DĀYA, NAJM-AL-DĪN ABŪ BAKR ʿABD-ALLĀH b. Moḥammad b. Šāhāvar b. Anūšervān Rāzī (573–654/1177–1256), mystic and author. The epithet dāya (wet nurse) was apparently bestowed upon him after he wrote Merṣād al-ʿebād (for editions of Dāya’s works cited here, see below), in which he frequently used breast feeding as a metaphor, and because he had nurtured so many disciples. He referred to himself by this epithet only in the introduction to his late work Manārāt al-sāʾerīn (Rīāḥī, introd., Merṣād, pp. 15-17). The patronymic Ebn Dāya (Nāyeb-al-Ṣadr, p. 153) is spurious.

Dāya was born in Ray (Ṣafadī, pt. 15; Faṣīḥ, II, p. 262) but left there in 599/1202-03 (Baḥr al-ḥaqāyeq, apud Merṣād, tr., p. 8). He visited, Ḵᵛārazm, Khorasan, Azerbaijan, Arān, the Ḥejāz, Egypt, Syria, and Anatolia. In Ḵᵛārazm he studied Hadith with Shaikh Najm-al-Dīn Kobrā (Ṣafadī, pt. 15) and Majd-al-Dīn Baḡdādī. Although ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Jāmī (Nafaḥāt, p. 435) and later biographers listed him among the disciples of Najm-al-Dīn Kobrā, Dāya referred to Majd-al-Dīn as “my own shaikh” (Merṣād, pp. 205, 233, 398, 530). From a comparison of his work with Bāḡdādī’s Resāla-ye toḥfat al-barara the influence of the latter is obvious.

After fleeing the Mongol invasion of Ḵᵛārazm Dāya spent a year in Ray waiting for the situation to improve (Merṣād, pp. 18-19; Resāla-ye marmūzāt, p. 4) before leaving for Hamadān. Escaping from the second Mongol attack on Hamadān, which ended in a general massacre (April 1221), he and his disciples sought safety with the Saljuq rulers of Anatolia, who were well known for their patronage of learning. They went first to Erbel in northern Iraq, then to Dīārbakr, and finally arrived in Qayṣarīya (modern Kayseri) in October 1221. En route to Qayṣarīya, in Malaṭya, Dāya met Šehāb-al-Dīn ʿOmar Sohravardī, who sent him with a letter of introduction to the Saljuq sultan ʿAlāʾ-al-Dīn Keyqobād I in Sīvās (Merṣād, pp. 21-26; Ebn Bībī, fol. 234). Despite Ebn Bībī’s reference to gifts granted by the sultan, Dāya failed to win the sultan’s patronage and soon left for Arzenjān (Marmūzāt, p. 5). Jāmī’s account (Nafaḥāt, p. 435) of a meeting with Jalāl-al-Dīn Rūmī and Ṣadr-al-Dīn Qūnawī is certainly apocryphal. In Arzenjān in 622/1225 Dāya composed the treatise Resāla-ye marmūzāt-e asadī, dedicated to Dāwūd b. Bahrāmšāh, the Menguchekid ruler of the town. In the same year he went to Baghdad (Algar, introd., in Merṣād, tr., p. 13) and then, as ambassador from the ʿAbbasid caliph al-Nāṣer le-Dīn Allāh (575-622/1180-1225), visited Jalāl-al-Dīn Ḵᵛārazmšāh in Tabrīz (Nasavī, p. 280). He spent the rest of his life in Baghdad, where he was a leader in a Sufi ḵānaqāh (Forūzānfar, pp. 38–39) and composed books in Arabic. He died in 654/1256 (Ṣafadī, pt. 15; Jāmī, Nafaḥāt, p. 435; Ebn al-ʿEmād, V, p. 265; Faṣīḥ, II, p. 313). Until recently his tomb still stood in the Šūnīzīya cemetery in Baghdad, where many Sufis are buried.

In Dāya’s teaching mystical love is combined with obedience to the laws of Islam. He considered it possible to attain mystical knowledge in three ways: through divine grace alone, the method followed by the majḏūb, the mystic drawn spontaneously to God; through performance of the five pillars of Islam, the method followed by ascetics; and through Sufi practice, especially ḏekr and retreats. His writings, often polemical, prejudiced, and spiteful, reflect the religious and intellectual disputes of his age. He was a Hanafite, adhering to rationalist Ashʿarite theology, and an enemy of the philosophers because of their claim that the intellect (ʿaql) could reach gnosis (maʿrefa; Merṣād, pp. 31, 115, 140, 182, 200, 371). He has thus been criticized by some modern writers (e.g., Kasrawī; Daštī).

