ḴATM AL-ḠARĀʾEB

 

ḴATM AL-ḠARĀʾEB (generally known under the title it has later been given, Toḥfat al-ʿErāqayn; see below), the only maṯnawi written by the poet Ḵāqāni Šervāni, over three thousand verses long, in the meter hazaj-e mosaddas-e aḵrab-e maqbuż-e maḥḏuf; its final version dates from 552/1157. This date is inferred from Ḵāqāni’s mention of an unlucky conjunction—which we know from other sources was predicted for the year 1186 (see, for instance, s.v. Anwari)—as being thirty years away (p. 140, vv. 1-2). One of the poem’s last verses (p. 250, v. 3) seems to contain a chronogram yielding the same date (Beelaert, 2000, p. 10, n. 49). 

In the edition of Yaḥyā Qarib, the poem is divided into seven maqālāt; from the evidence in the manuscript tradition a division into six maqālāt (in which the third and fourth maqāla of the edition are joined into one) seems to be more likely the original one. 

Summary. In some manuscripts (see below), as well as in the edition of Qarib (pp. 1-11), the poem is preceded by a prose foreword, in which Ḵāqāni offers his work to Jamāl-al-Din Mawṣeli, the vizier of the Zangids. 

The poem opens with a twenty-three-verse long lament about the world and a visionary picture of its nearing apocalyptic end. This melancholy beginning sets the tone for the rest of the poem and is rooted both in Ḵāqāni’s own plight and in the general belief at the time that the abovementioned conjunction would signal the end of the world. After this opening begins the first panegyrical address to the sun, a sun which will be the addressee for nearly two-thirds of the poem, until there is a sudden shift to Jamāl-al-Din Mawṣeli, the poem’s ultimate dedicatee. The sun is cast in the role of a friend, to whom the poet can confide his sorrows, and, from maqāla three on, in the role of a messenger, whom he asks to perform the pilgrimage he claims to be unable to perform himself and whom he asks to deliver in Mecca and Medina, respectively, the panegyrics of the Kaʿba and the Prophet. Repeated lyrical addresses to the sun punctuate the maṯnawi. 

In the first two maqālāt (ed. Qarib, pp. 13-77), which are highly allegorical and have the form of a récit visionnaire (“visionary recital”), Ḵāqāni recounts how he leaves Šervān (Shirvan) for a trip to a mountainous region (Qohestān), where he has a conversation with an unnamed ḵᵛāja-ye bozorg (a term sometimes used to denote a vizier), who does not allow him to speak to an unspecified solṭān/šāh, to whom Ḵāqāni would like to present himself as a panegyrist (ṯanāgar). This ḵᵛāja-ye bozorg lectures him for beggary (kodya), which should be interpreted as writing poetry for profit, in other words, for his Cupidity (āz), which will prove to be this maṯnawi’s major theme. On Ḵāqāni’s demand for a small present, the ḵᵛāja-ye bozorg gives him a ring, which he is in no circumstance to give away or sell and which appears to be an antidote against this vice of Cupidity. Ḵāqāni then presents himself back in Šervān, resisting the pressure exerted by the Šervānšāh to give or sell him this ring, and recounts in metaphorical terms his struggle with Cupidity, until one evening he goes to the regions of reflection (tafakkor), where the Intellect (ʿaql) guides and cures him, and a morning of insight dawns. At this point the prophet  Ḵeżr appears, and a long conversation between them follows. Ḵeżr lectures the poet as the ḵᵛāja-ye bozorg did before; his exhortations are, first, directed to anybody with a position in this world, and then more specifically to the position of a court poet. Again, the moral dubiousness of using one’s talents in this way is put forward, and the alternative offered is clear: the best mamduḥ (person to be eulogized) is the Prophet. Indeed the second maqāla ends with this poem’s first long panegyric of Moḥammad— including a description of his meʿrāj—in which Ḵāqāni takes an oath to praise no other person than him or, possibly, other persons who qualify because of their moral or religious stature. 

