AŠRAF GĪLĀNĪ, SAYYED AŠRAF-AL-DĪN ḤOSAYNĪ QAZVĪNĪ, poet and leading journalist of the Constitutional era. Born in Qazvīn in 1287/1870, he lost his father, Sayyed Aḥmad Ḥosaynī, when he was only six months old. His childhood was spent in poverty and in his early youth he spent some time in Karbalā and Naǰaf, presumably to pursue religious studies. On returning to Iran, he went first to Qazvīn and then at the age of twenty-two to Tabrīz (where he studied geography, Arabic, grammar, logic, etc.) before settling down in Rašt. In Rašt he published the paper Nasīm-e šemāl, which appeared with irregular intervals from 1325/1907 to 1330/1911. This paper was reckoned among the most popular journals of its time. Subsequently, the poet moved to Tehran, and revived the publication of his paper in 1333/1914-15. He died in 1313 Š./1934.
Ašraf’s most significant literary output consisted of politico-satirical poems which appeared, sometimes under the pen-name of “Faqīr,” in the pages of the Nasīm-e šemāl during the early part of his journalistic career. The subject of these poems constituted striking comments on the political and social conditions of the time, while their mood alternated between despair and hope depending upon the vicissitudinous course of events. In these poems Ašraf was greatly influenced by the poems of ʿAlī-Akbar Ṭāherzāda Ṣāber, whose works were published in the satirical Turkish paper Mollā Naṣr-al-dīn. Sometimes Ašraf resorted to outright translation of Ṣāber’s works without acknowledging his source. Ašraf’s main criticism was reserved for reactionary politicians and clergy. His satirical verse, written in simple, colloquial language, and often using slang expressions, enjoyed wide appeal. He employed certain poetic forms, such as the mostazād and the ballad (taṣnīf), with special effectiveness. A selection of his poetry (Bāḡ-e behešt), said to comprise about 20,000 verses, has been published several times in Bombay and Tehran. See also Nasīm-e Šemāl.
Y. Āryanpūr, Az Ṣabā tā Nīmā, 2nd. ed., Tehran, 1351 Š./1972, II, pp. 61-77.
M. B. Borqaʿī, Soḵanvarān-e nāmī-e moʿāṣer II, Tehran, 1330 Š./1951, pp. 250-55.
E. G. Browne, Press and Poetry of Modern Persia, Cambridge, 1914, pp. xvii-xviii, 148, 182-200, 204-18, 234-38.
Moḥammad Esḥāq, Soḵanvarān-e Īrān dar ʿaṣr-e ḥāżer I, Delhi, 1933, pp. 146-70.
Moḥammad Ṣadr Hāšemī, Tārīḵ-eǰarāyed o maǰallāt-e Īrān, Isfahan, 1327-32 Š./1948-53, IV, pp. 295-301.
M. ʿA. Jamālzāda, “Panǰāhomīn sāl-e taʾsīs-e rūz-nāma-ye Nasīm-e šemāl,” Yaḡmā 13, 1339 Š./1960, pp. 121-29.
F. Machalski, La littérature de l’Iran contemporain I, Krakow, 1965, pp. 65-70. S. Nafīsī in Safīd o sīāh, 1334 Š./1945.
Y. Rayḥān, “Be yād-e marḥūm-e Sayyed Ašraf (Nasīm-e Šemāl),” Yaḡmā 13, 1339 Š./1960, pp. 301-05.
E. Ṣafāʾī, “Dīdār-ī bā Sayyed Ašraf al-dīn Nasīm-e Šemāl,” Negīn, 1349 Š./1970, no. 58, pp. 13-14, 16.
Ḥ. Yaḡmāʾī, “Sayyed Ašraf al-dīn Ḥosaynī Gīlanī,” Yaḡmā 21, 1347 Š./1968, pp. 704-10.
Originally Published: December 15, 1987
Last Updated: August 17, 2011
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Vol. II, Fasc. 8, pp. 795-796