ČELEBĪ (Čalabī), FATḤ-ALLĀH ʿĀREF or ʿĀrefī, 10th/16th-century poet and author of a Šāh-nāma (Solaymān-nāma) extolling the Ottoman rulers. All contemporary sources agree that he was of Persian origin, but none furnish reliable information on his exact place of origin or that of his father. Some sources ascribe either to ʿĀref or to his father an origin in Shiraz or Qazvīn, but this is probably as a result of confusion with the father of Moḥyī Golšanī (q.v.), who was also called Fatḥ-Allāh and had connections with both cities.
Both ʿĀšeq Čelebī (fol. 165a) and ʿĀlī (fo1. 403a) state that Čelebī ʿĀref was or became the nešānjī (official entrusted with inscribing the sultan’s monogram on documents) of Alqāṣ Mīrzā, and it has therefore been suggested that Čelebī ʿĀref came to Istanbul with him (Sohrweide, p. 269; C. Fleischer, “Alqās Mīrzā,” in EIr. I, p. 908). However, Moḥyī Golšanī (p. 413) states that he saw Čelebī ʿĀref in Istanbul in 953/1546-47, and Čelebī ʿĀref’s name appears in a register of those drawing salaries that is dated 24 Šaʿbān 952/31 October 1545 (İstanbul Başbakanlık Aṛşivi, Maliyeden müdevver defter, no. 1788). It is therefore impossible for him to have come to Istanbul with Alqāṣ Mīrzā. Statements to the effect that Čelebī ʿĀref was the nešānjī of Alqāṣ Mīrzā must refer to an appointment that took place after ʿĀref’s arrival in Istanbul.
Čelebī ʿĀref’s mother is said to have been Arab. His father, a Persian by the name of Darvīš Čelebī, was a disciple of Ebrāhīm Golšanī, whom he apparently accompanied to Cairo after the conquest of Tabrīz by Shah Esmāʿīl I, and while in Cairo married the daughter of his shaikh (Moḥyī Golšanī, pp. 245-47). When Sultan Salīm conquered Cairo in 923/1517 he collected the artisans and scholars of the city and took them with him to Istanbul, as he had earlier done in Tabrīz; it is probable that Čelebī ʿĀref’s father was among those thus transported, taking his son with him.
Father and son were both attached to the palace, but although Čelebī ʿĀref was employed as a Šāh-nāmagū (şehnameci; composer of a Šāh-nāma) it is not known what work his father engaged in. However, when Sultan Solaymān sent gifts to Alqāṣ Mīrzā in return for the portion of the plunder from ʿErāq-e ʿAjam that he had received from him, it was with the father of Čelebī ʿĀref that he sent them (Solaymān-nāma, fol. 504b).
Čelebī ʿĀref initially received 25 aqčas a day for composing his Šāh-nāma, but this stipend was increased to 70 when the work was half finished (i.e., when he had written 30,000 bayts). It was intended that his Šāh-nāma should be a masterpiece not only from the point of view of content, but also—like many manuscripts of the Šāh-nāma of Ferdowsī—from the point of view of calligraphy and miniature-painting. A separate structure was therefore added to Čelebī ʿĀref’s house to serve as a studio for calligraphers and miniature painters, of whom five were employed (ʿĀlī, fol. 403a; ʿĀšeq Čelebī, fol. 165b).
When the work was completed in five volumes, it was presented to the ruler. It was thought until recently that no copy had survived of this Šāh-nāma, and it was not even known that a volume in the Topkapı Sarayı Library formed part of it (Karatay, p. 61). Not until other copies were discovered did it become apparent that the volume in question was part of the Šāh-nāma and that each of its five volumes was devoted to a separate topic. It now appears that only three of the five volumes have survived, the missing volumes being the second (with the exception of a single folio) and the third. The first volume deals with creation and the early prophets; the second with the appearance and rise of Islam; the third with ancient Turkish rulers and the Saljuqs; the fourth with the foundation of the Ottoman empire; and the fifth, entitled Solaymān-nāma, entirely with Sultan Solaymān. The first volume was sold by Christie’s in London in 1976, and an album containing the sole surviving folio of the second volume is to be found at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M. 73.5.446). The fourth volume is in the Topkapı Sarayı Library in Istanbul (H. 1517).
