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ʿABD-AL-RAḤMĀN NUR-AL-DIN b. Neẓām-al-Din Aḥmad-e Dašti, Persian poet, scholar, and Sufi (1414-1492).

A version of this article is available in print

Volume XIV, Fascicle 5, pp. 469-482

JĀMI, ʿABD-AL-RAḤMĀN NUR-AL-DIN b. Neẓām-al-Din Aḥmad-e Dašti, Persian poet, scholar, and Sufi of the 15th century (b. Ḵarjerd-e Jām, November 7, 1414/d. Herat, November 9, 1492).

For a music sample, see Ḥazin.

For a music sample, see Ḥeṣār - part 2.

JĀMI i. Life and Works


Though born in the hamlet of Ḵarjerd, Jāmi would take his penname from the nearby village of Jām (lying about midway between Mashad and Herat), where he spent his childhood. Before coming to Khorasan sometime in the 14th century, the family resided in the Dašt district of Isfahan, with which Jāmi’s father, Aḥmad Dašti, was still identified. In Jām, Aḥmad was a prominent member of the community, and his house was frequented by the learned and the pious. One of Jāmi’s biographers, Ne-ẓāmi Bāḵarzi (p. 50), relates that the renowned Naqš-bandi Shaikh Ḵᵛāja Moḥammad Pārsā stopped there on his way to Mecca, showing special favor to the five-year-old ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān. Though this story was probably invented to explain Jāmi’s later spiritual affiliation, it does indicate that his father had the learning and wherewithal to provide Jāmi with his earliest education in Persian and Arabic letters. When Jāmi entered his teens, he and his father moved to Herat where he pursued further education in theology, Arabic grammar, and literature. Here the young Jāmi soon established himself as a brilliant, though somewhat arrogant young scholar, a reputation he consolidated in Samarqand (Samarkand), the principal center of learning in Khorasan in the first half of the 15th century (Māyel-Heravi, pp. 33-35). Jāmi continued his studies in Samarqand and Herat throughout his twenties, displaying a prodigious memory and powerful intellect in all fields of learning from Hadith study to astronomy and mathematics.

It was during this period of his life, according to Ṣafi Kāšefi (I, p. 238-39), that Jāmi fled Herat after an unsuccessful love affair and again sought refuge in scholarship in Samarqand. But no sooner had he arrived there than he saw the Naqšbandi Shaikh Saʿd-al-Din Kāšḡari in a dream; the shaikh instructed him to leave his studies, go back to Herat, and take up the Sufi path. Though we may question this explanation, Jāmi does seem to have gone through a spiritual crisis sometime in his thirties, and he did, in fact, return to Herat, give up his scholarly career, and embark upon the Sufi path under Saʿd-al-Din’s direction. The close relations between the Naqšbandi order and the Timurid dynasty would decisively shape the rest of Jāmi’s life. It was apparently at about this time and through the influence of Saʿd-al-Din that Jāmi was first introduced to the royal court; one of his earliest surviving works, Ḥelya-ye ḥolal, dates from 1452 and is dedicated to the Timurid ruler, Abu’l-Qāsem Bābor. Jāmi maintained his affiliation with the court in Herat when the Timurid Abu Saʿid b. Moḥammad came to power in 1457, and he dedicated the first recension of his divān to this ruler in 1463. Abu Saʿid’s religious advisor and spiritual counselor was, in turn, the Naqšbandi Shaikh Ḵᵛāja ʿObayd-Allāh Aḥrār (q.v.), and he and Jāmi would maintain a close and mutually beneficial relationship for most of the next three decades. Ḵᵛāja Aḥrār filled the spiritual void in Jāmi’s life left by the death of Saʿd-al-Din in 1456, and Jāmi apparently lent Ḵᵛāja Aḥrār and his order a cultural and scholarly legitimacy while serving as its semi-official representative in Herat. Under the impact of meeting Ḵᵛāja Aḥrār, Jāmi began his first major poetic work, the first book of Selselat al-ḏahab (‘The Chain of Gold’), and wrote the first of his Arabic commentaries (Naqd al-noṣuṣ fi šarḥ naqš al-foṣuṣ, 1459) on the works of the great Andalusian theosopher Ebn al-ʿArabi, whose ideas played a central role in Naqšbandi teachings. Ḵᵛaja Aḥrār was active primarily in Transoxiana, and he and Jāmi did not have the face-to-face relationship typical of the Sufi master-disciple relationship, but Jāmi did travel north from Herat on several occasions to meet with Ḵᵛāja Aḥrār in Samarqand, Merv, and Tashkent.

When Sultan Ḥosayn Bāyqarā seized power in Herat in 1470, Jāmi was a respected teacher and spiritual leader in the city and had already established close ties with Sultan Ḥoseyn’s powerful advisor and vizier, ʿAlišir Navāʾi. When Jāmi was setting out to go on pilgrimage to Mecca in 1472, he entrusted ʿAlišir with his personal affairs in his absence, and Sultan Ḥoseyn equipped Jāmi’s entourage and provided him with letters of introduction to the local rulers he would encounter on his way (Bāḵarzi, pp. 160-64). Traveling west through Nishapur, Semnān, and Qazvin, Jāmi received a warm welcome from Shah Manučehr, the governor of Hamadān, to whom he dedicated his famous mystical treatise Lawāyeḥ (‘Flashes,’ see Māyel-Heravi, p. 44). From Hamadān, Jāmi proceeded to Baghdad, where he resided for some six months in 1472-73. When Jāmi went to visit the shrine city of Karbala, a disgruntled servant capitalized on verses from Selselat al-ḏahab that attack religious ‘dissenters’ (rawāfeż), to stir up the Shiʿite population of Baghdad against him. Jāmi was brought before a public assembly in the presence of local authorities to defend himself (Ṣafi Kāšefi, I, pp. 256-57). Although he was able to exculpate himself from the charges against him, his bitter feelings against the city and its populace are evident from a ghazal he wrote about this time (Divān, ed. Afsaḥzād, I, p. 778-79). Nevertheless, Jāmi stopped at the tomb-shrine of ʿAli b. Abi Ṭāleb in Najaf, and the poem memorializing his visit shows a devotion to the family of the Prophet that transcends sectarian differences (see Divān, ed. Afsaḥzād, I, pp. 54-56). After performing the rites of the ḥajj in May 1473, Jāmi began his return trip to Khorasan, stopping in Damascus and Aleppo. While in Aleppo, he received an invitation from the Ottoman Sultan Moḥammad II (Mehmet the Conqueror) to join his court in Istanbul. Not swayed by the money and gifts that accompanied this invitation, Jāmi moved quickly to avoid these golden shackles and headed to Tabriz and the court of Uzon Ḥasan. Although he was warmly welcomed by the Āq Qoyunlu ruler, Jāmi declined his invitation to remain in the city and finally arrived back in Herat in January 1474. In addition to its religious purposes, Jāmi’s pilgrimage served to enhance his reputation and establish a network of political and scholarly connections that extended across the Persianate world.

Shortly after his return to Herat, an event took place that helped consolidate his standing with Sultan Ḥosayn and ʿAlišir. According to Bāḵarzi (pp. 196-98), the sons of Abu Saʿid in Transoxiana regarded Herat as part of their patrimony and planned a campaign against Sultan Ḥosayn. Despite the rumor that his mentor Ḵᵛāja Aḥrār had given his blessing to this campaign, Jāmi stood in defense of Sultan Ḥosayn. His position with the court was further strengthened when ʿAlišir joined the Naqšbandi order, with Jāmi as his spiritual director. For the last fifteen years of Jāmi’s life, he, Sultan Ḥosayn, and ʿAlišir constituted a religious, military, and administrative ‘triumvirate’ governing Khorasan. Despite his status, wealth, and influence, Jāmi lived simply and unostentatiously in the district of Ḵiyābān-e Herāt, just outside of the city. Sometime after his return from the pilgrimage, he married the granddaughter of his first spiritual guide, Saʿd-al-Din Kāšḡari. Of the four children born of this marriage, only one survived infancy. Jāmi composed a strophic elegy on the death of his second child, Ṣafi-al-Din Moḥammad in 1475 (Divān, ed. Afsaḥzād, I, pp. 164-69). His third and surviving son, Żiyāʾ-al-Din Yusof, was born in 1477, and Jāmi would eventually write the Bahārestān (1487) and a treatise on Arabic grammar, al-Fawāʾed al-żiyāʾiya (1492), as manuals for his education. Although Jāmi often complains of the ills of old age (Afsaḥzād, p. 136), he made a final trip to Samarqand to visit Ḵᵛāja Aḥrār (Ṣafi Kāšefi, I, pp. 249-51) and, as will be seen below, entered his most productive period as a writer and scholar in the 1480s. Two years after mourning the death of his spiritual guide, Ḵᵛāja Aḥrār, in 1490 (Divān, ed. Ahsaḥzād, II, p. 454-59), Jāmi died after a brief illness on November 9, 1492. He was over eighty years old, and at the time he was the most renowned writer in the Persian-speaking world, receiving appreciation and payment for his works from as far away as India and Istanbul.


Jāmi’s active career as a writer extended over almost fifty years, and he wrote a prolific amount of poetry and prose in both Persian and Arabic. He turned his hand at one time or another to every genre of Persian poetry and penned numerous treatises on a wide range of topics in the humanities and religious sciences. Wāleh of Daghestan (I, p. 487) and other later biographers have claimed that the number of Jāmi’s works matches the numerical value of his name according to the abjad system, for a total of 54, but such a happy coincidence is no doubt too good to be true, and Sām Mirzā’s list of 47 titles (pp. 144-46) is probably closer to the truth. Accurately ascertaining the extent of Jāmi’s corpus, however, is made difficult by the sheer number of surviving manuscripts and the multiple titles by which some of his works are known. Aʿlāḵān Afsaḥzād provides the most reliable inventory to date (Divān, ed. Afsaḥzād, II, pp. 8-12; Afsaḥzād, pp. 154-241), and his findings provide the basis for the following account.

