’Abdu’l-Rahman Jami

Jami, Nur al-Din Abu al-Barakat ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Nizam al-Din Ahmad ibn Muhammad (1414-1492), a poet, belletrist, and Sufi of renown, flourishing in the 15th century. He was born in Khurgird in the Jam region. On his father’s line of descent, he traces his lineage to Muhammad ibn Hasan Shaybani, the renowned Hanafi jurisprudent flourishing in the 8th century. His father hailed from Dasht, a city in the vicinity of Isfahan, but he, well-known as Dashti, departed for Khurasan and found an employment as a judge and settled there. Some biographers maintain that his main title was ‘Imad al-Din, but his well-known title is Nur al-Din. Jami’s family members were inclined toward learning and mysticism; as a consequence of which he became acquainted with Sufism in his early years. He studied with his father in Khurgird and first met Mawlana Fakhr al-Din Nuristani at the age of three and became interested in Sufism. Accompanying his father, he departed for Herat at the age of 13 and settled there and became well-known as Jami. First he composed poetry with the nom de plume Dashti, but he later changed it to Jami. He said that his birth in Jam and his devotion to Shaykh al-Islam Ahmad Jam made him opt for the nom de plume. His meeting with Khwaja Muhammad Parsa, an eminent Shaykh of the Naqshbandiyya Order, was the main reason of his initiation to the Sufi Order (Khwajagan). Upon his arrival in Herat, he studied at the Bazar Khush School and later went to the Nizamiyya School and studied literary sciences there. He first attended the teaching sessions held by Mawla Junayn Usuli, Jajarmi, and Khwaja ‘Ali Samarqandi. He departed for Samarqand at the age of 20 to further his studies and studied astronomy with Qazizada Rumi. He became well-versed in Samarqand in Islamic sciences like Qur’anic exegesis, traditions, prophet’s biography, principles of jurisprudence, peripatetic logic, illuminationist philosophy, physics, mathematics, music, secrets of Sufism, and the art of Mu’amma. He stayed there for a number of years, but returned to Herat in 1446 where he became a disciple of Sa’d al-Din Kashghari, a distinguished Shaykh of the Khwajagan order and following his demise became a disciple of Khwaja Nasir al-Din ‘Ubayd Allah Ahrar. He also met Khwaja Muhammad Parsa in Jam when the Khwaja was en route to pilgrimage to Mecca. After treading the path of Sufism for years, he attained to exalted positions and became a distinguished Shaykh of the order. He was a contemporary of Shahrukh, Abu al-Qasim Babar, Abu Sa’id Gurkani, and Shah Sultan Husayn Bayqara. He was contemporaneous with Amir ‘Alishir Nawa’i who after Jami’s death wrote Khamsat al-Mutahayyirin in his memory. He traveled to Hijaz, Baghdad, Damascus, and Tabriz and lived his last years in Herat, declining the invitation of the Ottoman Sultan. In his midlife, possibly in his fifties, Jami married a granddaughter of his disciple, Sa’d al-Din Kashghari, and had four sons by her. His high intelligence, piety, magnanimity, contentment, simple life, benevolence, and wit were among his character traits. Well-versed in different sciences and arts, he created a vast array of compositions in prose and verse and is still recognized as the most distinguished poet, belletrist, and scholar flourishing in the 15th century. Jami wrote in an elegant hand and autography manuscript copies of some of his works, e.g. Shawahid al-Nubuwwa; Silsilat al-Dhahab; and Subhat al-Abrar are available with the Kabul Museum. A complete autograph manuscript copy of his complete poetical compositions is available with the School of Oriental Languages at Saint Petersburg, catalogued in the selected collection of Viktor Rosen. Jami did not attempt at acquiring wealth since he was a devoted believee in the Naqshbandiyya Order, he was not attracted to luxury. He