In maqāla three (p. 77 ff.) Ḵāqāni describes himself as being “imprisoned” in his hometown, Šamāḵa, and unable to visit the Holy Places. He incites himself to go to the “Kaʿba of the heart” (kaʿba-ye del) and then sends the sun on a journey to the real Kaʿba. The rest of the poem is mostly taken up by the description Ḵāqāni gives to the sun of the road it has to follow, the places and the people to visit, and the panegyrics of these persons. Eventually, after Hamadān, Baghdad, Kufa, Mecca, and Medina, the sun is asked to visit Mosul, to visit and praise Jamāl-al-Din Mawṣeli, and describe his journey to him. Then, abruptly, there is a shift of addressee from the sun to Jamāl-al-Din (p. 187, v. 6). The choice of this man of a high moral stature as a mamduḥ finally solves the poet’s dilemma as to whether he should dedicate his poetry to worldly or religious causes. In this last section Ḵāqāni praises, among others, members of his own family and offers us some autobiographic information. The poem closes with a highly fanciful, twenty-eight-verse long epilogue (ḵātema), in which the sun reenters the stage. In the elaborate scene sketched there, the sun first offers to Ḵāqāni the pearls (i.e., the words) he had stolen from Jamāl-al-Din, and eventually returns them to the vizier in the form of a necklace strung by Ḵāqāni, that is, presents him the poem (Beelaert, 2000, pp. 11-13 and passim). 

Generic affiliation of the poem. From this description one can see that, although in secondary literature the poem generally has been characterized as a “travelogue” in which Ḵāqāni describes his own first hajj (which he indeed performed around 1156), albeit in a “poetical form” (e.g., by Rypka, 1968, p. 205), actually, except from the récit visionnaire in the first two maqālāt, the poet presents himself as bound to his hometown. When one situates the poem in the context of poems preceding or contemporary with it, disregarding the poetic form in which they were written, and thus taking notice both of maṯnawis and of qaṣidas, it becomes clear to which genre it belongs: the šakwāʾiya (“complaint poem”), and more precisely to a sub-genre thereof, the ḥabsiya (“prison poem”; see de Bruijn, s.v. Ḥabsiyya in EI²). Ḵāqāni himself wrote many qaṣidas belonging to both these genres. Moreover, the poem is connected with numerous other poems in which a “messenger” has a structural function. This personage is already commonly found in Arabic qaṣidas (see Renate Jacobi, Studien zur Poetik der altarabischen Qaṣide, Wiesbaden, 1971, pp. 81, 204, and others), and often it is a human figure or, more poetically, the wind. Sanāʾi’s Kārnāma-ye Balḵ, written half a century earlier, is a prior example of a maṯnawi in which a messenger, in this case the wind, is apostrophized throughout the poem, and is asked to travel to another town, in this case, Ghazna/Ḡazni, and visit a number of its inhabitants to deliver a message to them. Also the ḥabsiya, in which the poet’s plight is specified as an “imprisonment,” sometimes features a messenger, being the only way open to him to communicate with the outside world. A wide range of items was cast in this role of messenger; the sun, however, seems to be an innovation by Ḵāqāni (see Beelaert, 2000, pp. 36-48). Likewise, in the substantial corpus of Persian poems in which a poet voices a complaint, he often expresses the need of a “friend,” and a great many items are cast in this role; in this case as well, the sun is an uncommon choice (Beelaert, 2000, pp. 48-54). 