Poetic Works. In its final recension, prepared at the request of ʿAlišir Navāʾi in 1491, Jāmi’s divān is divided into three separately titled sections: Fāteḥat al-šabāb (‘Opening of Youth’), Wāsiṭat al-ʿeqd (‘Middle of the Necklace’), and Ḵātemat al-ḥayāt (‘The End of Life’). The titles and arrangement, however, are somewhat misleading. Containing more than 9,000 verses, the first section is longer than the other two sections combined. A prose introduction preserved in some manuscripts shows that Jāmi first compiled his (untitled) divān in 1463 and dedicated it to Sultan Abu Saʿid. Afsaḥzād argues (Divān, ed. Afsaḥzād, I, pp. 7-17) that Jāmi revised this divān in 1468 and again in 1475, when he added the poems that he had written on his pilgrimage; a final version of this divān was then completed in 1479, for which he wrote a new introduction dedicating the work to Sultan Ḥosayn Bāyqarā. Despite its title, then, Fāteḥat al-šabāb contains the lyric poetry that Jāmi wrote from the beginning of his writing career to his mid-60s, a period of some three decades. The bulk of the volume consists of some 1,000 ḡazals, but it also includes poems in all the prevalent shorter forms: qaṣida, tarjiʿ- and tarkib-band, qeṭʿa, and robāʿi, as well as thirteen short maṯnawis. In addition to poems on the sort of mystical and religious themes most associated with Jāmi, this divān also contains a number of panegyrics to various rulers, such as Abu Saʿid, Jahānšāh Qarā Qoyunlu, Sultan Yaʿqub, and Mehmet the Conqueror, thanking them for gifts or congratulating them on the completion of building projects. According to the datable occasional poems it contains, Jāmi’s second divān, Wāsiṭat al-ʿeqd, was apparently compiled around 1489. Again consisting mostly of ghazals, it is half as long as its predecessor and less diverse formally and thematically; perhaps its best-known poem is the autobiographical qaṣida entitled Rašḥ-e bāl be-šarḥ-e ḥāl (Divān, ed. Afsaḥzād, II, pp. 35-39). Half as long again is the third divān, compiled a year or two later; in addition to ghazals, qeṭʿas and a few qaṣidas, it contains Jāmi’s famous stanzaic elegy on the death of Ḵᵛāja Aḥrār.

Jāmi’s seven long maṯnawis are known collectively as Haft owrang (awrang) (‘The Seven Thrones’ or ‘The Constellation of the Great Bear’). The first of these maṯnawis, Selselat al-ḏahab (‘The Chain of Gold’), is the most lengthy of the set and took the longest to compose. Although all three of its three books or daftars are modeled after Sanāʾi’s Ḥadiqat al-ḥaqiqat, they might almost be considered independent works. The first daftar was written between 1468 and 1472, and it was verses from this work that caused Jāmi so much trouble in Baghdad. Like its model, the work treats a variety of ethical and didactic themes, illustrated by short anecdotes, and is notable for its critique of contemporary society. The second daftar of Selselat al-ḏahab, composed over a decade later in 1485, is of similar structure, but more unified in theme, dealing throughout with the varieties of carnal and spiritual love. The third daftar was written a year later and dedicated to the Ottoman Sultan Bāyazid II and serves as a short conclusion to the whole work.

The remaining six works of the Haft owrang were completed in an intensive creative outburst of little more than five years. Salāmān o Absāl was dedicated to another distant patron, Sultan Yaʿqub Āq Qoyunlu; the year of its composition is usually given as 1480, but Māyel-Heravi has argued for a date as late as 1484 (pp. 173-76). Based on an allegorical tale first alluded to in Avicenna’s al-Ešārāt wa’l-tanbihāt and narrated in full in Naṣir-al-Din Ṭusi’s commentary, Salāmān o Absāl tells the story of the misguided carnal love of the Greek prince Salāmān for his nurse Absāl, and the purification of his desires in a conflagration that consumes his lover (Dehghan, pp. 118-22). The work gained some renown outside Persia thanks to the English version by Edward FitzGerald, the famous translator of ʿOmar Ḵayyām (London, 1856; see Arberry, 1956).

The year 1481 saw the composition of two maṯnawis similar in both title and structure. Written in response to Neẓāmi Ganjavi’s Maḵzan al-asrār (and Amir Ḵosrow’s Maṭlaʿ al-anwār), Toḥfat al-aḥrār (‘Gift of the Free’) contains twenty discourses (maqāla) on various religious and moral themes paired with illustrative anecdotes and, as its title suggests, was dedicated to Jāmi’s spiritual guide, Ḵᵛāja Aḥrār. Sobḥat al-abrār (‘Rosary of the Pious’) is similarly divided into forty “knots” (ʿaqd), each of which is devoted to a principle of the Sufi way. The central work of the Haft owrang, it is written in a meter that has no precedent in the maṯnawi tradition.

In 1483, Jāmi again undertook a single continuous narrative in Yusof o Zoleyḵā, the most celebrated of his maṯnawis. It follows the meter of Neẓāmi’s Ḵosrow o Širin, but its story is based on the twelfth chapter of the Qurʾān, the story of Joseph (Yusof), narrating the passionate, unrequited love of Zoleyḵā (Potiphar’s wife) for the prophet Joseph, but extending the story to the eventual union and death of the protagonists. As Browne (III, p. 531) notes, this work was translated several times into European languages in the 19th century. Like Neẓāmi and Amir Ḵosrow before him, Jāmi took up the famous Bedouin tale of Leyli o Majnun for the sixth volume in the Haft owrang, completing the work in 1484. Finally, a year later, after completing the last installments of Selselat al-ḏahab, Jāmi turned to the Alexander legend for the final volume of his heptad, Ḵerad-nāma-ye Eskandari (‘The Alexandrian Book of Wisdom’). While this work adopts the heroic motaqāreb meter utilized by Neẓāmi in his Eskandar-nāma, Jāmi devotes relatively few verses to the story of Alexander’s adventures and instead turns his attention to stories and teachings of the various philosophers and wise men whom Alexander encounters on his journeys.

Prose works. The nearly 39,000 lines of verse that make up Jāmi’s poetic oeuvre already make him one of the most prolific poets in the classical tradition. But when one considers the thirty-plus prose works that survive from his pen, his literary productivity is truly staggering. Mention has already been made of the Bahārestān, a work in mixed prose and verse in imitation of Saʿdi’s Golestān that Jāmi ostensibly wrote for his son’s education in 1487 (most recently ed. Afsaḥzād, Tehran, 2000).

Given his long affiliation with and high standing in the Naqšbandi order, it is not surprising that many of Jāmi’s prose works are devoted to the practice and teaching of Sufism. One of the earliest and most famous of such works is the Lawāyeḥ (The Flashes), composed in 1465-66 and dedicated to the Qarā Qoyunlu ruler Jahānšāh. Modeled on Aḥmad Ḡazāli’s Sawāneḥ, it consists of a series of mystical meditations in mixed prose and poetry. It has been edited several times in recent years (ed. Mo-ḥammad Ḥosayn Tasbiḥi, Tehran, 1964; Yann Richard, Paris, 1982; and most recently Afsaḥzād in Bahārestān, pp. 445-81), and has been translated into both English (E. H. Winfield, London, 1928; William Chittick, in Sachiko Murata, Chinese Gleams of Sufi Light, Albany, 2000) and French (Yann Richard, Paris, 1982). Perhaps even more widely known is the large collection of Sufi hagiographies that Jāmi composed after returning from his pilgrimage to Mecca, Nafaḥāt al-ons men ḥażarāt al-qods (Breaths of intimacy from presences of sanctity). It was translated into Ottoman Turkish (Istanbul, 1872) shortly after its completion by Lameʿi Çelebi (d. 1532) and into Arabic a few decades later by Moḥammad b. Zakariyā b. Solṭān ʿAbšami (d. 1640) (Cairo, 1989). The Persian text appeared in numerous lithograph editions in India, and there are two modern print editions (ed. Mehdi Towḥidipur, Tehran, 1958; and ed. Maḥmud ʿĀbedi, Tehran, 1991). The unpublished Jāmeʿ-e soḵanān-e Ḵᵛāja Pārsā (date unknown, in Persian and Arabic) collects the sayings and sermons of the famous Naqšbandi shaikh, accompanied by Jāmi’s own commentary. The practice of ḏekr, the communal recitation of pious formulas often ending in ecstatic transport, was a controversial doctrinal issue in Naqšbandi circles, and Jāmi treated the topic in his Resāla-ye šarāyeṭ-e ḏekr (date unknown; ed. Juyā Jahānbaḵš in Bahārestān, pp. 483-91); the work is also known as Resāla-ye ṭariq-e Ḵvājagān and was published under the title Resāla-ye sar-rešta in Kabul in 1963. Finally, the Resāla fi’l-wojud (in Arabic, date unknown) deals with the concept of the “unity of being,” central to the teachings of Ebn al-ʿArabi and taken up by the Naqšbandi order.

Many of Jāmi’s mystical writings take the form of commentaries on earlier works. Two commentaries on Ebn al-ʿArabi’s magnum opus, Foṣuṣ al-ḥekam, mark the beginning and end of Jāmi’s career. Naqd al-nosÂus fi šarḥ-e Naqš al-fosÂusÂ, a commentary on Ebn al-ʿArabi’s own abridgement of Foṣuṣ al-ḥekam, was written in 1458-59, around the time when Jāmi first came under the influence of Ḵᵛāja Aḥrār (ed. William Chittick, Tehran, 1977). In 1490-91 near the end of his life, Jāmi undertook an Arabic commentary on the full text of the Foṣuṣ entitled Šarḥ Foṣuṣ al-ḥekam, his last major mystical work (ed. ʿĀṣem Ebrāhim al-Kayyāli al-Ḥoseyni al-Šāḏeli al-Darqawi, Beirut, 2004). The Egyptian poet Ebn al-Fāreż was one of the earliest Arabic poets to give literary expression to the theosophy of Ebn al-ʿArabi, and Jāmi wrote commentaries on two of his most famous poems: Šarḥ-e qaṣida-ye tāʾiya-ye Ebn Fāreż (in Bahārestān, pp. 409-38), and Lawāmeʿ fi šarḥ-e qaṣida-ye mimiya-ye ḵamriya-ye Fāreżiya (ed. Ḥekmat Āl-āqā, Tehran, 1962; in Bahāre-stān, pp. 339-406). Both works apparently date from the 1470s. In Persian, Ebn al-ʿArabi’s earliest poetic proponent was Faḵr-al-Din ʿErāqi, and Jāmi wrote a commentary on his famous treatise Lamaʿāt in 1481, entitled Ašaʿʿāt al-lamaʿāt (ed. Ḥāmed Rabbāni in Ganj-e ʿerfān, Tehran, 1973). The first two verses of the Maṯnawi-ye maʿnawi of Mowlānā Rumi are the subject of a brief treatise entitled Resāla-ye nāʾiya, also known as Ney-nāma (in Bahārestān, pp. 325-36). Šarḥ-e beyt-e Amir Ḵosrow, as its title indicates, is a short treatise on a verse from one of Amir Ḵosrow’s qaṣidas and interprets the Islamic profession of faith from the perspective of Ebn al-ʿArabi’s teachings. Finally, Jāmi subjected his own poetry to an extensive mystical commentary in Šarḥ-e robāʿiyāt, a commentary on 46 of his own quatrains, which draws on numerous works of the school of Ebn al-ʿArabi and his Naqšbandi followers (ed. Najib Māyel-Heravi, Kabul, 1964).

