ENŠĀʾ (composition), the process of creating or composing something as well as the result of this process and the rules of the art; it denotes a genre of prose literature, copies, drafts, or specimens of official and private correspondence. Enšāʾ collections are extant in Arabic, Persian, and Turkic (Ottoman and Eastern). The authors or compilers, when they are known, frequently were high officials: scribes, secretaries, (kottāb, monšīs) in the secretariat (dīvān al-rasāʾel or dīvān al-enšāʾ; see DĪVĀN). Their aim in composing or compiling works of enšāʾ was to show what and how cultivated men should write to different individuals or groups on different occasions; thus, their readers may have been chancery clerks or anybody else who wanted to improve his prose style. Besides several big collections (some of which are enumerated in the bibliography) others, often more limited in scope, were made for private purposes. The compilers of these latter collections are mostly not known, the manuscripts are often listed under general headings like monšaʾāt, enšāʾ, or others.
Since the collections were established with a literary view and not an administrative one, the texts included in them cannot be compared to “original” documents. All the formal characteristics of documents are lacking (e.g. the size of paper, margins). This makes the use of enšāʾ for diplomatics an uneasy task. Furthermore, in many cases, personal names, place names, dates and so on have been replaced by “so and so” (folān): for the author, not the individual case, but the stylistic way to treat it, was most important. This explains why the compilers included copies of documents and letters really issued, written, or received as well as clearly fictitious texts. Only a very careful analysis of a given item can disclose to which category it belongs, the degree of generalization attained by deleting personal names and other individual features being a clue.
The part of “fictitious” or “ideal” texts as opposed to “real” ones seems to differ in the various collections, ranging from probably very high (Meyhanī’s Dastūr-e dabīrī) to probably very low (al-Moḵtārāt men al-rasāʾel). Some works are restricted to stylistic directions or guidelines (how to address oneself to a person of a given standing), others seem to be copy-books of “real” documents, but mixtures of both are frequent. Yet, “fictitious” texts should not be disregarded, since they reflect the idea the authors had of procedures, offices, and social hierarchies.
The lack of original documents of historical value for some periods in the history of Muslim Persia has made historians turn to enšāʾ collections at an early date, at least since the times of Vasiliĭ Barthold (q.v.). The focus has been on administrative history, and thus, on letters and documents written or issued on behalf of a ruler, “outgoing mail” from the view of the central administration. There is good reason for this, since chancery terminology and related issues can well be observed in enšāʾ texts. On the other hand, letters written to officials in the dīvān have been neglected. These are by no means what we would call “private,” but include the following subjects: complaints, letters of testimony for the good (bad) behavior of an official, thanks (for benefits), and petitions of all kinds. These texts are inserted because “incoming mail” was naturally part of any official’s job, and they themselves often had to compose “incoming” letters when they were on duty in the provinces. Thus, they offer important insight into the relationship between the ruling and the ruled, the center and the periphery. Real “private” letters form a third group, their subjects being congratulations, condolence, Nowrūz greetings and so on, but mostly the basic fact of all correspondence, namely the absence of the addressee. There is no clear boundary between the literary genres of enšāʾ and epistolography.
Persian enšāʾ was modeled on Arabic precedents, and the first enšāʾ collections of importance for Persian history are written in Arabic (for the Buyid period). In the Great Seljuq period, Persian was made the language of official documents, and from this time on, enšāʾ collections from Persia are generally in Persian. Enšāʾ style tended to become more ornate over time, following the general evolution; late 12th-century collections offer elaborate specimens of ornate prose style (Bāḡdādī’s at-Tawassol ela’l-tarassol, Rašīd-al-Dīn Vaṭvāṭ’s Nāmahā). Besides Persia and Central Asia, Persian enšāʾ is useful for Asia Minor (Rūm Seljuqs and early Ottomans) and India. Most of the collections, even some of the most important ones, remain in manuscript. Research has concentrated on earlier collections (down to the Timurid period); works from the Safavid and later periods have received less attention.
See also CORRESPONDENCE.
Edited sources (manuscripts must be disregarded). Buyid (Arabic): Abū Esḥāq Ṣābeʾ, al-Moḵtār men rasāʾel Abī Esḥāq al-Ṣābeʾ, ed. Š. Arslān, Baʿabdā, 1898.
