ABU’L-ʿALĀʾ ŠOŠTARĪ (referred to also as BU’L-ʿALĀʾ, in both forms either with or without the nesba), early Persian poet and prosodist (the earliest known from the Šoštar area). The identity of the poet referred to simply as (A)bu’l-ʿAlāʾ with (A)bu’l-ʿAlāʾ Šoštarī is indicated by remains of his poetry: A bayt attributed to Abu’l-ʿAlāʾ in Rādūyānī’s Tarǰomān al-balāḡa (ed. A. Ateş, Istanbul, 1949, p. 49) is assigned to Šoštarī by Vaṭvāṭ (Ḥadāʾeq al-seḥr, ed. ʿAbbās Eqbāl, Tehran, 1308 Š./1929-30, p. 46); and its meter and rhyme correspond to those of another bayt cited by Rādūyānī and ascribed to Bu’l-ʿAlāʾ Šoštarī (p. 85).

The earliest mention of Abu’l-ʿAlāʾ is in a qaṣīda of Manūčehrī (Dīvān, ed. M. Dabīrsīāqī, Tehran, 1326 Š./1948, p. 133). The former heads a list of Persian poets of earlier (i.e., pre-Ghaznavid) times whom Manūčehrī evidently regarded as outstanding. Manūčehrī divides these poets into the eloquent (soḵangūyān) and the wise (ḥakīmān), including Abu’l-ʿAlāʾ among the eloquent. All poets of this group whose dates are at least approximately known belong to the late 3rd to early 4th/late 9th to early 10th century. Hence this period may be suggested as probable for the lifetime of Abu’l-ʿAlāʾ as well. Moreover the language and style of the few surviving specimens of his poetry also indicate the late Saffarid or early Samanid period (late 3rd to 4th cent.). It may be supposed that he was connected with the Samanid court, as were most of the poets in Manūčehrī’s list.

Of Abu’l-ʿAlāʾ’s poetry, only nine and a half bayts survive, cited by Rādūyānī and Vaṭvāṭ and in the various recensions of Asadī Ṭūsī’s Loḡat-e fors. These remains show his skill and expressiveness in wine-poems (ḵamrīyāt), portrayal of nature, and use of proverbs and idioms; he was evidently one of the first to compose enigmas (moʿammāt) and obscene satirical verse. According to Rādūyānī (p. 2), he was one of the two earliest men who “did prosody (ʿarūż) in Persian,” apparently meaning that he composed works on it for practical use.


S. Nafīsī, “Abu’l-ʿAlāʾ Šoštarī,” Šarq, ser. I, no. 5, 1310 Š./1931, pp. 265-68.

Dehḵodā, p. 634.

Ṣafā, Adabīyāt2 I, pp. 438-39.

M. Dabīrsīāqī, Pīšāhangān-e šeʿr-e pārsī, Tehran, 1978 , pp. 177-78.

(M. Zand)

Originally Published: December 15, 1983

Last Updated: July 21, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 3, pp. 253-254

Cite this entry:

M. Zand, “ABU’L-ʿALĀʾ ŠOŠTARĪ,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/3, pp. 253-254; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abul-ala-sostari (accessed on 31 January 2014).