ABU’L-FARAJ B. MASʿŪD RŪNĪ, an early Persian poet. Nothing is known about his birth and early life, except that he was born in Rūna, the exact location of which is uncertain. According to ʿAwfī, Rūnī’s birthplace was Lahore (Lobāb II, p. 241). Reżā-qolī Hedāyat states that Abu’l-Faraǰ was born in Rūna, a hamlet of Nīšāpūr, while Loṭf-ʿAlī Beg Āḏar places Rūna in the region of Dašt-e Ḵāvarān, Khorasan (Maǰmaʿ al-foṣaḥāʾ I, p. 151; Ātaškada, p. 134). Mollā ʿAbd-al-Rašīd Tattavī calls Rūn “a village in India, the birthplace of Abu’l-Faraǰ” (Farhang-e Rašīdī II, p. 353). Badāʾūnī compounds the confusion by saying that Abu’l-Faraǰ was born in the village of Rūīn near Lahore, and thus calls him Abu’l-Faraǰ Rūīnī (tr., I, pp. 54-55). Yet all the taḏkera writers agree that Abu’l-Faraǰ spent most of his life in Lahore at the Ghaznavid court, where he was the panegyrist for Sultan Ebrāhīm b. Masʿūd (451-92/1059-99) and his son, Masʿūd III (492-508/1099-115). A fragment (qeṭʿa) in the dīvān of Masʿūd-e Saʿd-e Salmān (d. 515/1122), complaining that the conspiracy of one Abu’l-Faraǰ resulted in his (Masʿūd’s) imprisonment, is most likely directed not against Rūnī but against Abu’l-Faraǰ Naṣr b. Rostam. It is improbable that Rūnī would have played any part in the imprisonment of Masʿūd, since relations between the two were very friendly, and Masʿūd even regarded himself as the pupil of Rūnī.

Abu’l-Faraǰ’s claim to fame rests largely on his delicate panegyrics. He was praised and imitated by Anwarī (d. 585/1189-90), considered by many to have been the greatest master of the panegyric qaṣīda. The other notable Saljuq panegyrist, Ẓahīr Fāryābī (d. 598/1201-02), seems also to have been influenced by Rūnī. According to ʿAwfī, both Anwarī and Ẓahīr Fāryābī constantly perused Rūnī’s dīvān and tried to imitate his style (Lobāb II, p. 341). Not only Anwarī and Ẓahīr but also ʿOrfī Šīrāzī (d. 999/1590-91) and Fayżī (d. 1044/1595), the two great Indo-Persian poets at the court of the Mughal emperor Akbar (r. 963-1014/1556-1605), expressed their indebtedness to Rūnī. His surviving dīvān comprises 2,000 verses including, besides panegyric qaṣīdas, fifty-seven quatrains (robāʿīyāt), eighteen fragments, and three incomplete ḡazals.

Most of the qaṣīdas in the dīvān are dedicated to Sultan Ebrāhīm b. Masʿūd and his son Masʿūd III, but there are some dedicated to other nobles of the Ghaznavid court at Lahore. It seems probable that Rūnī did not enjoy court favor to the same extent as the younger Masʿūd-e Saʿd did. Unlike those of the other noted panegyrists, Rūnī’s qaṣīdas are rather short. Most are written in a fluent, uncluttered style, introducing new trends in Persian poetry which were further developed by the likes of Masʿūd-e Saʿd and Anwarī. Certain elements found in the later Sabk-e Hendī (q.v.) can probably be traced back to the poetry of Abu’l-Faraǰ.

Many qaṣīdas in the dīvān do not begin with the traditional introductory (tašbīb, q.v.), substituting in its stead the eulogy (madḥ) of the patron. In the qaṣīdas with the traditional introduction Rūnī demonstrates his great mastery as a poet of this genre, and from a study of them it becomes evident why he was held in such high esteem by other masters of Persian poetry. The robāʿīyāt of Rūnī are also notable; ʿOmar Ḵayyām seems to have been influenced by them; the same Epicurean spirit pervades and characterizes the robāʿīyāt of both of them.

The three incomplete ḡazals contain motifs that were later to become normative in the Persian lyrical poetry of Iran and India: skillful plays on words without concealment of the meaning, complaints about the faithlessness of time and the beloved, and, above all, admiration for the beauty of the youthful beloved. In three ḡazals the beloved already appears as a dancer, going out covered in a čādor but appearing in the assembly of lovers without the čādor, since it has been removed by the anxious lovers who wish to bask in the radiance of her beautiful face. The ḡazals of Rūnī display a remarkable depth of perception, intensity of feeling and hint of sensuality, all of which are essential components of the classical Persian ḡazal.


Abu’l-Faraǰ Rūnī, Dīvān, ed. M. M. Dāmḡānī, Tehran, 1348/1929-30, introduction.

Browne, Lit. Hist. Persia II, p. 390.

I. Husain, The Early Persian Poets of India, Patna, 1937, pp. 11-66.

Maǰmaʿ al-foṣaḥāʾ I, pp. 151-96 with detailed footnotes. Mošār, Fehrest II, col. 1498. Ṣafā, Adabīyāt II, pp. 470-76, 484-86.

A. Schimmel, Islamic Literatures of India (J. Gonda, ed., A History of Indian Literature 7), Wiesbaden, 1973, p. 11.

(M. Siddiqi)

Originally Published: December 15, 1983

Last Updated: July 21, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 3, pp. 283-284

Cite this entry:

M. Siddiqi, “ABU’L-FARAJ RŪNĪ,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/3, pp. 283-284; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abul-faraj-b-2 (accessed on 31 January 2014).