Persian polymath, Sufi, and poet (b. Shiraz, October 1236; d. Tabriz, 7 February 1311).


QOṬB-AL-DIN ŠIRĀZI, Maḥmud b. Żiāʾ-al-Din Masʿud b. Moṣleḥ, known also as ʿAllāma Širāzi, al-Šāreḥ al-ʿAllāma, and Mollā Qoṭb and nicknamed Abu’l-Ṯanāʾ, a Persian polymath, Sufi, and poet (b. Shiraz, October 1236; d. Tabriz, 7 February 1311; see Ebn Ḥajar, IV, p. 339; Qāšāni, p. 118). His father, Żiāʾ-al-Din Masʿud Kāzeruni, was a well-known physician and a leading Sufi, who had received his ḵerqa (Sufi robe) from Šehāb-al-Din ʿOmar Sohravardi, and who, in turn, as a blessing, garbed his son, the young Qoṭb-al-Din, in a Sufi robeat the age of ten. Nevertheless, Qoṭb-al-Din later received his own robe from the hands of Najib-al-Din ʿAli b. Bozḡoš Širāzi, a noted Sufi shaikh of the time (Dorrat al-tāj, p. 263).

Qoṭb al-Din began studying medicine, first under his father, who taught and practiced medicine at the Moẓaffari hospital in Shiraz, and, after his father’s death, with his uncle and other masters of the period. He studied Avicenna’s Qānun (the Canon) and its commentaries, including the famous commentary of Faḵr-al-Din Rāzi, with which the young Qoṭb-al-Din raised many issues, and which led to his decision to write his own commentary, where he discussed those issues and resolved many of them subsequently in the company of Naṣir-al-Din Ṭusi.

Qoṭb-al-Din lost his father at the age of fourteen. He replaced his father as an ophthalmologist at the Moẓaffari hospital and, at the same time, continued his education under his uncle Kamāl-al-Din Abu’l-Ḵayr and then Šaraf-al-Din Zaki Buškāni and Šams-al-Din Moḥammad Kiši, all of whom were expert teachers of the Qānun (Minovi, p. 346; Barkašavi, in Ebn Ḥajar (Rokšāni in Wiedemann, 1986, p. 547). Ten years later, he quit his medical practice to devote all his time to his education, and when Naṣir-al-Din Ṭusi, the renowned scholar-vizier of the Mongol Holāgu Khan (q.v.), established the observatory of Marāḡa, the young Qoṭb-al-Din was among the many scholars who were attracted to that city from all over country; he left Shiraz for Marāḡa some time after 1260 and reached Marāḡa some time about 1262 (see Qoṭb-al-Din, al-Toḥfa al-saʿdiya, MS, introduction; according to Minovi 1988, p. 347).

In Marāḡa, Qoṭb-al-Din resumed his education under Naṣir-al-Din Ṭusi, with whom he studied the al-Ešārāt wa’l-tanbihāt of Avicenna, discussed the difficulties he had had in understanding the first book (Kolliyāt) of the Qānun, and, while working in the new observatory, studied astronomy under him. According to Ḵvāndamir (III, pp. 116-17), on one occasion he accompanied his master, Naṣir-al-Din, to an audience with Holāgu, in which the latter said that the only reason for not killing Naṣir-al-Din was that his death would leave the astronomical table (zij) he was working on unfinished; Qoṭb-al-Din replied that he would complete the task; and, when asked by Naṣir-al-Din after leaving the audience whether he was serious about what he had said, the young pupil had no hesitation in giving his master the same assurance. In spite of his considerable work at the observatory, it is worth noting that neither Rašid-al-Din Fażl-Allāh (p. 63), nor Šehāb-al-Din Waṣṣāf (pp. 51-52) makes any reference to Qoṭb-al-Din in this connection. More noteworthy, perhaps, is the absence of Qoṭb-al-Din’s name among the list of the names that Naṣir-al-Din has mentioned as his assistants in the introduction to his Zij (Kašf al-ẓonun II, p. 967; cf. Minovi, 1988, pp. 347-48). Nevertheless, in his testament (waṣiya), Naṣir-al-Din advises that his son A ṣil-al-Din should work with Qoṭb-al-Din on the completion of the zij.