termed his clothes as rags (pilas) and at times, visitors did not distinguish between him and his servants. He spent his earnings on building mosques, schools, Sufi spiritual centers, and financially supported students, propagation of culture, the needy, and the demands of the Sufi centers, as reflected in his epistles. He suffered from ailments after 60 years of age and he complains about old age and ailments in his works. Following a four day period of ailment, he died on the 8/9 November 1492. His funeral procession was attended by Sultan Husayn Bayqara, Amir ‘Alishir Nawa’i, notables, scholars, and the laity from Herat and he was buried near the tomb of Shaykh Sa’d al-Din Kashghari. A splendid edifice was erected on his grave by Amir ‘Alishir Nawa’i, but later on, the Safavid Shah Isma’il I in his conquest of Herat burned his tomb. Nevertheless, his son, Ziya’ al-Din Yusuf and some of his devoted disciples, aware of the Shah’s evil intention, had removed his corpse elsewhere and later returned it to the tomb. Consequently, the inscription on his grave is later than the grave. His tomb is well-known as Takht-i Mazar. Some orientalist maintain that Jami’s death marked the end of the golden era of classical Persian literature. His title, the Seal of the Poets (Khatam al-Shu’ara’) reflects this view. Jami composed in almost all Persian literary genres in prose and verse. Some of his works are in rhymed prose, some interspersed with rhymed prose, some plain and unadorned, and some between these styles. His compositions are also marked by intertwining prose and poetry. His works are vigorous in terms of form and unlike his contemporaries, they are not interspersed with worthy and unworthy compositions. He composed in Arabic and Persian, though the majority of his literary meditations are in Persian. The themes of Jami’s compositions are the age old classical ones and in his qasidas and ghazals, he particularly followed the models set by Anwari, Amir Khusraw, and Salman Sawaji. Nonetheless, he has composed innovative works; for instance, in his Khirad Nama and Salaman wa Absal, he did not merely follow Nizami’s model. His literary works include his Divan of qasidas and ghazals; Haft Awrang, consisting of seven mathnawis; Quatrains; Risala-yi Qafiya, in which he elaborates on distinctions and merits of Arabic and Persian poetry; Risala-yi ‘Aruz, in which he made attempts to some extent simplify and abridge prosody, thereby ignoring the meters and rhythms unemployed in Persian poetry; Rasa’il-i Mu’amma’i (cryptographs, acrostics), including: Risala-yi Kabir, Risala-yi Mutawassit, Risala-yi Saghir, Risala-yi Manzuma-yi Asghar on acrostics; Tashif, on displacement of letters and consequent semantic changes; Baharistan, in prose interspersed with poetry, in fact imitative of S’adi’s Gulistan; Risala-yi Sharh-i Ruba’iyyat, a commentary on 49 mystical quatrains of his composition; Risala-yi Munsha’at; al-Fawa’id al-Ziya’iyya fi Sharh al-Kafiya; Persian grammar in verse and prose; Tajnis al-Lughat or Tajnis al-Khatt. His mystical works include: Naqd al-Nusus fi Sharh Naqsh al-Nusus, a commentary on Ibn ‘Arabi’s Naqsh al-Nusus; Lawa’ih, a treatise on mystical teachings and meanings; Lawami’, a commentary versified in the genre of quatrain on the words, clauses, allusions, and esoteric meanings of Ibn Fariz’ Qasida Mimiyya (with rhymes ending in Mim) Khamriyya (Annacreaontic or Bacchic Verse), and the states of mystics and people of intuitive knowledge; Sharh-i Qasida-yi Thaniya, a commentary on Ibn Fariz’ qasida in which Jami used Arabic and Persian commentaries and presented his work in quatrain form; Risala-yi Na’iyya or Sharh-i Baytayn-i Mathnavi, a commentary in prose and verse on the meaning of reed and the anecdote of its complaints as reflected in Rumi’s magnum opus Mathnawi Ma’nawi; a commentary on a couplet by Amir Khusraw:

