FARHANG, MĪRZĀ ABU’L-QĀSEM ŠĪRĀZĪ (b. Shiraz, Ramażān 1242/April 1827, d. Shiraz, 1309/1891), poet, scholar, and calligrapher. In his youth Farhang, the fourth son of the renowned poet Mīrzā Moḥammad-Šafīʿ Weṣāl Šīrāzī (d. 1262/1846), studied literature, mathematics, divination (jafr), and geomancy (raml). Inspired by the example of the poet Ḥabīb-Allāh Qāʾānī (d. 1270/1854), he also studied French.
In 1277/1860 Farhang, accompanied by his brothers Mīrzā Aḥmad Weqār and Mīrzā Esmāʿīl Tawḥīd, traveled to Tehran, where he remained for a year and gained some reputation among scholars there. Upon his return to Shiraz he married into the family of Ḥājj Maʿṣūm-ʿAlīšāh (d. 1212/1797-98), a former leader of the Neʿmat-Allāhī Sufi order. From this union he had two daughters and two sons, Maḥmūd (whose pen name was Awrang) and Moḥammad (Āhang).
Farhang was an accomplished poet and master of rhetoric. Following his father and his elder brother Dāvarī Šīrāzī (q.v.), he set himself to master seven different styles of calligraphy, though he was never satisfied with his nastaʿlīq (see CALLIGRAPHY). He was especially adept in ṯolṯ, following the style of Yāqūt Mostaʿṣamī. Like his father, he made copies of the Koran in four different scripts (ṯolṯ, naskò, reqāʿ, and šekasta), a fact that attracted considerable attention in Persia and India. People began to seek these Korans, often sending him gifts in advance in hopes of receiving one.
Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah awarded Farhang a farm called Hanā (lit., wholesome) to show appreciation for Farhang’s services in tutoring his grandson, Solṭān-Ḥosayn, the son of Ẓell-al-Solṭān. The official (mostawfī), however, refused to sign the deed because of a qāṣīda written by Dāvarī in which he had mocked the long beards of mostawfīs. Farhang himself composed a qāṣīda about this dispute, in which he explained that Hanā was quite a different thing from the wild shrub ḥannā (henna), the dye from which could be applied to the officials’ long beards. The man was thus embarassed into giving up his opposition. This show of poetic wit had become quite well known in Tehran even before Farhang’s second visit, which he made in 1298/1881. While there, Farhang became a devotee of the Neʿmat-Allāhī master Ṣafī-ʿAlīšāh (d. 1316/1899) and an intimate of the latter’s deputy Nāyeb-al-Ṣadr.
Edward G. Browne described his own meeting with Farhang in Shiraz in 1308/1888, praising the latter’s appearance, soft voice and unassuming manner, breadth of knowledge, and quickness of apprehension (pp. 119, 267-68). Browne discussed certain literary and philosophical issues with Farhang, recording the latter’s interest in Indian philosophy and his desire to learn cuneiform script. Later Browne noted that, a year before meeting Farhang in Shiraz, he had seen two qāṣīdas by him. One celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of Queen Victoria’s reign; Browne was asked to translate it and present it to the queen, but apparently he never did so. The other was an ode in praise of the beauties of Paris, with many French words inserted into the Persian verses (Browne, Lit. Hist. Persia IV, pp. 322-25); it differs greatly from Farhang’s other published qāṣīdas, and, according to some members of the Weṣāl family, it is not one of his own compositions.
Among Farhang’s most important literary compositions are a commentary (šarḥ) on Rašīd Waṭwāṭ’s Ḥadāʾīq al-seḥr, modeled on Neẓāmī ʿArūżī Samarqandī’s Čahār Maqāla (q.v.); a translation of and commentary on the Arabic astronomical text al-Bāreʿ fi’l-taqwīm wa aḥkām al-nojūm by Nāṣer-al-Dīn Ṭūsī; and the dictionary Farhang-e Farhang (MS Tehran, Ketāb-ḵāna-ye mellī, no. 97; Monzawī, Nosḵahā, III, p. 2011). His other works include a treatise entitled Ṭebb al-bolh or Resāla-ye sekanjabīnīya and a dīvān of about ten thousand couplets in Persian and Arabic, incorporating qāṣīdas, ḡazals, robāʿīs, maṯnawīs, mosammatás and marāṯīs. Of these works only a selection from Resāla-ye sekanjabīnīya and a few poems devoted to the history of the mirror decorations on the shrine of Aḥmad b. Mūsā Šāh-e Čerāḡ, brother of Imam Reżā, in Shiraz (1306/1888) have been published by Rūḥānī Weṣāl in Golšan-e Weṣāl (Tehran, 1319/1901, pp. 400-431). Another brief selection of poems was published by Reżāqolī Khan Hedāyat in the second volume of his Majmaʿ al-foṣaḥāʾ (pp. 807-17).
Farhang died in 1309/1891 and was buried in the mausoleum of Mīr Sayyed Moḥammad in Shiraz. Forṣat-al-Dawla’s claim that he died in 1308/1890 (pp. 354-55) is incorrect since it is not consistent with the evidence in extant chronograms composed about the date of his death.
Bibliography (for cited works not given in detail, see “Short References”):
Bayānī, Ḵošnevīsān I, pp. 32-34.
E. G. Browne, A Year amongst the Persians, London, 1893.
Eʿtemād al-Salṭana, Maʾāṯer wa’l-āṯār, Tehran, 1307/1888, p. 206.
Fasāʾī, II, pp. 70-71.
Forṣat al-Dawla Šīrāzī, Āṯār-e ʿajam, Bombay, 1354/1935.
Maʿṣūm-ʿAlīšāh, Ṭarāʾeq al-ḥaqāʾeq, ed. M. J. Maḥjūb, III, Tehran, 1324 Š./1945, pp. 379-81.
Originally Published: December 15, 1999
Last Updated: December 15, 1999