Confessions of a British Spy: Book Review

The following is a useful (abridged) review of Confessions of a British Spy by:

Adnan Malik

Librarian for the South Asian Collections

South/Southeast Asia Library

120 Doe Library

University of California

Berkeley, CA 94720-6000

I have reviewed the two e-books you sent me earlier. The first one, Confessions of a British Spy, is an obvious forgery, like the more famous, Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Confessions of a British Spy is too full of anachronisms and inaccuracies to be taken seriously. It seems to be a product of Ottoman/Turkish frustration against Wahhabis.

To start with, Humpher is not an English name. More importantly, the British were not powerful enough in the mid 18th century to enagae in such covert operations. Imperialism really took root in England after the 1820s, and the British Empire really spread and established itself after that. The creators of this document neither have a good grasp of the rise of Wahhabism nor of the history of British imperialism.

The second book, Documents of the Right Word, is more interesting. It seems to be a restatement of the standard Sunni arguments against Shiism set within a narrative framework of Nadir Shah’s attempts to reconcile the two sects. As far as I know, Nadir Shah, who did not care much for ulama, did try to reconcile the two sects for his his own political needs. There had also been attempts earlier in Ottoman and Safivid times for a reconciliation between the two sects by declaring the Jafai Fiqh as the fifth valid school of fiqh, as part of a diplomatic rapprochement between the two empires. These earlier attempts failed when the larger diplomatic initiative failed. Perhaps Nadir Shah was building on this earlier attempt in order to bring close the two halves, Iran and Afghanistan, of his kingdom.

What is interesting about this book is that it lays the blame of the corruption of Shiism at the feet of the Hurufis. Again, this is anachronistic and betrays the Ottoman bias of the author(s). The Hurufis emerged in the 15th century of the Christian Era, and while they did manage to gain some prominent followers at the Safavid court, including, according to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, Shah Abbas for some time, they were always condemned by the Shii ulama as heretics and were severly persecuted in both the Ottoman and Safavid Empires. Nevertheless, again according to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, Hurufi ideas did percolate among Bektashi and Alavi circles in Anatolia, and prominent Turks, like the poet Nesimi, were Hurufis and paid for it by being executed for heresy. If I were to jump to conclusions, I would say the Author(s) of this text blame the Hurufis for the ills of Shiism as a covert polemic against Alavis and Bektashis. Based on my limited knowledge, I would say that most of mainstream Shii doctrines were well established long before the Hurufis appeared on the scene. In fact, it seems it was the latter who borrowed ideas from the former, especially the Ismailis.

I hope these brief synopses are of some help. I will need more time If you would like a more detailed deconstruction of the texts.

4 thoughts on “Confessions of a British Spy: Book Review

  1. Actually his name was Hempher and not Humpher.
    And for those who have a minimum of knowledge in history Great Britain became a major power worldwide with the defeat of France in the Americas in the 1760s and the conquest of large parts of India.
    The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates, and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom, that had originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

    I am not surprised with this review as Mohammad Ibn ‘Abdal Wahab is mentioned many time in your blog and links. Hence, you might not want to adhere to the true that this has really happen. The Wahhabism is a doctrine which was established by the British government through Mohammad Ibn ‘Abdal Wahab with the aim to divise the Muslim community.
    You can find the original book writen by Hempher himself if you visit the British Library in London.

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