The role of the sun. In this poem Ḵāqāni makes extensive use of the many connotations of the sun, and these illuminate his choice for the sun in the roles of both friend and messenger. Indeed, by metaphorical and metonymical links, Ḵāqāni ascribes to the sun characteristics which make it an analogue of this poem’s most important figures, namely himself, the Prophet Moḥammad, and Jamāl-al-Din Mawṣeli, as well as of his own cardinal vice, Cupidity— of which he wants to be cured—and of his mamduḥ’s cardinal virtues, Generosity (saḵā) and “aspiration” (hemmat). Thus, he characterizes both himself and the sun as being “ill,” yellow, and grieving (Beelaert, 2000, pp. 61-65). Likewise, when in the autobiographical passage Ḵāqāni describes his own poetical activity in terms of the professions of his family members, to wit, weaver, cook, and physician, these same professions are also ascribed to the sun (ibid., pp. 54-61). Moḥammad figures in the poem in the capacity of a physician too, and extensively so; the disease from which he has to cure Ḵāqāni is his Cupidity (ibid., pp. 87-93). It is then the sun’s fieriness which makes it an analogue of the “fiery” vice of Cupidity itself (ibid., pp. 65-69), a relation which is further strengthened by his extensive portrayal of the sun as a maker of gold (in conformity with medieval scientific theory), gold being both the object of Ḵāqāni’s own greed (ibid., pp. 69-73) and, of course, of Jamāl-al-Din’s proverbial generosity (ibid., pp. 93-101). Finally, the sun in being “high” is made an analogue of the virtue of hemmat, both that of Jamāl-al-Din, who expresses it in his Generosity, and that of Ḵāqāni himself, which in his case is his aspiration to get rid of his Cupidity (ibid., pp. 101-9). Moreover, sending the sun, as emblem of hemmat, to perform the hajj instead of performing it himself can be taken to signify making the pilgrimage to the kaʿba-ye del, a necessary first stage to make the hajj a meaningful act (ibid., pp. 109-11). 

This maṯnawi is a truly dazzling example of “innovative display of figurative language” or badiʿ, and even more than that. Badiʿ here is far from being only decorative or superficial, but on the contrary it proves to be deeply motivated by the poem’s ethical content. It is one of the most eminent examples of sophisticated use of “ornament” in the whole of classical Persian literature. 

The circumstances of Ḵāqāni composing this maṯnawi. Ḥosayn Āmuzgār (1954) was the first to note that in this maṯnawi Ḵāqāni portrays himself as being prevented from leaving Šervān; however, his conclusion that the poem antedates Ḵāqāni’s hajj might be taking the “plot” of the poem too literally. Most probably Ḵāqāni did not compose his maṯnawi in one single period of his life; it looks as if he finished it a considerable time after having already composed parts of it. If the idea of giving his poem the form of a ḥabsiya might have been rooted in a possible initial difficulty of getting the permission of his patron, the Šervānšāh, to relinquish the court, by the time he finished the poem this had ceased to be relevant. The “imprisonment” in this final version is to be taken allegorically, as referring to his being “stuck” in the dilemma of finding the ideal mamduḥ for his poetry. 

As it happens, Ḵāqāni offers important information about this maṯnawi, and its date, in one of his other poems, namely the qaṣida in praise of Isfahan (Divān, pp. 353- 58). In this qaṣida, the poet, wanting to show his love for the city, devotes eleven verses (vv. 37-47) to, according to him, the most glaring proof of his love, his poem Ḵatm al-ḡarāʾeb. It had already been argued, on the clues given in the qaṣida itself, that this referred to no other poem than the well-known Toḥfat al-ʿErāqayn (Beelaert, 1995). Definite proof was given when the oldest manuscript of the maṯnawi, dating from Ḵāqāni’s own lifetime, appeared to bear this title (see below). In this “Isfahan qaṣida,” Ḵāqāni refers to how, in the year 551 (ṯā nun ālef)/1156-57 in the city of Mosul, Jamāl-al-Din “took the present I brought from a journey, in praise of Isfahan” to the “little ʿAli” (which refers to ʿAli Kücük, the military commander of Mosul at the time), and the “big Atabeg” (which must be Mosul’s ruler, the Atabeg Qoṭb-al-Din Mawdud) and praised him before “Solaymān Šāh,” who was the pretender to the Saljuq throne and who was, as we know, held captive in Mosul in precisely 1156-57. Ḵāqāni also thanks Jamāl-al-Din for the “thousand stars, offspring of the sun,” an unambiguous reference to the golden dinars he has received from him (more details in Beelaert, 1995 and 2007-08). The information offered in this qaṣida can be supplemented by that found in the maṯnawi’s prose foreword, which can be considered as a kind of accompanying letter. Here Ḵāqāni urges himself to offer his poem to Jamāl-al-Din (whom he names “Syria’s Kaʿba”) and to proceed to “Arabia’s Kaʿba,” and asks for a reward of, indeed, a thousand dinars. Apparently, he did succeed in presenting it and in receiving his reward; we cannot know whether it was on the way there, as planned, or on the way back. There are good reasons to surmise, as Kandli has done (1969), that the poet put a finishing touch to his poem during a stay in Darband after his return from the hajj (for more details, see Beelaert, 2000, p. 10, n. 48; p. 30, n. 6; and p. 101, n. 297). Jamāl-al-Din was a particularly appropriate mamduḥ for this poem which complains about the unattainable goal of seeing Mecca and Medina: although famous in his own lifetime for the fortune he spent to the embellishment of the Holy Places, he never  had the opportunity to make the hajj himself (Beelaert, 2000, pp. 121-25). 

