(d. circa 691/1292)

Sa‘di (d. circa 691/1292) was the leading master of the erotic lyric (ghazal) in Persian in the thirteenth century. He is equally renowned for his “Rose Garden” (Gulistan, composed in 1258) penned in the most exquisite Persian rhyming prose interspersed with poetry. For centuries, the Gulistan has been the first book of Persian placed as a primer in the hands of school-children learning Persian. He also authored a long (4,100 couplets), Sufi poem composed in rhyming couplets, called “The Orchard” (Bustan), modelled on Sana’i’s Hadiqat al-haqiqat, which is divided into ten sections on (i) Justice, Management and Good Judgment, (ii) Beneficence, (iii) Love, Intoxication and Delirium, (iv) Humility, (v) Contentment, (vi) Resignation, (vii) Education, (viii) Gratitude for Well-Being, (ix) Repentance, and (x) Supplication. His writing is full of moral advice, admonition and bon mots, but he always stresses the relativism of all ethical absolutes. As E.G. Browne observed, “the real charm of Sa‘di  and the secret of his popularity lies not in his consistency but in his catholicity; in his works is a matter for every taste, the highest and the lowest, the most refined and the most coarse.” Sa‘di’s enduring popularity is proven by the Gulha programmes where his poetry and prose are discussed, declaimed, sung and set to music than any other Persian poet, including even Rumi and Hafiz.