Aside from his works on Sufism, Jāmi also wrote a number of works on more traditional topics of Islamic theology. Šawāhed al-nobuwwa, ‘Witnesses of Prophethood,’ was written at the request of ʿAlišir Navāʿi as a sequel to Nafaḥāt al-ons, extending the spiritual history of Islam back to the Prophet and his companions (for a summary of its contents, see Browne, III, p. 513). Commonly known as al-Dorra al-fāḵera (‘The Splendid Pearl’), the epistle Taḥqiq al-maḏāheb was written in Arabic at the request of Mehmet the Conqueror around 1481. In it, Jāmi compares the perspectives of Sufis, theologians (motakallemin), and philosophers with regard to a number of key doctrinal issues. An edition of the text has been published by Nicholas Heer and ʿAli Musavi-Behbehāni (Tehran, 1979) and translated into both Italian (Martino Mario Moreno, Naples, 1981) and English (Nicholas Heer, Albany, 1979). Also dating from 1481 is Čehel ḥadiṯ, or Arbaʿeyn ḥadiṯ, a versified Persian translation of forty of the sayings of the Prophet (ed. Kāẓem Modir-Šānači, Mashad, 1984; in Bahārestān, pp. 311-23). Jāmi also wrote a guide to the pilgrimage during his journey to Mecca in 1473, entitled Resāla-ye manāsek-e ḥajj. A longer work on the same topic, reported by Lāri (p. 39), is lost. Finally, mention should be made of two very brief theological works Šarḥ-e ḥadiṯ-e Abi Zarrin al-ʿAqili and Resāla-ye soʾāl o jawāb-e Hendustān, as well as two uncompleted works: a tafsir on the Qurʾān and a commentary on Meftāḥ al-ḡeyb by Ṣadr-al-Din Qonyavi, an early student of Ebn al-ʿArabi.

In addition to his mystical and theological writings, Jāmi’s oeuvre contains a variety of treatises on literary topics. He composed no less than four treatises on moʿam-mā (‘riddles’ or ‘logogriphs’), which were the height of literary fashion in the 15th century (Losensky, pp. 154-60). The first and longest of these, Ḥelya-ye ḥolal (The Ornament of Ornaments) is Jāmi’s earliest datable prose work. Also known as Resāla-ye kabir dar moʿammā, it sets out to clarify some of the obscure points in an earlier treatise on the topic by Šaraf-al-Din ʿAli Yazdi and was dedicated to the Timurid ruler Abu’l-Qāsem Bābor in 1452 (ed. Najib Māyel-Heravi, Mashad, 1982). The Resāla-ye motawasseṭ dar moʿammā explicates the logogriphs contained in a twelve-verse ghazal, which yield the name and titles of Sultan Ḥoseyn Bāyqarā. A summary of the Ḥelya-ye ḥolal, known as the Resāla-ye ṣaḡir dar moʿammā, was composed in 1480. Finally, Resāla-ye aṣḡar-e manẓum dar moʿammā summarizes the basic rules for deriving the solutions of riddles in 68 rhymed couplets. Apart from this specialized topic, Jāmi wrote treatises on the two most basic elements of classical Persian poetic form—the concise Resāla-ye qāfiya on rhyme and the more comprehensive Resāla-ye ʿaruż on prosody (in Bahārestān, pp. 223-85 and 289-303).

Jāmi’s interests extended to other areas of scholarship as well. His Resāla-ye musiqi treats both the modal and rhythmic systems of traditional Persian music (Bahāre-stān, pp. 181-220; facsimile edition and Russian translation by A. N. Boldyref, Tashkent, 1960). As an aid to the education of his son Żiāʾ-al-Din, Jāmi composed a textbook on Arabic grammar entitled Fawāʾed Żiyāʾiya fi šarḥ al-Kāfiya in the last year of his life. As the title indicates, this is a commentary on Ebn Ḥājeb’s al-Kāfiya fi’l-naḥw, and it continued to be used as a textbook through the 19th century; it soon accumulated its own set of commentaries and was perhaps the most frequently published of all of Jāmi’s works with lithograph editions appearing in Istanbul, India, and Persia. Although less popular as a textbook, Ṣarf-e Fārsi-ye manẓum va manṯur seems to have been written as a companion piece to the Fawāʾed and deals with Arabic morphology in Persian prose and verse. Finally, Jāmi also prepared a collection of his letters and extensive correspondence (Monšaʾāt), which helps map his vast network of colleagues, friends, and patrons (Nāma-hā va monšaʾāt-e Jāmi, ed. A. Urunbaev and Asrār Rahmanof, Tehran, 1999).


Perhaps the most striking feature to emerge from even a cursory survey of Jāmi’s vast oeuvre is its constant reference to the literary past. This is obviously true of his commentaries, but nearly all of his poetic writings too are modeled in one way or another on earlier works. The Bahārestān looks back to Saʿdi’s Golestān, his maṯnawis revisit stories, themes, and structures first developed by Sanāʾi, Neẓāmi, and Amir Ḵosrow, and even his autobiographical qaṣida Rašḥ-e bāl be-šarḥ-e ḥāl takes its cue from a similar poem written by Kasāʾi some five centuries before. Jāmi’s comprehensive knowledge of the earlier poetry and the traditional canons of criticism is also evident throughout the seventh chapter of Bahārestān, devoted to the lives of poets. Classical Persian poetry is, of course, defined by its conventions, and there are few works in the tradition that do not draw on earlier precedents to some extent. What distinguishes Jāmi’s poetics, however, is the effort to codify and consolidate the entire literary tradition up to his time, a largely conservative project that might be best characterized as neo-classical. In his ghazals, for example, Jāmi responded repeatedly to poems by Saʿdi, Amir Ḵosrow, Kamāl of Khojand, and Ḥāfeẓ in the same rhyme and meter (Afsaḥzād, pp. 377-428). However, it is not the writing of response poems itself, but the way of writing them that distinguishes Jāmi’s poetics. In general, his responses stick close to the theme of their model, regularize its structure, and elaborate on its images and topoi (Losensky, pp. 166-90).

Jāmi’s vast neo-classical project was met with nearly universal acclaim during his lifetime. His works spread quickly throughout Persian speaking regions and were warmly received in Ottoman Turkey, where they were translated into Turkish and widely imitated. His life was celebrated in a series of biographies by his close friend ʿAlišir Navāʾi and his students ʿAbd-al-Ḡafur Lāri, ʿAbd-al-Wāseʿ Neẓāmi Bāḵarzi, and Faḵr-al-Din ʿAli Ṣafi Kāšefi. His profound impact on the literary scene of the Uzbek courts in Transoxiana is evidenced by the constant references to him throughout Wāṣefi’s Badāyeʿ al-waqāyeʿ. The large numbers of high quality manuscripts of his works preserved in the libraries of Central Asia, Turkey, and India testify to his continuing popularity in these areas over the next several centuries (Māyel-Heravi, pp. 299-300). In Persia proper, however, profound changes in politics, religion, and literary taste cast a shadow over Jāmi’s reputation. The rise of the Safavids and the propagation of state-sponsored Shiʿism in effect again subjected Jāmi to a trial of his religious affiliations, similar to the one that had taken place in Baghdad. Poets of the ‘realist school’ (maktab-e woquʿ) in the 16th century consciously turned away from the Sufistic symbology of Jāmi’s lyric poetry, while their successors in the ‘fresh style’ (šiva-ye tāza) looked past Jāmi to the classical tradition itself to find sanction for their innovations in poetic diction and imagery. It is indicative of the indifference of the seventeenth century poets to Jāmi that among the hundreds of references to several dozen poets found in Ṣāʾeb’s divan, Jāmi is mentioned only once.

However, toward the end of the 18th century, Persian poetry in Persia again entered a neo-classical period with the bāzgašt or ‘return movement’ (see BĀZGAŠT-E ADABI) and Jāmi’s reputation rose accordingly. In the rejection of the stylistic norms of their immediate predecessors, Qajar critics dubbed Jāmi ‘the seal of the poets’ (ḵātam al-šoʿarā), the last great representative of a classical tradition that died along with him at the end of the 15th century. It is in this spirit that the modern literary historian Ḏabiḥ-Allāh Ṣafā writes that Jāmi “must be accounted the last truly great master of Persian poetry” (IV, p. 360). But only a couple of decades later an equally prominent literary critic, Moḥammad Reżā Šafiʿi Kadkani, would write: “Those who have termed Jāmi the last in the line of poets of the Persian language have been greatly mistaken;” whoever was responsible for this notion “was ignorant or ill-informed as far as direct contact with the course of [the] history of Persian poetry was concerned” (pp. 135-36). When Jāmi’s reputation is judged in such terms it is impossible to reconcile the disagreement; for those ages and critics that place a high value on poetic experimentation and innovation, Jāmi makes a clear target for the attack on conservative complacency. On the other hand, to use Jāmi’s accomplishments to condemn all the poetry written after him is no less a distortion of his work and his place in literary history. Any balanced evaluation of Jāmi’s legacy must recognize his goals and aims as a neo-classicist. He was a prodigious and prolific talent with a vast knowledge of earlier tradition who devoted his energies throughout his long life, not to blazing new directions in the tradition, but to consolidating what had already been achieved. His success in doing so provided a solid basis for later innovations of the poets of the ‘fresh style’ and even for the modern study of classical Persian literature. Jāmi placed a high premium on the formal qualities of poetry, fluency and elegance of diction, and immediate comprehensibility. At the same time, he rarely goes beyond a stock treatment of the standard images and metaphors of the tradition, and his works sometimes seem a comprehensive digest of literary convention. In retrospect, it appears that his reputation as a master poet during his lifetime owed much to his scholarship and political position. In his works, however, one does find perhaps the fullest summation of the long history of the integration of the Sufi theosophy of Ebn al-ʿArabi with the Persian literary tradition, and it is here that his vast erudition is seen to its best advantage.


