ʿEṢĀMĪ, ʿABD-AL-MALEK (fl. 751/1350), Indo-Muslim poet writing in Persian. Since he gives his age as forty when he composed his Fotūḥ al-salāṭīn (p. 616), he must have been born around 711/1311-12. He tells us nothing about his father. No other source corroborates his claim that an ancestor, Faḵr-al-Molk ʿEṣāmī, had been vizier at Baghdad and had arrived at Delhi during the reign of Šams-al-Dīn Eltotmeš (607-33/1211-36; q.v.), who had entrusted him with the vizierate(Fotūhá, pp. 127-28). Faḵr-al-Molk’s son, who allegedly served Sultan Nāṣer-al-Dīn Maḥmūd b. Eltotmeš (d. 664/1266) and Sultan Ḡīāṯ-al-Dīn Balaban (664-86/1266-87) as controller of the royal household (wakīl-e dar; pp. 147-48, 448), is a little less obscure, since the chronicler Baranī (p. 36) mentions the privy chamberlain (ḵāṣṣ-ḥājeb) ʿEṣāmī under Balaban’s reign. His son, ʿEṣāmī’s grandfather, the military cammander (sepāhsālār) ʿEzz-al-Dīn, was obliged to leave his home in Delhi when Sultan Moḥammad b. Toḡloq ordered the principal Muslim families to move to Dēvgīr (later Dawlatābād) in the Deccan in about 727/1327, and died en route, aged ninety, at Tilpat, a few miles south of the capital (Fotūhá, pp. 447-48). The poet, who began the journey in the old man’s company, is consequently a hostile witness with regard to the reign of Moḥammad. After the Deccan seceded under the Bahmanids (q.v.) in 748/1347, ʿEṣāmī dedicated his Fotūḥ al-salāṭīn to the founder of the new dynasty, ʿAlāʾ-al-Dīn Bahman Shah (r. 748-59/1347-58). This work, completed on 6 Rabīʿ I 751/14 May 1350 (Fotūhá, p. 618), is an epic containing the res gestae of the Muslims in India from the time of the Ghaznavid Sultan Maḥmūd, consisting of 11, 693 verses and modelled on the Šāh-nāma of Ferdowsī. His authorities are never named but referred to as “old men of Indian stock (pīrān-e Hendī-nežād),”, “old men of Hindustan,” or simply “old and reliable witnesses.” ʿEṣāmī’s work is nevertheless a useful supplement to Baranī’s Tārīḵ-e fīrūzšāhī, the principal source for the history of the Delhi sultanate after 662/1264, and furnishes a particularly detailed account of events in southern India in the era of Moḥammad b. Toḡloq. It was used by later historians (e.g., Badāʾūnī, Ferešta). There are hints in the Fotūḥ that ʿEṣāmī had composed other works which had not won him the distinction he sought; but these have not survived. He probably left for Mecca soon after finishing his book and died there.


Bibliography (for cited works not given in detail and abbreviations found here, see “Short References”):

Żīāʾ-al-Dīn Baranī, Tārīḵ-e fīrūzšāhī, ed. S. Aḥmed Khan, Calcutta, 1861-62.

A. S. Bazmee Ansari, “ʿIṣāmī,” EI2 IV, pp. 92-93.

ʿEṣāmī, Fotūḥ al-salāṭīn, ed. A.S. Usha, Madras, 1948; tr. Agha Mahdi Husain as Futūḥu’s-Salāṭīn or Shah Namah-i Hind, Aligarh, 1967-77.

P. Hardy, Historians of Medieval India, London, 1960, pp. 94-110.

K. A. Nizami, On History and Historians of Medieval India, New Delhi, 1983, pp. 107-23.

Ṣafā, Adabīyāt III, pp. 915-20. Storey, I, p. 433.

(Peter Jackson)

Originally Published: December 15, 1998

Last Updated: January 19, 2012

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