Nasir Khusraw

Nasir Khusraw

Overview
Abu Mo’in Hamid ad-Din Nasir ibn Khusraw al-Qubadiani or Nāsir Khusraw Qubādiyānī [also spelled as Nasir Khusrow and Naser Khosrow] (1004 - 1088 AD was a Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

 poet, philosopher, Isma'ili scholar, traveler and one of the greatest writers in Persian literature
Persian literature
Persian literature spans two-and-a-half millennia, though much of the pre-Islamic material has been lost. Its sources have been within historical Persia including present-day Iran as well as regions of Central Asia where the Persian language has historically been the national language...

. He was born in Qubadyan, a village in middle-age Bactria
Bactria
Bactria and also appears in the Zend Avesta as Bukhdi. It is the ancient name of a historical region located between south of the Amu Darya and west of the Indus River...

 in eastern Iranian
Iranian
Iranian is of, from, or related to the nation of Iran .* Iranian or Persian people who are persons from the nation of Iran/Persia, or of Iranian descent...

 province of Khurasan, now present-day in modern Tajikistan
Tajikistan
Tajikistan , officially the Republic of Tajikistan , is a mountainous landlocked country in Central Asia. Afghanistan borders it to the south, Uzbekistan to the west, Kyrgyzstan to the north, and China to the east....

 and died in Yamagan, Central Asia (now in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

).
He is considered as one of the great poets and writers in Persian literature
Persian literature
Persian literature spans two-and-a-half millennia, though much of the pre-Islamic material has been lost. Its sources have been within historical Persia including present-day Iran as well as regions of Central Asia where the Persian language has historically been the national language...

, the Safarnama
Safarnama
Safarnāma or Safarnāmé , also spelled as safarnameh, is a travel literature written during the 11th century by Nasir Khusraw . It is also known as the Book of Travels and was a work that shaped the future of classical Persian travel writing.It is an account of Khusraw's seven year journey through...

, an account of his travels, being his most famous work.

Nasir Khusraw was born in 1004 AD, in Qubadyan.
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Abu Mo’in Hamid ad-Din Nasir ibn Khusraw al-Qubadiani or Nāsir Khusraw Qubādiyānī [also spelled as Nasir Khusrow and Naser Khosrow] (1004 - 1088 AD was a Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

 poet, philosopher, Isma'ili scholar, traveler and one of the greatest writers in Persian literature
Persian literature
Persian literature spans two-and-a-half millennia, though much of the pre-Islamic material has been lost. Its sources have been within historical Persia including present-day Iran as well as regions of Central Asia where the Persian language has historically been the national language...

. He was born in Qubadyan, a village in middle-age Bactria
Bactria
Bactria and also appears in the Zend Avesta as Bukhdi. It is the ancient name of a historical region located between south of the Amu Darya and west of the Indus River...

 in eastern Iranian
Iranian
Iranian is of, from, or related to the nation of Iran .* Iranian or Persian people who are persons from the nation of Iran/Persia, or of Iranian descent...

 province of Khurasan, now present-day in modern Tajikistan
Tajikistan
Tajikistan , officially the Republic of Tajikistan , is a mountainous landlocked country in Central Asia. Afghanistan borders it to the south, Uzbekistan to the west, Kyrgyzstan to the north, and China to the east....

 and died in Yamagan, Central Asia (now in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

).
He is considered as one of the great poets and writers in Persian literature
Persian literature
Persian literature spans two-and-a-half millennia, though much of the pre-Islamic material has been lost. Its sources have been within historical Persia including present-day Iran as well as regions of Central Asia where the Persian language has historically been the national language...

, the Safarnama
Safarnama
Safarnāma or Safarnāmé , also spelled as safarnameh, is a travel literature written during the 11th century by Nasir Khusraw . It is also known as the Book of Travels and was a work that shaped the future of classical Persian travel writing.It is an account of Khusraw's seven year journey through...

, an account of his travels, being his most famous work.

Life


Nasir Khusraw was born in 1004 AD, in Qubadyan. He was well versed in all the branches of natural science
Natural science
The natural sciences are branches of science that seek to elucidate the rules that govern the natural world by using empirical and scientific methods...

, in medicine
Medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

, mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

, astronomy
Astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

 and astrology
Astrology
Astrology consists of a number of belief systems which hold that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world...

, in Greek philosophy
Greek philosophy
Ancient Greek philosophy arose in the 6th century BCE and continued through the Hellenistic period, at which point Ancient Greece was incorporated in the Roman Empire...

 and the writings of al-Kindi
Al-Kindi
' , known as "the Philosopher of the Arabs", was a Muslim Arab philosopher, mathematician, physician, and musician. Al-Kindi was the first of the Muslim peripatetic philosophers, and is unanimously hailed as the "father of Islamic or Arabic philosophy" for his synthesis, adaptation and promotion...