Poetic works. Over 130 manuscripts of Jāmi’s divān are listed in Monzawi, Nosḵahā (III, pp. 2264-70), a list that does not include most of the copies kept in libraries across the former Soviet Union. Given the number of manuscripts and their wide dispersal, it is not surprising that a fully comprehensive critical edition has yet to be published. There are three modern editions of Jāmi’s divān. The editions of Ḥ. Pežmān (Tehran, 1955) and Hāšem Reżā (Tehran, 1962) are based on manuscripts of a relatively late date and make little effort to list variant readings; Reżā’s edition also completely rearranges the original tripartite organization of the divān. The most reliable edition is that of Aʿlāḵān Afsaḥzād, based on nine of the oldest surviving manuscripts. Originally published in Moscow, 1978 (Fāteḥat al-šabāb) and 1980 (Wāseṭat al-ʿeqd and Ḵātemat al-ḥayāt), it was thoroughly revised and reissued in 2 volumes in Tehran (1999). The textual history of the maṯnawis contained in Haft owrang is perhaps even more complicated. In addition to 70 manuscripts of the entire collection (Monzawi, Nos-ḵahā, IV, pp. 3312-16), numerous independent copies exist of each maṯnawi. Monzawi (Nosḵahā, IV, pp. 3331-40) inventories over two hundred manuscripts of Yusof o Zoleyḵā alone. The older edition of Mortażā Modarres-Gilāni (Tehran, 1982) can now be set aside in favor of an edition prepared by a group of Tajik scholars under the direction of Aʿlāḵān Afsaḥzād (2 vols., Tehran, 1999). This edition, too, is a revised reprint of editions previously published in Moscow. Recent critical editions also exist for a number of individual maṯnawis, such as Yusof o Zoleyḵā (ed. Nāṣer Nikubaḵt, Tehran, 1998) and Salāmān o Absāl (ed. Zahrā Mohā-jeri, Tehran, 1997).Editions of Jāmi’s prose works are given in the text, but special note should be made of the recent publication of Bahārestān va rasāʾel-e Jāmi, ed. Aʿlāḵān Afsaḥzād, et al., Tehran, 2000, which includes the work of a number of Tajik and Soviet scholars.

Secondary sources.

Aʿlāḵān Afsaḥzād, Naqd va barrasi-ye āṯār va šarḥ-e aḥwāl-e Jāmi, Tehran, 1999.

A. J. Arberry, FitzGerald’s Salaman and Absal: A Study, Cambridge, 1956.

ʿAbd-al-Wāseʿ Neẓāmi Bāḵarzi, Maqāmāt-e Jāmi, ed. Najib Māyel-Heravi, Tehran, 1992.

E. G. Browne, Lit. Hist. Persia, III, pp. 507-48.

J. T. P. de Bruijn, “Chain of gold: Jāmī’s defence of poetry,” Journal of Turkish Studies 26/1, 2002, pp. 81-92.

J. C. Bürgel, “Ğāmī’s epic poem on Alexander the Great: an introduction,” Oriente Moderno 15/76, 1996, pp. 415-38.

Iraj Dehghan, “Jāmī’s Salāmān and Absāl,” JNES 30/2, 1971, pp. 118-26.

Dawlatšāh Samarqandi, Taḏkerat al-šoʿarāʾ, ed. Moḥammad Ramażāni, Tehran, 1958, pp. 245-48.

Ch.-H. de Fouchécour, “Djâmi, conseiller des princes, ou Le Livre de la Sagesse Alexandrine,” Kâr-Nâmeh 5, 1999, pp. 11-32.

ʿAli-ʿAṣḡar Ḥekmat, Jāmi: motażammen-e taḥqiqāt dar tāriḵ-e aḥwāl wa āṯār-e manẓum va manṯur-e ḵātam al-šoʿarā, Tehran, 1941.

Cl. Huart, “Djamī,” in EI2 vol. II, pp. 421-22 (rev. H. Massé).

“Jāmi” in Dānešnāma-ye adab-e Fārsi, ed. Ḥasan Anuša, Tehran, 1999, III, pp. 272-74.

ʿAbd-al-Ḡafur Lāri, Takmela-ye ḥawāši-e Nafaḥāt al-ons: šarḥ-e ḥāl-e Mawlānā Jāmi, ed. ʿAli-Aṣḡar Bašir-Heravi, Kabul, 1964.

Paul Losensky, Welcoming Fighānī: Imitation and Poetic Individuality in the Safavid-Mughal Ghazal, Costa Mesa, Calif., 1998.

Najib Māyel-Heravi, Sheyḵ ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Jāmi, Tehran, 1998.

ʿAlišir Navāʾi, Ḵamsat al-motaḥayyirin, trans. (from Chaghatay into Persian) Moḥammad Naḵjavān, ed. Mehdi Farhāni-Monfared, Nāma-ye Farhangestān, supplement 12, 2002.

F. Richard, “Un cas de ‘succès littéraire:’ la diffusion des šuvres poétiques de Djâmî de Hérât à travers tout le Proche-Orient,” in Idem, Le livre persan, Paris, 2003, pp. 61-77.

J. Rypka, Hist. Iran. Lit., pp. 286-88. Ṣafā, Tāriḵ-e adabiyāt, IV, pp. 347-68.

Faḵr-al-Din ʿAli b. Ḥoseyn Ṣafi Kāšefi, Rašaḥāt-e ʿeyn al-ḥayāt, ed. ʿAli-Aṣḡar Moʿiniyān, 2 vols., Tehran, 1977.

Sām Mirzā, Toḥfa-ye Sāmi, ed. Rokn-al-Din Homāyun-farroḵ, Tehran, 2005, pp. 143-52.

Moḥammad-Reżā Šafiʿi-Kadkani, “Persian Literature (Belles-Lettres) from the Time of Jāmi to the Present Day,” in Handbuch der Orientalistik, IV/2, fasc. 2, History of Persian Literature from the beginning of the Islamic Period to the Present Day, ed. George Morrison, pp. 135-206, Leiden, 1981.

ʿAliqoli Wāleh of Daghestan, Taḏkera-ye Riyāż al-šoʿarā, ed. Sayyed Moḥsen Nāji Naṣrābādi, 5 vols., Tehran, 2005.

Zeyn-al-Din Maḥmud Wāṣefi, Badāyeʿ al-waqāyeʿ, ed. Alexander Boldyrev, 2 vols., 2nd ed., Tehran, 1970.

JĀMI ii. And Sufism

Among the several facets of Jāmi’s persona and career—Sufi, scholar, poet, associate of rulers—it may be permissible to award primacy to the first mentioned. This would certainly correspond to Jāmi’s own view and to that of one of his closest disciples, ʿAbd-al-Ḡafur Lāri: both the practice of scholarship and the composition of poetry served for Jāmi, Lāri reports, as veils for his inward state, as guarantors for the concealment of spiritual absorption that is mandated by the Naqšbandiya (Lāri, p. 3, 9; Bā-ḵarzi, p. 125). As for Jāmi’s dealings with rulers in Herat and elsewhere, they generally consisted of interventions on behalf of petitioners seeking the redress of grievances or the remission of taxes (Urunbayev and Epifanova, pp. 156-59), consonant with the practice of his friend and fellow Naqšbandi, Ḵᵛāja ʿObayd-Allāh Aḥrār (d. 1490; see further below). It must also be said, however, that Jāmi was by no means averse to receiving of costly gifts from the powerful.

Jāmi’s affiliation to the Naqšbandiya, an order swiftly rising to prominence at the time in both Transoxiana and Khorasan, was central to his understanding and practice of Sufism. His association with the order began when he was still a child: when Ḵᵛāja Moḥammad Pārsā (d. 1419), one of the principal associates of its eponym, Ḵᵛāja Moḥammad Bahāʾ-al-Din Naqšband (q.v.; d. 1389), was passing through Herat in 1419 en route to the Hajj; Jāmi’s father had hoisted him onto his shoulders to receive Pārsā’s blessing. Recalling the event in later years, Jāmi affirmed that this encounter had already linked him indissolubly to the Naqšbandiya (Kāšefi, I, p. 242; Jāmi, Nafaḥāt, pp. 397-98). The linkage became manifest when Jāmi joined the following of Saʿd-al-Din Kāšḡari (d. 1456), who was joined to Bahāʾ-al-Din Naqšband by two generations in the initiatic chain. Jāmi had with difficulty extricated himself from an amorous attachment in Herat in order to follow a course of study in Samarqand, and one night, when tormented by the pangs of separation, he dreamt of Kāšḡari who instructed him to take God as his beloved and as the one indispensable (nāgozir) companion. Hastening back to Herat, he submitted himself to Kāšḡari with immediate and permanent transformative effect. This was an outcome Kāšḡari himself had long desired. It was his wont to hold forth in the Masjed-e Jāmeʿ of Herat before and after each of the five daily prayers, and whenever Jāmi passed by, before his departure for Samarqand, he would remark to his followers: “This is a young man of remarkable talent; I am enchanted by him, and know not how to ensnare him.” After Jāmi’s return, he proclaimed with satisfaction: “Now a royal falcon has fallen into my trap; God has granted me a favor with the company of this young man” (Kāšefi, I, pp. 239-40). The tie thus forged between the two men was soon palpably fortified by Jāmi’s marriage to a granddaughter of Kāšḡari.

