(1290-ca. 1349), Persian poet and mystic. Ḵᵛāju was undoubtedly a versatile poet of great inventiveness and originality.


ĀJU KERMĀNI, Abu’l-ʿAṭā Kamāl-al-Din Maḥmud b. ʿAli b. Maḥmud Moršedi, Persian poet and mystic (b. Kermān, 24 December 1290; d. Shiraz, 1349?). The nickname Ḵᵛāju, which he used as his taḵalloṣ (poetic signature), is probably a diminutive of ḵᵛāja (Ṣafā, p. 888), and points to his descent from a family of high social status. The nesba Moršedi indicates his association with the Sufi order of Shaikh Abu Esḥāq Kāzaruni (963-1035), the founder of the Moršediya order (Meier, p. 68). He was born in Kermān on 20 Ḏu’l-Ḥejja 689/24 December 1290, according to the poet’s own statement at the end of his mathnawi (maṯnawi; narrative poem) Gol o Nowruz (line 4901ff.). Edward Granville Browne and Jan Rypka, reading haftād instead of haštād in the line with the dating, arrived at the year 1281. According to the Mojmal-e Faṣiḥi (written in 845/1441), the earliest biographical source available on Ḵᵛāju, he died in 1349 at Shiraz, where his tomb is still in situ at the Qurʾān Gate near the Allāho-Akbar Pass (cf. Divān, ed. Soheyli-Ḵᵛānsāri, pp. 79-82, with a drawing; for interesting observations on the grave and the modern re-constructions, see Bāstāni Pārizi, pp. 215-24). Other dates given for his death are 1352 (Browne, p. 223), and 1360; with the latter considered as the most plausible by Saʿid Nafisi (cf. Rypka, p. 260).

During his younger years he performed the pilgrimage to Mecca and visited Egypt, Syria, Jerusalem, and Iraq. The main purpose for his traveling must have been to complete his education by meeting with scholars in other countries. In 1331, while in Baghdad, he composed his best-known work, the mathnawi Homāy o Homāyun. Returning to Persian lands in 1335, he strove to find a position as a court poet by dedicating poems to the rulers of his time, such as the Il-khans Abu Saʿid Bahādor Khan and Arpā Khan, the Moẓaffarid Mobārez-al-Din, and Abu Esḥāq of the Inju dynasty. He solicited in particular the patronage of viziers and high officials of the state. After a brief sojourn at Isfahan and Kermān, he settled permanently in Shiraz.

Simultaneously with furthering his career at these courts, Ḵᵛāju cultivated his relationship with prominent religious scholars and Sufi sheikhs. In his poetry he eulogized both his secular and his spiritual patrons. He stayed for some time at the sufi hospice (ḵānaqāh) of ʿAlā-al-Dowla Semnāni (d. 1336). His initiation into the Moršediya order was guided by Amin-al-Din of Balyān (d. 1344), whom he honored as his spiritual mentor (pir) in a panegyric ode (qaṣida) and in some of his mathnawis.

The later period of Ḵᵛāju’s life in Shiraz coincided with the formative years of Hafez. The influence of the older poet, who was a prolific writer of ghazals, is quite evident in the latter’s Divān. They concern both individual motifs and Hafez’s “responses” (javābs) to entire poems of Ḵᵛāju. Many examples of the similarities between the ghazals of these two poets were cited by Browne (III, pp. 293-95), Aḥmad Soheyli-Ḵᵛānsāri (ed. Divān-e Ḵᵛāju, Introd. pp. 47-55), and Bahāʾ-al-Din Ḵorramšāhi (I, pp. 68-73).

Works. The lyrical poetry of Ḵᵛāju was collected into two divāns. The first collection, entitled Ṣanāyeʿ al-kamāl (“Products of perfection”), is preceded by an anonymous preface stating that the volume was assembled during the poet’s lifetime to the order of his patron, the vizier Tāj-al-Din Aḥmad. It contains—besides qasidas, strophic poems, qeṭʾas (occasional verse), and quatrains—two sections with ghazals: one, the safariyāt, with poems written during journeys and the second, the hażariyāt, with poems written in his own habitual abode.

The poems composed after the first collection was completed were assembled in another collection, under the title Badāyeʿ al-jamāl (“Marvels of beauty”), containing the ghazals under the heading Šowqiyāt (“Poems of love”).

Ḵᵛāju was one of the first poets to write a Ḵamsa, a set of five mathnawis, after the model of Neẓāmi of Ganja. Although there are obvious similarities with the latter’s poems—in particular in the choice of the meters—the subjects treated by Ḵᵛāju are different.