Qoṭb-al-Din’s stay in Marāḡa did not last very long. He traveled to Khorasan in the company of Naṣir-al-Din, where he decided to stay on to study under Najm-al-Din Kātebi Qazvini in Jovayn and work as his assistant. Some time after 1268, he set out on a journey which took him to Qazvin, Isfahan, and Baghdad, and later Konya in Anatolia, just at the time when Jalāl-al-Din Moḥammad Balḵi Rumi (q.v.) was gaining fame there, and whom he reportedly met (Ebn Abi’l-Wafāʾ, II, p. 124; Ḥāfeẓ Ḥosayn, I, pp. 326-27; Minovi, 1988, p. 349). In Konya he studied Jāmeʿ al-oṣul men aḥādiṯ al-rasul of Majd-al-Din Mobārak Ebn al-Aṯir with Ṣadr-al-Din Qunawi (d. 1274), who had had a well-known correspondence with Naṣir-al-Din Ṭusi; subsequently, the governor of Konya, Moʿin-al-Din Solaymān Parvāna (see Ebn Bibi, p. 272-332), appointed Ṣadr-al-Din as judge (qāżi) of Sivas and Malatya, where he compiled Meftāḥ al-meftāh, Eḵtiārāt al-moẓaffariya, and his commentary on Sakkāki (Minovi, 1988, p. 350). In 1282, he was sent by the Mongol Il-khan Aḥmad Takudār (r. 1282-84) as an envoy to Sayf-al-Din Qalāwun (r. 1279-90), the Mamluk ruler of Egypt (Abu’l-Fedāʾ, IV, p.17; Ebn Ḵaldun, V, p. 546; Ebn al-ʿEmād, V, p. 370). In his letter to Qalāwun, Takudār referred to Qoṭb-al-Din as the chief judge (aqża’l-qożāt ; see Waṣṣāf, I, pp.113-18; Ebn al-ʿEbri, p. 506-18). Later, Qoṭb-al-Din collected various critiques of and commentaries on the Qānun and used them in his commentary on the Kolliyāt (Minovi, pp. 350-51; Wiedemann, 1986, p. 547).

The last part of Qoṭb al-Din’s active career was spent in Syria, where he taught the two celebrated works of Avicenna, the Qānun on medicine and the Šefāʾ on philosophy. He soon left for Tabriz, where he spent the rest of his life. He died on 7 February 1311 and was buried in the Čarandāb Cemetery, close to the tomb of Qāżi Bayżāwi (q.v.). The date of his death was commemorated in chronograms and poems (Qāšāni, pp. 118-19; Ḥāfeẓ Ḥosayn, I, pp. 324, 331; Faṣiḥ Ḵᵛāfi, III, p. 18). Qoṭb-al-Din had an insatiable passion for learning, evidenced by the twenty-four years that he spent collecting material and studying with masters of the time in order to write his commentary on the Kolliyāt; he was deservedly distinguished and remembered for his extensive breadth of knowledge as well as for his clever sense of humor and indiscriminate generosity. He was also a master chess player and played the rabāb, a kind of viol (Minovi, 1988, pp. 351, 355-59; Eqbāl; Wiedemann, 1986, p. 547).