 ‘When the alligator of negation arises from the sea of bearing witness

it will be an obligation on Noah to perform minor ablution with dust at the time of the Flood’;

 Sukhanan-i Khwaja Parsa or al-Hashiyyat al-Qudsiyya, a Persian commentary on the Persian and Arabic aphorisms of Khwaja Muhammad Parsa; Ashi’’at al-Luma’at, a Persian commentary on ‘Iraqi’s Luma’at; Risala-yi Shara’it-i Dhikr, a commentary on a mystical quatrain in Persian; Risala-yi Tahqiq-i Madhhab-i Sufi, also well-known as al-Durrat al-Fakhira, treating of the beliefs of Sufis, theologians, and philosophers; Risala fi ‘l-Wujud, a short treatise in Arabic on the philosophical and mystical meaning of existence; commentary on Sadr al-Din Qunyawi’s Miftah al-Ghayb; Risala-yi Su’al wa Jawab-i Hindustan, responses to some questions raised by Indian scholars concerning mystical subjects; Naqd Nusus fi Sharh al-Fusus, a commentary of Ibn ‘Arabi’s Fusus al-Hikam in Arabic; Nafahat al-Uns min Hazarat al-Quds composed in Persian between the months of January and July 1488 at the behest of Amir ‘Alishir Nawa’i treating of the biographical accounts of mystics, saints, and poets regarded as mystics; Manaqib-i Shaykh al-Islam Khwaja ‘Abd Allah Ansari whose ascription to Jami has been proved and it has been edited and published by Arberry. Jami also wrote a number of books on astronomy, music, poesy, biography, epistolary art, and other subjects. He also elaborately discussed theological, Qur’anic, and traditionists’ discussions from the viewpoints of Sufism and mysticism. Such works include: Shawahid al-Nubuwwa li-Taqwiya Yaqin Ahl al-Futuwwa, a treatise on proving the prophethood of the noble Messenger and his biographical accounts; I’tiqadnama or ‘Aqa’id, a short mathnavi elaborating on the principles of Islamic doctrine from a mystical viewpoint, opening with the unity of being and closing with the degrees of Paradise; Chihil Hadith or Arba’in, consisting of 40 prophetic traditions and their translation into Persian; Risala-yi Manasik-i Hajj wa ‘Umra, well-known as Risala-yi Saghir-i Hajj, composed for his contemporary Sufis in Arabic and Persian; Risala-yi Kabir-i Manasik-i Hajj, on rites of pilgrimage to Mecca according to the four Sunni Schools of Islamic jurisprudence with commentaries, which is not available today. His most significant poetical compositions include his Divan consisting of ghazals and qasidas. He composed lyrical poetry for more than 50 years and collected them in three divans at different times and titled them in chronological order as Fatihat al-Shabab (prime of life), Wasitat al-‘Iqd (youth, lit. ‘the middle bead on the necklace’), and Khatimat al-Hayah (‘end of life’). Such titles were in fact selected at the behest of Amir ‘Alishir Nawa’i, following the model of separate divans of Amir Khusraw Dihlawi. The first, comprise his poetry composed to his 60th year of age, the second those composed between 66 and 75 years of age, and the third those composed in his last three years. Unlike the common practice in his times, the three include no eulogies. In his short poems (8 to 15 couplets), resembling qasidas, Jami presents depictions of events of his times, Unity of Truth, praise of the Prophet and saints, prayers, mystical subjects, councils, and aphorisms. Some of them constitute responses to epistles. One of his qasidas is titled ‘Elaboration on the frailty of old age and the faults of youth’ also well-known as Qasida-yi Shaybiyya. In another qasida, titled ‘Rashh-i Bal bih Sharh-i Hal’ Jami presents an account of his life. In his qit’as, he mainly presents councils and admonitions and in some others he present delicate and elegant depictions of the events of his life. Some are occasional poems presenting accounts of significant events in his poetical career. The themes of his quatrains are mainly lyrical and mystical, though some of which deal with councils, accounts of his life, and delicacy and elegance. Social and individual criticism, lampoon, satire, depiction of states, emotional attachments, and the like are also reflected in his quatrains. Jami used other poetical forms, including tarkib-band, mainly elegies composed for his spiritual guide, Sa’d al-Din Kashghari; his brother; his son; Khwaja Ahrar; depictions of the royal mansion of Sultan Husayn and the manner of his arrival in Medina; tarji’band, of which he has mastery vigorously and elegantly treating of Sufi intuitive knowledge, love, and mysticism; murabba’, in one of his two murabba’s he provides a depiction of the feelings of the beloved and the states of lovers and the other, consisting of ten sections (band), concerns prayers and is imbued with consonance and bilingual verses; fard (single couplet), besides his acrostic single couplets, there is one in his Divan. He also composed a poem in the form of bahr-i tawil. His poetry includes twin couplets and pieces in other commonly used forms of poetry. Some of his compositions have been translated into other languages, e.g. Turkish and English. Studies have been conducted on his poetry and thoughts.


Atashkadeh Azar (1/ 375-394); Az Sa’di ta Jami (745-792); Tarikh Adabiyat dar Iran (4/ 347-367); Dastanha-ya va Payamha-ya Haft Aurang Jami (3-7); Danishnama Jahan Islam (9/405-411)