, al-Farabi
Al-Farabi
' known in the West as Alpharabius , was a scientist and philosopher of the Islamic world...

 and Ibn Sina; and the interpretation of the Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

. He had studied Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

, Turkish
Turkish language
Turkish is a language spoken as a native language by over 83 million people worldwide, making it the most commonly spoken of the Turkic languages. Its speakers are located predominantly in Turkey and Northern Cyprus with smaller groups in Iraq, Greece, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo,...

, Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, the vernacular languages of India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and Sindh
Sindh
Sindh historically referred to as Ba'ab-ul-Islam , is one of the four provinces of Pakistan and historically is home to the Sindhi people. It is also locally known as the "Mehran". Though Muslims form the largest religious group in Sindh, a good number of Christians, Zoroastrians and Hindus can...

, and perhaps even Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

; he had visited Multan
Multan
Multan , is a city in the Punjab Province of Pakistan and capital of Multan District. It is located in the southern part of the province on the east bank of the Chenab River, more or less in the geographic centre of the country and about from Islamabad, from Lahore and from Karachi...

 and Lahore
Lahore
Lahore is the capital of the Pakistani province of Punjab and the second largest city in the country. With a rich and fabulous history dating back to over a thousand years ago, Lahore is no doubt Pakistan's cultural capital. One of the most densely populated cities in the world, Lahore remains a...

, and the splendid Ghaznavid court under Sultan Mahmud
Mahmud of Ghazni
Mahmud of Ghazni , actually ', was the most prominent ruler of the Ghaznavid dynasty who ruled from 997 until his death in 1030 in the eastern Iranian lands. Mahmud turned the former provincial city of Ghazni into the wealthy capital of an extensive empire which covered most of today's Iran,...

, Firdousi's patron. Later on he chose Merv
Merv
Merv , formerly Achaemenid Satrapy of Margiana, and later Alexandria and Antiochia in Margiana , was a major oasis-city in Central Asia, on the historical Silk Road, located near today's Mary in Turkmenistan. Several cities have existed on this site, which is significant for the interchange of...

 for his residence, and was the owner of a house and garden there.

Until A.H.
Hijri year
The Hijri year is year numbering system used in the Islamic calendar. It commemorates the Hijra , or emigration of Muhammad and his followers to the city of Medina in 622 CE. In Arabic, AH is symbolized by the letter هـ...

 437 (1046 AD), he worked as financial secretary and revenue collector for the Seljuk sultan Toghrul Beg, or rather of his brother Jaghir Beg, the emir
Emir
Emir , meaning "commander", "general", or "prince"; also transliterated as Amir, Aamir or Ameer) is a title of high office, used throughout the Muslim world...

 of Khorasan
Greater Khorasan
Greater Khorasan or Ancient Khorasan is a historical region of Greater Iran mentioned in sources from Sassanid and Islamic eras which "frequently" had a denotation wider than current three provinces of Khorasan in Iran...

, who had conquered Merv in 1037. About this time, inspired by a heavenly voice in a dream, he abjured all the luxuries of life, and resolved upon a pilgrimage
Hajj
The Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is one of the largest pilgrimages in the world, and is the fifth pillar of Islam, a religious duty that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so...

 to the holy shrines of Mecca
Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...

 and Medina
Medina
Medina , or ; also transliterated as Madinah, or madinat al-nabi "the city of the prophet") is a city in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia, and serves as the capital of the Al Madinah Province. It is the second holiest city in Islam, and the burial place of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and...

, hoping to find there the solution to his spiritual crisis.

The graphic description of this journey is contained in the Safarnama
Safarnama
Safarnāma or Safarnāmé , also spelled as safarnameh, is a travel literature written during the 11th century by Nasir Khusraw . It is also known as the Book of Travels and was a work that shaped the future of classical Persian travel writing.It is an account of Khusraw's seven year journey through...

, which possesses a special value among books of travel, since it contains the most authentic account of the state of the Muslim world in the middle of the 11th century
Timeline of 11th century Muslim history
-11th century :* 1001: Mahmud of Ghaznavid defeats the Hindu Shahis.* 1004: Mahmud of Ghaznavid captures Bhatiya.* 1005: Mahmud of Ghaznavid captures Multan and Ghur.* 1008: Mahmud of Ghaznavid defeats the Rajput confederacy....

. The minute sketches of Jerusalem and its environs are even today of practical value.