Works (arranged by title in alphabetical order). (1) Dorrat al-tāj fi ḡorrat al-dabbāj, also known as Anmuzaj al-ʿolum and traditionally referred to by students as Anbān-e Mollā Qoṭb or Hemyān-e Qoṭb, an encyclopedic work on philosophy (comp. 21 June 1306), written for Rostam Dabbāj, one of the Esḥāqvand rulers of Gilān, during his stay with the latter (Ṣafā, Adabiyāt III, pp. 240-41, 1229-30; Minovi, 1988, pp. 369-70). The parts on natural sciences, theology (elāhiyāt), logic, public affairs and the introduction were edited by Sayyed Moḥammad Meškāt (5 vols. in one, Tehran, 1938; repr., Tehran, 1986). From its part on mathematics, the treatises on astronomy, arithmetic, and music were edited by Ṣādeq Sotuda (Tehran, 1945), and the section on ethics and mysticism, that is, the third and fourth sections, were edited by Māhdoḵt Bānu Homāʾi (as Dorrat al-tāj, baḵš-eḥekmat-e ʿamali wa sayr o soluk, Tehran, 1990). (2) Eḵtiārāt-e moẓaffari, a treatise on astronomy in Persian in four chapters, extracted from his Nehāyat al-edrāk and dedicated to Moẓaffar-al-Din Bulaq Arslān (Kašf al-ẓonun I, p. 35; Minovi, 1988, p. 352). (3) Al-Enteṣāf, a gloss in Arabic on Jār-Allāh Maḥmud Zamaḵšari’s Qurʾan commentary, al-Kaššāf ʿan al-ḥaqāʾeq al-tanzil wa ʿoyun al-aqāwil (Zerekli, VIII, p. 66). (4) Fatḥ al-mannān fi tafsir al-Qorʾān,a comprehensive commentary on the Qurʾan in forty volumes, written in Arabic and also known by the title Tafsir ʿallāmi (Kašf al-ẓonun II, p. 1235; Zerekli, VIII, p. 66). (5) Fi ḥarakāt al-dahraja wa’l-nesba bayn al-mostawi wa’l-monḥani, written as an appendix to Nehāyat al-edrāk (Wiedemann, 1986, p. 548). (6) Ḥāšia bar Ḥekmat al-ʿayn, on theology; as indicated by the title, it is a commentary of Ḥekmat al-ʿayn of Najm-al-Din ʿAli Dabirān Kātebi; Moḥammad b. Mobārakšāh Boḵāri, in his own commentary on Kātebi’s book, refers also to Qoṭb-al-Din’s remarks and comments on the same work by the expression “in the Qoṭb’s comments” (fi’l-ḥawāši al-qoṭbiya;see Kašf al-ẓonun I, p. 685). (7) Ketāb faʿalta wa lā talom fi’l-hayʾa, an Arabic work on astronomy, written for Aṣil-al-Din, son of Naṣir-al-Din Ṭusi (8) Moškelāt al-eʿrāb on Arabic syntax (Minovi, 1988, p. 353). (9) Moškelāt al-tafāsir or Moškelāt al-Qorʾān, on rhetoric; both Zerekli and Ḥāji Ḵalifa have ascribed this to Qoṭb-al-Din, although one can deduct from Hāáji Ḵalifa’s comments that he had not actually seen it (Kašf al-ẓonun II, p. 1695; Zerekli, VIII, p. 66). (10) Meftāḥ al-meftāhá, a commentary on the third section of the Meftāḥ al-ʿolum, a book on Arabic grammar and rhetoric by Abu Yaʿqub Serāj-al-Din Yusof Sakkāki Ḵᵛārazmi (Modarres, IV, p. 471). According to Hāáji Ḵalifa (Kašf al-ẓonun, II, p. 1763), Qoṭb-al-Din’s work was the first commentary ever written on this book. According to Dawlatšāh Samarqandi (pp. 218-19), Qoṭb-al-Din wrote this work at the request of the poet Homām Tabrizi. A manuscript of it exists in the library of the Sepahsālār Madrasa (MS 299). (11) Nehāyat al-edrāk fi derāyat al-aflāk, on astronomy, in Arabic, divided into four