Manuscripts. This maṯnawi is included in manuscripts of the Kolliyāt (see Monzawi, Nosḵahā III, pp. 1856-57) and is found either separately (see Monzawi, IV, pp. 2714-18) or together with texts by other authors, as is the case with the second oldest MS, dated Rabiʿ II 791/April 1389, Istanbul, Suleymaniye Library, MS pers. Aya Sofya 1762/2, together with Sanāʾi’s Ḥadiqat al-ḥaqiqa (s.v.) copied in the same year (Ateş, 1968, Istanbul kütüphanelerinde, no 83; Beelaert, 2000, pp. 23-25). The oldest MS of the text, recently discovered by Iraj Afšār in the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austrian National Library, MS pers. Cod. Mixt. 845), is dated 12 Jomāda I 593/2 April 1197 (facsimile ed. with long introduction by Afšār, 2006; detailed review Beelaert, 2007-08; on the spelling in the MS, Matini, 2007-08 and 2009, pp. 26-27). This is the only MS in which the poem bears the original title Ḵatm al-ḡarāʾeb. Instead of the title Toḥfat al-ʿErāqayn, the title Toḥfat al-ḵawāṭer wa zobdat al-żamāʾer is sometimes found as the closing sentence of the prose introduction. However, not all MSS include this introduction (e.g., the Vienna MS), and the Aya Sofya MS, for instance, does include the introduction but without this last sentence. 

Influence on some other maṯnawis. This maṯnawi may not be a “travelogue” itself, but poets who did write a versified account of their travels sometimes took Ḵāqāni’s poem as an example. Among these are a number of Safavid poets: Malek Šāh Ḥosayn Sistāni (Toḥfat al-ḥaramayn), Šaraf-al-Din Šefāʾi (Maṭlaʿ al-anwār), Beheštī Haravī (Nūr al-mašreqayn, ed. Najīb Māyel Haravī, Mašhad, 1998), and the little-known Sāʿi (Merʾāt al-ṭariq, MS Leiden University Library, Or. 1620) (Beelaert, 2000, p. 11, n. 53). Another example of a naẓira (emulation) of Ḵāqāni’s poem is the small philosophical maṯnawi Ḵatm al-ḡarāʾeb, a pseudo-epigraphic work which, because of its title, has been erroneously considered as a work by Ḵāqāni himself (ed. Ż. Sajjādi, 1965, reprinted in Afšār, 2006; see Beelaert, 1995 and 2007-08). 

 

Bibliography:

Editions. For (Indian) lithographs, see Mošār, Fehrest I, p. 805. First printed edition by Moḥammad Yusof Kukan, to accompany the 18th-century commentary by Mir Moḥammad Esmāʿil Khan Abjadi, in the Kolliyāt-e Abjadi IV, 2nd ed., Madras, pp. 1-288. Critical editions, Yaḥyā Qarib, Tehran, 1954 (evaluation of this edition in Beelaert, 2000, pp. 21-25); Yūsof ʿĀlī ʿAbbās Ābād, Tehran, 2007; and ʿAlī Asḡar Āq Qalʿa, Tehran, 2009.

Commentaries. See Storey/de Blois, Persian Literature, 1994, V/2, p. 397; revised ed., 2004, p. 331; and Beelaert, 2000, pp. 25-26. 

Iraj Afšār, “Ḵatm al-ḡarāʾeb = Toḥfat al-ʿErāqayn, Nosḵa-ye mowarraḵ-e 593 (Viyan),” Maʿāref 16/2, November 1999, pp. 3-38.

Idem, Catalogue of Persian Manuscripts in the Austrian National Library and the Austrian State Archives in Vienna/Fehrest-e dastnevishā-ye fārsi dar ketābḵāna-ye melli-e Otriš va āršiv-e dawlati-e Otriš dar Viyan, Vienna and Tehran, 2003, pp. 84-87.