Jāmi initially submitted himself, however, to austerities of separation from the world so extreme that on his re-emergence he had temporarily forgotten the niceties and forms of social intercourse. This retreat was intended to serve as a purgative measure, and did not represent a permanent choice; fully in accord with the Naqšbandi principle of ḵalvat dar anjoman (“solitude within society”), Jāmi soon resumed involvement in a broad range of social, intellectual and even political activities, in Herat and beyond. Indeed, while confessing to his own predilection for solitude, he frequently expressed his disdain for those who, under the pretext of piety, sought isolation from their fellows (Bāḵarzi, p. 226). Neither did Jāmi’s Sufi initiation bring to an end his endeavors in formal scholarship, the sphere in which he had displayed precocious brilliance in both Herat and Samarqand (nor, it seems, did it free him from the arrogance that frequently accompanies unusual scholarly attainment). This did not necessarily imply a contradiction, for as Kāšefi reports, there were many who believed that “engagement with the path of the Ḵʷājagān [the Naqšbandi masters and their immediate predecessors in Transoxiana] reinforces the powers of intellectual and rational perception” (Kāšefi, I, p. 237; one of his early teachers in Herat, Šahāb-al-Din Moḥammad Jājarmi, nonetheless expressed dissatisfaction with his recourse to Kāšḡari; Kāšefi, I, p. 240). Also in full conformity with Naqšbandi precepts was Jāmi’s disdain for miraculous visions and feats (karāmāt); the only such feat worth aspiring to was, he said, to experience a state of intense awareness of God (jaḏba) in the company of one blessed by Him (Kāšefi, I, p. 240). In one respect, however, Jāmi seems to have dissented from Naqšbandi norms, for he did not advocate exclusive recourse to the silent ḏekr that had been normative for the order ever since the time of its eponym. He even discerned in vocal ḏekr qualities lacking in its silent counterpart, embracing as it does in cyclical fashion the faculties of the imagination (motaḵayyela), speech, hearing, and then again the imagination; and he rejected suspicions that its practice partook of hypocrisy (Kāšefi, I, p. 266). Another sign of individual preference at variance with Naqšbandi norms was his occasional indulgence in samāʿ, ecstatic circular motion to the accompaniment of music and song, in particular when stimulated by the composition of his romantic maṯnawi, Yusof o Zoleyḵā (Lāri, p. 7).

Equally important for Jāmi’s practice of Sufism, especially after the death of Kāšḡari in 1456, were his links with the already mentioned Naqšbandi shaykh, Ḵᵛāja ʿObayd-Allāh Aḥrār, resident in Samarqand, where he wielded considerable influence in the affairs of the Timurid dynasty. Aḥrār was Jāmi’s senior by some twelve years, but the two men appear to have regarded each other as equals, judging by the compliments exchanged between them. Jāmi praised Aḥrār for his skill in the fluent exposition of Naqšbandi principles, dedicated to him one of his didactic maṯnawis, the Toḥfat al-aḥrār, and lauded him when he died. For his part, Aḥrār would encourage aspirants on the Sufi path to study with Jāmi (Kāšefi, I, p. 251). They first met in 1460 when Aḥrār came to Herat in order to appeal to Sultan Abu Saʿid for the abolition of a tax, the tamḡā, not authorized by the šariʿa (Bāḵarzi, p. 116). More significant and prolonged interaction took place some five years later in Samarqand, Jāmi having gone there expressly to visit Aḥrār. They spent whole days together for close to six months, engaged in learned and uplifting discourse. Two years later, they met again in Marv, where Aḥrār had been invited by Sultan Abu Saʿid; and Aḥrār suggested that Jāmi should join him there (Bāḵarzi, pp. 142-43). Their fourth encounter took place in 1479. Aḥrār was once again absent from Samarqand, busy with mediating between the warring sons of Abu Saʿid, but ultimately the two men met in Šāš (Tashkent) and were able to commune anew without significant disruption. Much of their time was spent in meaningful and mutual silence, but it was on this occasion that Aḥrār was able to help Jāmi understand certain problematic passages in Ebn al-ʿArabi’s Fotuḥāt (Kāšefi, I, pp. 249-50). Jāmi and Aḥrār also corresponded with each other, some of their letters being little more than concise and formulaic expressions of esteem but others recommending their bearers for some form of assistance (Jāmi, Pis’ma-avtografy, letters 121, 197, 208, 263, 267, 279; Gross and Urunbaev, p. 131, 168-69, 335, 345; Kā-šefi, I, pp. 248-49). Jāmi also paid public tribute to Aḥrār with the encomia he included in the prefatory matter of several of his maṯnawis (Yusof o Zoleyḵā, in Haft owrang (awrang), pp. 588-89; Leyli o Majnun, in Haft owrang, pp. 753-55; and Ḵerad-nāma-ye Eskandari, in Haft owrang, pp. 918-19).

Jāmi expounded the fundamental principles of the Naqšbandiya in a brief treatise entitled Sar-rešta-ye ṭariq-e Ḵʷājagān (“The Quintessence of the Path of the Masters”). He sets forth as the goal of their path “permanent presence with God” (davām-e ḥożur maʿa’l-Ḥaqq); once such presence has become fully assimilated, the result is witnessing (mošāheda), i.e., a witnessing of the divine manifestation in all things. The paths to this goal are threefold: ceaseless and silent ḏekr, accomplished in such fashion that one seated next to the person engaged in it would be unaware of his state; tawajjoh, interpreted in this context to mean orientation to the heart as the locus of a divine presence resulting from ḏekr; and rā-beṭa, a constant state of inward attachment to the spiritual guide. The attribution to Jāmi of another, somewhat longer treatise on the Naqšbandiya (Resāla-ye Naqšbandiya, ms. Esad Ef. 3702 [Süleymaniye]), is uncertain, for no mention of it occurs in lists of his writings drawn up by contemporaries, and it seems to rest on little more than the citation of a line of his verse at the very end of the work. Jāmi gathered some of the sayings of Ḵᵛāja Moḥammad Pārsā and supplemented them with commentary in a brief treatise, Soḵanān-e Ḵᵛāja Pārsā, and he also prepared a précis of the main source for the life of Bahāʾ-al-Din Naqšband, the Anis al-ṭālebin wa ʿoddat al-sālekin of Ṣalāḥ-al-Din b. Mobārak Boḵāri; what appears to be an autograph copy of his version is to be found in the Khudabakhsh Library in Patna (Moḥammad Ḏāker Ḥosayn, introduction, Jāmi, Ḵolāṣa-ye Anis al-ṭālebin, p. xiii). Finally, the title of Jāmi’s longest maṯnawi, Selselat al-ḏòahab (“The Golden Chain”) may be an allusion to a secondary line of Naqšbandi initiatic descent so designated, that consisting of the first eight Imams of the Prophet’s Household. This diffuse work does, in any event, sometimes address itself to matters of distinctively Naqšbandi concern, such as the true nature of the silent ḏekr (Selselat al-ḏòahab in Haft owrang, pp. 20-29). It also includes Kāšḡari’s account of how his master, Neẓām-al-Din Ḵāmuš, had swiftly freed himself from the love of a handsome young man (Selselat al-ḏòahab in Haft owrang, pp. 164-66). More informative, however, than all the foregoing for Jāmi’s understanding and personal practice of the Naqšbandi path are the dicta and anecdotes recorded by his biographers, especially ʿAbd-al-Ḡafur Lāri in his Takmela.

Although authorized by Kāšḡari to inculcate the distinctive ḏekr of the Naqšbandis in aspirants to the path and fulfill all the other tasks of formal spiritual guidance, Jāmi was notoriously averse to the tasks of preceptorship. After the death of Kāšḡari, he customarily assigned those who sought training in the path to Moḥammad Ruji, another of his ḵalifas, and similarly referred Ṣonʿ-Allāh Kuzakonāni, who customarily led the prayer at the mosque where his circle would gather, to still another successor, ʿAlāʾ-al-Din Maktabdār (Algar, 2003, p. 13, 24-25). News of this reached Aḥrār in Samarqand, and he accordingly asked Faḵr-al-Din Kāšefi, newly arrived from Herat, whether it was true that Jāmi did not accept morids, by contrast with Ruji. Kāšefi responded that this was the case, whereupon, with a mixture of regret and approval, Aḥrār cited this dictum of ʿAbd-al-Ḵāleq Ḡojdovāni, an initiatic ancestor of the Naqšbandiya: dar-e šayḵi-rā beband, dar-e yāri begošāy/ dar-e ḵalvat-rā beband, dar-e ṣoḥbat-rā gošāy (“close the door of shaikhhood, open the door of friendship/ close the door of retreat, open the door of companionship”; Kāšefi, I, pp. 251-52). Nonetheless, again according to Faḵr-al-Din Kāšefi, “if a sincere person should suddenly appear, he [i.e., Jāmi] would secretly enlighten him about this path,” a case in point being his own father, Ḥosayn Wāʿeẓ Kāšefi. The elder Kāšefi had come to Herat in the hope of joining the following of Kāšḡari, but the shaikh had expired not long before his arrival. He therefore beseeched Jāmi to accept him as his disciple. Jāmi demurred, but “by way of allusion pointed him to a certain spiritual practice” (šoḡli; Kāšefi, I, pp. 253-54); the wording seems to convey a high degree of reluctance. Perhaps anxious to enhance his spiritual legacy, Jāmi changed course toward the end of his life and began to look actively for authentic seekers (arbāb-e ṭalab), but he was disappointed, for, he said, “seekers are many, but what they seek is only the gratification of their own souls” (Kāšefi, I, p. 252).

Despite all the foregoing, several persons are said to have been formally trained by Jāmi in the ṭariqa: Rażi-al-Din ʿAbd-al-Ḡafur Lāri (d. 1506), renowned for a number of writings, especially the supplement (takmela) he wrote to Jāmi’s Nafaḥāt al-ons, an engaging and detailed portrayal of his master as a near-perfect embodiment of the Naqšbandi ideal; Mawlānā Šahidi Qomi, who took refuge in Gujarat once the Safavids conquered Khorasan; and Ḵʷāja Żiāʾ-al-Din Yusof, Jāmi’s third son (d. 1513) (Algar, 2003, pp. 24-25). Others include ʿAlāʾ-al-Din Sāvaji (d. 1559); Masʿud Širvāni (d. 1531); Ḥāfez-al-Din Bayhaqi, whose son, Moḥammad Hāšem, having received the ṭariqa from him, passed it on to some five other persons, at least one of whom trained another generation of disciples (Kešmi, Nasamāt, pp. 108-109, 110-14, 122-23). As for ʿAlišir Navāʾi (d. 1501), minister to Mirzā Ḥosayn Bayqarā and celebrated for his poetry in both Persian and Chaghatay Turkish, he openly proclaimed his loyalty to Jāmi in this unambiguous verse: Nevâyî kim mürid ve bendesidir/ irâdet yolıda efkendesidir (“Navāʾi, his [i.e., Jāmi’s] disciple and slave/ is prostrate before him in the path of discipleship,” quoted in Lâmiî, Nefehat Tercemesi, p. 458).

