanbul and visit to Mecca (see more, chapter Ghulam Muhammad), of course there was no hesitation about taking his devoted son as travel companion and interpreter. What is remarkable about this trip is the pocket diary which Mahmud kept and which developed into travelogue.
The voyage of 29 days started in Damascus ( Asia ), continued to Istanbul ( Europe ), then to Cairo ( Africa ) for a short stopover and finally, back to Damascus. In 1914, years after his return to Afghanistan, Mahmud published this travelogue with the title "A Book of Travel to Three Continents ". In the preface, he writes; "I have recorded all that we saw and heard on a daily basis, including the geography and history of the lands visited ."
Leafing through it, one understands the preoccupations and apprehensions of young Mahmud regarding the destiny of his country and its political situation.
In the preface, he makes an apt comment about travel and history; "Although age has its normal limits, it may be extended by two things-the study of history and by travel. Reading history broadens one's perception of the creation of the world, while travel extends one's field of vision."
From this moment we are now entering political, social and cultural areas which Mahmud focuses real and serious comments :
He talks about law and legislation with the minister of Justice, with the aim of one day codifying the laws of Afghanistan. Here it is noteworthy that in two years he translates a book on international law and sends it to Amir Abdur-Rahman. The Amir is pleased, and in a letter of appreciation asks Mahmud to translate other useful works.
With the prime minister, Mahmud focuses on Afghan foreign policy, especially the goal of uniting the Islamic countries-with emphasis on Turkiye, Iran and Afghanistan, as follows: "A thousand regrets that grave difficulties and impediments exist, the most significant being the misfortune of sectarian prejudice, tribal hostility and ethnic discord". Towards the end of of the discussion, the prime minister suggests that it might be a good idea for Ghulam Muh. to write to the Amir about these questions. G.Muh. replies; "The truth is, I have wanted for some time to initiate contact with the Amir. Considering Your Excellency's encouragement as a good omen, I will as a first step send a letter of apology and then bring to his attention the questions of Islamic unity and the advancement of knowledge, science and industry-which are among the necessities of today-as well as the one-sided views of Europe regarding our countries. Upon hearing from the Amir, I will contact Your Excellency for further talks." Ghulam Muhammad partially raised himself and shaking the hand of the prime minister, said; "I consider it an honour, and myself fortunate to have had this worthwhile conversation with Your Excellency. I have only one request and that concerns my son". Prime minister: "where is your son and what is his job with the government?" , father: "My son, Mahmud is here in your presence and besides serving me and being my interpreter, he has no other work!". Casting a curious look at me, the Pasha said; "if you hadn't told me, I would have thought that the honourable gentleman came from Tarakia, because his Turkish, manners and bearing are no different from those of the people of Istanbul. His lack of employment is under no circumstances justified. In any event, he must have an appointment with the government, which should be beneficial to both." Father; "I should be grateful if the government would allow him to continue as my interpreter and to assist me in other ways. My request, however, is to have him honoured with a government position(title)". Prime minister: "I will today instruct them to give him an intermediate position and, God willing, he will advance. Although he deserves a higher level, I think it is better to proceed gradually".
On his return to Damascus, Mahmud, on the recommendation of the "Middle Kingdom" entered government service. This proved useful in acquiring administrative experience.
In the "Essays of Mahmud Tarzi" we are told that in his youth, Mahmud had seen in his father's collection of poems, a poem in praise of Afghani. His father and his teacher, Akram, had often spoken to him about this learned and dedicated man.
Some months following the death of Ghulam Muhammad, Amir Abdur-Rahman also passed away in Kabul,1901 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Prince Habibullah.
Mahmud was contemplating his future. In an unpublished article we note the following; "On my return from Istanbul, I became very concerned about choosing a career. Should I become a civil servant, for which I had a Royal Degree, or should I return to Kabul to serve my country and the Islamic world as a whole?"
The article revived in Mahmud an old yearning for travel; "I realised that nature had endowed me with certain talents and abilities for pursing my national goal. First, my Afghan nationality...., second, my long residence and education in the Ottoman countries..., third, my marriage to an Ottoman citizen.....and finally, my knowledge of Pastho, Persian, Turkish, Arabic and some Urdu. In addition, considering the general amnesty recently declared by the Afghan government, the only remaining obstacle to my return had been removed."
