ḠAZĀLĪ MAŠHADĪ (b. Mašhad, 933/1526-27, d. Ahmadabad, Gujarat, 27 Rajab 980/3 December 1572), poet laureate in Persian (malek-al-šoʿarāʾ) at the court of the Mughal emperor Akbar (q.v.). Nothing is known about his family background, even his real name is unknown. His birthdate is known from a reference in one of his poems (Dīvān, fol. 86; ʿAbbāsī, p. 52; Hādī, p. 30). During his youth he went to Qazvīn and joined the court of Shah Ṭahmāsb (r. 930-84/1524-76) for some time. From his poems it appears that Ḡazālī also visited other Persian cities, including Tabrīz and Kermān. In 958/1551-52 he was sent by the shah to Shiraz in order to to satirize Ḵᵛāja Amīr Beg Kajajī, keeper of the royal seal, who had earned the shah’s displeasure for allegedly claiming in Shiraz that he had power over the stars. Due to his liberal thinking, however, Ḡazālī was soon accused of heresy and, fearing for his life, left his native country for India (Badāʾūnī, Montaḵab, tr., Ranking et al., III, p. 239). Traveling by sea, he reached the Deccan, where he tried unsuccessfully to win literary patronage. He was later invited by Ḵān(-e) Zamān ʿAlīqolī Khan Šaybānī, the governor of Jaunpūr, who sent him one thousand rupees and some horses to join his service. Ḡazālī remained in ʿAlīqolī Khan’s service until the latter’s violent death in his abortive revolt against Akbar (974/1567). Ḡazālī was among the servants of the deceased who fell into the hands of Akbar and who were retained by him in his service. He must have already come to Akbar’s attention, since he had in 966/1558-59 dedicated to him a collection of his poetry (Dīvān, preface to Āṯār al-šabāb, fol. 53a); he may have also enjoyed the support of some trusted dignitaries of the empire whom he had praised in his poems. Whatever the reasons, his fortunes rose speedily, and in 975/1567 he was appointed as the first poet laureate, an institution introduced by Akbar. Subsequently he lived a life of comfort and material well-being until his death in 980/1572 (Badāʾūnī Montaḵab, tr., Ranking et al., p. 240). He was buried in Ahmadabad at Sarkhēj in a cemetery reserved for princes and men of rank.
Ḡazālī’s relations with fellow-poets were not always pleasant. Both in Persia and in India he engaged in poetical altercations with his contemporaries, exchanging insults. He, however, maintained friendly association with Fayżī Dakanī (Majmaʿ al-foṣaḥāʾ IV, p. 47), who succeeded him as Akbar’s poet laureateand commemorated his death in a poem (Kollīyat-e Fayżī, Aligarh Muslim University ms., fol. 286b; Golčīn-e Maʿānī, Kārvān II, p. 937).
Estimates vary as to the extent of Ḡazālī’s poetic output, ranging from 50,000 to 100,000 couplets. A rare manuscript of his Dīvān in the British Library contains around 12,000 couplets, including qaṣīdas, ḡazals, maṯnawīs, qeṭʿas, robāʿīs, tarkīb-bands, and tarjīʿ-bands. His qaṣīdas are not confined to eulogies of rulers and nobles, but treat other subjects as well, including praise of God and the Prophet, mysticism, and personal experiences and observations. Among the individuals panegyrized are Shah Ṭahmāsb, Khan-e Zamān, and Akbar, who stands out as the poet’s principal recipient of praise. Most of the qaṣīdas follow the tradition of the 15th and early 16th century poets, but there are also specimens modeled after earlier masters such as Ḵāqānī Šarvānī (d. ca. 595/1198) and Amīr Ḵosrow Dehlavī (d. 725/1325).
Ḡazālī’s ḡazals deal primarily with mystical and philosophical themes. They are characterized by sensitivity of feeling and felicity of expression. Among Ḡazālī’s maṯnawīs the most important piece is Naqš-e badīʿ,a mystical poem of about one thousand couplets composed after the model of Neẓāmī’s Maḵzan al-asrār. According to Haft eqlīm (II, p. 212), it was composed while the poet was working for Khan-e Zamān, but he may have begun working on it earlier, since its prologue contains a qaṣīda addressed to Shah Ṭahmāsb. It is reported that Khan-e Zamān rewarded Ḡazālī with one gold coin for each of its couplets (Gōpāmavī, p. 510). Ḡazālī was a poet of great merit and distinction, whom Abu’l-Fażl ʿAllāmī praises as “unrivalled in depth of understanding and sweetness of language” (Āʾīn-e akbarī, tr., I, p. 568), and Badāʾūnī, with some reservations, regards his poems as “superior to those of any of his contemporaries” (Montaḵab, tr. Ranking et al., p. 240). According to Ẕabīḥ-Allāh Ṣafā, Ḡazālī was “a poet seldom equalled by anyone during the entire 10th/16th century” (Adabīyāt V/2, pp. 704-5).
S. ʿAbbāsī, Ḡazālī Mašhadī: Ḥayāt awr kārnāmē, Lucknow, 1978.
Ātaškada II, pp. 471-75.
Esmāʿīl Pāšā Baḡdādī, Hadīat al-ʿārefīn, Istanbul, 1951, p. 812.
Moḥammad-Ḥasan Khan Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana, Maṭlaʿ al-šams, Tehran, 1362 Š./1983, II, p. 727.
Ḡazālī Mašhadī, Dīvān, MS London, British Library, Add. 25,023.
A. Golčīn-e Maʿānī, Taḏkerahā II, Tehran, 1350 Š./1971, pp. 669-70.
Idem, Kārvān-e Hend, 2 vols., Mašhad, 1369 Š./1990, II, pp. 932-51.
Qodrat-Allāh Gōpāmavī, Natāʾej al–afkār, Bombay, 1336 Š./1957.
N. Hādī, Moḡalōn kē malek-al-šoʿarāʾ, Allahabad, 1978, pp. 23-71.
Ḵayyāmpūr, Soḵanvarān, p. 419.
Lačhmī Narāʾīn Šafīq Awrangābādī, Šām-e ḡarībān, ed. Akbar-al-Dīn, Karachi, 1977, p. 195.
Modarres, Rayḥānat al-adab III, pp. 151-52.
Nafīsī, Naẓm o naṯr I, pp. 414-15; II, p. 820. Rieu, Persian Manuscripts II, pp. 661-63.
Ṣafā, Adabīyāt V, pp. 700-13. Šāhnavāz Khan Ḵᵛāfī, Bahārestān-e soḵan, Madras, 1958, pp. 410-12.
Sālek Nāʾīnī, “Ḡazālī,” Armaḡān 12, 1310 Š./1931, pp. 338-39.
Originally Published: December 15, 2000
Last Updated: February 3, 2012
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