Ṣāḥeb b. ʿAbbād, Rasāʾel, ed. Š. Żayf and ʿA. ʿAzzām, Cairo, 1947.
Great Seljuq, Persian. Montajab-al-Dīn Badīʿ ʿAlī. b. Aḥmad Joveynī, ʿAtabat ol-kataba, eds. M. Qazvīnī and ʿA. Eqbāl, Tehran, 1329 Š./1950; (partial) tr. G. M. Kurpalidis as Stupeni sovershenstvovaniya katibov, Moscow, 1985. Moʿezz-al-Dīn Moḥammad b. ʿAbd-al-Ḵāleq Meyhanī, Dastūr-e dabīrī, ed. A. Erzi, Ankara, 1962. Abū Ḥāmed Moḥammad Ḡazālī, Makātīb-e fārsī-e Ḡazālī benām-e Fażāʾel al-anām men rasāʾel Ḥojjat-al-Eslām, ed. ʿA. Eqbāl, Tehran, 1363 Š./1984.
Chorasmian period. Bahāʾ-al-Dīn Bāḡdādī, al-Tawassol ela’l-tarassol, ed. A. Bahmanyār, Tehran, 1315 Š./1936.
Rašīd-al-Dīn Vaṭvāṭ, Nāmahā-ye Rašīd-al-Dīn Vaṭvāṭ, ed. Q. Tūyserkānī, Tehran, 1338 Š./1959.
Atabeg period in Persia. Ī. Afšār, ed., al-Moḵtārāt men al-rasā’el, Tehran, 1355 Š./1976.
Afżal-al-Dīn Ḵāqānī Šervānī, Majmūʿa-ye nāmahā, ed. Ż. Sajjādī, n. p. (Tehran), 1346 Š./1967.
Rūm Seljuqs. Abū Bakr b. Zakī-al-Dīn Qonyavī, Rawżat ol-kottāb wa ḥadīqat al-albāb, ed. A. Sevim, Ankara, 1972.
Ḥasan b. ʿAbd-al-Moʾmen Ḵōʾī, Ḡonyat al-kāteb wa monyat al-ṭāleb together with idem, Rosūm al-rasāʾel wa nojūm al-fażāʾel, ed. A. Erzi, Ankara, 1963.
O. Turan, ed., Türkiye Selçukluları hakkında resmî vesîkalar, Ankara, 1958.
Mongol period. Rašīd-al-Dīn Fażl-Allāh, Mokātabāt-e rašīdī, ed. M. Šafīʿ, Lahore, 1364/1945. Jalāl-al-Dīn Yūsof Ahl, Farāʾed-e ḡīāṯī, ed. Ḥ. Moʾyyad, Tehran, 2536-38 (=1356-58) Š./1977-79. Moḥammad b. Hendūšāh Naḵjavānī, Dastūr al-kāteb fī taʿyīn al-marāteb, ed. M. Miraftab, Ph.D., Göttingen, 1956; ed. A. A. Alizade, 2 vols. in 3 parts, Moscow, 1964-76.
Timurid period. ʿAbd-Allāh Morvārīd, Šaraf-nāma, facs. ed. with tr. and commentary H. R. Roemer as Staatsschreiben der Timuridenzeit, Wiesbaden, 1952.
ʿAbd-Allāh Qoṭb Šīrāzī, Makātīb-e fārsī, Tehran, 1339 Š./1960.
A.-H. Navāʾī, ed., Asnād wa mokātabāt-e tārīḵī az Tīmūr tā Šāh Esmāʿīl, Tehran, 1341 Š./1962.
ʿA. Moʾayyed Ṯābetī, Asnād wa nāmahā-ye tārīḵī az awāʾel-e dawrahā-ye eslāmī tā awāḵer-e ʿahd-e Šāh Esmāʿīl-e Ṣafawī, Tehran, 1346 Š./1967.
Safavid period. A.-Ḥ Navāʾī, ed., Šāh ʿAbbās: Majmūʿa-ye asnād wa mokātabāt-e tārīḵī hamrāh bā dāddāšthā-ye tafṣīlī, Tehran, 1366 Š./1987.
