HELĀLI ASTARĀBĀDI JAGATĀʾI, Mawlānā Badr-al-Din (Nur-al-Din), accomplished Persian poet of Turkish origin (b. Astarābād, ca. 874/1470; d. Herat, 936/1529). Helāli spent his early years in his native town, before moving, in around 895/1491, to Herat, where he became a member of the literary circle of Sultan Ḥosayn-e Bāyqarā (q.v.). In particular, he became a close associate of ʿAli-Šir Navāʾi, who took him under his protection. He performed the Hajj with Jāmi and also came to know Sām Mirzā Ṣafawi well. Though often thought to be a Shiʿite, Helāli was certainly a Sunnite in religious affiliation. He stayed at Herat during the critical period when the city was claimed by the two rising powers, the Safavids and the Uzbeks. The conquest of Herat by the Uzbek khan, ʿObayd-Allāh, led to Helāli’s public execution at the city’s public square(čahār-su) in 936/1529, an act which the sources present as an example of ʿObayd-Allāh’s tyranny. The execution was accompanied with the distrain of all his properties. The reason commonly adduced for his execution, carried out apparently by a certain “Sayf-Allāh” (the chronogram “Sayf-Allāh košt” = 936), was that he was charged with being a Shiʿite. However, the most likely reason is to be found in certain derogatory verses, originally composed by him against Shah Ṭahmāsp but subsequently directed against ʿObayd-Allāh Ḵān, which end with kāfer bāšam agar mosalmān bāši (I am an infidel if you’re a believer!; Dickson, 1958, pp. 159-60; Golčin-e Maʿāni, Tāriḵ). Helāli is buried in Herat near Faḵr-al-Din ʿAli-Ṣafi b. Ḥosayn-e Kāšefi, in a modern mausoleum built to replace the original tomb at the public square where he had been executed (Golčin-e Maʿāni, 1964). Helāli had a daughter, called Jamāli (Ḥejābi), who went on to become an accomplished poet in her own right, renowned especially for her ghazals (Szuppe, 1996, pp. 126-27).

Helāli’s literary output is rightly considered as among the most refined and original examples of Persian literature from the first half of the 16th century. Although one can detect the formal adherence to classical models, represented not only by Ḥāfeẓ but also by poets such as ʿĀrefi, Jāmi, and Kamāl-al-Din Ḵojandi, Helāli’s work, similar to his life, displays a directness and immediacy which is quite unique in this period. His poetry is well-known in Central Asia, in particular in Tajikistan, where it is still recited by folk singers (hofiz [ḥāfeẓ]; see Bečka, pp. 500-501).

The Divān is Helāli’s principal work. It has been edited several times, and it has also received critical attention from Saʿid Nafisi, who has published, except for the Laylā o Majnun, the best scholarly edition of Helāli’s works (1959). Further editions have been published in India and Iran. The Divān includes numerous ghazals, some qasidas, robāʿiyāts, and smaller fragments of verse.

Helāli also wrote three maṯnawis, all of which are of uncertain date. According to Kamol Ayni (1957, pp. 74-77) the Šāh o darviš (often called Šāh o gedā) was most likely written between 904/1499 and 913/1508. This work was written in response to the charge, leveled by Helāli’s rival, ʿAbd-Allāh Hātefi (q.v.), that he was unable to write a maṯnawi. It was dedicated to Badiʿ-al-Zamān Mirzā and has been generally well received, though Bābor found it rather shallow and immoral (Bābor-nāma, p. 290, fols. 181a-181b). This work is predominantly mystical in content, which may account for its popularity, even outside of the Persian-speaking regions. This popularity is attested by the fact that it has often been reproduced in illustrated manuscripts (Arnold, 1926; Ådhal, 1995). The Šāh o darviš has been translated into German by Ethé (1870), and one translation into Turkish by Ḥamdi is reported by Kāteb Čalabi (I, 1067) as well as by Saʿid Nafisi (1958, p. 19, intro.).

With regard to the other two maṯnawis, the Ṣefat al-ʿāšeqin, which is divided into 20 chapters, each describing a human quality, was written as a response to the Maḵzan al-asrār by Neẓāmi, probably after 913/1508. The third maṯnawi, Laylā o Majnun, is extant in only one late manuscript at the British Museum Library (Or. 319; Levend, 1959, p. 88), in contrast to the other two, which are found in numerous manuscripts. Ivanow (1926, p. 147, no. 175) has brought attention to the existence also of a treatise on rhyme by Helāli, entitled Resāla-ye qāfiya, which was inspired by Šams-e Qays (The Asiatic Society of Bengal, ms. II 528). Although he is renowned for his writings in Persian, Helāli did also write some verse in Turkish (Navāʾi, p. 53).



Editions and Translations. Divān, Kanpur, 1883; ed. Kuhi Kermāni, n.p., n.d..

Divān-e Helāli Čaḡatāʾi bā Šāh o darviš wa Ṣefat al-ʿāšeqin-e u, ed. S. Nafisi, Tehran, 1958.

Badriddin Hiloli, Osori muntakhab, ed. K. Ayni, Stalinabad, 1958.

Šāh o Darviš, Tehran, 1904; German tr. H. Ethé, in Morgenländische Studien, Liepzig, 1870, pp. 197-282.

Some of his poems have been translated into Russian by K. Lipskerov, in Antologija tadžikskoj poezii, Moscow, 1951, pp. 429, 451.