Homāy o Homāyun, in 4,435 couplets, and dated by the chronogram B-Ḏ-L (= 1331), is written in the meter of Neẓāmi’s Eskandar-nāma (the motaqāreb meter). It is dedicated to the Il-khanid Sultan Abu Saʿid Bahādor and his vizier, Ḡiāṯ-al-Din Moḥammad. The poem relates the adventures of the Persian prince Homāy, who falls in love with the Chinese princess, Homāyun. After a long fight with her father, the Faḡfur, he wins both his beloved and the empire of China. The story is situated in the times of the ancient Iranian king Hušang, and contains elements derived from popular tales.

Gol o Nowruz, written in 5,312 couplets and in the meter of Neẓāmi’s Ḵosrow o Širin (hazaj-e mosaddas-e maqṣur meter), was completed in 1341. This poem is dedicated to the dastur (vizier) Tāj-al-Din ʿErāqi, but also includes eulogies of the renowned early mystics Bayāzid Bestāmi (see BESTĀMI BĀYAZID) and Abu Eṣhāq of Kāzarun, and the poet’s personal pir, Amin-al-Din of Balyān. The poem tells another love story, this time vaguely situated in the time shortly before the advent of Islam. Nowruz, the son of the king of Khorasan and a descendant of Sāsān, travels to the Byzantine Empire seeking the hand of the Greek princess Gol. The intricate plot involves meetings with magicians and sages, and other features of folklore and wisdom literature. In the end the lovers are married according to “the rite of Aḥmad” (i.e. according to marriage laws promulgated by the Prophet of Islam). Before his return to Marv (Merv) to succeed to the throne, Nowruz visits a monastery where he receives moral and religious instruction.

Rowżat-al-anwār, in 2,037 couplets, was completed in 1342 (in sariʿ-e maṭvi-e maqṭuʿ meter). The founder of the Moršediya and Ḵᵛāju’s personal shaikh are eulogized, but the poem is dedicated to a secular patron, the vizier and judge Šams-al-Din Maḥmud Ṣāyen. This is among the earliest imitations of Neẓāmi’s didactical poem Maḵzan al-asrār, and closely follows the composition of its example, including also a number of illustrative anecdotes. In twenty maqālāt the poet deals with requirements for the mystical path and the ethics of kingship.

Kamāl-nāma, in 1,884 couplets and dated 1343, is written in the meter of Neẓāmi’s Haft peykar (the ḵafif meter), but the first part of this poem has more in common with Ṣanāʾi’s Seyr al-ʿebād ela’l-maʿād, and the second part with Neẓāmi’s Maḵzan al-asrār. The former contains the account of an allegorical journey of the narrator at the instigation of Reason. The itinerary leads from a tavern through the cosmos to a realm circumscribed as being “without place or inhabitants.” There he meets again with Reason who enters upon a discourse on moral and religious topics interspersed with anecdotes about kings and mystics.

Gowhar-nāma, in 1,022 couplets and in the meter of Ḵosrow o Širin, is dated 1345. The poem is a panegyric in praise of Bahāʾ-al-Din Maḥmud, the vizier of the Moẓaffarids, and his ancestors up to the celebrated Saljuq vizier Neẓām-al-Molk of Ṭus (1018-92). The “essential virtue” (gowhar) of each of these forebears is set forth in a discussion between the poet and a fictional moral guide, called pir-e dāneš-afruz. A number of ghazals are inserted inside the mathnawi text, a feature characteristic of the epistolary genre of the Dah-nāmas (insertion of an exchange of ten letters between the paired lovers in a narrative poem), which became very popular in subsequent centuries (cf. T. Ganjeï).

A mathnawi entitled Sām-nāma is also attributed to Ḵᵛāju. This is an imitation of the Šāh-nāma (in the same motaqāreb meter), relating the gests of Rostam’s grandfather, Sām. It has been preserved in versions of varying lengths, but it is not dated. At the end of the poem the author calls himself “Ḵᵛvāju,” which has been taken as proof of his authorship, notably by Ḏabiḥ-Allāh Ṣafā (Ḥamāsa-sarāʾi, pp. 338-39). However, Hermann Ethé regarded it as a forgery based almost entirely on lines derived from Ḵᵛāju’s Homāy o Homāyun, but with different protagonists (Grundriss II, pp. 234-35; Cat. Library India Office, No. 1235).

