an important Persian writer of the late 6th/12th and early 7th/13th centuries.


ʿAWFĪ, SADĪD-AL-DĪN (NŪR-AL-DĪN, or JAMĀL-AL-DĪN) MOḤAMMAD B. MOḤAMMAD B. YAḤYĀ B. ṬĀHER B. ʿOṮMĀN BOḴĀRĪ ḤANAFĪ, an important Persian writer of the late 6th/12th and early 7th/13th centuries. The little that we know about ʿAwfī’s life comes mainly from his own writings. He appears to have been born around the middle of the second half of the 6th/12th century. His birthplace was Bukhara according to all the sources expect Ferešta (I, p. 117), who gives Nīšāpūr. ʿAwfī claimed direct descent from ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān b. ʿAwf, a companion of the Prophet Moḥammad, whom he mentions in his Jawāmeʿ al-ḥekāyāt (Lobāb I, p. yḥ). ʿAwfī’s grandfather, Qāżī Šaraf-al-dīn Abū Ṭāher Yaḥyā b. Ṭāher was a leading scholar in Transoxiana, and his maternal uncle, Majd-al-dīn Moḥammad b. Żīāʾ-al-dīn ʿAdnān Sorḵkatī, was the personal physician (hence his title Malek-al-aṭebbāʾ) of the Qarakhanid (Ilek-khanid) ruler of Transoxiana, Sultan Qïlïč Ṭamḡāč Khan Ebrāhīm b. Ḥosayn; he also wrote poetry and was the author of two books, one of which was on the history of the Qarakhanids (ibid., I, pp. 44, 178-181, 300-01, 337-38).

After finishing his preliminary studies at Bukhara, ʿAwfī traveled extensively in Transoxiana, Khorasan, and India, visiting Samarkand, Āmū, Ḵᵛārazm, Marv, Nīšāpūr, Herat, Asfezār, Esfarāyīn, Šahr-e Now (between Astarābād and Ḵᵛārazm), Sajestan, Farāh, Ḡaznīn, Lahore, Cambay (Kanbāyat), Nahrvāla, and Delhi, and received permission to transmit Hadith from a number of scholars that he met. He also preached sermons and conducted ḏekr sessions. The long list of his teachers and mentors include Imam Borhān-al-eslām Tāj-al-dīn ʿOmar b. Masʿūd b. Aḥmad (of the politically influential Borhān family, see Āl-e Borhān), Imam Rokn-al-dīn Masʿūd b. Moḥammad Emāmzāda, and Shaikh Majd-al-dīn Šaraf b. Moʾayyad Baḡdādī (a prominent mystic and a disciple of Shaikh Najm-al-dīn Kobrā), some of whose poems ʿAwfī has preserved, having heard them directly from him.

Apparently ʿAwfī first went to Samarkand and, through the help of his maternal uncle who was in the service of the sultan Qïlïč Ṭamḡāč Khan, got an introduction to the latter’s son Solṭān-al-salāṭīn, Qïlïč Arslān Ḵāqān Noṣrat-al-dīn ʿOṯmān b. Ebrāhīm, then heir apparent. Finding ʿAwfī to be learned, resourceful, and shrewd, this prince put him in charge of his correspondence office (dīvān-e enšāʾ). ʿAwfī must have left Samarkand before 600/1204, because he was at Nesā in that year. In 603/1206 he was at Nīšāpūr, in 607/1210 at Asfezār, and during one of his journeys he lost all his belongings to highwaymen.

Some time after 607/1210, ʿAwfī decided, apparently after hearing the first rumors of an imminent Mongol invasion, to migrate to India. In 617/1220 he was at the court of Nāṣer-al-dīn Qabāja (a mamlūk of the Ghurid sultan Šehāb-al-dīn or Moʿezz-al-dīn Moḥammad), who was governor of Sind and Mūltān from 602/1205 to 625/1228. He stayed at Ucch, Qabāja’s capital, until 625/1228. During this period he compiled the Lobāb al-albāb and dedicated it to Nāṣer-al-dīn Qabāja’s vizier, ʿAyn-al-molk Faḵr-al-dīn Ḥosayn b. Šaraf al-molk Rażī-al-dīn Abū Bakr Ašʿarī.