Ḏ. Ṯābetīān, ed., Asnād wa nāmahā-ye tārīḵī-e dawra-ye Ṣafawīya, Tehran, 1343 Š./1964.
Qajar period. Moḥammad-Reżā Kalhor, Maḵzan al-enšāʾ, ed. ʿA.-A. Ḵᵛānsārī, Tehran, 1303/1885.
Mīrzā Abu’l-Qāsem Qāʾem-maqām, Monšaʾāt-e Qāʾem-maqām, ed. J. Qāʾem-maqāmī, Tehran, 1337 Š./1958.
Ḥasan-ʿAlī Khan Amīr Neẓām Garrūsī, Monšaʾāt, ed. Mīrzā Abū Torāb Khan, Tabrīz, 1321/1903.
India. Abu’l-Fażl ʿAllāmī, Mokātabāt-e ʿAllāmī, Lucknow, 1286/1869.
Maḥmūd Javān, Rīāż al-enšāʾ, ed. Č. Aḥmadnagarī, Hydarabad (Deccan), 1948.
Ottoman. Tājīzāda Saʿdī Čelebī, Münşeatı, ed. N. Lugal and A. Erzi, Istanbul, 1956.
Studies. A. Ateş, “Hicrī VI-VII asırlarda Anadolu’da Farsça eserler,” Türkiyat Mecmuası 7-8/2, 1945, pp. 94-135.
J. C. Bürgel, Die Hofkorrespondenz ʿAḍud al-Daulas und ihr Verhältnis zu anderen historischen Quellen der frühen Buyiden, Wiesbaden, 1965.
O. D. Chekhovich, “O diplomatike i periodizacii sredneaziatskikh aktov” (On diplomatics and periodization of Central Asian documents), Istochnikovedenie i tekstologiya, Moscow, 1984, pp. 224-30.
M.-T. Dānešpažūh, “Dabīrī wa nevīsandagī,” Honar o mardom, 1350 Š./1971, nos., 101, pp. 40-47; 102-3, pp. 56-62; 104, pp. 48-51; 105, pp. 56-60; 106, pp. 27-33.
A. Erzi, “Türkiye kütüphanelerinden notlar ve vesikalar II,” Belleten 56, 1950, pp. 595-648.
G. Herrmann, “Der historische Gehalt des Nāmä-ye nāmī von Ḫāndamīr,” Ph.D. diss., Göttingen, 1968.
H. Horst, Die Staatsverwaltung der Grosselğūqen und Ḫōrazmšāhs (1038-1231): Eine Untersuchung nach Urkundenformularen der Zeit, Wiesbaden, 1964.
M.A. Köymen, “Selçuklu devri kaynaklarına dāir araştırmalar 1, Büyük Selçuklu imparatorluğu devrine ait münşeat mecmuaları,” Ankara Üniversitesi dil ve tarih-coğrafya deresi 8, 1951, pp. 537-648 (detailed description of MS. St. Petersburg, IV RAN C-816).
G. M. Kurpalidis, “O iazyke i strukture sel’dzhukskikh oficial’nykh gramot” (On the language and structure of official documents from the Saljuq period), Vostochnoe istoricheskoe istochnikovedenie i special’nye istoricheskie discipliny 1, Moscow, 1989, pp. 128-36.
A. K. S. Lambton, “The Administration of Sanjar’s Empire as Illustrated in the ʿAtabat al-kataba,” BSO(A)S 20, 1957, pp. 367-88.
Idem, Continuity and Change in Medieval Persia, New York, 1988.
J. Paul, “Inshā-Collections as a Source on Iranian History,” in Proceedings of the Second European Conference of Iranian Studies, Rome, 1995, pp. 535-50.
Idem, “Anonyme arabische und persische inšāʾ Handschriften aus den Sammlungen der Süleymaniye-Bibliothek (Istanbul),” ZDMG 144, 1994, pp. 301-29.
H. R. Roemer, “Inshāʾ” in EI2, III, pp. 1241-44.
Originally Published: December 15, 1998
Last Updated: December 15, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. VIII, Fasc. 5, pp. 455-457