In addition to these individuals, two relatively late sources, al-Entebāh fi salāsel awliyāʾiʾllāh by Šāh Wali-Allāh Dehlavi (d. 1762), and the Tebyān wasāʾel al-ḥaqāʾeq of Kamāl-al-Din Ḥaririzāda (d. 1882) mention the Jāmiya as a distinct branch of the Naqšbandiya, leading from ʿAlāʾ-al-Din Maktabdār through his son, Ḡiyāṯ-al-Din Aḥmad, to Jāmi’s nephew, Mawlānā Moḥammad Amin (al-Entebāh, p. 32, Tebyān, III, f. 201b). This account presupposes that Maktabdār had an initiatic relationship with Jāmi as well as with Kāšḡari, something not borne out by the sources. The Jāmiya is said to have spread to the Hejaz, becoming entwined there with other lines of Sufi transmission and therefore losing its independent significance. What is certain is that Jāmi’s posthumous influence on Sufism was exerted more by the broad literary corpus he carefully and deliberately assembled than by any Naqšbandi lineage descended from him.

Jāmi joined to his Naqšbandi affiliations an enthusiastic, even combative devotion to the teachings and textual legacy of Ebn al-ʿArabi. Not only had he been preceded in this devotion by other Naqšbandis, notably Moḥammad Pārsā; he also saw a clear affinity between the two foci of his loyalty: “Uttering the ḏekr softly is the method of some shaikhs, including the great master Moḥyi-al-Din Ebn al-ʿArabi … The method of most shaikhs is uttering the ḏekr loudly, whereas the method of imagining (taḵayyol), i.e., the silent ḏekr, is the foundation of the path of the [Naqšbandi] masters” (Lāri, Takmela, p. 28). Jāmi saw in him the supreme exponent of gnostic wisdom for the Arabs, just as Jalāl-al-Din Rumi had been for the Persians; defended in public debate Ebn al-ʿArabi’s view that the Pharaoh had died a believer; and rejected as misconceived the criticisms made of some of his teachings by the Kobrawi, ʿAlāʾ-al-Dawla Semnāni (d. 1336) (Bāḵarzi, pp. 90, 96, 103).

He nonetheless confessed to an initial inability to grasp certain of Ebn al-ʿArabi’s writings, and it was not until he had studied the works of Ebn al-ʿArabi’s foremost pupil, Ṣadr-al-Din Qonavi/Qunyavi (d. 1234), that matters were clarified for him. According to Lāri, he had vowed that “if this gate be opened for me, I will expound the meanings intended by this group [the Sufis of Ebn al-ʿArabi’s school] in such a way that people will easily understand them,” and all that he wrote thereafter on that subject was in fulfillment of that vow (Lāri, p. 17). There is indeed an unmistakable pedagogical intent in much of Jāmi’s writing on Sufi matters. He wrote first a commentary on Naqd al-noṣuṣ fi Šarḥ naqd al-noṣuṣ, Ebn al-ʿArabi’s own digest of the Foṣuṣ al-ḥekam, drawing on both Qonavi and other previous commentators such as Moʾayyed-al-Din Jandi (d. 1291), Saʿd-al-Din Farḡāni (q.v.; d. ca. 1299-1300), ʿAbd-al-Razzāq Kāšāni (d. 1335) and Dāʾud Qayṣari (d. 1350), from whose works he includes pages of verbatim quotation. Far bulkier than the original work, the Naqd al-noṣuṣ serves effectively as a general introduction to the mysticism of Ebn al-ʿArabi, with particular attention to the concept of the “Perfect Man” (al-ensān al-kāmel; Chittick, pp. 142-51). Later Jāmi wrote a commentary on the Foṣuṣ al-ḥekam itself, a relatively modest enterprise in that he restricts himself to elucidating the immediate meaning of each sentence in the original text and shuns theoretical digressions.

The role of Jāmi in propagating the mysticism of Ebn al-ʿArabi in the Persian-speaking world was by no means limited to these two commentaries. More accessible and aesthetically attractive was his Lawāyeḥ (“Illuminations”), a series of thirty-six meditations of varying length on metaphysical topics such as the relation of the divine attributes to the Essence (Lawāyeḥ, ed. Richard, no. 15, p. 78), the plurality of the modes of the Essence and their “inclusion” within Its unity (no. 19, p. 96), and the connection between degrees of existence and degrees of knowledge (no. 33, p. 154). Here, too, he cites previous authorities, above all Qonavi, as well as Ebn al-ʿArabi himself (pp. 123, 147, 154, 163). Jāmi is moved on several occasions in this work to criticize both the Ašʿari theologians and the philosophers (ḥokamāʾ), finding their views inferior to the insights of the Sufis (Lawāyeḥ, ed. Richard, pp. 122-24, 152). He took up the same comparative theme, systematically and in detail but more prosaically, in al-Dorrat al-fāḵera fi taḥqiq maḏhab al-Ṣufiyya wa’l-Motakallemin wa’l-Ḥokamāʾ al-Motaqaddemin, a work commissioned by Sultan Mehmed Fatih but only completed after his death in 1481. Eleven principal topics are examined in turn, with the theologians represented by Šarif Jorjāni (d. 1413) and Saʿd-al-Din Taftazāni (d. 1390), the philosophers by Naṣir-al-Din Ṭusi (d. 1274), and the Sufis by Qonavi, Mollā Fanāri (d. 1431), and Dāʾud Qayṣari, as well as Ebn al-ʿArabi himself. Not all the copious citations from these authorities are explicitly identified by Jāmi (Heer, Introduction to al-Dorrat al-fāḵera, pp. 6-9).

The Lawāyeḥ is written in a mixture of rhymed prose and verse, mostly quatrains appended to the end of each section and serving to summarize it. The relationship between poetry and prose is the exact opposite in the case of his Šarḥ-e robāʿiyāt: here, the quatrains come first, forty-eight in number, and they are each followed by an average of one page of commentary. The quatrains express concisely some gnostic or metaphysical theme, which is then developed in greater detail in the commentary. Similarly compounded of prose and verse are two commentaries Jāmi wrote on the works of others: Lawāmeʿ (“Gleams”), on the celebrated wine poem of Ebn al-Fāreż (d. 1235); and Ašeʿat al-lamaʿāt (“Rays from the Flashes”), on the Lamaʿāt of Faḵr-al-Din ʿErāqi (d. 1289). Both of these address themselves primarily to the theme of love (ʿešq) as articulated by Ebn al-ʿArabi and his school.

The same topic is frequently encountered in the vast body of ghazals that make up about three quarters of Jāmi’s three successive divāns, later assembled into a single whole. Many of the poems in question are suffused with homoerotic undertones that were by then conventional in Persian Sufi poetry. By way of explanation, Jāmi had recourse to the equally conventional adage that love of the metaphorical—the divine beauty as manifested in a human—serves as a bridge to love of the Real, but it seems that Jāmi tarried indefinitely on the bridge in question, for he confessed that even in old age he was appreciative of the beauty of young men (Bāḵarzi, p. 138). Certain of the ghazals do, however, lend themselves reasonably to allegorical explanation, given the inclusion in them of technical terms of gnosis and metaphysics such as momken and wājeb (contingent and necessary [being]) or mabdaʾ and maʿād (the beginning and return [of all things]) (Divān-e Kāmel, ḡazals 292 (392), p. 283, and 879 (979), p. 509).

Jāmi’s most substantial and widely read contribution to the Sufi canon was perhaps his Nafaḥāt al-ons men ḥaża-rāt al-qods, a hagiographical compendium that marked the apex of this genre in Persian. Here as in several of the instances already enumerated, he built carefully and respectfully on the work of his predecessors. The foundation had been laid by ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Solami (d. 1021) with his Ṭabaqāt al-Ṣufiya in Arabic. This book was then rendered by Ḵᵛāja ʿAbd-Allāh Anṣāri (d. 1089), using the same title, into the Persian dialect of Herat; he rearranged much of the contents and added material of his own. Jāmi recounts this history in his introduction to the Nafaḥāt; the language used by Anṣāri, he claimed, had become incomprehensibly archaic and liable to misinterpretation, apart from which Sufis of the four centuries that had elapsed since Anṣāri had completed his work also deserved to be memorialized. Hence the Nafaḥāt, a compendium based on the Ṭabaqāt al-Ṣufiya but incorporating material from other “reputable books;” the final impetus for its composition was supposedly provided by an earnest request from Navāʾi (Jāmi, Nafaḥāt, p. 2). Before proceeding thus to update the Ṭabaqāt al-Ṣufiya in terms of both content and language, Jāmi takes care to define key concepts relating to the history of Sufism: the meanings of sainthood (walāya) and the saint (wali); the difference between the Sufi (the fully accomplished wayfarer), the motaṣawwef (the one still striving on the path); the malāmati (“the seeker of blame”); various levels of tawḥid; and the charismatic feats (karāmāt) of the saints (Jāmi, Nafaḥāt, pp. 3-25).

Among the new biographies he includes are those of numerous Naqšbandis and their immediate ancestors, beginning with Yusof Hamadāni (d. 1140) and ending with Aḥrār, who was still alive at the time of writing; the inclusion of a living figure in a work of this type was unusual, and it may be taken as another mark of Jāmi’s esteem for Aḥrār (Jāmi, Nafaḥāt, pp. 380-416). He allots even more space to the other order important at the time in the eastern Persian world, the Kobrawiya, together with its Sohrawardi antecedents (pp. 420-55). Remarkable, too, is that he includes towards the end of his work notices of eleven poets, ranging chronologically from Sanāʾi (d. ca. 1131) to Hafez (Ḥāfeẓ, pp. 593-612). It is by no means certain, as Jāmi would have it, that Sanāʾi was a disciple of Yusof Hamadāni, or that ʿAṭṭār (d. 1221) followed Majd-al-Din Baḡdādi (d. 1220) (Jāmi, Nafaḥāt, p. 593, 596), still less that some of the poets he refers to can with confidence be identified as Sufi. Jāmi’s efforts to make a Sufi of Ḵāqani (d. 1199) are particularly unconvincing (Jāmi, Nafaḥāt, p. 605); but to his credit he confesses to uncertainty whether Hafez “ever stretched out the hand of discipleship to an elder” (Jāmi, Nafaḥāt, p. 612). In all, what have been termed “eight clusters” of entirely new entries can be discerned in the Nafaḥāt (Mojaddedi, p. 169).