Sa’di Shirazi, Mushrif al-Din, Sharaf al-Din, Muslih al-Din Abu Muhammad (1213/1218-1291), son of ‘Abd Allah. A poet, mystic, and writer composing in Persian, with the appellation Ustad-i Sukhan (‘Master of belles-lettres’). He was born in Shiraz to a father who was attached to the chancery administration of Atabak Sa’d ibn Zangi, the ruler of Fars. He lost his father in his early years. He eagerly went to school and learned sciences. He became quite interested in studying, religion, and acquisition of knowledge. The turbulent times in the late reign of the Khwarazmshah Sultan Muhammad, and particularly the invasion of Sultan Ghiyath al-Din, the Khwarazmshah Jalal al-Din’s brother, of Shiraz (1229) led Sa’di to depart his homeland in quest of knowledge to the Nizamiyya School in Baghdad, where he was above all impressed by the teachings of Imam Muhammad Ghazali. He was also impressed by the mystical ideas of Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi. He also studied in Baghdad with Abu al-Faraj ibn Jawzi. Having completed his studies, he traveled to numerous places, many of which are reflected in his works. He traveled to Hijaz, Sham, and Syria and finally went on pilgrimage to Mecca. He also delivered sermons in the cities of Sham. He made journeys to Iraq, and possibly to India, Turkistan, Asia Minor, Ghazna, Azerbaijan, Palestine, China, Yemen, and North Africa. He returned to Shiraz in 1257 and resided at the Sufi spiritual center of Abu ‘Abd Allah ibn Khafif. The then ruler of Fars was Atabak Abu Bakr ibn Sa’d Zangi (1226-1259) who paid tribute to Mongols to withhold them from invading Fars and made contributions to them in their conquest of Baghdad (10 February 1258). Shiraz had turned into a safe haven at the time for scholars who had a narrow escape from the Tartar sword. Sa’di was well-respected by the Atabak in his court. The regent of Muzaffar al-Din Abu Bakr, Sa’d ibn Abu Bakr deeply respected Sa’di and the latter chose the nom de plume Sa’di after the former’s name. As a token of gratitude for the Shah, Sa’di commenced the composition of Bustan in 1257 and having completed the ten chapters in the form of mathnawi, he dedicated it to Atabak Abu Bakr ibn Sa’d ibn Zangi. He composed Gulistan in the spring of the following year and dedicated it to the regent of Sa’d ibn Abu Bakr ibn Zangi. Sa’di departed his homeland for Baghdad and Hijaz again after the fall of the Salghurids. Though he was well-received upon his return, it is reported that he sought refuge in seclusion and engaged himself in self-discipline. Sa’di was traveled far and wide in strange and remote lands. On his journeys, he accompanied merchants and pilgrims. Having heard accounts of kings, he conciliated them. He was well aware of their generosity and cruelty and at times he forwent their rewards to ward off their maltreatment. He willingly or unwillingly associated with lovers, heroes, apostates, shaykhs, Sufis, bohemians, and vagabonds and intertwined the youthful years of inexperience with the experiences of his recurrent travels and old age. In his travels, he was not in quest of change, acquisition of knowledge, and acquaintance with different customs and cultures, but each of his travels was a spiritual experience. In addition to such spiritual and mundane experiences, he amassed a treasure of narratives, tales, and observations rooted in the realities of life; as each anecdote in the Gulistan opens a door to life and each clause is expressed with certitude consequent to a world of experience. The anecdotes, besides belonging to the world of imagination, belong to the world of practical experience. Such objective dimension may be one of the most significant factors leading to the appeal of his councils and aphorisms to people from different walks of life, though their artistic diction particularly contributes to their survival. Sa’di’s works present the fruits of his mystical, social, and didactic thoughts and ideas and reflections of the characters and morals of an ancient nation; as a consequence of which their splendor will never fade. Sa’di’s tomb is in a spiritual center which used to be his residence. It is located in South East of Shiraz, at the foot of the Quhandizh Mount, end of the Bustan Avenue, beside the Dilgusha Garden. Sa’di lived in that Sufi spiritual center in his last years where he was buried. Khwaja Shams al-Din Muhammad Sahib Diwani, the distinguished vizier of the Ilkhanid Abaqa Khan, first erected a tomb upon Sa’di’s burial place in the 13th century. Shaykh Sa’di’s spiritual center was demolished in 1589 on the orders of Ya’qub Dhu al-Qadr, the then ruler of Fars. It was in 1773 that a royal, two-story edifice was constructed of lime and brick on the Shaykh’s grave on the orders of the Zand Karim Khan. The first storey included a vestibule leading to the stairs to the second story. Two rooms with pedestals were constructed on the either side of the vestibule and Sa’di’s grave, surrounded by a wooden sepulcher, was located in the room located on the east of the vestibule. Parallel to the east wing, the west wing consisted of two rooms; the west room was later used as the burial place of Shurida (Fasih al-Mulk), the blind poet from Shiraz. The upper story resembled the lower one, but there was no room built on the east room on the first story as a token of respect for the Shaykh; consequently, the ceiling of which was as high as two stories. The present edifice was constructed by the National Heritage Society (Anjuman-i Athar-i Milli) in 1952 by intermingling old and modern Persian architecture in the form of an octagonal edifice with high ceilings and tile work. There is a beautiful courtyard opposite the atrium, leading to the tomb. Sa’di’s numerous works in prose and verse include: Bustan, a moral book in verse; Gulistan, in rhyming prose; Divan of poetry, including ghazals, qasidas, quatrains, mathnawis, single couplets, tarji’band and other forms of poetry in Persian and a number of qasidas and ghazals in Arabic; Sahibiyya, a collection of some Persian and Arabic qit’as in which Sa’di eulogized Shams al-Din Sahib Diwan Juwayni, the vizier of the Atabaks; Arabic qasidas, running to about 700 couplets, mainly consisting of lyrical poetry, eulogies, aphorisms, and elegies. Persian qasidas in praise of God and eulogies and aphorisms addressed to kings and notables; Marathi, long qasidas mainly elegies composed for the last ‘Abbasid Caliph, al-Musta’sim bi-llah, in which the Mongol Hulegu is censured for the caliph’s execution. Sa’di also composed a number of chakamas in elegy of some Atabaks of Fars and their viziers; Sa’di’s Mufradat or single couplets deal with aphorisms and moral councils. His other works include Nasihat al-Muluk; Risala-yi ‘Aql wa ‘Ishq; Majalis-i Panjganih; and Taqrirat-i Thalatha. The critical editions of Muhammad ‘Ali Furughi and Ghulam Husayn Yusufi enjoy further recognition. Bustan is a book in verse in the mutaqarib meter (fa’ulun fa’ulun fa’ulun fa’al). The work consists of ten chapters. It is also well-known in some early sources as Sa’dinama, though it was called Bustan on the analogy of Gulistan. Gulistan is a book in seven chapters in rhymed prose: The Manners of Kings; The Morals of Sufis; The Virtue of Contentment; The Merits of Silence; Love and Youth; Weakness and Old Age; Effects of Education; Manners of Association. Sa’di’s ghazals have been collected in four books: Tayyibat; Bada’i’; Khawatim; and Ghazaliyyat. His fame is indebted to his inimitably simple and fluent diction. In other words, his works in prose and verse seem simple at the first glance and they are devoid of difficult and twisted words. The readership has easily related to his works down the centuries, but they are inimitable, i.e. hard to imitate. In other words, they appear to be easy at the first glace and they may be easily appreciated by the reader, but when one makes an attempt to imitate his diction, it becomes obvious that it is so difficult and next to impossible. His works are also marked by other features: grammatical rules have been most accurately followed; meter and musicality do not lead to omissions or changes in the syntactical structure and he most delicately and most naturally succeeds in presenting sound grammatical structures despite difficulties in finding words appropriate to the meters. Brevity (ijaz) is to summarize or prune poetry of redundant words and phrases, which not only plays a significant role in the general structure of poetry but also diminishes the elegance of diction. It plays a particular role in Sa’di’s prose and poetry. Such brevity which possesses utmost elegance also results in delicate lyrical and imaginative hyperboles and further enriches the poetic diction. No word is inserted or deleted in Sa’di’s poetry. His brevity does not reflect emptiness and mediocrity; rather it is indicative of thoughts and sympathy. He makes use of musicality, mainly prosodic meters, in his poetical diction. Further, he most impressively employs factors each of which enhance his musicality in some way. Such factors include different types of wordplay; overt and covert assonance and alliteration; repetition of words; suitable stresses; verbal parallelism; recurrent instances of folding and unfolding (laff wa nashr). Such elements are so artistically and deftly employed that the reader is absorbed by their elegance, harmony, and delicacy before proceeding to notice them. Satire and witticism play particular roles in the stylistic structure of his compositions. However, they arise from the perspectives and angles of the distinguished poet. His satire is imbued with joyfulness vital spirit, through which he takes away gravity and rejuvenates his diction. It is through his satire that he renders his words sharp and impressive. In his ghazals, Sa’di makes the most of the musical elements of language without rendering his diction florid and ostentatious. Artistic recurrence of words, assonance, alliteration, choice of meter, and his sentimental and lyrical diction render his words like delightful and invigorating nectar.

Buzurgan-i Nami-yi Pars (1/ 341-354); Tarikh-i Adabiyyat dar Iran (3/ 584-622); Danishmandan va Sukhansarayan-i Fars (3/ 102-159); Sabkshinasi (3/ 112-156); Shakhsiyyat-ha-yi Nami (139-142).