Idem, Ḵatm al-ḡarāʾeb (Toḥfat al-ʿErāqayn), nosḵa bargardān ba qaṭʿ-e aṣl-e noskha-ye ḵaṭṭi-e šomāra-ye 845-e ketābḵāna-ye melli-e Otriš (Viyan), ketābat-e 593 h., Tehran and Vienna, 1385 Š./2006 (with Persian foreword by Afšār, and a shorter, German one by Bert G. Fragner and Noṣrat-Allāh Rastegār).

Muzaffar Alam and Sanjay Subrahmanyam, “When Hell is Other People: A Safavid View of Seventeenth-Century Mughal India,” in Judith Pfeiffer and Sholeh A. Quinn, in Collaboration with Ernest Tucker, History and Historiography of Post-Mongol Central Asia and the Middle East. Studies in Honor of John E. Woods, Wiesbaden 2006, pp. 521-24.

Ḥosayn Āmuzgār, Moqaddama-ye Toḥfat al-ḵawāṭer wa zobdat al-nawāẓer (sic) yā Toḥfat al-ʿErāqayn-e Ḵāqāni, Tehran, 1954.

Ahmed Ateş, Istanbul kütüphanelerinde farsça manzum eserler I, Istanbul, 1968. 

Anna Livia Beelaert, “La qaṣide en honneur d’Ispahan de Xāqāni et la recherche du Xatm al-Qarā’eb,” in Christophe Balaÿ, Claire Kappler and Živa Vesel, eds., Pand-o sokhan. Mélanges offerts à Ch.-H. de Fouchécour, Paris, 1995, pp. 53-63.

Eadem, A Cure for the Grieving. Studies on the Poetry of the 12th-Century Persian Court Poet Khāqānī Širwānī, Leiden, 2000.

Eadem, “The Khatm al-Ġarā’ib Manuscript of AH 593 (AD 1197),” Nāma-ye Bahārestān, 8/ser. no. 13-14, 2007-08, pp. 5-18.

J. T. P. de Bruijn, “Ḥabsiyya,” in EI² Supp., Fascicules 5-6, Leiden, 1982, pp. 333-34.

Ḡaffār Kandli (also known, or referred to, as Kandli-Harisči, Kanadali, Kendli; in Rypka, Hist. Iran. Lit., erroneously, as Kandī), “Nāma ba Waḥid-al-Din ʿOṯmān, Ḵāqāni va Najm-al-Din Aḥmad Simgar,” NDATabriz 21, 1969, pp. 235-51.

Jalāl Matini, “Rasm al-ḵaṭṭ-e nosḵa-ye ‘Ḵatm al-ḡarāʾeb’ mowarraḵ-e 593 hejri qamari (Viyan, mixt. 845),” Nāma-ye Bahārestān, 8/ser. no. 13-14, 2007-08, pp. 95-102.

Idem, “Rasm al-ḵaṭṭ-e nosḵahā-ye ḵaṭṭi-e fārsi az qarn-e panjom tā qarn-e sizdahom-e hejri,” Irānšenāsi 21/1, Spring 2009, pp. 1-27.

Jan Rypka, Hist. Iran. Lit., p. 205.

ʿAli Ṣafri Āq Qalʿa, “Vāžagān o tarkibāt-e dir-yāb-e Toḥfat al-ʿErāqayn,” in Iraj Afshar, ed., In Memory of Muhammad Qazvini, Tehran, 2007, pp. 312-68.

Żiāʾ-al-Din Sajjādi, “Ḵatm al-ḡarāʾeb, maṯnawi mansub ba Ḵāqāni,” FIZ 13, 1965, pp. 155-87; repr. in Afšār, 2006, pp. 243-75.

Storey/de Blois, Persian Literature, 1994, V/2, pp. 393-99 and V/3, 1997, p. 632; 2nd revised ed., 2004, pp. 328-31. 

 

(Anna Livia Beelaert)

Originally Published: May 31, 2013

Last Updated: February 15, 2013

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Vol. XVI, Fasc. 2, pp. 123-126