When the British began their rule in India the Muslims had been in power for several centuries. Yet their customs were strange to the newcomers and differed also from those of the Mohammedans they had met further west. The new wielders of power, many of them earnest young men straight from England, required some knowledge of the people they were to govern.
G.A. Herklots was greatly interested in the customs and religions of India, and began to collect material for a book of his own. Then he met Ja'far Sharif, and pursuaded him to write the book in the Dakkhini language. In 1832 he was able to publish a translation of the work.
The present edition was enlarged, extensively edited and reassembled by William Crooke. Thus it is now a very readable account of the beliefs and practices of the Muslims of both the Shi'a and the Sunni sect that were prevalent in India in the eighteenth century, with a modern explanation and background bringing it up to date