Amir Habibullah sent his close aid to Damascus to invite Mahmud Tarzi back to his country. Thus, in March 1902, Mahmud and his nephew started their voyage to Kabul via Bombay,Delhi, Lahore and Peshawar. (see more in"two kings and a leader,Mahmud Tarzi"a novel by Sardar Omer Tarzi)
A year had elapsed since the inauguration of Amir Habibullah, who received Mahmud with kindness and affection, and kept him there for ten months. The writer often heard his father recall how attentively His Majesty would listen to his discourses regarding world affairs and the progress of Turkey in the arts&sciences. The Amir was an enlightened who sincerely desired the advancement of his country, particularly in the essential field of education.
During his stay in Kabul, Mahmud had observed that the family of Sardar Yahya (known as 'The Musahiban' i.e. companions) who, after fall of Amir Yaquib (their son-in-law) had taken refuge with him in India, not only encircled the Amir but had complete control of the court. After 20 years in Dehradoon, it was towards the end of the reign of Amir Abdur-Rahman that succeeded in obtaining permission to return.
Despite the Amir's ambitions for his country, the isolation policy imposed by the British prevented him from establishing a more rational system of education. The teachers and technicians had to come from India and were obliged to sign a contract with the British, pledging loyalty and promising to report regularly on the affairs of the country.
At the court all talk about the advanced outside world was limited to the stories told by the Musahiban about the virtues of India and the British lords and generals, or of the pomp and glory of the courts of the Maharajans and their tiger and lion hunts. There was no mention of the West or the Islamic countries.
They continued to consider Mahmud as an adversary to the end of their lives. They viewed his ideas and aspirations contrary and dangerous to their interests, as well as to those of the British friends, and brought the matter to the attention of the latter through their Indian associates.
Mahmud, in his autobiography, writes; "...in one of my private meetings with the Amir, I obtained a farman containing specific orders for the employment of Turkish specialists and for my repatriation with my family". The British for some time had been suspicious about Amir Abdur-Rahman's desire to secretly establish friendly relations with the Ottomans in the context of Islamic solidarity. In fact, the events of the last two years, i.e. the initiation of friendly correspondence between Ghulam Muh. and the Amir, the allocation of an allowance for Ghulam Muh. and the translation of a book on international law by Mahmud only served to reinforce their fears.
This notion continued during the beginning of the reign of Amir Habibullah, particularly after the Amir's decision to ask Mahmud to proceed with the employment of experts from Turkiye. From then on, the British decided to secretly follow Mahmud's movements. "I was surprised to see documents in the National Archives of India which revealed that Mahmud's brother-in-law, Abdul Baqi, upon Tarzi's death, established contact with the British consul (Richard) and through him the British ambassador in Istanbul (Sir O'Connor), proposing that he serve as their paid informer!" To establish his worth, he added that it was he who had sent Mahmud to Kabul in connection with the Amir's accession to the throne. In his letter of 23 April 1901 to the foreign secretary in London, the ambassador discusses Baqi's visit and his introduction of himself as the brother-in-law of Amir Yaqub and the son of the former governor of Herat (Zaman), as well as being a prominent member of the family of Wazir Yar Mohammad. The Foreign Office of India, however, refutes these claims..... the internal memorandum of Block (an ambassy official), includes this point; ìthe letter from the Sultan to the Amir is not authentic but rather the fabrication of Ismail Haqi, a judge of the Justice Ministry, an enterprising and cunning person...."
On his return to Damascus in February 1903, Mahmud right away embarked on gathering a scientific and technical mission. He succeeded in finding a group of well-qualified specialists, formalised their appointments and started arranging their travel. Baqi, who was au courant about the details of these activities, without delay initiated a campaign of sabotage, sending false and seditious reports to the government in Damascus and through them to the court and also to the British consul.
..........Let us now hear from Mahmud Tarzi regarding the difficulties created by Baqi; "Considering my lengthy residence in the Ottoman countries and the success of my mission, I decided on a final visit to Istanbul in order to express, at an opportune moment, my gratitude to His Majesty and to submit the message of the Amir's sincere good wishes to the government of the Sultan. But, alas, I had hardly arrived when a gang of mischief-makers and spies had influenced the court with false accusations that I had forged a farman from the Amir". Mahmud's distress arising from such serious difficulties and obliging him to spend some eight months there, are also evident from the relevant official documents.