During the seven years of his 19,000-kilometre journey (1046–1052), Nasir visited Mecca four times, and performed all the rites and observances of a zealous pilgrim; but he was far more attracted by Cairo
Cairo
Cairo , is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa, and the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life...

, the capital of Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, and the residence of the Fatimid
Fatimid
The Fatimid Islamic Caliphate or al-Fāṭimiyyūn was a Berber Shia Muslim caliphate first centered in Tunisia and later in Egypt that ruled over varying areas of the Maghreb, Sudan, Sicily, the Levant, and Hijaz from 5 January 909 to 1171.The caliphate was ruled by the Fatimids, who established the...

 caliph-imam Ma'ad al-Mustansir Billah, the Imam
Imamah (Shi'a Ismaili doctrine)
The Ismaili view on the Imamah differs from the Twelver Shi'a view, in particular because the Imam in Ismailism is the Noor of God . Ismailis believe that the Noor of God is present in the Imam, and that there is only a Ẓāhirī difference between each one...

 of the Ismaili
Ismaili
' is a branch of Shia Islam. It is the second largest branch of Shia Islam, after the Twelvers...

 Shi'a Muslims, which was just then waging a deadly war against the Abbasid
Abbasid
The Abbasid Caliphate or, more simply, the Abbasids , was the third of the Islamic caliphates. It was ruled by the Abbasid dynasty of caliphs, who built their capital in Baghdad after overthrowing the Umayyad caliphate from all but the al-Andalus region....

 caliph of Baghdad
Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

, and Toghrul Beg the Seljuk, the great defender of the Sunni creed. At the very time of Nasir's visit to Cairo, the power of the Egyptian Fatimids was in its zenith; Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, the Hejaz
Hejaz
al-Hejaz, also Hijaz is a region in the west of present-day Saudi Arabia. Defined primarily by its western border on the Red Sea, it extends from Haql on the Gulf of Aqaba to Jizan. Its main city is Jeddah, but it is probably better known for the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina...

, Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, and Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 obeyed al-Mustanir's sway, and the utmost order, security and prosperity reigned in Egypt.

At Cairo, he learned mainly under the Fatimid dā‘ī
Dawah
Da‘wah or Dawah usually denotes the preaching of Islam. Da‘wah literally means "issuing a summons" or "making an invitation", being the active participle of a verb meaning variously "to summon" or "to invite"...

 ("missionary") Mu'ayyad fid-Din al-Shirazi, and became thoroughly imbued with the Shi'a Isma'ili doctrines of the Fatimids, and their introduction into his native country was henceforth the sole object of his life. He was raised to the position of dā‘ī "missionary" and appointed as the Hujjat-i Khorasan, though the hostility he encountered in the propagation of these new religious ideas after his return to Greater Khorasan
Greater Khorasan
Greater Khorasan or Ancient Khorasan is a historical region of Greater Iran mentioned in sources from Sassanid and Islamic eras which "frequently" had a denotation wider than current three provinces of Khorasan in Iran...

 in 1052 and Sunnite fanaticism
Fanaticism
Fanaticism is a belief or behavior involving uncritical zeal, particularly for an extreme religious or political cause or in some cases sports, or with an obsessive enthusiasm for a pastime or hobby...

 compelled him at last to flee. After many wanderings he found a refuge in Yamgan (about 1060) in the mountains of Badakhshan
Badakhshan
Badakhshan is an historic region comprising parts of what is now northeastern Afghanistan and southeastern Tajikistan. The name is retained in Badakhshan Province which is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan, in the far northeast of Afghanistan, and contains the Wakhan Corridor...

, where he spent as a hermit the last decades of his life, and gathered round him a considerable number of devoted adherents, who have handed down his doctrines to succeeding generations.

Works

  • Safarnama

Safarnama
Safarnama
Safarnāma or Safarnāmé , also spelled as safarnameh, is a travel literature written during the 11th century by Nasir Khusraw . It is also known as the Book of Travels and was a work that shaped the future of classical Persian travel writing.It is an account of Khusraw's seven year journey through...

(The Book of Travels) is his most famous work. He visited tens of cities in about seven years (1046, March 6 – 1052, October 23) and wrote comprehensively about them: colleges, caravanserais, mosques, area, population, scientists, kings, usual people and his interesting memories. After 1000 years, his Safarnama is still readable for Persian-speaking
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

 people.
  • Diwan

Among his other works, most of the lyrical poems in his Diwan were composed in his retirement, and their chief topics are an enthusiastic praise of Ali
Ali
' |Ramaḍān]], 40 AH; approximately October 23, 598 or 600 or March 17, 599 – January 27, 661).His father's name was Abu Talib. Ali was also the cousin and son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and ruled over the Islamic Caliphate from 656 to 661, and was the first male convert to Islam...