chapters, written for Bahāʾ-al-Din Moḥammad Jovayni, governor of Isfahan and son of Šams-al-Din Jovayni. Senān Pasha wrote a commentary on it (see Kašf al-ẓonun II, p. 1985; Minovi, 1988, pp. 378-79). (12) Resāla fi’l-baraṣ, a medical treatise on leprosy in Arabic (Zerekli, Aʿlām, VIII, p. 66). (13) Resāla fi bayān al-ḥājat ela’l-ṭebb wa ādāb al-aṭebbāʾ wa waṣāyā-hom (Zerekli, VIII, p. 66; Fehrest al-kotob al-ʿarabiya al- moḥfuẓa be’l-Kotobḵāna al-ḵediwiya VI, p. 35).(14) Šarḥ Taḏkera naṣiriya, on astronomy. Hāáji Ḵalifa attributed this commentary on Naṣir-al-Din Ṭusi to Qoṭb-al-Din on the authority of others (Kašf al-ẓonun I, p. 35; Ṣafā, Adabiyāt, III, p. 270). (15) Šarḥ Ḥekmat al-ešrāq Šayḵ Šehāb-al-Din Sohravardi, on philosophy and mysticism, in Arabic. To this commentary ʿAbd-al-Karim (d. ca. 1494) devoted a gloss in Persian (Kašf al-ẓonun I, p. 684; Minovi, 1988, pp. 371-72). A lithographed edition of this commentary was published in 1897 in Tehran (new ed. by ʿAbd-Allāh Nurāni and Mahdi Moḥaqqeq, Tehran, 2001). (16) Šarḥ Moḵtaṣar al-oṣul Ebn Ḥājeb, a commentary on Ebn Ḥājeb’s Montaha’l-soʾāl wa’l-ʿamal fi ʿelmay al-oṣul wa’l-jadwal, a book on the sources of law according to the Malikite school of thought (Kašf al-ẓonun II, p. 1853). (17) Sazāvār-e Efteḵār, Moḥammad-ʿAli Modarres (IV, p. 471) attributes a book by this title to Qoṭb-al-Din, without providing any information about its content (see also Dehḵodā, s.v. Qoṭb-al-Din). (18) Tarjoma-ye Taḥrir-e Oqlides [Euclid], a work on geometry in Persian in fifteen chapters, completed in Šaʿbān 681/November 1282 and dedicated to Moʿin-al-Din Solaymān Parvāna (Minovi, 1988, pp. 352, 368-69; Qorbāni, p. 430; Modarres, IV, p. 471). (19) Al-Toḥfa al-saʿdiya, also called Nozhat al-ḥokamāʾ wa rawżat al-aṭebbāʾ, on medicine, a comprehensive commentary in five volumes on the Kolliyāt of the Qānun of Avicenna, written in Arabic. It is one of the most important works of its kind; it is dedicated to Saʿd-al-Din Moḥammad Sāvaji, the vizier of the Mongol ruler Ḡazān Khan (r. 1295-1304, hence the book’s title). The author died before he could complete this work. A manuscript is preserved in the Sepahsālar Library (Ketāb-ḵāna-ye Madrasa-ye Sepahsālār) in Tehran (Minovi, 1988, pp. 351, 361-62, 374-75). (20) Al-Toḥfa al-šāhiya fi’l-hayʾa, an Arabic book on astronomy, comprised of four chapters, written for Moḥammad b. Ṣadr-al-Saʿid, known as Tāj-al-Eslām Amiršāh. Mollā ʿAli Qušji and Sayyed Šarif Jorjāni have written commentaries on this book (Ṣafā, Adabiyāt III, p. 271; Minovi, 1988, p. 368). (20-21) Zerekli (VIII, p. 66) has credited Qoṭb-al-din with the authorship of two books, Tāj al-ʿolum and al-Tabṣera, which are not mentioned in other sources. Qoṭb-al-Din is also credited with the authorship of a book on ethics in Persian, written for Malek ʿEzz-al-Din, the ruler of Shiraz, and a book on astronomy, titled Ḥall moškelāt al-Majesṭi, of none of which an existing manuscript has been reported. He also wrote poetry, but apparently did not leave a divān (Minovi, 1988, pp. 352, 363-64).