Copious mention in the Nafaḥāt of one’s near ancestors was evidently a matter of prestige for some of Jāmi’s contemporaries in Herat, for they complained to him that he had not written enough concerning them. He was, however, deliberate in his exclusions as well as inclusions, and he claimed to rely only on the most trustworthy authorities. He was particularly adamant in excluding from the Nafaḥāt Moḥammad Nurbaḵš (d. 1464), eponym of the Nurbaḵšiya, an offshoot of the Kobrawiya, and a claimant to Mahdihood, despite the appeal of the son, Qāsem Nurbaḵš, that he make mention of him; were he to do so, Jāmi responded, Qāsem would find the result highly displeasing (Maqāmāt, pp. 195-96). The absence from the Nafaḥāt of Šāh Neʿmat-Allāh Wali (d. 1431), an undeniably eminent figure, cannot be ascribed to any doctrinal deviance comparable to that of Moḥammad Nurbaḵš, for he was indubitably a Sunni. The fact that Neʿmat-Allāh’s descendants had moved in the direction of Shiʿism must, however, have sufficed for Jāmi—bitterly hostile to all manifestations of that creed—to expunge him from the roster of the Sufis. A similar explanation might be advanced for the omission of Ṣafi-al-Din Ardabili (d. 1334), were it not that his immediate successor, Ṣadr-al-Din (d. 1393), is respectfully mentioned in the context of Jāmi’s notice of Qāsem-e Tabrizi (d. 1433), better known as Qāsem al-Anwār (Jāmi, Nafaḥāt, p. 590).

Some three years after the death of Jāmi, ʿAlišir Navāʾi translated the Nafaḥāt into Chaghatay Turkish as Nesâyimüʾl-Mahabbe min Şemâyimi’l-Fütüvve (ed. Kemal Eraslan). On the one hand, he abbreviated some of the entries found in the original, and on the other, he expanded it by including material on Jāmi himself as well as his companions, some Indian Sufis, and, most importantly, numerous Turkic shaykhs of Central Asia. In 1520, Lâmiî Çelebi completed a translation of the Nafaḥāt into Ottoman Turkish. His version was originally entitled Futûhu’l-Mücahidîn li Tervîhi Kulûbi’l-Müşâhidîn because its completion happily coincided with the Ottoman conquest of Belgrade but it became popularly known simply as Nefehat Tercemesi (first printed Istanbul, 1872); and includes entries on early Ottoman Sufis, including those who brought the Naqšbandiya to Anatolia and Istanbul. A still unpublished Arabic translation of the Nafaḥāt was made by Tāj-al-Din Zakariā ʿOṯmāni (d. 1592), an Indian Naqšbandi shaikh resident in Mecca.

In sum, whether by design or not, with his affiliations and enthusiasms, his original works and his commentaries, Jāmi represented a summation of the learned and spiritual traditions of the Persian-speaking world, especially Khorasan, on the eve of the transformations wrought by the Safavid conquest.


Works by Jāmi. Ašeʿat al-lamaʿāt, in Ganjina-ye ʿerfān, ed. Ḥamid Rabbāni, Tehran, 1974.

Divān-e kāmel, ed. Hāšem Rażi, Tehran, 1962.

al-Dorrat al-fāḵera fi taḥqiq maḏhab al-Ṣufiyya wa’l-Motakallemin wa’l-Ḥokamāʾ al-Motaqaddemin, ed. Nicholas Heer, Tehran, 1979.

Haft Owrang, ed. Modarres Gilāni, Tehran, 1984.

Ḵolāṣa-ye Anis a-ṭālebin, ed. Moḥammad Ḏāker Ḥosayn, Patna, 1996.

Lawāmeʿ, in Majmuʿa-ye Monlā Jāmi, Istanbul, 1309 A.H.; repr. in Seh resāla dar taṣawwof with introduction by Iraj Afšār, Tehran, 1981, pp. 104-89.

Nafaḥāt al-ons, ed. Maḥmud ʿĀbedi, Tehran, 1991.

Lawāyeḥ, in Majmuʿa-ye Monlā Jāmi, Istanbul, 1309 A.H.; repr. in Seh resāla dar taṣawwof with introduction by Iraj Afšār, Tehran, 1981, pp. 3-103; ed. and tr. Yann Richard as Les Jaillissements de Lumière, Paris, 1982; ed. Moḥammad Ḥosayn Tasbiḥi, Tehran, n.d. Naqd al-noṣuṣ fi Šarḥ Naqš al-foṣuṣ, ed. William C. Chittick, Tehran, 1977.

Pis’ma-avtografy Abdarrakhmana Dzhami iz “Al’boma Navoi,” ed. A. Urunbaev, Tashkent, 1982 (Persian text in facsimile and Russian translation). Resāla-ye Naqšbandiyya, ms. Esad Ef. (Süleymaniye), 372.

Sar-rešta-ye Ṭariq-e Ḵᵛā-jagān, ed. ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy Ḥabibi, Kabul, 1965.

Šarḥ-e Robāʿiyāt, ed. Māyel Heravi, Kabul, n.d.; ibid, in Majmuʿa-ye Monlā Jāmi, Istanbul, 1309 A.H.; repr. in Seh resāla dar taṣawwof with introduction by Iraj Afšār, Tehran, 1981, pp. 42-103.

Soḵanān-e Ḵᵛāja Pārsā, in “Quelques Traités Naqshbandis,” ed. Marijan Molé, FIZ 6 1958, pp. 294-303. Tafsir Surat al-Fāteḥa, ed. Sajjad Rizvi, forthcoming.

Other sources. Susan Āl-e Rasul, ʿErfān-e Jāmi dar majmuʿa-ye āṯāraš, Tehran, 2006.

Hamid Algar, “Reflections of Ibn ʿArabi in Early Naqshbandi Tradition,” Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn ʿArabi Society 10, 1991, pp. 45-66.

Idem, “Naqshbandis and Safavids: A Contribution to the Religious History of Iran and Her Neighbors,” in Michel Mazzaoui, ed., Safavid Iran and Her Neighbors, Salt Lake City, 2003, pp. 28-31.

ʿAbd-al-Wāseʿ Neẓāmi Bāḵarzi, Maqāmāt-e Jāmi, ed. Najib Māyel Heravi, Tehran, 1992.

Ye. E. Bertel’s, Navoi i Džami, Moscow, 1965.

William C. Chittick, “The Perfect Man as the Prototype of the Self in the Sufism of Jâmî,” Studia Islamica 49, 1979, pp. 135-57.

Šāh Wali-Allāh Dehlawi, al-Entebāh fi salāsel awliyāʾiʾllāh, Lyallpur, n.d. Jo-Ann Gross and Asom Urunbaev, eds., The Letters of Khwāja ʿUbayd Allāh Aḥrār and his Associates, Leiden, 2002.

Kamāl-al-Din Ḥaririzāda, Tebyān wasāʾel al-ḥaqāʾeq, ms. Ibrahim Efendi (Süley-maniye) 432.

Najib Māyel Heravi, Jāmi, Tehran, 1998.

Faḵr-al-Din Wāʿeẓ Kāšefi, Rašaḥat-e ʿayn al-ḥayāt, ed. ʿAli-Aṣḡar Moʿiniān, Tehran, 1978, 2 vols., I, pp. 235-86.

Moḥammad Hāšem Kešmi, “Nasamāt al-qods men ḥadāʾeq al-ons,” ed. Monir-e Jahān Malek, Ph.D. diss., University of Tehran, 1996.

Lâmiî Çelebi, Nefehat Tercemesi, Istanbul, 1872.

ʿAbd-al-Ḡafur Lāri, Takmela-ye Ḥavāši-ye Nafaḥāt al-ons, ed. Bašir Heravi, Kabul, 1964.

Esmāʿil Moballeḡ, Jāmi va Ebn ʿArabi, Kabul, 1964.

Jawid Mojaddedi, The Biographical Tradition in Sufism: the Ṭabaqāt Genre from al-Sulami to Jāmi, Richmond, U.K., 2001, pp. 151-76.

ʿAlišir Navāʾi, Ḵamsat al-motaḥayyerin, ms. Institut Vostokovedeniya po imeni Biruni Tashkent, 2242.

Moḥammad b. Ḥosayn Qazvini, Selsela-nāma-ye Ḵᵛājagān, ms. Bibliothèque Nationale, supplément persan, 1418.

Necdet Tosun, Bahâeddîn Nakşbend: Hayatı, Görüşleri, Tarikatı, Istanbul, 2002, pp. 135-45.

A. Urunbayev and L. Epifanova, “The Letters of Abdarrahman Jami as a Source of the Characteristics of the Poet’s Personality,” Yádnáme-ye Jan Rypka, Prague and the Hague, 1967, pp. 155-59.

JĀMI iii. And Persian Art

Jāmi’s writings are among the most frequently illustrated in the history of Persian manuscript painting. By the fifteenth century, the intense devotion of Timurid warlords and princes to Sufi elders had created the most favorable conditions for the spread of Sufism and an increase in the influence of Sufi orders. Whether in prose or verse, books and treatises on Sufism, its ideology, and exposition of its goals, continued to be written both in Arabic and Persian (Yarshater, pp. 19-20; Ṣafā, pp. 66-78). The popularity of Sufism led to the ascendance of literary works with Sufi contents among texts that were commissioned for illustration (Sims, p. 57). During the reign of the Timurid Ḥosayn Bāyqarā (1470-1506), Herat, where Jāmi resided for most of his life, became the center of literature and book production in the Iranian world (Sām Mirzā Ṣafavi, pp. 14-15; Blair and Bloom, p. 63). The later years of Jāmi’s life thus coincided with the high point in the history of Persian miniature painting. The last decade of Jāmi’s life also corresponds with the emergence, as master miniaturists, of a number of individuals known by name, including Kamāl-al-Din Behzād (d. 1535-36), whose name was to become proverbial for skill in painting. Wide scale patronage of poetry and painting by members of the court at Herat, most notably, Ḥosayn Bāyqarā, and his confidant and childhood companion, Mir ʿAliŠir Navāʾi (1441-1501), and Jāmi’s own eminent position, as a poet and a master of the Naqšbandi order of Sufis, must have contributed to the desirability of his works as subjects for book illustrations while he was still alive (Subtelny, 1988, p. 488; and 1979, pp. 81-97, 98-110). This desirability did not diminish during the Safavid period and in fact increased during the latter part of the 16th century (Simpson, 1998, p. 12; Galerkina, p. 231).

