ABŪ ḤAFṢ SOḠDĪ, one of the so-called “first poets” in New Persian. The concept of “first poet,” however, is simplistic; since poetry, like any stage of a language, evolves continuously and is rooted in its immediate past. The idea of “first poet” may have evolved from the lack of distinction in taḏkeras between the term earliest (qadīmtarīn) and first (awwal). Nor was Abū Ḥafs the first poet who used Arabic meter in his poetry. Others had already done so, and his extant one-line fragment does not strictly conform to the norms of Arabic prosody.

Little is known about Abū Ḥafs’s life; according to Fārābī (d. 329/940), quoted in al-Moʿjam (see bibliog.), Abū Ḥafs was a master musician who flourished in 300/912 and who developed a musical instrument called Šahrūḏ. This information is confirmed by Ḵᵛārazmī (d. 626/1228), Ormavī (d. 693/1293), and Aḥmad b. Yaḥyā Heravī (d. 906/1500; see S. Nafīsī in bibliog.). The report of Hedāyat and others that Abū Ḥafs lived in the 1st/7th century must be dismissed.

Of his poetry, a one-line fragment has been preserved in al-Moʿǰam; it is not isosyllabic in its original form; but later authors emended it to conform to Arabic prosody (particularly in the second hemistich). The simple lyrical tone of the verse suggests that the poem was probably a ministrel’s song. The fact that Abū Ḥafs was called a master musician tends to support this. The poem seems to describe the nostalgic feeling of a countryman finding himself in an unfriendly city environment.

A lexicon is attributed to Abū Ḥafs by some late lexicographers, who claim to have used it (see, e.g., introductions to Farhang-e Jahāngīrī and Maǰmaʿ al-fors). But their quotations from that work include verses from ʿOnṣorī and Nāṣer-e Ḵosrow, who post-date Abū Ḥafs by more than a century. It is possible that these verses are later additions (such as occur in, e.g., Loḡat-e fors). No poetry of the 2nd-3rd century is quoted from this lost work, although some say it was extant as late as 11th/17th century. It can thus be assumed that this book, if it ever existed, was lost very soon, and centuries later some anonymous work was identified with it.


Abū ʿAbdallāh Ḵᵛārazmī, Mafātīḥ al-ʿolūm, ed. G. van Vloten, Leiden, 1895, p. 237.

Šams-al-dīn Rāzī, al-Moʿǰam fī maʿāyīr ašʿār al-ʿaǰam, ed. E. G. Browne and M. Qazvīnī, Beirut, 1327/1909, pp. 170-71.

Maǰmaʿ al-foṣaḥāʾ I, pp. vii, 130.

S. Nafīsī, Aḥwāl o ašʿār Rūdakī III, Tehran, 1319 Š./1940, pp. 1150-54 (with all references to Abū Ḥafs).

M. Qazvīnī, “Qadīmtarīn šeʿr-e fārsī baʿd az eslām,” in Bīst maqāla I, 2nd ed., Tehran, 1332 Š./1953, pp. 34-45.

ʿA. Eqbāl, “Ḏekr-e baʿżī az qadīmtarīn āṯār-e mafqūda-ye naṯr-e fārsī,” in Maǰmūʿa-ye maqālāt-e ʿAbbās Eqbāl Āštīānī, ed. M. Dabīrsīāqī, Tehran, 1350 Š./1971, p. 207.

Ṣafā, Adabīyāt I, pp. 169-73, 176.

(Dj. Khaleghi-Motlagh)

Originally Published: December 15, 1983

Last Updated: July 19, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 3, p. 294

Cite this entry:

Dj. Khaleghi-Motlagh, “ABŪ ḤAFṢ SOḠDĪ,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/3, p. 294; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abu-hafs-sogdi-one-of-the-so-called-first-poets-in-new-persian (accessed on 30 January 2014).