In a letter dated 9 January 1904, the British Consul informs the Ambassador as follows; ".....I should also mention that a few days ago, Mahmud Beg and Habibullah for the first time paid me a courtesy call. Mahmud Beg started the conversation by boasting about his patriotism. He then tried to warn me about the intrigues and mischief of Baqi(without mentioning his name), which are aimed at disrupting the relations between our two countries, and so forth. In a round-about fashion, I corroborated his patriotism but as to his insinuation regarding Baqi, I pretended ignorance although it was clear to whom he was referring......"
Let us return now to the fate of Mahmud and his nephew. Due to mental and physical pressures brought about by these false accusations and being kept under constant surveillance by the suspicious authorities, they decided as a last resort to clarify their situation with the British Embassy and to seek the advice of the Amir through the Government of India.
In a letter to the Foreign Office, the ambassador attache a summary of Mahmud's letter of understanding, as requested by the embassy. It reads follows; Afghanistan, so far, has not concluded any agreements with other countries except Britain and there is peace and security on its borders.
In conclusion, the signatories have the following requests;
1. A review of the Amir's official letter, already presented to the Turkish foreign ministry and the verification of its authenticity by the Indian authorities, in order to refute the false and unjustified allegations against them, thereby restoring their honour and prestige.
2. As they have been kept for 11 months under surveillance and without salary, the amount appropriated by the Amir for their travel, which has been of necessity utilised for their living expenses, should be returned to them.
3. If this should not prove feasible, then in the light of their desperate situation and the amicable relations existing between Afghanistan and Britain, they ought to be returned to their country.
(signed; Mahmud and Habibullah)
Foreign Office sent the following telegram to the viceroy, "Mahmud Tarzi and Habibullah have approached our ambassador in Constantinople, and in view of their insolvency have requested aid so that they could return to their country or, alternatively, their predicament be brought to the attention of the Amir's representative in Calcutta. What instructions should be given to the ambassador?" . The viceroy answers; "There is no reason to give them financial asistance. We will, however, inform to Amir and let you know his reaction". The same day, the deputy of the India Foreign Office send a letter to the Amir's representative. After describing the details of the situation, he asks; ì Are you prepared to help them financially? They have no claim on us."
In any event, after an exchange of messages the Sultan's government allowed Mahmud Tarzi, his nephew and their families, to return to Syria and paid them for their travel expenses as well as donating a sum of money against the balance of their salaries. Thus, on 7 October 1904 ,they returned to Damascus and amid much rejoicing were reunited with their families.
Learning that Baqi had already informed the British consul about the mission, and despite the signed contracts, Mahmud decided to forego the project for the time being. But once in Kabul, he again started negotiations with some of his friends in Istanbul, Egypt and Syria. As a result, by encouraging each other and spurred by their Islamic sentiments towards the people of Afghanistan, a first group of seven experts one after the other reached Kabul.
I consider it appropriate to describe briefly their main contributions;
1. Elmi Fahmi "finance expert" organised the accounting offices on a modern basis.
2. Dr. Munir Izzet established the first modern hospital with its laboratory and pharmacy.
3. Pharmacist Mohammad was in charge of the laboratory and pharmacy. Despite insurmountable obstacles, he succeeded in introducing the vaccine against smallpox.
4. Engineer Riza started the manufacture of white smokeless dynamite and made improvements in tool-making at the Kabul factory.
5. Mohammad Fazli (printing expert and a talented artist) set up the first lithographic press.
6. Colonel Hasan Husnu, reorganised the military.
7. Hasan Hilmi, made a significant contribution in improving the postage stamps and, through his interest in gardening, introduced a number of new vegetables......"
We have ms. May Schinasi's study as an another source about this dramatic time Mahmud and his nephew spent in Istanbul, Damascus and at last to Kabul starting in 1901, as follows;
"...Finally, the journey to Istanbul in 1901 following Ghulam Muhammad's death, was Mahmud's last trip during the Damascus period. Only twenty-two verses(bayt-beyit) out of five hundred he wrote about this journey, under the title of ì Seyahat-nama-e manzum " (account of a journey, in verse) are extant. It was never possible to publish this work either in Istanbul or in Lahore, where Mahmud had occasion to stop on his way to Afghanistan." (see MT, Paraganda) .