The fact that Jāmi’s works were illustrated during his lifetime distinguishes him from most other major literary figures of the so-called classical period. Completed by Jāmi in 1483 (Arberry, p. 442) a manuscript copy of the mystical romance Yusof o Zoleyḵā, dated 1488—four years before Jāmi’s death—contains two spaces reserved for paintings, in one of which a sketch can be seen representing Yusof and Zoleyḵā in the latter’s palace (Simpson, 1997, p. 371; Simpson, 1998, p. 11). One often noted miniature painting from this same year was likewise inspired by Jāmi’s Yusof o Zoleyḵā. This illustration, depicting the attempted seduction of Yusof by Zoleyḵā, is not in a manuscript of Jāmi’s own works but is rather one of four paintings, undisputedly by Behzād, in a Bustān of Saʿdi that was made for the library of Ḥosayn Bāyqarā, with a text colophon of 893/1488. Although the scene illustrated corresponds with Saʿdi’s text regarding Zoley-ḵā’s seduction scheme, the elaborate architectural setting illustrated by Behzād is that described in Jāmi’s romance, where Zoleyḵā’s palace, its conception, building, decoration, and completion are detailed (Afṣaḥzād, p. 123, line 2183 ff.; Golombek, p. 28). Following Jāmi’s description, the painting shows Yusof who, having been led from room to room, at last flees from Zoleyḵā’s reach to make his escape through all the rooms that according to Jāmi’s text, she had carefully bolted as she led him through the building.

Inspired by the often illustrated Ḵamsa of Neẓāmi and with strong Sufi content, the seven maṯnawis comprising the Haft owrang (awrang), whether as individual poems, selections of poems or compilations of all seven, have been the most popular of Jāmi’s works for illustrations, as evidenced by at least two hundred manuscripts held in collections around the world (Simpson, 1998, p. 12; Simpson, 1997, p. 369). However, among his works commissioned for illustration his divan of poems (Richards, pp. 69-74), his work Bahārestān, modeled on Saʿdi’s Golestān, his Nafaḥāt al-ons on the lives and works of Sufi saints, and his LawÚāyeḥ, a treatise on Sufism (Galerkina, p. 232) can be mentioned. Popularity of Jāmi is particularly prominent in Bukhara during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Under the Uzbek rulers, numerous manuscripts of his works, such as selections from his Divān, copied by Solṭān ʿAli Mašhadi (d. 1519) with later miniatures attributed to Maḥmud and Ḵʷājakak Naqqāš, were copied and illustrated (now at the New York Public Library; Schmitz, p. 59). From Bukhara is also a manuscript of Bahārestān (at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Museum in Lisbon), which has illustrations that have been dated to circa 1525-30 (Hillenbrand, pp. 70-71). An illustration belonging to a copy of the Nafa-ḥāt al-ons (presently at Chester Beatty Library in Dublin) was also executed in Bukhara circa1650s for ʿAbd-al-ʿAziz Bahādor Khan (r. 1645-91; see ABU’L-ḠAZI BAHĀDOR KHAN) and is attributed to Farhād (Soudavar, p. 221). A copy of Bahārestān, dated 1595 and made in the imperial atelier at Lahore and now at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, has been cited as one of the finest books produced under the Mughals in India (Blair and Bloom, p. 292).

Perhaps the most noteworthy and elaborately illustrated among works of Jāmi is the Haft owrang manuscript at the Freer Galley of Art in Washington DC (accession number 46.12), with its twenty-eight remarkable miniatures executed between 1556 and 1565 (Simpson, 1998, p. 13). This luxury manuscript was commissioned by the Safavid Ebrāhim Mirzā (1540-77), who at the age of sixteen was appointed the governor of Mashad by his uncle Shah Ṭahmāsp in 1554-55 (Qāżi Aḥmad, pp. 93-94). The calligrapher Moḥebb-ʿAli, who was the head of the ketāb-ḵāna of Ebrāhim Mirzā must have been responsible for delegating different segments of the project to various artists, not all of whom resided in Mashad. Other calligraphers known to have participated in this nine-year long project are Rostam-ʿAli, Malek-al-Daylami, and Ayši b. Ešrāti. The illuminator ʿAbd-Allāh al-Širāzi’s signature also appears on the manuscript. Only two painters have been identified provisionally on stylistic grounds as having illustrated certain of the miniatures, Shaikh Moḥammad and ʿAli-Aṣḡar (Simpson, pp. 308-14).

Stylistically the illustrations in this manuscript, with large-scale compositions running over into the margins; bright, polished colors; sophisticated landscape or architectural settings; and idealized figures belong to the so-called classical tradition of Persian manuscript painting that by the second half of the fourteenth century had moved beyond merely advancing the narrative it accompanied, evolving through the fifteenth century into a complex art form in its own right. Especially noteworthy in the Freer Jāmi paintings is the phenomenon whose origins can be traced back to the last decade of Jāmi’s life in the late fifteenth century and to the workshop of Ḥosayn Bāyqarā in Herat, where the familiarity of the artists with Sufi literature has been acknowledged (Galerkina, pp. 237-41; Lentz and Lowry, p. 285), and where certain depictions in Sufi manuscripts transcended subordination to the signified text. It might be relevant that this was also a period when composition, in verse form, of moʿammā (riddle) had become extremely popular (Subtelny, 1986, p. 77). Some of the twenty-eight miniatures in the Freer Jāmi seem barely to relate to the subject of their scenes, which in every case involves the precise moment narrated in the verses that are incorporated within each painting, and are in every case of selected anecdotes that Jāmi has used, allegorically, to elaborate or explain his often abstract and didactic theme (Simpson, 1998, p. 21). Literary works with Sufi content, such as Jāmi’s Haft owrang, are rich in metaphorical images and mystical symbols that are open to a wide range of interpretation. In the case of the illustration (folio 52a, Simpson, p. 26) of the anecdote about the father who advises his son about love [Figure 1] from Selselat al-ḏahab (in Haft owrang, ed. Alishah, p. 265, line 4039 ff.), it is not exactly clear which two figures among the twenty-three depicted are those of the father and son. Several figures depicting youths engaged in conversation with other men, though not at all described specifically in Jāmi’s text could be understood as various examples of the types of suitors that are courting the favor of the son and about whom the father’s advice is sought; but certain figures, having no apparent link to the meaning of the story could also be understood as Sufi symbols connoting secondary, or more oblique references that are signified by Jāmi’s parable of the father and son. The figure of the kneeling man on the right, playing the flute, is an example in this case (Schimmel, pp. 273-75). As the spokesman of his time for the theosophy of Ebn ʿArabi (q.v.) and his school, Jāmi uses the pervasive influence of mystical currents, ideas, symbols, and images in his narrative and lyric poems, so that various interpretations for the recurrent depictions found in paintings that illustrate his texts may be possible (Chittick, p. 140). In the case of the illustration from the romance of Leyli o Majnun, where Qayṣ, visiting Leyli’s tribal encampment catches a glimpse of her for the first time (Figure 2; folio 231a; Simpson, 1998, p. 65), a Sufi allusion should be read into both the figure of the man playing the flute at the top-center of the painting, and the man with his spindle at the right-center, neither of whom are directly mentioned in Jāmi’s text (Brend, pp. 174-76).


ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Jāmi, Haft owrang, 2 vols., ed., Aʿlāḵān Afsaḥzād, Tehran, 1999.

A. J. Arberry, Classical Persian Literature, London, 1958.

Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom, The Art and Architecture of Islam 1250-1800, New Haven, 1995.

Barbara Brend, Perspectives on Persian Painting: Illustrations to Amir Khusrau’s Khamsah, New York, 2000.

W. C. Chittick, “The Perfect Man As the Prototype of the Self in the Sufism of Jami,” Studia Islamica 49, 1979, pp. 135-57.

Olympiada Galerkina, “Some Characteristics of Persian Miniature Painting in the Later Part of the 16th Century,” Oriental Art 21/3, 1975, pp. 231-41.

Lisa Golombek, “Toward a Classification of Islamic Painting,” in Islamic Art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, ed., Richard Ettinghausen, New York, 1982, pp. 23-34.

Robert Hillenbrand, Imperial Images in Persian Painting, Edinburgh, 1977.

Thomas W. Lentz and Glenn D. Lowry, Princely Vision: Persian Art and Culture in the Fifteenth Century, Los Angeles, 1989.

Qāżi Aḥmad, Golestān-e honar: Taḏ-kera-ye ḵošnevisān wa naqqāšan, ed., Aḥmad Sohayli Ḵᵛānsāri, Tehran, 1987.

Francis Richard, Le livre persan, Paris, 2003. Ḏabiḥ-Allāh Ṣafā, Tāriḵ-e adabiyāt dar Irān IV, Tehran, 1990.

Sām Mirzā Ṣafavi, Taḏkera-ye toḥfa-ye Sāmi, ed. R. Homāyun-farroḵ, Tehran, 1960.

Annemarie Schimmel, A Two-Colored Brocade: The Imagery of Persian Poetry, Chapel Hill, 1992.

Barbara Schmitz, “Miniature Painting in Harat, 1570-1640,” Ph.D. Diss., New York University, 1981.

Idem, Islamic Manuscripts in the New York Public Library, New York, 1992.

Marianna Shreve Simpson, Sultan Ibrahim Mirza’s Haft Awrang: A Princely Manuscript from Sixteenth-Century Iran, New Heaven, 1997.

Idem, Persian Poetry, Painting and Patronage: Illustrations in a Sixteenth-Century Masterpiece, New Heaven, 1998.

Eleanor Sims with Boris I. Marshak and Ernst Grube, Peerless Images: Persian Painting and its Sources, New Haven, 2002.

Abolala Soudavar, Art of the Persian Courts: Selections from the Art and History Trust collection, New York, 1992.

Maria E. Subtelny, “The Poetic Circle at the Court of the Timurid, Sultan Husain Baiqara, and Its Political Significance,” Ph.D. Diss., Harvard University, 1979.

Idem, “A Taste for the Intricate: The Persian Poetry of the Late Timurid Period,” ZDMG 136/1, 1986, pp. 56-79.

Idem, “Socioeconomic Bases of Cultural Patronage under the Later Timurids,” IJMES 20, 1988, pp. 479-505. E

hsan Yarshater, Šeʿr-e fārsi dar ʿahd-e Šāhroḵ ya aḡaz-e inḥetāṭ dar šeʿr-e fārsi, Tehran, 1956.

Cite this page
Paul Losensky, Hamid Algar and Chad Kia, “JĀMI”, in: Encyclopaedia Iranica Online, © Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York. Consulted online on 20 March 2023 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2330-4804_EIRO_COM_3899>
First published online: 2020
First print edition: 20081215

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