In 625/1258 Šams-al-dīn Iltutmiš (a mamlūk of the Ghurids and the architect of the slave sultanate of Delhi) put an end to Qabāja’s rule in Sind, annexing his territory to the Delhi Sultanate. ʿAwfī, who had already begun the compilation of the Jawāmeʿ al-ḥekāyāt at the request of Nāṣer-al-dīn Qabāja, stayed with his master until the last day, but was quick to enter the service of the victorious Šams-al-dīn Iltutmiš. When he completed the work he dedicated it to the sultan Šams-al-dīn’s vizier, Neẓām-al-molk Qewām-al-dīn Moḥammad b. Abī Saʿd Jonaydī (Lobāb I, pp. yḥ-kā). Nothing is known about ʿAwfī’s life after 625/1228 except that he must have been living in 628/1230-31, because in the Jawāmeʿ al-ḥekāyāt he mentions an event of that year, namely the defeat of Malek Eḵtīār-al-dīn Dawlatšāh Bolkā b. Ḥosām-al-dīn (or Ḡīāṯ-al-dīn) ʿEważ Ḵaljī, who had rebelled, and his execution by order of Iltutmiš. Moḥammad Qazvīnī maintained that ʿAwfī lived at least until 630/1232-33 (ibid., p. kb).

ʿAwfī’s surviving works are:

1. Lobāb al-albāb, the oldest taḏkerat al-šoʿarāʾ (anthology with biographies of the poets) in the Persian language, consisting of 12 sections, apparently completed in 618/1221 (ed. E. G. Browne, 2 vols., London, 1903-06; ed. S. Nafīsī, Tehran, 1335 Š./1956). The work is important mainly for two reasons: (1) ʿAwfī gives biographies and quotes verses of contemporary poets who had received him in various towns and are not mentioned in any other works; (2) he gives information, not found anywhere else, about certain poets of the Ghaznavid, Samanid, Saffarid, and Taherid periods. He is uncritical in his appraisals of the poets, being often loquacious and rhetorical. His selections are not well balanced and often show poor taste.

2. Jawāmeʿ al-ḥekāyāt wa lawāmeʿ al-rewāyāt, a collection of prose anecdotes in 4 sections, each made up of 25 chapters. In compiling this very large collection, ʿAwfī took material from books on history, belles lettres, stories and reports, available data on poets and prose-writers, etc. Some of the sources which he used are lost. This compilation is not only valuable as a literary work but also has historical and other aspects of considerable importance (selections published by M. T. Bahār, Tehran, 1324 Š./1945; partial edition [sec. 1, chap. 1] by M. Nizamuddin, Hyderabad (Deccan), 1960; partial edition [sec. 3, chap. 1 and sec. 2, chap. 3] by B. Moṣaffā Karīmī, Tehran, 1352 Š./1973 and 1353 Š./1974).

ʿAwfī states in the Jawāmeʿ al-ḥekāyāt that he completed two other works: a Persian translation of the Arabic book al-Faraj baʿd al-šedda by Qāżī Abū ʿAlī Moḥsen b. ʿAlī b. Moḥammad b. Dāʾūd Tanūḵī (d. 384/994) (ref. to this tr. in sec. 4, chap. 7), and a panegyric entitled Madāʾeḥ al-solṭān in the meter and style of Sanāʾī’s Ḥadīqat al-ḥaqīqa (ref. and quotation of two verses in sec. 1, chap. 12). Both works are lost.

ʿAwfī’s prose style is not uniform. In the prefaces of his two surviving works and in the opening lines of the biography of each poet in the Lobāb, he uses the artificial, ornate style fashionable in his times, whereas in the text of the Jawāmeʿ al-ḥekāyāt and some parts of the Lobāb he writes in a language much simpler than any normally found in works from the 6th/12th and 7th/13th centuries. ʿAwfī composed other poems as well. He has inserted examples in the Lobāb al-albāb and the Jawāmeʿ al-ḥekāyāt, and at the end of each chapter of the Jawāmeʿ al-ḥekāyāt he has added a short or long verse piece by himself in praise of the vizier Neẓām-al-molk Jonaydī; these suffice to show that he lacked poetic talent.



ʿAwfī, Lobāb I, pp. yb-kh (introd. by M. Qazvīnī with ample references to manuscript sources); II, pp. j-w; Tehran ed., 1335 Š./1956 (with introd. by S. Nafīsī).

N. Bland, “On the Earliest Persian Biography of Poets, by Muhammad Aúfi, and on Some Other Works of the Class Called Tazkirat ul Shuârá,” JRAS, 1848, pp. 111-76.

R. N. Nicholson, “An Early Persian Anthology,” in his Studies in Islamic Poetry, Cambridge, 1921, pp. 1-42.

Jāmī, Nafaḥāt al-ons, Calcutta, 1859, pp. 487-92.

Browne, Lit. Hist. Persia II, pp. 477-79.

Ṣafā, Adabīyāt II, pp. 1023-30.

Nafīsī, Naẓm o naṯr I, pp. 97-98.

Rypka, Hist. Iran. Lit., pp. 132, 222.

Storey, I/2, pp. 781-84.

EI1 , p. 764.

(J. Matīnī)

Originally Published: December 15, 1987

Last Updated: August 18, 2011

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Vol. III, Fasc. 2, pp. 117-118