Biographical Sources. Ḥasan Rumlu, Aḥsan al-tawāriḵ, ed. ʿA.-H. Navāʾi, Tehran, 1978, pp. 293-94.

Loṭf-ʿAli Beg Āḏar, Āteškada I, Tehran, 1967-68, pp. 94-98.

Ẓahir-al-Din Moḥammad Bābor, Bābor-nāma, ed. and tr. A. S. Beveridge, London, 1969, p. 290, ff. 181a-181b.

Bahāʾ-al-Din Ḥasan Boḵāri, Moḏakker-e aḥbāb, Hyderabad, 1969, pp. 347-48.

Eskandar Beg Torkmān, Tāriḵ-e ʿālamārā-ye ʿabbāsi I, 1965-66, pp. 57-58.

Reżāqoli Khan Hedāyat, Taḏkera-ye riāż al-ʿārefin, ed. M-ʿA. Kermāni, Tehran, 1965.

Ḵᵛāndamir, Ḥabib al-siar, ed. J. Homāʾi, 3rd ed., Tehran, 1983, IV, pp. 361-62.

Kāteb Čalabi, Kašf al-ẓonun, eds. Ṣ. Yaltkaya and K. R. Bilge, 2 vols., Istanbul, 1971-72, I, col. 1067; II, col. 1572.

Abu’l-Qāsem Kāzeruni, Sollām al-samawāt, ed. Y. Qarib, Tehran, 1961, pp. 397-98.

Amir Maḥmud b. Ḵᵛāndamir, Irān dar ruzgār-e Šāh Esmāʿil wa Šāh Ṭahmāsb-e Ṣafawi, ed. Ḡ. Ṭabāṭabāʾi, Tehran, 1991-92, pp. 235, 273.

Mirḵᵛānd, Rawżat al-ṣafāʾ VII, Tehran, 1339-1960. ʿAli-Šir Navāʾi, Majāles al-nafāʾes, ed. ʿAli-Aṣḡar Ḥekmat, Tehran, 1984-85, pp. 53, 68, 242.

Sām Mirzā Ṣafawi, Toḥfa-ye sāmi, Tehran, 1936, pp. 90-94.

Zayn-al-Din Maḥmud Wāṣefi, Badāʾeʿ al-waqāʾeʿ, ed. A. Boldirev, Moscow, 1961, II, pp. 965-86.

Other references can be found in ʿA. Ḵayyāmpur, Farhang-e soḵanvarān, Tehran, 1980, II, pp. 1000-1001.

Studies. K. Ådhal, Shah u Gada. Prinsen och dervischen, Stockholm, 1995.

T. W. Arnold, The miniatures in Hilali’s Mystical Poem, The King and the Dervish, Vienna, 1926.

Kamol Ayni, “Rukopisnye redaktsii proizvedeniĭ Badriddina Khiloli,” Izvestiya odteleniya obshchestvennykh nauk Akademii Tadzhikskoi SSR, Dushanbe, 1955, pp. 9-49.

Idem, Badriddin Hiloli, Stalinabad, 1957.

J. Bec¡ka, “Tajik Literature from the 16th Century to the Present,” in J. Rypka, ed., History of Persian Literature, Dordrecht, 1968, pp. 485-605, esp. pp. 500-501.

M. B. Dickson, Shah Tahmasp and the Uzbeks(The duel for Khurasan with ʿUbayd Khan: 930-946/1524-1540), Princeton University Ph. D. 1958, pp. 156-58.

ʿA. Eqbāl, “Helāli Jaḡatāʾi Astarābādi,” Yādgār 16/3, 1945, pp. 65-71, esp. pp. 65-71.

A. Golč¡n-e Maʿāni, “Sanadi dar bāb-e qatl-e Helāli,” Yaḡmā 16, 1964, pp. 157-60.

Idem, Tāriḵ-e taḏkerahā-ye fārsi, Tehran, 1984-85, pp. 609-11.

W. Ivanow, Concise descriptive catalogue of the Persian Manuscripts in the Curzon Collection, Asiatic Society of Bengal, Calcutta, 1926.

A. Sirri Levend, Arap, fars ve türk edebiyatlarında Leylâ ve Mecnun hikâyesi, Ankara, 1959.

S. Nafisi, Tāriḵ-e naẓm wa naṯr dar Irān wa dar zabān-e fārsi I, Tehran, 1965-1966, pp. 409, 624-25.

Ḏ. Ṣafā, Tāriḵ-e adabiyāt dar Irān, 7th ed., IV, pp. 432-38.

M. E. Subtelny, “Art and Politics in Early 16th Century Asia,” Central Asiatic Journal 27, 1983, pp. 121-48.

M. Szuppe, Entre Timourides, Uzbeks, et Safavides. Questions d’histoire politique et sociale de Hérat dans le première moitié du XVIe siècle, Paris, 1992, pp. 128.

Idem “The Female Intellectual Milieu in Timurid and Post-Timurid Herat: Faxri Heravi’s Biography of Poetesses, Jawāher al-ʿajāyeb,” Oriente Moderno, N.S. 15 [76]/2, 1996, Special Issue, La civiltà timuride come fenomeno internazionale, ed. M. Bernardini, I, pp. 119-37 (esp. 125-27).

(Michele Bernardini)

Originally Published: December 15, 2003

Last Updated: March 22, 2012

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