Dāya’s magnum opus is Merṣād al-ʿebād men al-mabdaʾ ela’l-maʿād. It is divided into five parts (bāb), each in several chapters (faṣl). In the first part, the introduction, he described how and why the book came to be written. The second part, “Concerning the origin of existent beings,” deals with the nature of man, God, and the universe. In the third, “Concerning the life of man,” he discussed various stages of the mystical path, prophethood, the role of the shaikh, ḏekr rituals, and mystical intuition. In the fourth part, “Concerning the return of the souls of the felicitous and the wicked,” he discussed mystical psychology. The last part, “Concerning the wayfaring of different classes of men,” has considerable value as a description of society in the 13th century. Beside the historical and social information contained in the Merṣād, 455 verses of early Persian poetry, including the earliest attestations of two quatrains of ʿOmar Ḵayyām, are preserved in it (Merṣād, pp. 31, 200; Čahār maqāla, ed. Qazvīnī, comm. pp. 314-15; Forūḡī and Ḡanī, p. 32; Mīnovī, 1335 Š./1956, p. 70). A rare example of a quatrain (do-baytī) in the old dialect of Azerbaijan provides evidence that the dialect was identical with, or very closely related to, that of Ray (Merṣād, pp. 95, 590).

While he was still in Persia Dāya had decided to write the book, at the request of his disciples. He completed the first recension after his escape to Anatolia and made a clean copy in Ramażān 618/November 1221 in Qayṣarīya. Two years later, with Sohravardī’s encouragement, he dedicated a revised version to Sultan Keyqobād, presenting it to him on 1 Rajab 620/31 July 1223 in Sīvās (Merṣād, pp. 15-26, 545). Many manuscripts of both recensions survive. Apart from minor stylistic changes, the second is distinguished by its account of Dāya’s meeting with Sohravardī, references to the sultan, a Fahlavi do-baytī, and the dedication added to the title. The only critical edition, based on both recensions, was prepared by Moḥammad-Amīn Rīāḥī (Tehran, 1352 Š./1973, cited here; repr. with different pagination, Tehran, 1365 Š./1986, 1366 Š./1987). Rīāḥī has also edited a volume of selections from the text under the title Bargozīda-ye Merṣād (Tehran, 1361 Š./1972, 1366 Š./1987, 1368 Š./1989). An earlier selection, Talḵīṣ merṣād al-ʿebād fī kašf serr al-ījād (Tehran, 1301/1884), was mistakenly attributed to Najm-al-Dīn Kobrā. A 15th-century Turkish translation by Qāsem b. Maḥmūd Qarā-Ḥeṣārī, entitled Eršād al-morīd ela’l-morād fī tarjoma Merṣād al-ʿebād toḥfatan le-Ṣolṭān Morād and dedicated to Morād II (823-48/1421-44; Ateş, 1945, p. 111), remains unpublished. Hamid Algar has published an English translation (The Path of God’s Bondsmen from Origin to Return, Delmar, N.Y., 1982).

The style of the Merṣād is characteristic of that of the preachers of the time. The author began each chapter in relatively simple scholarly prose, but, when he arrived at the subject of love, his language became elegant and passionate. The book was one of the most widely disseminated mystical works of its time and had major influence on the later mystical literature of Persia (see Rīāḥī, introd., Merṣād, pp. 71-74; idem, 1368 Š./1989). Although Dāya did not himself found a Sufi order, he stated the principles of 13th-century Sufism in simple language and a logical order.

Other works by Dāya include Resāla-ye ṭoyūr (together with Y. Hamadānī, Rotbat al-ḥayāt, ed. M.-A. Rīāḥī, Tehran, 1362 Š./1983, pp. 83-110), an allegory addressed to a vizier named Jamāl-al-Dīn Šaraf Solḡūr Bu’l-Fatḥ, perhaps a specimen of the kind of panegyric known as faṣṣālī andincorporating features of the Persian dialect spoken in Ray; Resāla-ye ʿešq o ʿaql (ed. T. Tafażżolī, Tehran, 1345 Š./1966), also known as Meʿyār al-ṣedq wa meṣdāq al-ʿešq, written in Persian, apparently before the Merṣād and encompassing some of the same themes; Resāla-ye marmūzāt-e asadī dar mazmūrāt-e dāwūdī (ed. M.-R. Šafīʿī Kadkanī, Tehran, 1352 Š./1973), in Persian, dedicated in 621/1224 to Dāwūd b. Bahrāmšāh and covering much the same subject matter as the Merṣād, though the last four chapters contain new material on kingship; an Arabic commentary on the Koran entitled Baḥr-al-ḥaqāʾeq wa’l-maʿānī fī tafsīr al-sabʿ al-maṯānī, also known as ʿAyn al-ḥayāt and al-Taʾwīlāt al-najmīya (Algar), which survives in many manuscripts but no published edition (see especially a copy under the second title in four volumes in the Dār-al-Kotob, Cairo, completed in a fifth volume by ʿAlāʾ-al-Dawla Semnānī; Minovī, 1345 Š./1966, pp. 30–32); Manārāt al-sāʾerīn ela’llāh wa maqāmāt al-ṭāʾerīn be’llāh, an Arabic adaptation of the Merṣād written about thirty years after the original, preserved in several manuscripts (Mīnovī, 1345 Š./1966, pp. 27-28); Resālat al-ʿāšēq ela’l-maʿšūq in Arabic, on the sayings of Abu’l-Ḥasan Ḵaraqānī (Minovī, 1345 Š./1966, p. 29); and three treatises in Persian entitled respectively Serāj al-qolūb, Ḥasrat al-molūk, and Toḥfat al-ḥabīb (Flügel, III, p. 253). Dāya also wrote about 300 verses in Persian, which can be found scattered throughout his own works and biographies of him and have been collected by Maḥmūd Modabberī.