Apart from this major work, Čelebī ʿĀref also wrote the Salīm-nāma (or, as it is called on the title page, Waqāyeʿ-e Solṭān Bāyazīd maʿa Salīm Ḵān), an account of the battle between two sons of Sultan Solaymān, Salīm II and Bāyazīd that took place on the plain of Konya on 20 Šaʿbān 966/28 May 1559 (for copies see Karatay, p. 59; Levend, p. 31; and Muzaffer Ozak collection in the library of Dil ve Tarih-Coğrafya Fakültesi, Ankara, no, 31). A work entitled Fotūḥāt-e jamīla does not bear any name, but, given its meter, style, and the similarities it presents to some parts of the Solaymān-nāma, it may be attributed to Čelebī ʿĀref. In addition, the calligraphy of this work and the miniatures that illustrate it resemble the calligraphy and the miniatures of the fourth volume of the Šāh-nāma, both books having been copied by the same calligrapher, Mīrzā Ḵūbī Šīrāzī.
The Salīm-nāma was probably Čelebī ʿĀref’s last work, because in the same year that he finished it he went to Cairo to visit his relatives (Moḥyī Golšanī, p. 415). He died there three years later, in 969/1561-62, and was buried in the cemetery attached to the Golšanī hospice (Bursalı Mehmed Tahir, III, p. 116).
ʿĀref was generously rewarded for his work, as a result of which he aroused the jealousy of various people, notably the miniaturist who had worked on the book and now vainly tried to denigrate his poetical abilities. Among ʿĀref’s defenders was the anthologist ʿĀšeq Čelebī (fol. 165b), who remarked that if even half the sixty thousand bayts of the work were bad, the remainder was good enough to establish ʿĀref’s talent. ʿĀšeq Čelebī recalls that ʿĀref once read to him 2,000 lines of his Šāh-nāma and claimed that they did not contain a single foreign word. The anthologist retorted that rayḥān (sweet basil) was Arabic, and that ʿĀref could have used in place of it the Persian word separḡam.
According to ʿĀšeq Čelebī (fol. 166a), ʿĀref wrote a matchless naẓīra (parallel) to a poem by Ḵāqānī, whereas according to ʿĀlī (fol. 403b), he wrote a naẓīra to a poem by Imam Rāzī(?). ʿĀref is also credited with a dīvān in Persian and two versified works dealing with the anatomy of men and horses, entitled Ṣanam al-ḵīāl and Faras al-ḵīāl respectively (Bursalı Tahir, III, p. 116). Mention has also been made of a Resāla-ye moʿammā (Treatise on riddles), but neither this nor any of the preceding works—with the exception of parts of the Šāh-nāma—has survived (Mehmed Tahir, p. 117).
ʿĀref wrote poetry in Turkish as easily as he did in Persian. When asked by the Ottoman commander Ḵādem Solaymān Pasha whether he was able to compose in Turkish, he soon after presented the commander with a 2,000 bayt work describing his military expedition to India (İA XI, pp. 194-96). No trace of this work survives.
Pīr-Moḥammad ʿĀšeq Čelebī, Mašāʿer al-šoʿarāʾ, ed. G. M. Meredith-Owens, London, 1971, fols. 165a-166b.
ʿĀlī Efendī, Konh al-aḵbār, ms. Istanbul University Library, TY 5959, fol. 403a.
Aḥmad b. Šamsī ʿAhdī Baḡdādī, Golšan-e šoʿarāʾ, ms. Istanbul University, TY 2604, fols. 84a-85b.
Nawʿīzāda ʿAṭāʾī, Ḥadāʾeq al-ḥaqāʾeq fī takmelat al-šaqāʾeq, Istanbul, 1268/1851-52.
E. Atil, Süleyman-nama. The Illustrated History of Süleyman the Magnificent, New York, 1986.
Bursalı Mehmed Tahir, Osmanlı müellifleri, Istanbul, 1333/1917, III, p. 116.
C. Fleischer, The Historian Mustafa Ali, Bureaucrat and Intellectual in the Ottoman Empire (1544-1600), Princeton, 1986.
Moḥyī Golšanī, Manāqeb-e Ebrāhīm-e Golšanī, ed. T. Yazıcı, Ankara, 1982.
F. E. Karatay, Topkapı Sarayı Müzesi Kütüphanesi Farsça yazmalar kataloğu, Istanbul, 1961, pp. 61-62.
A. S. Levend, Gazavāt-nāmeler ve Mihaoğlu Ali Bey’in gazavāt-namesi, Ankara, 1956.
Qen-ʿAlīzāda (Kınalızada) Ḥasan Čelebī, Taḏkerat al-šoʿarāʾ, ed. İ. Kutluk, Ankara, 1978, II, pp. 596-98.
H. Sohrweide, “Dichter and Gelehrter aus dem Osten im osmanischen Reich (1453-1600),” Der Islam 46, 1970, p. 269.
C. Woodhead, “An Experiment in Official Historiography: The Post of Şehnāmeci in the Ottoman Empire c. 1555-1605,” Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes 75, 1983, pp. 157-82.
Originally Published: December 15, 1990
Last Updated: December 15, 1990
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Vol. V, Fasc. 2, pp. 120-121