After his father's death and Amir Abdur Rahman died in Kabul and was succeeded on the throne by Prince Habibullah and some chance had taken place in Afghanistan, threw Mahmud Tarzi into a great quandary. Although he had admittedly been exiled, Mahmud never ceased to consider Afghanistan his true and only homeland. The dilemma was rapidly solved, however, by his decision to make an exploratory visit to Kabul after the Amir's wish him to come Kabul. Armed with a permit and a passport which brought by Amir's aid to Damascus and handed over personally to him, he went to Kabul in February-March 1902, accompanied by his nephew Habibullah, for a stay of ten months.... In Kabul, during personal audiences with the new Amir and Mahmud spoke persuasively of the mutual interest which could develope between two countries(Ottoman-Afghan). Succeeding he received an order (ferman) to bring back his family and at the same time recruit some Ottoman experts to serve in Afghanistan.Having returned to Istanbul to announce his preliminary contact with the Afghan state and to take his leave, Mahmud found that his plans were opposed by the machinations of some of his enemies who suddenly appeared and accused him of forging his order to return. It took him seven to eight months of uncertain waiting to obtain the authorization from the Ottoman Ministry of the Interior to return to Damascus and collect his family for the trip back to to Kabul. Moreover, he had to forego taking with him the Turkish specialists he had engaged.
This is how they returned to Afghanistan in 1905, after twenty-three years of absence, following the amnesty proclaimed by Amir Habibullah which concerned families other than that of Ghulam Muhammad as well.
Continueing from Wahab Tarzi works; On his return to Damascus, Mahmud right away started preparations for the trip to Afghanistan. The plan was to send their heavy baggage by freighter to Karachi and for them to sail by passanger ship to Bombay. In Karachi, they were welcomed by some relatives, including Anwar and old friends, as well as by the representative of the Amir. Here, Mahmud received terrible news from Bombay that all their goods had perished in a fire. Mahmud was deeply distressed, especially about the loss of his father's handwritten and unpublished works, as well as of his own library of Persian and Arabic books which he had collected over a period of twenty years in exile. It is probably that the British were behind this whole affair as it is strange that the fire was confined to just one warehouse. The family were obliged to remain two months in Karachi in order to replace the necessary clothes and articles.
They spent another two months in Peshawar (winter capital of the Afghan Amirs), waiting for the arrival of their means of tranportation to Kabul. It happened that on this occasion Prince Enayetullah was returning from an official visit to India as the guest of the viceroy, Lord Curzon, and thus all the available means had been reserved for his party. At last, all the litters, horses and mules arrived from Kabul. It took some more days to Dakka, Jelal-abad, passing through Gandomak,Jegdalek, Sorobi and Mahipar Gorge. It was a difficult travel for ladies in litters and men on horseback through narrow passages in Khyber pass.
They came to a residence designated for them, located in the western part of Kabul, in the Hamlet of Hindaki (Chehel-sotun) in the garden of Parwana Khan. On the day following their arrival, Mahmud paid a visit to see the Amir's younger brother, Sardar Nasrollah, who was acting for the Amir during his temporary absence on a trip. Nasrullah later, became against to Mahmud Tarzi and the young prince Aman Ullah and close to British.
Mahmud warmly received and recounted to the Sardar the unpleasant incidents that had occured in Damascus and Istanbul.
When the Amir Habibullah returned, he also received Mahmud with much kindness and affection and invited him on many occasions to see him. For hours, they would talk about the political and cultural developments in the East and in the West. During this initial period the wife of the Amir, Ulia Hazrad., the mother of Prince Aman Ullah and his four sisters, invited the wife of Mahmud Tarzi, Rasmia Khanum who wrote and spoke Dari and his sister,daughters and the wife of his nephew, to the Harem-Saray of the Palace. So the princesses and the daughters of Mahmud became friends."(more at "two kings and a leader. Mahmud Tarzi" Novel by Sardar Omer Tarzi)