AYĀZ, ABU’L-NAJM B. ŪYMĀQ, favorite Turkish slave of the Ghaznavid Sultan Maḥmūd, whose passion for Ayāz is a recurrent theme in Persian poetry, where he is also called Ayās or Āyāz. Information about Ayāz’s life is very scarce, his real personality being hidden behind a veil of tales. As the chief royal cupbearer (sāqī), he enjoyed Maḥmūd’s trust and probably was given some important assignments (Bayhaqī, 2nd ed., pp. 329, 527). After Maḥmūd’s death, Ayāz refused to join Moḥammad, the designated heir to the throne, and together with two other prominent men and “most of the palace slaves” left Ḡaznī to join Masʿūd, the rival claimant, at Nīšāpūr. This move must have had importance, because Masʿūd mentioned it in a letter which he wrote to the Qarakhanid amir Qāder Khan (Bayhaqī, p. 94). Ayāz continued to enjoy favor in Masʿūd’s reign. Aḥmad b. Ḥasan Maymandī recommended Ayāz for the governorship of Ray, a prestigious and hazardous post, but the sultan decided otherwise on the ground of his inexperience (ibid., p. 346). Later in Masʿūd’s reign, however, Ayāz was appointed governor of Qoṣdār and Kermān. Ebn al-Aṯīr gives the year of Ayāz’s death as 449/1057 (IX, p. 638). The tomb of the Ghaznavid governor Arslān Jāḏeb near Mašhad is locally referred to as Gūr-e Ayāz (the tomb of Ayāz; see ĀSTĀN-E QODS-E RAŻAWĪ).
In Persian literature, much has been written about Ayāz’s good looks and his qualities of valor, shrewdness, sincerity, and loyalty, though a few authors deny that he was good-looking. Farroḵī, one of Maḥmūd’s court poets, panegyrized Ayāz in a qaṣīda, describing him as valiant, brave, and handsome. A passage in the Tārīḵ-e Bayhaqī (p. 527) suggests that Maḥmūd probably wearied of Ayāz’s frivolous behavior but does not make clear why. Sultan Maḥmūd’s relationship with this Turkish ḡolām had many parallels in the category of royal love for a slave, but this one was presented in Persian literature as something different and exceptional. Neẓāmī ʿArūżī in his Čahār maqāla (text, pp. 55-57), written just over a century after Ayāz’s death, tells a story which is meant to absolve Maḥmūd of sinful love for Ayāz, but confirms the sultan’s great fondness for this slave. In other literary works, however, and particularly in Sufi writings, where the love of Maḥmūd and Ayāz often comes up, Ayāz is presented as a paragon of purity and sincerity: e.g., in the story of Ayāz’s shoes and fur coat as told in ʿAṭṭār’s Moṣībat-nāma, Rūmī’s Maṯnawī, and several other works. Sufi writers also drew mystic inferences from the love of Maḥmūd and Ayāz. The subject was pursued and poetically interpreted in various ways in the works of many Persian poets and several prose-writers. The consequence of this extraordinary fame was that in Persian literature Maḥmūd and Ayāz came to be placed in the same category as Laylī and Majnūn, Ḵosrow and Šīrīn, Vīs and Rāmīn, and Yūsof and Zolaykā. Long maṯnawī poems about the love of Maḥmūd and Ayāz were written by litterateurs such as Faḵr-al-dīn ʿAlī b. Ḥosayn Wāʿeẓ Kāšefī, Anīsī Šāmlū, Zolālī Ḵᵛānsārī; another was once wrongly ascribed to ʿAṭṭār.
Neẓāmī ʿArūżī, Čahār maqāla, ed. M. Qazvīnī and M. Moʿīn, 3rd ed., Tehran, 1333 Š./1954, notes, pp. 175, 176.
Ātaškada I, pp. 44-45.
Farroḵī Sīstānī, Dīvān, ed. ʿA. ʿAbd-al-Rasūlī, Tehran, 1311 Š./1932, pp. 163-65.
Nafīsī, Naẓm o naṯr, pp. 115, 248, 285, 424.
Jalāl-al-dīn Rūmī, Maṯnawī, ed. R. A. Nicholson, 8 vols., Leiden, 1925-40, V, p. 118.
Browne, Lit. Hist. Persia III, p. 504.
Rypka, Hist. Iran. Lit., p. 301.
Ḡ.-Ḥ. Yūsofī, Farroḵī Sīstānī, Mašhad, 1341 Š./1962.
A. Sohaylī Ḵᵛānsārī, “Maḥmūd o Ayāz,” Yaḡmā 4, 1330 Š./1951, pp. 262-69, 328-31, 355-60.
Idem, “Maḥmūd o Ayāz,” Dāneš 3, 1331 Š./1952, pp. 33-40, 97-104, 189-96.
Dehḵodā, s.v. Ayāz.
Originally Published: December 15, 1987
Last Updated: August 18, 2011
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Vol. III, Fasc. 2, pp. 133-134