Other works ascribed to Ḵᵛāju are: Mafātiḥ al-qolub (1346), a selection from his poetry made by the poet himself; Resālat al-bādiya (1347), on his pilgrimage to Mecca; Resālat Sabʿ al-maṯāni (1347), on the rivalry between the Sword and the Pen; Resālat monāẓara-ye šams o saḥāb, on the strife between the Sun and the Clouds (cf. ed. Ḵamsa, Introd., p. 28).

Ḵᵛāju was undoubtedly a versatile poet of great inventiveness and originality. Bridging the interval between Saʿdi and Hafez, he occupies an interesting position in the development of Persian poetry, especially as a poet of the ghazal and as one of the first to complete a quintet of works (Ḵamsa) in the manner of Neẓāmi, adding several new features to the inherited scheme. Yet, there is no unanimity about his status as a truly great Persian poet. Browne, judging only by a small selection from his ghazals, found that “his verse, while graceful and pleasing, lacks any conspicuous distinction or excellence” (Browne, III, p. 226). The view of Soheyli-Ḵᵛānsāri, the 20th century editor of Ḵᵛāju’s Divān, is more balanced. To his mind, Ḵᵛāju would have won a more prominent place in literary history had he been more selective in compiling his ghazals. It cannot be denied that he was an important predecessor of Hafez, particularly as far as the blending of secular and mystical motifs in his works is concerned. Many Hafezian phrases, allusions, and metaphors are already in evidence in Ḵᵛāju’s poetry. His style is often idiosyncratic and innovative. He often chooses uncommon rhymes and radifs, and uses the ghazal as a vehicle for panegyrics as well.

Among the manuscripts of Ḵᵛāju’s works special mention should be made of a London manuscript (British Library, Add. 18,113), which was copied and illustrated at Baghdad in 1396 by two of the greatest medieval Persian artists: the calligrapher Mir ʿAli of Tabriz and the painter Jonayd (cf. Rieu, Cat. British Museum II, pp. 620-22; Fitzherbert; Bāstāni- Pārizi, pp. 223-34).




Divān, ed. Aḥmad Soheyli Ḵᵛānsāri, Tehran, 1957, (ed.’s intr. pp. 2-85).

Divān-e kāmel, ed. Saʿid Qāneʿi, Tehran, 1995.

Ḵamsa-ye Ḵᵛāju-ye Kermāni, ed. Saʿid Niāz-e Kermāni, Kermān, 1991.

Homāy o Homāyun, ed. K. S. Ayni, Tehran, 1969.

Gol o Nowruz, ed. K. S. Ayni, Tehran, 1971.

Secondary sources.

Moḥammad Ebrāhim Bāstāni Pārizi’s Pir-e sabz-pušān, Tehran, 1995, pp. 215-24.

Mehdi Borhāni, Ḵᵛāju-ye Kermāni, Tehran, 1991.

E. G. Browne, Lit. Hist. Persia III, pp. 293-95.

J. T. P. de Bruijn, Persian Sufi Poetry, Richmond, UK, 1997, pp. 116-17.

Franz von Erdmann, “Chusschu Germani und seine dichterischen Geisteserzeugnisse beleuchtet,” ZDMG II, 1848, pp. 205-15.

H. Ethé, Grundriss II, pp. 234-35, 248-49.

Idem, Catalogue of the Persian Manuscripts in the Library of the India Office, I, Oxford, 1903.

T. Fitzherbert, “Khwaju Kirmani (689–733/1290–1352): an éminence grise of fourteenth-century Persian painting,” Iran 29, 1991, pp. 137–51.

T. Ganjeï, “The genesis and definition of a literary composition: the Dah-nāma,” Der Islam 47, 1971, pp. 59-66.

Bahāʾ-al-Din Ḵorramšāhi, Ḥāfeẓ-nāma I, 7th. ed., Tehran, 1996.

F. Meier, Die Vita des Scheich Abū Isḥāq al-Kāzarunī, Leipzig, 1948.

Saʿid Nafisi, Aḥwāl va montaḵab az ašʿār-e Ḵᵛāju-ye Kermāni, Tehran, 1928.

J. Rypka, Hist. Iran. Lit., Dordrecht, 1968, pp. 260-61.

Ḏ. Ṣafā, Adabiyāt, III/2, 8th ed., Tehran, 1992, pp. 886-915.

Idem, Ḥamāsasarāʾi dar Irān, 3rd ed., Tehran, 1973.

F. Spiegel, “Die Sage von Sâm und das Sâm-nâme,” ZDMG III, 1849, pp. 245-61.

July 20, 2009

(J. T. P. de Bruijn)

Originally Published: July 20, 2009

Last Updated: July 20, 2009