, his descendants, and al-Mustansir in particular; passionate outcries against Khorasan and its rulers, who had driven him from house and home; the highest satisfaction with the quiet solitude of Yumgan; and utter despondency again in seeing himself despised by his former associates and forever excluded from participation in the glorious contest of life. But scattered through all these alternate outbursts of hope and despair we find precious lessons of purest morality, and solemn warnings against the tricks and perfidy of the world, the vanity of all earthly splendour and greatness, the folly and injustice of men, and the hypocrisy, frivolity and viciousness of fashionable society and princely courts in particular.
  • Gushayish wa Rahayish

Another work of Nasir Khusraw is the Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

 philosophical work "Gushayis wa Rahayish" which has been translated to English by F.M. Hunzai under the title "Knowledge and Liberation". The work discusses creation, questions related to the soul, epistemology, creation and Ismaili Islamic doctorines. From a linguistic point of view, the work is an example of early philogophical writing in new Persian.

It is the same strain which runs, although in a somewhat lower key, through his two larger mathnavis
Masnavi (poetic form)
Masnavi, or mathnawī, is the name of a poem written in rhyming couplets, or more specifically, “a poem based on independent, internally rhyming lines”. Most mathnawī followed a meter of eleven, or occasionally ten, syllables, but had no limit in their length...

, the Rawshana-i-nama (or Book of Enlightenment, also known as Shish Fasl), and the Sa'datnama (Book of Felicity). The former is divided into two sections: the first, of a metaphysical character, contains a sort of practical cosmography
Cosmography
Cosmography is the science that maps the general features of the universe, describing both heaven and Earth...

, chiefly based on Avicenna
Avicenna
Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sīnā , commonly known as Ibn Sīnā or by his Latinized name Avicenna, was a Persian polymath, who wrote almost 450 treatises on a wide range of subjects, of which around 240 have survived...

's theories, but frequently intermixed both with the freer speculations of the well-known philosophical brotherhood of Basra
Basra
Basra is the capital of Basra Governorate, in southern Iraq near Kuwait and Iran. It had an estimated population of two million as of 2009...

, the Ikhwan al-Safa, and purely Shi'ite or Isma'ili ideas; the second, or ethical section of the poem, abounds in moral maxims and ingenious thoughts on man's good and bad qualities, on the necessity of shunning the company of fools and double-faced friends, on the deceptive allurements of the world and the secret snares of ambitious men craving for rank and wealth. It concludes with an imaginary vision of a beautiful work of spirits who have stripped off the fetters of earthly cares and sorrows and revel in the pure light of divine wisdom and love.

If we compare this with a similar allegory
Allegory
Allegory is a demonstrative form of representation explaining meaning other than the words that are spoken. Allegory communicates its message by means of symbolic figures, actions or symbolic representation...

 in Nasir's Diwan, which culminates in the praise of Mustansir, we are fairly entitled to look upon it as a covert allusion to the eminent men who revealed to the poet in Cairo the secrets of the Isma'ili faith, and showed him what he considered the heavenly ladder to superior knowledge and spiritual bliss.

A similar series of excellent teachings on practical wisdom and the blessings of a virtuous life, only of a more severe and uncompromising character, is contained in the Sa'datnama; and, judging from the extreme bitterness of tone manifested in the reproaches of kings and emirs, we should be inclined to consider it a protest against the vile aspersions poured out upon Nasir's moral and religious attitude during those persecutions which drove him at last to Yumgan.

Of all other works of the author, the Zaad al-Musafirin (or Travelling Provisions of Pilgrims) and the Wajh-i-Din (or The Face of Religion) are theoretical descriptions of his religious and philosophical principles; the rest of them can be dismissed as being probably just as apocryphal as Nasir's famous autobiography (found in several Persian tadhkiras or biographies of poets), a mere forgery of the most extravagant description, which is mainly responsible for the confusion in names and dates in older accounts of our author.
  • Book on Mathematics


Nasir Khusraw wrote a book on mathematics which has now been lost. He states in his other work that he could: not find one single scholar throughout all of Khorasan and eastern lands like myself [who] could grapple with the solutions to these problems. But he felt it his responsibility to take the task for readers he would never see, 'those yet to come, in a time yet to come'

Poetry


The poetry of Nasir Khusraw is replete with advice and wisdom. Being the representative of the Fatimid Imams in Khorasan, Nasir guided his followers through his poetry. His Persian poetry is enjoyed by the average Persian speaker of today and is taught in grade school.

External links