Abu’l-Fedāʾ Esmāʿil, Moḵtaṣar taʾriḵ al-bašar, 4 vols., Istanbul, 1869-70.

Brockelmann, GAL II, pp. 274-75.

Ebn Abi’l-Wāfāʾ, al-Jawāher al-możiʿa fi ṭabaqāt al-ḥanafiya, Hyderabad, 1914.

Ebn Bibi, Saljuq-nāma, ed. Martijn Theodoor Houtsma, Recueil de textes relatifs à l’histoire des Seldjoucides 4, Leiden, 1902.

Ebn al-ʿEbri (Bar Hebraeus), Taʾriḵ moḵtaṣar al-dowal, Beirut, 1890.

Ebn al-ʿEmād, Šaḏarātal-ḏahab fi aḵbār man ḏahab, 8 vols., Cairo, 1931-32.

Ebn Ḥajar ʿAsqalāni, al-Dorar al-kāmena fi aʿyān al-meʿa al-ṯāmena, 4 vols., Hyderabad, Deccan, 1929-31.

Ebn Ḵaldun, Ketāb al-ʿebar, 7 vols., Cairo, 1867.

Cyril Elgood, A Medical History of Persia and the Eastern Caliphate, Amsterdam, 1979, pp. 307-8.

ʿAbbās Eqbāl, “ʿAllāma-ye Qoṭb-al-Din-e Širāzi (634 710),” Armaḡān 13/10, 1932, pp. 659-68; repr. in idem, Majmuʿa-ye maqālāt-e ʿAbbās Eqbāl Āštiāni, ed. Moḥammad Dabirsiāqi, Tehran, 1990, pp. 441-49.

Faṣiḥ Aḥmad b. Moḥammad Ḵᵛāfi, Mojmal-e faṣiḥi, ed. Maḥmud Farroḵ, 3 vols., Mashad, 1960-62.

Ḥāfeẓ Ḥosayn Karbalāʾi, Rawżāt al-jenān wa jannāt al-janān, ed. Jaʿfar Solṭān-al-Qorrāʾi, 2 vols., Tehran, 1965-70, pp. 324-31.

Kašf al-ẓonun, ed. Ş. Şerefeddin Yaltkaya and K. R. Bilge, 2 vols., Istanbul, 1941-43.

Giāṯ-al-Din b. Homām-al-Din Ḵᵛāndamir, Ḥabib al-siar, 4 vols., Tehran, 1954, III, pp. 116, 154.

Moḥammad-ʿAli Modarres, Rayḥanat al-adab, 8 vols., Tehran, n. d., IV, pp. 470-72.

Mojtabā Minovi, “Mollā Qoṭb-e Širāzi,” in Yād-nāma-ye irāni-e Minorski, Tehran, 1969, pp. 165-205; publ. also in idem, Naqd-e ḥāl, Tehran, 1988, pp. 344-86 (contains useful information on manuscripts).

Abu’l-Qāsem ʿAbd-Allāh b. Moḥammad Qāšāni, Tāriḵ-e Uljāytu, ed. Mahin Hambly, Tehran, 1969, pp. 118-20.

Abu’l-Qāsem Qorbāni, “Qoṭb-al-Din Širāzi, riāżidān wa monajjem-e zebrardast-e irāni,” Rāhnamā-ye ketāb 11, 1968, pp. 428-35.

Rašid al-Din Fażl-Allāh, Jāmeʿ al-tawāriḵ, ed. and tr. Étienne Quatremère as Histoire des Mongols de la Perse, Paris, 1836.

Ṣafā, Adabiyāt III, pp. 271-72.

John Walbridge, The Science of Mystic Lights: Quṭb al-Din Shīrāzī and the Illumination Tradition in Islamic Philosophy, Cambridge, Mass, 1992; tr. Jawād Qāsemi as Qoṭb-al-Din Širāzi wa ʿelm-e anwār dar falsafa-ye eslāmi, Mashad, 1996.

Šehāb-al-Din ʿAbd-Allāh Waṣṣāf Ḥażra, Tajziat al-amṣār wa tazjiat al-aʿṣār,Bombay, 1897.

E. Wiedemann, “Ḳuṭb al-Dīn Shīrāzī,” in EI2 V, 1986, pp. 547-48.

Idem, “Zu den optischen Kentnissen von Quṭb al-Dîn al-Schîrâzî,” Archiv für die Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften und der Technik 3, 1912, pp. 187-93.

Idem, “Über die Gestalt, Lage und Bewegung der Erde sowie philosophisch-astronomische Betrachtungen von Quṭb al-Dîn al-Schîrâzî,” ibid., pp. 395-422.

Zerekli, al-Aʿlām, 2nd ed., 10 vols., Cairo, 1954-59.

August 29, 2005

(Sayyed ʿAbd-Allāh Anwār)

Originally Published: July 20, 2005

Last Updated: July 20, 2005