H. Algar, “Bahrü’l-Hakâik ve’l-Meâni,” in Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı İslam Ansiklopedisi IV, pp. 515-16.

A. Ateş, “Hicrî VI-VIII (XII-XIV) asırlarında Anadolu’da farsça eserler,” Türkiyat mecmuası 7-8/2, 1945, pp. 94-135.

S. Ateş, İşari tefsir okulu, Ankara, 1974, pp. 139-60.

H. Corbin, L’homme de lumière dans le soufisme iranien, Paris, 1971, pp. 154-61.

ʿA. Daštī, “Ṣūfī-e kūček,” in Dar dīār-e Ṣūfīān, Tehran, 1354 Š./1975, pp. 207-38.

Ebn Bībī, al-Awāmer al-ʿalānīya fi’l-omūr al-ʿalāʾīya, Aya Sofya library, Istanbul, ms. no. 2985; partially ed. N. Lugal and A. Sadik Erzi, Ankara, 1957.

Ebn al-ʿEmād, Šaḏarāt al-ḏahab fī aḵbār man ḏahab, 8 vols., Beirut, n.d.

Faṣīḥ Aḥmad b. Jalāl-al-Dīn Moḥammad Ḵᵛāfī, Mojmal-e faṣīḥī, ed. M. Farroḵ, 2 vols., Mašhad, 1339 Š./1960.

G. Flügel, Die arabischen, persischen und türkischen Handschrifter der Kaiserlich-königlichen Hof-bibliothek zu Wien III, Vienna, 1867.

M.-ʿA. Forūḡī and Q. Ḡanī, eds., Robāʿīyāt-e Ḥakīm Ḵayyām-e Nīšābūrī, Tehran, 1321 Š./1942.

B. Forūzānfar, Manāqeb-e Awḥad-al-Dīn, Tehran, 1347 Š./1968.

A. Kasrawī, Ṣūfīgarī, 4th ed., Tehran, 1337 Š./1958.

H. Landolt, “Stufen der Gotteserkenntnis und das Lob der Torheit bei Najm-e Razi,” Eranos-Jahrbuch 46, 1977, pp. 175-204.

Majd-al-Dīn Baḡdādī, Toḥfat al-barara, Majles Library, Tehran, ms. no. 598.

M. Mīnovī, “Az Ḵazāʾen-e Torkīya,” MDAT 4/2, 1335 Š./1956, pp. 42-75.

Idem, introd., in Najm-al Dīn Dāya, Resāla-ye ʿešq o ʿaql, ed. T. Tafażżolī, Tehran, 1345 Š./1966.

M. Modabberī, ed., Ašʿār-e Šayḵ Najm-al-Dīn Rāzī Dāya, Tehran, 1363 Š./1984.

Šehāb al-Dīn Moḥammad Ḵorandazī Nasavī, Sīrat Jalāl-al-Dīn, Cairo, n.d.

Nāyeb-al-Ṣadr Moḥammad-Maʿṣūm Šīrāzī, Ṭarāyeq al-ḥaqāyeq I, Tehran, 1318/1900.

M.-A. Rīāḥī, “Ḥāfeẓ bā yakī az pīrān-e ḵānaqāhhā,” in Golgašt dar šeʿr o andīša-ye Ḥāfezá, Tehran, 1368 Š./1989, pp. 235-321.

Ṣafā, Adabīyāt III/2, pp. 1189-96.

Ṣalāḥ Ḵalīl Ṣafadī, al-Wāfī be’l-wafayāt, Malek Library, Tehran, ms. no. 788, pt. 15.

(Moḥammad-Amīn Rīāḥī)

Originally Published: December 15, 1994

Last Updated: November 18, 2011

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